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July 2012 Issue

Undersea Volcano Gave Signals Before 2011 Eruption, Team Says
An undersea volcano on the Axial Seamount, located some 250 miles off the Oregon coast, gave off signals hours before its impending eruption, a team of scientists who forecasted the 2011 eruption said. The team added that Axial could erupt again, as soon as 2018, based on the cyclic pattern of ground deformation measurements from bottom pressure recorders.

Using data from underwater hydrophones, new analyses show an abrupt spike in seismic energy about 2.6 hours before the eruption started, which the scientists say could lead to short-term forecasting of undersea volcanoes in the future.

Results of the research were published in three articles in Nature Geoscience in June.

The link between seismicity, seafloor deformation and the intrusion of magma has never been demonstrated with a submarine volcano, and the multiple methods of observation provide new insights, said Bill Chadwick, an Oregon State University geologist and lead author on one of the papers.

During a four-year period prior to the 2011 eruption, there was a gradual buildup in the number of approximately magnitude-2.0 earthquakes but little increase in the overall “seismic energy” from them. A few hours before the eruption, the team’s modified Sensor Technology Ltd. (Collingwood, Canada) picked up the signal of thousands of small earthquakes in a few minutes, which the researchers traced to magma rising within the volcano and breaking through the crust.

The results of this last eruption have been taken into account for the Ocean Observatory Initiative’s Regional Scale Nodes observatory, which will have instrumentation and a cable going to the Axial Seamount.


‘Lab-in-a-Box’ Used to Study Acidification’s Effect on Corals
Stanford University researchers, working with an international team, found a way to create future ocean conditions in a small lab-in-a-box in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. The water inside the device can mimic the composition of the future ocean as climate change continues to alter Earth.

The minilab is based on a Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute system developed in 2007 that allows for highly controlled semienclosed experiments in the deep sea. For their recent study, Stanford researchers modified the system for use in coral reefs, creating the Coral Proto—Free Ocean Carbon Enrichment (CP-FOCE) system. Inside the minilab, set in shallow water 2 to 6 feet deep, elevated levels of acidity were created to test the reaction of a few local corals. (Other corals in the vicinity were not adversely affected.) It was the first controlled ocean acidification experiment in shallow coastal waters. The study was published in Scientific Reports.

The CP-FOCE system uses a network of sensors to monitor water conditions and maintain experimental pH levels as offsets from environmental pH. It avoids many of the problems associated with standard in-situ ocean acidification studies, and—unlike lab and aquarium experiments—makes it possible to study amid natural conditions like seasonal environmental changes and ambient seawater chemistry.


Scientists Discover Huge Phytoplankton Bloom in Arctic
Researchers on the Impacts of Climate on the Ecosystems and Chemistry of the Arctic Pacific Environment (ICESCAPE) expedition have discovered a massive bloom of phytoplankton beneath ice-covered Arctic waters. Until now, sea ice was thought to block sunlight and limit the growth of microscopic marine plants living under the ice.

The amount of phytoplankton growing in this under-ice bloom, which extended laterally more than 100 kilometers underneath the ice pack, was four times greater than the amount found in neighboring ice-free waters, according to optical measurements.

The study, published in June in Science, concluded that ice melting in summer forms pools of water that focus sunlight through the ice and into waters above the continental shelf north of Alaska, where currents steer nutrient-rich deep waters upward. Phytoplankton under the ice were primed to take advantage of this narrow window of light and nutrients. The under-ice phytoplankton grew twice as fast at low light than open-ocean phytoplankton.

The Imaging FlowCytobot, an automated submersible microscopic imaging system, captured organisms participating in the bloom. The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy conducted transects into the ice pack to determine how far and deep the bloom extended. Measurements of biomass showed the largest part of the bloom occurred far away from the open ocean, under thick ice and close to water upwelling at the continental shelf break, where the shallow coastal shelf plunges steeply into deeper water.

Another member of the ICESCAPE team showed that easterly winds churned out by monster storm systems along the Aleutian Islands can reverse the current along the shelf break, driving cold, nutrient-rich water up and refreshing the supply of nutrients available to phytoplankton at the surface.


JRC, NOAA Sign Agreement To Increase Cooperation
NOAA and the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) in May signed an agreement to strengthen cooperative science activities in oceans, coasts, climate and weather. The signing also marked the launch of these first four environmental monitoring projects under the agreement.

The agreement includes activities such as training, personnel exchanges, shared use of the scientific infrastructure, support for joint research, access to lab facilities and the promotion of calls for grants and proposals.

The signing was part of a trip to Brussels, Belgium, by Jane Lubchenco, undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator, to speak before the European Parliament Fisheries Committee. Lubchenco was invited by European Union Com­missioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Maria Damanaki to speak on U.S. fisheries rebuilding, as Europe is proposing major management reforms.



2013:  JAN | FEB | MARCH | APRIL | MAY | JUNE | JULY | AUG | SEPT | OCT | NOV | DEC
2012:  JAN | FEB | MARCH | APRIL | MAY | JUNE | JULY | AUG | SEPT | OCT | NOV | DEC

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