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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269. DocBen
9:03 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
Looks like they have it going south for a couple days and then reversing course and going north. Hot water there right now.
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267. RL3AO
4:03 PM CDT on May 29, 2007
Yes Geek. They are separate lists also.
266. RL3AO
4:01 PM CDT on May 29, 2007
Its really wierd to see the NHC that aggressive in the first advisory. Anyway, maybe Barbara will bring flooding to GW Bush's ranch in Texas.
265. HurricaneGeek
4:57 PM EDT on May 29, 2007
Good afternoon, this probaly wont happen but what if both the atl and epac ran out of names. Would they BOTH go to greek? thanks in advance
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263. WPBHurricane05
4:59 PM EDT on May 29, 2007
Weird

NA
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261. IKE
3:55 PM CDT on May 29, 2007
Yup...it's suppose to move south...then NW.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
260. StoryOfTheCane
8:53 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
Posted By: nash28 at 8:48 PM GMT on May 29, 2007.
You're right Plywood. There will be those who come on here only to trash those of us who want to provide as much information/education as we can, ESPECIALLY for those who may be in the path of a hurricane. We will continue to do what we do. It is what we love. It is for DAMN SURE what I love.

And, with Aaron's new system, those assclowns will be history shortly after their post:-)



What is Aaron's new system?
259. nash28
8:54 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
I noticed the GFDL backed off on bringing 2e over Mexico into the Yucitan Channel.
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257. nash28
8:53 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
I knew I could count on you GS for a good laugh!!!!
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256. WPBHurricane05
4:51 PM EDT on May 29, 2007
NA
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253. hcubed
8:50 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
Posted By: StoryOfTheCane at 8:44 PM GMT on May 29, 2007.

I dont believe any study done on hurricanes because we absolutely do not have enough data to support any claim


Yet we blindly believe the Doom and Gloom predicted by the climate change crowd...

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252. RL3AO
3:50 PM CDT on May 29, 2007
NHC has TD 2E to 85 kts in 120 hrs.
249. nash28
8:46 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
You're right Plywood. There will be those who come on here only to trash those of us who want to provide as much information/education as we can, ESPECIALLY for those who may be in the path of a hurricane. We will continue to do what we do. It is what we love. It is for DAMN SURE what I love.

And, with Aaron's new system, those assclowns will be history shortly after their post:-)
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248. nash28
8:42 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
And to a guilty pleasure extent, those two seasons for many of us have us craving early starts and busy seasons because we have a passion for this.

Nothing wrong with it at all. Passion is what drives desire. Desire drives research. Research drives new technologies to learn more about hurricanes. New technology can possibly save more lives.
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247. plywoodstatenative
8:42 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
if the season starts rocking we all know this will be called the Doom and Gloom blog
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246. StoryOfTheCane
8:43 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
I dont believe any study done on hurricanes because we absolutely do not have enough data to support any claim
245. StoryOfTheCane
8:42 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
we've had a few curve balls thrown at us for sure
243. hcubed
8:41 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
Thought this was interesting...

By Timothy Gardner
Wed May 23, 8:42 PM ET

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Hurricanes over the past 5,000 years appear to have been controlled more by El Nino and an African monsoon than warm sea surface temperatures, such as those caused by global warming, researchers said on Wednesday.

The study, published in the journal Nature, adds to the debate on whether seas warmed by greenhouse gas emissions lead to more hurricanes, such as those that bashed the Gulf of Mexico in 2005.

Some researchers say warmer seas appear to have contributed to more intense hurricanes, while others disagree. The U.N. International Panel on Climate Change said this year it was more likely than not that humans contribute to a trend of increasingly intense hurricanes.

Frequent strong hurricanes thrived in the Western Atlantic during times of weak El Ninos, or warming of surface waters of the Eastern Pacific Ocean, and strong West African monsoons even when local seas were cooler than now, the study said.

"Tropical sea surface temperatures as warm as at present are apparently not a requisite condition for increased intense hurricane activity,
" Jeffrey Donnelly, the lead author and researcher at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, said in the study.

Intense hurricanes made landfall during the latter half of the Little Ice Age, a period of cooling that occurred approximately from the 14th to mid-19th centuries, he said.

Donnelly took core sediment samples from coastal lagoons in Puerto Rico to determine the frequency and strength of hurricanes that hit the Caribbean island over thousands of years. The storms whipped up sand and other coarse grains that were deposited in the lagoons.

He compared the deposits with historic paleoclimatology records to determine that the storms hit during periods when El Ninos were weak and when Western African monsoons were strong.

Intense hurricanes hit when local sea surface temperatures were warm or cool. In fact, "the Caribbean experienced a relatively active interval of intense hurricanes for more than a millennium when local sea surface temperatures were on average cooler than modern," the study said.

Changes in intense hurricane activity should be better predicted with more study of the Eastern Pacific and West African climate patterns, it said.
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242. StoryOfTheCane
8:41 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
Posted By: nash28 at 8:41 PM GMT on May 29, 2007.
I think to an extent most of us became a little jaded after '04 and especially '05 in terms of when is the season going to get rocking....


valid point
241. StoryOfTheCane
8:40 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
i think we'll see at least 2 June systems, if not more
240. nash28
8:39 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
I think to an extent most of us became a little jaded after '04 and especially '05 in terms of when is the season going to get rocking....
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238. StoryOfTheCane
8:39 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
shear definitely aint normal for this time of year, so we're not going to be looking at a normal June in my opinion
235. StoryOfTheCane
8:38 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
thats a good point, nash, conditions are becoming favorable fairly early this year
234. nash28
8:36 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
I think the important thing to remember here is we are NOT supposed to be active right now. It is still May. Hell, even June is historically supposed to be tame.
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232. ricderr
8:32 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
It could develope but most likely it would be non-tropical in nature.

why would it be non tropical?
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231. DocBen
8:31 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
Question about that big swirl around Bermuda: Is the 'tail' down NE of Puerto Rico likely to split off and have a life of its own? It seems to have colder cloud tops than the rest of the swirl.
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228. BoyntonBeach
8:30 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
a slow mover ?
Member Since: July 5, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 1
226. nash28
8:29 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
We'll take whatever we can get. Just need rain!
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225. DocBen
8:26 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
If south GA and FL get a heavy rainstorm what will happen with all the denuded landscape? Flooding? Lots of run-off and nothing soaking in?
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224. nash28
8:24 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
Hey Plywood. I don't believe we will see an active La Nina event. I stated in my blog that we will most like be in the neutral to weak La Nina pattern for this hurricane season.

But as we saw in 04 and 05, either one can be equally dangerous.
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223. TheCaneWhisperer
8:25 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
It is the best case scenario for us! A soaking without the high winds!
222. TheCaneWhisperer
8:22 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
I do Boynton! However, like 23, agree it will not be Tropical in nature! Shear is just too high!
221. plywoodstatenative
8:22 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
nash, whats the chance for a neutral La Nina compared to an overly active La Nina given what we have seen in both basins?
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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.