Ocean Blue Blog
by Karisa Boyce
Ocean Blue receives so many questions from young people and adults alike. One question that we have not heard often, but certainly enough times to feel compelled to answer is, does it snow on the open ocean?
Right around the mid-winter season, people usually start pondering about whether or not the great World’s Ocean (because all natural bodies of water on this planet are connected) receives snow. And how does the cold affect marine wildlife below the ocean’s surface?
The short answer is yes, there is such thing as sea snow. People have claimed there is evidence that snow falls over large bodies of water, including the Great Salt Lake and the Bering Sea. And the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Adminstration (NOAA) shows an image of white snow bands collecting on the surface of the ocean.
In terms of marine wildlife and how the cold affects our fish friends in the deep blue sea, we should be more concerned about how they are surviving in warming waters. The past three decades have shown a steady increase in temperature, which means many species of marine wildlife are at risk.
However, there is also marine snow, which is something entirely different from what we think about when we’re drinking a cup of hot cocoa while looking out at wintery white landscapes from behind our frosted windows. NOAA mentions that, “Marine snow is a shower of organic material falling from upper waters to the deep ocean.” As they fall, the “snowflakes” accumulate matter and grow to several centimeters in diameter.
Marine snow serves as food for marine wildlife and NOAA’s measurements have shown that there is plenty of carbon and nitrogen present in marine snow to provide nourishment for everyone below the ocean’s surface. And whatever is not eaten, becomes part of the sea floor, which collects about 6 meters of continually falling marine snow every year.
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