Oceanography

Mercury is a naturally occurring element and a part of human enterprises like burning coal and making cement and compact fluorescent light bulbs.

Knowing how much of both natural and unnatural mercury is bioavailable - uptaken by animals and humans— is important in international agreements to protect humans and the environment from mercury emissions and establishing public policies behind warnings about seafood consumption. Yet little is known about how much mercury in the environment is the result of human activity, or even how much bioavailable mercury exists in the global ocean.


Warming temperatures are causing Arctic lakes to release methane, a greenhouse gas that has 23X the short term warming effect of CO2, it has been said. A new paper in Nature found that Siberian lakes have actually pulled more greenhouse gases from the atmosphere than they have released into it since the last Ice Age

That is causing an overall slight cooling effect. Permafrost, especially that in the Siberian Arctic, contains significant amounts of all organic carbon found on Earth locked away in frozen soils. Warming global temperatures in the 15,000 years since the last Ice Age have begun to thaw the permafrost, leading to the widespread formation of lakes. 


As the climate warms and sea ice retreats, the North is changing. An ice-covered expanse now has a season of increasingly open water which 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. 

"As the Arctic is melting, it's a pretty simple prediction that the additional open water should make waves," said lead author Jim Thomson, an oceanographer with the UW Applied Physics Laboratory.


Two new papers postulate that there will be a water crisis by 2040. Not because of population, but because of current energy and power solutions.  And they believe solar and wind power is the only answer.

 In most countries, electricity is the biggest source of water consumption because the power plants need cooling cycles in order to function and that is why the scholars from Aarhus University in Denmark, Vermont Law School and CNA Corporation, a federally-funded research center for the United States Navy and Marine Corps, advocate solar and wind energy over existing technology.


Credit: Aarhus University


8 of the top 10 U.S. cities that have seen an increase in nuisance flooding, which causes road closures, overwhelmed storm drains and compromised infrastructure, are on the East Coast, according to a new NOAA technical report.


There's a concern that global warming may push Earth's climate system past a "tipping point," where rapid melting of ice and further warming may become irreversible. It's a hotly debated conjecture because there is no picture of what this point of no return may look like.

To try and find some answers about the future, researchers have probed the geologic past and drawn some conclusions about mechanisms of abrupt climate change. The study pinpoints the emergence of synchronized climate variability in the North Pacific Ocean and the North Atlantic Ocean a few hundred years before the rapid warming that took place at the end of the last ice age about 15,000 years ago.


It sounds like it should be easy enough to know if ice is growing or retreating, but it really isn't.  Antarctic sea ice has been expanding, we are told, while Arctic sea ice is retreating, both at dramatic rates.

How accurate is satellite data? Processing errors can be a problem, but they are more heavily scrutinized whenever a study finds that sea ice anywhere is increasing. A paper in The Cryosphere tackles the satellite data problem, for the increase measured in Southern Hemisphere sea ice.


A new study indicates sea levels likely will continue to rise in the tropical Pacific Ocean off the coasts of the Philippines and northeastern Australia as humans continue to alter the climate.

The study authors combined past sea level data gathered from both satellite altimeters and traditional tide gauges to find out how much a naturally occurring climate phenomenon called the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, or PDO, influences sea rise patterns in the Pacific.


As sea ice begins to melt back toward its late September minimum, it is being watched by researchers who have put sensors on and under ice in the Beaufort Sea. 

The international effort hopes to figure out the physics of the ice edge in order to better understand and predict open water in Arctic seas.

"This has never been done at this level, over such a large area and for such a long period of time," said principal investigator Craig Lee, an oceanographer at the University of Washington's Applied Physics Laboratory. "We're really trying to resolve the physics over the course of an entire melt season."


A new study on biological erosion of mesophotic tropical coral reefs - low energy reef environments between 30-150 meters deep - provides new insights into processes that affect the overall structure of these important ecosystems.

The purpose of the study was to better understand how bioerosion rates and distribution of bioeroding organisms, such as fish, mollusks and sponges, differ between mesophotic reefs and their shallow-water counterparts and the implications of those variations on the sustainability of the reef structure.