Weekly Ocean News
12-16 February 2018
For Your Information
- Worldwide GLOBE at Night 2018 Campaign for February is underway -- The second in the series of GLOBE at Night citizen-science campaigns for 2018 will continue through Thursday, 15 February. 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 Orion for latitudes equatorward of 30 degrees latitude in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres; Gemini for latitudes north of 30 degrees in the Northern Hemisphere and Canis Major for latitudes poleward of 30 degrees 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 third series in the 2018 campaign is scheduled for 8-17 March 2018. [GLOBE at Night]
- Two asteroids safely made close passage by Earth last week -- Astronomers at the NASA-funded Catalina Sky Survey near Tucson, AZ reported two asteroids safely passed by Earth during the last week at distances that were within one lunar distance (approximately 239,000 miles). On Tuesday (6 February) afternoon, asteroid 2018 CC that had a size estimated to be between 50 and 100 feet passed approximately 114,000 miles from Earth. The second asteroid, identified as 2018 CB, passed approximately 39,000 miles from Earth last Friday (9 February) afternoon. This asteroid was estimated to have a size ranging between 50 and 130 feet. [NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory News]
- Interesting sidelights to the 2018 Winter Olympics -- The 2018 Winter Olympics are currently underway in PyeongChang and Gangneung, South Korea. The following is some interesting sidelights that complement the stories of team standings, medals won and athletic accomplishments:
- Weather Forecasts for the Olympics -- Current weather and weather forecasts for the Olympic games are available from the Korean Meteorological Administration.
- A view of the 2018 Winter Olympics sites from space -- NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center has assembled several natural-color images showing views of the terrain around the Olympic Games that are being held in South Korea from data obtained from the Operational Land Imager on the Landsat 8 satellite and from NASA's Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM). [NASA Earth Observatory]
- NASA instruments used to measure snow -- NASA has sent 11 of its instruments along with scientists and engineers to South Korea as part of a 11-nation project called International Collaborative Experiments for PyeongChang 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, or ICE-POP designed to make snow measurements on the various venues from the start of the Olympics (9 February) through the end of the Paralympics on 18 March 18. In addition to radar, NASA snow imagers use high speed cameras and advanced software to image every single snowflake falling in its viewing area, which is useful for counting the snowflakes and determining how much water is falling at that moment. [NASA Goddard Space Flight Center]
- Early upper-air weather data were obtained from kites and aircraft -- NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) recently posted a "Planet Postcard" that featured information about the upper-air observations program operated by the U.S. Weather Bureau (the predecessor to the National Weather Service) from the late 19th century. The weather data collected from tethered kites, aircraft observations and balloons are now achieved at NCEI. [NOAA NCEI News]
- Aspects of ocean water chemistry and marine life
considered -- If you would like more background information
concerning how marine organisms evolved in the ocean with a relatively
narrow range of chemical and physical characteristics, please read this
week's Supplemental Information...In
Ocean in the News
- Eye on the tropics --- During the last week, one named tropical cyclone (a low pressure system such as a tropical
storm or hurricane that forms over tropical oceans) finally dissipated after traveling across the South Indian Ocean, while two additional tropical cyclones developed over the western Pacific in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres:
- In the South Indian Ocean, the former major Tropical Cyclone Cebile, which had reached a category 4 tropical cyclone status on the Saffir-Simpson Scale early in the previous week, continued weakening during last week as it traveled toward the southeast and then south and finally toward the west. Cebile finally began dissipating as of last Thursday approximately 1350 miles to the south-southeast of Diego Garcia. Consult the NASA Hurricane Page for additional information and satellite images on Cyclone Cebile.
- In the western South Pacific basin, Tropical Storm Gita formed at the end of last week approximately 150 miles to the west-southwest of Pago Pago. Over the weekend, Gita intensified as it traveled toward the east-southeast, the southeast and then to the south, becoming a category 2 tropical cyclone (on the Saffir-Simpson Scale). As of Monday (local time) Cyclone Gita was located approximately 160 miles to the south of the South Pacific island nation of Niue. At that time Gita was headed toward the west. Current forecasts suggest that Gita should head west passing close to Tonga and then slowly curve toward the west-southwest in the second half of this week. Intensification to a category 3 tropical cyclone was anticipated. The NASA Hurricane Page has satellite images and additional information on Tropical Storm Gita.
