Climate impacts from arctic to tropics

In Mark Warner’s lab in Lewes, dozens of small sea anemones drift in man-made seawater in a white, plastic bin.

Through these animals, Warner and his team of research can see what the future may hold for tropical coral reefs. The researchers can add carbon dioxide – a gas linked to a warming climate – and see how the anemones respond.

“When ocean waters warm, corals get stressed and release their symbiotic algae, making them turn white, or bleach. Our research showed that some coral species rebound after annual bleaching events, but others get progressively more susceptible,” said Warner, a professor at the University of Delaware College of Earth Ocean and Environment.

Meanwhile, colleague Cathleen Geiger takes climate research to another extreme. For three decades, she has specialized in the science of ice, looking at how various crystals form, the structures and how it behaves.

Her research also looks at climate, since ice melt at the poles can influence weather patterns. “The ice is melting and it’s going away,” she said.

The two scientists will showcase their research and explain what it’s like to work in extreme conditions at Coast Day, the University of Delaware’s showcase of marine, earth and environmental research on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Lewes Campus.

This year’s theme: “Weather and Climate: On Our Radar.”

The idea is to show how both environmental and man-made forces play a role in extreme weather and a changing climate.

A special, interactive exhibit on weather and climate will be featured, and Delaware Emergency Management Agency planners and National Weather Service forecasters will be on hand to talk about how they gather data, respond to weather events and plan for future climate change.

Coast Day also will include its 25th annual crab cake cook off at 11 a.m., and an oyster shucking contest at 3 p.m. Dozens of state and regional agencies along with community organizations will be on hand.

George Luther, a professor of oceanography, will don his wizard cape and host his ever popular chemical magic show.

Meanwhile, Wendy Carey, with the university’s Sea Grant Program, will talk about “Coastal Floods and Fury – The March ’62 Storm in Delaware.” And state Climatologist Daniel Leathers will speak about Delaware’s fickle weather.

Geiger will be bringing along the specialized cold weather gear that she wears in the field.

A goal, she said, is to help people connect with what is happening at the poles. She tried to makes the math and physics she uses to study ice more user-friendly for the non-scientist by using comparisons to frost flowers and ice cream.

One reason it’s important for people to understand what’s happening at the poles, she said, is that it has a impact elsewhere, including here along the East Coast.

“The poles are the global air conditioner,” she said.

Warner’s work takes him to the tropics, where very calm and very warm waters can have a profound impact on coral reefs.

Warner is looking at the impacts of temperatures on the reef systems. His sea anemones, which have a similar relationship with algae, also live on coral reefs and suffer from bleaching, as well.

Using the anemones, Warner and his team are working to figure out the thermal range of algae that live within the coral reef system.

“We’re playing a 100-year scenario,” by artificially raising CO2 levels in the lab to see what happens, he said.

 

Photo caption: Paul Hayes and his granddaughter, Jenevieve Maupin, of Milford, reach into one of the aquatic displays during the 2013 Coast Day at the University of Delaware’s Hugh R. Sharp Campus in Lewes. This year’s version is Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.(Photo: DAVID MARK HALL/SPECIAL TO DELMARVA MEDIA GROUP )

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