Environment

The oceans are dying – Update and Roundup of Ocean Events

Two rare oarfish washing up have caused many to stop and take note, as these deep sea dwellers are seldom seem. Even just one washing up could be a once in a lifetime event. Scientists and researchers are both concerned by the recent deaths and puzzled as to the cause of the rare appearances of these seldom seen creatures.

The recent discovery of the 18-foot giant oarfish found off Santa Catalina Island on Oct. 13 was among the largest oarfish reported in nearly 20 years.

Following on the heels of that discovery was another 14-foot fish which was beached in Oceanside last Friday. The oarfish was dissected and examined by scientists yesterday.

Results from the research could take years to complete, scientists said.

Between the discovery of of both oarfish another very rare sea creature also washed up on the shores of Venice Beach in California on Oct. 13. The rare 15-foot-long female Stejneger’s beaked whale normally prefers frigid subarctic waters and has rarely been seen in the wild.

Combined together with the other recent mass marine die-offs and the recent release of the The State of the Ocean Report 2013 from an international panel of marine scientists, it’s clear that the oceans are indeed dying and a mass extinction is underway.

The report carries ominous news: “Oxygen levels are dropping and ocean waters are acidifying at the fastest rate in at least 300 million years when the greatest marine extinction in earth’s history took place.”

The discovery of these rare ocean dwellers is not the only news that has scientists concerned. Other species of marine life have been rapidly disappearing, among them million of sardines off the coast of British Columbia. Commercial fisherman were shocked recently when they could not find one sardine on their recent fishing trips, indicating that a $32 million dollar fishery has collapsed. The fisherman have given up looking for sardines this year.

“They’ve given up looking, pulled the plug,” confirmed Lorne Clayton, executive director of the Canadian Pacific Sardine Association,“It certainly was disappointing. It’s cost them time, fuel, and crew to go out and look, with no compensation.”

In another recent report from the Canadian Press, starfish have also been dying off by the thousands, turning into mush in the ocean. The Vancouver Aquarium is ‘alarmed’ at the mass die-off of starfish that is happening on the ocean floor. “They’re gone. It’s amazing,” said Donna Gibbs, a research diver and taxonomist on the aquarium’s Howe Sound Research and Conservation group.

“Whatever hit them, it was like wildfire and just wiped them out.”

Not only are the starfish dying on the West Coast but reports have been coming in of the same things happening on the East Coast. In July, researchers at the University of Rhode Island reported that sea stars were dying in a similar way from New Jersey to Maine, and the university was working with colleagues at Brown and Roger Williams universities to figure out the cause.

The starfish die-off is also happening to other species including Chitons, Abalone, Mussels, Sun Stars and Salmon from the West Coast of California to Vancouver (see video of the mass die-off event)

Add to that recent dolphin and whale strandings, coral reef destruction and other mortality reports of marine life – and the prognosis is grim. Recent reports of yellow salmon have also been coming in. Researchers are mystified as to the cause of healthy salmon turning a ghastly yellow.

A recent review by the International Programme on the State of the Ocean is a warning: According to the IPSO, the evidence is clearer than ever that the effect of climate change is being felt most acutely by the world’s seas. Vast expanses of the ocean absorb heat and CO2 and the results are having disastrous effects on marine life.

The oceans are increasingly acidifying; warmer water holds less oxygen; and combined with overfishing and pollution from heavy metals, organochlorines and plastics, the outlook is darker than ever. Not to mention the effects that the fallout from the Fukushima Nuclear disaster present:

In a recent article by the Los Angeles Times, an estimated 60 billion becquerels of cesium-137 and strontium-90 are being discharged daily into the Pacific from the ditch at the north end of the reactors [outside of the harbor], said Michio Aoyama, senior researcher at the geochemical research department of the Meteorological Research Institute at the Japan Meteorological Agency. It has been determined that the amount of radiation coming from Fukushima is 6,500 times the normal limit. In addition to the radiation, debris from Fukushima has also littered the ocean far and wide.

Sailor Ivan Macfadyen, a frequent sailor on the ocean, was shocked and horrified on a recent voyage from Osaka Japan to San Francisco. Macfayden reports that,”After we left Japan, it felt as if the ocean itself was dead.”

