Written by Shaun Swartz
Welcome to The Surface Interval!
We’re gathering articles from across the internet to promote stories of ocean optimism, environmental intrigue, or newsworthy content to keep you informed of what’s happening in the world of marine biology. To kick off the first entry of The Surface Interval, let’s dive in take a look at three ocean news articles that caught our eye this week.
Nan & the Whale
If you haven’t seen the newly released video of a humpback whale sheltering Marine Biologist Nan Hauser from a nearby tiger shark, stop what you’re doing and watch this now.
Why is this significant? Aside from the fact that we’re green with envy over her once-in-a-lifetime interaction with a 50,000-pound endangered species, it has long been speculated that humpback whales are altruistic; yet this interaction seems to be among the first documented observations in which a humpback whale goes out of its way to protect a human. Are humpback whales the best species on the planet? We’re not saying otherwise. We’re going to go out on a limb here, but Humpback Whale for President in 2020? (Image Credit Nan Hauser/Caters)
The Ocean is Full of H2-NO
Scientists have long studied the effects of coastal pollution on marine ecosystems, but it seems recently that the number of ocean dead zones – a.k.a. areas with low concentrations of dissolved oxygen – are on the rise; by “on the rise” we mean the number of these hypoxic zones has quadrupled since 1950.
Why does this matter?
For the same simple reason that if all of the atmospheric oxygen were removed from the air around US we would cease to exist. These ocean dead zones are most commonly seen in in near-shore environments such as bays, inlets, or at the mouths of rivers; yet these hypoxic zones are now being found in the open-ocean. Click here to learn more about the alarming increase in hypoxic zones. (Image credit: The Guardian)
Last but not least, last week’s bone-chilling dip into freezing temperatures produced some pretty wild behaviors in both humans and the animal kingdom alike. But before we show you images of frozen oceans in New England or alligators frozen in their swamps, can we get one thing straight? While the term “bomb-cyclone” is catchy, THIS IS SCIENCE AND IT’S CALLED BOMBOGENESIS. If I have to hear bomb-cyclone one more time I’m going to wade into one of those frozen alligator ponds we’ve been seeing flash across the social media this week. Extreme? Maybe. Justified? For a self-proclaimed science-nerd, absolutely. (Image Credit Jonathan Nimerfroh/jdnphotography.com)
ANYWAY, on the topic of alligators – check out this link if you haven’t yet seen our scaly freshwater friends doing what they do best: adapting & surviving. As if alligators could get any more hard-core, it turns out they can slow their metabolism to survive periods of prolonged cold temperatures. Isn’t that just lovely.
But for as much as alligators were slowing down to survive, the bomb cyclone (GAH, now they’ve got me doing it too…make some room in that pond) ramped up the stoke-level of a particular group of people in the Northeastern United States. Yes, cold-water surfers are in their own sub-category of pain enduring humans.
Ocean water begins to freeze at approximately 28 degrees Fahrenheit, but typically wave action breaks up any ice crystals as they form. As a result, witnessing frozen oceans is actually pretty rare.
And just like that, we’ve reached the end of your Surface Interval. Our time together has been lovely, but now it’s time to gear-up and dive, dive, dive. Just be sure to grab your dry-suit if you’re planning to seek out those frozen alligators.
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