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Sr. Matteo:

What's with the ocean temperatures this summer? Instead of the typical 70 to 71 degrees in July/August, it's been fluctuating wildly (for an ocean, that is). From 71 to 75 one week, back down to 72 the next, shooting up to 78 one day, then the next day down to 74. How do you heat up/cool down an ocean so fast, or are the temperature-taker dudes smoking too much of the loco weed?

-- BarryK, via e-mail

Oh, Barry, you have the ocean all wrong. Everything about it fluctuates wildly. All the time. It's a huge bowl of energy following physical laws that we just barely understand and can't much predict. You can include ocean temperature in that mix. According to a spokesscientist for the Scripps Institution, at any given point in the sea the temperature can change from minute to minute.

Obviously, the sun heats the ocean surface from the top down. Hotter near the surface, gradually cooler as you submerge. All this would be fine, and our ocean-surface temps would vary only gradually if the ocean just sat there like water in the fish tank. But water masses are always moving, pushed around according to the interaction of wind strength and direction, wave and swell force and direction, sea-bottom configuration, and the size and direction of subsurface currents. A big storm in New Zealand will eventually have an effect on waves and currents here. As all this water gets pushed around, pockets of colder water often end up on the surface and lower the temperature in that location.

One phenomenon, the internal wave, is a long-period, slow-moving current of colder (therefore, denser) water that develops between two underwater temperature zones. The peak of the wave often rises to surface level, another way the temperature can drop in a particular location.

The temp you read on a blackboard at a lifeguard tower is taken every day at the same spot at the same depth. Move a quarter of a mile in any direction, and the temperature might have varied by maybe a degree or two. So, take ocean temps as a general description, and don't be surprised if it changes a lot. Scripps couldn't confirm that this year has been crazier, temp-wise, than past years. But our prolonged heat waves certainly produced some higher-than-usual ocean-surface temperatures. If our ocean thermometer usually varies between, say, 69 and 73, it's going to seem crazier if in a particularly hot year it varies between 71 and 78. It's the same forces at work, just a "longer" thermometer. If you get my internal wave.

Heymatt:

I believe it is healthier to boil a hot dog rather than nuke it. Boiling is akin to smoking marijuana through a bong as the water filters out impurities. You will notice a layer of scum on top of the water after boiling the hot dog. Confirm or deny my theory.

-- Dogz-4-Life

Bong dogs, eh? Healthier than nuclear dogs... Considering what they're made of, I'm surprised you even bother to worry about it. But in some odd way, you're probably right. The gunk floating on the water is fat. Maybe some unidentifiable meatlike foam too. But mostly fat. At least you cook them. Grandma Alice just came back from a big frankfurter symposium in Washington, and the FDA insisted that even though the meat in hot dogs is precooked, you should always cook 'em again (to 165 degrees). They are sometimes known to carry Listeria, which will take the starch right out of you.

Mr. Mattman:

While it is true that female dogs have two uteruses, do all dogs have a gallon-sized bladder? I swear, whenever I walk my dogs, they pee on almost every tree, bush, hydrant, whatever! And it looks like they empty their bladder every time, or do they save a little as reserve for the next tree that they come upon? Or do they manufacture urine that fast? What's going on?

-- Pooches Pausing to Pee in Serra Mesa

Peeing and territory-marking might look alike since the same plumbing is involved. But there are fine neurological differences. It's not likely that Bowser remembers, "They always walk me on the same route, so I need to divide things up so I have enough pee to mark eight trees, one hydrant, and a fence post." Fancy planning does not clutter up a dog's day. When a dog smells another dog's scent or is otherwise stimulated to announce his own presence, he only emits a small amount of urine. He's not thinking about it. It just happens that way. It's a scent-marking pee, its own kind of instinct. If his bladder is full enough, he'll make it through all the trees and hydrants and posts with plenty left over to burn your neighbors' lawn. If not, well, I'm sure you've seen your dogs lift a leg to mark a tree and nothing comes out. An empty bladder will not stop a dog from going through the motions anyway.

As for that two uteruses thing, they actually have only one, but it's a Y shape, with two upper chambers off a central canal. Babies develop in both arms of the Y and can sometimes create a puppyjam at birthing time if two hit the main freeway simultaneously. Kind of like the 5-805 merge.Mr. Mattman:

While it is true that female dogs have two uteruses, do all dogs have a gallon-sized bladder? I swear, whenever I walk my dogs, they pee on almost every tree, bush, hydrant, whatever! And it looks like they empty their bladder every time, or do they save a little as reserve for the next tree that they come upon? Or do they manufacture urine that fast? What's going on?

-- Pooches Pausing to Pee in Serra Mesa

Peeing and territory-marking might look alike since the same plumbing is involved. But there are fine neurological differences. It's not likely that Bowser remembers, "They always walk me on the same route, so I need to divide things up so I have enough pee to mark eight trees, one hydrant, and a fence post." Fancy planning does not clutter up a dog's day. When a dog smells another dog's scent or is otherwise stimulated to announce his own presence, he only emits a small amount of urine. He's not thinking about it. It just happens that way. It's a scent-marking pee, its own kind of instinct. If his bladder is full enough, he'll make it through all the trees and hydrants and posts with plenty left over to burn your neighbors' lawn. If not, well, I'm sure you've seen your dogs lift a leg to mark a tree and nothing comes out. An empty bladder will not stop a dog from going through the motions anyway.

As for that two uteruses thing, they actually have only one, but it's a Y shape, with two upper chambers off a central canal. Babies develop in both arms of the Y and can sometimes create a puppyjam at birthing time if two hit the main freeway simultaneously. Kind of like the 5-805 merge.

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