All Weather News

Does It Snow in the Ocean?

5 Jan 2016, 11:31 am

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The answer is yes, but not like it does above the ocean. It’s something totally different, but fascinating.

“Marine snow”, as they call it, is all the plant and animal material falling to the bottom of the ocean. In addition to dead animals and plants, marine snow also includes fecal matter, sand, soot, and other inorganic dust. It’s referred to as “marine snow” because it looks a little bit like white fluffy bits. The “snowflakes” grow as they fall, some reaching several centimeters in diameter. Some flakes fall for weeks before finally reaching the ocean floor.

This continuous rain of marine snow provides food for many deep-sea creatures. Many animals in the dark parts of the ocean filter marine snow from the water or scavenge it from the seabed. NOAA scientists and others have measured the amount of useable material in marine snow and found that there is plenty of carbon and nitrogen to feed many of the scavengers in the deep sea.

The small percentage of material not consumed in shallower waters becomes incorporated into the muddy “ooze” blanketing the ocean floor, where it is further decomposed through biological activity. About three-quarters of the deep ocean floor is covered in this thick, smooth ooze. The ooze collects as much as six meters every million years.

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