Taking over @realfaguib’s Instagram account for tank experiments and student cruise

This semester, Kjersti is teaching GEOF105 under very difficult circumstances. While much of the class happens virtually, both the mandatory lab experiments and the student cruise could (luckily!) happen. So we could also do our planned Instagram-takeover of @realfaguib‘s account!

For a week, we used Instagram’s “Story” function — pictures that can be annotated and that vanish after 24 hours (not completely, you can still see a whole week’s worth of posts here if you like) — to give little glimpses of what it is like to do experiments on rotating and non-rotating tanks, and to be on a research ship for the first time.

Instagram Stories turned out a really good tool for that, for example because we could insert gifs to illustrate concepts. Above, for example, the football above the rotating tank is spinning around its own axis, while the one above the non-rotating tank is not in motion.

And of course people like seeing pictures of cruises and colorful instrumentation!

After some initial hesitation, we were lucky enough that Ide and Stephanie took over our take-over and helped make it even more authentic & fun. Thank you!

Watching their story and seeing student cruises through students’ eyes was really interesting!

With between 700 and 1000 views for each image in the story (plus some really good questions related to what we do at sea!), we feel that we had a really successful week in terms of reaching current and prospective students with interesting stories about the issues at heart of GEOF105.

That said, the only thing left to say is a huge “thank you!” to captain and crew (who, after lunch break, swapped roles) of the research ship Hans Brattstrøm, and to @realfaguib for giving us the opportunity!

Stefanie’s current!

Although the Ocean still holds many secrets, it’s not very often nowadays that oceanographers discover new currents – but earlier this week one could read in NatureCommunications (and on nrk.no, in Norwegian) that scientists have drawn a new arrow on the map showing current systems in the North Sea! The “new” current brings dense water eastward along the Greenland-Scotland ridge from Iceland towards the Faroe Bank Channel, through which the dense water continues southwards into the North Atlantic.

I was very excited (and admittedly a litte bit proud!) to read about the discovery – since the paper is written by Stefanie Semper – the very first Master’s student that I supervised on my own. Stefanie has just submitted her PhD-thesis here at UiB, and I’m certain she will continue her great scientific work and that I’ll have the pleasure to read about her findings in the future!

The name of the current? Well, it’s not officially “Stefanie’s current” (although I’ll think of it as that) , but the slightly more descriptive (although boring) “the Iceland-Faroe Slope Jet”.

Stefanie’s current – (or the Iceland-Faroe Slope Jet) is the black arrow that originates north of Iceland and continues eastward towards the Faroe Bank Channel. From: Semper et al, 2020, Nature Communications. CreativeCommon License 4.0

Science is a team sport

The upside of the pandemic is that a lot of interesting meetings and presentations are streamed and recorded so that one can “shop around” and participate & listen without worrying about neither time zones nor CO2 and travel budgets.

Last night I had the pleasure to listen to Fiamma Straneo’s lecture “Ahoy captain, is that a glacier up ahead? Lessons learnt from working in Greenland’s marine margin” which is part of the International Glaciological Society Global Seminar Series (freely available here). I write “listen”, since the children’s drawers were empty and I had to do laundry at the same time – so I probably missed out on a lot of nice graphics and photos from the Greenlandic fjords that she was talking about… but I did not miss out on her conclusions:

Fiamma Straneo’s conclusions during the her talk in the IGS Global Seminar Series (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QpvjxoNWSLc)

Fiamma, who is a physical oceanographer working at Scripps while holding a Prof II position at UiB, and who is very much a team-player herself, used examples from her own research – from multi-disciplinary field campaigns in remote fjord arms to the (equally) multi-disciplinary and diverse team that stands behind the ISMIP6 projections –  to support her conclusions, and she did so very convincingly. Science is indeed a team sport!

Welcome to GFI, Mari!

Yesterday Mari Myksvoll visited me and the oceanography group at GFI and we had a nice chat about fjords, oceanography, and everything in between! We are lucky to get to see Mari more regularly in the hallways from now on, as she soon will be joining us (20%) as an Associate Professor II. The paperwork is not yet in order, but the university administration better hurry up since the plan is that she will be teaching GEOF337, the master’s course in fjord oceanography, next semester. With her background in fjord and coastal modelling – and with her enthusiastic smile – I’m sure she will do a great job! And I will for sure enjoy to have another female*, fjord-interested oceanographer around! Welcome to GFI, Mari!

