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Michael Philben

Michael Philben has written 12 posts for oceanbites
Figure 1: green slime from a cyanobacteria bloom (Ohio Sea Grant/Creative Commons)

Who benefits from more CO2? Harmful algae.

Climate change will produce both winners and losers, but we might not like who ends up winning! New research shows that toxic cyanobacteria can rapidly adapt to increasing CO2 concentrations and outcompete other more desirable types of algae.

Figure  1: the "rainforest of the sea"

Do coral reefs help fight climate change?

Coral reefs are called the rainforests of the sea for their stunning biodiversity. But can they, like forests on land, absorb CO2 and help reduce global warming?

Figure 1: The Deepwater Horizon oil spill (Creative Commons)

The Dirty Blizzard: how oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill reached the seafloor

Oil floats on water, yet oil spills are still devastating for marine life living on the seafloor. How does it get there? A new study shows that it can hitch a ride on sinking particles during an algae bloom, turning marine snow into a “dirty blizzard”. Read on to find out more!

Figure 1: algae blooms off the coast of England (Creative Commons)

Why iron fertilization hasn’t worked

Fertilizing the ocean with iron to help algae store more carbon in the deep sea was once heralded as a solution for global warming. But decades of research has suggested it doesn’t work as advertised. What went wrong? Read on to find out!

Microscope image of dust particles (Creative Commons)

Dust detectives: tracing the origins of Antarctic ice core debris

Tiny dust particles punch above their weight by delivering nutrients to remote ecosystems. A new study uses the chemical fingerprint of dust particles to retrace their origins and how this important process has changed over the last 800,000 years. Read on to learn more!

Wake

Manipulating ship wakes to reflect light could help fight climate change

The tiny bubbles produced by ship’s wakes reflect light and cool the planet. Could they be manipulated to counteract global warming?

Balloon

A cloudy future for climate engineering

Pumping reflective aerosols into the atmosphere may hold promise for cooling the climate. But once we start, we won’t be able to stop.

Was the California drought the worst in history?

California has seen longer droughts and drier years in the past, but a new reconstruction shows that 2012-2015 was the driest 4-year period in the last 2000 years.

Figure 1: Historical and projected radiocarbon content of the atmosphere. 14C spiked around 1960 due to nuclear weapons testing, and has been drifting back toward the baseline as the excess 14C works its way into the ocean, plants, and soils. The trajectory of radiocarbon content for the rest of the century depends on fossil fuel emission scenarios (Representative Concentration Pathways; RCPs). With aggressive action to limit CO2 emissions, atmospheric radiocarbon will only “age” by a hundred years or so (green line) but under “business as usual” policy, it will be appear over 2000 years old by 2100 (grey line), severely limiting the dating of younger materials. From Graves 2015.

How we broke radiocarbon dating

CO2 from fossil fuel burning doesn’t contain C-14. That’s bad news for the future of radiocarbon dating.

Oil spill

Oil spill first responders: how tiny algae cultivate oil-degrading bacteria

After an oil spill, millions of oil-degrading bacteria are on the scene almost immediately. But how do they survive in regions with no oil pollution? A new study shows that tiny cyanobacteria produce enough oil to maintain a small population of oil-degraders, capable of rapidly multiplying in response to the sudden influx of oil from a spill. This short term oil cycle sustains a first line of defense against catastrophic ecological damage from spills.

Healthy calanoid copepod (Diaptomus spp.). Summer 2000.

Estimating carbon sequestration from plankton poop

Copepod fecal pellets—plankton poop—transport carbon from the ocean surface to the deep where it is stored for thousands of years. A new study presents a framework for scaling up our understanding of this process from observations of single organisms to the global ocean.

CoverPhoto

Microbes foil attempts to increase deep ocean carbon sequestration

Most carbon emitted to the atmosphere ends up in the ocean, much of it in organic molecules. While most is quickly respired back to CO2, a fraction is transformed by microbes to apparently stable compounds that persist in the ocean for centuries. Could we manipulate the microbial community to hold even more? A new study suggests this is unlikely because the deep ocean is already holding as much organic carbon as it can handle.

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