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.

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

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470. groundman
11:49 AM GMT on May 30, 2007
Has anyone looked @ the gfs in 180 hr?? Being in S MS I'd like to know what the heck it means?
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469. ricderr
11:49 AM GMT on May 30, 2007
OK...I'm just an amateur.....I'll leave this scientific stuff to guys like ricderr and such

thanx raa....errr..i mean flboy.....but i'm not a scientist..just the king of cut and paste....
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468. groundman
11:42 AM GMT on May 30, 2007
Hey cajunkid, I think you left off part of the link, it goes straight to wikipedia article on http???
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465. IKE
6:36 AM CDT on May 30, 2007
Pressures are rather low at buoy 42056 in the Yucatan basin..Link
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464. weatherboykris
11:30 AM GMT on May 30, 2007
I don't know what you're talking about cajunkid.The blog's aliiiiive!LOL
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463. IKE
6:28 AM CDT on May 30, 2007
Latest NOGAPS aims a weak system toward Apalachicola Bay...UKMET has it crossing south/central Florida, as does the latest 06 UTC GFS.
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461. cajunkid
6:29 AM CDT on May 30, 2007
where did everyone go?
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460. cajunkid
6:24 AM CDT on May 30, 2007
What a way to wake up to hump-dayLink
pray no one gets hurt
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459. weatherboykris
11:23 AM GMT on May 30, 2007
Of greater interest to me is the small possibility of TD-2E heading into the Yucatan Channel or Southern Carribean.
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458. IKE
6:23 AM CDT on May 30, 2007
00UTC CMC has a landfall in north/northeast Florida....Link
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457. weatherboykris
11:21 AM GMT on May 30, 2007
Morning everyone.Interesting forecasts in terms of rain potential,but the phase diagrams still indicate a hybrid system at best.
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455. IKE
6:13 AM CDT on May 30, 2007
Here's the 06UTC NAM run...has a 1008mb low heading to the desert like Florida panhandle..north Florida in 84 hours. Bring that rain!....Link
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454. TheRingo
7:09 AM EDT on May 30, 2007
Interesting blowup in the yucatan channel

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450. flytyerva
10:26 AM GMT on May 30, 2007
Well now the whales and sea creatures are a major force in our ocean currents. Will you people never give up. Overfishing may stop the ocean from flowing, who wrote that one PETA.
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433. groundman
6:46 AM GMT on May 30, 2007
Posted By: TheRingo at 5:59 AM GMT on May 30, 2007.
Now GFDL shows 02E to come out into NW caribbean.

And if it did isn't it a little close for comfort ? This year is WEIRD.

About the global warming, my husband leaves the science up to me but he has been saying for years it's not exactly the truth. I personally think it's this generations integration, something to mull over and take sides over and feel passionate about one way or another. Not to say GW or integration isn't/wasn't important, just seems to be human nature to find a cause. Since the media and others have jumped on the GW bandwagon, I tend to doubt it more than when it seemed to be just a bunch of environmentalists saying get rid of freon, carbon dioxide emissions, and my areosol hair spray (horrors) and maybe tuna fishing too. LOL Then I believed it wholeheartedly but since the movie and all I'm having problems with it. Talk about devils advocate.

This year is still WEIRD compared with last year. That's my scientific opinion. ;-)
Back to beddy bye.
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432. Inyo
6:12 AM GMT on May 30, 2007
Posted By: FLBoy at 5:11 AM GMT on May 30, 2007.
How ridiculous is that? The southern New Mexico desert has received more precipitation this winter than the past two years combined.

deserts are charactarized by extreme weather. When it does rain, it rains hard. A few inches of rain in an hour is not common, even in areas that haven't seen substantial rain in months or even years. You get flash floods, the annual wildflowers all bloom, the creosote bush gets new leaves, then it dries up and everything waits for the next rain.

Also, climate change will change rainfall patters but NO ONE knows how. Every climate model is different. Theres no evidence that Florida is getting drier right now.
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431. moonlightcowboy
6:05 AM GMT on May 30, 2007
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430. TheRingo
1:58 AM EDT on May 30, 2007
Now GFDL shows 02E to come out into NW caribbean.
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4:51 AM GMT on May 30, 2007
fla over the long term will become more semi desert as global climate zones alter to form new climatic areas desert sw will expand as well as along with northern south america temperate climates will expand but only north as the sub artic slowly disappears along with considerable loss of the artic tundra
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423. IKE
11:30 PM CDT on May 29, 2007
All of Florida desperately needs rain out of this system. Please weather Gods...rain on us!
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422. Alec
12:29 AM EDT on May 30, 2007
gonna hit the sack....night y'all!=)
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421. Alec
12:27 AM EDT on May 30, 2007
IKE.....I dont need to be in the SW to know what a desert looks like..LOL...before long, FL may burn to a crisp if it doesnt see some good solid rain!
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