Mari S. Myksvoll will join us at GFI as Ass. Prof. II next semester!

* number three in the teaching staff

Science for young minds!

Our ice shelf work is now available in a “young-mind-version” – have your daughter / son / grand children / children of your neighbours / random kids in the street and everyone else with a young mind check it out here ! And have a look yourself too while you are at it! It’s a lot easier to read than the text in Nature – and the illustrations are really cute!

Many thanks to Mirjam and to the two young reviewers (Margarita and Isabel) for making this happen!

New article in Frontiers for Young Minds about ice shelves and warm ocean currents. from: https://kids.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/frym.2020.00124

 

 

 

 

#BergenWaveWatching: Field work right outside our students’ homes

This is a (admittedly terribly crowded — but I only had 1 A4 page and there are so many interesting #BergenWaveWatching stories to tell!) poster that I am presenting on behalf of myself (Mirjam), Kjersti Daae and Elin Darelius at the #FieldWorkFix conference (September 8, 2020). If you would rather listen to my poster’s voiceover than read the transcript below, please feel free to do that here!

Welcome to our poster!

The most important learning outcomes that, in my opinion, need to be achieved with a #FieldWorkFix are to enhance motivation and interest in concepts that are being dealt with theoretically in class, and in the students’ subject in general. When students are isolated in their homes and don’t have an inspiring community of learners in their field around them, it is so important to maintain a connection to their field of study! And one way to do that is by helping them realize that what they study is relevant and meaningful in the way that it helps them explain the world they see (even if they previously neither noticed nor felt the need to explain the waves on a puddle they accidentally stepped in).

There are different types of tasks that can help students achieve that level of observation and fascination with their subject (and if you are interested in what specific tasks can look like, check out the link on our poster, that will lead you to a blog post that links to all the different examples I am giving in the following, with tons of pictures).

For example, students could be asked to find realizations of a phenomenon in the world around them. It’s good to start with an easy example that they can definitely find in many different locations. In our case, “find a hydraulic jump” works well, because those can be generated artificially by turning on the tap in your sink, or can be observed near any weir, most rain gutters, and many rivers. These examples can be shared via the classes content management system or via social media – both work well and offer the added benefit of requiring some sort of description and explanation of what was observed and where, thereby practicing both note-taking and reporting skills.

Students could also be asked to observe a specific phenomenon in a specific place and discuss how the time of observation might have influenced what they saw, and how they would set up a schedule for observations that would be best suited to document the phenomenon. An example for that is looking at a tidal current underneath a specific bridge. Depending on what time and what day it is observed during the spring and neap cycle, the flow might be observed having different strengths or even going in different directions.

I am also a big fan of the more open “find something interesting to observe that is somehow related to the concepts discussed in class”, and being open to what students come up with. If you are worried about students not finding something interesting, I would encourage you to look at my Instagram @fascinocean_kiel, where I have almost 900 pictures of mainly waves (and a few other interesting oceanic phenomena) with explanations of what I saw. Once you start looking, there is physics everywhere!

The best thing about a collection like the one on my Instagram (or the one you are building by asking students to document their observations) is that they can be used for an indoor version of this #FieldWorkFix: Assigning pictures to students with the task to annotate and explain what they see. (Which is surprisingly difficult! I get often sent #FriendlyWaves; pictures of water with the request to explain what is going on there, and while it is very entertaining and educational, it is also really difficult because many of the relevant metadata does not come with a picture).

And finally, one could give the very open task to either come up with, or answer a given, research question by doing observations in the neighbourhood.

Depending on the social distancing requirements, all these tasks could be assigned to students working either in teams or by themselves. But if one of the learning outcomes is to practice working in teams, as it often is, this can be accommodated either way:

Several students can work together on the same research question and either do this together, or – which is most likely the mode they would choose in any case – divide work and take turns taking observations. This means they are also developing observational and collaboration skills: all have to be on the same page when it comes to what properties to observe by which methods and at what place and time, how to document, how much and what kind of metadata needs to be archived, how work is split between the students, et cetera.

