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.

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821. FloridaScuba
8:51 PM GMT on May 30, 2007
Things about to get interesting in Mexico.

it's ok, there isn't anyone there anymore
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819. WPBHurricane05
4:50 PM EDT on May 30, 2007
Oh boy..


Things will be getting interesting in Mexico within 5 days...
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818. AnnOminous
3:48 PM EST on May 30, 2007
Good afternoon, everyone.

Atlantic hurricane season is almost here, put the Eastern Pacific is already active. I see Barbara has been named since I last checked!
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817. Jedkins
8:47 PM GMT on May 30, 2007

lol those comments get rather annoying.
816. RL3AO
3:48 PM CDT on May 30, 2007
Barbara drops 4 mb, up to 40kts.
815. MisterPerfect
8:44 PM GMT on May 30, 2007
We can relate on that one DocBen. Hope not!
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814. Patrap
3:43 PM CDT on May 30, 2007

The Oceans Have Their Own Weather Systems Link
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 449 Comments: 139973
811. Patrap
3:40 PM CDT on May 30, 2007
ummmmmmmm,..more models..LOL
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 449 Comments: 139973
810. Patrap
3:38 PM CDT on May 30, 2007
The researchers now plan to create computer models that explore how the presence and absence of phytoplankton might change the climate. They also hope to add to their study by using information from NASA's Sea-viewing Wide Field-of-view Sensor mission, which collects data on shifts in visible light reaching the ocean's surface
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 449 Comments: 139973
809. hurricane91
8:27 PM GMT on May 30, 2007
what r the chances for that blob in the carrabiean to become a ts in the gulf?
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808. Patrap
3:38 PM CDT on May 30, 2007
Plankton Cool Off With Own Clouds Link
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807. MisterPerfect
8:34 PM GMT on May 30, 2007
(slight sarcasm applied).

What's the need for sarcasm? have it down right.
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806. liquidsquid
8:17 PM GMT on May 30, 2007
I didn't realize all of the ocean life was anchored to the bottom when it swam. I think these biosphere guys need to go back to Physics class and read the section on conservation of energy.

Simple analogy: To get a whirlpool going in your swimming pool, do swim in circles, or do you walk in circles?

Answer, you could swim all day as fast as possible and with great strength and you would never get the water spinning. Why? Because for all of the forward motion for yourself, you are creating an equal but opposite motion of water. Walking on the bottom (or holding a ladder or side for that matter) transfers the reverse momentum to the Earth instead of the water, so you get a whirlpool equal in energy to that which is transferred to the mass of the Earth (where it is unnoticeable).

So fish wont effect current, water mammals wont effect it, crustations wont effect it, etc. Sponges and coral could I suppose....

The only thing I could see effecting it would be when whales dive and send up huge bubble plumes to catch krill. That brings cold water down deeper to the surface to mix it, but I suspect this mixing is very minor compared to normal winds and currents over bottom topology.

Just another incorrect data point to prevent people from really understanding what is going on. The message I get from this is to promote the "collapse of the biosphere" fear tactic, which the global warming media fanatics will cling to to promote their anti-human agenda. (slight sarcasm applied).

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805. WPBHurricane05
4:23 PM EDT on May 30, 2007
Gulf Infrared
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801. marlinsfan1
4:06 PM EDT on May 30, 2007
Man, the blob is getting huge!!!!
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800. MisterPerfect
7:12 PM GMT on May 30, 2007
What's in a name?! EVERYTHING!!


Andrea - Sub-Tropical, Outcast, Voted most likely to drop out of high school and get divorced in the same year. It happened.

Barry - Has to be on steroids, will spin itself out over right field bleachers and into a poor man's kayak.

Chantal - She got lost in the club and now she has one more baby to feed.

Dean - Thought of as the nerdy storm, has a strong resentment toward the Delta House Fraternity.

Erin - Sounds more like the Boss's Daughter gets what she wants: a trip to Bermuda for 10 days.

Felix - The Hurricane, the wonderful, wonderful, Hurricane.

Gabrielle - French storm my nature. Keep an "eye" on this one for some strange reason. OOooOOooh!

Lorenzo - Back when Cube was rollin wit' Lorenzo in a Benzo to somewhere

Melissa - "Plain Jane" Name Came, Hurricane to Blame.

Noel - They looked up and saw a storm
Shining in the East beyond them far
And to the earth it gave great wind
And so it continued both day and night.
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel
Born is the Hurricane of Israel!

Humberto - This storm is quick to jump infront of your car and try to get you to buy some papayas.

