School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology

SOEST in the News: 2010

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graphic of sea water pH decline

Dec 21 : Ocean acidification changes marine nitrogen cycling

Increasing acidity in the sea’s waters may fundamentally change how nitrogen — one of the most important nutrients in the oceans — is cycled, according to a study published in the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The lead author is Michael Beman (former SOEST Young Investigator, now at UC-Merced); co-authors include Andreas Andersson (former Oceanography graduate student now at BIOS) and Geology & Geophysics (G&G) professor Brian Popp.

Read more about it in Wired, ScienceCentric, NSF News, and EurekaAlert. Image courtesy of M. Beman, UC-Merced, and N. Bates, BIOS; click on it to go to a page with the full version (scroll to bottom of page).

heat map of Paris

Dec 15 : Nighttime makes urban heat waves deadly

The deaths of almost 5,000 people in Paris during in the first two weeks of August 2003 spawned a raft of new studies on the subject of death-by-weather. “Exposure to high temperature during several nights, especially consecutive nights, can double the risk of death for the most vulnerable people…,” Hawai‘i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology (HIGP) researcher Benedicte Dousset told a news conference at the 2010 American Geophysical Union (AGU) meeting in San Francisco.

Read more about it at Discovery News and Image courtesy of B. Dousset; click on it to see the full image.

photo of coral

Dec 13 : Listing of rare Hawaiian coral species questioned

Nine of the 83 rare corals petitioned in 2009 to be listed under the US Endangered Species Act are found in Hawaiian waters. Scientists at the Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB), led by Zac Forsman, examined the genetic and structural features of all the Hawaiian species from the common genus Montipora. They found that variances in colony shape, color, and growth can cause some coral to be misidentified; this is a problem because species definitions are based on the coral skeleton.

Read more about it in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and News@UH, and at e! Science News. Image courtesy of Z. Forsman, HIMB/SOEST.

photo of Chip Fletcher

Nov 24 : Fletcher recognized as EPA “environmental hero”

Congratulations to Dr. Charles “Chip” Fletcher, SOEST’s Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and professor of Geology & Geophysics (G&G), for his recognition by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as one of this year’s “environmental heroes.” Chip was honored at the EPA’s 12th Annual Awards Ceremony in Los Angeles for his work in Climate Change Science with UH Sea Grant College Program’s Center for Island Climate Adaptation and Policy (ICAP).

Read more about it in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser (revised link), the UH News, and the SOEST press release (PDF). Image courtesy of SOEST.

photo of marine stratus clouds

Nov 24 : Cloud feedbacks found to amplify global warming

Axel Lauer, Kevin Hamilton, Yuqing Wang, and Vaughan T.J. Phillips—all of the International Pacific Research Center (IPRC) and/or the Department of Meteorology— with Ralf Bennartz of the Univ. of Wisconsin, have published a study using a new modeling approach that successfully simulates marine boundary layer clouds. They find a greater tendency for clouds to thin with global warming than in any of the current climate models, and so expected warming may be greater than currently anticipated.

Read more about it in New Scientist, Science Daily, Climate Progress, and at Raising Islands and Image courtesy of Cameron McNaughton.

cover of 'Living on the Shores of Hawaii'

Nov 16 : New book examines living on Hawai‘i shores

A new book by G&G professor Charles “Chip” Fletcher, SOEST’s new Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and director of the Coastal Geology Group (CGG), Living on the Shores of Hawai‘i: Natural Hazards, the Environment, and Our Communities, reviews a wide range of environmental concerns in Hawai‘i with an eye toward resolution by focusing on “place-based” management, a theme consistent with—and borrowing from—the Hawaiian ahupua‘a system.

Read more about it at News@UH. Image courtesy of UH Press.

graphic of sea surface temperatures

Nov 10 : Threshold sea surface temperature for storms rising

In a paper in Nature Geoscience, International Pacific Research Center (IPRC) researchers Nate Johnson and Shang-Ping Xie report that the threshold sea surface temperature for convection is rising under global warming at the same rate as that of the tropical oceans. “This study is an exciting example of how applying our knowledge of physical processes in the tropical atmosphere can give us important information when direct measurements may have failed us,” Johnson notes.

Read more about it in EurekAlert!. Image courtesy of IPRC; click on it for the full version and caption.

image of C-MORE Hale dedication

Oct 25 : C-MORE Hale grand opening and dedication ceremony

The grand opening and dedication ceremony for C-MORE Hale, the state-of-the-art headquarters for the Center for Microbial Oceanography: Research and Education (C-MORE) on the Univ. of Hawai‘i at Mānoa campus, was on Monday 25 October. Attending dignitaries included US Senator Daniel Inouye, National Science Foundation Director Subra Suresh, and University of Hawai‘i President M.R.C. Greenwood.

Read more about the ceremony and see a gallery of images in Mālamalama (the magazine of the University of Hawai‘i,); UH News; and; and see videos of the dedication and tour, and download the event program and fact sheets PDFs from the C-MORE Hale page. Image courtesy of C-MORE / SOEST; click on it for the full image.

image of black coral

Oct 20 : Algae found in black corals at surprising depths

Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB) scientists, led by Oceanography PhD student Daniel Wagner, examined Hawai‘i black corals for algae living in them. In shallow-water corals, algae provide food in exchange for protection. Surprisingly, 71% of the deep-water coral species contained algae, even at depths of almost 400 meters. Wagner notes that ”… we do not know how these algae are able to exist in extreme environments, and it certainly highlights how little we know about deep reefs.“

Read more about it at PhysOrg, e! Science News, Hawaii News Now, and UH Mānoa News. Image courtesy of Daniel Wagner, HIMB / SOEST.

photo of Antarctica crinoid

Oct 14 : Exploring the diversity of abyssal marine life

Many congratulations to Oceanography professor Craig Smith, co-Project Leader of the Census of Marine Life field project, the Census of Diversity of Abyssal Marine Life (CeDAMar)! CeDAMar is a deep-sea project documenting species diversity of abyssal plains (the sea floor deeper than 3000 m) to increase understanding of the historical causes and ecological factors regulating biodiversity and global change. CeDAMar was responsible for describing 500 new species collected in oceans worldwide.

