Oceanography

Michael Shermer of Michael Shermer: What Will ET Look Like? has inspired me to write a sci fi. Shermer's ET, whether a bipedal primate or not, is attractive for a theme of oceans and humans -- both representing new experiences. An extraterrestrial, you might agree, is also ideal to ask questions to our hero, as suggested by me, to be played by Michael Shermer.


With record low temperatures, winter blizzards and warming that isn't really global, people aren't taking climate change very seriously these days, but that doesn't mean pollution gets a free pass if we want to continue to enjoy nature as we know it.   Temperature change in the Arctic can still happen regardless of what is happening in cold spots of the world and  it may be happening at a greater rate there than other places in the Northern Hemisphere.

As a result, glacier and ice-sheet melting, sea-ice retreat, coastal erosion and sea level rise could continue even if it doesn't feel warmer in Chicago.
In the good old days, when I lived in Florida, if you had a completely ridiculous idea but convinced someone else who had some authority, you could get it implemented.   There being no Internet, it didn't have to be a great idea, if it went bad you could just make it go away.   

But in the Internet Age, every dumb thing you do is permanent, so we can laugh at the idea of using 2 million tires to make an artificial coral reef today but in the Florida of my youth, this made complete sense to environmentalists - and they found data to back it up.  The clean-up would be left to future generations.
What images do the words 'traumatic fertilization' conjur? If you are picturing deep-sea squid, you are either a fellow subscriber to Scientific American's daily digest or in dire need of pscyhological help.

This little nugget of 'size does matter' wisdom popped into my email inbox today, and I have to share.
In the search for life beyond Earth, scientists 'follow the water' to find places that might be hospitable. However, every home gardener knows that plants need more than water, or even sunshine. They also need fertilizer – a mixture of chemical elements that are the building blocks of the molecules of life. Scientists at Arizona State University are studying how the distribution of these elements on Earth – or beyond – shapes the distribution of life, the state of the environment and the course of evolution.
pH is a very sensitive thing, and anyone who's ever had a fish tank knows this delicate cycle of acids and bases. When water becomes either too acidic or basic, marine organisms cannot handle the change, but if pH levels change loosely over a span of time, organisms are usually able to adapt. The only problem with that is current research showing ocean acidity growing 10x faster than predicted, signaling a massive potential problem. 
Observations from satellites now allow scientists to monitor changes to water levels in the sea, in rivers and lakes, in ice sheets and even under the ground. As the climate changes, this information will be crucial for monitoring its effects and predicting future impacts in different regions.

Sea level rise in one of the major consequences of global warming, but it is much more difficult to model and predict than temperature. It involves the oceans and their interaction with the atmosphere, the ice sheets, the land waters and even the solid Earth, which modifies the shapes of ocean basins. Measurements from tidal gauges show that for most of the twentieth century, sea levels rose by 1.8 mm per year on average.
The thickness of sea ice in large parts of the Arctic declined by as much as 19% last winter compared to the previous five winters, according to data from ESA's Envisat satellite.

Using Envisat radar altimeter data, scientists from the Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling at University College London (UCL) measured sea ice thickness over the Arctic from 2002 to 2008 and found that it had been fairly constant until the record loss of ice in the summer of 2007. Unusually warm weather conditions were present over the Arctic in 2007, which some scientists have said explain that summer ice loss. However, this summer reached the second-lowest extent ever recorded with cooler weather conditions present. 
Last winter, the thickness of sea ice in large parts of the Arctic fell by nearly half a metre (19 per cent) compared with the average thickness of the previous five winters. This followed the dramatic 2007 summer low when Arctic ice extent dropped to its lowest level since records began. 

Up until last winter, the thickness of Arctic sea ice showed a slow downward trend during the previous five winters, but after the summer 2007 record low extent, the thickness of the ice also nose-dived. What is concerning is that sea ice is not just receding but it is also thinning. 

As more and more greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere and the oceans warm, their chemistry also changes — seawater becomes more acidic as carbon dioxide from the atmosphere dissolves.

According to a paper to be published this week by marine chemists at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, these changes in ocean temperature and chemistry will have an unexpected side effect— sounds will travel farther underwater.