Archives for July 2014

Warriors’ Bones Reveal Bizarre Iron Age Rituals

Dozens of fighters found in Denmark were collected and ritually mutilated after spending months on the battlefield, archaeologists say.
Discovery News

Worsening Ocean Acidification Threatens Alaska Fisheries

Found in Alaskan fisheries, Tanner crabs have been shown to grow more slowly and die off in laboratory studies. (Credit: Wikimedia)

(Click to enlarge). Found in Alaskan fisheries, Tanner crabs have been shown to grow more slowly and die off in laboratory studies. (Credit: Wikimedia)

A new study finds that Alaska fisheries are particularly vulnerable to the effects of ocean acidification as the region’s seas continue to sour.

(From Science Insider/ by The catch from Alaska fisheries—which accounted for 50% of the United States’ total catch in 2009—is part of a complex food web that relies on delicate levels of chemicals in the ocean. But the pH levels in the four seas that ring Alaska—the Chukchi, Beaufort, Bering, and Gulf of Alaska—has dropped by 0.1 units since the Industrial Revolution and is forecast to lower about another 0.4 units by the end of the century.

Alaska’s cold waters naturally absorb more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than warmer waters do, and its upwelling currents bring more acidic waters to the surface, making it harder for organisms like mollusks to form their shells.

Meanwhile, a series of laboratory studies have shown that key shellfish and finfish species—and the microorganisms they eat—could be negatively harmed by those acidified waters, facing risks to their shells or metabolic systems.  

The new research, to be published in Progress in Oceanography, sought to forecast how the risk of souring seas could impact Alaska economically.

The researchers used a computer model to predict how rising atmospheric levels of CO2 would increase the acidity of the ocean around the state in various regions. Social scientists on the team of authors assigned scores to the commercial or nutritional importance of each species to 29 regions around the state, ranking the areas qualitatively by their reliance on affected species and their ability to adapt to this economic loss.

The takeaway? That southwest and southeast regions around the Gulf of Alaska will be particularly hard hit, says oceanographer Jeremy Mathis, the study’s co-lead researcher at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle, Washington. Southeast Alaska is a hub for commercial fisheries, where communities “derive the lion’s share of their economic revenue … directly from the fishing industry,” Mathis says. Subsistence communities, meanwhile, predominate in southwest Alaska, where ocean acidification could threaten food security. “If you take the fish away, they can’t just go down to the grocery store and buy chicken or beef, because it’s prohibitively expensive,” Mathis says.

Alaska’s commercial fisheries pulled in $ 4.6 billion in harvests in 2009, while fishing-related tourism composes half of Alaska’s income from tourism. Mathis recommends that policymakers help increase job training and educational initiatives, to boost the adaptability of areas facing risk from ocean acidification. But if anything, Mathis says, the study shows why more fieldwork on the impacts of souring seas is needed soon. “This study is not a smoking gun on the impacts of ocean acidification in Alaska,” says Mathis, noting that the authors did not attempt to put dollar amounts on the potential risk to the state. Rather, he says, the work highlights the areas facing the highest risks. And he says it highlights the need for new research cruises to look for the impacts of ocean acidification on species that have shown vulnerability to Alaska’s acidified waters in a number of lab studies. Some of that research has been published as long as a decade ago. “Astonishingly, no one has looked at that yet,” he says.

Consortium for Ocean Leadership

Ocean 180 Video Challenge

ocean180-video-challengeThe Ocean 180 Video Challenge is entering its second year, offering an opportunity for ocean scientists to practice their communication and presentation skills.

A total of $ 9,000 in cash prizes will be awarded to ocean scientists who best communicate their research through film.

Sponsored by the Florida Center for Ocean Science Education Excellence (COSEE Florida) and funded through a grant from the National Science Foundation, Ocean 180 challenges scientists to communicate and share the meaning, significance, and relevance of their research with a broader audience.

To enter, ocean scientists are asked to produce a 3-minute video abstract summarizing a recent publication. Scientists at any career stage, including graduate and undergraduate students are eligible to participate. Publications focused in marine debris and policy are eligible as well and are strongly encouraged.

