Category Archives: InFORMing Research

The wasting of the stars: A look into the largest ocean epidemic in recorded history

By Peter Arcuni
July 18, 2017
Originally published in Peninsula Press
Audio report

In June 2013, Steve Fradkin hiked the rugged coast of Washington State’s Olympic National Park to count the stars. In the summertime, the lowest tides expose the slippery rocks of the intertidal zone from daybreak until noon. Perfect conditions for spotting Pisaster ochraceus, the five-armed purple, orange and red sea stars common to Pacific waters along the western edge of the United States. Continue reading The wasting of the stars: A look into the largest ocean epidemic in recorded history

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CFCs: Noxious for ozone, but luminescent for ocean currents

Scientists recently reported that the ozone hole over Antarctica is showing signs of healing. This wonderful news comes almost 20 years after the Montreal Protocol banned the production and use of clorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in 1987. The decline means that CFCs are finally dropping in concentration in the atmosphere and are either breaking down high in the stratosphere or going into the ocean. Biologically inert, the CFCs in the ocean don’t harm any marine life, but they have proven very useful for oceanographers trying to understand circulation in the deep ocean.  Continue reading CFCs: Noxious for ozone, but luminescent for ocean currents

The Boy who Lingers: El Nino and the Salish Sea

We all know that boy who just keeps pestering and won’t quite go away, right? Well the winter of 2015-2016 saw one of the largest El Niños on record hit the Equatorial Pacific….and it just won’t go away. While the weatherpersons on the news were quick to make connections between atmospheric patterns and El Niño, I didn’t see any mentions about the effects it would have on our coastal waters. After all, El Niño is an oceanic phenomenon so it would make sense that there would be a local marine effect, right? It turns out that while El Niño is on its way out and predictions of La Niña are on the rise in equatorial waters, the Salish Sea is just starting to feel the effects of the monster that was.   Continue reading The Boy who Lingers: El Nino and the Salish Sea

Pacific Extreme Pattern

The development of the Pacific Extreme Pattern from 50 days (a) to 0 days (h) in 10 day increments. Contours indicate the height of 300 mb, an indicator of a warm air mass (ie. more contours closer together = hotter). (McKinnon et al. 2016)
The development of the Pacific Extreme Pattern from 50 days (a) to 0 days (h) in 10 day increments. Contours indicate the height of 300 mb, an indicator of a warm air mass (ie. more contours closer together = hotter). (McKinnon et al. 2016)

Would you still book that summer vacation if you knew there was going to be an extreme heat wave during your trip? This is a question you may soon ask yourself with last months revelation of a new Pacific Extreme Pattern that has the capability to accurately forecast a heatwave (>6.5 degC, 11.7 degF) up to 50 days in advance. Continue reading Pacific Extreme Pattern

Episodic Tremor and Slip

2016 ETS
Progression of the latest tremor episode in British Columbia and Washington. Over 10,000 tremors were detected between December 22, 2015 and January 16, 2016. Source: PNSN.

On the evening of December 29th, most of southern BC and northwest Washington felt the jolt of the M4.8 earthquake that was located 19 km NNE of Victoria. While minimal damage was reported, it served as a reminder to many that this is a seismically active region.

However, no one felt the 10,000 small earthquakes, or tremors, that began on December 22nd and continued through January 16th. Yet, combined, these small movements released enough energy to be equivalent to a M6.5 earthquake, or about 350 times the release experienced on December 29th.

Continue reading Episodic Tremor and Slip