Students could also be given complementing tasks that they each complete individually, knowing that they will ultimately have to put their results together like a puzzle. This, again, practices a lot of observational and communication skills.

The results of these tasks can be brought together either asynchronous, i.e. students report back in writing via the content management system or social media, or synchronous in video calls where students give presentations and there is a group discussion.

Lastly, one of the big learning outcomes often associated with field work is building students’ “identity as scientists”. Students come back from the field and talk about how we, meaning we oceanographers, or more generally, we scientists, do field work. Of course, the experience of a local field trip is not the same as a multi-day research cruise. But looking for phenomena related to ones field of study has an effect on how one sees the world. Very quickly, students will look at the world with different eyes, seeing physics where other people see the sparkly ocean or a fluffy cloud. This change in perception helps students feel like a specialist on their subject, as someone who has a deeper interest and wider knowledge than most people around them, and who looks at phenomena more carefully, trying to understand them. And this is a vicious circle: once hooked, it is difficult to stop looking at the world through that lens. Which is exactly what we wanted!

Thank you for your attention!

#KitchenOceanography: Bringing physical oceanography into students’ homes

This post is the longer version of the (A4!) poster that I (Mirjam) am presenting on behalf of myself, Kjersti Daae, Elin Darelius, Joke Lübbecke and Torge Martin at the #FieldWorkFix conference today (September 8, 2020). If you would rather listen to the voiceover than read the transcript below, please feel free to do that below! (Thanks to Torge, the final voice over is only about 1/3rd the length of the blogpost that I originally wrote to use as script for the voice ocer :-D)

#KitchenOceanography: Bringing physical oceanography into students’ homes

Welcome to our virtual poster! I want to tell you about #KitchenOceanography: experiments that students can do at home, using common household items. Whether due to Covid-19, or institutional constraints like the lack of laboratory spaces or instructors, or simply because a hands-on experience would be useful with a certain concept, but it’s not on the syllabus – #KitchenOceanography is a great substitute for doing experiments in a laboratory course when that isn’t possible.

We use #KitchenOceanography when teaching physical oceanography and climate sciences. But the concept of home experiments can easily be transferred to other fields, and I therefore want to present the learning outcomes we can achieve on a fairly abstract level. If you would like to learn about #KitchenOceanography experiments in detail rather than just the general concept which I am presenting here, please follow the link on our poster to a blog post in which I have linked to tons of examples of different learning outcomes and experiments (and to all the experiments mentioned here, as well as 24 easy starter experiments).

One typical learning outcome in laboratory courses is the deepening of understanding of concepts that are theoretically dealt with in a lecture. If the concept itself cannot easily, affordably or safely be transformed into a home experiment, you could ask students to come up with a demonstration of an analogy with the concept instead. We have done that when teaching about processes that govern the El-Niño-Southern-Oscillationpattern in the Pacific Ocean. Of course, students cannot build a physical model that represents all the processes in the ocean and atmosphere that are relevant, but they can come up with demonstrations that show analogies of the cycle.

Another learning outcome in a laboratory might be developing intuition on the one hand, but also checking intuition against observations and explaining counterintuitive results. A great experiment here is to ask students to place ice cubes in two beakers with room-temperature water, one salt water and one freshwater. Asking students to predict which of the ice cubes will melt faster leads to 90% wrong predictions, and because it is really difficult to come to terms with a wrong intuition, it will lead to a lot of learning around experimental skills. Students will ask themselves if they maybe accidentally swapped the beakers because they didn’t take notes of which one was which. They might try to taste the water to test which of the beakers contains salt water (tasting in a lab of course being a big no-no). Even if the course is on a subject that is not related to ocean physics at all, this experiment still holds a huge potential to practice – and gaining appreciation for – laboratory skills.

A third common learning outcome in laboratory courses is for students to exercise curiosity and practice creativity. Using an experiment like the melting ice cubes one I just described ALWAYS works to do just that. Students will always come up with questions that they want to investigate. What would happen if the ice cubes weren’t floating in the water, but were forced down to the bottom of the beaker? Or if the ice cubes weren’t frozen fresh water, but had been made from salt water? In my experience, even students from other subjects that rolled their eyes when I told them they were going to do an experiment with water and ice in plastic cups get hooked and want to understand why their intuition was wrong and what more there is to explore.

