Archive for the ‘Ocean Science’ 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.

Continue reading →

...

Continue reading...

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.

Continue reading →

...

Continue reading...

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.

Continue reading →

...

Continue reading...

What is marine telemetry?

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


Marine telemetry interprets into data the movements and behavior of animals as they move through oceans, coastal rivers, estuaries, and the Great Lakes. Telemetry devices, called tags, are affixed to a wide range of marine species, from tiny salmon smolts to giant 150-ton whales. Tags are attached to the outside of an animal with clips, straps, or glue, and are sometimes surgically inserted in an animal's body.

Continue reading →

...

Continue reading...

How do sea turtles hatch?

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


In summertime when the weather is warm, pregnant female sea turtles return to the beaches where they themselves hatched years before. They swim through the crashing surf and crawl up the beach searching for a nesting spot above the high water mark. Using her back flippers, the reptile digs a nest in the sand. Digging the nest and laying her eggs usually takes from one to three hours, after which the mother turtle slowly drags herself back to the ocean.

The sea turtle lays up to 100 eggs, which incubate in the warm sand for about 60 days. The temperature of the sand determines the genders of baby sea turtles, with cooler sand producing more males and warmer sand producing more females. The phenomenon is called Temperature-Dependent Sex Determination, or TSD, and governs the genders of other reptiles, too, including alligators and crocodiles. Current NOAA research suggests that warming trends due to climate change may cause a higher ratio of female sea turtles, potentially affecting genetic diversity.

Continue reading →

...

Continue reading...

What is a living shoreline?

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


Living shorelines are a green infrastructure technique using native vegetation alone or in combination with offshore sills to stabilize the shoreline. Living shorelines provide a natural alternative to ‘hard’ shoreline stabilization methods like stone sills or bulkheads, and provide numerous benefits including nutrient pollution remediation, essential fish habitat provision, and buffering of shoreline from waves and storms. Living shorelines are known to store carbon (known as carbon sequestration), which keeps carbon out of the atmosphere. Continued use of this approach to coastal resilience will result in increased carbon sequestration and storage, potentially mitigating the effects of climate change.

Continue reading →

...

Continue reading...

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.

Continue reading →

...

Continue reading...

What color is an iceberg?

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


Most people would say that icebergs are white—and most of them are. But did you know that icebergs can also appear in spectacular shades of blue and green? An iceberg looks white because compressed snow on its surface contains large numbers of tiny air bubbles and crystal edges that equally reflect all wavelengths of visible light.

As more and more heavy snow accumulates atop an iceberg, the air bubbles get compressed, forcing the smaller ice crystals to grow together and merge into larger grains. When the iceberg is underwater, the air bubbles are squeezed out and washed away. Then, when light encounters the dense, compressed ice, much of the light penetrates it. The ice absorbs longer wavelengths of colors, such as red and yellow. Colors of shorter wavelengths, like green and blue, reflect the light. This "leftover" blue-green light is what gives some icebergs their remarkable colors.

Additionally, algae often grow on the underwater sides of icebergs, producing beautiful green stripes in the ice. These are readily seen when an iceberg rolls over and sections that were previously underwater are exposed.

Continue reading →

...

Continue reading...

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.

Continue reading →

...

Continue reading...

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.

Continue reading →

...

Continue reading...