Two Shelf Seas
by David A. Brooks
Pack ice in the Gulf of Mexico? No, the climate has not taken a drastic turn,
but the Kara Sea in the ice-bound Arctic Ocean (see back cover
photo) has more in common with the warm waters of the Gulf and the Texas shelf
than you might expect. Both coastal seas support abundant life, and both embrace
complex ecosystems potentially threatened by different sources of pollution. The
Kara Sea and the Texas Shelf Sea respond to regional winds and both are influenced
by run-off from large rivers. In spring months the Russian Ob and Yenisey Rivers
together carry about five times as much fresh water into the Kara as the Mississippi
brings to the Gulf.
Oceanographers and students at Texas A&M and its affiliated research
organizations study ecosystem dynamics in many coastal and marginal seas
around the world. This issue features reports from projects in the Kara
Sea and the western Gulf of Mexico conducted jointly by scientists from
the Geochemical and Environmental Research
Group (GERG) and the Department of Oceanography. Concerns about anthropogenic
stresses on the ocean environment motivated both studies.
You will find respite from the summer heat in "Icebound,"
a dramatic sidebar account extracted from a telex report by Tamara Davis.
Picture yourself on a ship stuck in the vast Arctic ice sheet with no one
around but inquisitive polar bears. Then imagine standing in the bows while
your ship is towed by an icebreaker making six knots through pack ice two
meters thick! The thought will frost your eyebrows and tinge your cheeks.
They did not get trapped in pack ice, but local Girl and Boy Scouts recently
enjoyed a two-day exploration of Galveston Bay that proved equally memorable
to them. Graduate students from the oceanography department led two troops
on an expedition to assess the status of the marshes and waters of the bay.
Read "A Day at the Beach" by
John Pohlman and you will sense the ebullience of these young students of
nature. The graduate students communicated the excitement of ocean science
to the scouts, and we all are reminded of the universal appeal of oceanography.
-David A. Brooks
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Oceanography, Texas A&M University
Updated September 13, 1995