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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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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120. franck
5:26 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
A guy told me the other day, "Back when cokes were a nickel I could hardly afford one. Now that they're a buck fifty I drink all I want."
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118. franck
5:24 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
No coke for me...sodium benzoate...ahhh give it here.
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114. hurricane23
1:20 PM EDT on May 29, 2007
Nothing to worry about is correct and most likely for the next couple of weeks.
Member Since: May 14, 2006 Posts: 8 Comments: 13841
113. Boatofacar
5:16 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
Funny Pictures..check!
Everyone fighting....check!
Now this is the way the start of the season should look!....i just wish the rain here in central Florida would start...Hows about a pic of Archie Bunker to cheer me up, come Gulf, i know you have one
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112. MisterPerfect
5:19 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
Blog Name
Dr. Jeff Masters' Weather Blog


It says nothing about tropical. 'Weather' is a broad subject...
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111. IKE
12:15 PM CDT on May 29, 2007
Posted By: K8eCane at 12:14 PM CDT on May 29, 2007.
you guys act like that unless he mentions it, it isnt valid
i appreciate dr masters but i'm definitely not that shortsighted


He's director of meteorology...it's a tropical weather blog..and yes, I'm capable of finding out things on the tropics without his opinion...but, I like to read his opinion...being he didn't make one, I can only assume there isn't much to worry about as far as he's concerned.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860
110. Drakoen
5:16 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
Posted By: Hellsniper223 at 5:14 PM GMT on May 29, 2007.
Thanks Drakoen! =D

no problem. i wouldn't spend much time watching that blob though, even if it is associated with a 1008mb low.
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109. MisterPerfect
5:00 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
I don't think the blog entry is entirely absurd. The article Dr. Masters refers to has some big time credibility going by the editors and the institutes they research for. From Yale to Cal to Univ. Miami & FSU and more..
Link
Though the idea may seem farfetched and ultra-liberal, it is a "do-able" experiment. I'm sure scientists have blown more money with more outlandish theories and experiments. I doubt this will keep Japan from digging on pescado though.
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107. hurricane23
1:14 PM EDT on May 29, 2007
There's nothing to watch across the atlantic basin just scattered convection in several areas.
Member Since: May 14, 2006 Posts: 8 Comments: 13841
106. K8eCane
5:13 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
you guys act like that unless he mentions it, it isnt valid
i appreciate dr masters but i'm definitely not that shortsighted
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105. NRAamy
10:13 AM PDT on May 29, 2007
GS,

Is that a photo of Al AFTER he went on Jenny Craig???!!!

;)
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104. Hellsniper223
5:11 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
Thanks Drakoen! =D
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103. Drakoen
5:12 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
It will be interesting to see how much that blob can expand and maintain its convection. Usually these things don't last through the day and die of by night time.
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102. K8eCane
5:11 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
yes his input is appreciated but he is not the only tropical expert
why does he need to mention the tropics in all of his blogs
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101. Jedkins
5:11 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
lol this is funny to watch, I'm just quitely minding my own buiness and keepin the ole' eye on things
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100. hurricane23
1:11 PM EDT on May 29, 2007
For those looking for atlantic satellite images visit my satelitte image page on my website.

See Here
Member Since: May 14, 2006 Posts: 8 Comments: 13841
99. ElectricMonk
5:09 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
Humm, should have posted that to the GW blog...sorry all! Not trying to pollute the blog topic....not that it is particularly pure at the moment. :-/

TTFN
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98. Drakoen
5:08 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
Posted By: Hellsniper223 at 4:57 PM GMT on May 29, 2007.
Where can I find a Close up IR loop of the Carrib Blob?

go to the tropics page of the site. Look to the bottom where it says Carribean/W. Atlantic IR loop. Its below the satellite image.
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97. hurricane23
1:09 PM EDT on May 29, 2007
Looks like the pacific is up to a fast start hopefully a sign things across the atlantic will remain quite for a while.
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96. weathers4me
5:08 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
Here you go 223.


http://www.ssd.noaa.gov/goes/east/carb/loop-avn.html
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95. ElectricMonk
5:03 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
Hi Inyo/franck
polite correction: The Pine Bark beetles are destroying millions of acres of Rockies Pine not because of forestry mismanagement, but because the winters are no longer cold enough in those regions to kill off the majority of the eggs as it used to. This is one of the more easily visible impacts of climate change (a more accurate term than GW as it encompasses localized instability). as the winters get milder, the beetle is also migrating northward, and westward..it is expected to cover most of NA within ten years. Very hard to "manage" infestations of such insane magnitudes without significant enviromental toxicity and cost.
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94. IKE
12:04 PM CDT on May 29, 2007
Posted By: K8eCane at 12:00 PM CDT on May 29, 2007.
Posted By: nash28 at 4:31 PM GMT on May 29, 2007.



