Weekly Ocean News
12-16 March 2018
This is Break Week for the Spring 2018 offering of this course. This Weekly Ocean News contains new
information items and historical data, but the Concept of the Week (below) is repeated from last week.
For Your Information
- Worldwide GLOBE at Night 2018 Campaign for March is underway -- The third in the series of GLOBE at Night citizen-science campaigns for 2018 will continue through Saturday, 17 March. GLOBE at Night is a worldwide, hands-on science and education program designed to encourage citizen-scientists worldwide to record the brightness of their night sky by matching the appearance of a constellation with the seven magnitude/star charts of progressively fainter stars. These constellations are Leo for latitudes equatorward of 30 degrees latitude in the Northern Hemisphere and Canis Major for all latitudes in the Southern Hemisphere. Activity guides are also available. The GLOBE at night program is intended to raise public awareness of the impact of light pollution. The fourth series in the 2018 campaign is scheduled for 6-15 April 2018. [GLOBE at Night]
- Biomixing in ocean motion -- If you
would like information on recent findings that indicate marine
organisms contribute to motion in the ocean, please read this week's Supplemental Information…In Greater Depth.
Ocean in the News
- Eye on the tropics -- During the last week, tropical cyclone activity was found in the South Indian and western South Pacific Ocean basins:
In the western South Indian Ocean basin Tropical Cyclone Dumazile was traveling southward over the waters to the east of Madagascar at the start of last week. As Dumazile travelled parallel to Madagascar's eastern coast, it was responsible for torrential rains that resulted flooding in that island nation. On Monday Dumazile had strengthened to become a category 3 tropical cyclone on the Saffir-Simpson Scale as maximum sustained surface winds reached 120 mph. Over the next two days, Dumazile weakened as it curved to take a direction toward the south-southwest, before dissipating over the open waters of the western South Indian Ocean well away from any land masses. Additional information and satellite imagery on Tropical Cyclone Dumazile can be found on the NASA Hurricane Page.
- In the western South Pacific, a tropical storm developed slightly more than 100 miles to the north-northeast of the island nation of Vanuatu as of early Wednesday of last week. This tropical storm, which was called Cyclone Hola, strengthened to become a category 2 tropical cyclone (on the Saffir-Simpson Scale) by Friday as it traveled to the southwest. Curving to the south and then to the southeast, Cyclone Hola brought torrential rain to Vanuatu and New Caledonia over this past weekend. As of early Monday (local time), Hola was loosing its tropical characteristics and transistoning into a cold-core midlatitude storm. At that time the center of this low pressure system was located approximately 330 miles east of Norfolk Island. This storm was projected to continue its travels to the south-southeast toward the North Island of New Zealand. The NASA Hurricane Page has satellite imagers and additional information for Cyclone Hola.
- Updated El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) Diagnostic Discussion is released -- Late last week forecasters at NOAA's Climate Prediction Center (CPC) and the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI) released their monthly El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) Diagnostic Discussion. They reported that the La Niña was weakening during February, although sea surface temperatures (SST) across the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean remained below average. Furthermore, atmospheric conditions typical of La Niña were also weakening. Most of the prediction models used by the forecasters indicate that La Niña should continue weakening and transition into ENSO-neutral conditions (with neither El Niño nor La Niña conditions) during this meteorological spring season in the Northern Hemisphere (March, April and May). The forecasters have continued their La Niña advisory, noting an approximately 55 percent chance that a transition from La Niña to ENSO-neutral conditions would occur during this Northern Hemisphere meteorological spring, then continuing into the second half of 2018. [NOAA Climate Prediction Center]
An ENSO blog was written by a contractor with NOAA's CPC describing how the La Niña conditions that prevailed at the end of 2017 and during the first month of 2018 appear to show a transition into ENSO-neutral conditions across the equatorial Pacific. She provides several informative graphics to supplement her discussion. [NOAA Climate.gov News]
Forecasters with the Australian Bureau of Meteorology reported that La Niña conditions were waning as warming was occurring in the central equatorial Pacific. They suggest that the current phase of the Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO) could hasten the demise of La Niña and a transition to ENSO-neutral conditions. [Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology]
