Sea life's importance to the climate

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

Share this Blog
2
+

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.

Reader Comments

Comments will take a few seconds to appear.

Post Your Comments

Please sign in to post comments.

or Join

Not only will you be able to leave comments on this blog, but you'll also have the ability to upload and share your photos in our Wunder Photos section.

Display: 0, 50, 100, 200 Sort: Newest First - Order Posted

Viewing: 471 - 421

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26Blog Index

470. groundman
11:49 AM GMT on May 30, 2007
Has anyone looked @ the gfs in 180 hr?? Being in S MS I'd like to know what the heck it means?
Link
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
469. ricderr
11:49 AM GMT on May 30, 2007
OK...I'm just an amateur.....I'll leave this scientific stuff to guys like ricderr and such

thanx raa....errr..i mean flboy.....but i'm not a scientist..just the king of cut and paste....
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
468. groundman
11:42 AM GMT on May 30, 2007
Hey cajunkid, I think you left off part of the link, it goes straight to wikipedia article on http???
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
465. IKE
6:36 AM CDT on May 30, 2007
Pressures are rather low at buoy 42056 in the Yucatan basin..Link
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860
464. weatherboykris
11:30 AM GMT on May 30, 2007
I don't know what you're talking about cajunkid.The blog's aliiiiive!LOL
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
463. IKE
6:28 AM CDT on May 30, 2007
Latest NOGAPS aims a weak system toward Apalachicola Bay...UKMET has it crossing south/central Florida, as does the latest 06 UTC GFS.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860
461. cajunkid
6:29 AM CDT on May 30, 2007
where did everyone go?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
460. cajunkid
6:24 AM CDT on May 30, 2007
What a way to wake up to hump-dayLink
pray no one gets hurt
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
459. weatherboykris
11:23 AM GMT on May 30, 2007
Of greater interest to me is the small possibility of TD-2E heading into the Yucatan Channel or Southern Carribean.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
458. IKE
6:23 AM CDT on May 30, 2007
00UTC CMC has a landfall in north/northeast Florida....Link
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860
457. weatherboykris
11:21 AM GMT on May 30, 2007
Morning everyone.Interesting forecasts in terms of rain potential,but the phase diagrams still indicate a hybrid system at best.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
455. IKE
6:13 AM CDT on May 30, 2007
Here's the 06UTC NAM run...has a 1008mb low heading to the desert like Florida panhandle..north Florida in 84 hours. Bring that rain!....Link
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860
454. TheRingo
7:09 AM EDT on May 30, 2007
Interesting blowup in the yucatan channel

blob
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
450. flytyerva
10:26 AM GMT on May 30, 2007
Well now the whales and sea creatures are a major force in our ocean currents. Will you people never give up. Overfishing may stop the ocean from flowing, who wrote that one PETA.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
433. groundman
6:46 AM GMT on May 30, 2007
Posted By: TheRingo at 5:59 AM GMT on May 30, 2007.
Now GFDL shows 02E to come out into NW caribbean.



And if it did isn't it a little close for comfort ? This year is WEIRD.

About the global warming, my husband leaves the science up to me but he has been saying for years it's not exactly the truth. I personally think it's this generations integration, something to mull over and take sides over and feel passionate about one way or another. Not to say GW or integration isn't/wasn't important, just seems to be human nature to find a cause. Since the media and others have jumped on the GW bandwagon, I tend to doubt it more than when it seemed to be just a bunch of environmentalists saying get rid of freon, carbon dioxide emissions, and my areosol hair spray (horrors) and maybe tuna fishing too. LOL Then I believed it wholeheartedly but since the movie and all I'm having problems with it. Talk about devils advocate.

This year is still WEIRD compared with last year. That's my scientific opinion. ;-)
Back to beddy bye.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
432. Inyo
6:12 AM GMT on May 30, 2007
Posted By: FLBoy at 5:11 AM GMT on May 30, 2007.
How ridiculous is that? The southern New Mexico desert has received more precipitation this winter than the past two years combined.


deserts are charactarized by extreme weather. When it does rain, it rains hard. A few inches of rain in an hour is not common, even in areas that haven't seen substantial rain in months or even years. You get flash floods, the annual wildflowers all bloom, the creosote bush gets new leaves, then it dries up and everything waits for the next rain.

Also, climate change will change rainfall patters but NO ONE knows how. Every climate model is different. Theres no evidence that Florida is getting drier right now.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
431. moonlightcowboy
6:05 AM GMT on May 30, 2007
.
Member Since: July 9, 2006 Posts: 184 Comments: 29610
430. TheRingo
1:58 AM EDT on May 30, 2007
Now GFDL shows 02E to come out into NW caribbean.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
427. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
4:51 AM GMT on May 30, 2007
fla over the long term will become more semi desert as global climate zones alter to form new climatic areas desert sw will expand as well as along with northern south america temperate climates will expand but only north as the sub artic slowly disappears along with considerable loss of the artic tundra
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
423. IKE
11:30 PM CDT on May 29, 2007
All of Florida desperately needs rain out of this system. Please weather Gods...rain on us!
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860
422. Alec
12:29 AM EDT on May 30, 2007
gonna hit the sack....night y'all!=)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
421. Alec
12:27 AM EDT on May 30, 2007
IKE.....I dont need to be in the SW to know what a desert looks like..LOL...before long, FL may burn to a crisp if it doesnt see some good solid rain!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:

Viewing: 471 - 421

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26Blog Index

Top of Page

About

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

Local Weather

Light Snow
26 °F
Light Snow