Our regular Science and the SeaTM radio program presents marine science topics in an engaging two-minute story format. Our script writers gather ideas for the radio program from the University of Texas Marine Science Institute's researchers and from our very popular college class, Introduction to Oceanography, which we teach to hundreds of non-science majors at The University of Texas at Austin every year. Our radio programs are distributed at to commercial and public radio stations across the country.
One Hurricane Katrina or Hurricane Harvey is a disaster. But having two such hurricanes hit the same area within a few weeks of each other is catastrophic. Coastal infrastructure is demolished, hundreds of thousands are left homeless, and it takes years for the region to recover.
Until recently, the odds of back-to-back storms have been small. But a recent study says that our changing climate appears to be boosting those chances. Some regions of the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the U.S. could see double hits as often as every three years.
For decades, whales in the Pacific Northwest were declining. Year after year, the populations kept getting smaller. In recent years, though, many of the whales have been coming back. Thanks to conservation efforts and legal protections, the numbers recorded by whale-watching organizations have been going up. In 2022, they even set some records.
Groups monitor populations in the Salish Sea—a narrow band that hugs the coast from central Washington to southern British Columbia. They add up eyewitness reports from commercial whale watchers and others.
The two largest ice sheets on Earth sit atop Antarctica and Greenland. But they’re both getting smaller in a hurry. They’re contributing to the rise in global sea level—about an inch over the past few decades. The rate at which the sheets vanish isn’t the same, though—Greenland’s is disappearing much faster.
The ice sheets can be hundreds of feet thick. But as the climate has warmed up, they’ve been shrinking. According to one study, from 1992 to 2020 they lost a combined eight trillion tons of ice, with Greenland contributing more than half of the total.
Young sharks of several threatened species are living together in a “nursery” off the western tip of Africa. It’s one of the busiest nurseries in the Atlantic Ocean.
From 2016 to 2019, researchers counted the sharks found in fishing nets around Cabo Verde, a group of small volcanic islands about 350 miles west of Africa. They also interviewed most of the fishermen in the region to see where young sharks were most common. And one spot was by far the most popular: Sal Rei Bay, on the coast of Boa Vista Island.
Oil and gas bubble up through the ocean floor all the time. They form oil slicks, create tar balls that wash up on shore, and make pillows of methane ice. And in some rare instances, they form asphalt volcanoes—tall, black mounds with smooth sides.
The first were discovered in 2003, about two miles deep in the Gulf of Mexico. Others have been found in the Gulf since then, along with a few off the coasts of California and western Africa. Some of those in the Gulf of Mexico have split apart, creating shapes that look like the fronds of a palm lily, so they’re called tar lilies.
Good news for one species isn’t necessarily good news for all. Consider the wildlife on Pleasant Island, off the coast of southeastern Alaska. Sea otters returned to the island a couple of decades ago. Gray wolves came along a decade later. The wolves ate most of the island’s deer, then started hunting the otters. That’s good for the wolves, but bad news for everyone else.
Millions of residents chased out of their homes. Trillions of dollars in extra damages. A tenth of coastal crops destroyed. That’s what some developing countries could face from coastal flooding by the year 2100, according to a recent study. Several regions could be especially hard hit, facing costs of more than five percent of their total economies.
Here’s a pop quiz for you: How many tentacles does an octopus have? If you said “eight,” sorry, but you fail. An octopus does have eight limbs. But technically, they’re known as arms, not tentacles.
An octopus is a cephalopod—a group that includes squid, cuttlefish, and nautilus. Each of them has a whole bunch of limbs—from eight for the octopus, to more than 90 for the nautilus. The animals use those limbs to look for and catch prey, to move along the sea floor, and even to build houses.
When scientists began pulling anglerfish from the deep ocean, they noticed something odd—all of the specimens were female, and many of them had small parasites attached to their bodies. And when they studied the fish in detail, the story got even odder—the “parasites” were actually the missing males.
When neighborhoods start to go downhill, people move away. And today, that’s happening in marine neighborhoods. As the oceans get warmer—a result of our changing climate—fish and other critters are moving out of their neighborhoods and into cooler waters. That includes the tiniest organisms, known as plankton. And a recent study says the trend could accelerate in the decades ahead.