Another learning outcome often connected to laboratory courses is to develop reporting skills. With the ice cube experiment I already showed the importance of taking notes even when experimenting only in your kitchen, and #KitchenOceanography lends itself to practicing writing lab reports: now many of the materials and conditions need to be described in a lot more detail because the cooking salt that I use in my kitchen might not have the same composition as the one that you are using, which might be kosher, or enriched in iodine, or reduced in sodium. So if we want to be able to compare results later on, all these things need to be written down. And of course, reporting skills might take a different form than a conventional lab report, especially when students are socially isolated, using for example social media or blogs as an outlet might provide them with community, feedback and recognition.

Lastly, a common learning outcome is to recognize problems and errors during experimentation. Since #KitchenOceanography is less supervised than a typical laboratory class, students will inevitably trouble-shoot more independently, and it’s a good idea to explicitly include reflection on what went wrong and how it was fixed in both documentation and discussion of the experiments.

So what would it look like to use #KitchenOceanography as #FieldWorkFix?

We have run #KitchenOceanography experiments in different instructional settings. Back in the day when we were still teaching in-person classes, in addition to using them as hands-on experiments within class, we gave them as homework. One task was to find a way to measure the salinity of a water sample the students were given, and came up with many surprising and creative solutions. In this setting, #KitchenOceanography was already done asynchronous: students did the experimental work whenever it suited them and report back. It can be done in exactly the same way, and reporting back can happen either in writing or in the class’ video call.

What we have had a lot of success with last semester, though, was a synchronous setup. In a video call, students did simplified versions of an experiment, and the instructor showed the full version of the experiment that students would have run in class, had that been possible. In our case, the experiments would ideally have been conducted on a rotating table to simulate Earth’s rotation. And while I have one in my home, not many students do. So we asked students to do the non-rotating version at home, while I presented the rotating version. The added benefit was that we took time to compare and contrast the two different versions and were thus able to isolate the effects of Earth’s rotation – something we would not have spent time on had students had the opportunity to work hands-on with the rotating tables themselves.

We had three modes of presenting the “full” version of the experiment: using pre-recorded videos (which is definitely the more error-proof way to do it!), running the experiments as a demonstration in real time, or asking students to “remotely control” me doing the experiment by telling me what parameters to modify to which values. This worked by me joining the video call with two devices: One that was recording myself and my experimental setup, looking into the tank from the side, and one that was mounted above the experimental setup and showed the top view (which was relevant for the experiment we were doing). Students shared their experiments via video stream when they chose to. The class was taught by a second instructor, which is what we would definitely recommend: Having one person host the meeting and deal with questions and difficulties as they arise, and have a second person focus on doing the experiment.

All in all, despite the unavoidable tech problems, doing these video conferences where we all did experiments together, were a lot of fun for all involved, and definitely helped make the somewhat sad and lonely experience of learning alone at home, instead of hands-on with a nice group of people, less lonely and a lot more fun.

Thank you for your attention.

More than 25000 persons…

… read the article about our findings in Masfjorden that was published in Bergens Tidene, the local newspaper, this Monday! That’s a lot of people! The article is behind a pay-wall, but the journalist who wrote it, Atle, kindly allowed me to publish it here for those of you who missed it (and who reads Norwegian), so here it is:  Her kan fjordbunnen være i ferd med å dø (Originally published in BT 7/7 2020)

Beautiful – but oxygen poor –  Masfjorden

Luckily not everybody who read the article contacted me – but quite a few did; friends that I haven’t seen in ages who congratulating me on messenger, colleagues giving thumbs up on Teams, people  writing me to ask if I know anything about the situation in “their” fjord and a few Norwegian scientists that I’ve never met who asked me to send them a copy of the original paper (which is freely available here)… a very positive experience, indeed!

BT and Atle are planning to write more about oxygen and fjords – and I’ve already volunteered to contribute 🙂

Editor’s choice!

I just learnt that Svenja Ryan’s paper (with the exceptionally prolonged title?) “Exceptionally Warm and Prolonged Flow of Warm Deep Water toward the Filchner‐Ronne Ice Shelf in 2017” (GRL) was highlighted in Science as “Editor’s choice“! The editor gets some of the details wrong – but still, how cool isn’t that? Congratulations Svenja! I’m so proud to be a co-author!

