Tag Archive | "rosenstiel school of marine and atmospheric science"

Hurricane Researchers Honored for Best Paper

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Hurricane Researchers Honored for Best Paper


Dave Nolan

David Nolan

Special to UM News

MIAMI—The Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science research team led by Professor David Nolan has been awarded the American Meteorological Society’s (AMS) prestigious Banner Miller Award, which recognizes outstanding contributions to the science of hurricane and tropical weather forecasting published in an international journal during the previous four years.

Nolan, whose research focuses on the dynamics of hurricanes and the improvement of hurricane forecasts, and his team received the biannual award during the AMS Hurricanes and Tropical Meteorology meeting, held recently in San Juan, Puerto Rico, for an article, “Development and validation of a hurricane nature run using the Joint OSSE nature run and the WRF model,” which appeared in the Journal of Advances in Modeling Earth Systems in 2013.

The article describes the development of an extremely realistic computer simulation of an Atlantic hurricane and its validation by comparisons to observations in real hurricanes. This “nature run” computer simulation is currently used by more than a dozen research groups in various Observing System Simulation Experiments (OSSE). OSSEs are used to determine the effectiveness of new instruments, such as new satellites or unmanned aircraft, in improving hurricane forecasts before they are actually deployed, which potentially saves millions of dollars.

“Part of the success of this project is that we made the nature run freely available for anyone to download,” said Nolan, professor and chair of the Department of Atmospheric Sciences. “In addition to OSSEs, it has been used by several groups for basic research on hurricanes.”

Nolan’s coauthors include Rosenstiel School graduate students Kieran Bhatia and Lisa Bucci and Robert Atlas, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Atmospheric and Oceanic Marine Laboratory in Miami. The NOAA Office of Weather and Air Quality and its Hurricane Forecast Improvement Program supported their work. Bhatia is now a postdoctoral fellow at NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in Princeton, New Jersey.

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Study Shows After-Effects of Oil Spill

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Study Shows After-Effects of Oil Spill


Study on mahi-mahi embryos and larvae shows toxic oil affects developing heart, eye, and neurological function

Special to UM News

mahi.mahi

This info graphic from the University of California, Riverside shows hexagonal shaped Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) in crude oil impairs development of the heart, eye, and neurological function in the early life stages of mahi-mahi.

MIAMI (July 12, 2016)—A research team led by scientists at the University of California, Riverside, and the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science has found that ultraviolet light is changing the structure of the oil components from the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill into something more toxic, further threatening numerous commercially and ecologically important fishes. The 2010 DWH explosion, which spilled more than 3 million barrels of crude oil into the northern Gulf of Mexico, is the worst oil disaster in U.S. history, contaminating the spawning habitats for many fishes.

“Ours is the first experiment evaluating the effects of DWH oil on the genetic responses of mahi-mahi embryos and larvae,” said Daniel Schlenk, a professor of aquatic ecotoxicology at UC Riverside, who led the study published in Environmental Science and Technology. “It is also the first experiment of this nature on a lifestage and species that was likely exposed to the oil. We found that the weathering of oil had more significant changes in gene expression related to critical functions in the embryos and larvae than the un-weathered oil. Our results predict that there are multiple targets of oil for toxicity to this species at the embryonic life stage.”

For their study, the researchers exposed the fish embryos to the oils at three different time points: 24 hours post fertilization, 48 hours post fertilization, and 96 hours post fertilization. (Hatching to larvae in mahi-mahi occurs at 48 hours post fertilization; the researchers bracketed this time point at 24 hours post fertilization and 96 hours post fertilization.) Then, the researchers collected transcripts of all the genetic information at each time point and evaluated these transcripts using novel bioinformatic methods. Finally, they evaluated the toxicity and heart functions in animals using the embryos’ gene expression to predict biochemical, cellular, and tissue targets where the oil was causing an effect.

For their experiments, Schlenk and Rosenstiel School scientists caught the mahi-mahi off the coast of Miami, and exposed embryos to two types of oil: one set was exposed to slick oil (weathered) from the spill, while another set was exposed to oil that came from the source of the spill. The researchers carried out the experiment this way because fish in the northern Gulf of Mexico had been exposed during the spill to both types of oil. The study attempted to understand which of the two oils—slick oil or source oil—is worse for the fish and how oil affects development.

“This study exemplifies a fruitful collaboration between UC Riverside and the UM Rosenstiel School to identify molecular targets for oil toxicity,” said Rosenstiel School Professor Martin Grosell, lead of the RECOVER (the Relationship of Effects of Cardiac Outcomes in Fish for Validation of Ecological Risk) consortium and co-author of the study. “In addition to impacts on heart development and function, the gene expression results illustrate the peripheral components of the nervous system involved in sensory function are impaired by oil exposure during early development.”

