Sea life's importance to the climate

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:45 PM GMT on May 29, 2007

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Does the marine biosphere mix the ocean? A group of oceanographers led by W.K. Dewar of Florida State University argue that the swimming action of fish and other marine organisms may play a critical role in driving ocean currents. If true, large-scale over-fishing or the collapse of the marine food chain due to pollution or ocean acidification may cause significant changes in ocean currents--and Earth's climate.


Figure 1. Rainbow made From a sperm whale using his blowhole. Image taken June 17, 2006 in Kaikora, New Zealand by wunderphotographer jhfelder.

The Meridional Overturning Circulation (MOC) or Thermohaline Circulation is a well-known feature of the ocean circulation. In the Atlantic, the Gulf Stream current forms a portion of the MOC. Gulf Stream waters flow to the region near Greenland, where an input of fresh, denser water from melting ice and river run-off creates a downward flow of water that then moves southward along the ocean bottom towards the Equator. This deep water eventually returns to the surface in the mid-Atlantic to complete a cell of the MOC. Scientists have long thought that the energy needed to drive the MOC came from winds and tides--about two terrawatts of energy (Munk and Wunsch, 1998). However, Dewar et al. show that the mechanical energy added to the ocean by the swimming action of whales is about 1% of this total, and the swimming action of other marine organisms (primarily zooplankton) adds up to 50% of this total--one terrawatt of energy. While the authors admit that their calculations may have large errors, this research shows that marine life may have a heretofore unappreciated large impact on Earth's climate. Our climate is intimately connected to the sun, life on land, life in the ocean, and human activities in an incredibly complex web of interconnections. It is our challenge to understand this system, even as we change it and it changes of its own accord.

My next blog will be Thursday afternoon, when the new Dr. Bill Gray/Phil Klotzbach Atlantic hurricane season forecast will be released.

Jeff Masters

Dewar, W.K., R.J. Bingham, R.L. Iverson, D.P. Nowacek, L.C. St. Laurent, and P.H. Wiebe, 2006, "Does the marine biosphere mix the ocean?", Journal of Marine Research, 64, 541-561.

Munk, W., and C. Wunsch, 1998, "Abyssal recipes II: Energetics of tidal and wind mixing", Deep-Sea Res., 45, 1976-2009.

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720. obsessedwweather
5:40 PM GMT on May 30, 2007
Hey All-
Haven't been able to pay much attention to the blog....been one of those days. Is this thing by the Caribbean going to form into a TD or TS? Please tell me it will bring much needed soaking rain to North Florida!!!??? Florida in general....even southern Georgia. Gone with the drought and the fires already!!!!!
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719. Patrap
12:41 PM CDT on May 30, 2007
Pre-season storm..Get your tickets for good seating.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 428 Comments: 129902
718. Patrap
12:40 PM CDT on May 30, 2007
Like this..Link
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 428 Comments: 129902
716. bjdsrq
5:12 PM GMT on May 30, 2007
lol GulfScotsMan. Lifesavers vs Naysayers? Glad folks like yourself are saving my life from 0.5 inches of rain I might get on Sat.

I'm just as interested in hurricanes and discussing hurricanes as anyone else, otherwise I wouldn't even be here. I'm just being realistic regarding current conditions fostering anything tropical in GOM for the foreseeable future.

It always exciting anticipating the first storm of the year in the GOM. However, if you sit like an anxious child waiting for santa claus (or Barry) to come down the chimney at any moment, you'll probably drive yourself nuts for another 8 weeks. Do whatever you like. Just my 2 cents. Been there, done that.

