Saturday, January 20, 2018
News Roundup

Virtual views of Earth draw fans, but expose how little we still know of our own planet

The images swept across the Internet last month like a cool breeze over a sun-scorched parking lot. People called them "mesmerizing" and "hypnotic" and "wondrous" and "mind-blowing."

One was a NASA-created video showing all of the world's ocean currents. Called Perpetual Ocean, the 20-minute video tracks all the ocean surface currents that satellites had detected from June 2005 to December 2007. There's no narration, just some spacey music to accompany the swirling blue gyres and curlicues.

"Better than a Van Gogh," raved one website. "NASA has rendered a picture of the ocean that's as gorgeous as the ocean itself."

The other, created by Google's "Big Picture" visualization research group, was an animated map using National Weather Service data to show all the wind currents blowing around the United States. The Washington Post's weather blog noted how the map showed the ways "our nation's streams of flow converge, diverge, accelerate and decelerate as they create our weather."

They were both reminders, just in time for Earth Day today, of how little we really know about the Earth. Neither of the maps that the wired public found so dazzling delved into how the world works the way it does.

Take that NASA ocean currents video. It showed only the surface — not what's going on below the waves, to make them move.

"We know more about the dark side of the moon than we know about the bottom of the ocean," said Steve Murawski, a University of South Florida oceanography professor who previously served as chief science adviser for the National Marine Fisheries Service. "Our knowledge of the ocean is, literally, skin deep."

When the Deepwater Horizon disaster began two years ago, Murawski and other scientists had to say that they didn't really know what the effect might be on the Gulf of Mexico because no one really knew much about the sea life in the gulf.

Now they're trying to play catchup, dispatching research vessels equipped with robotic devices for exploring the vents and crevices of the deep gulf. One ship, the Okeanos Explorer, has remote-operated vehicles scanning the bottom and sending video back to the surface to be posted to a website where the public can watch.

And that's just on a body of water that's encompassed by the southern United States. Oceans around the globe are even bigger mysteries, with research vessels only now discovering creatures living there that seem to have sprung from the imagination of Stephen King. Only 10 percent of the world's ocean bottoms have been plumbed, say federal scientists.

Or take that U.S. wind map from Google. Wind doesn't start and stop at national borders. It circulates across the globe, driven by warming and cooling of the oceans and land.

"Research done in just the past decade has opened our eyes to how the energy of the earth moves around the earth," said Craig McLean, assistant administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's research programs. "We're coming to realize how everything is connected and interrelated."

For instance, Murawski pointed out that deep ocean water beneath the arctic winds up deep in the Gulf of Mexico. Hurricanes that threaten Florida start in swirls of dust off Africa. And McLean pointed out that "what happens in the Indian Ocean has a significant impact on what our seasonal climate will be here. Where is the origin in a system that's continuous?"

Still, McLean said, that continuous linkage can carry a hopeful message for Earth Day —- and a mission as well.

"How we impact our environment locally clearly has global impacts," he said. "What we need to do is figure out the best way to manage this planet, as well as our impact on this planet."

Craig Pittman can be reached at [email protected]


Bicyclist dead after being hit by car in Pinellas Park

PINELLAS PARK — A bicyclist is dead after he was hit by a car just before 10 a.m. Saturday morning, police said.Police were still investigating the crash in the 8700 block of 49th Street N late Saturday morning.Police shut down northbound 49th Street...
Updated: 5 minutes ago

Motorcyclist crashes into Subaru while trying to flee Pinellas deputies

CLEARWATER — A 21-year-old fleeing from deputies on a motorcycle crashed into car while speeding away from a cruiser Friday, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office. Michael Brown, of Clearwater, was recklessly driving his 2016...
Updated: 15 minutes ago

Clearwater man in critical condition after medical episode while driving

DUNEDIN — A 60-year-old Clearwater man who likely had a medical episode while driving is now in the hospital with life-threatening injuries after rolling over his car, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office. A Largo police off...
Updated: 18 minutes ago
More than 1,000 cold-stunned sea turtles rescued in Florida Panhandle

More than 1,000 cold-stunned sea turtles rescued in Florida Panhandle

Florida’s dip into frigid temperatures did more than just stun humans unused to such cold air. This month scientists and volunteers have rescued more than 1,000 cold-stunned sea turtles from a single bay in the Florida Panhandle.The U.S. Geological S...
Published: 01/20/18
U.S. government shuts down; Democrats, GOP blame each other

U.S. government shuts down; Democrats, GOP blame each other

WASHINGTON — The federal government shut down at the stroke of midnight Friday, halting all but the most essential operations and marring the one-year anniversary of President Donald Trump’s inauguration in a striking display of Washington dysfunctio...
Updated: 11 hours ago

High school scoreboard for Jan. 19

Friday’s scoreboardBoys soccerIndian Rocks Christian 2, Lakewood 1Lennard 3, Spoto 0Girls soccerPCAC Championship: Largo 3, Osceola 1Lennard 8, Spoto 0
Published: 01/19/18

Four people linked to Tampa carjacking captured hours later

TAMPA — It took officers just 27 minutes Friday night to capture four people who they said stole a car from its owner.The incident started outside the Ybor Coffee Shop at 5:45 a.m. A group approached the driver as he sat in his 2010 Toyota Corolla. T...
Published: 01/19/18
Inspector General launches investigation into Tampa Bay’s local career centers

Inspector General launches investigation into Tampa Bay’s local career centers

The state has opened an investigation into CareerSource Pinellas and CareerSource Tampa Bay, days after the Tampa Bay Times asked about whether the two regional job centers were inflating the number of people they had helped get hired. The agencies, ...
Published: 01/19/18

Florida National Guard soldier killed, five injured in Sebring crash

SEBRING — A soldier with the Florida National Guard was killed and five others were hospitalized after a multi-vehicle crash on Friday, officials said.The crash took place at about 1 p.m. at the intersection of U.S. 27 and Hammock Road.The soldiers ...
Published: 01/19/18
Two New Port Richey men accused of stealing $11,000 in cellphone merchandise

Two New Port Richey men accused of stealing $11,000 in cellphone merchandise

NEW PORT RICHEY — Two New Port Richey men face charges after Pasco County deputies say they stole about $11,000 worth of cellphones and cellphone equipment at a Metro PCS store on State Road 54.Robert Jackson and Ronald Hartshorn were arrested Wednes...
Published: 01/19/18