In the highlighted paper we present the latest data from the southern Weddell Sea (including temperature time-series from one of my LoTUS-buoys  that I tell about here), which reveal that 2017 was a special year. The seasonal inflow of warm water that we typically observe to flood the continental shelf during summer was warmer and longer than normal, and we suggest that the anomalous conditions are linked to a fresh anomaly developing upstream as a consequence of high summer sea ice melt. The presented mooring records end early 2018 –  showing that the shelf density then was lower than normal, potentially leaving the “door open” for an earlier than normal onset of next year’s inflow.

Hopefully Polarstern (and I!) make it back to the Weddell Sea this winter (despite Corona) to recover the moorings deployed in 2018, so that we can tell the rest of the story and learn more about the implications of freshwater anomalies.

Ice berg in the Weddell Sea Photo: E. Darelius

 

 

 

 

 

Directly from the press: Climate trends and deep water renewal in Norwegian fjords!

They tend to be long and deep, they have one or many sills, they are breathtakingly beautiful and they were carved by ice a long time ago*… I’m off course thinking about the Norwegian fjords! My teaching has brought me back into fjord oceanography (I wrote my Master’s about water mass transformation in a fjord on Svalbard), and last summer I had a little hobby-project trying to figure out how climate change would affect the renewal of the deep water in a fjord… and now that hobby-project is about to get published in “Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science”!

But let’s start from the beginning! Like I wrote in the first line, a fjord has a sill. The sill closes off the deeper part of the fjord basing from the rest of the ocean, and so water in the deep basin is stagnant, i.e. it is cut off from the rest of the ocean.

With time, the density of the basin water will decrease (as turbulence causes lighter water from above to be mixed down). The density of the water outside of the sill (at sill level) varies in time – e.g. because of wind blowing along the coast that pushes the dense water down or lifts it up– and at some point the water outside will be dense enough to flow into the fjord and replace the basin water and the basin water is “re-newed”. How often the deep water is renewed varies greatly between fjord systems – in some fjords the deep water would be stagnant only a couple of weeks while it may be many years between two renewals in others.  How long the water stays in the fjord depends mainly on two things: how quickly the density in the fjord decreases (the slope of the red line below) and how variable the density of the coastal waters are (the wiggliness of the blue line). If the density decreases fast, the interval between to renewals will be short, and if the ambient density is very variable, the interval will be longer (on average). If we  have information about the density decrease and the density variability for a particular fjord, then we can estimate how long it will be between two renewals (on average) and say something about the probability for very long stagnation period.

Does that matter? Well, fish and other creatures that lives in the fjord consume the oxygen in the water, and the longer the water stays in the fjord the lower the oxygen concentration gets and the tougher it gets for the animals who live there to breathe. So yes, it matters, so fish (and others that care about the environment in the fjord) would want to know if the likelihood of deep water renewal is changing.

The Institute of Marine Research in Norway have hydrographical stations along the coast, that have been collecting salt and temperature data (from which one can calculate density) every other week (roughly) since the 1930s. The data show that the density typically is highest during spring and summer – and that after around 1990 the densest water is becoming less dense (on six out of eight stations). Superimposed on the ambient density variability, we have a negative trend (green line above). The trend is bad news to, for example, the fish living in the fjord basins, since the decreasing trend will increase the length of the stagnation period (fewer black arrows). In Masfjorden, for example, the statistical framework that I develop in my paper suggest that the fish would have to wait (on average) two years longer for new, oxygen rich water and that the risk of stagnation periods longer than 10 years increase by a factor of six.

The last deep water renewal** in Masfjorden probably occurred around 2011 (see below), and data from a cruise in June this year show that there has been no renewal so far this year and that oxygen concentrations now are around 2.3 mL/L. Unfortunately, my model cannot predict if there will be a renewal this year, only say something about the probability that the deep water will be renewed.

Read the entire article here!

Density at the bottom of Masfjorden (blue). When the deep water is renewed, the density increase (marked with red circles). From Darelius (2020), Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science (Creative common license CC BY 4.0)

 

* or possibly designed by Slartibartfast?

** There has been partial renewals after 2011, where the upper part of the fjord basin is renewed.