“We hardly saw any living things. We saw one whale, sort of rolling helplessly on the surface with what looked like a big tumor on its head. It was pretty sickening.”

“I’ve done a lot of miles on the ocean in my life and I’m used to seeing turtles, dolphins, sharks and big flurries of feeding birds. But this time, for 3,000 nautical miles there was nothing alive to be seen.”

In place of the missing life was garbage in astounding volumes.

“Part of it was the aftermath of the tsunami that hit Japan a couple of years ago. The wave came in over the land, picked up an unbelievable load of stuff and carried it out to sea. And it’s still out there, everywhere you look.”

There is also growing speculation that large amounts of methane gas being emitted from the ocean may be the cause of or contributing to the death of the marine life.

Methane gas, also known in some circles as “the ticking time bomb”, is theorized to have caused mass extinctions in the past. Methane gas has been way above normal levels within the last few weeks, concerning scientists and researchers.

According to Sam Carana at the Arctic News Blog, this is a situation we need to be very concerned about: Carana says, “This is a very dangerous situation, since high levels of methane have been recorded over the Arctic Ocean for more than a month now. Furthermore, large amounts of methane have vented in the Laptev Sea area in previous years.”

A large release of methane could have catastrophic effects to life on earth.

Although climate change was hotly debated for many years, recent polls show that people are starting to understand the serious effects of climate change, including the potential death of our oceans.

Michael E. Mann, Climate Scientist, Professor at Penn State University and author of “Dire Predictions” & “The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars”, had this to say recently:

“Never did I imagine, when my co-authors and I published the ‘hockey stick’ curve a decade and a half ago, that I would find myself at the centre of the larger debate over human-caused climate change,” said Mann. “But regardless of how I ended up a prominent figure in the debate, I consider myself privileged to be in a position to inform the societal discourse over the greatest threat humans have ever faced, the threat of dangerous and potentially irreversible climate change.”

Paul Beckwith, part-time professor and a PhD student with the laboratory for paleoclimatology and climatology at the University of Ottawa, recently stated that he believes we have now entered into a state of abrupt climate change and that, “We have lost our stable climate,” which means that the climate can drastically change in a relatively short period of time, sometimes even within years. Read more about the “Tipping Point” here: The tipping point and its effects – the climate change warming point of no return.

Beckwith states that,”We have lost our stable climate. Likely permanently. Rates of change are greatly exceeding anything in the paleorecords. By at least 10x, and more likely >30x. We are heading to a much warmer world. The transition will be brutal for civilization.”

Putting all these reports and events together, it does seem that our worst nightmare facing civilization is now playing out in real time. It does seem that we have indeed hit the “Tipping Point” and that our oceans are urgently crying out to us in death, destruction and despair.

The question is now, is there anything we can do about it?

Space Events

Solar Flare

Earth-facing sunspot AR1877 erupted on Oct. 24th at 00:30 UT (Oct. 23rd at 5:30 pm PDT), producing an M9-class solar flare. A flash of extreme UV radiation from the flare ionized Earth’s upper atmosphere and created a brief HF radio blackout on the sunlit side of the planet.

Disease

Novel Coronavirus – Saudi Arabia – Update

WHO has been informed of two laboratory-confirmed cases of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) infection in Saudi Arabia on 18 and 19 October 2013, and three laboratory-confirmed cases in 18 September 2013.

Volcanos

Roundup of Global Volcanic Activity:

Zhupanovsky (Kamchatka, Russia): A new explosive eruption started yesterday night (23 Oct). An ash plume was detected drifting at an estimated 16,000 ft (5 km) altitude and drifting ESE. At least 1 mm of ash have been deposited in the Nalychevo valley, a natural park between Zhupanovsky and Avachinsky volcanoes.

Zhupanovsky volcano lies about 70 km northeast of the capital of Kamchatka, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, and had its last eruption in 1959.

It is a complex volcano composed of several overlapping cones aligned on a roughly east-west oriented axis. The new eruption comes from the same vent that has been also the site of all known historical eruptions, located west of the highest point of the volcanic massif.

Sakurajima (Kyushu, Japan): A phase of strong explosions during 20-21 Oct culminated with an eruption on 21 Oct that produced an ash plume rising to 18,000 ft (5.4 km) altitude (VAAC Tokyo).

