What's New Archive
Scientists see four-fold increase in ocean’s annual carbon uptake
The global ocean absorbed 34 billion metric tons of carbon from the burning of fossil fuels from 1994 to 2007 -- a four-fold increase to 2.6 billion metric tons per year when compared to the period starting from the Industrial Revolution in 1800 to 1994.
The new research published by NOAA and international partners in Science finds as carbon dioxide emissions have increased in the atmosphere, the ocean has absorbed a greater volume of emissions. Though the volume of carbon dioxide going into the ocean is increasing, the percentage of emissions -- about 31 percent -- absorbed by it has remained relatively stable when compared to the first survey of carbon in the global ocean published in 2004.
Ocean uptake reduces warming, but comes with a downside
By absorbing increased carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, the ocean reduces the warming impact of these emissions were they to remain in the atmosphere. However, carbon dioxide dissolved into the ocean causes seawater to acidify, threatening the ability of shellfish and corals to build their skeletons, and affecting the health of other fish and marine species -- many that are important to coastal economies and food security.
“The increasing load of carbon dioxide in the ocean interior is already having an impact on the shellfish industry, particularly along the U.S. West Coast,” said Richard Feely of NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, leader of NOAA’s West Coast acidification observing network and a co-author of the study. “We have been working with the industry to provide an early warning system against the most severe impacts of rising carbon dioxide levels.”
Rik Wanninkhof, an oceanographer at NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory and another co-author, added: “A critical question that warrants continued observations of the ocean is if this uptake can be sustained and what might happen to the Earth’s atmosphere if the ocean is unable to absorb continued increased carbon dioxide.”
About the research
The new research was led by Nicolas Gruber of ETH Zurich in Switzerland and builds on a 2004 NOAA-led study that found that 118 billion metric tons of carbon were absorbed by the global ocean from the start of the Industrial Revolution in 1800 to 1994.
The recent findings are based on an analysis of data taken by 50 research cruises that gathered more than 100,000 water samples, including cruises by NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown, sponsored by NOAA’s Ocean Observing and Monitoring Division. Because these cruises do not occur annually, it takes years for data representing all ocean basins to be collected and thoroughly analyzed.
Building on this extensive effort, NOAA has created an international Ocean Carbon Data System database to help researchers monitor changes in ocean chemistry. The database is managed by Alex Kozyr, a co-author of the study and scientist at NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information.
New research from NOAA and partners analyzing data from deep-diving ocean robots and research cruises shows that the coldest, near-bottom South Pacific waters originating from Antarctica are warming three times faster than they were in the 1990s.
“Measuring the warming occurring in these deep ocean waters helps us understand one of the drivers of sea level rise and will help to improve predictions of future sea level,” said Gregory C. Johnson, a NOAA oceanographer and co-author of two recently published research papers. As ocean waters warm, they expand, contributing to rising seas.
New autonomous ocean robots called Deep Argo floats are able to dive down to depths of nearly four miles to collect data. Operating year round, they are improving our ability to monitor how heat is taken up by the ocean. The warming ocean affects not only sea level rise, but also weather patterns and long-term climate.
The research combines temperature data taken from ship-based surveys by U.S. researchers and international partners conducted at decadal intervals with the continuous, near real-time data from an array of 31 Deep Argo floats, most of which were designed, built, and deployed by Scripps Institution of Oceanography scientists. The ship-based data show that deep ocean temperatures rose an average rate of 1-thousandth of a degree Celsius per year between the 1990s and the 2000s and that rate doubled to 2-thousandths of a degree per year between the 2000s and the 2010s. The Deep Argo floats reveal a tripling of the initial warming rate to 3-thousandths of a degree per year over the past four-plus years.
This warming rate of near-bottom temperatures is only a fraction of that of the surface ocean, but is striking for an area of the ocean long considered more stable.
This new research appearing in the journals Geophysical Research Letters and Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans underlines the importance of expanding Deep Argo to improve the timeliness and accuracy of observations.
Working with Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, NOAA is poised to deploy Deep Argo floats in the Atlantic Ocean. With funding from the late visionary philanthropist, NOAA scientists will travel aboard R/V Petrel to deploy a large array of Deep Argo floats in the international waters off Brazil next year.
This week, Chris Moore with PMEL is leading and teaching a Community Model Interface for Tsunami (ComMIT) Tsunami Inundation Modeling workshop in Kingstown, St. Vincent in support of NOAA’s Caribbean Tsunami Warning Program and TsunamiReady Program. The results from a full inundation study for St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) will be presented, and the outcome of the workshop will be an evacuation map for the islands of St. Vincent and Union. The workshop is facilitated by a three-member team of experts in tsunami modeling and is the first component of a Tsunami Ready Pilot Project for St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Representatives from the SVG Physical Planning Department and National Emergency Management Organization will be participating in the process and coordinating community outreach activities and creating Standard Operating Procedures in accordance with the TsunamiReady program. The NWS TsunamiReady Program helps communities and local governments and authorities minimize the risk posed by tsunamis through better risk assessment, planning, education and warning communications.