Read more about it at CeDAMar census project page. Image courtesy of Craig Smith / LARISSA.

photo of huricane iniki

Oct 04 : Hawai‘i faces more frequent hurricanes

Meteorology professor and International Pacific Research Center (IPRC) researcher Tim Li is lead author of an article (in press) in Geophysical Research Letters warning that Hawai‘i should prepare for an increasing number of hurricanes by the end of this century. When he factored the impact of global warming into two climate models forecasting hurricane formation, the models predicted that the frequency of the giant storms over the north-central Pacific Ocean could increase by 65 percent.

Read more about it in New Scientist. Image of Hurricane Iniki over Hawai‘i courtesy of NASA.

Image of fountaining lava

Oct 01 : Earth’s pulse felt at hot spots

Department of Geology & Geophysics professor Paul Wessel collaborated on a paper that found that volcanic hot spots around the world — such as those in Hawai‘i, Iceland, and at Yellowstone — appear to be “pulsating” together at rates of five to ten million years. The discovery suggests that hot spots are responding to regular fluctuations coming from the Earth's core; as pulses of heat rise and melt rocks nearer the surface, they create hot-spot eruptions.

Read more about it at Discovery News. Image courtesy of Mike Garcia, SOEST.

screen capture imgage

Sep 23 : Are Trade Winds Winding Down?

Meteorology professor Pao-Shin Chu, head of the Hawai‘i State Climate Office, and graduate student Jessica Garza reviewed 26 years of Hawai‘i wind data and have documented a significant drop in the frequency of trade winds. Chu is very concerned: he said the trades are our primary source of moisture for rain, and that a dramatic reduction could fundamentally change Hawai‘i’s overall climate. “Without the wind and with the intense solar radiation, it could be really, really hot.”

Read more about it and watch the video at KITV 4. Image courtesy of

photo of ship in Antarctica

Sep 20 : Antarctic oceanography on Hawaii public radio

In an interview on Hawai‘i Public Radio, associate professor Grieg Steward and PhD candidate Christopher Schvarcz talk about studying viruses in Antarctic waters, professor Craig Smith discusses his work on benthic organisms and how the Antarctic climate has visibly changed over the past 15 years, assoc. specialist Karen Selph describes working in the circumpolar waters of the Antarctic, and assistant researcher Rhian Waller talks about studying Antarctic corals.

Listen to the interview on Hawai‘i Public Radio. Image courtesy of Chris Measures; click on it to see the full version.

photo of ACE-Asia, NSF C-130 viewed from NASA P3-B over Japan

Sep 17 : Clouds are shaped by where they’re from

Since 1995, Department of Oceanography researcher Anthony Clarke and colleagues have collected atmosphere samples from 12 different airplane experiments over the Pacific Ocean. In an article published in the 17 September 2010 issue of Science, they report that they have found that aerosols produced from man-made sources have a significant impact on cloud formation.

Read more about it in Wired Science. Image courtesy of Anthony Clark; click on it to see the full version.

Image of craters on the Moon

Sep 17 : LRO exposes Moon’s complex, turbulent history

In two articles in the 17 September 2010 issue of Science co-authored by Hawai‘i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology (HIGP) planetary scientist Paul Lucey, data from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) describe a moon with a more complex history than previously thought and highlight what could be its oldest regions. The results reveal promising targets for future missions and support previous theories about the moon’s past.

Read more about it at Science News. Image courtesy of NASA/LRO/LOLA/GSFC, MIT, Brown.

HiOOS logo graphic

Sep 10 : Hawai‘i Ocean Observing on Hawai‘i public radio

Chris Ostrander, Director, and Jim Potemra, Data Management and Communications Chair, of the Hawai‘i Ocean Observing System (HiOOS) were interviewed on the 08 Sep 2010 edition of Hawai‘i Public Radio’s Bytemarks Cafe.

Listen to the interview at Bytemarks Cafe, Episode 108. Image courtesy of HiOOS.

Aloha Bowl logo

Sep 07 : “Aloha Bowl” Registration

The 2011 Hawai‘i Ocean Science Bowl — the “Aloha Bowl” — will be held on Saturday 26 February 2011 on the UH Mānoa Campus. Contact Tara Hicks Johnson for registration information!

small graphic of Pacific and Atlantic 'garbage patches'

Aug 24 : Predicting the North Atlantic Garbage Patch

In a study published in the prestigious journal Science, 22 years of data collected by undergraduate students aboard a sailing vessel has identified widespread floating plastic debris in the western North Atlantic comparable to the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch.” International Pacific Research Center (IPRC) senior researcher Nikolai Maximenko, a co-author on the paper, has developed a computer model that describes how converging surface currents cause the plastic to accumulate in such patches.

Read more about it in the Science abstract, in the IPRC press release (PDF), and at Ka Leo. Also, listen to the interview on Hawai‘i Public Radio. Image courtesy of IPRC.

