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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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

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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.
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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
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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: 37858
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....
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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.
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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.
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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.
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52. nash28
4:15 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
Nevermind
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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
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49. weathers4me
4:06 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
can anyone direct me to the temp water boueys in the GOM? thanks
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48. nash28
4:14 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
Whoa Kris! Blog got stretched from the image.
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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.
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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
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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.
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43. kmanislander
4:08 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
Visible loop

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

Link
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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?
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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.
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38. TheRingo
12:01 PM EDT on May 29, 2007
-
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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?
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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.

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35. marlinsfan1
11:56 AM EDT on May 29, 2007
The caribean blob is starting to get alot more organized!!!
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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
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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!!
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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..??!!!
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26. Eyewall911
3:25 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
Can someone help me on how to post links, weather maps, photos ect.
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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.
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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: 37858
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.
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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...
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21. nash28
3:16 PM GMT on May 29, 2007
That blowup is nothing. Just a little thunderstorm.
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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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