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

Study Pinpoints Threats to Wetlands


Study Pinpoints Threats to Wetlands

Special to UM News

Rosenstiel School researchers use satellite data to quantify wetland loss


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


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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Conference Spotlights ‘Other C02 Problem’


Conference Spotlights ‘Other C02 Problem’

 Ernest Piton, left, makes a point while from left, fellow captains Ray Rosher and, Eric Cartaya, and Bill Talbert. and state Rep. Holly Raschein listen.

From left, Ernest Piton makes a point while fellow captains Ray Rosher and Eric Cartaya, tourism chief Bill Talbert, and state Rep. Holly Raschein listen.

By Maya Bell
UM News

MIAMI, Fla. (June 17, 2016)—Ocean acidification is such an invisible threat to Florida’s coral reefs, fisheries, and tourism economy that three of the four “stakeholder” panelists invited to discuss the topic didn’t know what it was before they accepted. And they included two charter boat fishermen who make their livelihoods on the water and Bill Talbert, who for decades has led the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“I had to go to Google to find out,” Talbert said Friday at the seminar “Ocean Acidification in Florida,” hosted by the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science in conjunction with the Ocean Conservancy.

But raising awareness of the rapidly increasing acidity of ocean waters was the whole point of the conference, a goal that got a considerable boost from the keynote speaker, U.S. Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. One of just 13 Republicans in Congress to acknowledge the importance of curbing carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels, 30 percent of which are absorbed annually by the ocean and dramatically changing its chemistry, Ros-Lehtinen announced she will introduce a bill to reauthorize, expand, and rename the Coral Reef Conservation Act of 2000 to reflect “the importance of finding solutions to the impacts of ocean acidification.”


Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said she and fellow Miami Republican Carlos Curbelo will introduce a bill to help address ocean acidification as early as this week.

“It’s a threat that I don’t think very many folks in our community have even heard of, let alone understand,” Ros-Lehtinen said.

The conference featured two panel discussions: one to engage stakeholders, and the other to explain what’s known about ocean acidification, which Rosenstiel researchers have long been dedicated to advancing.

“As a state whose identity and fortune are inextricably linked to the ocean, we consider ocean acidification research a top priority,” Dean Roni Avissar said. “The University of Miami’s world-class scientific capacity and expertise can help Florida prepare and respond to the impacts of acidification, but more research and funding is needed.”

As Ros-Lehtinen noted, her proposed CORAL Act (Conserving Our Reefs and Livelihoods)—which fellow Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo, another member of the group of 13, will co-sponsor—is all about funding and where to put it. It would broaden the funds available to support research on the impacts of ocean acidification and warming seas, improve real-time monitoring of reef conditions, and expand reef restoration and recovery efforts.

That was welcome news to Chris Langdon, head of the Rosenstiel School’s Coral and Climate Change Laboratory and one of the world’s foremost authorities on ocean acidification, or OA. In May he and his research team published research showing that the limestone foundations of coral reefs in the upper Florida Keys are already dissolving seasonally faster than they are growing.

“We used to think this was a problem for the future, that it wasn’t an immediate threat, that we may have another 50 to 60 years before things got very critical,” Langdon said. “But our recent research shows that some of our reefs in Florida are already in trouble.”

Often called the “other CO2 problem,” the ocean’s increasing absorption of CO2 began with the Industrial Revolution and  is now inhibiting the ability of calcium-carbonate-based organisms, like coral and shellfish, to build their shells and skeletons.

But as Langdon and other panelists said, that problem doesn’t just effect marine life, much of which begins in coral reefs. It threatens Florida’s tourism and commercial fishing industries, which is why charter boat Captains Ray Rosher and Ernest Piton found themselves discussing ocean acidification at Friday’s conference—and asking for simplified science to help educate tourists, fellow fishermen, and others about the invisible threat under sea.

“Our strengths are being the eyes and ears on the water and understanding and sharing what we know,” Rosher said, “but simplifying the process is really an important thing.”

The panel moderator, state Representative Holly Rachein, whose district includes the Florida Keys and South Miami-Dade County, said she  would be bringing the issue of OA to Tallahassee. “I am really excited to start working on this and maybe mimic what they are doing in the state of Washington,” she said.

Rising oceanic acidity already has wreaked havoc in the Pacific northwest, recently costing Washington and Oregon 75 percent of their oyster harvests. Alarmed by the losses, the Ocean Conservancy helped Washington become the first state to launch an OA action plan.

“The science of ocean acidification is evolved enough for us to know that we should be very, very nervous, but what we don’t know is astounding,” said Jeff Watters, the Ocean Conservancy’s director of government relations. “We need academic institutions like the University of Miami to bring light to the dark.”



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Kirtman Tapped to Lead CIMAS


Kirtman Tapped to Lead CIMAS

Special to UM News


Ben Kirtman

MIAMI, Fla. (June 9, 2016)— Ben Kirtman, professor of atmospheric science at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, has been appointed director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies (CIMAS). Based at the Rosenstiel School, CIMAS brings together the research and educational resources of ten partner universities to increase scientific understanding of Earth’s oceans and atmosphere within the context of NOAA’s mission.

Kirtman will replace UM research professor Peter Ortner, who is stepping down.

