We recently wrote that the ocean issaving us fromsome of the ravages of global warming by absorbing carbondioxide. Plankton, the tiny plants that float on the surfaceof the ocean, also have amazing powers: aside from providinghalf the Earth's oxygen and feeding many marine animals,they may be able to change the weather as well.
NASA has discovered that plankton can create clouds thatblock some of the Sun's harmful rays. When harmfulultraviolet (UV) radiation hits these plants, they produce acompound called DMSP, which gets broken down in the waterinto a substance called DMS. DMS then rises from the oceaninto the air, where it reacts with oxygen to form tinydust-like particles. These particles are just the right sizefor water to condense on, which is how clouds are formed.Researcher David Siegel says, "There is the potential thatthis cycle could slow global warming, but right now we haveno idea of the size of it or even what it means."
But plankton can't save us from global warming if it isn'tthere. Michael McCarthy writes in the Independent that, "Inwhat could be a sub-plot from the recent disaster movie, TheDay After Tomorrow, a rise in sea temperature is believed tohave led to the mysterious disappearance of a key part ofthe marine food chain," causing hundreds of thousands ofseabirds to fail to breed this summer. Ornithologist AndyKnight says, "Very few of the birds have raised any chicksat all."
The birds, who nest on the Orkney and Shetland islands inScotland and no longer have food for their chicks, willeventually all die off. The sandeel, their main food source,has disappeared because the water has become too warm forthe plankton it feeds on. Ornithologist Euan Dunn says,"The young sandeels are simply not surviving--as a result ofclimate change--all of the animals in the food web above theplankton, first the sandeels, then the larger fish like cod,and ultimately the seabirds, are starting to be affected."
We may not care much about Scottish seabirds, althoughthey're a major tourist attraction in the Orkney andShetland islands. However, some of the birds we love may benext. "This is an incredible event," says Tony Juniper ofFriends of the Earth. "The catastrophe [of these] seabirdsis just a foretaste of what lies ahead."
What's coincidence?and what isn't? Ray Fowler researched thesupernatural-likesynchronisticexperiences that permeate his life.
Photo credits: http://www.freeimages.co.uk/
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