What's New Archive
PMEL's Acoustic and Earth-Ocean Interactions programs have successfully recorded the sound of methane bubbles from the seafloor off the Oregon coast using a hydrophone, opening the door to using acoustics to identify - and perhaps quantify - this important greenhouse gas in the ocean. Methane is found both as an icy hydrate deposit and in a gas phase within the sediments of the continental margins. The methane stored in the Cascadia margin, located offshore Washington, Oregon, and northern California, is of particular interest because the methane is stored within a major subduction zone which can potentially have an environmental impact on the upper water column and possibly the atmosphere.
In recent years, scientists have found hundreds of bubble streams emanating from methane deposits off the Pacific Northwest coast, but they have no way to determine how much methane is stored there. In 2016, researchers used the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Hercules from the Ocean Exploration Trust's Exploration Vessel (E/V) Nautilus to deploy a hydrophone about 6 miles off Heceta Bank on the Oregon continental margin in 1,228 meters of water (about three-fourths of a mile deep). The acoustic signatures of the bubbles from the seep site are depicted in the hydrophone record as a series of short, high-frequency bursts, lasting 2-3 seconds.
"The bubbles in the streams make sound, and the frequency of the sound is related to the size of the bubble," said Robert Dziak, an acoustics scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and lead author on the study. "The smaller the bubble, the higher the pitch. And the larger the bubble, the lower the sound pitch, but the more methane it contains.
The researchers then compared the sound record with still images from the ROV and found their estimates of bubble size from the hydrophone record matched the visual evidence. Results of the study have just been published in the journal Deep-Sea Research II.
On the current Nautilus research cruise mapping methane seeps, a hydrophone was deployed and recovered at various depths of Astoria Canyon in order to compare how bubble sizes and rates change with depth.
The next step, researchers say, is to fine-tune their ability to detect the acoustic signature of the bubbles so they can use the sounds to estimate the volume of methane in the offshore reservoirs. The ultimate goal is to be able to use sound to estimate the volume and rate of methane gas exiting the seafloor.
June 12 - 29: PMEL scientists with the Earth-Ocean Interactions (EOI) Program will join the E/V Nautilus to continue to survey methane sites from Northern California to Washington using multibeam sonar and a remotely operated vehicle in order to fully document and characterize this region. Up until a few years ago, only 100 methane “seep sites” had been identified primarily by fisherman using their fish-finders observing the acoustic reflections of the gas bubbles. Beginning in 2016, EOI scientists began a more systematic mapping of the seeps using new sonar technology on the E/V Nautilus, owned and operated by the Ocean Exploration Trust. About 25 percent of the potential methane seep water column area has now been mapped and analyzed.
During the day, a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) will collect samples of gas, methane hydrate, seep water, fauna and rocks at these sites. Analyzing these samples in conjunction with a more complete inventory of sites will help scientists understand the origin of the seeping methane and its impact on the ocean environment. At night, the Nautilus will continue to survey additional methane sites.
The Cascadia margin is of particular interest because the methane is stored within a major subduction zone which can potentially have an environmental impact on the upper water column. A baseline characterization of methane seeps along the Cascadia margin is critical to complete to assess methane input into the water column, and is timely because the continued rise in ocean temperatures could potentially impact the rate of release of methane from the hydrate layers into the ocean and possibly the atmosphere.
During the expedition, ROV dive video will be available live at: https://nautiluslive.org/
More information about the methane research and expedition can be found at: https://www.pmel.noaa.gov/eoi/pmel-theme/methane-seeps
You can read a recent highlight from Oregon State University on the expedition here: http://today.oregonstate.edu/news/osu-noaa-researchers-document-widespread-methane-seeps-oregon-coast
Join the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on World Oceans Day for an Open House with series of free activities, including engaging science presentations and panels, interactive exhibits and tours. Learn more about how NOAA works to understand and predict changes in Earth’s environment to help protect people and property and to conserve and manage coastal and marine resources.
Friday, June 8, 2018
12:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
7600 Sand Point Way NE, Seattle, WA 98115
You will have the opportunity to learn more about a variety of NOAA programs, including NOAA Research, NOAA Fisheries, NOAA Corps, and National Ocean Service’s Office of Response and Restoration and NOAA Tides and Currents. PMEL will be hosting the ocean engineering tour which will take people through PMEL's engineering spaces to see how PMEL advances our knowledge of the global ocean and its interactions with the earth, atmosphere, ecosystems, and climate. Various ocean observation technologies will be highlighted on the tour including the Saildrone, moored buoys and the hydrophone that was deployed in the Marianas Trench.
More information can be found here: http://www.wrc.noaa.gov/OpenHouse2018.htm
Congratulations to all involved with the 2016 Saildrone missions on receiving the Department of Commence Bronze Award and to Susie Snyder for receiving the NOAA Distinguished Career Award.
NOAA’s PMEL and Alaska Fisheries Science Center were awarded the Bronze Medal for “strengthening NMSF-OAR collaborations through the pioneering use of a Saildrone for next-generation ecosystem surveys in the Bering Sea”.
