Category Archives: Photographs

This is What Sea Level Rise Looks Like

Long Wharf king tide

Boston’s Long Wharf is flooding.

This flooding is part of a “king tide” – a tide higher than all others.  When the sun, moon, and Earth are in alignment, and close to each other, the tides will have especially high amplitudes – that is, the highest high tides and the lowest low tides.  If you want a general introduction to how tides work, check out this Crash Course Astronomy video.

So, with this week’s supermoon, the tides are especially strong – some of the strongest of the year.  During high tide, salt water is sneaking through storm drains and spilling over seawalls all along our coasts.

This kind of flooding is often called “nuisance flooding” or “clear-day flooding” because it isn’t associated with storm surges or winds.  But let’s be clear: this “nuisance flooding” is exactly how sea level rise works.

What’s more, these floods will become more common as sea level rises.

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Massachusetts Oceanography and the Impacts of Drought

In the deserts of Arizona, I always talked about oceans the same way that we might talk about unicorns: It’d be nice to see one, but good luck with that.

Going to grad school in New England means I finally have an ocean within walking distance of my office.  So, between SCUBA and oceanography courses, I’m taking every chance to learn more about the Atlantic.

Boston University has partnered with the Stellwagen Bank Marine Sanctuary to use the Research Vessel Auk to collect seawater and plankton data around the Sanctuary (a rectangular area stretching roughly from Cape Cod to Cape Ann).  I know the phrase “collect data” can sound inherently boring, so here’s a whale picture to convince you that it’s actually fascinating:

We had a "whale" of a time watching these humpbacks feeding!
We had a “whale” of a time watching humpbacks feeding!  There are actually three whales in this picture.  Together, they dive, blow a wide ring of bubbles to corral fish, then emerge from the water with their mouths agape, netting as many fish as possible.  I’ve heard that this behavior, called “bubble netting”, wasn’t seen in Stellwagen Bank until a few years ago.  This implies that bubble netting is a behavior these whales picked up from other whales, like a kind of cultural exchange.  Basically, whales are smart.

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Sea Life

On Tuesday, June 28, we surveyed sites along the southern coast of Arno.  Apparently it’s a good place to spot marine life.  Even though dolphins have been chasing our boat every day, Tuesday was truly exceptional.  A pilot whale started following us, and I was able to snag some video (thanks to Diane for posting it!):

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Beneath the waves of Arno

Diane and I went to the Marshall Islands with the goal of locating corals that would make good candidates for climate records.  At Arno, this involved three dives per day for five days.  That’s a lot of time underwater, especially since each dive was roughly an hour long.  Though Diane was unfortunately unable to dive with us until the last day, I was lucky enough to dive with Kalena de Brum, who works for the Marshall Islands Marine Resources Authority, instead.  She has a sharp eye for hidden wonders underwater!

Simon and Sara identify, measure, and photograph corals along a transect at each site.  Kalena and I swim in the general area of each transect, scouting for corals.  We’re looking for corals of the genus Porites, which you might know as lobe coral.  The ideal Porites for sampling is a solid, tall mound, without any bore holes from clams or worms.

Good Porites, as it turns out, are really hard to find.  When we spot one, I note its size, depth, and condition, and my dive buddy takes pictures.

Assessing the size and health of a Porites coral. (Photo by Kalena de Brum)

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Australia in Color (Part II)



One of the best parts about the Australian Institute of Marine Science was the wildlife.  Northern Australia has had below-average rainfall this year, partially because of El Nino.  The greenery has mostly shriveled up, except for small patches of lawn near the Institute.

Guess where the hungry wallabies go.

So my work suffered frequent wallaby-watching breaks.  Over the two months I was there, this joey went from a full-time pouch resident to a semi-independent adolescent.  So proud!

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Burned stump at Tidbinbilla Nature ReserveMy time in Australia’s dry tropics amounts to three words: Fires. Fires everywhere.  I’m sure the region has a certain amount of paranoia about this year’s growing El Nino, which brings droughts to the region, and the increased threat of wildfires.  But, drought or no drought, controlled burns have been a traditional part of Australia’s ecological management for 40,000 years.

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