Since then, the volcano has calmed down and had only smaller explosions.

Langila (New Britain, Papua New Guinea): A thermal hot spot and an SO2 plume are often visible on satellite data, indicating that the volcano is in eruption although the nature of its current activity is not known exactly.

The volcano, one of Papua New Guinea’s most active, has often semi-persistent strombolian activity and sometimes lava flows.

Earthquakes

Magnitude 5+ Earthquakes – Global

5.8 Earthquake hits south of Fiji.

5.8 Earthquake hits the Bougainville region, Papua New Guinea.

5.2 Earthquake hits Leyte in the Philippines.

5.0 Earthquake hits Mindanao in the Philippines.

Drought

Drought – and Other Disasters – in Argentina

Argentina’s agriculture, livestock and fishing ministry has declared four provinces to be in a state of agricultural emergency due to drought, storms, hail and frost. Argentina’s drought has become “critical” in almost all of the country’s northern oilseed and grain growing regions, with risks to crop forecasts for soybeans and sunflowers.

Storms and Floods

Tropical Storms

In the Atlantic:

Tropical storm Lorenzo is located about 830 mi. (1335 km) Eastt of Bermuda. Expected to weaken soon.

Tropical Storm Lorenzo, was born on Monday afternoon. Lorenzo’s formation brings this year’s Atlantic tally to 12 named storms, which is one more than the long term average. However, Lorenzo is going to be one of those weak, short-lived tropical storms that likely would have been missed before satellites came along in the 1960s. The storm will not be a threat to any land areas.

In the Western Pacific

Typhoon Francisco is located approximately 291 nm southeast of Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Japan.

Typhoon Francisco has steadily weakened since becoming Earth’s third Category 5 storm of 2013 on Saturday, and is now a Category 1 storm with 85 mph winds. Francisco is now traversing a large cool patch of ocean up to 2°C colder than the surrounding waters, left behind by the churning action of Typhoon Wipha last week.

By the time Francisco makes its closest approach to Japan on Thursday and Friday, it will be a tropical storm undergoing transition to an extratropical storm. However, the latest computer model guidance keeps Francisco well offshore from Japan, and the storm’s heaviest rains will miss the country.

Super Typhoon Lekima is located approximately 580 nm east -northeast of Andersen Air Force Base, Guam.

Typhoon Lekima is an impressive Category 4 typhoon with 145 mph winds, intensifying over the warm waters of the Western Pacific about 1,500 miles southeast of Japan. Satellite loops show that Lekima is another very well-organized typhoon with a prominent eye surrounded by a solid ring of eyewall clouds with very cold cloud tops. Lekima is predicted to reach Category 5 strength on Thursday, but will likely recurve to the northeast without affecting any land areas.

In the Eastern Pacific:

Hurricane Raymond is located about 140 mi (225 km) WSW of Acapulco, Mexico. Still parked off the coast of southern Mexico.

Hurricane Raymond weakens, but still drenching Mexico – Hurricane Raymond continues to spin just offshore of Acapulco, Mexico, as a Category 2 hurricane with 105 mph winds. As of 11 am EDT Tuesday, Raymond was stationary, centred about 135 miles west-southwest of Acapulco. Raymond brought 5.67″ of rain Saturday through Monday to Acapulco, where a Hurricane Watch is posted.

Raymond is expected to bring heavy rains of up to 12″ to the coast, and this is an area where heavy rains are definitely most unwelcome. Hurricane Manuel hit this region of Mexico with extreme torrential rains when it made landfall on September 15, triggering deadly mudslides and flooding that left 169 people dead or missing and caused $4.2 billion in damage. Raymond is in an area with weak steering currents, and is likely to show some erratic movement until today, when a ridge of high pressure is forecast to build in and force the storm west-southwestwards, away from the coast. Recent satellite loops show a weakening trend, as the southeast eyewall is now missing, and the storm’s heavy thunderstorms have diminished in intensity. This weakening may be due to the colder waters from below that Raymond’s winds have churned to the surface.

Wildfires

Wildfires – Australia

The threat of bushfires has eased in the Blue Mountains and Southern Highlands of New South Wales. But authorities expect that to change within 24 hours with updated weather forecasts labelled ‘as bad as it gets’.

