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Mail Buoy: May 19

Hi, we are students in Ms. Sheild's class at Clarke Middle School in Lexington, Mass. We had some questions about the stormy conditions you had recently.



What was the (maximum) height of the waves during the storm?




It’s hard to say exactly, but about eight meters (26 feet). We also had up to 30 degree rolls, so things were sliding all over the place.

-Michelle, communications team member



Why do you get better water samples during stormy conditions? What does it mean that it “gives the rest of the samples context?”(Daily Update from May 13).




Even when we had bad weather (two storms so far during this expedition!), scientists are able to get some sampling done because we have sea water constantly flowing into the lab when the ship is underway. So even though no instruments are going over the side, researchers like Justin Ossolinski can look at dissolved gasses and organisms in the water at various depths.

“‘Giving the rest of the samples context’ means we can see what happens in a storm, versus what happens when there isn’t a storm,” says Justin. “The conditions are different so we can compare stormy weather activity to regular weather activity.”

Though we didn’t plan it that way, storms actually provide important data about real-life conditions at sea.

“These cruises are planned years in advance. It’s tough to deliberately go out and study a storm because you can’t predict the weather perfectly,” says MIT-WHOI joint program student John San Soucie. “Being able to sample in a storm is an opportunity to investigate something that’s impractical to study otherwise.”


What made you choose the Northeast Atlantic?

-Amelie S.



“Not the weather!” says Laetitia Drago, with a smile on her face.

As John noted above, storms are actually important to study because they happen in real life, so they provide us with important insights into natural conditions. The eastern North Atlantic is notorious for its stormy weather in the spring, as Arctic currents mix with warmer water, spurring a massive bloom of phytoplankton. That food source attracts other creatures to the area, and all kinds of changes occur at various depths. And that’s what scientists want to investigate.

“Kidding aside, the poor weather is part of the reason this is a good place to study,” says co-lead scientist Ken Buesseler, a WHOI geochemist. “Storms and deep winter mixing make this area a productive hot spot, especially in spring time, kind of like the Amazon rainforest.”

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