In 2016, the team successfully conducted the first ecosystem study using two Saildrones. The mission combined both physical and biological oceanography to seek out new ways to supplement traditional vessel-based research. The Saildrones each traveled almost 3,000 nautical miles in the 101 day mission testing innovative technologies, including a specially developed echo sounder and a modified whale acoustic hydrophone. Collectively, the oceanographic, meteorological, and fisheries measurements provided unique and groundbreaking insights to understanding the economically and culturally important ecosystem in the Bering Sea.
This was a collaborative mission between the NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Lab, NOAA’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center, UW Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean, Saildrone Inc., Simrad AS/Kongsberg Maritime, Greeneridge Sciences Inc, and Wildlife Computers. Read more about the 2016 mission here.
The DOC Bronze Award is the highest honor award granted by the Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere, which recognizes superior performance characterized by outstanding or significant contributions, which have increased the efficiency and effectiveness of NOAA.
Susie Snyder was also awarded The Distinguished Career Award for her “continued efforts in improving budgetary policies and procedures relating to memorandum of agreements and reimbursable funds throughout 30 years of service to NOAA”. This award honors contributions on a sustained basis — a body of work — rather than a single, defined accomplishment. This award also recognizes significant accomplishments across all NOAA program areas and functions that have resulted in long- term benefits to the bureau’s mission and strategic goals.
The Clipper Round the World Race has partnered with the Port of Seattle, University of Washington, NOAA, Visit Seattle and Sunburst Sensors to undertake pioneering scientific research into the global impacts of ocean acidification. This research will contribute to a world-wide database and be used to raise public awareness on this issue.
The Visit Seattle, one of the Clipper Race’s eleven identical 70 foot ocean racing yachts, has been fitted with a new Sunburst Sensors underway pH sensor. Sunburst Sensors is the recent winner of a $2 million XPRIZE ocean health award and will test the new pH sensor as the vessel sails the 6,000 nautical mile seventh leg of the race along the US Coast.
Port of Seattle Commissioner, Fred Felleman, who initiated the effort, spoke at a recent press event about the importance of monitoring the waters around the North American coast, saying: “Pacific Northwest waters are particularly vulnerable to ocean acidification - impacting numerous species of ecological and economic importance, from plankton to pollock, oysters to orcas. It also impacts tenants at Fishermen’s Terminal who are an essential part of Seattle’s cultural fabric and economic diversity.
This collaboration with the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race is testing new equipment that could eventually expand the reach of current monitoring efforts and provides a spectacular platform to take this important message to a global audience.
The University of Washington and NOAA PMEL will help to evaluate the data that is obtained during the cruise. One major impact of ocean acidification is the inhibition of calcifying organisms to form their shells. These impacts are not limited to oysters and mussels but also include small planktonic organisms, known as pteropods which are food for herring, salmon, pollock and other fish species of ecological and economic importance.
Read more about the collaboration here: https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/news/article/clipper-race-collaborates-on-pioneering-us-ocean-research
Chidong Zhang recently received the first Distinguished Scientific Accomplishment Award from the American Meteorological Society (AMS) Committee on Tropical Meteorology and Tropical Cyclones "for his contribution to the large-scale circulation, atmospheric convection, and air-sea interaction in the tropics, including leadership in the international field program DYNAMO/CINDY2011". The award was presented at the AMS 33rd Conference on Hurricanes and Tropical Meteorology in Florida.
The Dynamics of the Madden-Julian Oscillation (DYNAMO) project in 2011-2012 brought together an international group of scientists for six months to observe the beginning of the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) in the equatorial Indian Ocean. Chidong Zhang was the project lead while he was a professor at the University of Miami.
The MJO is weather phenomenon that starts over the equatorial Indian Ocean and has global climate and weather impacts. In the United States, MJO can influence the development of hurricanes, enhance rainfall on the West Coast in the form of atmospheric rivers, and modulate the North American monsoon, an important source of water in the western US. The results of DYNAMO will help researchers better understand and forecast weather and climate features that develop in the Indian Ocean.
The Scientific and Technological Activities Commission (STAC) Distinguished Scientific/Technological Accomplishment Award recognizes an individual who has made significant contributions to the discipline and is well recognized within the discipline as being a science/technological leader. The STAC is composed of Committees and Boards, which in the aggregate are made up of hundreds of volunteers primarily from the membership of the Society. STAC helps to advance science and technology by promoting the open exchange of ideas, strengthening our disciplinary communities, enhancing collaboration and dialog among these communities, embracing diversity, celebrating and fostering excellence, and cultivating the next generation of scientists and leaders.
Join PMEL at Marine Science Day THIS SATURDAY, April 14, at the Hatfield Marine Science Center, in Newport, OR. Join tours, meet scientists, and get a behind-the-scenes look at the research, education, and outreach in marine sciences that makes this marine laboratory unique in the Pacific Northwest. Admission is FREE and open to the public. There will be interactive research exhibits that will feature emerging ocean observing technologies, bioacoustics of whales, video of volcanoes and deep ocean vents, and a new video on the emerging issue of ocean acidification. Activities for children and families can be found throughout the event.