Volcanos

Roundup of Global Volcanic Activity:

Stromboli (Eolian Islands, Italy): According to the local mountain guides from Magmatrek, activity has increased significantly during the past 3 days, especially at the NW vent. A group of VolcanoDiscovery has arrived on the island and will report in more detail in the following days.

Etna (Sicily, Italy): After about 10 days of near complete quiet, a faint red glow was observed early on 22 Oct at the New SE crater. The origin of the glow seems to have been increased degassing from the summit vent and the at the fumaroles in the saddle between the old and New SE cone.

Karymsky (Kamchatka): An explosion yesterday produced an ash plume rising to 7,000 ft (2.1 km) and drifting SE, VAAC Tokyo reported.

Ibu (Halmahera, Indonesia): Hot spots at the summit have become larger and more frequently observed on recent MODIS satellite data. This indicates that activity has become more intense at the volcano with its active lava dome.

Dukono (Halmahera): The semi-persistent explosive activity of strombolian to vulcanian type has been at elevated levels recently. The volcano produced ash plumes rising to 9,000 ft (2.7 km) altitude yesterday as well as this morning. Our friend Aris reported from a recent visit to the volcano that bombs during this activity were ejected to up to 1.5 km distance from the active crater.

Veniaminof (Alaska Peninsula, USA): No new eruptive activity has been observed recently and MODIS satellite data no longer show hot spots. Seismicity remains above background levels, and AVO maintains alert level yellow.

Earthquakes

Magnitude 5+ Earthquakes – Global

5.3 Earthquake hits northern Sumatra, Indonesia.

5.3 Earthquake hits near the east coast of Honshu, Japan.

5.1 Earthquake hits Ascension Island.

5.0 Earthquake hits northeast of the Loyalty islands.

5.0 Earthquake hits Bohol in the Philippines.

5.0 Earthquake hits the Solomon Islands.

5.0 Earthquake hits the South Sandwich Islands.

Storms and Floods

Tropical Storms

In the Atlantic:

Tropical storm Lorenzo has formed and is located about 650 miles (1020 km) east-southeast of Bermuda.

In the Western Pacific:

Typhoon Francisco is located approximately 152 nm west of Andersen Air Force Base, Guam.

Category 2 Typhoon Francisco has steadily weakened on Sunday and Monday, after spending just over a day as Earth’s third Category 5 storm of 2013 on Saturday. Satellite loops show a large, cloud-filled eye and a decaying eyewall. Since wind shear remains low, the weakening is likely in response to cooler ocean temperatures, since Francisco is now traversing a large cool patch of ocean up to 2°C colder than the surrounding waters, left behind by the churning action of Typhoon Wipha last week.

By the time Francisco makes its closest approach to Japan on Thursday and Friday, it will be undergoing transition to an extratropical storm. Francisco’s interaction with a cold front over Japan during this process will bring very heavy rains to Japan, and these rains (4 – 8 inches) will pose a serious flooding threat, as the soils have not had a chance to dry out much from the record rains that Typhoon Wipha brought last week.

Typhoon Lekima is located approximately 827 nm east of Andersen Air Force Base, Guam.

In the Eastern Pacific:

Hurricane Raymond is located about 160 mi (255 km) WSW of Acapulco, Mexico.

Hurricane Raymond roared into life on Sunday just offshore from Acapulco, Mexico, rapidly intensifying from a minimal-strength tropical storm with 40 mph winds to a major Category 3 hurricane in just 24 hours. Raymond is the first major hurricane in the Eastern Pacific in 2013, making it the first year since 1968 that both the Eastern Pacific and Atlantic had made it into October without a major hurricane.

Raymond has brought more than 3″ of rain so far to Acapulco, where a Hurricane Watch is posted. Raymond is expected to bring heavy rains of up to 8″ to the coast, and this is an area where heavy rains are definitely most unwelcome. Hurricane Manuel hit this region of Mexico with extreme torrential rains when it made landfall on September 15, triggering deadly mudslides and flooding that left 169 people dead or missing

NewsBytes

Tornado in France today has claimed the life of one person and injured two others, local media reported. The tornado caused heavy damage in Steent’je, near the French northern city of Bailleul.