Photo of coral

Aug 19 : First frozen bank for Hawaiian corals

Scientists at the Smithsonian Institution and the Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB) have created the first frozen bank for Hawaiian corals in an attempt to protect them from extinction and to preserve their diversity. Mary Hagedorn, HIMB adjunct faculty member and a Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) research scientist, leads the laboratory at HIMB’s facilities on Coconut Island in Kane‘ohe Bay, O‘ahu, that is preserving the frozen sperm and embryonic cells.

Read more about it at Wired Science, Discovery News, and Zoo and Aquarium Visitor. Image courtesy of Ann Farrell, HIMB.

photo of Hank Trapido-Rosenthal

Aug 17 : Biofuels have supporters, but scale remains obstacle

Several SOEST researchers are investigating the potential that biofuels hold in helping reduce our dependency on fossil fuels. Laboratory manager Hank Trapido-Rosenthal, at the Department of Oceanography and the Hawai‘i Institute for Marine Biology (HIMB), says the university’s collection of biofuel feedstock has more than 2,800 strains of algae, fungi, and bacteria that are available to researchers.

Read more about it in the Pacific Business News. Image courtesy of Christina Failma, PBN; click on it to see the full version.

graphic thumbnail of cooling with sea water

Aug 17 : The cooling wave

UH Sea Grant, in partnership with Kyo-ya Hotels and Resorts, is studying the feasibility of using cold sea water to air condition hotels and other buildings in Waikiki. If successful, this could result in significant cost savings in electricity as a high percentage of hotel electricity bills go toward conventional air conditioning systems. Funding for the project has been awarded to the UH Sea Grant Center for Sustainable Coastal Tourism as part of federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

Read more about it in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Image courtesy of Honolulu Star-Advertiser; click on it to see the full version.

graphic of ocean surface temperatures around Hawai'i

Aug 10 : For energy from the ocean, look leeward

In a paper in the Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy, Ocean and Resources Engineering (ORE) associate professor Gérard Nihous reports that waters off the leeward side of the Hawaiian Islands may be a better location for generating continuous energy using ocean temperatures. The results of his study could improve the power output of future projects that use ocean thermal energy conversion, or OTEC, by 15 percent, improving the cost-effectiveness of future facilities.

Read more about it in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. Image courtesy of Gerard Nihous; click on it to see the full image with caption.

Photo of scientists measuring dead turtle

Aug 03 : Hawai‘i experts bring knowledge to Gulf

Hawai‘i experts on sea turtles and geographic information systems were among scientists from across the country recently helping with the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Meteorologist Tom Schroeder, director of the Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research (JIMAR), said JIMAR scientists including T. Todd Jones, Tammy Summers, Marie Ferguson, and John Wang, either are at the Gulf or will be going, primarily for protective species or stock assessment operations.

Read more about it at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Image courtesy of NOAA; click on it to go to the original on the Deepwater Horizon Response site.

graphic of temperature anomalies

Aug 03 : So far, the hottest year in recorded history

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced that the Earth is on course for the hottest year since record-keeping began in 1880: 0.7°C above the 20th-century average. International Pacific Research Center (IPRC) senior researcher H. Annamalai notes that explaining so many local anomalies is difficult, even when factoring in multi-decade cycles caused by shifts in ocean currents and by El Niño. “… it looks like it’s more than that.”

Read more about it at The Globe and Mail. Image courtesy of NOAA via The Globe and Mail; click on it to see the full version.

JIMAR logo graphic

Aug 02 : Almost $3.5 million to JIMAR for coral reef research

The Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research (JIMAR) will receive $3,485,880 to fund the study, protection and restoration of coral reef ecosystems in Hawai‘i, NW Hawaiian Islands, American Samoa, the Line and Phoenix Islands, Guam, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands, Senators Daniel K. Inouye and Daniel K. Akaka announced. Please see the press release for details.

Photo of Saint Joseph Island, Seychelles

Aug 01 : Moku o Lo‘e: Best Kept Secret in Kane‘ohe Bay

Starting Tuesday 21 September from 9am to 12pm at Moku o Lo‘e (Coconut Is.)

This program will introduce you to the rich history of Moku o Lo‘e, more widely known as “Coconut Island,” and to the Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB) based there. We will also be joined by HIMB scientists and observe some of their research techniques. Please click here for details.

photo of HURL submersible collecting water sample

Jul 27 : Dumped munitions: no adverse effects… for now

Hawai‘i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology (HIGP) researcher Margo Edwards lead a three-year investigation of military chemical weapons dumped during and after World War II at a deep-water site five miles south of Pearl Harbor; her team reports that the dumped munitions “do not indicate any adverse impacts on ecological health” right now, but continued monitoring is warranted. Two Hawai‘i Undersea Research Laboratory (HURL) submersibles were used to take water and sediment samples that were analyzed for chemical agents and other hazards.

Read more about it in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser here (added 08-23-10) and here,, and in the SOEST press release (PDF). Image courtesy of HUMMA and HURL.

Ocean FEST logo

Jul 26 : Ocean FEST profiled in Malamalama

Since September 2009, over 1100 students, parents, teachers and volunteers in 14 public schools state-wide have participated in the new and highly successful Ocean FEST (Families Exploring Science Together) family science night program. Barbara Bruno, education coordinator for C-MORE, and Carlie Wiener, NWHI Research and Outreach Program Specialist at HIMB, are the program founders and lead instructors.

Read more about it in the Malamalama, the magazine of the University of Hawai‘i.

small graphic of N Pacific currents

Jul 21 : Ocean circulation drivers swapped at end of ice age

Towards the end of the last ice age, about 17,500 to 15,000 years ago, melting glaciers dumped so much cold fresh water into the North Atlantic that current flow was blocked. This resulted in a major reorganization in the currents of the North Pacific with far-reaching implications for climate, according to a new study published in the prestigious journal Science. IPRC authors include researcher Axel Timmermann and post-doctoral fellow Laurie Menviel.

