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Underwater Storms
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Dave Thurlow, Host
 
The ocean has its own weather system, with winds and underwater storms that we never hear about or even see. Hi, I'm Dave Thurlow from Mount Washington Observatory and this is the Weather Notebook. Oceanographer Dave Gallo from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute describes how much more there is going on in the ocean than we think.

Global Seafloor topography measured & estimated from gravity data derived from satellite altimetry and shipboard depth soundings September 26, 1996. W.H.F.Smith and D.T. Sandwell

DG: In the oceans - 70 % of the planet, 95% of the biosphere, there are the highest mountains, the deepest valleys, the largest waterfall. There are more animals in the sea than on earth. 99% of the heat on the planet that comes from the sun is stored in the top few tens of feet of the ocean. It has everything the atmosphere has and more, it has everything that the land has and more and yet it's hardly explored, we've really seen less than 1% of what's out there.

Something oceanographers didn't expect were underwater storms. During a recent research mission to the deepest and darkest part of the ocean where things were thought to be quite stable - patterns from sediment samples showed disruptions as if a storm had ripped through.

DG: There's a large mass of either sediments and/or water moving usually with gravity downhill or moving with currents across the sea floor. They can be fairly vicious.

An underwater storm can also cause damage on land, although indirectly. Back in the early 1900's a storm ripped across the sea floor and snapped northeastern transatlantic cables. The ocean has weather very similar to the atmosphere with high and low-pressure systems, clear days, and cloudy days:

DG: The same kinds of things we see on the weather channel we see in the ocean and yet these things operate apart from the atmosphere.

Just like predicting the weather on land, underwater predicting is difficult as well. It's still an unfamiliar world. The Weather Notebook is supported by Subaru and The National Science Foundation.

 
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