Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

How Ocean Currents Affect Global Climate Becoming Better Understood

28.08.2012
A NEW WAY OF THINKING ABOUT OCEAN CURRENTS: OCEANOGRAPHY PROFESSOR LOOKS TO THE SOUTH FOR ANSWERS

Florida State University oceanographer Kevin Speer has a “new paradigm” for describing how the world’s oceans circulate — and with it he may help reshape science’s understanding of the processes by which wind, water, sunlight and other factors interact and influence the planet’s climate.

A Florida State University professor of oceanography with a passion for teaching, Speer and a colleague recently published a significant paper in the respected journal Nature Geoscience.

Working with John Marshall, an oceanography professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Speer reviewed — or essentially synthesized — vast amounts of previous data on ocean circulation (including their own earlier papers). As a result, they have created what Speer calls a new paradigm in the study of ocean currents on a global scale.

Here’s how it works: Basically, the oceans, together with the atmosphere, rebalance heat on the planet. The sun shines on the Earth and heats up the tropics more than the poles. Near the poles, the ocean is cold and the water sinks; near the equator, the surface of the ocean is inviting and warm — and floats on top of the colder deep water.

So the question is this: Where does the water that goes down come back up?

Speer, Marshall and other oceanographers now believe that it comes back up in the Southern Ocean surrounding Antarctica — not as much in the warm oceans as had been previously thought.

“We’re not saying that nothing comes up in the rest of the World Ocean, just that the main thrust is in the Southern Ocean,” Speer said. “To a large extent it’s driven by the wind.”

Very strong winds, to be precise.

In the rough waters around Antarctica, sailors call those winds the “Roaring Forties” and the “Furious Fifties.” They originate near the Equator, where hot air rises and then is pushed toward the North and South poles by cooler air that rushes in to take its place.

The resulting “eddy-driven upwelling” in the Southern Ocean, as Speer characterizes it, may in fact describe the most important process to date that helps scientists understand the role of the ocean and climate.

Speer, who holds a doctorate in physical oceanography from the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology/Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Joint Program, spent years living in France as an oceanographic researcher for a French governmental agency. (Yes, he’s fluent in French.)

Today, from his office on the Florida State campus, Speer serves as interim director of the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Institute, a warren of intriguing laboratories just a few steps outside his door. It is there that Speer helps students and postdoctoral researchers learn about how climate works.

The laboratory’s equipment includes a large, vintage rotating table designed nearly a half-century ago by the lab’s founder, Florida State meteorology Professor Richard Pfeffer. (The device may be old, but it’s one of the biggest and best in the United States, Speer says). Here students can recreate the ocean’s churning and study natural phenomena such as the Antarctic circumpolar current.

Speer and his students have been studying ocean currents thanks to $2.5 million in funding from a larger $10 million National Science Foundation grant that FSU shares with eight other universities and institutions worldwide. Research has included releasing tracers and floats into the ocean to study the mixing and spreading of currents.

One of Speer’s graduate students, Druv Balwada, recently took part in a joint U.S.-United Kingdom research program to study ocean currents aboard a ship in the Southern Ocean. To view the cruise blog of the nearly three-month voyage, visit http://dimesuk3.blogspot.com/.

“Our students learn and help in various ways,” Speer said. “They certainly help generate some interesting and lively oceanographic research.

Speer and Marshall’s Nature Geoscience paper is titled “Closure of the Meridional Overturning Circulation Through Southern Ocean Upwelling.”

Professor Kevin Speer
Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Science, Florida State University
(850) 644-5594; kspeer@fsu.edu

Professor Kevin Speer | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.fsu.edu

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht New research calculates capacity of North American forests to sequester carbon
16.07.2018 | University of California - Santa Cruz

nachricht Scientists discover Earth's youngest banded iron formation in western China
12.07.2018 | University of Alberta

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: First evidence on the source of extragalactic particles

For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.

To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...

Im Focus: Magnetic vortices: Two independent magnetic skyrmion phases discovered in a single material

For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.

Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...

Im Focus: Breaking the bond: To take part or not?

Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.

A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...

Im Focus: New 2D Spectroscopy Methods

Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.

"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....

Im Focus: Chemical reactions in the light of ultrashort X-ray pulses from free-electron lasers

Ultra-short, high-intensity X-ray flashes open the door to the foundations of chemical reactions. Free-electron lasers generate these kinds of pulses, but there is a catch: the pulses vary in duration and energy. An international research team has now presented a solution: Using a ring of 16 detectors and a circularly polarized laser beam, they can determine both factors with attosecond accuracy.

Free-electron lasers (FELs) generate extremely short and intense X-ray flashes. Researchers can use these flashes to resolve structures with diameters on the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP: Fine Tuning for Surfaces

12.07.2018 | Event News

11th European Wood-based Panel Symposium 2018: Meeting point for the wood-based materials industry

03.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Microscopic trampoline may help create networks of quantum computers

17.07.2018 | Information Technology

In borophene, boundaries are no barrier

17.07.2018 | Materials Sciences

The role of Sodium for the Enhancement of Solar Cells

17.07.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>