School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology

SOEST Press Releases: 2009 Archive

Breaking waves generate low-frequency sound in the ocean in addition to other natural and man-made sources. In the layer of water at the depth of minimal speed of sound (deep sound channel), low-frequency sound can travel thousands of kilometers in the ocean. (Photo credit Steven Businger)

December 21: Man-made carbon dioxide affects ocean acoustics

There is little doubt among scientists now that human carbon dioxide emissions are warming the planet. Another problem of rising atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) is that CO2 is being absorbed by the oceans, which increases seawater acidity (lowers the seawater pH). This process, termed ‘ocean acidification’, has received growing scientific and public interest because it threatens certain groups of marine organisms, including corals. Only recently have researchers realized that man-made carbon dioxide not only warms and acidifies the ocean – it also affects acoustical properties of seawater, making it more transparent to low-frequency sound.

Oceanographers Tatiana Ilyina and Richard Zeebe of the Department of Oceanography, together with Peter Brewer of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute write in the journal Nature Geoscience that seawater sound absorption will drop by up to 70% already during this century. The scientists have examined the effects of man-made carbon dioxide under business-as-usual emissions and provide projections of the magnitude, time scale, and regional extent of changes in underwater acoustics resulting from ocean acidification. Read the press release.

Photo credit: Steven Businger

The woolly mammoth was one of the large mammals that became extinct in North America at the onset of the Younger Dryas ~13000 years ago. Image of Woolly Mammoth at the Royal BC Museum, Victoria, British Columbia courtesy Wikipedia Commons

December 7: Absence of evidence for a meteorite impact event 13,000 years ago as a trigger for the Younger Dryas abrupt cooling and the Megafauna extinction

An international team of scientists led by researchers at the University of Hawaii at Manoa have found no evidence supporting an extraterrestrial impact event at the onset of the Younger Dryas ~13000 years ago.

The Younger Dryas is an abrupt cooling event in Earth’s history, that coincided with the extinction of many large mammals including the woolly mammoth, the saber toothed jaguar and many sloths. This cooling period is generally considered to be the result of the complex global climate system, possibly spurred on by a reduction or slowdown of the thermohaline circulation in North America. This paradigm was challenged two years ago by a group of researchers that reported finding high iridium concentrations in terrestrial sediments dated during this time period, which led them to theorise that an impact event was instead the instigator of this climate shift. A team led by François Paquay, a Doctoral graduate student in the Department of Geology and Geophysics decided to also investigate this theory, to add more evidence to what they considered a conceptually appealing theory. However, not only were they unable to replicate the results found by the other researchers, but additional lines of evidence failed to support an impact theory for the onset of the Younger Dryas. Read the press release.

Image credit:Image of Woolly Mammoth at the Royal BC Museum, Victoria, British Columbia courtesy Wikipedia Commons


December 7: International Conference on Computationally-Intensive Modeling

Media Invitation: International Conference on Computationally-Intensive Modeling sponsored by the International Pacific Research Center (which conducts climate research at UH) and the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology.
This conference brings to Honolulu international scientists who will feature their latest climate science research results. The research combines observations with cutting-edge climate models, many run on Japan's famous supercomputer, the Earth Simulator. Participants will describe the computer simulation of a large array of natural phenomena ranging from the formation of hurricanes, to the ocean currents near Hawai`i, to the winds and storms in the atmosphere of Mars.Read the press release.

Image credit: IPRC/SOEST

The researchers' findings appear in the December 4, 2009, issue of the journal Science. Copyright 2009 AAAS

December 3: Scientists map deep origins of the “Hawaiian Hotspot”

The Hawaiian Islands are one of the outstanding volcanic features on Earth, but their origins have been shrouded in mystery.  Still in debate is a theory that was proposed forty years ago, which states that mid-plate hotspots such as Hawaii are generated by upwelling mantle plumes from the base of the lower mantle. 

