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Climate & Ocean


The Hunt for 18° Water

The Hunt for 18° Water

In 1959, oceanographer Valentine Worthington gave a name and an identity to a long-observed but poorly understood phenomenon of the North Atlantic. Valentine described how the interior of the Sargasso Sea contained distinct parcels of water with remarkably constant salinity, density, and temperature?roughly 18? Celsius. Decades later, his successors from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and eight other institutions have launched a far-reaching program to examine the formation and evolution of Worthington?s famous water and how it might influence North Atlantic climate.

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Analyzing Ancient Sediments at Warp Speed

Analyzing Ancient Sediments at Warp Speed

Like a toy out of a science fiction story, the X-ray fluorescence core scanner reveals intimate details of the composition of ancient mud and sediment–which can contain a variety of clues about past climate and environmental conditions on Earth–without breaking the surface. In a matter of hours, the XRF simultaneously captures digital photographs and X-ray images of every millimeter of a core sample, while detecting the presence of any of 80 chemical elements.

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The Flywheel of the Arctic Climate Engine

The Flywheel of the Arctic Climate Engine

A key component of the Arctic climate clockworks is the Beaufort Gyre?a bowl of cold, icy, relatively fresh waters north of Alaska that is swept by prevailing winds into a circular swirl larger than the Gulf of Mexico.

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Is Global Warming Changing the Arctic?

In the Arctic, the air, sea ice, and underlying ocean all interact in a delicately balanced system. Four ambitious Arctic projects are pulling back the icy veil that shrouds our understanding of the Arctic Ocean?s role in our climate system. (First of a five-part series.)

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The Ocean Conveyor

ocean conveyor

A global system of currents, often called the Ocean Conveyor, carries warm surface waters from the tropics northward. At high…

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‘Seasonal Pump’ Moves Water Between Ocean and Aquifers

'Seasonal Pump' Moves Water Between Ocean and Aquifers

Hydrologists Ann Mulligan of WHOI and Holly Michael and Charles Harvey of MIT have cleared up a mystery of why so much salty water emerges from aquifers into the coastal ocean. The researchers discovered a counterintuitive seasonal pumping system at work.

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Fresher Ocean, Cooler Climate

Fresher Ocean, Cooler Climate

Large and climatically sensitive regions of the North Atlantic Ocean have become less salty since the late 1960s, a trend that could alter global ocean circulation and spur climate changes by the 21st century.

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Joyce, Evans Give Testimony on Oceans to Congress

Joyce, Evans Give Testimony on Oceans to Congress

WHOI scientists Rob Evans and Terry Joyce testified June 8 before the House Subcommittee on Fisheries and Oceans, chaired by Wayne Gilchrest (R-Md.) in a continuing effort to help educate the U.S. House of Representatives on the oceans.

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The Great Flood of New York

The Great Flood of New York

An ice dam forming a large Ice Age lake collapsed 13,350 years ago, sending a flood down the Hudson River Valley and causing dramatic climate changes.

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Water Flowing Underground

Water Flowing Underground

Groundwater discharge appears to be an important factor for determining the chemistry of the coastal ocean. As fresh groundwater flows toward the sea, it rises up over denser, salty water. The fresh and salty water mix along the interface, and the resulting fluid discharges at the shoreline. This interface between underground water masses has recently been described as a “subterranean estuary,” a mixing zone between fresh and salty water analogous to the region where a river meets the ocean.

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Rising Sea Levels and Moving Shorelines

Rising Sea Levels and Moving Shorelines

Changes to the shoreline are inevitable and inescapable. Shoals and sandbars become islands and then sandbars again. Ice sheets grow and shrink, causing sea level to fall and rise as water moves from the oceans to the ice caps and back to the oceans. Barrier islands rise from the seafloor, are chopped by inlets, and retreat toward the mainland. Even the calmest of seas are constantly moving water, sand, and mud toward and away from the shore, and establishing new shorelines.

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