- In the western North Pacific basin, the second tropical depression of 2018 formed at the end of last week approximately 250 miles to the south of Guam. Heading westward, this tropical depression (identified as Tropical Depression 2W or TD-2W) strengthened to become Tropical Storm Sanba over late Saturday (local time). By late Sunday, Tropical Storm Sanba was located approximately 20 miles to the south-southwest of Koror, Palau. Sanba was forecast to head toward the west or west-northwest over the first few days of this week, passing across the southern Philippine Islands that include Mindanao and the Visayas islands before heading out over the South China Sea. Some intensification was expected. Additional information and satellite imagery for Sanba (formerly TD-2W) are available on the NASA Home Page.
- Updated El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) Diagnostic Discussion & last La Niña advisory outlook are 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 in which they noted that atmospheric and ocean patterns through January 2018 indicated that La Niña conditions were evident, including a pattern of below-average sea surface temperatures (SSTs) across the central and eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean, which is consistent with a La Niña. However, most of the forecast models they use indicate the current La Niña conditions should deteriorate, causing a return to an ENSO-neutral status, with neither El Niño nor La Niña conditions. (ENSO stands for El Niño/Southern Oscillation.) Consequently, the forecasters have continued their La Niña advisory, while noting that an approximately 55 percent chance of the transition to ENSO-neutral conditions would occur during the March-May season (or the Northern Hemisphere meteorological spring). [NOAA Climate Prediction Center]
An ENSO blog was written by a contractor at NOAA's Climate Prediction Center describing the La Niña conditions that have been occurring since November. Attention was also paid to the water temperatures in the equatorial Pacific to some depth below the surface where the SST anomalies are typically obtained to ascertain the existence of El Niño, La Niña or ENSO-neutral conditions. Discussion was also made of the global temperature and precipitation patterns for the three months of November and January, as described in terms of differences or "anomalies" between these three-month averages and the long-term averages for the corresponding three months.
[NOAA Climate.gov News]
(Editor's note: Documentation is provided on the maps page of the Climate.gov website of how the SST anomalies are determined for the ENSO monitoring region across the equatorial Pacific Ocean basin and used to determine if El Niño or La Niña conditions are occurring. EJH)
- Document released that sets NOAA Fisheries' priorities for 2018 -- Early last week, NOAA Fisheries officials released a 20-page document entitled "NOAA Fisheries Priorities and Annual Guidance for 2018" that outlines NOAA Fisheries' goals, priorities and anticipated accomplishments during this upcoming year. The document is intended to provide guidance to all NOAA Fisheries employees. [NOAA Fisheries Feature Story]
- Satellites help rescue 275 people in 2017 -- During last year (2017), 275 people were rescued from life-threatening situations throughout the US and on its surrounding waters in part because of the role that NOAA's fleet of operational satellites played. Approximately two-thirds of those rescued (186) involved waterborne rescues. The largest annual total of people rescued through this program was 357 rescued in 2007. By detecting distress signals from emergency beacons, these NOAA satellites helped pinpoint the location of these people and relay this information to first responders who perform the actual rescue. NOAA's geosynchronous and polar-orbiting satellites are part of the international COSPAS-SARSAT (COSPAS a Russian abbreviation for "Space System for the Search of Vessels in Distress" and SARSAT "Search and Rescue Satellite Aided Tracking") system. [NOAA NESDIS News]
- Pollution levels in Houston metropolitan area before and after Hurricane Harvey are compared -- Researchers from Texas A&M and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory recently examined concentrations of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) before and after the flooding from the torrential rains for Hurricane Harvey in a neighborhood of southeastern Houston, TX that is located near petroleum refineries and other industrial sites along the Houston Ship Channel. Pre-Harvey dust and post-Harvey soil samples were collected and analyzed using gas chromatography. The researchers found that evidence that flooding had redistributed PAHs in this community. [Texas A&M University News]
