Thursday, February 6, 2014

The ocean's hidden waves show their power

Surprisingly, internal waves can sometimes be seen clearly in satellite imagery (like in the above image of the Luzon Strait). This is because the internal waves create alternating rough and smooth regions of the ocean that align with the crest of the internal wave. Sunlight reflects the smooth sections, appearing as white arcs, while the rough sections stay dark. MODIS data courtesy of NASA/Image processed at Global Ocean Associates.

David L. Chandler, MIT News Office

““It’s an important missing piece of the puzzle in climate modeling,” Thomas Peacock [an associate professor of mechanical engineering at MIT] says. “Right now, global climate models are not able to capture these processes,” he says, but it is clearly important to do so: “You get a different answer … if you don’t account for these waves.” To help incorporate the new findings into these models, the researchers will meet in January with a climate-modeling team as part of an effort sponsored by the National Science Foundation to improve climate modeling.

“Beyond their effects on climate, internal waves can play a significant role in sustaining coral-reef ecosystems, which are considered vulnerable to climate change and to other environmental effects: Internal waves can bring nutrients up from ocean depths, Peacock says.”

1 comment:

  1. Hi Marnie,
    What an amazing photograph! The simulated film from the link is also fascinating. I never new about the internal waves of the sea. The images stir up in me an analogy for the contemplative traditions of South Asia--Buddhism, Yoga, Jainism. The mind is often compared to an ocean with the everyday thoughts and ambitions and desires to surface turbulence. Meditation draws you under the surface into the calm depths. I've always had a slight problem with this metaphor since meditation seems to draw on the active internal rhythms of our body: heartbeat, breathing, etc...Now, with this extended metaphor of the ocean possessing deep internal waveforms, the analogy makes more sense and is more compelling: surface thoughts are turbulent, disordered while feeling deeply calm is wave-like, rhythmic and orderly. Both involve motion rather than stasis; they just bear different qualities of movement.


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