ComMIT is an internet-enabled interface to the community tsunami model developed by the NOAA Center for Tsunami Research (NCTR) at PMEL. As of 2015, more than 325 scientists from 57 countries around the world have been trained and are using ComMIT in inundation mapping.
PMEL staff at the NOAA Cooperative Institute for Marine Research Studies at Oregon State University recently participated on a hydrophone deployment cruise aboard the Spanish R/V Sarmiento de Gamboa in the Bransfield Strait off the western Antarctic Peninsula along with colleagues from the University of Washington, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, Queens College and the University of Granada (Spain) from January 4 - 17. PMEL successfully deployed 6 hydrophone moorings, while the University of Washington, Woods Hole and Queens College deployed 30 ocean bottom seismometers, and the University Granada deployed 20 land-based seismic stations.
The Bransfield Strait region is a highly volcanic area, with multiple, recently active, submarine and subaerial volcanoes including the active Deception Island volcano which last erupted in 1970 damaging the Spanish Antarctic base located there. Thus the goal of the project is to assess the volcanic hazard to the collection of international polar bases located in this part of Antarctica, as well as to better understand the ocean soundscape and sea-ice dynamics in the region. Using both active and passive seismo-acoustic data collection techniques, researchers will be able to image shallow pockets of magma in the crust that are likely distributed throughout the entire area. This research is funded by the National Science Foundation Antarctica Program.
Learn more about PMEL's Acoustic Program here: https://www.pmel.noaa.gov/acoustics/
The Journal of Structural Engineering (JSE) awarded the Chock et al.'s "Tsunami-Resilient Building Design Considerations for Coastal Communities of Washington, Oregon, and California” as their 2018 Best Journal Paper in the Structural Hazards category.
The paper, published in August 2018 and coauthored by Dr. Yong Wei (JISAO/PMEL), was selected by a committee composed of Associate Editors from about 300 papers accepted for publication in JSE last year.
In this paper, the authors provide guidance on implementing the ASCE 7-16 tsunami design provisions by state and local jurisdictions on the west coast, and connect the technical considerations of structural engineering with community resilience objectives and land use zoning coordination. For Risk Category II buildings in California, Oregon and Washington, the paper finds that the current seismic design systemic capacity of buildings will be sufficiently strong to resist the overall tsunami design load. However, coastal buildings in several locations in Oregon and Southern Washington would not have sufficient seismic design strength to resist tsunami loads; for these locations, the authors stress the importance of implementing zoning polices and structural resiliency through tsunami strengthening (Table 1).
On Febraury 4, Dr. Michelle McClure joined the Pacific Marine Environmental Lab as the fourth director. Michelle joins PMEL from NOAA Fisheries Northwest Science Center where she served as the Director of the Fishery Resources Analysis and Monitoring Division.
McClure brings to the laboratory 20 years of research and leadership experience with NOAA Fisheries where she made significant contributions to fisheries science for sustainable fisheries and protected resources. Under her direction, McClure expanded collaboration and research while supporting the core services NOAA provides to the West Coast fisheries industry and the Pacific Fisheries Management Council.
McClure, an evolutionary ecologist by training, joined NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center in 1999 as the Columbia River Salmon Science Coordinator. Her research has focused on conservation, population ecology, and ecosystem management. She has been a leader in the development of recovery plans for salmon and steelhead, iconic West Coast fish species. She served as a representative to the United Nations-sponsored Bay of Bengal Large Marine Ecosystem Project and helped develop scientific guidance on climate change and the Endangered Species Act.
McClure holds a bachelor of science in interdisciplinary studies (ecology) from Evergreen State College and a doctorate in ecology and evolutionary biology from Cornell University.
Please join PMEL in congratulating and welcoming Dr. McClure. We are very pleased to have Michelle join us!
PMEL moored pCO2 (MAPCO2) systems have been installed on NANOOS Oceanic Remote Chemical Analyzer (ORCA) buoys in Twanoh and Dabob Bay as a collaborative effort between PMEL and the University of Washington to collect carbon dioxide data in Puget Sound. Photo Credit: Wendi Ruef/University of Washington
A new report finds that Puget Sound’s unusually warm water temperatures that prevailed throughout the West Coast since 2014 finally returned to normal in 2017. Although water temperatures recovered, life within those waters has not. In general, biological observations within Puget Sound revealed that the abundance of many marine animals throughout the food web are still lower than usual. In addition, the region experienced both the wettest spring and driest summer ever recorded in 2017.
The report combines a wealth of data from comprehensive monitoring programs and provides a concise summary of what was happening in Puget Sound’s marine waters during 2017. It covers areas such as climate and weather, river inputs, seawater temperature, salinity, nutrients, dissolved oxygen, ocean pH, phytoplankton, biotoxins, bacteria and pathogens, shellfish resources, and more.
The Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program’s Marine Waters Work Group, who authored the report, has been tracking the health of Puget Sound since 2011. This work group includes scientists from federal, tribal, state and local agencies, academia, nonprofits, and private and volunteer groups.