Anyway, what I'm interested in at the present is watching how the weather pattern leading up to aug/sept correlates (or not) with 2004. The cold surface water around FL in 2004 and dry May have recently piqued my interest regarding a correlation with this season.
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714. hurricane23
1:37 PM EDT on May 30, 2007
Yes looks like everything is in place for it to intensify at least to 70-80kts but if everythng works out it should stay offshore.
Member Since: May 14, 2006 Posts: 8 Comments: 13841
713. MTJax
5:38 PM GMT on May 30, 2007
THE GULF OF MEXICO...
PRONOUNCED UPPER TROUGHING COVERS THE MAJORITY OF THE GULF
EXTENDING SWD FROM THE ROCKIES TOWARD THE YUCATAN PENINSULA. THE
COMBINATION OF UPPER DIFFLUENCE TO THE E OF THE TROUGH AXIS AND
LOW TO MID LEVEL CONVERGENCE NEAR A LOW LEVEL TROUGH BOUNDARY
ALONG 87W S OF 23N IS FUELING SCATTERED TO NUMEROUS SHOWERS AND
TSTMS S OF 25N BETWEEN 83W-88W. IR IMAGES AND LIGHTNING DATA
SUGGEST THAT THE ASSOCIATED MORE ACTIVE WEATHER IS IN THE NW
CARIB. RELATIVELY QUIET CONDITIONS...PATCHY MID-HIGH LEVEL
CLOUDS...EXIST ELSEWHERE. AT THE SFC...A 1023 MB HIGH PRES IS
CENTERED OVER NE GEORGIA. THE TIGHTENED PRES GRADIENT BETWEEN
THE HIGH AND TROUGH NEAR THE YUCATAN CHANNEL IS PICKING UP ELY
WINDS TO 20-25 KT IN THE FL STRAITS AND 15-20 KT ELSEWHERE IN
THE E GULF. THESE WINDS LIGHTEN AND VEER TO THE S/SE IN THE W
GULF ON THE W PERIPHERY OF THE RIDGE. LOOKING AHEAD A DAY OR
TWO...THE MAIN FEATURE OF INTEREST IS THE LOW-LEVEL TROUGH
MENTIONED. SEVERAL COMPUTER MODELS SHOW THIS FEATURE MOVING NE
INCREASING WINDS AND PULLING TROPICAL MOISTURE ACROSS THE E GULF.

THE CARIBBEAN SEA...
SCATTERED SHOWERS AND TSTMS PERSIST ACROSS THE W CARIB NAMELY W
OF 81W...WITH THE GREATEST AREA OF CONVECTION APPROACHING THE
WRN TIP OF CUBA FROM THE SW. THIS MOISTURE IS ASSOCIATED WITH A
LOW-LEVEL TROUGH WHICH RUNS FROM NICARAGUA TO THE YUCATAN
CHANNEL CONTINUING INTO THE SE GULF. VIS IMAGES DISPLAY A BROAD
ENVELOPE OF CYCLONIC TURNING IN THE LOW LEVELS...ALTHOUGH QSCAT
AND SFC OBS LIKELY INDICATE THAT THE MORE SUBSTANTIAL AMPLITUDE
IS OFF THE SFC. ASSOCIATED ISOLATED TSTMS EXTEND FURTHER E
BETWEEN 74W AND 81W MAINLY S OF JAMAICA. FARTHER E...THE TAIL
END OF AN ATLC SFC TROUGH EXTENDS JUST N OF HISPANIOLA. UPPER
DIFFLUENCE TO THE E OF THIS BOUNDARY IS SUPPORTING SCATTERED
SHOWERS AND ISOLATED TSTMS S OF PUERTO RICO AND ACROSS THE
VIRGIN ISLANDS AS DEPICTED ON DOPPLER RADAR FROM SAN JUAN. A
WEDGE OF DRY STABLE AIR ALOFT EXTENDS ACROSS THE WINDWARD
ISLANDS TO NEAR 15N71W PROVIDING FAIR WEATHER FOR THE SE PORTION
OF THE CARIB SEA. LOOKING AHEAD...COMPUTER MODELS SUGGEST THAT A
FAIR AMOUNT OF MOISTURE WILL REMAIN IN THE W CARIB OVER THE NEXT
FEW DAYS AS THE TROUGH SLOWLY PUSHES NE.

$$
JC
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712. MTJax
5:35 PM GMT on May 30, 2007
NAM HAS EXPANDED NWWD WITH SYSTEMS CIRCULATION OVER THE NRN GULF
LATER D3...DROPPING THE TROF EXTENDING INTO SRN FL. GFS HAS
TRENDED DRAMATICALLY MORE SUPPRESSED WITH THIS SYSTEM...SENDING A
SMALL FOCUSED WAVE ACROSS SRN FL D3.