Read more about it at News@UH and Raising Islands, and in the IPRC press release at EurekaAlert; also read the Science article abstract and see an interview at NSF News. Image courtesy of IPRC.

Photo of Saint Joseph Island, Seychelles

Jul 20 : Sea-level rise will be worse for some…

While scientists agree that the Indian Ocean has heated by about 1° F over the past 50 years, partially due to human-generated greenhouse gases, they can disagree in their estimations of how wind patterns will change due to climate change and what effects that will have on sea level. In an article in Journal of Climate, Axel Timmermann and Shayne McGregor (IPRC) and Fei-Fei Jin (MET) investigate the influence of changing wind patterns on past and future sea-level rise.

Read more about it at Wired Science and Softpedia. Image courtesy of NASA.

photo of Cetti Bay sensor

Jul 15 : Sensor at Cetti Bay to help monitor water quality

Pacific Islands Ocean Observing System (PacIOOS) has completed the installation of a sensor package in Cetti Bay, Guam, that will be able to collect data on various water quality measurements in Guam waters. This sensor array is a first for Guam, and has already begun taking measurements, including temperature, salinity, turbidity, pressure, and chlorophyll concentrations. It will soon stream the data in real-time over the internet, according to the University of Guam.

Read more about it at Pacific News Center and Image courtesy of University of Guam; click on it to see the full version.

Epic Tracker (TM) image

Jul 13 : SEA-IT-LIVE Virtual Field Trips

Announcement: SEA-IT-LIVE at the Center for Microbial Oceanography: Research and Education (C-MORE) makes accessible the open ocean by bringing the thrill of shipboard oceanographic research to shore. As one component of C-MORE’s education and outreach mission, SEA-IT-LIVE utilizes high-quality video to share the excitement of scientific research conducted by any team of scientists anywhere, any time.

Visit them here to learn more.

graphic showing new tsunami evacuation areas for Waikiki

Jul 06 : Tsunami maps to show new evacuation zones

Ocean and Resources Engineering (ORE) researcher Kwok Fai Cheung used modern ocean-floor data to update O‘ahu tsunami evacuation maps that had not been modified in 19 years. Cheung said the old maps, based on historic tsunamis, do not take into account ocean-floor topography and its affect on tsunami behavior. The Honolulu Dept of Emergency Management (DEM) will hold public outreach workshops on the revised maps; PDFs of the draft maps are now available for public review.

Read more about it and watch the video at KITV4; read more about it in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser (including a schedule of the workshops) and at KPUA. Image courtesy of the Star-Advertiser.

small graphic for gulf oil archive.

Jul 01 : Long-term fate of Gulf oil spill in the Atlantic

The possible spread of the oil spill from the Deepwater Horizon rig over the course of one year was studied in a series of computer simulations by International Pacific Research Center (IPRC) researchers Axel Timmermann and Oliver Elison Timm, and Oceanography PhD student Fabian Schloesser. In the simulation, eight million buoyant particles were “released” continuously from April 20 to September 17, 2010, at the location of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig and were “tracked’ as they circulated around the Gulf of Mexico and moved into the Atlantic.

See the HD video on YouTube and download the SOEST press release (PDF). Read more about it in Discovery News, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Science Daily, and PlanetSave. Image courtesy of IPRC/SOEST.

Photo of Bullards

Jul 01 : Legacy gift honors renowned volcanologist, father

Fred Mason Bullard, a world-renowned pioneer in the study of volcanology, geology, and geophysics, will be forever remembered through an endowed fellowship his daughter Thaïs Freda Bullard established in his name before she passed away last year. Her donation of $1.8 million will fund the Fred M. Bullard Endowed Graduate Fellowship, which will support doctoral and masters students at the Department of Geology and Geophysics (G&G).

Read more about it in the UH press release and in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Image courtesy of G&G/SOEST.

Photo of McManus team in field

Jun 30 : “A field of green” on Ocean Gazing

Oceanography associate professor Margaret McManus talks with Ari Daniel Shapiro about the hard work, rewards, and unique advantages of ocean research in Hawai‘i. She says, “I definitely love my job. And the pursuit of trying to understand how the natural system works is just fascinating.”

Listen to the podcast here. Image courtesy of Ocean Gazing.

photo of Apex float release

Jun 29 : Nutrients go deep, sunlight stays shallow…

An ongoing mystery is how marine algae manage to be very productive when the sunshine they need for photosynthesis is only near the surface and the nitrate nutrients they require are in the deep ocean. Ken Johnson (MBARI), Steve Riser (UW), and Dave Karl (director of C-MORE) studied nitrate fluxes at Station ALOHA; their findings were published in 06-24-10 issue of the prestigious journal Nature.

Read more about it in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin (added 07-20-10), at Raising Islands, at Science Centric, and in the MBARI news release. Image courtesy of Paul Lethaby/SOEST.

HiOOS logo graphic

Jun 23 : Hawai‘i Ocean Observing System (HiOOS) awarded $1.7 million

Announcement: Hawai‘i’s Senators Daniel K. Inouye and Daniel K. Akaka announced a grant to HiOOS of $1.7 million from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Please see Sen. Inouye’s press release for details.