Submissions will ultimately be viewed and evaluated by thousands of middle school students from around the world. In 2014, during Ocean 180’s inaugural year, entries were seen by over 30,000 students participating as judges in 13 countries. This is a fantastic way to develop your communication skills and make a broader impact with your research.

Submissions for the 2015 Ocean 180 Video Challenge will be accepted from October 1-December 1, 2014.

Information, previous winners, and full contest guidelines can be found at All questions may be directed to

Consortium for Ocean Leadership

Importance of Air Quality and Employee Productivity

A number of credible studies have shown that indoor air quality can have a significant effect on employee productivity. And we’re not just talking about air that’s so bad that you can’t see or breathe. Generally speaking, OSHA takes cares of those (though I could tell you a story about an agricultural processing job I once worked in Arkansas). What we’re talking about here is much more subtle than that.
ENN: Top Stories

Intensity of Hurricanes: New Study Helps Improve Predictions of Storm Intensity

Whether a storm creates rough waves or significant spray is a factor in determining storm intensity. (Credit: Mimadea/Fotolia)

(Click to enlarge) Whether a storm creates rough waves or significant spray is a factor in determining storm intensity. (Credit: Mimadea/Fotolia)

They are something we take very seriously in Florida — hurricanes. The names roll off the tongue like a list of villains — Andrew, Charlie, Frances and Wilma.

(From Science Daily/ by Nova Southeastern University) – In the past 25 years or so, experts have gradually been improving prediction of the course a storm may take. This is thanks to tremendous advancements in computer and satellite technology. While we still have the “cone of uncertainty” we’re become familiar with watching television weather reports, today’s models are more accurate than they used to be.

The one area, however, where there is still much more to be researched and learned is in predicting just how intense a storm may be. While hurricane hunter aircraft can help determine wind speed, velocity, water temperature and other data, the fact is we often don’t know why or how a storm gets stronger or weaker. There has been virtually no progress in hurricane intensity forecasting during the last quarter century.

But, thanks to new research being conducted, all that’s about to change.

“The air-water interface — whether it had significant waves or significant spray — is a big factor in storm intensity,” said Alex Soloviev, Ph.D., a professor at Nova Southeastern University’s Oceanographic Center. “Hurricanes gain heat energy through the interface and they lose mechanical energy at the interface.”

Soloviev is also an Adjunct Professor at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science (UM RSMAS) and a Fellow at the Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies (CIMAS.) He and his fellow researchers used a computational fluid dynamics model to simulate microstructure of the air-sea interface under hurricane force winds. In order to verify these computer-generated results, the group conducted experiments at the UM’s Rosenstiel School Air-Sea Interaction Salt Water Tank (ASIST) where they simulated wind speed and ocean surface conditions found during hurricanes.

The study “The Air-Sea Interface and Surface Stress Under Tropical Cyclones” was published in the June 16, 2014 issue of the journal Nature Scientific Reports. Soloviev was the lead author of this study, which was conducted by a multi-institutional team including Roger Lukas (University of Hawaii), Mark Donelan and Brian Haus (UM RSMAS), and Isaac Ginis (University of Rhode Island.)

The researchers were surprised at what they found. Under hurricane force wind, the air-water interface was producing projectiles fragmenting into sub millimeter scale water droplets. This process is known from some engineering applications, including rocket science, as the Kelvin-Helmholtz (KH) instability. This new study then looked at how changes in microphysics of the air-sea interface can make a storm grow or weaken in intensity. With wind speed exceeding a Category 1 threshold, the ocean surface unexpectedly became more “slippery.”

When the wind exceeded Category 3 hurricane force, the “slippery” effect started gradually disappearing and was completely gone at Category 5. The conclusion was that some hurricanes might rapidly intensify to Category 3 and then stay in a “comfortable” zone around Category 3 status. This finding is consistent with the global best-track tropical cyclone statistics on maximum intensity for 1982-2009. So far, these early results showed that physical conditions where the air and the ocean interact must be a vital part of any successful hurricane forecasting model and would help explain, and predict, how a storm might intensify as it moves through across the water based on the physical stress at the ocean’s surface.

