Nature surveys the plastic in the seas, expects to see things like detergent bottles and Barbies breaking up into tiny “microplastic” particles, and doesn’t. So the question becomes… where does the plastic go?: More than 5 trillion plastic pieces, with a combined mass of more than 250,000 tonnes, are floating in the ocean, researchers reported on 10 December in PLoS ONE. On its face, the estimate is shockingly high — but it is still much lower than expected, amounting to less than 1% of the annual global production of plastic, says study co-author Hank Carson, a marine biologist at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife in Olympia. A team led by Marcus Eriksen, research director at the Five Gyres Institute in Los Angeles, California, took samples with fine-mesh nets and visually counted pieces of trash on 24 expeditions through all five subtropical gyres — areas of rotating ocean currents where plastic collects — as […]
SONG: “Jump, Jump, Jump”.
SOURCE: Based on “Fish and Adaptation: Mangrove Fish Jumps into Air in Warming Water”, Nature World News, 21 Oct 2015, as used in the post “Global warming might make the fish jump.”
ABSTRACT: First, let me say that this was done on time, even early. It started as a jokey thing I was singing to my son while he was watching me play guitar on the couch, and I decided what the hell. They call it “playing” music for a reason. (I guess if I spoke …
In 1775, Pennsylvania Magazine wanted its readers to be up to date on the very latest in technological advances, including this machine for… well, it seems to be some kind of a caisson for dredging harbors, more than something that “cleanses docks.” Anyway, it’s very impressive, this American ingenuity.
From the device’s description: The machine consists of a horse-drawn crane on a boat with a crane and shovel. A man is shown operating the shovel. Includes a detail of …
SONG: “All Praise Black Ice”.
SOURCE: Based on “New Horizons Finds Blue Skies and Water Ice on Pluto”, NASA.gov, 8 Oct 2015, as used in the post “There’s water ice on another planet. Not Mars. Pluto.”
Laryngitis followed by a business trip and here I am, a couple weeks late. I hope the brass section makes up for that.
(Yes, there’s brass in there, somewhere. I really need help mastering these things, but one does what one can in between everything e…
They don’t look so hot.
Science Art: Chemical Laboratory room. Experimental Research labs, Burroughs Wellcome and Co. Tuckahoe, New York
Welcome to Wellcome.
They’ve got all kinds of wonderful things in their image gallery, including this marvelous experimenter in an even more marvelous experimental lab.
In 1935, this was where the future was made.
Three idols, from the Anales del Museo Nacional de Chile, published between 1892 and 1910.
I found them in the Biodiversity Heritage Library, which is usually full of biological specimens.
These three, however, are a little different… even if no one knows where two of them came from. Arica is a port city near two valleys that divide the Atacama Desert in north Chile.
He (or more likely she, even though as described in the text, “no hai tetas” and “la barba es d…
Nature paints a more vivid picture of climate change – and the related changes in ocean currents – by retracing the paths of prehistoric icebergs in the years when the oceans were colder: Their results show that some of the glacial floodwater running off North America formed a narrow current some 100 kilometres wide that flowed south along the continental shelf from the tip of present-day Newfoundland. Icebergs carried along by these flows would have reached South Carolina within a few months — and in some larger floods, would have reached Florida. The bergs would have been as large as some that calve from Greenland today, extending as far as 300 metres below the surface. The model simulations help explain the presence of massive scars that have been found on the sea floor off the continental shelf, left by icebergs running aground. The team reports newly-discovered marks as far south as the Florida Keys, adding […]
The Atlantic, the Pacific… are sinks. Heat sinks. So says Scientific American, explaining that temperatures haven’t risen as sharply as they could have (YET) because the oceans are absorbing some of the excess heat: The heat sink occurs when sun-warmed salty water from the tropics travels along ocean currents in the Atlantic to the coasts of Greenland and Iceland. When the saltier tropical water reaches the North Atlantic, its greater density causes it to sink, in a process called warm saltwater subduction. “When [the water] sinks, it goes straight down, and the sinking carries heat along with it,” [University of Washington professor Ka-Kit] Tung said. About 90 percent of the Earth’s heat is stored in the oceans due to the atmosphere’s limited storage capacity, according to the study. … The researchers said that about half of the warming in the last 30 years of the 20th century was due to global warming, while the other […]
Aquaman may have had more going for him than he gets credit for. Scientific American reveals the amazing power fish have to reverse global warming: By assigning a dollar value to carbon stored in ocean ecosystems, two recent scientific reports are attempting to make nations reconsider the true worth of their fishing activities. The first, a new assessment backed by the Global Ocean Commission, roughly estimates that fish and other aquatic life in the high seas absorb enough carbon dioxide to avert $74 billion to $222 billion in climate damage per year. A second recently published study found that each year, deep-sea fish swimming off the United Kingdom’s and Ireland’s shores capture and store a quantity of carbon emissions worth €8 million to €14 million on the European carbon market, or up to $20 million. … The first study, led by the University of Southampton in the U.K. and the Marine Institute of Ireland, sheds […]
Actually, gone. Imploded. BBC has more on the tragic end of the deep-sea submersible Nereus: The robotic vehicle Nereus went missing while exploring one of the ocean’s deepest spots: the Kermadec Trench, which lies north east of New Zealand. Surface debris was found, suggesting the vessel suffered a catastrophic implosion as a result of the immense pressures where it was operating some 10km (6.2 miles) down. … “Nereus helped us explore places we’ve never seen before and ask questions we never thought to ask,” said Timothy Shank, from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), which managed the sub’s activities. “It was a one-of-a-kind vehicle that even during its brief life brought us amazing insights into the unexplored deep ocean, addressing some of the most fundamental scientific problems of our time about life on Earth.”