Kirtman, who has been with the Rosenstiel School for nearly 10 years, is a climate modeler who uses complex Earth system models to investigate the predictability of the climate system on time scales from days to decades and to study the influence of tropical variability on mid-latitude predictability.

He was one of the first to develop an El Niño/La Niña prediction system using sophisticated climate models and currently leads a team of government laboratory researchers, academicians, and operational climate forecasters in developing the North American Multi-Model Ensemble (NMME) prediction system. This new prediction system has been issuing forecasts in real-time since August 2011, and was instrumental in predicting continuing La Niña conditions in the tropical Pacific and the associated impact on climate around the globe. The NMME became an official NOAA operational system on May 10, 2016.

The author of more than 120 peer-reviewed publications, Kirtman is the executive editor of the journal Climate Dynamics and has received funding from the National Science Foundation, NOAA, the Department of Energy, NASA, and the Office of Naval Research. Kirtman is also a coordinating lead author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 5th Assessment Report as well as a member of several national and international scientific panels and working groups.

The cooperative institute’s current research priorities, which include improving hurricane forecasting, facilitating the implementation of ecosystem-based ocean management, predicting climate on increasingly short time scales, and supporting the Global Ocean Observing System, are expected to continue over the next five years.

In May 2015 CIMAS received a renewed award of up to $125 million to fund the consortium’s activities over the next five years. The renewal award, and increase in funding, was based upon an “outstanding” rating CIMAS received during the current award period’s performance review (2010-2015) by a NOAA Science Advisory Board subcommittee.

Under the new cooperative agreement, Florida Institute of Technology has joined the Florida and Caribbean-based university consortium, which includes Florida Atlantic University, Florida International University, Florida State University, Nova Southeastern University, University of Puerto Rico, University of Florida, University of South Florida, and University of the Virgin Islands.

Unique new research facilities now available to NOAA through CIMAS include the Rosenstiel School’s SUrge STructure Atmosphere INteraction (SUSTAIN) facility, which is capable of simulating 3D wind-wave flow and surge produced by category 5 hurricane force winds, and Nova Southeastern University’s Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Ecosystems Research.


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Researcher to Study Effect of Smoke on the Climate


Researcher to Study Effect of Smoke on the Climate


Located midway between Africa and Brazil, Ascension Island, which supports British and American air forces, communications, space agencies, and global positioning systems, will be the base of operation for the smoke experiments.

Special to UM News

MIAMI, Fla. (May 26, 2016)—A scientist at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science is leading an upcoming international research campaign to study a significant contributor to regional climate warming—smoke.

The first-of-its-kind research experiment begins on June 1, from Ascension Island in the southeastern Atlantic Ocean. Called LASIC (Layered Atlantic Smoke Interactions with Clouds), the experiment is part of a broader international scientific collaboration led by the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) Climate Research Facility and detailed in the July Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.

Southern Africa is the world’s largest emitter of smoke particles in the atmosphere, known as biomass-burning aerosols, from the burning of grasslands and other biomass. The project will help researchers better understand the effects of widespread biomass burning on Earth’s climate.

The study will investigate how smoke particles flowing far offshore from the African continent affect the remote and cloudy southeast Atlantic climate. Smoke, which absorbs sunlight, is a warming agent in the climate system when located above a bright surface, such as clouds. The smoke overlying the southeast Atlantic provides one of the largest aerosol-based warming of climate on the planet, since the region is also home to one of the largest low-cloud decks on the planet.

“Ascension Island is an ideal location since it is very remote and allows us to sample the smoke after it is well-aged, about which less is known,” said Paquita Zuidema, professor of atmospheric sciences at the Rosenstiel School and principal investigator of the research experiment. “The long deployment time will allow us to characterize the marine low clouds both with and without the presence of smoke. This is ultimately valuable for understanding the Earth’s energy balance.”

By evaluating how the low clouds respond to the presence of sunlight-absorbing aerosols, scientists can better understand low cloud behavior, which is currently an uncertainty in model predictions of future climate, since no fundamental theory on low cloud processes is yet in place.

Low clouds dominate the atmosphere over the southeast Atlantic Ocean all year. Bright white cloud appears darker when viewed from above when smoke is present. The southeast Atlantic overall is brighter, not darker when smoke is present, suggesting that the clouds become thicker and more extensive when smoke is present.

Zuidema received a $365,050 seed grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to plan the study and a $440,225 grant from NASA, which further supports related aircraft investigations as part of the NASA Earth Venture Suborbital-2 ORACLES project.

NASA will complement the DOE surface-based measurements with airborne experiments during a month of each year from 2016-2018. This will allow researchers to take airborne samples of smoke particles as they age, information that will improve satellite retrievals of this mixed smoke-cloud regime. The United Kingdom will also participate with its research aircraft, and French, Namibian, and South African scientists will collect and interpret aircraft and ground-based measurements closer to the Namibian coast.

The Rosenstiel School-led research team will study how smoke is transported through the atmosphere and across the Atlantic, how the aerosols change when transported, and the response of the low-lying clouds to the smoke. The information from the experiments will ultimately be used to improve global aerosol models and climate change forecasts.

To read more about the University of Miami’s climate change research and field work, view the Climate Change Special Report.

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