- Recent nor'easter also batters Outer Banks of North Carolina -- The powerful winter storm that became a destructive "nor'easter" along the Middle Atlantic and New England coasts over the previous weekend was felt as far south as North Carolina's Outer Banks. Large waves generated by the strong winds surrounding this storm caused significant beach erosion and ocean overwash along the Outer Banks to the north of Cape Hatteras. Portions of State Highway 12 were impassable. [The Outer Banks Voice]
The high winds and heavy seas caused at least 70 cargo containers to fall from the cargo ship Maersk Shanghai approximately 17 miles off Oregon Inlet. [The Outer Banks Voice] (Editor's Note: Special thanks are extended to Terri Kirby Hathaway, Certified Environmental Educator and Marine Education Specialist with the North Carolina Sea Grant for these articles. EJH)
- New members to the Hydrographic Services Review Panel are appointed -- The acting NOAA Administrator recently appointed three new members to the NOAA Hydrographic Services Review Panel, a federal advisory committee that furnishes the agency with independent advice for improving a range of services and products that support safe navigation and coastal resilience. In addition, two current members were reappointed to the panel that also has ten current members. [NOAA News]
- Restoring coral is the mission of a team of military veteran -- A team of former combat divers and Special Operations veterans called FORCE BLUE has recently commenced a two-month mission in collaboration with NOAA and other partners to stabilize and perform emergency restoration on coral damaged off the coast of Puerto Rico during last year's hurricanes. [NOAA Stories]
- Impact of Hurricane Maria upon Puerto Rico's coral reefs revealed by acoustic monitoring -- Scientists from NOAA's National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, Purdue University, and the University of Puerto Rico had installed hydrophones, or passive listening devices, at three sites on the coral reefs offshore of Puerto Rico's southwestern coast early in 2017. These hydrophones revealed how Hurricane Maria disturbed marine life last September, having recorded the "soundscape" before, during, and after the passage of this category 4 hurricane. The recordings revealed a drop in fish choruses and snapping shrimp activity during the storm and for a few days following the storm. [NOAA National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science News]
- Examples of projects that bridge the gap between coastal science and management -- NOAA's National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) staff recently presented three examples of NCCOS research activities that incorporated managers in the research process to ensure the science transitions to useful products for the natural resource management community. One project examined the influence of shoreline changes on Chesapeake and Delmarva Bay ecosystems. A second project involved the ecological effects of sea level rise, while the third focused upon invasive species in the Great Lakes. [NOAA National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science News]
- U.S. seafood seen as providing help for feeding the world population -- The Director of Aquaculture at NOAA Fisheries, Michael Rubino, wrote a feature in which he claims that farm-raised and wild-capture seafood will play a vital role in the world's food security. He feels that the future of sustainable seafood relies on responsible farm-raised seafood to augment our wild-capture resources. The U.S. aquaculture industry is growing and providing an increasing share of the nation's seafood in terms of value. Seafood Expo North America is being held between 11 and 13 March in Boston, MA to discuss common goals, challenges, and opportunities in sustainable seafood. [NOAA News]
- Online registration and reporting for Atlantic highly migratory species is implemented for tournaments -- NOAA Fisheries' Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Management Division, the Southeast Fisheries Science Center, and the Fisheries Information System Program have recently collaborated to improve the registration and reporting process for Atlantic Highly Migratory Species tournaments. Nearly 300 Atlantic Highly Migratory Species tournaments are conducted annually. The implementation of online registration and reporting is making the system more effective and efficient for tournament operators and scientists alike. [NOAA Fisheries Feature Story]
- Ocean waters off West Coast returning to average conditions, but salmon catches are lagging - NOAA's Southwest Fisheries Science Center and Northwest Fisheries Science recently presented their annual "California Current Ecosystem Status Report" that indicates ocean conditions off most of the U.S. West Coast are returning to near average, after an extreme marine heat wave from 2014 to 2016 disrupted the California Current Ecosystem and shifted many species beyond their traditional range. However, the central and southern sections of the West Coast face low snow pack and potential drought in 2018 that could put salmon at continued risk as they migrate back up rivers to spawn. [NOAA Fisheries West Coast Region News]
