On the Air: December 21, 2014
The SWOT satellite will collect measurements of how water bodies on Earth change over time. Credit: NASA

The ocean surface generally looks pretty flat. It gets choppy in storms, but otherwise we don’t see much difference in elevation. Yet that appearance is deceiving. Hills, valleys, and slopes contour the ocean surface just as they do the ocean floor. And studying those features can help scientists better understand the role the oceans play in our changing climate.

In Print: December 1, 2014
This black sea bass is exhibiting barotrauma. Note the stomach extruding from the mouth. Credit: Jeff Buckel.

A rapid ascent from deep water to the surface means a rapid drop in pressure. That can expand a fish’s swim bladder – the organ that helps a fish control its buoyancy – so much that it pushes other organs aside or even out a fish’s mouth. Scientists have worried that this “barotrauma” might permanently harm a fish, making it harder for deep water fish to survive if they are released. Fortunately, at least one popular sport fish can overcome this trauma.