Cecily Wolfe, a professor from the Hawaii Institute for Geophysics and Planetology, and a multi-institutional team of scientists have put the theory to test.  Their research findings, titled “Mantle Shear-wave Velocity Structure beneath the Hawaiian Hotspot,” will be published in the December 4 edition of Science magazine. Read the press release.

Image credit: Copyright 2009 AAAS

HAWAII: At the scene of a I-14 underwater submarine wreck, the Pisces looking at the deck gun of I-14. The I-14 is one of 5 Japanese submarines sunk by the US Navy in 1946. (photo credit © Wild Life Productions

November 12: Discovery of Top-Secret Japanese Combat Submarines Readied in WWII for Attack on U.S. Mainland

Two World War II Japanese submarines, designed with revolutionary technology to attack the U.S. mainland, have been discovered off the Hawaiian coast of Oahu.  They are the I-14, which carried two aircraft while submerged; and the I-201, one of the fastest attack subs of WWII.  The submarines are widely believed to have been intentionally sunk by the U.S. Navy at the end of the war to keep the technology from the Soviet Union.

The announcement of the discovery was made by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) Undersea Research Lab at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa and by National Geographic Channel (NGC), which documented and partly funded the search mission for the upcoming special Hunt for the Samurai Subs, premiering Tuesday, November 17, at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT during the network’s second annual Expedition Week. Read the press release.

Image credit: Wildlife Productions

Ocean FEST logo

November 6: Intergenerational Hands-on Marine Science Program, Ocean FEST, Begins on O‘ahu

After over a year of program development and field-testing, the new, intergenerational hands-on marine science program, Ocean FEST will be launched next week. The program engages elementary school teachers, students and their parents in Ocean FEST family science nights based on a proven model. FEST stands for Families Exploring Science Together, and research has shown that family involvement in science education adds significant value to the experience. This program is primarily aimed at broadening participation in the ocean and earth sciences, with the goal of interesting students in marine and geosciences, as well as other science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers.  A second goal is to communicate that ocean and earth science is directly relevant and applicable to Hawai‘i. Read the press release.

Image credit: C-MORE/SOEST

Hawaii Sea Grant logo

November 6: Water Watch Launches in Waikīkī

Paddlers, surfers and rough water swimmers want clean water to play in and our native reef life depends on it for its survival. Unfortunately, while water quality is one of those topics that we all probably care about, it is a topic that many of us don’t know much about. A new volunteer opportunity coordinated by the Reef Watch Waikīkī hopes to change that. Through monthly “Water Watch” gatherings, community members will have the chance to educate themselves about water quality issues. Read the press release.

Image credit: Hawaii Sea Grant /SOEST

SOEST Open House

October 16: SOEST Open House Media Advisory

he School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST) at the University of Hawaii will host its tenth biennial Open House. This free event features a diverse collection of hands-on demonstrations that highlight the Ocean, Earth, Atmosphere and Space Sciences and work in progress by our faculty, students, and staff. We expect approximately 4000 students on Friday; we would love your assistance in promoting this event for the public for Saturday. Read the press release.

Image credit: SOEST

Students use a murder mystery kit on coral bleaching.

September 25: Research center at UH Mānoa launches science kit lending program

The National Science Foundation Center of Microbial Oceanography: Research and Education (C-MORE) at UH-Manoa has just released an exciting series of six portable science kits that cover a range of marine science topics, including ocean acidification, coral bleaching, and marine debris.  The kits provide teachers with innovative ways to integrate up to date oceanography content and technologies into their curriculum without requiring any previous training or specialized knowledge. Read the press release.

Image credit: C-MORE/SOEST

A sample of some of the open ocean prey of the large predatory fishes sampled for mercury in this study. The fishes pictured here are primarily myctophids, a common deep-water prey item and abundant mid-water organism.  Credit - Lisa De Forest, Department of Oceanography/SOEST

August 31: Mercury levels influenced by depth of open ocean fishes and their prey

In the open ocean, species of large predatory fish will swim and hunt for food at various depths, which leads to unique diets in these fish. Oceanographers and geologists in the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST) at the University of Hawaii at Manoa (UHM) and colleagues have found that those fish that hunt deeper in the open ocean have higher mercury concentrations than those that feed near the surface of the ocean because their deep water food has higher mercury. This research was detailed in the August 18th early edition of the prestigous journal the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Read the press release.

