Sea life's importance to the climate

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

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.

Sign In or Register Sign In or Register

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: 71 - 21

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

71. weatherboykris
4:35 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
You have NO idea,DeSkipper.
Member Since: December 9, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 11346
70. kmanislander
4:34 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
very cold cloud tops starting to show up now

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
69. DeSkipper
4:33 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
Must be fun for a group of non-scientists to sit around bashing something they know nothing about.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/10/061013202025.htm
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
68. weatherboykris
4:32 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
Ok then.
Member Since: December 9, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 11346
67. nash28
4:30 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
I understand that Kris. I am not trashing him. I just figured that he may have mentioned what's going on in the EPAC as well as the models showing something coming out of the Carribean.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
66. leftovers
4:28 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
No doubt the the Car. low is in the pulse up mode. Recently the area has looked best right after dark. Early start today.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
64. weatherboykris
4:27 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
He'll post tropical things when he feels like it nash.There's nothing terribly important going on,and he feels the climate is an important issue.He'll talk tropics on Thursday,maybe give his June outlook.
Member Since: December 9, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 11346
63. kmanislander
4:28 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
eyewall 911 you have mail
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
62. IKE
11:27 AM CDT on May 29, 2007
Posted By: nash28 at 11:27 AM CDT 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.

Maybe Thursday....


Which is basically what I typed previously...it IS tropical season..and this IS a tropical weather blog.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37938
61. nash28
4:25 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.

Maybe Thursday....
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
60. MichaelSTL
11:24 AM CDT on May 29, 2007
Also, it is better to resize images by resizing the actual file, not just the way it is displayed; for this, I use ImageShack as a quick way, besides saving images so that everybody can view a self-updating image later and know what it was about or temporary images like the ones at NRL (to use ImageShack, click on Image to upload an image from your computer or click on URL to upload an image from another site and paste the URL in and/or select Resize Image and something like 640x480, or perhaps Optimize without resizing). This reduces file size and resizes it so that text is still legiable (your browser is not really good at resizing). Here is what I mean by that; (top is resized with width=640 and bottom was resized by uploading it with resize to 640x480:





The top image will also become a red X in a few days as it expires.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
58. greentortuloni
4:08 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
Hey all,

Someone with a subscription/access to this article want to review it in detail and explain it? I thought it was a joke, picturing all the whales swimming around the Atlantic CCW, until I did the google search.

As someone who has over 200 dives in the carribean in the middle of fish schools, swarms, etc., I can only assume that the mixing is a local phenomena with effects on microscopic life , perhaps chemistry and maybe sediment/coral/water boundaries. If anyone feels like reading and explaining, I would be interested.

Thanks


PS 'cause if they are talking about whales, etc, I'm getting me some of that grant money and change my name to Dr. GreenTortuloni.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
57. weatherboykris
4:20 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
It's got to be an image file,Nash.GIF,PNG,etc.
Member Since: December 9, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 11346
56. nash28
4:19 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
Ugh! Seems like every time I try to post an image, I get nothing.....

This just started happening.
Sorry guys.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
55. MichaelSTL
11:16 AM CDT on May 29, 2007
Posted By: Eyewall911 at 4:06 PM GMT on May 29, 2007.

Kman could you put that on a loop? Also can you tell me how to post a picture or a link?


Post images with the following code (put the URL of the image in place of Put URL here); note that height is not needed when resizing images because your browser will resize it for you; one of my biggest pet peeves is images that are distorted by misuse of width and height:



For links, click on the Link button and paste the URL in; you can also first highlight word(s) although if you don't it automatically adds "Link".
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
54. weatherboykris
4:19 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
.
Member Since: December 9, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 11346
53. weatherboykris
4:16 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
Sorry nash-fixing it.
Member Since: December 9, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 11346
52. nash28
4:15 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
Nevermind
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
51. weatherboykris
4:14 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
Probably less dust pearl--check out these two maps:





They show mid level dry air,which is related to dust.The bottom map is the past month,the top is the same time last year.Notice how much moister it's been in the East Atlantic and Carribean.
Member Since: December 9, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 11346
50. BoyntonBeach
4:14 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
Eyewall911 -->> Link
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
49. weathers4me
4:06 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
can anyone direct me to the temp water boueys in the GOM? thanks
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
48. nash28
4:14 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
Whoa Kris! Blog got stretched from the image.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
47. weatherboykris
4:13 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
New GFS has a TS hitting Florida this weekend---4 to 5 inches of rain:

Member Since: December 9, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 11346
46. pearlslsu
4:11 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
hey guys, been reading this blog for a few years. just joined and first post! last yr there was a lot of talk about african dust impeading tropical development along with wind shear. what are the reports or forcasts for african dust coming over in 2007? Thanks guys.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
45. kmanislander
4:11 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
Posted By: Eyewall911 at 4:06 PM GMT on May 29, 2007.

Kman could you put that on a loop? Also can you tell me how to post a picture or a link?


