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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971. chucky7777
1:29 AM GMT on May 31, 2007
does the low that is forecast to move somewhere over Florida even exist??,or is it supposed to develop in the short term????All I see is the ULL off the coast of texas that wants to be main player in the Gulf Of Mexico the next couple of days,let me hear some thoughts thanx, this blog rocks!!!!!!!!
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969. Tazmanian
6:29 PM PDT on May 30, 2007
for get that wind shear map her the map i like to ues it tells you more on whats going on

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968. kmanislander
1:23 AM GMT on May 31, 2007
Good evening all

Based on the sat images it seems that only the Yucatan,Honduras, Nicaragua and the open waters of the NW Caribbean are getting anything to speak of in the way of rain out of the cloud mass out there. We have had on again off again showers today in the Caymans with some T&L but nothing of any great moment. The cloud deck over Fla looks to be fairly dry .
Winds here are 13 mph out of the SE and pressure is at 1011.4 and rising
If something is to spin up and bring real rain to the SE US we have not seen it yet IMO
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967. WPBHurricane05
9:25 PM EDT on May 30, 2007
There is really a low chance for anything tropical to form at this time.

It is almost June 1. Tomorrow is the last day of May, its still early in the game to start getting excited over these blobs, especially with all this shear.

Member Since: July 31, 2006 Posts: 56 Comments: 8112
966. TheCaneWhisperer
1:18 AM GMT on May 31, 2007
Looking at the models Hank! Some are trending more west, north of Tampa! Some are still South East! Big spread at this point in the game! Overall, I think few areas will be missed starting tomorrow night!
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965. southbeachdude
1:21 AM GMT on May 31, 2007
Good evening, all. Is the CMC model the only one predicting any tropical development? I just looked at the gfs and it is not developing anything now. I guess the wind sheer will win this round, but some rain will eventually (this weekend) make it over to Florida.
Member Since: July 29, 2005 Posts: 2 Comments: 699
964. Tazmanian
6:19 PM PDT on May 30, 2007
ok STL
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963. nash28
1:16 AM GMT on May 31, 2007
Point made STL. Nature could give a damn about dates.
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961. stormhank
1:06 AM GMT on May 31, 2007
Hi all... any chance the fla. panhandle will get any rain from that area in the NW carribean??
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960. orlandocanewatcher
1:03 AM GMT on May 31, 2007
sorry PalmBeach.....we'll take it where we can get it....
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959. chucky7777
1:01 AM GMT on May 31, 2007
Just my ameteur opinion,the cmc model is on crack, our little low won't be totally tropical sub-tropical maybe,possibly A hybrid system.If I am correct there is a ULL over the N.Central Gulf,could that prevent the low from even forming??, my opinion if anything the upper level low could swallow any struggling low pressure that is trying to form upLink
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956. BoyntonBeach
12:59 AM GMT on May 31, 2007
PalmBeachWeatherBoy - looks like most of the good soaking rain will hit northern and central florida and the upper west coast Where did you get this from ?
Member Since: July 5, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 1
955. FormerFloridian
8:54 PM EDT on May 30, 2007

Maybe it's an error. Or as stormw said, it's directed at mariners for now. I hear what you are saying WPBHurricane05. 5 day forecasts are very sketchy.
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954. flsky
12:57 AM GMT on May 31, 2007
Received Bryan Norross' book today. An informative, albeit sobering, look at hurricanes. In later chapters, there is extensive information on preparation, riding out the storm, and even how to cope afterwards. Living in Central Florida, (for only 2 years) I'm greatful for any information I can get. I recommend it for anyone living in a hurricane-prone area.
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952. nash28
12:47 AM GMT on May 31, 2007
Actually the CMC forecast is mostly cold-cored until it crosses into the ATL>
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951. PalmBeachWeatherBoy
12:41 AM GMT on May 31, 2007
i see the low,rain, whatever u wanna call it probably missing south florida and maybe even the lake, looks like most of the good soaking rain will hit northern and central florida and the upper west coast, RAIN HOGGERS
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950. nash28
12:44 AM GMT on May 31, 2007
Sorry to be selfish here, but I hope I get rain in my backyard. If it ended up being nothing but a S. FL event, well... I'd be spitting nails as it were....
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948. franck
12:36 AM GMT on May 31, 2007
Barbara..crossing the isthmus..sorry, I spit a little.
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947. WPBHurricane05
8:33 PM EDT on May 30, 2007
Why do all these forecasters give these hurricane predictions? It's hard enough to get a 5 day track for a storm but they still make up all these numbers. I think a more logical solution would be saying 70% chance above average, 20% average, and 10% below average or etc. This would make more since I think than throwing numbers out of a hat. I also don't pay attention to the area highest at risk. We all know that everyone is at risk. Lets not forget Hurricane Juan (2003) which hit Canada or Hurricane Gordon (2006) which hit the Azores. Pretty much all areas in the Atlantic between 10N-40N is at risk for a strike.
Member Since: July 31, 2006 Posts: 56 Comments: 8112
945. RL3AO
7:35 PM CDT on May 30, 2007
What is this?