Photo of WHOI Sentry

Jun 21 : Study foretold a consequence of oil leak

In an unusual experiment ten years ago, oil and gas released close to the sea floor defied conventional wisdom that, because oil is lighter than water, it would almost immediately rise to the surface. Scientists suggested that a significant portion of the oil rose very slowly because it was comprised of very small droplets. In a later analysis, Hawai‘i Natural Energy Institute (HNEI) researcher Stephen Masutani found that one-third of the oil would probably be found in droplets of half a millimeter or smaller, which could have taken a day or more to surface.

Read more about it at Image courtesy of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

Photo of ROV in pool

Jun 21 : Students focus on science of undersea volcanoes

The Marine Advanced Technology Education (MATE) Center’s ROV competition will be held at University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, on the Big Island of Hawai‘i, from June 24 to 26, 2010. The theme of the competition is “undersea volcanoes and the role that underwater robots, known as remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), play in their science and exploration.” The Hawai‘i Undersea Research Laboratory (HURL) helped MATE to develop this year’s mission scenarios about the science and exploration of Lo‘ihi. UPDATE: Congratulations to this year’s winners: the team from Hanalani School in Mililani!

View the video at Big Island Video; read more about it at Hawaii 24/7, AScribe, and in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser (link revised 07-12-10). Image courtesy of HURL.

Photo of burning oil well

May 28 : How oil spill may impact Hawai‘i

Roy H. Wilkens, director of the National Center for Island, Maritime, and Extreme Environmental Security (CIMES) and a senior research scientist at the Hawai‘i Institute of Geophysics (HIGP), recently sent out an e-mail to the university community looking for research projects that could help address oil spill concerns now and in the future. Oceanography professor Dave Karl, director of the Center for Microbial Oceanography: Research and Education (C-MORE), was one of the respondents.

Read more about it in the Big Island Weekly. U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Justin E. Stumberg; click on it to see the full version an caption at the Big Island Weekly site.

Photo of authors Lyman and Johnson with remote sensors

May 27 : Robust warming of the global upper ocean

In an article in the 20 May 2010 issue of the prestigious journal Nature, researchers report that the upper layer of the world’s ocean has warmed since 1993, indicating a strong climate change signal. “We are seeing the global ocean store more heat than it gives off,” notes lead author John Lyman, an oceanographer at Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research (JIMAR). The international team used temperature data collected over a period of 16 years by two kinds of sensor devices (at right).

Read more about it in the New York Times and the NOAA press release. Image courtesy of NOAA.

Photo of robot arm sampling rock

May 19 : Undersea revelations with “old-time geology”

The recent Galapagos Ridge Undersea Volcanic Eruptions Expedition (GRUVEE), led by Geology & Geophysics (G&G) professors John Sinton and Ken Rubin, yielded insights into one of Earth’s most active volcanic areas. Sinton said he and others have done volcanic reconnaissance in the Galapagos Islands with surface ships, dredging up rocks; this time, using a submersible, a towed digital camera, and an autonomous robotic vehicle, they did “old-time” geological mapping “with 21st-century tools.”

Read more about it and watch the video at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. See also the cruise blog of teacher-at-sea Buffy Cushman-Patz, G&G graduate and science teacher at La Pietra - Hawai‘i School for Girls. Image courtesy of GRVEE ; click on it to see the full version, and other images on the HSB site.

Photo of Elinor Lutu-McMoore

May 17 : MET student speaker at UH Mānoa commencement

Elinor Lutu-McMoore, 30, a candidate for Bachelor of Science in Meteorology, was student speaker at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa’s Spring 2010 Commencement ceremonies on Saturday 15 May. She moved to Honolulu with her husband and three sons in 2008 so she could attend UHM. While attending classes, the full-time student worked as a meteorological technician at the National Weather Service (NOAA-NWS). She plans to work to become a NWS staff meteorologist in American Samoa.

Watch the video of her speech on YouTube; read more about her in the UH Mānoa Campus Talk, Samoa News, and the UH press release. Image grab from YouTube; click on it to go to the video.

Photo of tagging shark

May 13 : Tiger sharks may use mental maps to migrate

In a study reported in the journal Marine Biology, researchers led by Carl Meyer of the Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB) used satellite tags to track sharks at French Frigate Shoals in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. Findings suggest that tiger sharks (Galeocerdo cuvier) may use mental maps and “calendars” to guide their migrations as they search for food. Some individuals stayed at the atoll year-round, while others only visited in Summer to feed on fledgling albatross.

Read more about it in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin and at Image courtesy of Carl Meyer.

UH Manoa logo graphic

May 12 : UH honors three for contributions

The University of Hawai’i awarded honorary degrees to family and child advocate Patti Lyons; and to philanthropists Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel Corp., and his wife, Betty, whose foundation donated $10 million for SOEST’s Center for Microbial Oceanography: Research and Education (C-MORE), led by oceanographer Dave Karl.

Read more about it in Honolulu Star-Bulletin.

Photo of Sen. Inouye opening science fair

May 03: Isle science fair gets big lift from federal stimulus

Just hours before 22 Hawai‘i students left for San Jose, CA, to compete in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, the state gave $425,000 in federal stimulus money to the Hawai‘i State Science and Engineering Fair (HSSEF), put on by the Hawai‘i Academy of Science (HAS). “It sends a very needed message that the state supports education, particularly in the science, technology, engineering and math,” said Oceanography professor Eric DeCarlo, an HSSEF executive council member.

Read more about it in the Honolulu Advertiser; read, too, about how well they did — including Waiakea High School senior Nolan Kamitaki of Hilo, who won the first-place grand award and best of category — in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin and the Honolulu Advertiser! Image courtesy of Hoaka Thomas, HAS Staff; click on it to see the original in their Facebook photo album.

