27 January 2012


Iridescent Ctenophores from Parafilms on Vimeo.

You can see more of Parafilms' seriously cool interactive videos and photos at their site, PlanktonChronicles.org.

Ctenophore photo credits, top to bottom:
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14

26 January 2012


Credit: NASA/NOAA/GSFC/Suomi NPP/VIIRS/Norman Kuring
This gorgeous high-def image of Earth was taken from the VIIRS instrument aboard NASA's recently launched Earth-observing satellite, Suomi NPP.

11 January 2012


Big Sur coast, California. Credit: Calilover via Wikimedia Commons.
A new paper in PLoS ONE finds that marine life in the coastal waters of Northern California may be among the most vulnerable to warming in the North Pacific.

This on top of evidence the Northeast Pacific may be more vulnerable to warming than the Northwest Pacific.

And this on top of earlier evidence the North Pacific is warming 2 to 3 times faster than the South Pacific.

Temperate North Pacific realm, and the 16 MEOW ecoregions included in this paper. Credit: Meredith C. Payne, et al. PLOS. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0030105

The researchers assembled a picture of monthly sea surface temperatures (SSTs) over 29 years for waters within 20 km/12 miles of shore for 16 North Pacific ecoregions (map). 

All their data are courtesy of satellite-borne Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer instruments.

Cape Promontory, Aleutian Islands, Alaska. Credit: USFWS via Wikimedia Commons.
Their results suggest the flora and fauna of the Aleutian ecoregion will also be highly susceptible to rising SSTs. 

Why? Because the two areas are already adapted to low variation in SSTs... with the least yearly variation found off California, and the least monthly off the Aleutians. 

From the paper:

[I]t is possible to speculate which ecoregions might be most susceptible to temperature increases, assuming that, in general, organisms living in areas with smaller temperature variations would be more susceptible to temperature increases.

Kelp, California. Credit: NOAA via Flickr.
They conclude:

This speculation needs to be evaluated both by comparing the actual temperature ranges of organisms from field surveys and by evaluating temperature tolerances with experimental studies. Nonetheless, we suggest that analyses of existing temperature regimes can provide insights into what organisms and regions will be at the greatest risk from this aspect of climate change.

The ☺pen-access paper:

  • Payne MC, Brown CA, Reusser DA, Lee H II (2012) Ecoregional Analysis of Nearshore Sea-Surface Temperature in the North Pacific. PLoS ONE 7(1): e30105. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0030105

09 January 2012


Greenland melt map by NOAA’s climate.gov team, based on NASA satellite data processed by Jason Box, Byrd Polar Research Center, the Ohio State University.
Not only is Greenland's ice melting, it's also become darker and therefore more absorbent of light—accelerating its own thaw. 

The map above shows the difference between the amount of sunlight Greenland reflected in the summer of 2011 versus the average percent it reflected between 2000 to 2006. Virtually the entire ice sheet shows some change, with some areas reflecting close to 20 percent less light than a decade ago.

Melting atop the Greenland ice sheet. Image via The Big Picture.
As expected, rising temperatures melt snow and ice to uncover water, vegetation, and bare ground. These darker substrates absorb more sunlight. 

As predicted, the loss of reflectiveness amplifies the initial warming.

Greenland glacier. Credit: Ville Miettinen via Wikimedia Commons.

Most of the melt patterns on the map (top) fit these expectations. 

But what's unexpected here is that the reflectivity of Greenland's ice is diminishing not just at the coasts but far inland as well. 

Even at the highest point of the ice sheet, nearly two miles above sea level, where there's no visible summertime melting, the ice is darkening.

Smaller, colder snow crystals, left. Warmed ice crystals, right. Credit: NASA Earth Observatory.

So what's going on?

Well, according to Jason Box at Ohio State University the inland darkening is a result of changes in the ice crystals themselves.

As temperatures rise, the snow grains clump together, reflecting less light than the many-faceted smaller crystals (above left). 

The warmed—but not melted—crystals become rounded (above right), and these shapes absorb more sunlight than jagged crystals.

Greenland glacier from the air. Credit: Mila Zinkova via Wikimedia Commons.
Another chapter in Ooops: A history of Homo sapiens.

06 January 2012


Ship wake. Credit: Yosemite James via Flickr.
Offshore wind farm wakes. Via.

South Georgia Island cloud wake. Credit: NASA.

Island wakes, Canary Islands. Via Flickr.

Aircraft turbulence wake. Via.

Ship track wakes in the clouds, North Pacific. Credit: NASA.

Comet wake. Credit: NASA via.

Bioluminescent dolphin wakes. Credit: Ammonite via National Geographic.

Icebreaker wake. Via.

Iceberg wake. Via Wikimedia Commons.

Crabeater seal wakes, Southern Ocean. Credit: Steve Nicol via.

Penguin wake. Via.

Ship bow-wake with bow-riding dolphins. Via.

Von Karman vortices, Aletian Islands. Credit: USGS.

Sea turtle wake. Credit: Rosa Say via Flickr.

Sea turtle wake. Via RedBubble.

Surf wake. Via.