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New Technologies Reveal The Role Climate Plays in Undersea Canyons

Source: Phys.org/ University of Victoria - November 13, 2017 in Science/Tech

New Technologies Reveal The Role Climate Plays in Undersea Canyons
Photo: NOAA/Wikimedia Commons (CC0)

Unprecedented high-resolution data from undersea canyons off Vancouver Island’s west coast is bringing new understanding of the importance of these canyons as rapid-transit corridors for carrying carbon from the ocean surface to the deep sea.

An international study co-led by Ocean Networks Canada (ONC) staff scientist and University of Victoria biologist Fabio De Leo uses synchronized real-time data from “Wally” the  crawler and NASA’s MODIS satellite for the first time to measure carbon transport from the sea surface to the deep ocean by wintertime ocean circulation, canyon rim eddies and downwelling – the sinking of dense, cold water beneath lighter, warmer water.

Wintertime phytoplankton blooms observed by MODIS from outer space disappeared from surface waters off the  of the Island and reached Wally at 870 metres depth in Barkley Canyon within 12 to 72 hours.

“Data from Wally and MODIS supports that these canyons play an important role in rapidly transferring carbon to the deep sea during winter,” says De Leo.

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