- Sediment plume from Mississippi River seen to be entering Gulf of Mexico -- An image generated from data collected early last week by the MODIS sensor on NASA's Terra satellite shows a plume of sediment entering the waters of the Gulf of Mexico from the lower Mississippi River. This sediment plume was the result of flooding along the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers along with their many tributaries that was caused by snow melt and torrential rains across these watersheds. The structure of the plume off the Mississippi Delta shows some interesting features due to winds and water currents. [NASA Earth Observatory]
- Extent of Arctic sea ice during this February is smallest since 1979 -- A map of the sea ice concentration in the Arctic basin during this past February shows that the extent of sea ice was the smallest since satellite surveillance commenced in 1979. A "winter warming event" appears to be responsible for the decline in ice over the Bering and Chukchi Seas. A map displaying the February air temperature anomaly (arithmetic differences between observed and long-term average monthly temperatures) shows positive anomalies associated with above average temperatures across a large section of the Arctic basin. [NASA Earth Observatory]
- An update on gas hydrates is made from a modern perspective -- The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) recently published two new fact sheets on methane hydrates and related USGS research activities. Methane hydrates are crystalline solids that look like ice and are formed from water and gas, often containing large quantities of the greenhouse gas methane. These gas hydrates are found hidden in sediments on every continent including in Arctic permafrost and in marine sediments directly below the sea floor. One of the USGS fact sheets contains up-to-date information about naturally occurring gas hydrates, including their global distribution, the amount of gas trapped in these deposits, and the technology used to find them. The other fact sheet describes the USGS Gas Hydrates Project, a collaborative effort with other U.S. federal agencies, international partners, and academic researchers to enhance understanding of the resource potential of gas hydrates and the interaction of gas hydrates with the changing environment. [USGS News]
- A "wet lab" experiment is used to model prehistoric ocean conditions -- A laboratory experiment was conducted by an international team of scientists involving a modified graduated cylinder that was used to model Earth's prehistoric ocean with conditions like that of the Archean Era, approximately 2.5 billion years ago. Cyanobacteria were included since these organisms are assumed to have helped fix oxygen into the early atmosphere. The researchers were evaluating the reduction of iron in prehistoric oceans in conditions under which iron-rich sedimentary rock was formed. They found that despite the oxygenation by the cyanobacteria, much of the iron did not remain oxidized but was reduced again into its dissolved form, yielding a larger amount than anticipated. [Iowa State University News]
- An All-Hazards Monitor -- This Web portal provides the user information from NOAA's National Weather Service, FAA and FEMA on
current environmental events that may pose as hazards such as tropical
weather, fire weather, marine weather, severe weather, drought and
floods. [NOAA/NWS Daily Briefing]
- Earthweek -- Diary of the Planet [earthweek.com]
This Concept of the Week is repeated from last week.
Concept of the Week: Abyssal Storms
Until recently, ocean scientists thought of the deep ocean
abyss as a dark and cold, but serene place where small particles rained
gently onto the ocean floor. However, instruments lowered to the sea
floor to measure ocean motion or currents and resulting mobilization of
bottom sediments detected a much more active environment. Scientists
found that bottom currents and abyssal storms occasionally scour the
ocean bottom, generating moving clouds of suspended sediment. A surface
current of 5 knots (250 cm/sec) is considered relatively strong. A
bottom current of 1 knot (50 cm/sec) is ripping. Although this may be
called an abyssal storm, the water motion pales by comparison to wind
speeds in atmospheric storms.
Abyssal currents and storms apparently derive their energy
from surface ocean currents. Wind-driven surface ocean currents flow
about the margins of the ocean basins as gyres centered near 30 degrees
latitude. (Refer to Figure 6.6 in your textbook.) Viewed
from above, these subtropical gyres rotate
clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and counterclockwise in the
Southern Hemisphere. For reasons given in Chapter 6 of your textbook
and this week's Supplemental Information, surface
currents flow faster, are narrower, and extend to greater depths on the
western arm of the gyres. These are known as western boundary
currents and include, for example, the Gulf Stream of the
North Atlantic basin. Abyssal currents are also most vigorous on the
western side of the ocean basins, moving along the base of the
continental rise, which is on the order of several kilometers deep.
