In a new study published in Environmental Health Perspectives, a team of scientists including researchers from NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (AOML) explore the future risk of waterborne disease in a warming climate. Recently, the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) developed an interactive online tool that can be used to monitor coastal marine areas with environmental conditions favorable to Vibrio growth, aquatic bacteria that can cause human illness. The Vibrio Map Viewer is a real-time global model that uses daily updated remote sensing data to determine marine areas vulnerable to higher levels of Vibrio.
AOML is currently in the midst of a multi-year effort called the Intensity Forecasting Experiment (IFEX). IFEX aims to improve the understanding and prediction of intensity change by collecting observations from all stages of a tropical cyclone life cycle—genesis to decay—to enhance current observational models. By building on years of observational expertise and cutting-edge approaches to data integration and model development, hurricane scientists at AOML lead advancements in observations and modeling that have improved intensity forecasts by 20% in recent years.
On July 18, NOAA AOML and partner scientists will depart on the Gulf of Mexico Ecosystems and Carbon Cycle (GOMECC-3) research cruise in support of NOAA’s Ocean Acidification Monitoring Program. This isn’t the first time researchers will head to sea in this region. Previous cruises have taken place along the east and Gulf of Mexico (GOM) coasts of the US in both 2007 and 2012. Together, these cruises provide coastal ocean measurements of unprecedented quality that are used both to improve our understanding of where ocean acidification (OA) is happening and how ocean chemistry patterns are changing over time. This will be the most comprehensive OA cruise to date in this region, set to include sampling in the international waters of Mexico for the first time. Ocean acidification is a global issue with global impacts, and international collaboration like this is vital to understanding and adapting to our changing oceans.
Coral researchers at AOML unveiled a new state of the art experimental laboratory this spring at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel campus. The new “Experimental Reef Laboratory” will allow NOAA scientists and colleagues to study the molecular mechanisms of coral resiliency. Modeling studies indicate that thermal stress and ocean acidification will worsen in the coming decades. Scientists designed the Experimental Reef Laboratory to study the combined effect of these two threats, and determine if some corals are able to persist in a changing environment.
Coral scientists recently traveled to the Galapagos Islands to document coral reef health following the 2016-17 El Niño Southern Oscillation event (ENSO), which bathed the region in abnormally warm waters. Historically, these events have triggered coral bleaching and large-scale mortality, as seen in response to ENSO events of 1982-83 and 1997-98. Interestingly, these same reefs exhibited minimal bleaching in response to this most recent event. Scientists are determining whether this response is due to differing levels of heat stress, or an increased tolerance to warm water in the remnant coral communities.
Warm ocean water can be a killer for coral reefs, and AOML recently developed a new inexpensive sensor to drastically improve our ability to measure and monitor changing temperatures on reefs at an unprecedented scale. The low cost sea temperature sensor, known as InSituSea, costs roughly $10 in parts to produce while providing high accuracy (0.05-0.1 C) in measurement. With a production cost that is 10% of an off-the-shelf temperature sensor, colleagues have expressed strong interest in deploying the InSituSea sea temperature sensor at coral reefs around the world.
Tidal flooding from events such as the so-called “King Tides” and “Super Tides” are flooding urban coastal communities with increasing frequency as sea levels rise. These tidal flood waters can acquire a wide range of contaminants and toxins as a result of soaking in the built environment of urbanized coastlines. A multi- institutional, interdisciplinary research team, including scientists from AOML, is examining the types of contamination picked up from the urbanized coastal landscape and transported into coastal waters through tidal flooding.
Coral Health and Monitoring Program (CHAMP) researchers at AOML have worked cooperatively with the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC), headquartered in Belize, over the past several years to install Coral Reef Early Warning System (CREWS) stations at key coral reef sites in countries throughout the Caribbean. CREWS stations monitor an array of atmospheric and oceanographic parameters to assess the health and integrity of coral reefs. The stations are part of the CCCCC’s efforts to strengthen the Caribbean region’s ability to respond to climate variability, extreme weather conditions, pollution, and habitat change.
The study, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, measured changes in the reef framework in several naturally high-carbon dioxide settings near Papua New Guinea. For the first time, scientists found increased activity of worms and other organisms that bore into the reef structure, resulting in a net loss of the framework that is the foundation of coral reef ecosystems.
On Thursday July 21st, PHOD began its fifth underwater glider mission in the Caribbean Sea. Two underwater gliders, SG609 and SG630, were successfully deployed off of Puerto Rico. The deployment was carried out by AOML researchers on board the R/V La Sultana with the help of personnel from the University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez (UPRM). The refurbished gliders have sensors that measure temperature, salinity, oxygen, Chlorophyll-a, and turbidity. This deployment is the beginning of the 2016 Atlantic Hurricane Season deployment, with two more gliders scheduled for deployment in the tropical North Atlantic in August.