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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171. hcubed
6:32 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
So let's see if I got this right...

If everybody went out to the coast, stood in the water, and wiggled their toes, then we will affect the ocean currents?

I live on the Gulf Coast. What would that do to the blob?
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169. Patrap
1:31 PM CDT on May 29, 2007
Maybe more down the line in time too.The GFSx Link
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 414 Comments: 125503
168. henryfaust
6:30 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
A short article on biomixing was published in the 11 May 2007 edition of Science (volume 316, page 838). The author (Visser) states the mixing efficiency of small organisms (e.g. krill) is extremely low and most of the mechanical energy they impart to the ocean water is nearly immediately disssipated as heat. He suggests there is a case to made for local mixing by larger animals (fish, whales), but their comparatively low abundance makes it unlikely they materially contribute to global ocean circulation.
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167. Patrap
1:29 PM CDT on May 29, 2007
I see a slow moving ULL that may shift some beneficial rain to Ga & Fla come thurs, friday .
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 414 Comments: 125503
166. hurricane23
2:29 PM EDT on May 29, 2007
No rain for south florida.
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165. Patrap
1:28 PM CDT on May 29, 2007
I just post them, You tell me what YOU see 23..LOL
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 414 Comments: 125503
164. Patrap
1:28 PM CDT on May 29, 2007
Standby for more rain SE.La..Coastal Miss/Ala..Link
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163. hurricane23
2:27 PM EDT on May 29, 2007
Nothing to see there patrap.
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162. Patrap
1:24 PM CDT on May 29, 2007
GOES Water Vapor Loop of Gulf and Caribbean Link
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 414 Comments: 125503
161. hurricane23
2:24 PM EDT on May 29, 2007
Covection has become quite has indeed become better organzied with convection become more symetrical with time and i suspect this will go ahead and become the next TD in the pacific and if the trend continues a TS is very possible.

depression
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160. Patrap
1:23 PM CDT on May 29, 2007
GOES IR Loop of Gulf of Mexico Link
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159. Eyewall911
6:22 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
img src=" " width="120" height="180" alt="ddd" />
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158. IKE
1:21 PM CDT on May 29, 2007
Posted By: nattat11 at 1:17 PM CDT on May 29, 2007.
Hello all. i have been reading this blog for a couple years, but due to my lack in weather knowledge havent posted :).
I know this is a tropical weather blog


Uh...according to someone who responded to me earlier...it isn't.

Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
157. RL3AO
6:19 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
What a beautiful depression.
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156. franck
6:17 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
Since when does one have to know weather to post here? I've got a lot of posts to cancel.
How far back do the archives go?
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155. nattat11
6:12 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
Hello all. i have been reading this blog for a couple years, but due to my lack in weather knowledge havent posted :).
I know this is a tropical weather blog and not a climate change blog, but someone earlier asked about access to the article Dr.Masters discussed. I found it on google here is the link:
http://209.85.165.104/search?q=cache:obZiplxXmUgJ:ocean.fsu.edu/~lous/download/papers/dewaretal.200 6.pdf+%22does+the+marine+biosphere+mix+the+ocean%22&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=3&gl=us
I know its long, just copy and paste it to your browser.
It seems to me that ocean mixing might be acting similar to smaller freshwater systems mixings, such as estuaries, in which zooplankton and other microorganisms as well as larger things such as fish, play a role in mixing which in turn can affect the currents.
Also, does anyone know if smoke in the atmosphere from the wildfires will have any affect on tropical systems?
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153. hurricane23
2:14 PM EDT on May 29, 2007
Usually when the pacific is active the atlantic might be quite but thats not always the case.

The Area Of Low Pressure Located A Couple Hundred Miles Southwest Of
The Gulf Of Tehuantepec Continues To Become Better Organized And Is
Nearing Tropical Depression Status. If Present Trends Continue...
Tropical Cyclone Advisories Will Be Initiated This Afternoon.
Although Little Motion Of This System Is Expected Over The Next 24
Hours...there Is Some Potential For Heavy Rains To Affect Portions
Of Coastal Mexico Between Punto Maldonado And Salina Cruz Over The
Next Day Or So.



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152. RL3AO
6:12 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
Yes it does. Now if it moved NNE, look where that would take it...hmm. That should get the blog post counts goin up...and oil prices.
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151. Eyewall911
6:09 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
Link
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149. Eyewall911
6:06 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
http://icons.wunderground.com/data/wximagenew/j/Jhfelder/9.jpg
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148. RL3AO
6:04 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
Who says the EPac will be below normal? Oh yeah, NOAA did.
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147. ricderr
6:01 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
mexican radar
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145. RL3AO
5:56 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
I think the best chance for anything in the atlantic anytime soon will be the remnants of what will be Barbara making it across Mexico and into the GOM. Other than that, there is not much to look at.
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143. snowboy
5:52 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
folks, right now there's nothing, nada, niente, nichts, de rien.. in the tropics - time to get out and enjoy the day
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141. 0741
4:55 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
look at area coming off coast of colombia that do spin too
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140. Boatofacar
5:50 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
Thanks Gulf, that cheered me up
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138. Drakoen
5:43 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
Posted By: TheRingo at 5:41 PM GMT on May 29, 2007.
Posted By: Drakoen at 1:36 PM EDT on May 29, 2007.
Posted By: TheRingo at 5:29 PM GMT on May 29, 2007.
car. low growing on west side.