Image credit: Lisa De Forest, Department of Oceanography/SOEST

Hawaiian Ocean Time-series scientist recover their sediment traps at dawn. (Image credit HOT/SOEST)

July 31: Station ALOHA data reveal ocean acidification

The burning of fossil fuels has released tremendous amounts of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere, significantly impacting global climate. Were it not for the absorption of CO2 by the oceans, the alarming growth of atmospheric CO2 concentration would be substantially greater than it is. However, this beneficial role of the oceans as a CO2 “scrubber” does not come without undesired consequences. When dissolved, CO2 acts as an acid, and lowers seawater pH. Since the beginning of the industrial age, CO2-driven acidification of the surface oceans has already caused a 0.1 unit lowering of pH, and models suggest that another 0.3 pH unit drop by the year 2050 is likely. Continued acidification of the sea may have a host of negative impacts on marine biota, and has the potential to alter the rates of ocean biogeochemical processes. Read the press release.

Image credit: HOT/SOEST

Ordnance at Ordnance Reef (photo by NOAA)

April 15: University of Hawai‘i Completes First Phase of a Field Investigation of Environmental Conditions at the “Ordnance Reef”

The University of Hawaii’s School of Ocean Earth Science and Technology (SOEST) completed the first of two phases of a field sampling investigation at Ordnance Reef, a conventional military munitions sea disposal site (HI-06) located off the Waianae Coast of Oahu.  HI-06, which is in relatively shallow waters (from approximately over 300 feet of depth to under 30 feet of depth), where the Armed Forces sea disposed unwanted military munitions after World War II. This field investigation is focused on munitions at depth of 120 feet or shallower.  The first phase is being conducted during Winter Seas, with the second phase scheduled to be conducted during Summer Seas in the August to September timeframe. Read the press release.

Image credit: NOAA

Jim Gaines, Brian Taylor, Kevin Hamilton and (seated) David McClain

April 14: University of Hawai‘i signs new agreement with Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology

The University of Hawai‘i has signed a new five-year Cooperative Agreement with the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC) to support collaborative climate research at the International Pacific Research Center (IPRC) of the UH Mānoa School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST). The agreement continues a relationship that has provided UH with more than $30 million dollars to support its research efforts. Read the press release.

Image credit: IPRC/ SOEST

Hawaii Sea Grant Logo

April 15: Dimmer lights for a brighter tomorrow

University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa students, administration, faculty and staff are joining together in an unprecedented collaboration to “green” the UH Mānoa campus while also addressing severe budget cuts.

As part of a campus-wide effort to improve energy efficiency, the UH Sea Grant College Program, at the request of the University administration and in partnership with the Facilities Management Office, Office of Sustainability, and individual campus programs and departments, is leading an initiative to “delamp” all buildings on the UH Mānoa campus. Read the press release.

Image credit: Hawaii Sea Grant/ SOEST

A CTD (Conductivity, Temperature, Depth) rosette is deployed. Photo by Lance A. Fujieki

March 7: A New View of Oceanic Phytoplankton

Phytoplankton comprise the forests of the sea, and are responsible for providing nearly half of the oxygen that sustains life on Earth including our own.  However, unlike their counterparts on land, the marine plants are nearly exclusively microscopic in size, and mostly out of human sight.  Consequently, we are still in a very early stage of understanding even the most basic aspects of phytoplankton biology and ecology.