2205 UTC WED MAY 30 2007


2100 UTC.



Isnt it too early for a hurricane warning since its 120 hrs away?
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944. crackerlogic
12:34 AM GMT on May 31, 2007
I was talking to a distributor for some publix stores, he told me the 2 most sold items as a storm approaches are “pop-tarts” and beer. Now I like “pop-tarts” and beer, but not together.
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943. HurricaneFCast
12:32 AM GMT on May 31, 2007
There is too much wind shear to worry about tropical development here.. this is a rain maker for Florida.. a much needed rain maker.

Forum Giant- Discuss Anything
Member Since: April 20, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 1484
942. WPBHurricane05
8:28 PM EDT on May 30, 2007
In fact, isn't most of this moisture associated with an ULL thats over Texas? With the SW flow it is allowing for all this Caribbean moisture.
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941. hurricane23
8:27 PM EDT on May 30, 2007
I dont see anything tropical developing as the CMC is forcasting but more of a baroclinic cold core type system with the heaviest rain to its east.Lets hope we can get some this rain over the lake.
Member Since: May 14, 2006 Posts: 8 Comments: 13868
940. WPBHurricane05
8:27 PM EDT on May 30, 2007
I don't expect any development out of the NW Caribbean/GOM blob but it should give Florida some good rain.
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939. sporteguy03
12:23 AM GMT on May 31, 2007
I think the models are picking up on the thunderstorm activity East of Guatemala and the Yucantan Pennisula which is about to exit the land mass, pretty strong storms though. Would the shear in the GOM though prevent storms from heading to FL? Would the storm/rain clouds be ripped apart?
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938. crackerlogic
12:19 AM GMT on May 31, 2007
its party time june 1st is one day a way yahoooooooo

LOL Taz, does some one flip a switch and boom we have hurricanes? So when is the first hurricane party!!!
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937. RL3AO
7:23 PM CDT on May 30, 2007
Thats not Panama bowler. Your either looking at Belize or Nicarugua. Not sure which flare up your looking at.
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935. RL3AO
7:18 PM CDT on May 30, 2007
Barbara might be starting a pretty good strengthening phase.

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931. StormJunkie
12:02 AM GMT on May 31, 2007
Thanks yester ☺

It is not quite that dry up here in Charleston, but it is getting worse. We had some raind during the early part of the drought down there, but the past three to four weeks have been pretty dry. I really just hope this thing will put out some fires!

Thanks mlc, the problem is the more I learn the more I realize how much more there is to learn...
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 17164
930. moonlightcowboy
12:01 AM GMT on May 31, 2007
Thanks, SJ. I noticed last year with some of the storms, when the QS passed, you couldn't see the critical elements of where the storm was. I guess either the storm had to move, or wait for another pass. Just curious and still trying to learn. You're always helpful, thanks!
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929. Patrap
6:58 PM CDT on May 30, 2007
MODIS imagery ..GOM & Fla. to enlarge
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928. yesterway
11:56 PM GMT on May 30, 2007
Thanx SJ. Great site by the way. I added it to my BM's. I am with you regarding the CMC solution. Lots of rain up and down Florida. I am in north central near Gainesville. I am a Florida native and I have never seen it this dry and parched. When pine trees begin to die you know it's dry!
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927. weathers4me
11:57 PM GMT on May 30, 2007
Bring on the rain....!!!
Member Since: May 24, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 118
925. StormJunkie
11:50 PM GMT on May 30, 2007
mlc, hopefully someone else will chime in, but I think it has to do with the way a scatterometer scans. The rotation of the earth and the movement of the Sat etc...
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 17164
924. Tazmanian
4:47 PM PDT on May 30, 2007
has any one her from aron or got a e mail back from him with in the past few day like overe the 3 day weekend i hop he ok
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923. TheRingo
7:46 PM EDT on May 30, 2007
bring it!!
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922. Tazmanian
4:42 PM PDT on May 30, 2007
its party time june 1st is one day a way yahoooooooo
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921. moonlightcowboy
11:41 PM GMT on May 30, 2007
...k, my turn, please. Why are parts of the Quikscat pics missing...even with ascending and decending? And, are times regular for saying "viewing the eastern GOM?" More aptly put, would we see the area over NOLA at the same time each day? And, do we see an area more than one time each day?

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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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