April 1, 2012

Oceans seeing effects of rising temperatures

"Water, water, everywhere, and all the boards did shrink; Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink."

This short excerpt from Samuel Taylor Coleridge's long poem "The Rime of The Ancient Mariner" evokes an image of the oceans that play such a central role in our planet's weather and climate systems. Just consider the fact that they cover 70 percent of the Earth's surface, with an average depth of about two miles.

After many decades of researching the oceans, scientists are slowly gaining an understanding of this role. Wally Broecker, professor of earth and environmental sciences at Columbia University, developed the concept of ocean circulation called the Great Ocean Conveyor Belt. His book, with the same title, makes for a fascinating read.

He demonstrated that there is a planet-wide circulation of water in the oceans that transports heat. The surface waters warm in the Pacific and continue on the surface to the North Atlantic. Giving up heat, as the water moves north, the surface waters cool and become dense; the cold water then descends to the depths.

This cold, barely above freezing water slowly moves south and east to the North Pacific again, where it slowly warms, rises and starts the whole process over.

This enormous, moving stream of water plays a key role in transporting and storing heat energy. This includes absorbing the extra energy arising from the increased levels of greenhouse gases, primarily carbon dioxide, which is the primary GHG and comes from the consumption of fossil fuels.

We all know how much longer a large pot of water takes to heat up than a small one. The same is true for the oceans. What is happening now is that this huge stream of water is beginning to warm, just a little.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
  • Tobias_Sue_012914.jpg World in palm of our hands

    A newsroom workshop made writer Susan Tobias realize how far technology has come since she started working at the Press-Republican.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Mulholland_Jonathan.jpg Running tips to get you in top form

    Different limb lengths, tighter muscles, stiffer joints, prior injuries all play role in determining your running style, Jonathan Mulholland writes.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • clute_cropped.jpg When children are put at risk

    Adults who deal drugs, commit domestic violence and other crimes with kids present are guilty of yet another crime, writes columnist Penny Clute.

    April 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Walace_Jolene 7-12_cropped.jpg Let these tips on planting trees take root

    You may think that digging a hole and plopping the tree in will suffice, and it will if you only want the tree to live a short time, columnist Jolene Wallace writes.

    April 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • ouellette.jpg Web doctor always gets it right

    I have access to the collected medical knowledge of all recorded history at my fingertips, columnist Steve Ouellette writes.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • colin_read.jpg Airport projects can benefit local economy

    Using a local workforce keeps wages and spending in the community if it can be done in a cost-effective manner, according to columnist Colin Read.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Gast_Richard.jpg Producers can recycle tubing

    Project allows maple-syrup makers to conveniently dispose of their used tubing in an environmentally friendly way, according to columnist Richard Gast.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Terry_Mattingly.jpg Easter with doubters and the 'nones'

    Should more pastors ask this blunt question: "Do you really believe Jesus was raised from the dead?" wonders religion columnist Terry Mattingly.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Black_Peter_2014_cropped.jpg Canadiens are Canada's team

    The National Hockey League playoffs are underway, and for Canadiens fans, many of whom likely reside in the Montreal "suburb" of Plattsburgh, it is a time of hope and joy.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • amy_ivy.jpg Is it time to plant? Not yet

    All we can do is wait and see how things get through, columnist Amy Ivy writes.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

Peter Black: Canadian Dispatch

Lois Clermont, Editor

Cornell Cooperative Extension

Richard Gast: Cornell Ag Extension

Bob Grady

Guest Columns

Peter Hagar: Cornell Ag Connection

Health Advice

Ray Johnson: Climate Science
Gordie Little: Small Talk

Terry Mattingly: On Religion

Steve Ouellette: You Had To Ask

Colin Read: Everybody's Business

Pinch of Time