This work has been supported by the NOPP project “Advanced coupled atmosphere-wave-ocean modeling for improving tropical cyclone prediction models” (PIs: Isaac Ginis, URI and Shuyi Chen, UM) and by the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) Consortium for Advanced Research on the Transport of Hydrocarbons in the Environment — CARTHE (PI: Tamay Özgökmen, UM). GoMRI is a 10-year, $ 500 million independent research program established by an agreement between BP and the Gulf of Mexico Alliance.

The plan is for the team to continue their research and experiments at UM’s Alfred C. Glassell, Jr. SUSTAIN facility, which has recently been designed by one of the Nature article co-authors, Brian Haus (UM). It’s the unique lab facility where they can recreate the conditions found in a Category 5 storm.

“We’ve got more work to do, but this is a great first step,” Soloviev said. “But remember, no matter how good we get in predicting a storm’s intensity, people in the path need to prepare accordingly regardless of what Category it is — that’s most important.”

Consortium for Ocean Leadership

Bigelow Laboratory Open House Set For August 1st

The Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences will be open to the public on August 1st, 2014. (Credit: Bigelow Laboratory)

(Click to enlarge). The Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences will be open to the public on August 1st, 2014. (Credit: Bigelow Laboratory)

If you have ever wondered what a copepod looks like, how DNA is extracted or how the ocean is changing, next Friday you will have the opportunity to find out. 

(From Bigelow Laboratory) – Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences will open its doors to the public from 10 am – 3 pm on Friday August 1 for tours, hands-on activities, and the opportunity to ask ocean science experts questions.  The event is free and open to the public and all are invited to attend.

“This has become an annual tradition that all of us here at Bigelow Laboratory look forward to very much,” says Dr. Graham Shimmield, executive director of the Laboratory.  “It’s a chance for us to learn what the public is curious about and share what we are learning concerning what’s happening in the ocean.  The day provides for a great exchange of ideas.  This year, it promises to be even better with more hands-on activities to allow adults and children to be a research scientist for a day.”

The Laboratory at 60 Bigelow Drive in East Boothbay, Maine will open at 10 am and the public is welcome to visit through 3 pm.  Guided tours will be offered on the hour, with self-guided tours at other times.  Hands-on activities include plankton tows and Secchi disk drops on the dock, microscope viewing, and experiments that range from “Ocean Acidification in a Cup” to “Fishy DNA.”  A complete list of the day’s activities is below:

Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Science
Open House
August 1, 2014
10 am – 3 pm

All day

Explore Minute Mysteries: The Commons

Self-guided Tour: Center for Ocean Biogeochemistry and Climate Change (Wing B)

Drs. Barney Balch and José Antonio Fernández-Robledo

  • Meet Grampus, our underwater glider
  • Explore oyster health

Self-guided Story Walk: Road to Shore Facility

  • Read Ocean Sunlight enroute to dock activities

Hands-on Activities: Ocean Modular

  • Ocean acidification in a cup
  • Discover density
  • Fishy DNA
  • Under Pressure
  • And more

Hands-on Activities: Commons Classroom

  • Coloring and cartoons 

Hands-on Activities: On the Dock

  • Sidewalk chalk
  • Plankton tow
  • Secchi disk

 Hands-on Activities: Shore Facility

  • Live plankton under a microscope



On the hour: The Commons

  • History of the laboratory, Elin Haugen or Darlene Crist

10:15 am Guided Tour

  • Seawater Suite, Tim Pinkham
  • Deep Biosphere Laboratory, Dr. Beth Orcutt
  • Marine Environmental Chemistry Laboratory, Dr. Christoph Aeppli

11:15 am Guided Tour

  • Data Center, Nathan Paquin
  • Geomicrobiology Laboratory, Dr. David Emerson
  • Air-Sea Interactions Laboratory, Dr. Steve Archer