Sensory function is important for prey detection and predator avoidance.

“We found that the heart, eye, and neurological function were affected,” Schlenk said. “In collaboration with other consortia members from the Universities of Miami, Texas, and North Texas, we are now following up on these results. Previous studies have shown that the heart is the primary target for oil. Our study shows that in addition to heart function, risk and recovery should also examine eye and neuronal function.”

The approximately four-month study was expedited by a unique software, On-RAMP, that the researchers used to identify the gene signatures from the fish.

“Normally, it can take months to annotate the genes and identify the regulatory directions of expression,” Schlenk explained. “But by using On-RAMP, we could identify the genomic responses in a matter of weeks, allowing pathway analyses with sophisticated software normally only used for human/mice responses.”

The research was funded by the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative, Grant No: SA-1520, as well as the Relationship of Effects of Cardiac Outcomes in Fish for Validation of Ecological Risk (RECOVER) consortium.

In addition to Schlenk and Grosell, other co-authors of the study include Elvis Genbo Xu, Graciel Diamante, and Juliane Freitas, from UC Riverside; Edward M. Mager, Christina Pasparakis, Lela S. Schlenker, John D. Stieglitz, and Daniel Benetti from the UM Rosenstiel School; and E. Starr Hazard, Sean M. Courtney, and Gary Hardiman at the Medical University of South Carolina.

Next, the research team will follow up with whole animal physiological and behavioral effects to see if the newly identified molecular responses can be linked to function.

Watch a video of the fish larvae at 48 hours.

 

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Study Follows  African Dust Across the Atlantic

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Study Follows African Dust Across the Atlantic


Special to UM News

The dust cloud is visible in this composite image from the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (NPP) satellite Visible Infrared Radiometer Suite (VIIRS)

Dust is visible in this composite image from the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership satellite’s Visible Infrared Radiometer Suite.

MIAMI, Fla. (July 7, 2016) — Summer isn’t just hurricane season in Florida, it’s also dust season. And the two have a few things in common.

Scientists at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science are taking advantage of this year’s dust season to study the aging of these aerosol particles that travel across the Atlantic Ocean from Africa to Florida. The study, which began July 1 and runs through August, will help improve weather and climate forecasts, including our understanding of the early development of tropical storms.

Rosenstiel School Professor Emeritus Joseph Prospero is coordinating his studies with those of colleagues at the Izaña Observatory, atop an 8,000-foot mountain on Tenerife in the Canary Islands, 300 kilometers from the coast of West Africa. The Izaña team is studying dust as it emerges from Africa, and the Miami scientists will make an identical set of measurements on the island of Barbados in the Caribbean and in Miami as the same dusty air mass passes over these sites about a week later.

“By making coordinated measurements at Izaña Observatory in the eastern Atlantic and again at Barbados and Miami in the western Atlantic, we can develop a detailed picture of the properties of African dust and its impact on the atmospheric and ocean environment in this huge region,” said Prospero, who is known as the “grandfather of dust” for his pioneering research on African dust that began in 1965.

The researchers are looking for changes in the size and chemical composition of the dust as it travels across the Atlantic Ocean. These data will be incorporated in weather and climate models to see how well the models can simulate the processes of dust generation and transport and its effect on the environment.

African dust is carried in the Saharan air layer (SAL), a layer of hot, dry air that extends from about 3,280 feet (1,000 meters) to 3.7 miles (6 kilometers) in altitude and originates in the Saharan Desert. This dust is a major nutrient source in the tropical Atlantic Ocean, and plays an important role in the biological productivity of Atlantic and Caribbean ocean waters.

Of particular interest to the researchers is the role of African dust plumes on the formation and properties of tropical storms. The SAL moves west over the Atlantic in association with easterly waves, an area of relatively low air pressure associated with the development of tropical disturbances, some of which evolve into tropical storms. Scientists have estimated that nearly 85 percent of major hurricanes originate from easterly waves and that the SAL can suppress the development of hurricanes in the Atlantic.

The study is focusing on the changes in the SAL and the associated dust as it crosses the Atlantic since these changes can affect the impact that the dust has on meteorological processes.

“By developing a better understanding of the variability of dust storms and the properties of the transported dust, we can develop better hurricane and climate models,” said Prospero. “It will help us to anticipate how dust transport will change as our climate changes, which may have a huge impact on the climate in North Africa.”

Saharan dust also affects the quality of the air we breathe since the air contains high concentrations of particulate matter. For this reason, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the World Health Organization (WHO) have set limits on the concentration of suspended particles in the air. During the summer months, African dust is the dominant particulate species in the atmosphere over the Caribbean Basin and Florida and often exceeds WHO concentration guidelines during the summer.