Abyssal storms may be linked to or may actually be eddies (rings)
that occasionally break off from the main current of the Gulf Stream
(and other western boundary currents). During an abyssal storm, the
eddy or ring may actually reach to the bottom of the ocean where the
velocity of a bottom current increases ten-fold to about 1.5 km (1 mi)
per hr. While that is an unimpressive wind speed, water is much denser
than air so that its erosive and sediment-transport capacity is
significant even at 1.5 km per hr. At this higher speed, the suspended
sediment load in the bottom current increases by a factor of ten.
Abyssal storms scour the sea floor leaving behind long furrows in the
sediment. After a few days to a few weeks, the current weakens or the
eddy (ring) is reabsorbed into the main surface circulation and the
suspended load settles to the ocean floor. In this way, abyssal storms
can transport tons of sediment long distances, disrupting the orderly
sequence of layers of deep-sea sediments. Scientists must take this
disruption into account when interpreting the environmental
significance of deep-sea sediment cores.
- 13-15 March 1952...The world's 5-day rainfall record was
set when a tropical cyclone produced 151.73 inches rain at Cilos,
Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean. The 73.62 inches that fell in a
24-hour period (15th-16th)
set the world's 24-hour rainfall record. (Accord's Weather Calendar)
- 14 March 1891...The submarine Monarch laid telephone cable along the bottom of the English Channel to prepare
for the first telephone links across the Channel.
- 14 March 1903...President Theodore Roosevelt issued an
executive order making Pelican Island near Sebastian Florida a
"preserve and breeding ground for native birds," including pelicans and
herons, marking the birth of the National Wildlife Refuge System.
- 14 March 1918...The first US concrete seagoing ship was
launched at Redwood City, CA. (Today in Science History)
- 15 March 1493...Christopher Columbus returned to Spain
after his first voyage to the New World. (Wikipedia)
- 15 March 1778...Nootka Sound, Vancouver Island was
discovered by Captain James Cook.
- 15 March 1946...For the first time, U.S. Coast Guard
aircraft supplemented the work of the Coast Guard patrol vessels of the
International Ice Patrol, scouting for ice and determining the limits
of the ice fields from the air. (USCG Historian's Office)
- 15 March 1960...Key Largo Coral Reef Preserve in the
Florida Keys was established as the nation's first underwater park.
This preserve currently includes John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
and the adjacent Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
- 16 March 1521...Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan
reached the Philippines. He was killed the next month by natives.
- 16 March 1834...The HMS Beagle anchored
at Berkeley Sound, Falkland Islands.
- 16 March 1889...A war between the U.S. and Germany was
likely averted as a hurricane sank all three U.S. and three German
warships in the harbor at Apia, Samoa. Joint U.S., German and Samoan
rescue cooperation led to the Treaty of Berlin (1889) that later
settled the dispute. (Accord's Weather Calendar)
- 17 March 1891...The British steamer SS Utopia sank off the coast of Gibraltar, killing 574 people. (Wikipedia)
- 17 March 1898...The USS Holland, the
first practical submarine, was demonstrated by John Holland as it made
its first dive in the waters off Staten Island, New York for one hour
and 40 minutes. (Naval Historical Center)
- 17 March 1941...USCGC Cayuga left Boston
with the South Greenland Survey Expedition onboard to locate airfields,
seaplane bases, radio and meteorological stations, and aids to
navigation in Greenland. (USCG Historian's Office)
- 17 March 1959...The submarine USS Skate (SSN-578) surfaced at the North Pole. (Naval Historical Center)
Return to RealTime Ocean Portal
Prepared by DS Ocean Central Staff and Edward J. Hopkins,
© Copyright, 2018, The American Meteorological Society.