Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

1 of deep ocean's most turbulent areas has big impact on climate

14.08.2007
FSU study in Nature says newfound turbulence in undersea mountains affects ocean circulation

More than a mile beneath the Atlantic’s surface, roughly halfway between New York and Portugal, seawater rushing through the narrow gullies of an underwater mountain range much as winds gust between a city’s tall buildings is generating one of the most turbulent areas ever observed in the deep ocean.

In fact, the turbulence packs an energy wallop equal to about five million watts -- comparable to output from a small nuclear reactor, according to a landmark study led by Florida State University researcher Louis St. Laurent and described in the August 9 edition of the journal Nature.

The study -- an international collaboration of scientists from the United States and France -- documents for the first time the turbulent conditions in an undersea mountain range known as the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. It provides never-before-seen evidence that deep water turbulence swirling in the small passageways of such mountains is generating much of the mixing of warm and cold waters in the Atlantic Ocean.

Better understanding of the mechanisms of mixing is crucial, says St. Laurent, an assistant professor of physical oceanography at FSU and the study’s co-principal investigator, because mixing produces the overall balance of water temperatures that helps control the strength of the Gulf Stream -- the strong, warm ocean current that starts in the Gulf of Mexico, flows along the U.S. east coast to Canada and on to Europe, and plays a crucial climate role.

“Oceanographers are working hard to understand how processes in the ocean help to keep the Earth’s climate stable,” St. Laurent said. “We are aware that the climate is warming, but we don’t yet fully understand how the changes will affect society. Our work will result in better models for predicting how the ocean will affect the climate in the future and a better understanding of sea-level rise, weather patterns such as El Nino, and the impact of these events on fisheries.”

St. Laurent compared the flow of seawater through underwater gullies in the Mid-Atlantic Ridge to the wind, so familiar to hikers, that blows through mountain passages on land.

“That wind creates a condition known as turbulence, which can blow the hat from your head,” St. Laurent said. “In the ocean, turbulence is produced when water flows quickly though oceanic passages. The turbulence stirs the almost freezing-water near the bottom with warmer water that is closer to the surface much as you would mix cream into coffee by stirring it with a spoon.

“We know that the mixing of warm surface water with very cold deep water is one of several factors that influence the Earth's climate,” he said. “The mixing we observed and measured for our study allows the warmth at the surface of the ocean to ‘diffuse’ deep into the sea. The overall balance between warm and cold water in the Atlantic helps control the strength of the Gulf Stream, which moves heat away from the Earth’s equator toward regions that receive much less heating from the sun’s rays.”

St. Laurent’s co-principal investigator and co-author was Andreas M. Thurnherr, a former postdoctoral researcher in the FSU oceanography department and now a scientist at Columbia University. The field study took place in August 2006 during a three-week expedition aboard a French research vessel to a location close to the Azores, volcanic islands 2,000 miles east of the U.S. and west of Europe that comprise an above-sea portion of the mostly submerged Mid-Atlantic Ridge.

To measure the energy generated by the extraordinarily intense turbulence more than a mile below the ocean’s surface, St. Laurent and crew used a custom-made instrument called the "turbulence profiler," outfitted with special sensors.

“The turbulence profiler measured the output using ‘watts,’ the same unit of measurement as printed on light bulbs,” St. Laurent said. “In the undersea mountain passage where we intentionally looked, we found turbulence levels as large as one-10th watt per cubic meter of seawater. This is a huge amount of energy when you add all the seawater in the passage, equal to around five million watts, which is comparable to output from a nuclear reactor.”

Louis St. Laurent | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://ocean.fsu.edu
http://press.nature.com

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Modeling magma to find copper
13.01.2017 | Université de Genève

nachricht What makes erionite carcinogenic?
13.01.2017 | Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

Im Focus: How to inflate a hardened concrete shell with a weight of 80 t

At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).

Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...

Im Focus: Bacterial Pac Man molecule snaps at sugar

Many pathogens use certain sugar compounds from their host to help conceal themselves against the immune system. Scientists at the University of Bonn have now, in cooperation with researchers at the University of York in the United Kingdom, analyzed the dynamics of a bacterial molecule that is involved in this process. They demonstrate that the protein grabs onto the sugar molecule with a Pac Man-like chewing motion and holds it until it can be used. Their results could help design therapeutics that could make the protein poorer at grabbing and holding and hence compromise the pathogen in the host. The study has now been published in “Biophysical Journal”.

The cells of the mouth, nose and intestinal mucosa produce large quantities of a chemical called sialic acid. Many bacteria possess a special transport system...

Im Focus: Newly proposed reference datasets improve weather satellite data quality

UMD, NOAA collaboration demonstrates suitability of in-orbit datasets for weather satellite calibration

"Traffic and weather, together on the hour!" blasts your local radio station, while your smartphone knows the weather halfway across the world. A network of...

Im Focus: Repairing defects in fiber-reinforced plastics more efficiently

Fiber-reinforced plastics (FRP) are frequently used in the aeronautic and automobile industry. However, the repair of workpieces made of these composite materials is often less profitable than exchanging the part. In order to increase the lifetime of FRP parts and to make them more eco-efficient, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) and the Apodius GmbH want to combine a new measuring device for fiber layer orientation with an innovative laser-based repair process.

Defects in FRP pieces may be production or operation-related. Whether or not repair is cost-effective depends on the geometry of the defective area, the tools...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

Nothing will happen without batteries making it happen!

05.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Multiregional brain on a chip

16.01.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

New technology enables 5-D imaging in live animals, humans

16.01.2017 | Information Technology

Researchers develop environmentally friendly soy air filter

16.01.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>