Photo of Halemau'uma'u vent at Kilauea

Apr 29 : MET dept. team crafting vog forecast system

On the island of Hawai‘i, Kilauea volcano releases as much as a thousand tons of sulfur dioxide per day. Sulfur dioxide and fine particulate levels in the hazy “vog” affecting surrounding communities often exceed EPA air quality standards. At this time, only real-time reports are possible, but Meteorology department professor Steven Businger is leading a team that is developing models to provide forecasts of conditions; a web site with five-day forecasts, historical data, and warnings (as needed) is planned.

Read more about it and watch the video at the Honolulu Advertiser. Image courtesy of Mila Zinkova via Wikimedia Commons; click on it to go to the full version.

Photo of CTD deployment

Apr 22 : Station ALOHA at the fore of acidification research

Since 1988, scientists have been measuring ocean chemistry — including carbon dioxide — at Station ALOHA, a day's sail from Honolulu. As increased levels of this greenhouse gas are absorbed by the ocean, seawater becomes more acidic; this is expected to have profound effects on marine ecosystems. A paper on these results published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) will receive the 2009 Cozzarelli Prize, one of the nation’s top honors for a single paper.

Read more about it in the Honolulu Weekly, and read the SOEST press release (PDF) about the Cozzarelli Prize. Photo courtesy of Christopher Pala, Honolulu Weekly; click on it to see the full version.

Photo of Islandic volcano

Apr 19 : SOEST researchers comment on Icelandic volcano

SOEST personnel are closely watching the explosive eruption of a volcano beneath Eyjafjallajokull Glacier in Iceland. Hawai‘i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology (HIGP) associate researcher Sarah Fagents has worked on other volcanoes in Iceland and notes that the recent activity began with a series of “ordinary” lava fountains, similar to what is seen on the Big Island of Hawai‘i, before erupting under the glacier. “That makes things a whole lot more dangerous. The magma is so hot it flashes water to steam and you get a more highly explosive eruption going on,” she said. Geology & Geophysics (G&G) graduate student Asdis Benediktsdottir, who is from Iceland, doesn‘t directly work on volcanoes but does “very close” research and is following the news, communicating with her family about what‘s happening.

Read more about it in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. Image courtesy of the Associated Press; click on it to go to the full version.

photo of invasive king crabs

Apr 18 : Antarctic mission brings climate warnings

During a during a two-month expedition to Antarctica, oceanography professor Craig Smith and postdoctoral researcher Laura Grange found that climate warming has heavily affected the ecosystems and diversity of marine life in the Antarctic Peninsula region. They had gone there to study the effects of the break up of Larsen B ice shelf in February and March 2002. They could not reach that area because of ice, so they investigated four fjord systems the other side of the peninsula.

Read more about it in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin; visit the cruise blog for day-to-day details about the cruise and for more images (such as the one seen here).

Photo of Space Act Agreement signing

Apr 14 : NASA partners with Hawai‘i on exploration, science

During a ceremony at the state capitol in Honolulu, Hawai‘i Governor Linda Lingle and NASA‘s Ames Research Center Director S. Pete Worden signed a three-year non-reimbursable Space Act Agreement establishing a partnership for small satellite development, advanced aviation, space exploration, education, and science. The first annex of the Space Act Agreement provides for small satellite development with the Hawai‘i Space Flight Lab under the name of HawaiiSat.

Read more about it in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, the Honolulu Advertiser, and the press releases from the Governor’s Office (incl. video) and NASA. Image courtesy of Peter Mouginis-Mark; click on it to see the full version on the HIGP home page.

Photo of rockfish

Apr 09 : Undersea canyons teeming with life

In an article in the journal Marine Ecology, Hawai‘i Pacific University (HPU) associate professor Eric Vetter, UH Mānoa Oceanography (OCE) professor Craig Smith, and UH PhD candidate Fabio De Leo describe undersea canyons a mile to three miles offshore surrounding Hawai‘i as possible “hot spots of biological diversity” that may serve as nurseries to replenish less abundant areas. “Quite a few species are potentially new to science and many may well be endemic to canyons,” Smith said.

Read more about it in the Honolulu Advertiser, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, News@UH, and redOrbit. Photo courtesy of E. Vetter, C. Smith, and Hawai‘i Undersea Research Lab (HURL); click on it to see a larger version.

Tsunami travel time graphic

Apr 08 : Helping redraw Hawai‘i’s tsunami threat maps

Prompted by the devastating tsunami of 26 December 2004, new research conducted by Ocean and Resources Engineering (ORE) professor Kwok Fai Cheung indicates that hundreds of homes and businesses in areas long believed to be safe from a tsunami could be added to O‘ahu’s evacuation map. The good news is that the maps created in 1991 are still largely accurate, but the threat in some areas may be greater than originally believed, while a few others may be in slightly less danger.

Read more about it at Honolulu Advertiser. Image courtesy of Kwok Fai Cheung.

UH Manoa logo graphic

Apr 06 : UH president appoints technology advisers

University of Hawai‘i President M.R.C. Greenwood has created a new Advisory Council on Technology to examine the university's innovation, research, and technology capabilities and to draw on the experiences and expertise of organizations and institutions nationwide. The council will also hold provide recommendations that will help create a roadmap for the university, positioning UH to further contribute to the state’s economy. One of the council’s members is the Dean of SOEST, Brian Taylor.

Read more about it in the UH press release, the Honolulu Advertiser, and at Image courtesy of UH Mānoa.

