Our perpetual oceans

A fascinating and rather zen animation of ocean surface currents from 2005 through 2007, from NASA satellites.

As NASA notes: “Watch how bigger currents like the Gulf Stream in the Atlantic Ocean and the Kuroshio in the Pacific carry warm waters across thousands of miles at speeds greater than four miles per hour (six kilometers per hour); how coastal currents like the Agulhas in the Southern Hemisphere move equatorial waters toward Earth’s poles; and how thousands of other ocean currents are confined to particular regions and form slow-moving, circular pools called eddies.”

This animation was made using ECCO model-data synthesis (ECCO is a NASA project otherwise known as “Estimating the Circulation and Climate of the Ocean”).

“ECCO model-data syntheses are being used to quantify the ocean’s role in the global carbon cycle, to understand the recent evolution of the polar oceans, to monitor time-evolving heat, water, and chemical exchanges within and between different components of the Earth system, and for many other science applications.” – Aries Keck, NASA

Perpetual Ocean_shot 3 

Notable Ocean Quotable: plastic bags

“There is no reason a product we use for a few minutes should float in our oceans for a few hundred years.”

Dave Mathews of Environment Oregon

After the state legislature failed to take decisive action to reduce Oregonians’ use of single-use plastic bags, a mosaic of activists, conservationists and just plain sensible people are working in cities and counties across the state to take action to reduce this most destructive habit of consumers.

Pic ‘o the week – technicolor nudibranch


Nudibranch, Papua New Guinea. Photo courtesy Jan Messersmith

Nudibranch, nudibranch, living in the sea.
Bright flashing colors say, ”Don’t eat me!”
–by Erin Nash 

These mollusks without shells live in seas the world over, and come in all colors – even neons. National Geographic provides some quick nudibranch facts:

“There are more than 3,000 known species of nudibranch, and new ones are being identified almost daily. They are found throughout the world’s oceans, but are most abundant in shallow, tropical waters. Their scientific name, Nudibranchia, means naked gills, and describes the feathery gills and horns that most wear on their backs.”

Thanks to Jan Messersmith for this gorgeous photo.

Pic o’ the week – spotted scorpionfish

Spotted scorpionfish (Scorpaena plumieri), Florida Keys

Can you tell where the oceanfloor ends and the fish begins? Terrific camouflage.

Students from Missouri’s Saint Joseph School District encountered this creature during their spring field study in the Florida Keys. In their words –

“This spotted scorpionfish was photographed in shallow water off Burnt Point in the Florida Keys. The three bands on the tail help to ID this fish. He ignored us for a good ten minutes while we took all the photographs we cared to.

This well-camouflaged fish can deliver serious puncture wounds with its dorsal spines that cause severe pain and illness.”

Here’s another pic of the fish moving that helps you see it a little more clearly:

Photos courtesy Sean Nash

Sea turtle hatchlings LOVE beach resort lights

There’s bound to be messiness when creatures who’ve roamed the seas and beaches for millions of years face the relatively newfangled phenomenon of artifical light. Scientists believe that sea turtle hatchlings, when they emerge from their shells on beaches around the world, institnctually move in the direction where the sky is brightest. On a beach with no artificial lights, that direction is most often the open horizon of the sea.

Here, a few people from the group SeaTurtle Oversight Protection in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida took a night camera out on the beach as they tried to re-direct scores of hatchlings who scurried relentlessly toward the resort lights on a beach… even when they were put in the lapping waves of the ocean instead.

Citizen reporting giving us an interesting visual view of light pollution (and, further into the video, beach chair hazards) and turtle nesting – not meshing well together.

* See Andrew Revkin’s NY Times Dot Earth post about this post & STOP’s video: On Florida Beaches, Let There Be Dark

Pic o’ the week – bathypelagic ctenophore

It looks like a molar tooth drenched in gold, or maybe a metallic mylar birthday balloon. But this is a bathypelagic ctenophore, photographed near the Mid-Atlantic Ridge of the Atlantic Ocean. The ‘bathypelagic zone’ is the layer of the ocean about 3,000 – 13,000 feet deep, sometimes called “The Midnight Zone”, because there is no light at these depths.

Ctenophores are known to many as comb jellyfish – they have eight rows of cilia that look like combs, which they use to move through the sea. Researchers say this one anchors to the seafloor with its tentacles.

Researchers collaborating on the Census of Marine Life returned from an expedition to the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, brimming with findings of new creatures, reporting on unexpected abundance of some already-known creatures, and sharing stunning photos (like this one) with the world.

“This expedition has revolutionised our thinking about deep-sea life in the Atlantic Ocean. It shows that we cannot just study what lives around the edges of the ocean and ignore the vast array of animals living on the slopes and valleys in the middle of the Ocean,” said Professor Monty Priede, Director of the University of Aberdeen’s Oceanlab.

Photo by David Shale, courtesy University of Aberdeen