Ocean Research – April
Neumayer Station III Now
10 Years in Antarctica
The Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) operates a research station in Antarctica where researchers live and work year round. The Neumayer Station III on the Ekström Ice Shelf is the primary base of operations for German Antarctic research activities. This year marks its 10th anniversary.
Antarctica is home to the Earth’s largest ice masses, and the Antarctic Ocean absorbs tremendous amounts of CO2 and heat. In order to better grasp global changes, data at the Neumayer Station III are gathered over extended time frames, from minute-to-minute weather observations to exploring the planet’s climatic history based on ice cores. The station also provides support for observations of biological diversity.
For more than 3.5 decades, AWI has maintained a research station staffed year-round in the Antarctic. Named in honor of the German polar researcher Georg von Neumayer, the Georg-von-Neumayer Station commenced operations in 1981. In 1992, it was replaced by the Neumayer Station. The current Neumayer Station III is the largest and most comfortable station in the history of German Antarctic research, with an expected service life through at least 2035.
Deep-Sea Microbes May Hold
Key to Extraterrestrial Life
Far below the ocean floor, sediments are teeming with zombie-like microbes that grow in slow motion. It can take decades for a single cell to divide. A new study from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) is examining their source of “food”—nearby molecules of organic carbon. This helps understand the limitations of life on Earth and could help inform how life might exist on other planets.
WHOI scientists examined long core samples taken aboard the RV Knorr and RV Revelle in the middle of the north Atlantic and south Pacific oceans. Analyzing the core’s sediments using high-intensity X-rays, the researchers found that they contained low levels of organic-carbon molecules preserved in sediment up to 25 million years old.
The presence of carbon is unusual because the sediments contain oxygen as well. Usually, the types of microbes that thrive there would use both chemicals, but the balance between the two is lopsided in the deep sediments.
It’s unclear why excess organic carbon remains. A plausible answer is: “From a microbe’s point of view, the carbon may be just out of reach. When you’re living in a state without much energy to spare, like these organisms, it may just be too difficult to swim or crawl around to find it,” said Colleen Hansel, a microbial geochemist at WHOI.
Waters off Western Europe
A new study has revealed that a deep-ocean process playing a key role in regulating Earth’s climate is primarily driven by cooling waters west of Europe. These findings will help scientists better forecast changes to the weather and climate by improving understanding of the influence of the ocean upon them.
The study focused on part of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC), a system of ocean currents in the North Atlantic responsible for the transfer of heat from the ocean to northwest Europe, for a relatively mild climate.
U.K. National Oceanography Centre (NOC) scientists collaborated on this study alongside colleagues from 16 research institutions across seven countries.
The prevailing scientific view is that most of the AMOC’s overturning and variability occurs in the Labrador Sea, off Canada. This new research shows the overturning and variability actually happens in regions between Greenland and Scotland. There, warm, salty, shallow waters are carried north from the tropics by currents and wind, sink and convert into colder, fresher, deep waters moving south through the Irminger and Iceland basins.
Ocean overturning carries vast amounts of atmospheric carbon from human activity deep into the ocean, helping to slow global warming. The largest reservoir of this carbon from human activity is in the North Atlantic.
Funding for Baltic Sea
Marcelo Ketzer, professor of environmental science, and Mats Åström, professor of environmental geology, have been granted 760,000 and 375,000 SEK by SGU, Geological Survey of Sweden, for a new research project and a continuation project at Linnaeus University.
The impact of metals on the water and sediment of the Baltic Sea is a major environmental problem. The new project will study arsenic, mercury and cadmium in sediments, in collaboration with Geological Survey of Sweden. The project will contribute to monitoring of Baltic Sea sediments and knowledge on how metals behave in the Baltic Sea due to climate change and factors like influx of oxygen-rich seawater.
The continuation project will study geochemical, mineralogical and microbiological characterization of acid sulfate soils to improve water quality in coastal plains.
‘Love Your Lagoon’
Once again graduate student research on the Indian River Lagoon will continue, thanks to proceeds from the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute Foundation’s “Love Your Lagoon” event.
Proceeds from the eighth annual, sold-out event will fund the 2019 Indian River Lagoon Graduate Research Fellows program. Fellows will present research at the 2020 Indian River Lagoon Symposium.