Ingrid - I've seen little Dutch girls sporting long pigtails with more fearsome names..

Jerry - Started out as a strong candidate but got busted with a hooker and settled down to host the most ridiculous talk show ev... hear that??....JERRY! JERRY! JERRY!

Karen - "And its too late, baby, yeah its too late.."

Olga - Seen em before, European names don't fair well in the Gulfo de Mexico, mein.

Pablo - Not only will he cut the grass cheap but he'll do the roof, windows, shrubs, trees, car, garage door, and the neighborhood's 20 transformers for an extra 10 bucks!

Rebekah - Don't think they're going to let this one off the plane, we're safe, no worries.

Sebastien - Too busy playing cribbage with Tucker, Hunter and Todd to care about causing any problems.

Tanya - My exgirlfriend's name! Does that mean my car is going to get some fender damage!?

Van - Too busy getting high and skateboarding to care about convection and what not..

Wendy - Where's the beef?
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798. crackerlogic
8:07 PM GMT on May 30, 2007
i live in clearwater too, and i am doing somthing new this year, i am not going to have green grass, i want to see how brown and tan grass looks in my yard
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797. DocBen
8:08 PM GMT on May 30, 2007
I think the INVEST has DIVESTED~!
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795. Patrap
3:07 PM CDT on May 30, 2007
Emergency Alert E-mail..Link
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 449 Comments: 139973
793. nash28
7:53 PM GMT on May 30, 2007
I sense some snippiness in the blog....
Member Since: July 11, 2005 Posts: 190 Comments: 16972
792. ClearH2OFla
3:57 PM EDT on May 30, 2007
Nice HOmegirl im in clearwater and i forgot what rain was
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791. Patrap
2:56 PM CDT on May 30, 2007
EVA ongoing on orbit ..ISS has 2 outside on EVA ..One inside. Hope she lets those guys back in..Link
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 449 Comments: 139973
789. homegirl
7:55 PM GMT on May 30, 2007
I'm afraid to mow my yard, it might catch fire!

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788. BoyntonBeach
7:54 PM GMT on May 30, 2007
Nice graphic TCW ! must be more confused than ever! and Gulf do you have a link to the PHSM ?
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787. ClearH2OFla
3:50 PM EDT on May 30, 2007
Hey all what i really want to know is when are we going to get some rain. Mowed my yard er lawn, er straw er hay back yard saturday and its was not a good site .
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786. Jedkins
7:49 PM GMT on May 30, 2007
Well if something were to already be organizing, that would be a lot earlier then models predicted, I don't think so just yet, but it does appear as if clouds and showers are developing and becoming more widspread then the models were showing across the souhern gulf today, but that probably doesn't mean much. If it were to mean anything at all, it probably would be a good sign showing that moisture is already beating back the high.
784. weatherbro
7:44 PM GMT on May 30, 2007
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781. weatherboyfsu
7:36 PM GMT on May 30, 2007
Hello Hurricane23.....If you read the Forecast advisory for Barbara, they do have quite a bit uncertainty about her direction and her strength. Some of the models take her west and some take her NORTH! I think thats interesting whether you do or not. Maybe with all your knowledge and skills and such a heavy work load that you overlooked that discussion. Quit being so anti-storm today....will ya.....
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777. Jedkins
7:20 PM GMT on May 30, 2007
The NAMM tries to bring you some good rains as well up to near coastal Georgia, I like the NAMM the most right now being its one of the wetter models for west central Florida and is a more realiable model right now.
776. Patrap
2:15 PM CDT on May 30, 2007
GOES IR Loop of Gulf of Mexico Link
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 449 Comments: 139973
773. TheCaneWhisperer
6:33 PM GMT on May 30, 2007
Hey, who moved Friday!
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772. RL3AO
2:09 PM CDT on May 30, 2007
It was put up a few hours ago Wayne.
771. Jedkins
7:00 PM GMT on May 30, 2007
Due the the upgrades made to the GFS it still appears to be havcing some issues, untill its bugs get fixed the GFS really shouldn't be trusted much, the biggest model consensus brings this low across central Florida bringing torrential rain with it, NWS is still being very conservative with only 60% rain chances for now, but I think they are handling the siuation well, they will bump them way up as well as rain forecast by saturday as long aas current trends continue.

The NAMM brings a lot of rain into Florida with this low, the NAMM tends to be somewhat drier as far as QPF goes then many models so if the NAMM looks as wet as it does thats probably a good sign.

We probably won't be able to pin down how much rain will occurr and where accurately till Flriday, by that point forecasters should have a good fix on things.

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

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