A Special Place for Blog Lovers with a Touch of Science!

Enjoy our special posts in the fields of Earth & Planetary Sciences (EPS Blog) and Social Sciences & Arts (SSA Blog)

A Special Place for Blog Lovers with a Touch of Science!

The world ocean is losing its memory under global warming

Credit: Gettyimages

Decline is a response to human-induced warming

Using future projections of the latest generation of Earth system models, a U.S. National Science Foundation-supported study published in Science Advances found that most of the world's ocean is steadily losing its year-to-year memory under global warming.

"We have leveraged the ocean's memory to help us assess future changes in Earth's systems on a seasonal to decadal timescale," said Varavut Limpasuvan, a program director in NSF's Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences. "Now, memory loss and its impact on sea surface temperature suggest that, going forward, we may have to be less reliant on the ocean as a predictor, which too is suffering from a warming world."

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Ocean life may adapt to climate change, but with hidden costs

Credit: Copepods are small crustaceans found in almost every freshwater and marine habitat;  UVM

Scientists conduct experiments on 23 generations of tiny sea creatures

Suppose scientists could watch 20 generations of whales or sharks adapt to climate change, measure how they evolve and how their biology changes as temperatures and carbon dioxide levels rise. That could tell researchers a lot about how resilient life in the oceans might be to a warmer world. But it would also take hundreds of years -- not very useful to ecologists or policymakers trying to understand our warming world today.

Instead, consider the life of the copepod Acartia tonsa, a tiny and humble sea creature near the bottom of the ocean food web. The copepod reproduces, matures, and creates a new generation in about 20 days. It takes about one year for 20 copepod generations to pass.

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A tale of two oceans: Scientists are building digital twins of the ocean

Credit: Gettyimages

Digital Twin

Before the term "digital twin" was first used twenty years ago, engineers at NASA were already developing ground-based replicas of spacecraft infrastructure. Today's manufacturers are also seeing double, taking advantage of digital duplicates to better understand and predict product performance. Now EU scientists are looking to apply the same principles to the natural world – building more and more digital twins of the ocean.

Pioneered in the aerospace industry, the use of digital twins – exact digital replications of objects or environments – are commonplace in engineering and manufacturing. While the concept isn't new, its applications in the natural world are. But they have the potential to revolutionise our knowledge of our ocean, seas and waters, and become a game-changer in our ability to protect and restore them.

'As marine scientists we try to understand systems and their dynamics. This allows us to develop models and make forecasts of the ocean, similar to weather forecasts in the atmosphere. We now have the ability to look far into the future, but I never thought that we would move in such an ocean engineering direction like we are seeing it today,' said Martin Visbeck, head of the research unit Physical Oceanography at GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel and professor at Kiel University, Germany.

'I like the name "twinning" because it shows the evolution. It's a sign of how much the marine science community has evolved. We're going from understanding to purposefully engineering positive outcomes for the ocean by supporting nature-based solutions, optimising the blue economy for low environmental impacts and optimising the size and locations of marine protected areas.'

Prof. Visbeck is part of an ambitious team of scientists supporting the development of the EU Mission Restore our Ocean and Waters by 2030. And the Digital Twin of the Ocean, better known by its acronym DTO, is a crucial component of this initiative – to support the EU's mission to restore ocean, seas and waters by 2030 and make the European Green Deal a reality.

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Soon enough we could have clean oceans

Free-ranging Risso's dolphin (Grampus griseus) swimming with plastic litter © Massimiliano Rosso for Maelstrom H2020 project

How robots and bubbles could soon help clean up underwater litter

If you happened to be around the coast of Dubrovnik, Croatia in September 2021, you might have spotted two robots scouring the seafloor for debris. The robots were embarking on their inaugural mission and being tested in a real-world environment for the first time, to gauge their ability to perform certain tasks such as recognising garbage and manoeuvring underwater. 'We think that our project is the first one that will collect underwater litter in an automatic way with robots,' said Dr Bart De Schutter, a professor at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands and coordinator of the SeaClear project.

The robots are an example of new innovations being developed to clean up underwater litter. Oceans are thought to contain between 22 and 66 million tonnes of waste, which can differ in type from area to area, where about 94% of it is located on the seafloor. Fishing equipment discarded by fishermen, such as nets, are prevalent in some coastal areas while plastic and glass bottles are mostly found in others, for example. 'We also sometimes see construction material (in the water) like blocks of concrete or tyres and car batteries,' said Dr De Schutter.

When litter enters oceans and seas it can be carried by currents to different parts of the world and even pollute remote areas. Marine animals can be affected if they swallow garbage or are trapped in it while human health is also at risk if tiny pieces end up in our food. 'It's a very serious problem that we need to tackle,' said Dr Fantina Madricardo, a researcher at the Institute of Marine Sciences – National Research Council (ISMAR-CNR) in Venice, Italy and coordinator of the Maelstrom project.

Human divers are currently deployed to pick up waste in some marine areas but it's not an ideal solution. Experienced divers are needed, which can be hard to find, while the amount of time they can spend underwater is limited by their air supply. Some areas may also be unsafe for humans, due to contamination for example. 'These are aspects that the automated system we are developing can overcome,' said Dr De Schutter. '(It) will be much more efficient, cost effective and safer than the current solution which is based on human divers.'

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