Photo of damage caused by tornado in france today

A severe storm in Wales left parts of the capital city under several inches of water over the weekend. Police in Cardiff were forced to close roads on Saturday afternoon while shops were forced shut by unexpected flash-floods. Pentrebane, Llandaff, Roath and Cathays were hit by the heavy rainfall while witnesses described how Whitchurch village was “turned into a well” in just half an hour.

Global Warming

Global Warming Forecast for Amazon Rain Forest: Dry and Dying

The Amazon rain forest’s dry season lasts three weeks longer than it did 30 years ago, and the likely culprit is global warming, a new study finds.

Rain falls year-round in the Amazon, but most of the annual deluge drops during the wet season. (The rainy season’s timing varies with latitude.) Scientists think that a longer dry season will stress trees, raising the risk of wildfires and forest dieback. The forest’s annual fire season became longer as the dry season lengthened.

“The length of the dry season in the southern Amazon is the most important climate condition controlling the rain forest,” Rong Fu, a climate scientist at The University of Texas at Austin’s Jackson School of Geosciences, said in a statement. “If the dry season is too long, the rain forest will not survive.”

With the dry season already spanning an extra week each decade since 1979, the future effects will be more severe.

During the 2005 and 2010 droughts, satellites detected decreased vegetation greenness over the southern Amazon rain forest (orange and red regions).

Amazon drying

“The dry season over the southern Amazon is already marginal for maintaining rain forest,” Fu said. “At some point, if it becomes too long, the rain forest will reach a tipping point.”

Wildfires

Wildfires – Australia

Major fires ravaging the Blue Mountains west of Sydney are threatening to merge to form a massive blaze, the state’s fire commissioner said Monday.

“I don’t think I’ve ever used the word megafire,” said New South Wales Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons.

“But the reality is that the modelling indicates that there’s every likelihood that in the forecast weather conditions that these two fires, particularly up in the back end of the mountains, will merge at some point.”

Firefighters spent the night building containment lines to prevent this from happening, with heat and winds set to intensify in the coming days. It is feared the worsening conditions could push the blaze to the populated tourist centres of Leura and Katoomba. Worst wildfires in decades.

The fires took hold on Thursday claiming the life of a 63-year-old man who died of a suspected heart attack while attempting to defend his home from the flames.

An estimated 58 fires – 14 of which remain out of control – have since destroyed more than 200 homes and burned through more than 100,000 hectares of land in the most serious fire disaster in the state in almost 50 years.

Among the worst hit has been the town of Lithgow where a blaze has already ravaged almost 40,000 hectares.

On Sunday New South Wales Premier Barry O’Farrell declared a state of emergency, announcing that authorities were “planning for the worst but hoping for the best.” “This is not an action taken lightly … but it’s important the Rural Fire Service and other emergency services have the powers and the resources they need to combat this threat,” O’Farrell said.

The order gives emergency personnel the authority to force evacuations and close electricity networks.

Wildlife

“The Pacific Ocean is Broken”

The following is a report received from a sailor, Ivan MacFayden sailing the Pacific.

“After we left Japan, it felt as if the ocean itself was dead,” Australian yachtsman Ivan Macfadyen said.

“We hardly saw any living things. We saw one whale, sort of rolling helplessly on the surface with what looked like a big tumour on its head. It was pretty sickening.

I’ve done a lot of miles on the ocean in my life and I’m used to seeing turtles, dolphins, sharks and big flurries of feeding birds. But this time, for 3000 nautical miles there was nothing alive to be seen.”

In place of the missing life was garbage in astounding volumes

And something else. The boat’s vivid yellow paint job, never faded by sun or sea in years gone past, reacted with something in the water off Japan, losing its sheen in a strange and unprecedented way.”

There have been several similar reports about wildlife [or lack thereof] around the Pacific.

Environment

Pollution

China’s 10th-largest city shuts down because of extreme air pollution – Harbin, China, the nation’s 10th most populous city with a population of 11 million, has virtually shut down today because of extreme levels of air pollution reaching up to 1,000 micrograms per cubic meter. The safe level recommended by the World Heath Organisation is just 25 micrograms per cubic meter. The dense pollution was created by stagnant air on a day when the city’s heating systems kicked in for the first time this fall. With visibility less than 50 yards, the airport was forced to close, as well as most schools and some roads.