PMEL will have two booths highlighting the work done at underwater volcanoes around the world and locally at Axial Seamount and ocean noise. You'll be able to view videos from recent expeditions and listen to various recorded sounds.
More information can be found here: https://hmsc.oregonstate.edu/marinescienceday
Dr. Nina Bednarsek has been awarded the biennial SeaDoc Society's’ Salish Sea Science Prize for her groundbreaking work on the impacts of ocean acidification on pteropods, planktonic marine snails, as well as enhancing policy and regulatory processes along the US West Coast. Her novel research is filling gaps needed to catalyze management actions that will mitigate the harmful effects of ocean acidification on marine ecosystems. Dr. Bednarsek was an NRC postdoctoral research fellow with PMEL from 2012 - 2015 where she worked with Carbon Program. She has authored or co-authored 12 papers and contributed to major state and national reports on ocean acidification.
Dr. Bednarsek’s research with PMEL has found that the highest impacts on pteropods from ocean acidification is observed in the Salish Sea. Her results show that live pteropod shells undergo dissolution at aragonite saturation state values <1, which is commonly found in subsurface Salish Sea waters and along the Washington coast during the upwelling season. With collaborators, she developed a new set of ocean acidification indices that could be used by coastal States and the US Environmental Protection Agency to address water quality issues related to ocean acidification.
After her postdoc, she continued her research and policy work at the University of Washington before joining the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project where she collaborates with scientists from PMEL, University of Washington Ocean Acidification Center, and other local and state institutions, including the Washington State Marine Resources Council, on her research on ocean acidification in the Salish Sea and California Current System.
The SeaDoc Society is a science-based marine conservation program that is focused on people and science healing the sea. It funds and conducts marine science and uses science to improve management and conservation in the Salish Sea. It is a program of the Karen C. Drayer Wildlife Health Center, a center of excellence at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. Read the full announcement on the SeaDoc Society website here: http://www.seadocsociety.org/salish-sea-science-prize/.
March 20 - April 13: PMEL's Atmospheric Chemistry Group is currently participating in the fourth and final NAAMES (North Atlantic Aerosol and Marine Ecosystem Study) cruise aboard the Woods Hole Oceanographer Institution R/V Atlantis. NAAMES is a five-year NASA funded study consisting of four, combined ship and aircraft campaigns that are each aligned to a specific event in the annual plankton lifecycle to assess how changes in plankton production and species composition affect aerosols and clouds and their implications for climate. The North Atlantic is home to the world' largest plankton bloom which stretches from North America across the Atlantic to Europe. Plankton form the base of the marine food web and can impact the productivity of fisheries and serve as an important carbon sink for atmospheric greenhouse gases. NAAMES is an interdisciplinary investigation resolving key processes controlling marine ecosystems and aerosols that are essential to our understanding of Earth system function and future change. The study aims to make ship- and aircraft-based measurements that, when combined with satellite and ocean sensor data, will help clarify the annual cycles of ocean plankton and their relationship with atmospheric aerosols.
PMEL scientists, Lucia Upchurch and Derek Coffman, are onboard the R/V Atlantis measuring properties of freshly emitted sea spray aerosol using Sea Sweep and quantifying the number production flux of sea spray aerosol with a Marine Aerosol Reference Tank (MART). The parallel airborne and shipboard observations will provide the crucial link between local-scale processes and properties quantified at the basin-scale through satellite remote sensing. Through integration of ship, airborne, modeling, and sustained satellite and autonomous sensor approaches, predictions of ocean ecosystem and aerosol changes in a future warmer ocean will be improved. As such, NAAMES will directly address NOAA’s strategic long-term climate goal of improving our scientific understanding of the changing climate and related impacts.
PMEL's Atmospheric Chemistry Group is dedicated to international field campaigns and long term measurements to determine the impact of atmospheric aerosol particles on climate and air quality. Learn more about the group here and the cruise here.
Online Registration for the 2018 NOAA Science Camp is now open! NOAA Science Camp is held at the NOAA Campus in Seattle, WA. Middle and high school students will have a chance to participate in hands-on science activities and learn more about the diverse range of opportunities and research conducted by NOAA scientists. Three programs are offered: Middle School Science Camp, High School Junior Leadership Program and a Remotely Operated Vehicle Mini Session. The camps will run at various times from July 9-25.
PMEL scientists (NOAA and JISAO) lead activities relating to engineering and oceanography, including how scientists conduct their research when they go to sea, how scientists work with engineers to solve complex marine questions, how currents and trace chemicals move throughout the ocean, and even how buoys help predict large-scale climate events such as Tsunamis.
The middle school camp offers two, one-week sessions from July 9-13 and July 16-20, 2018. The Junior Leadership Program is a two-week program (July 9-20) and is open to students entering grades 9-12 in the fall of 2018. Applications are due on April 15, 2018, and require two written references (for new participants).
NOAA Science Camp has partnered again with Atlantis STEAM to provide an exciting addition to the normal camp. In the three-day mini-session, campers will get to design, build, and drive their own Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs).