Archive for the ‘Ocean Observations’ Category

What is the Pineapple Express?

This item was filled under Facts, Ocean Observations, Ocean Science


Atmospheric rivers are narrow regions in the atmosphere that transport much of the moisture from the tropics to northern latitudes. Atmospheric rivers are part of the Earth's ocean water cycle, and are tied closely to both water supply and flood risks.

A well-known example of a strong atmospheric river is called the "Pineapple Express" because moisture builds up in the tropical Pacific around Hawaii and can wallop the U.S. West Coast with heavy rainfall.

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How are satellites used to observe the ocean?

This item was filled under Basics, Economy, Ecosystems, Facts, Health, Ocean Observations


Satellites are amazing tools for observing the Earth and the big blue ocean that covers more than 70 percent of our planet. By remotely sensing from their orbits high above the Earth, satellites provide us much more information than would be possible to obtain solely from the surface.

Using satellites, NOAA researchers closely study the ocean. Information gathered by satellites can tell us about ocean bathymetry, sea surface temperature, ocean color, coral reefs, and sea and lake ice. Scientists also use data collection systems on satellites to relay signals from transmitters on the ground to researchers in the field—used in applications such as measuring tidal heights and the migration of whales. Transmitters on satellites also relay position information from emergency beacons to help save lives when people are in distress on boats, airplanes, or in remote areas.

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What is an oil seep?



Did you know that naturally occurring oil seeps from the seafloor are the largest source of oil entering the world ocean? In fact, they account for nearly half of the oil released into the ocean environment every year. Seeps occur when crude oil leaks from fractures in the seafloor or rises up through seafloor sediments, in much the same way that a freshwater spring brings water to the surface. The waters off of Southern California are home to hundreds of naturally occurring oil and natural gas seeps.

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Why do scientists measure sea surface temperature?

This item was filled under Basics, Economy, Facts, Ocean Observations, Ocean Science


Sea surface temperature provides fundamental information on the global climate system. Because the ocean covers 71 percent of Earth's surface, scientists record sea surface temperature (SST) to understand how the ocean communicates with Earth's atmosphere. SST provides fundamental information on the global climate system. SST is an essential parameter in weather prediction and atmospheric model simulations, and is also important for the study of marine ecosystems.

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What is an oil spill trajectory?



During the threat of an oil spill, responders need to know where that spilled oil will go in order to protect shorelines with containment boom, stage cleanup equipment, or close areas for fishing and boating. In order to answer these questions, NOAA oceanographers use specialized computer models to predict the movement of spilled oil on the water surface. They predict where the oil is most likely to go and how soon it may arrive there. During a major spill response, trajectory maps are created to show predictions for the path of spilled oil.

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What is marine biogeography?

This item was filled under Basics, Facts, Ocean Observations, Ocean Science, Technology


Marine biogeography is the study of marine species, the geographic distribution of their habitats, and the relationships between living organisms and the environment. By mapping benthic habitats, studying what occurs on the bottom of a body of water, and assessing the relationships between the environment and the organisms that live there, biogeographers provide useful information to protect and conserve marine resources.

Marine biogeographers often use Geographic Information Systems, or GIS, to aid in their research of marine animals, plants, and habitats. Scientists and GIS specialists develop map-based data that describe the distribution and ecology of living marine resources and their connections to human communities. State and federal planners can apply these tools and information to position aquaculture sites and alternative energy facilities, and to protect fisheries and coral spawning areas. Information from biogeographers allows planners to consider possible scenarios, such as new development, that may, or may not, impact the environment.

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What is the Forchhammer’s Principle?

This item was filled under Basics, Facts, Ocean Observations, Ocean Science, Technology

In 1865, the Danish geologist and mineralogist Johan Georg Forchhammer, with the help of naval and civilian collaborators, collected numerous samples of seawater from the Northern Atlantic and the Arctic Ocean. He wanted to determine why the salinity (or "saltiness") of seawater varies in different areas of the ocean.

Forchhammer put the samples through a detailed series of chemical analyses and found that the proportions of the major salts in seawater stay about the same everywhere. This constant ratio is known as Forchhammer's Principle, or the Principle of Constant Proportions. In addition to this principal, Forchhammer is credited with defining the term salinity to mean the concentration of major salts in seawater.

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What is a NOAA tide table?


A tide table provides daily high and low tide predictions. NOAA tide tables are available for more than 3,000 locations around the nation. NOAA’s Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services and predecessor agencies have produced tide tables for more than 150 years.

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How does NOAA help clean up oil and chemical spills?


Just like we may need sponges, scrub brushes, and a disinfectant to expel a mess in our house or yard, emergency responders employ a variety of tools and techniques to remove oil and chemicals spilled in our rivers, bays, and oceans, and washed up on our shores.

For more than 30 years, NOAA's Office of Response and Restoration has played a leading role in the evolving science of hazardous materials (also known as "HAZMAT") spill response. Check out our collection of THREE infographics for a clear explanation of this always complex process.

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What is a maritime forest?

This item was filled under Ecosystems, Facts, Ocean Observations, Ocean Science


Maritime forests are shoreline estuaries along coastal barrier islands that are relatively pristine and support a great diversity of plants and animals. Maritime forests remain largely untouched by commercial development and closely resemble the woodlands where Native Americans inhabited and early settlers settled hundreds of years ago. Trees, bushes, and other plants in maritime forests and estuaries withstand strong winds, periodic flooding, and salt spray. Many species of mammals and reptiles make the forests their home and thousands of birds migrate to maritime forests each year.

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