“In our study we eventually hope to be able to predict the occurrence of major dust outbreaks over the Caribbean Basin and the southern U.S. This would enable us to issue health alerts to susceptible populations, such as those with impaired respiratory systems, the elderly, and infants,” said Prospero.

The ongoing study is supported by grants from the National Science Foundation and NASA. UM Rosentiel School scientists Paquita Zuidema and Cassandra Gaston are also involved.

 

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Study Pinpoints Threats to Wetlands

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Study Pinpoints Threats to Wetlands


Special to UM News

Rosenstiel School researchers use satellite data to quantify wetland loss

LouisianaWetlands

Using a remote sensing technique called Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar, the researchers analyzed water-level changes in Louisiana’s coastal wetlands that occurred due to tidal inundation.

MIAMI, Fla. (June 27,2016)—As Louisiana’s wetlands continue to disappear at an alarming rate, a new study has pinpointed the man-made structures that disrupt the natural water flow and threaten these important ecosystems. The findings have important implications for New Orleans and other coastal cities that rely on coastal wetlands to serve as buffer from destructive extreme weather events.

Scientists at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science found that man-made canals limit the natural tidal inundation process in roughly 45 percent of the state’s coastline, with disruptions from levees accounting for 15 percent.

“This study demonstrates that human infrastructure development along coastal areas have long-term consequences on the ability of coastal wetlands to adapt to sea-level rise and other processes that reduce the size of coastal wetlands,” said Talib Oliver-Cabrera, the study’s first author and a Rosenstiel School Ph.D. student.

Coastal wetlands in Louisiana are economically and esthetically important for providing storm protection, flood control, and essential habitats for a myriad of wildlife. They support economically important commercial and recreational fishing industries, tourism, and oil and gas industries.

Man-made structures such as levees and canals have changed the regular patterns of tidal inundation in coastal wetlands and have become a main element in determining coastal wetland distribution.

Using a remote sensing technique called Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR), the researchers analyzed water-level changes in Louisiana’s coastal wetlands that occurred due to tidal inundation. Based on the detected changes observed, they were able to determine the extent of tidal inundations along the Louisiana coast.

“Our analysis showed that tidal inundation along Louisiana’s coastline is restricted to narrow areas due to the presence of man-made canals and levees that disrupt the regular tidal flow through the coastal wetlands,” said study co-author Shimon Wdowinski, a research professor of marine geosciences at the Rosenstiel School.

“To protect these valuable resources, it is important to study them and quantify what is causing wetland loss in coastal Louisiana,” Wdowinski said.

The study, titled “InSAR-based mapping of tidal inundation extent and amplitude in Louisiana Coastal Wetlands,” was published in the May 7 special issue of the journal Remote Sensing. The National Science Foundation funded the study. Oliver-Cabrera’s work was also supported by a Fulbright scholarship and a grant from The National Council for Science and Technology, Mexico (CONACyT).

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Shark Week Highlights UM Research

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Shark Week Highlights UM Research


MIAMI, Fla. (June 20, 2016)—Discovery Channel’s Shark Week continues Tuesday, June 28, with  “Air Jaws: Night Stalker,” an epic adventure featuring UM shark biologist Neil Hammerschlag, shark photographer Chris Fallows, and shark expert Jeff Kurr. Using a variety of  new technologies, including imaging sonar and special low-light cameras, they investigate how great whites actively hunt seals in the dark of night.

“I am proud to be involved in a show that focuses on the science and conservation of these magnificent predators,” said Hammerschlag, a research assistant professor at the Rosenstiel School of marine and Atmospheric Science and the Abess Center for Ecosystem Science and Policy. “Many shark populations throughout the world are in decline primarily from overfishing. Understanding the behaviors of these animals is needed to implement effective protection.”

Shark Week, which premiered in 1988, is the longest-running cable TV programming event in history. This year’s shark extravaganza  kicked off Sunday, June 26,  with “Tiger Beach,” a show about Hammerschlag’s research at a site in the Bahamas known for its year-round abundance of tiger sharks. With help from research collaborator James Sulikowski from the University of New England, Hammerschlag set out to answer what he calls the trifecta of tiger shark science: where do these giant sharks mate, where do the pregnant females gestate, and where do they give birth? He hopes to find answers by tagging and tracking 40 individuals across Tiger Beach.

In the show, Hammerschlag and Sulikowski used the same ultrasound imaging technology used by medical professionals on humans in order to determine the reproductive status of female tiger sharks at Tiger Beach. Determining the reproductive strategies and mating behaviors of animals is important for the conservation and management of the species.

“We are extremely proud of Neil’s marine conservation program and his work with sharks,” said Rosenstiel Dean Roni Avissar. “Marine conservation science is essential to expanding our knowledge about threatened animals like sharks and providing policy makers and resource managers with sound science for marine conservation policy.”

 

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