In a new paper published in Nature, an international team of scientists, including two University of Hawaii at Manoa (UHM) microbial oceanographers, describe a novel strategy for phytoplankton growth in the vast nutrient-poor habitats of tropical and subtropical seas.  The research team was led by Benjamin Van Mooy of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on Cape Cod, MA, with key contributions by UHM scientists Michael Rappé and David Karl of the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST) and UH’s new Center for Microbial Oceanography (C-MORE). Read the press release.

Image credit: Photo by Lance A. Fujieki / SOEST

IPRC logo

March 6: UH Mānoa Climate Research Center Hosts International Meeting

The International Pacific Research Center at the University of Hawaii Manoa hosted the international meeting on climate change entitled “The Joint IPCC-WCRP-IGBP Workshop: New Science Directions and Activities Relevant to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.” The meeting was held at the East-West Center from March 3-6, 2009. The official Media Statement from the three organizations is attached in the PDF.

The International Pacific Research Center (IPRC) of the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST) at the University of Hawai`i Mānoa conducts research to gain greater understanding of the climate system and of the nature and causes of climate variations in the Asia-Pacific region, and to determine how global climate changes may affect the region. Established under the “U.S.-Japan Common Agenda for Cooperation in Global Perspective” in October 1997, the IPRC is a collaborative effort between the University of Hawaii and agencies in Japan and the United States. Read the press release.

Image credit: IPRC / SOEST

Pisces V

March 2: UH Mānoa will deploy state-of-the-art technologies to investigate military munitions and chemical warfare material, disposed of off Pearl Harbor

A full array of state-of-the-art technologies, owned and operated by SOEST, will be used over the next two and a half weeks to investigate the location and condition of military munitions, which may include chemical munitions and containers of bulk chemical agent (referred to as chemical warfare material), disposed of at a deep water site (Site HI-05) south of Pearl Harbor in 1944.  (Chemical warfare material is known to have been sea disposed in Hawaiian waters between 1933 and 1946.)  The Department of Defense (DoD) disposed excess, obsolete or unserviceable munitions, including chemical warfare material, in coastal waters off the United States prior to 1970, at which time it discontinued this practice. Read the press release.

Image credit: SOEST

Porites lobata (yellow) and P.compressa (bluish-purple) from Maui. These corals have a very distinct appearance, yet they are difficult to distinguish genetically. They may be recent or hybrid species, or colony morphology could be a polymorphic trait. Photo by Zac Forsman.

February 24: Shape-shifting coral evade identification

The evolutionary tendency of corals to alter their skeletal structure makes it difficult to assign them to different species. Researchers writing in the open access journal BMC Evolutionary Biology have used genetic markers to examine coral groupings and investigate how these markers relate to alterations in shape, in the process discovering that our inaccurate picture of coral species is compromising our ability to conserve coral reefs.

Zac Forsman led a team of researchers from University of Hawaii at Manoa's Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology who carried out the molecular studies. He said, “Our study represents important progress towards understanding the evolution and biodiversity of corals, and provides a foundation for future work. As coral ecosystems are increasingly threatened, we need to understand how many groups exist that can interbreed rather than judging potential for extinction by just looking at groups according to their shape alone”. Read the press release.

Image credit: Zac Forsman/SOEST

Hawaii Sea Grant Logo

January 29: Reef Watch Waikīkī Launched: Kama‘aina and visitors unite to protect Waikīkī’s unique natural resources

The University of Hawai‘i Sea Grant College Program (UH Sea Grant) has received a $44,997 grant from the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority’s Natural Resource Program to launch Reef Watch Waikīkī, a community-based education and coastal monitoring program.  The program will train community volunteers to share their knowledge of Waikīkī's natural history with visitors and residents they interact with and gather valuable data regarding the use and condition of nearshore resources.

Leading the project is Jennifer Barrett, UH Sea Grant’s Waikīkī Coastal Coordinator.

“The short-term goal is to promote and support community stewardship of Māmala Bay,” explained Barrett. “Reef Watch Waikīkī will provide a means for the community to play a role in ensuring proper management of marine resources in Waikīkī.” Read the press release.

Image credit: University of Hawaii Sea Grant

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