- A record global temperature spike seen for 2014 through 2016 -- Climate scientists at the University of Arizona and the University of Michigan recently analyzed the global temperature spike that occurred over the years of 2014 to 2016. They found that over these three years the global temperature jumped 0.43 Fahrenheit degrees or approximately 25 percent of the 1.6-Fahrenheit degree increase for the span running from 1900 to 2013. This recent three-year spike represents a record temperature rise for any comparable period since 1900. The researchers claimed that the natural variability in the Earth climate system was not sufficient to explain this remarkable jump, pointing to the release of heat generated by greenhouse emissions since the 1990s and stored in the Pacific Ocean by the 2015-16 El Niño event. This recent warming spike in coincided with extreme weather events worldwide, including heat waves, droughts, floods, extensive melting of polar ice and global coral bleaching. [University of Arizona News]
- New satellite sensors readied to address key Earth science questions -- Scientists and engineers at NASA and their colleagues in academia are preparing two sensors to be placed on orbiting satellites that were selected under NASA's fourth Earth Venture Instrument opportunity. The Earth Venture investigations are small, targeted science investigations that complement NASA's larger missions and are intended to provide data to help explain fundamental questions concerning the Earth's environment and planetary processes. For example, the Polar Radiant Energy in the Far Infrared Experiment (PREFIRE) will be placed on a pair of small CubeSat satellites to probe far-infrared radiant energy emitted by Earth for clues about Arctic warming, sea ice loss, and ice-sheet melting. Another sensor to be mounted to the exterior of the International Space Station is designed to determine the mineral composition of natural sources that produce dust aerosols around the world as part of the Earth Surface Mineral Dust Source Investigation.
[NASA Press Release]
- Evidence for a massive biomass burning event nearly 13,000 years ago -- Researchers at recently reported that their analysis of charcoal records in 129 lake cores and at least four marine cores from around the world provides evidence for a massive biomass burning event across North and South America, Europe, and Asia at the Younger Dryas Boundary. This intense and multicontinental burn episode produced extensive atmospheric soot/dust loading that triggered an "impact winter." In addition to the interruption of photosynthesis, abrupt cooling and other climate changes, including Arctic sea ice expansion, rerouting of North American continental runoff and subsequent ocean circulation, would have occurred at this Younger Dryas Boundary, at approximately 12,800 years ago, which is well known for the collapse of the Clovis people and the extinction of megafauna such as mammoths and mastodons. [University of California Santa Barbara 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]
Concept of the Week: Sea Water Salinity
and Carbon Dioxide
In view of the contemporary concern regarding global climate
change, scientists are studying the various factors that govern the
ocean's ability to absorb atmospheric carbon dioxide. Concentrations of
atmospheric carbon dioxide are on the rise primarily because of the
burning of fossil fuels (i.e., coal, oil, natural gas). Carbon dioxide
is a greenhouse gas (an atmospheric gas that absorbs and radiates
infrared radiation) so that higher levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide
may be contributing to global warming. The ocean's role in regulating
the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide depends on the
temperature, salinity, and biological components of surface waters.
As noted in Chapter 3 of your textbook, gases are more soluble
in cold seawater than warm seawater. Hence, changes in sea surface
temperature affect the ability of the ocean to absorb carbon dioxide.
As noted in Chapter 1 of your textbook, photosynthetic organisms take
up carbon dioxide and release oxygen. And through cellular respiration,
all organisms release carbon dioxide. What about the effects of changes
in salinity on the ocean's uptake of atmospheric carbon dioxide?
Research from the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii provides some insight on
Since the late 1980s, scientists have been recording ocean
conditions at a site (dubbed ALOHA) about 100 km (62 mi) north of Oahu.
In 2003, David M. Karl, a biogeochemist at the University of Hawaii in
Honolulu, reported a decline in the rate at which surface ocean waters
were absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. In fact, in 2001,
the rate of CO2 uptake was only about 15% of
what it was in 1989. Why the change in CO2 uptake? In this region of the Pacific north of Hawaii, sea surface
temperatures showed no significant change during the period of
observation but precipitation decreased and evaporation increased. Less
precipitation coupled with higher rates of evaporation caused the
surface water salinity at ALOHA to increase by about 1%. Increasing
salinity inhibits water's ability to absorb gases including carbon
dioxide. Karl and his colleagues attribute 40% of the decline in the
ocean's CO2 uptake to the saltier waters. The
balance of the decline may be due to changes in biological productivity
or ocean mixing.