 12:15 pm Guided Tour

  • Data Center, Nathan Paquin
  • National Center for Marine Algae and Microbiota, Dr. Mike Lomas
  • Microbial Ecology Laboratory, Dr. Pete Countway

1:15 pm Guided Tour

  • Seawater Suite, Martin Getrich
  • Single Cell Genomics Center, Dr. Ramunas Stepanauskas
  • Zooplankton Physiology and Sensory Ecology Laboratory, Alex Vermont

2:15 pm Guided Tour

  • Seawater Suite, Tim Pinkham
  • Bigelow Analytic Services, Carlton Rauschenberg
  • Ecosystem Modeling Laboratory, Dr. Nick Record

Consortium for Ocean Leadership

The emerging anthropogenic signal in land–atmosphere carbon-cycle coupling

Earth system models do not currently account for unforced variability in land–atmosphere CO2 flux when simulating the responses of the terrestrial carbon cycle to anthropogenically forced changes in climate and atmosphere. Now, research shows that this unforced variability is larger than the forced response in many areas of the world, precluding detection of the forced carbon-cycle change for decades.

Nature Climate Change doi: 10.1038/nclimate2323

Nature Climate Change – AOP – science feeds

NHC says 50 percent chance of cyclone off southern Windward Islands

(Reuters) – An area of low pressure located about 1,000 miles east of the southern Windward Islands now has a 50 percent chance of becoming a tropical cyclone during the next 48 hours, the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) said on Wednesday.

Reuters: Environment

Catching Waves in the Arctic

As the climate warms and sea ice retreats, the North is changing. An ice-covered expanse now has a season of increasingly open water that is predicted to extend across the whole Arctic Ocean before the middle of this century. Storms thus have the potential to create Arctic swell — huge waves that could add a new and unpredictable element to the region. A University of Washington researcher made the first study of waves in the middle of the Arctic Ocean, and detected house-sized waves during a September 2012 storm. The results were recently published in Geophysical Research Letters.
ENN: Top Stories

Senate Appropriatons Energy and Water Report Released

U.S. Capitol Building. (Credit: (Architect of the Capitol)

(Click to enlarge). U.S. Capitol Building. (Credit: (Architect of the Capitol)

The Senate Appropriations Committee has released its draft report outlining the spending levels for the Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 Energy and Water Development Appropriation bill.

The bill funds the Department of Energy (DOE) at $ 28.4 billion ($ 1 billion higher than FY 2014) and the Army Corps of Engineers $ 4.5 billion ($ 200 million lower than FY 2014). Within the DOE, the Committee recommends $ 5.1 billion to the Office of Science and $ 2.1 billion for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

 The Senate version of the bill does offer more funding for water power in the DOE at $ 69 million, compared to the House version at $ 38.5 million. Approximately 60% of the Senate water power funding would be for marine and hydrokinetic technology and 40% for conventional hydropower. Funding was split equally between the two in the House version.

Provisions regarding Department of Energy Research of note in the Senate Report language include:

  • Within the funds for climate and environmental sciences, the Committee recommends $ 28,543,000 for a new initiative on climate model development and validation. The Committee supports efforts to use climate models to accurately predict future extreme weather events and the impact of those events at resolution below 10 kilometers. The Committee supports efforts to focus most of the scientific attention on tornadoes and take advantage of unique scientific instrumentation in Oklahoma. The Committee understands that climate change projections suggest the United States will experience extreme weather events with greater frequency and severity and believes this initiative will help the United States be better prepared to respond to these events.
  • Water Power Energy R&D.—The Committee recommends $ 69,000,000 for water power, including $ 41,300,000 for marine and hydrokinetic technology research, development and deployment, and $ 27,500,000 for conventional hydropower.

The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water passed this bill in mid-June, but the full Committee markup scheduled several days after was cancelled and has yet to be rescheduled. The House passed its version of the bill earlier this month. It is unlikely that either bill will reach their respective chamber’s floor and instead will be negotiated as part of an omnibus spending bill after the November elections.

Consortium for Ocean Leadership