The work group looked at a number of environmental indicators, including plankton, water quality, climate, and marine life that when, considered together, provide both a long-term view and current assessment of the Sound’s health.
Simone Alin, Richard Feely, Adrienne Sutton, and Sylvia Musielewicz with PMEL's Carbon Program contributed to sections on ocean acidification and ocean and atmospheric CO2. Nick Bond with UW/JISAO and NOAA/PMEL contributed to sections on large-scale climate variability and wind patterns.
Read the full report here.
These maps show the age of sea ice in the Arctic ice pack in March 1985 (left) and March 2018 (right). Less than 1 percent of Arctic ice has survived four or more summers. See more visual highlights of the Arctic Report Card on NOAA climate.gov
December 11 - NOAA released the 2018 Arctic Report Card at the American Geophysical Union fall meeting in Washington, D.C today bringing together the work of 81 scientists from 12 nations to provide the latest in peer-reviewed, actionable environmental information on the current state of the Arctic environmental system relative to historical records.
The Arctic continued it long-term warming trend in 2018, warming at twice the rate relative to the rest of the globe with Arctic air temperatures for the past five years (2014-18) exceeding all previous records since 1900. Arctic sea ice in 2018 remained younger, thinner, and covered less area than in the past. The 12 lowest extents in the satellite record have occurred in the last 12 years. In the Bering Sea, winter sea ice extent reached a record low for virtually the entire 2017-2018 ice season, which typically begins to form at the beginning of October, expands through the winter and then melts through the spring. During two weeks in February, typically the height of winter, the Bering Sea lost significant ice cover, about ~215,000 km2 or about the size of Idaho. Ocean primary productivity levels in 2018 were sometimes 500% higher than normal levels in the Bering Sea which is linked to the record low sea ice extent in the region. The Bering Sea is an important commercial fishing region and supports a vibrant sea ice-ecosystem with abundant seals, birds, and other pelagic species that critically depend on the timing of sea ice formation and retreat.
Continued warming of the Arctic atmosphere and ocean are driving broad change in the environmental system in predicted and, also, unexpected ways. New emerging threats are taking form and highlighting the level of uncertainty in the breadth of environmental change that is to come. For more details, visit the Arctic Report Card website: https://arctic.noaa.gov/Report-Card
PMEL’s Dr. James Overland and Dr. Muyin Wang co-authored the surface air temperature essay and Dr. Carol Ladd co-authored the sea surface temperature essay.
Read the NOAA Press Release here.
Watch the video highlights on YouTube here
On October 17, 2018, a joint NOAA/PMEL and Oregon State University Marine Mammal Institute (OSU-MMI) team, with the assistance of a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter on patrol providing real time radio reports of cetacean sightings, traveled 27 miles off the Oregon coast (due west of Newport, Oregon) to acquire acoustic recordings and biopsy two North Pacific blue whales. Through MMI contacts, the Coast Guard helicopter out of North Bend spotted blue whales off shore during routine patrol, and alerted the team to their approximate location.
A PMEL drifting hydrophone was used to record the blue whale calls, while OSU-MMI personnel successfully collected a biopsy sample of one of the two blue whales, and documented the encounter with photographs. Genetic results show the biopsied animal was a male, acoustic analysis of call signal strength shows two animals observed during biopsying were likely source of recorded vocalizations. The researchers are currently doing further genetic analysis and photo identification work to confirm blue whale population and gender of animals recorded. These data will be used to correlate the genetic identity and acoustic call type of a North Pacific blue whale.
The goal is to quantify and relate call signal characteristics and genetic identity. Typically, only remote recordings of blue whale calls are used to assess population size and distribution of this endangered species.
All research was conducted under NMFS permit 20465 with the support of the Marine Mammal Institute whale telemetry group.
The University of Washington and NOAA Center for Tsunami Research at PMEL recently conducted a study for Department of Defense (DOD) overseas sites to ensure compliance of tsunami inundation modeling with recently established standards and guidelines by the American Society for Civil Engineers (ASCE). This update helps assess tsunami hazard at DOD facilities and identifies compliant design parameters for construction in tsunami hazard zones.
An extensive modeling effort for 23 Navy sites in the Pacific established detailed tsunami hazard zone maps in coastal areas and provided modeling data for building design guidance for tsunami-resistant buildings within the hazard zones.
No design criteria had existed in U.S. to address tsunami loads and effects on buildings before 2016. This work followed the new and first guidance from the American Society for Civil Engineers (ASCE 7-16)established in 2016, for constructions in tsunami hazard zones. The guidance requires establishing the hazard maps for the 2,500-year tsunami event, consistent with the National Seismic Hazard Maps, using probabilistic methods. This approach required intensive modeling efforts including hundreds of simulations with very high-resolution models for sources from areas prone to earthquakes that may trigger tsunamis, including the Ryukyu, Japan-Kuril, Mariana and Alaska-Aleutian trenches.
This project is funded by Navy Facilities and the National Institute of Building Science.