- 12 February 1907...A collision of the steamer Larchmont and a large schooner, the Harris Knowlton, during a
blizzard resulted in the deaths of 332 people. Only nine survivors were
rescued. The incident occurred off Rhode Island's Block Island and was
the worst disaster in New England maritime history. (RMS Titanic History)
- 12 February 1997...A combination of heavy surf and high
winds contributed to the overturning of a U.S. Coast Guard motor life
boat (MLB 44363) on a search and rescue mission when responding to a
distress call from the sailing vessel Gale Runner in the stormy North Pacific Ocean off Washington State's Quillayute
River Bar. Three of four crew members lost their lives in the first
fatal sinking of this type of ship in its 35-year history. (Accord's
Weather Guide Calendar) (USCG Historian's Office)
- 13 February 1784...Ice floes blocked the Mississippi River
at New Orleans, then passed into the Gulf of Mexico. The only other
time this occurred was during the "Great Arctic Outbreak" of 1899.
- 13 February 1969...The National Transportation Safety Board
issued its "Study of Recreational Boat Accidents, Boating Safety
Programs, and Preventive Recommendations". (USCG Historian's Office)
- 13 February 1997...Ocean swells generated by a storm well
to the northwest of the Hawaiian Islands generated surf with heights to
20 feet and some sets to 25 feet along the northern shores of the
islands. A professional surfer was killed by 25-foot surf at Alligator
Rock on Oahu's North Shore. Lifeguards aided more than thirty people.
(Accord's Weather Guide Calendar)
- 14 February 1779...The famous British scientific navigator,
Captain James Cook, Royal Navy, was killed by natives of the Sandwich
Islands on the Kona coast of what is now the state of Hawaii's Big
Island. His geographic discoveries and three scientific expeditions of
the Pacific made him the most famous navigator since Magellan.
(Wikipedia) (Today in Science History)
- 14 February 1840...Officers from the USS Vincennes made the first landing in Antarctica on floating ice. (Naval Historical
- 14 February 1903...An Act of Congress (31 Stat. L., 826,
827) that created the Department of Commerce and Labor provided for the
transfer of the Lighthouse Service from the Treasury Department. This
allowed the Secretary of Commerce and Labor to succeed to the authority
vested in the Secretary of the Treasury under the existing legislation.
(USCG Historian's Office)
- 14 February 1912...The first diesel-powered submarine was
commissioned in Groton, CT. (Wikipedia)
- 14 February 1954...A waterspout was observed two miles east
of Baranof, AK, an unusual occurrence for Alaska, particularly in
winter. Just prior to the formation of the waterspout, a "terrific wind
from the south out of a bay inside Warm Springs Bay" lifted water 20
feet and looked "as if it were boiling". (Accord's Weather Guide
- 15 February 1982...An intense storm system off the Atlantic coast between Newfoundland and Greenland produced 80 mph winds which whipped water into waves 50 feet high. The storm capsized a drilling rig, killing 84 people, and sank a freighter killing 33. This storm was called a "meteorological bomb" as the storm "exploded" or rapidly intensified. (National Weather Service files)
- 16 February 1832...The HMS Beagle with
Charles Darwin onboard reached St-Pauls (1 degrees N, 29 degrees W).
- 16 February 1993...The Haitian passenger ferry Neptune sank, sending 1,215 Haitians to their deaths. Coast Guard units
participated in the search and rescue operation but found no survivors.
They then assisted in recovering the bodies of the victims. (USCG
- 17 February 1836...The HMS Beagle and
Charles Darwin left Tasmania.
- 17 February 1867...The first ship passed through the Suez
- 18 February 1828...More than 100 vessels were destroyed in
a storm at Gibraltar.
- 18 February 1846...A General Order was issued by the
Secretary of the US Department of Navy "on Port and Starboard," in
which the term "port" replaced "larboard." (Naval Historical Center)
Return to RealTime Ocean Portal
Prepared by DS Ocean Central Staff and Edward J. Hopkins,
© Copyright, 2018, The American Meteorological Society.