Category Archives: Plankton

Amusing Monday: Earth becomes art when viewed from satellites

Scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey have created an “Earth-as-Art” collection of brilliant images from space, as seen from Landsat satellites.

Icy Vortex // Image: USGS, Landsat program

Some pictures of Earth formations are reminiscent of actual paintings; some include familiar objects; and some are like abstract creations. Some show the actual colors of earth, sea and sky, while some of the colors are created with filters to highlight natural colors or even to capture light beyond the visible spectrum.

These images remind me of the LIDAR images created by the Washington Department of Natural Resources, which I called works of art in a blog post nearly a year ago. See Water Ways, Dec. 11, 2017. I included images of Puget Sound among some satellite photos posted previously. See Water Ways, Sept.11, 2017.

Earth Selfie // Image: USGS, Landsat program

While the images are valuable to USGS scientists who wish to understand and describe features from space, they also stir the imagination. I enjoyed some of the comments written by the scientists, which I will share below along with the titles as shown on the USGS “Earth as Art” website.

Icy Vortex: “Appearing as if an artist imitating Jackson Pollock had randomly spurted ink onto the canvas, this image shows swirling ice in the Foxe Basin of northern Canada. Even though the image is from late July, there was still ice floating in the water this far north.”

Earth’s Aquarium // Image: USGS, Landsat program

Earth Selfie: “The tendency to recognize human faces in things that are not human is common. Can you see the eye, nose, and mouth in this satellite image of Morocco? The face captured in this ‘Earth Selfie’ appears to be quietly watching over the waters just off its coast. The city of Agadir is underneath the chin, and the irrigated farms of the Souss Valley appear in red.”

Earth’s Aquarium: Phytoplankton growing in the Bering Sea create green and blue swirls in the water. The microscopic phytoplankton cannot be seen with the naked eye, but their vast numbers are visible from space. Scientists called this “Earth’s Aquarium” because the white clouds resemble bubbles in a fish tank.

Bleeding Heart // Image: USGS, Landsat program

Bleeding Heart: “A feathery, blood red streak cuts across the heart of this image. The translucent red paint stroke is not actually a feature of the land. It is a cirrus cloud detected by Landsat 8’s cirrus band. This cirrus cloud, which hovers over the Aral Sea in Kazakhstan, is invisible in natural color imagery.”

Eerie Cloud Shadows: Clouds show up red in this infrared photo, casting eerie shadows of blue on the landscape of southern Egypt.

Van Gogh from Space: “In the style of Van Gogh’s painting “Starry Night,” massive congregations of greenish phytoplankton swirl in the dark water around Gotland, a Swedish island in the Baltic Sea.” Currents bring nutrients to the sunlit surface, triggering the growth of the microscopic organisms, which contain chlorophyll.

Eerie Cloud Shadows // Image: USGS, Landsat program
Van Gogh from Space // Image: USGS, Landsat program

NOTE: This blog post was written yesterday, but something went awry during the publishing process, so it was not posted until this morning.

Hood Canal avoids a major fish kill following unwelcome conditions

Southern Hood Canal avoided a major fish kill this year, but for a few days in September it looked like conditions were set for low-oxygen waters to rise to the surface, leaving fish in a critical state with no place to go, experts say.

Data from the Hoodsport buoy show the rise of low-oxygen waters to the surface over time (purple color in top two graphs). // Graphic: NANOOS

Seth Book, a biologist with the Skokomish Tribe, has been keeping a close watch on a monitoring buoy at Hoodsport. Dissolved oxygen in deep waters reached a very low concentration near the end of September, raising concerns that if these waters were to rise to the surface they could suddenly lead to a deadly low-oxygen condition. This typically happens when south winds blow the surface waters to the north.

“I started asking around the community to see if anyone had seen evidence of low DO (fish at surface; dead fish; deep fish being observed or found in fishing nets at surface; diver observations) and luckily I had no reports,” Seth wrote to me in an email.

Continue reading

Getting lost in the tangle of connections called the Puget Sound food web

I’m increasingly amazed at the interwoven nature of the Puget Sound food web. Whenever I become focused on a specific species — Chinook salmon, for example — one of the first questions I ask is: What is this species eating?

I soon learn that the answer depends on the size of the individual doing the eating. Prey for a baby salmon is much different from prey for an adult.

If you really want to learn about why a species is doing well or poorly, you need to look beyond prey availability for your species of interest and find out what the prey are eating as well. Healthy prey must be abundant for any species to do well, so the prey of the prey must also do well.

Continue reading

Dry weather started early this year amid cloudy conditions

UPDATE:
July 5. Greg Johnson, who lives in Hansville and manages the Skunk Bay Weather station there, said the unusually high rainfall in June for Hansville, compared to the rest of the peninsula, was the result of the Puget Sound convergence zone settling over the area on several occasions. Weather conditions brought localized squalls during the month, he said, adding, “This is very unusual for us.”

The reading at Greg’s weather station, 1.98 inches for the month of June, was somewhat lower than the 2.26 inches recorded at Kitsap PUD’s weather station in Hansville.
—–

Cool, often cloudy conditions have helped obscure the fact that very little rain has fallen on the Kitsap Peninsula over the past two months.

Precipitation in Holly (click to enlarge)

Now that we are in the fourth quarter of the water year, we can see that rainfall levels for this year will be close to average for most areas on the peninsula. What might not be recognized, however, is that April was well above average, while May and June were well below average.

Continue reading