I will e mail you
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
44. nash28
4:09 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
Not a very large pocket of conducive shear for this blob to organize at this point. We'll see how it reacts as it moves NW.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
43. kmanislander
4:08 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
Visible loop

Link
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
42. kmanislander
4:06 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
However 20 knots of shear lies in its path

Link
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
41. Eyewall911
4:03 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
Kman could you put that on a loop? Also can you tell me how to post a picture or a link?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
40. MichaelSTL
11:03 AM CDT on May 29, 2007
It appears that the MJO has been the cause of the periodic drops in shear, mainly in the Caribbean (interestingly, the drops in shear have also been accompained by weakening cold anomalies/warming in the Pacific, which is happening now, as it did in April - that seems to go against La Nina conditions causing lowered shear; cooling resumed after shear rose again). It could also just be due to an unusually strong MJO in the Western Hemisphere (which produces El Nino-like rainfall patterns in the tropics, wet East Pacific and dry West Pacific).



Right now it is very strong over the Western Hemisphere.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
39. stormpetrol
4:01 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
I still think that low in the SW Caribbean has a chance to develop, it's starting get some convection.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
38. TheRingo
12:01 PM EDT on May 29, 2007
-
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
37. DocBen
4:02 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
"an input of fresh, denser water from melting ice and river run-off creates a downward flow of water"

Dr M - I thought fresh water, even cold fresh water, would be LIGHTER than salt water. In fact, wasn't it an influx of fresh water from the melting Laurantide sheets that disrupted the thermohaline and triggered the Younger-Dryas?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
36. kmanislander
3:59 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
There is more visible evidence of the SW Caribbean low now than earlier today. It appears to be near to 15N 80W and if this is correct it would mean a NW motion. Convection is on the increase as well and Puerto Cabezas in Nicaragua is reporting SW winds @ 6mph which would support the more Northerly position.

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
35. marlinsfan1
11:56 AM EDT on May 29, 2007
The caribean blob is starting to get alot more organized!!!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
34. weatherboykris
3:55 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
Lack of initial disturbances STL.There haven't been any tropical waves,and there've been no fronts in the Western Carribean lately.Not unusual,though.
Member Since: December 9, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 11346
33. rxse7en
11:54 AM EDT on May 29, 2007
Blowup in the GOM needs to come Eastward and drench us here in North Florida.

B
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
32. MichaelSTL
10:53 AM CDT on May 29, 2007
Shear is actually higher in the East Pacific than it is in the Caribbean and tropics:



Makes you wonder why the East Pacific has (almost) two storms and none in the Atlantic...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
31. MichaelSTL
10:50 AM CDT on May 29, 2007
Shear in the Caribbean?





Doesn't get much lower than that (black line = normal shear; blue line = observed shear)...

It is also lower than normal in the tropical Atlantic:



More here
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
30. clwstmchasr
3:37 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
The local news has the clearwater beach temp at 79. I just check buoy CLBF1 at Clearwater Beach and it says 81.9. If the expects say it will go up then I have to believe them.

The overall wind shear continues to slowly back off throughout the gulf and caribbean.
I expect we'll see our next storm in the 2nd week of June.

I am basing this on very scientific research:)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
29. franck
3:38 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
Wow...tell this to the Salmon population, If they were to swim upstream just a little harder, they could change the river flow!!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
28. weatherboykris
3:40 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
I agree Franck.
Member Since: December 9, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 11346
27. franck
3:28 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
bark beetles..affecting one specie...some thousands of acres...??
But swimming fish will affect the currents of the entire planet's oceans??? Pulleasse! How many billions of gallons of ocean water per single fish in the sea?? I can show you cubic miles of ocean without a half dozen fish, and fish affect currents..??!!!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
26. Eyewall911
3:25 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
Can someone help me on how to post links, weather maps, photos ect.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
25. Inyo
3:22 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
animals do affect the climate, you know. Think of the bark beetles.. defoliating billions of pine trees, halting their transpiration of water... that has to make a difference. I don't know as much about fish but I'm sure it has an effect. 50% of the currents, I don't know, but some effect I'm sure.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
24. IKE
10:21 AM CDT on May 29, 2007
What about the systems in the east PAC?

The chances of tropical moisture helping the parched eastern gulf states?

What about the tropics?
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37938
23. Eyewall911
3:19 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
I got sucked out to sea last year from a very strong current cuased by a school of minnows, it was very scary.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
22. whirlwind
3:17 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
Go boating if you want to help hurricane development. Marine engines are cooled by intake of ocean water that passes thru them and cools the engine. Then it gets dumped back into the ocean. That heated ocean water can now be up to 120 deg F.
Doesnt seem like much but with a couple hundred thousand boats it can add up.

Lack of hurricanes?? Just go for a boat ride...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
21. nash28
3:16 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
That blowup is nothing. Just a little thunderstorm.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:

Viewing: 71 - 21

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

Dr. Jeff Masters' WunderBlog

About

Dr. Masters (r) co-founded wunderground in 1995. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters 1986-1990. Co-blogging with him: Bob Henson, @bhensonweather

Local Weather

Scattered Clouds
52 °F
Scattered Clouds

JeffMasters's Recent Photos

Afternoon clouds over Southwest Puerto Rico
Storm clouds gathering over Half Dome
Sierra snow
snowman at Yosemite Falls
×