I am not going to blast Dr. Masters for the blog posting, but ya know we are kind of waiting for an actual "tropics related" posting. I figured by now he would have at least discussed the possibility of the Low in the Carribean busting some of the drought in FL.



why does it matter if he mentions it or not?
you have eyes,ears and research capability


Because he's a tropical weather expert and his input is appreciated.

Sorry to butt in for Nash.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860
93. Drakoen
5:07 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
Posted By: nash28 at 5:04 PM GMT on May 29, 2007.
Are people reading what I said? K8e- Yes, I have research capability, thank you for pointing out the obvious.

Geez, I make one comment about being a little surprised that there wasn't any mention about the tropics and everyone gets bent out of shape.

Get over it.

lol. Jeff's next blog will be on the tropics. Besides there is nothing to really watch.
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91. nash28
5:02 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
Are people reading what I said? K8e- Yes, I have research capability, thank you for pointing out the obvious.

Geez, I make one comment about being a little surprised that there wasn't any mention about the tropics and everyone gets bent out of shape.

Get over it.
Member Since: July 11, 2005 Posts: 190 Comments: 16972
90. Drakoen
5:02 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
Ah i didn't realize that it was part of a 1008mb low. Just something to watch now. I doubt it will develop into anything significant.
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89. hurricane23
1:00 PM EDT on May 29, 2007
Good afternoon...

Thanks for the blog Dr.Masters looking forward to your blog on thursday on the update from colorado state.I dont expect much changes in there numbers.Adrian
Member Since: May 14, 2006 Posts: 8 Comments: 13841
88. K8eCane
4:54 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
Posted By: nash28 at 4:31 PM GMT on May 29, 2007.



I am not going to blast Dr. Masters for the blog posting, but ya know we are kind of waiting for an actual "tropics related" posting. I figured by now he would have at least discussed the possibility of the Low in the Carribean busting some of the drought in FL.



why does it matter if he mentions it or not?
you have eyes,ears and research capability
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87. Hellsniper223
4:56 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
Where can I find a Close up IR loop of the Carrib Blob?
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86. Inyo
4:47 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
Posted By: franck at 3:34 PM GMT on May 29, 2007.
bark beetles..affecting one specie...some thousands of acres...??


Try millions of acres... of course, the bark beetles are only so prolific because of human mismanagement of the forests... but you know...
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85. kmanislander
4:54 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
BBL
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83. MTJax
4:48 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
Love this comment Ric
"we have the collapse of the marine food chain...and we won't give a rat's butt about earth's climate"
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82. kmanislander
4:44 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
Posted By: melwerle at 4:43 PM GMT on May 29, 2007.

ok - so what's the spinny thing that your link went to kman?


The intersecting lines in the image are the 15N 80W lat. and long. lines
The convection is the 1008 mb low in the SW Caribbean which is now just east of the Nicaragua/Honduras border which appears on the left side of the image
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 15948
81. lickitysplit
4:35 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
Thanks Dr. Masters! Very interesting post and something I had not considered before. I really appreciate you challenging us and our ways of thinking on alot of these topics. Lots of people think they know everything already. Nice to learn something new (or at least spark new considerations and thoughts)with every post!
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80. Drakoen
4:45 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
Posted By: kmanislander at 4:35 PM GMT on May 29, 2007.
very cold cloud tops starting to show up now

maybe just daytime thunderstorms. ITs very compact
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78. melwerle
4:42 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
ok - so what's the spinny thing that your link went to kman?
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77. nash28
4:41 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
Well, I have to say that Ric has a pretty damn good point. When you simplify things, they become a little clearer.
Member Since: July 11, 2005 Posts: 190 Comments: 16972
76. NRAamy
9:41 AM PDT on May 29, 2007
Huh? What? I thought she was on The Pill???
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75. ricderr
4:37 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
skip...it's either bash this...or bash you...and aaron gets mad when we bash you...so....we're left to do what we're left to do......here's my point..and hopefully..my non scientist mind won't wander too far...

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.

we have the collapse of the marine food chain...and we won't give a rat's butt about earth's climate
Member Since: June 27, 2006 Posts: 676 Comments: 22383
73. NRAamy
9:37 AM PDT on May 29, 2007
Skip, you da man!!!!!

;)
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72. weatherboykris
4:38 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
BBL
Member Since: December 9, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 11346
71. weatherboykris
4:35 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
You have NO idea,DeSkipper.
Member Since: December 9, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 11346

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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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