Oceanographic Dead Zone

Posted by Sam Churchill on

A “dead zone” is forming off the central Oregon Coast. It’s killing fish, crabs and other marine life. Researchers now believe a fundamental change may be taking place in ocean conditions in the northern Pacific Ocean.

Join NPR’s Christopher Joyce and a team of scientists aboard their research vessel as they head out into the Pacific. In 2002, the same effect appeared. It was thought to be a one-time anomaly; an odd combination of climate, winds and upwelling patterns that led to a hypoxic event where the oxygen level was so low it could not support most marine life. But continued research has shown that the same thing almost occurred last year and is now happening in full force again this year.

“This system is normally healthy and productive,” says Jane Lubchenco, a respected Marine Biologist at Oregon State University. “But a change in ocean circulation appears to be shifting the system closer to a tipping point where the right conditions can kick it over the edge and into an hypoxia state. This coastal ecosystem off Oregon seems to be changing in a way we have never seen.”

The Black Sea is anoxic, or devoid of oxygen, because the deep saltwater in the Black Sea lacks vertical circulation. As a result oxygen is not being replenished and the bottom water has gone stagnant below 600 feet. But what is happening off the Oregon Coast is unknown.

We need an underwater monitoring network like The Neptune Project. Right now.

The Neptune Project would run 10GigE to thirty unmanned underwater observatories with cameras, sensors and small remote-controlled submarines. Scientists onshore would be connected via computer to study the Northwest’s earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, hydrothermal vents and biological communities such as salmon, whales and microbes.

A new sonar system called the Mobile Inspection Package produces 3-D underwater images (above) quickly and effectively.

The Alvin will dock in Astoria, Oregon on August, 23rd (Atlantis Schedule). The new Alvin replacement will be capable of reaching more than 99 percent of the seafloor to depths of 6,500 meters (21,320 feet). When completed in 2008, it will be the most capable deep-sea research vehicle in the world.

The Harris OceanNet system (above) provides satellite connectivity. The phased-array satellite transmitters connect to junction boxes on the ocean floor via fiber optics.

Giant tsunamis, super volcanoes and earthquakes could pose a greater threat than terrorism, claim scientists. A volcano in the Canary Islands could virtually wipe Boston, New York, Washington, DC, and Miami off the face of the Earth, killing tens of millions of people, says Professor Bill McGuire, director of the Benfield Grieg Hazard Research Centre at University College London.

Related DailyWireless stories include Subducting the Zone, West Coast Grid, Grid Becomes Self-Aware, Intercepting Transoceanic Fiber and Just Say No.

Join me on a World Cruise to investigate global oceanographic research. Play the Globe Trekker theme!

Posted by Sam Churchill on Tuesday, August 10th, 2004 at 2:09 am .

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