Nature reports on a new initiative to crowdsource oceanography: Just about the first action involved in any experiment at sea is the casting overboard of a conductivity, temperature and depth instrument, known as a CTD. From the Arctic to the tropics, every year CTDs sink through the water beneath the keels of research vessels. As they descend, they record the information that gives them their name and build a profile of how temperature and salinity — measured by means of the water’s electrical conductivity — change as they move further from the surface. “The CTD is the workhorse of the ocean scientist. It’s an essential, a must-have tool,” says Kersey Sturdivant, a marine scientist at Duke University Marine Lab in Beaufort, North Carolina. “But CTDs are not cheap.” … Sturdivant is part of the team behind OpenCTD, a project aiming to produce design plans that will allow anyone to build their own instrument for around […]
Nature bemoans the fact that America’s technological prowess is on the wane – and it’s getting really obvious that our science fleet has seen better days: “The community is deeply concerned that the ability to go to sea will be significantly reduced in the next decade, as research ships are retired or laid up,” says Mark Abbott, dean of the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences at Oregon State University in Corvallis. The average age of the ships is more than 23 years, and many are scheduled to retire in the coming years. … The more aged parts of the fleet lack features crucial for much research, such as the ability to stay exactly in position at sea.
I’m not sure when this happened, but NOAA thinks they’ve finally identified the mysterious underwater sound known as ‘The Bloop’: The broad spectrum sounds recorded in the summer of 1997 are consistent with icequakes generated by large icebergs as they crack and fracture. NOAA hydrophones deployed in the Scotia Sea detected numerous icequakes with spectrograms very similar to “Bloop”. You can hear the sound and view waveforms at the link. I still favor the giant sea monster explanation, myself. [via reddit]
The Atlantic reports on a record-breaking experiment that is reaching a conclusion nearly a century after it started… when a Scottish fisherman found a message in a bottle tossed into the North Atlantic in 1914: It is 98 years old, and was cast into the ocean by Captain C. Hunter Brown, a scientist at the Glasgow School of Navigation, who was studying the currents in the North Sea. The bottle was one of 1,890 bottles released on June 10, 1914, and the 315th to be entered into Captain Brown’s log, which is still kept and updated by Marine Scotland Science in Aberdeen. I’d say this qualifies as a nearly century-old citizen science experiment, though that’s not a term scientists would have been familiar with then. … “Drift bottles gave oceanographers at the start of the last century important information that allowed them to create pictures of the patterns of water circulation in the seas around […]
You might have heard the phrase “acceptable losses” being tossed around in corporate contexts, but Singularity Hub’s taken a closer look at a shipping phenomenon that’s really going overboard: It’s estimated that 10,000 of these large containers are lost at sea each year, and our understanding of what happens to them afterwards is scant at best. But that’s changing. This month the Monterray Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) sent a robotic sub to investigate a shipping container that was lost in the Monterrey Bay National Marine Sanctuary in 2004. What’s happened to the sunken shipment in the past seven years? It’s become a warren for a variety of aquatic life on the ocean floor, providing a new habitat for species that might otherwise not be attracted to the area. As the MBARI investigation continues to discover the destiny of drowned containers we will undoubtedly learn more about this (possibly) ecologically dangerous byproduct of our modern […]
The US Navy, Nature reports, is taking some time out to give scientists a look at what goes on beneath the Arctic Circle: Nature talked to two of the researchers involved in the next phase of the project, biologist Raymond Sambrotto and chemist Bill Smethie, both of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University in New York. Was it hard to get the Navy to restart this programme? BS: The Navy seems to be quite interested in the changes that are occurring in the Arctic. They’re interested because they need to know what capabilities they’ll need to operate in the Arctic in the future, and what US assets need to be protected, such as shipping, which may become more prevalent. The plan here is to take advantage of transits across the Arctic Ocean. Submarines have to go from one side to the other, and the Navy is willing to add two or three days to […]
Science News reports on an Antarctic project that’s been hiring a crew of oceanographers who *really* feel at home in the water: Seals, walruses, whales and other large marine creatures have moonlighted as oceanographers before. Scientists typically glue sensors to the animals’ bodies that measures factors like temperature and salinity. Researchers have used this information to study water temperatures around Greenland, among other topics. But the new work is the first to extract information on the shape of the seafloor — known as bathymetry — from the sensors, which also measure pressure and hence depth. “You can actually map the ocean floor,” says team member Daniel Costa, a marine biologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz. You really need to see the picture at the link. More geekily, what’s really interesting here isn’t using seals to collect data, but finding new ways to use data the seals were already collecting. Oh – you can […]
Unfortunately, as NPR reveals, we’re not talking about the kind that’s still safely underground: The NASA Earth Observatory explains that since ocean waters are never perfectly smooth, the sun’s reflection gets scattered off the surface in many directions. This yields a broad stripe of sunlight across the ocean in most satellite photographs. But things change when you add oil to the water. Diagrams and space photos (oo! a two-fer!) at the link.
Slate (yeah, not the first place I look for science news, but hey) unearths the sad truth about beaches that aren’t going to be beaches much longer: [Jim] Titus, the Environmental Protection Agency’s resident expert on sea-level rise, first happened on Maryland’s disappearing beaches 15 years ago while looking for a place to windsurf. “Having the name ‘beach,’ ” he discovered, “is not a very good predictor of having a beach.” Since then, he’s kept an eye out for other beach towns that have lost their namesakes—Maryland’s Masons Beach and Tolchester Beach, North Carolina’s Pamlico Beach, and many more. (See a map of Maryland’s phantom beach towns here.) … For nearly 30 years, Titus has been sounding the alarm about our rising oceans. Global warming is melting polar ice, adding to the volume of the oceans, as well as warming up seawater, causing it to expand. Most climatologists expect oceans around the world to rise […]