Photo of diseased coral

Apr 05 : Scientists investigate coral disease outbreak

An outbreak of Montipora white syndrome, a disease causing rapid tissue loss that kills coral within several weeks, has wiped out more than 100 red rice coral colonies in Kane‘ohe Bay. Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB) assistant researcher Greta Aeby is part of the team of scientists collecting and testing samples to determine what caused the unusual outbreak. Aeby stressed how vital the reef is to the balance of the ecosystem. “When it starts crumbling, then the whole ecosystem starts collapsing.”

Read more about it in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Hawaii News Now, at, and at Image courtesy of Greta Aeby.

Graphic of Chicxulub Crater

Mar 29 : Single-impact theory is set in stone

Even 5-year-olds, when asked what killed the dinosaurs, would say it was a meteor or something that came from space, says Geology & Geophysics (G&G) associate professor Gregory Ravizza. A recent paper in the prestigious journal Science by 41 scientists in 12 countries appears to settle the issue. It summarizes evidence “which is really compelling and really remarkable that indeed there is one really big impact that coincides with this mass extinction event,” said Ravizza, one of the authors.

Read more about it in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. Graphic by Honolulu Star-Bulletin; click on it to go to the full version.

Photograph of an IBM HS20 blade server

Mar 23 : Blade shoot-out: battle for the virtual data center

Before Intel had even officially introduced the chip, blade servers from Dell, HP, and IBM sporting the latest Xeon 5600 (aka Westmere) CPU were tested at the Advanced Network Computing Lab (ANCL) facilities on the UH Manoa campus. The 2010 InfoWorld blade server shoot-out was facilitated by ANCL’s lab director Brian Chee, networking guru and InfoWorld contributor. Brian also had the opportunity to test out a new HP scientific workstation.

Read more about it at InfoWorld. Image courtesy of Brian Chee.

Photo of Cushman-Patz and students

Mar 11 : Teacher on deep-sea adventure

Buffy Cushman-Patz, a math and science teacher at La Pietra Hawai‘i School for Girls who earned her Master’s in Geology at UH, will be among a group of about 30 scientists led by Geology & Geophysics (G&G) professors John Sinton and Ken Rubin aboard R/V Atlantis on the Galapagos Ridge Undersea Volcanic Eruptions Expedition (GRUVEE). Her students will be able to follow her cruise blog during the month-long research cruise, which will include deep-ocean dives in the submersible Alvin.

Read more about it in the Honolulu Advertiser; you can also follow her Advertiser blog during the cruise and become a fan on Facebook. Image courtesy of the Honolulu Advertiser.

Chile earthquake graphic

Mar 10 : Chile earthquake moved city 10 ft to the west

Using the extremely precise GPS sensors, Hawai‘i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology (HIGP) scientists are part of the international team studying the effects of the massive magnitude 8.8 earthquake that struck Chile in February. Findings include the movement of Concepcion, Chile, 10 feet and of Buenos Aires, Argentina, about an inch. “The Maule earthquake will arguably become one of the, if not the most important great earthquake yet studied,” said geologist Ben Brooks.

Read more about it at CNN International,, in the Washington Post, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, National Public Radio, and at Aol News. Image courtesy of SOEST; click on it to go to the article Preliminary Coseismic Displacement Field with high-res PDF versions (preliminary geodetic solution computed by HIGP’s James Foster and Ben Brooks).

UH Manoa logo

Mar 08 : Commentary: UH involved in tsunami effort

Read a commentary in the the Honolulu Advertiser by UH Mānoa professors Cecily Wolfe, Ian Robertson, Kwok Fai Cheung, Karl Kim, and Mark Merrifield, and Gary Chock, president of Martin & Chock Inc, about UH faculty contributions to monitoring the tsunami’s approach and preparing to assess damage.

Graphic of Chili earthquake

Mar 05 : Tsunami warning system worked, models improving

Although the warning systems worked as intended, some scientists are saying there should be a rigorous examination of long-standing assumptions within computer-generated models that are used to estimate the strength and impact of tsunamis. “We expected waves to be bigger in Hawai‘i, maybe 50 percent bigger than they actually were. And we’ll be looking at that”, said HIGP affiliate Gerard Fryer, a geophysicist at the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawai‘i. “It will get better.”

Read more about it in the Honolulu Advertiser, Associated Press, and Christian Science Monitor. Graphic by Rich Clabaugh / Christian Science Monitor.

Photo of CubeSat

Mar 03 : Hawai‘i satellites aim to help build the future

Two satellites are being built by University of Hawai‘i scientists and students, in cooperation with NASA, and will be launched from Kaua‘i. “While the small-satellite-building effort is based at UH Manoa, we are working with Kaua‘i Community College and Leeward Community College on satellite data reception and satellite command centers,” said Hawai‘i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology (HIGP) professor Luke P. Flynn, director of the Hawaii Space Flight Laboratory (HSFL).

Read more about it at Hawaii Business. Image courtesy of Jeremy Chan.

Photo of CORK instrument sled

Mar 02 : Oceanography researchers join study of sea crust

Nearly half the total biomass on Earth is in sub-surface habitats including mines, aquifers, and soils on land, and sediments and rocks below the ocean floor. Oceanography department personnel will have a key role in a major new multi-institution study of the “deep biosphere.” Research professor James Cowen, one of five PIs in the project, said the UH group will contribute to the overall science, including microbial geochemistry of fluids that circulate within the rocky sub-seafloor.

Read more about it in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, USC News, and News@UH. Image courtesy of SOEST.

photo of rainfall patterns

Mar 01 : Global warming likely to impact rainfall patterns

Analyzing global model warming projections in models used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a team headed by International Pacific Research Center (IPRC) meteorologist Shang-Ping Xie finds that ocean temperature patterns in the tropics and sub-tropics will change in ways that will significantly alter rainfall patterns. Xie’s team has gathered evidence that expected temperature increases may differ by up to 1.5°C depending upon the region.