...LOW PRESSURE DEVELOPING OVER GOMEX D2-3...
NAM DEVELOPS BROAD CIRCULATION ENCOMPASSING MOST OF GOMEX BY
D3...WHILE GFS KEEPS ANTICYCLONIC FLOW OVER THE REGION...SENDING A
FLAT...ALBEIT INTENSE...WAVE RIPPLING ACROSS SRN FL. OTHER RECENT
GUIDANCE IS ALL OVER THE PLACE. WITH 12Z GEM GLOBAL OFFERING THE
LEAST LIKELY SCENARIO...TAKING ONE ROUND... DEVELOPED CIRCULATION
BARRELING INTO THE ERN FL PANHANDLE. WITH PATTERN BLOCKY ALL TO
THE N OF THIS SYSTEM...AM INCLINED TO LEAN TOWARD MORE
ANTICYCLONIC FLOW OVER THE NERN GOMEX...ALONG THE LINES OF THE 00Z
ECMWF BUT SQUASHED A BIT TO THE E.

$$
CISCO
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710. MTJax
5:29 PM GMT on May 30, 2007
Saddle. BTW "HI"

The moisture near Cozumel will move toward Florida. This might be a tropical storm in some form or just a lot of rain. Expecting 2+ inches in south Florida and 1+ inches in NE Florida.
Toward the end of next week there will be an increased chance of tropical storm formation in the Gulf of Mexico. The reason for this to happen is LIFT that created the two storms in the Pacific ocean will be moving into the GOM next week.
My take on all this is that we "will" have storm "B" and possibly storm "C" by June 15.
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708. Patrap
12:31 PM CDT on May 30, 2007
ABSTRACT

Consensus forecasts from the control runs of several operational numerical models are compared to 1) the control-run forecasts of the individual models that compose the consensus and to 2) other consensus forecasts generated by varying the initial conditions of the various individual models. It is found that the multimodel consensus is superior to the individual control runs and to the consensus forecasts constructed from ensembles of runs generated by varying model initial conditions. The source of the forecast improvement by model consensus is not the result of a simple cancellation of errors as a result of an overall positive bias in one model and an overall negative bias in another. Rather the main improvement stems from overlapping differences in the sign of the errors associated with forecasts of individual traveling disturbances. The results suggest that variations in model physics and numerics play a substantial role in generating the full spectrum of possible solutions that can arise in a given numerical forecast.

Manuscript received D
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 428 Comments: 129902
707. turtlehurricane
5:30 PM GMT on May 30, 2007
Well, we have Barbara now. This is a classic gradual strengthening scenario. Also, that band in the southern quadrant is huge!

I made a full update on Hurricane Warning
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706. Patrap
12:30 PM CDT on May 30, 2007
Model consensus..a good read. Link
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 428 Comments: 129902
705. hurricane23
1:28 PM EDT on May 30, 2007
Here is the 5 day total right now with the heaviest rain in extreme south florida and the keys.
Member Since: May 14, 2006 Posts: 8 Comments: 13841
703. nash28
5:27 PM GMT on May 30, 2007
I wouldn't go so far as to call any one of the global models "useless". It may not be 100% correct, but with that many runs in a row being persistent on some sort of development, you have to give it some thought. Besides, if the damn thing was that ass backwards and broken, I don't think they would allow it to run.

JMHO.
Member Since: July 11, 2005 Posts: 190 Comments: 16972
702. Patrap
12:29 PM CDT on May 30, 2007
7..now I work for the GFS.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 428 Comments: 129902
699. hurricane23
1:21 PM EDT on May 30, 2007
Posted By: ricderr at 1:19 PM EDT on May 30, 2007. (hide)
h23......depending on models..you're talking as much as 5 inches of rain...while not "significant" it's a damn good start..and seeing that most of south florida derives its water from aquifiers...it's still a darn good start.