thats a nice picture of it. cold cloud tops, still nothing much though could just be dinural phase.

thought convection was highest at sunrise. And decreases by max sunlight.

i edit my post lol. I think it is just a result of daytime heating firing up thew sotrms.
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137. Drakoen
5:42 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
THE CARIBBEAN SEA...
A SFC TROUGH REMAINS IN THE CARIBBEAN EXTENDING FROM 18N80W TO A
WEAK SFC LOW CENTERED NEAR 13N80W. SCATTERED SHOWERS AND TSTMS
EXIST ALONG THE TROUGH AXIS. UPPER LEVEL DIFFLUENCE BETWEEN AN
E-W ORIENTED UPPER RIDGE OVER CENTRAL AMERICA AND AN UPPER HIGH
CENTERED NEAR 12N73W IS SUPPORTING A LARGE CLUSTER OF MODERATE
SHOWERS AND TSTMS BETWEEN 14N AND THE COLOMBIAN COAST BETWEEN
73W-79W. SCATTERED MODERATE CONVECTION IS AFFECTING EASTERN
HISPANIOLA...NW PUERTO RICO...AND ADJACENT WATERS S OF THE DEEP
LAYERED LOW AND ASSOCIATED TROUGHING IN THE WESTERN ATLC.
TYPICAL ELY TRADE WINDS WILL PERSIST ACROSS MUCH OF THE AREA
THROUGH MIDWEEK EXCEPT IN THE SW CARIBBEAN WHERE THE WEAK LOW
PRES WILL MAINTAIN LIGHT AND VARIABLE WINDS.
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136. TheRingo
1:36 PM EDT on May 29, 2007
Posted By: Drakoen at 1:36 PM EDT on May 29, 2007.
Posted By: TheRingo at 5:29 PM GMT on May 29, 2007.
car. low growing on west side.

thats a nice picture of it. cold cloud tops, still nothing much though could just be dinural phase.


thought convection was highest at sunrise. And decreases by max sunlight.
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135. CCTEXHELO
5:30 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
Deskipper i agree, with everything that happens now days people scream climate change. Your ponderosa pine forest has probably been infested many times and will be many times again. Sometimes forest fires kill the nasty critters and let a new forest grow. Sometimes cold winters kill them off.
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134. Drakoen
5:39 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
Posted By: RL3AO at 5:38 PM GMT on May 29, 2007.
Hey guys.

Lets see if the convection in the Carrib can survive the afternoon before we start talking about Cat 3s into Florida.

I say it won't survive. -----> >=D
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132. Drakoen
5:38 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
Posted By: HurricaneFCast at 5:37 PM GMT on May 29, 2007.
Drakoen- Most likely it isn't a result of the diurnal maximum because we're in mid afternoon, out on the ocean, diurnal max is out night. On land, diurnal max is Late afternoon.

lol. yea i realized that. edit comment i meant daytime heating firing thunderstorms up that dimish by night.
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131. RL3AO
5:38 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
Hey guys.

Lets see if the convection in the Carrib can survive the afternoon before we start talking about Cat 3s into Florida.
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130. hurricane23
1:36 PM EDT on May 29, 2007
GFS is out of its mind since the update to place and clearly has a problem with its genesis.This problem should be fixed within the next couple of weeks.

The model hype continues but no real true signs of development takeing shape as of yet.
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128. HurricaneFCast
5:36 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
Drakoen- Most likely it isn't a result of the diurnal maximum because we're in mid afternoon, out on the ocean, diurnal max is out night. On land, diurnal max is Late afternoon.
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127. HurricaneFCast
5:34 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
Please visit my forum.. I Need more experienced and knowledgeable Weather people there, I need some posts and new members, i'm trying to get it off the ground and it's one of the hardest things to do.

Forum Giant-Discuss The World.
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126. Drakoen
5:35 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
Posted By: TheRingo at 5:29 PM GMT on May 29, 2007.
car. low growing on west side.

thats a nice picture of it. cold cloud tops, still nothing much though could just be daytime heating.
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125. HurricaneFCast
5:30 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
GFS Shows a tiny area of low pressure with thunderstorm activity moving from the caribbean towards southern florida this weekend. Then around June 13th-15th they show a rather large low, possibly a tropical storm moving from the GOM across Florida and out to sea. Interesting, but everyone knows the GFS is always predicting outlandish storms. We'll see.
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124. DocBen
5:31 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
Mike STL - looks like more flooding here in Kansas ...
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123. hurricane23
1:29 PM EDT on May 29, 2007
STL when i see those rains falling over south florida i'll believe it, until then we'll wait and see what happens.
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122. TheRingo
1:25 PM EDT on May 29, 2007
car. low growing on west side.

car

don't see much shear. only to the north.
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121. HurricaneFCast
5:25 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
Such a quiet Atlantic... It's depressing.. Lol. I'm still waiting for a nice downpour here in Florida i'm wondering when we can put these fires out, not only is the actual fire bad, the smoke is horrible for your lungs and the smell is nasty.


Forum Giant- Discuss the World.k
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About JeffMasters

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