Read more about it at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Discovery News, Ka Leo O Hawai‘i, India Talkies, The Hindu, and EurekaAlert. Image courtesy of IPRC; click on it to see the full version with caption.

Photo of plastic debris

Feb 26 : Plastic rubbish also blights Atlantic Ocean

Scientists are studying an area of the North Atlantic Ocean where plastic debris accumulates, not unlike the well-known “Great Pacific Garbage Patch.” International Pacific Research Center (IPRC) senior researcher Nikolai Maximenko, who was not involved in the study, noted that, “I think this is a big target for the next decade—a global network to observe plastics in the ocean.”

Read more about it and listen to the interview with Kara Lavender Law, Sea Education Association (SEA), at BBC News; read more about it in the National Geographic News and US News & World Report. Image courtesy of SEA.

Photo of coral

Feb 25 : Ocean acidification threatens coral communities

Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB) assistant researcher Ku‘ulei Rodgers talks about how the health of Hawaii’s coral reefs is threatened by increases in carbon dioxide, which increases ocean temperature and acidity. This acidity, she explained, makes if more difficult for corals to produce the material they use to build their skeletons. Reefs would become more susceptible to stress and disease, and less able to support ecosystems that depend on them.

Read more about it at EarthSky and the Honolulu Star Bulletin. Image courtesy of HIMB.

Photo of gas analyzer

Feb 18 : Pinpointing emissions at their source

Oceanography professor Barry Huebert discusses the use of portable gas analyzers for his research into how oceans absorb greenhouse gases. “We want to take enough actual measurements so we can create an algorithm for climate modeling that’s more realistic about the uptake of CO2 by oceans,” he said at the American Geophysical Union’s December 2009 conference in San Francisco.

Read more about it in the New York Times. Image courtesy of Picarro.

photo of three fish species

Feb 03 : Fish observed evolving into three different species

The King demoiselle is not just one species, but three distinct groups that recently split from each other, according to a new study by Joshua Drew, a marine conservation biologist at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB) researcher Brian Bowen comments, “For less well-studied groups, there are probably vast quantities of diversity we don’t know and may never know about if we don’t continue looking for them.“

Read more about it at Discovery News. Image courtesy of Gerry Allen; click on it to see the full version.

Photo of Hanauma Bay

Feb 02 : Hanauma Bay volunteer program profiled

Liz Kumabe Maynard, Regional Environmental Education Specialist, and Morgan Mamizuka, UH Sea Grant Hanauma Bay Education Program Volunteer Coordinator, discussed the volunteer program at Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve on the Hawaii News Now morning show on Tuesday 02 February. The next round of volunteer training sessions starts on Saturday the 6th; anyone interested in becoming a volunteer is invited to contact Morgan at (808) 394-1374 or by email.

Read more about it in the news release (PDF). Image courtesy of UH Sea Grant.

Photo of french fries

Jan 25 : Corn oil used most often for fast-food french fries

In a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Geology & Geophysics (G&G) professor A. Hope Jahren and colleagues found that 69% of national fast food restaurant chains serve french fries containing corn oil, compared to only 20% of small-business restaurants. “Corn oil … contains considerably more heart-harmful saturated fat than canola, sunflower, or safflower oils, and less heart-protective alpha-linolenic acid than soybean oil, making it the least healthy choice…”

Read more about it at WebMD, KITV4, and News@UH. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Graphic of Kauai north coast

Jan 19 : Building in flood-prone areas risky

Commenting on recent flooding on the North Shore of Kaua‘i, coastal geologist and Geology and Geophysics (G&G) department chair Chip Fletcher and UH Sea Grant extension agent Dolan Eversole, discussed of the risks of flooding that coastal residents — or those near bodies of water connected to the ocean — should be cautious of, especially as sea levels rise in the coming years.

Read more about it at The Garden Island. Image courtesy of SOEST CGG; click on it to go to the original image.

Painting of Mercury MESSENGER spacecraft

Jan 19 : Mercury MESSENGER mission praised

NASA’s MESSENGER mission to Mercury has garnered praise for its discoveries about our Solar System's inner-most planet. Discover chose the September 2009 flyby as #28 of its 100 top science stories of the year. Time named MESSENGER # 11 on its list of the 50 best inventions of 2009. HIGP Assistant Researcher Jeffrey Gillis-Davis is a participating scientist on the mission and is studying the origin and geologic evolution of Mercury's smooth plains, intercrater plains, and the extent of volcanism.

Image courtesy of NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington; click on it to see the full version with caption.

Photo of researchers measuring beach volume

Jan 12 : Coast guardians

Program administrators at the UH Sea Grant College Program want to focus research efforts to build coastal sustainability and resiliency as coastal communities become more vulnerable because of increasing climate-related environmental changes. “Our job is to connect all these resources to issues, challenges, and opportunities that face our local communities,” said Sea Grant director Gordon Grau.

Read more about it at Honolulu Advertiser. Image courtesy of UH Sea Grant.

Photo of volcano

Jan 07 : New SOEST / HVO cooperative relationship

SOEST has a new formal cooperative relationship with the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) to enhance volcano research in Hawai‘i, as well as help train the next generation of volcano scientists. The program will offer internships to students at the start of their studies to introduce them to opportunities in volcanology, and then will also offer fellowships to support student research projects with both HVO and SOEST faculty.

Read more about it and “Volcano Awareness Month” at Hawaii 24/7. Image courtesy of SOEST.

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