Actually HPC has lowered the rain chances to about a little less then 3 inches for the southeast.Also i think models especially the GFS is to bullish on its rain amounts.No doupt its a good start but much more rain will be needed as far as the lake is concerned.
Member Since: May 14, 2006 Posts: 8 Comments: 13841
697. ricderr
5:17 PM GMT on May 30, 2007
h23......depending on models..you're talking as much as 5 inches of rain...while not "significant" it's a damn good start..and seeing that most of south florida derives its water from aquifiers...it's still a darn good start.
Member Since: June 27, 2006 Posts: 676 Comments: 22373
696. thelmores
5:11 PM GMT on May 30, 2007
I don't buy the CMC forecast!

IMHO, the CMC this time of year is useless!
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695. ricderr
5:16 PM GMT on May 30, 2007
GS.....one more day.....got a funeral on my mind tonight.....figure once it's over my mood will improve...not much into arguments....errrrrr.....sorry aaron..i meant...creative discussion
Member Since: June 27, 2006 Posts: 676 Comments: 22373
694. hurricane23
1:11 PM EDT on May 30, 2007
You can all the climatology in the world but there is 30-50kt windshear raceing across the gulf which will not allow siginificant development to take place.Looks like tropical moisture moving threw florida on friday-saturday time frame then look for dry conditions starting up once again early next week.

This rain will likely have no siginificant impacts on the lake as much larger amounts are needed.Adrian
Member Since: May 14, 2006 Posts: 8 Comments: 13841
688. nash28
5:09 PM GMT on May 30, 2007
LMAO GS!
Member Since: July 11, 2005 Posts: 190 Comments: 16972
687. nash28
5:06 PM GMT on May 30, 2007
Great post STL! By the diagram, you can see the CMC is not calling for a tropical storm warm-cored in nature, but even cold-cored will still have the same effects.
Member Since: July 11, 2005 Posts: 190 Comments: 16972
686. stormybil
5:07 PM GMT on May 30, 2007
yes it has pass over cuba it might wear it out but it may come alive in the gulfstream
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682. stormybil
5:01 PM GMT on May 30, 2007
local new met in so fla. says

a low may develope there and head east to so fla. on sunday with a lot of rain and they said they will be keeping a eye on it for little development .
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680. nash28
5:05 PM GMT on May 30, 2007
Yep. You can see at the beginning of the run that it is not the current sheared blob we are looking at today.
Member Since: July 11, 2005 Posts: 190 Comments: 16972
679. pcshell
1:02 PM EDT on May 30, 2007
hello all what about the possabilty of barbara crossing into the caribean and being our forcasted low we are looking for
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678. hurricane23
1:00 PM EDT on May 30, 2007
I believe this is indeed what the models were seeing but conditions for this time of year are unfavorable as you can see the fast upper levels winds raceing across the gulf.This is actually normal around this time.The lake will need much more then this tropical moisture before things look better.Adrian
Member Since: May 14, 2006 Posts: 8 Comments: 13841
675. southbeachdude
5:03 PM GMT on May 30, 2007
thanks nash...the cmc seems to be picking up another storm that is south of this current blob.
Member Since: July 29, 2005 Posts: 2 Comments: 697
674. nash28
5:02 PM GMT on May 30, 2007
IMO, just relax and find something else to do until august

This IS what we do.
Member Since: July 11, 2005 Posts: 190 Comments: 16972
672. bjdsrq
4:46 PM GMT on May 30, 2007
All I see here on this blog is a lot of wishful hype and spin for a GOM TS this weekend. Water around FL is very cold compared to where it should be, and shear is high and will stay high north of tip of yucatan through the weekend. What's going on down there is just a cold-core low forming and hopefully a 70% chance of some rain in FL for the weekend. IMO, just relax and find something else to do until august.
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671. nash28
5:01 PM GMT on May 30, 2007
12z run of the CMC is out.

Link
Member Since: July 11, 2005 Posts: 190 Comments: 16972

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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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