Global Warming

Satellite Observations Show Marine Clouds Amplify Global Warming

A new analysis of satellite cloud observations finds that global warming causes low-level clouds over the oceans to decrease, leading to further warming.

These clouds, such as the stratocumulus clouds responsible for the often gloomy conditions, are widespread over the global oceans and strongly cool the planet by shading the surface from sunlight. The new study finds that, overall, this cooling effect will be modestly reduced as the concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere increases. The warming initially caused by increasing CO2 gets an extra push from reductions in clouds — an amplifying feedback.

Global Warming

Vanishing Ocean Buffer

The heating of the surface waters of the western North Atlantic under climate change has caused that important layer to shrink, which an international team of researchers says has crippled the water’s ability to absorb the atmosphere’s excess carbon dioxide and heat.

The North Atlantic Subtropical Mode Water has historically been about 800 feet thick. But more than 90% of that layer has been lost due to the warming of the past decade, according to a study published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

The loss is said to also threaten the region’s phytoplankton, the base of the marine food chain near the ocean’s surface.

Environment

Ocean Restoration – A Pipe-dream?

Humankind’s rampant overfishing, pollution and other assaults on the world’s oceans can be reversed within a generation, according to a new scientific review.

The international team of researchers that issued the review says that while the effort would cost billions of dollars a year through 2050, it would eventually pay off with benefits of 10 times that amount.

“If you stop killing sea life and protect it, then it does come back,” said team member Callum Roberts of Britain’s University of York.

The review also says climate change must be curbed because of the ocean acidification, loss of oxygen and coral destruction it brings.

It is however, questioned whether the global community has the collective will to achieve a restoration of the world’s oceans. With people like Pres. Trump in power, it seems unlikely that the environment and wildlife will ever receive the care and respect they deserve.

Global Warming

The World’s oceans are speeding up

Three quarters of the world’s ocean waters have sped up their pace in recent decades, scientists reported Wednesday, a massive development that was not expected to occur until climate warming became much more advanced.

The change is being driven by faster winds, which are adding more energy to the surface of the ocean. That, in turn, produces faster currents and an acceleration of ocean circulation.

The new research found that 76% of the global ocean is speeding up, when the top 2,000 meters of the ocean are taken into account. The increase in speed is most intense in tropical oceans and especially the vast Pacific.

Scientists aren’t certain of all the consequences of this speedup yet. But they may include impacts in key regions along the eastern coasts of continents, where several currents have intensified. The result in some cases has been damaging ocean hotspots that have upended marine life.

They found a global increase in wind speed over the ocean of about 2% per decade since the 1990s, which translates into about a 5% increase per decade in the speed of ocean currents.

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Global Warming

Oceans running out of oxygen as temperatures rise

Climate change and nutrient pollution are driving the oxygen from our oceans, and threatening many species of fish. That’s the conclusion of the biggest study of its kind, undertaken by conservation group IUCN.

While nutrient run-off has been known for decades, researchers say that climate change is making the lack of oxygen worse. Around 700 ocean sites are now suffering from low oxygen, compared with 45 in the 1960s. Researchers say the depletion is threatening species including tuna, marlin and sharks.

As more carbon dioxide is released enhancing the greenhouse effect, much of the heat is absorbed by the oceans. In turn, this warmer water can hold less oxygen.

Disease

Viral Oceans

A four-year study has found that nearly 200,000 marine virus species live in the world’s oceans — far more than the 12,000 species that had earlier been cataloged.

A team that took samples of ocean water from around the world and at varying depths found that communities of the viruses live in five distinct zones.

They also found a great diversity of the viruses in the Arctic, which is in contrast to larger organisms, whose diversity is concentrated near the equator.

Bird Flu – Nepal

The Epidemiology and Disease Control Division of the Nepal Ministry of Health and Population confirmed Thursday the first human fatality due to H5N1 avian influenza infection.

Global Warming

Warming Record

The U.N. weather agency announced that the last four years have been the warmest ever recorded since reliable measurements began.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) also says that the 20 warmest years in history occurred during the past 22 years.

The WMO went on to point out that the unprecedented warming continues this year, with Australia experiencing its hottest January on record.

“The degree of warming during the past four years has been exceptional, both on land and in the ocean,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.

Oceans to Change Color

The distinctive blue color that Earth presents to the universe may be altered by the end of this century due to effects of a warmer climate.

A team of U.S. and British researchers modeled how phytoplankton absorb and reflect light, and how the ocean’s color will change as global warming alters the composition of those microorganisms living in it.

The scientists predict that blue regions, such as the subtropics, will become more blue, while areas nearer the poles may turn a deeper green as warmer waters stimulate larger and more diverse blooms of phytoplankton.

“There will be a noticeable difference in the color of 50 percent of the ocean by the end of the 21st century,” said lead researcher Stephanie Dutkiewicz of MIT.

Global Warming

This Stretch of Water Is Losing Oxygen Faster Than Almost Anywhere Else in The Ocean

A new study links rapid deoxygenation in the Gulf of St. Lawrence to two powerful currents: the Gulf Stream and the Labrador Current.

The broad, biologically rich waterway in Eastern Canada which drains North America’s Great Lakes and is popular with fishing boats, whales, and tourists has lost oxygen faster than almost anywhere else in the global oceans.

The paper, which appears in Nature Climate Change, explains how large-scale climate change already is causing oxygen levels to drop in the deeper parts of this waterway.

The findings confirm a recent study showing that, as carbon dioxide levels rose over the past century due to human emissions, the Gulf Stream has shifted northward and the Labrador Current has weakened.

The new paper finds that this causes more of the Gulf Stream’s warm, salty, and oxygen-poor water to enter the St. Lawrence Seaway.

Oxygen declines have been seen to affect Atlantic wolffish, and also threaten Atlantic cod, snow crabs, and Greenland halibut that all live in the depths.

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Wildlife

Heat Refugees

Temperatures have soared so high in Norway’s Arctic region this summer that reindeer are taking shelter from the heat in traffic tunnels and in other shaded places.

The Norwegian Public Roads Administration took the unusual measure of urging motorists to be on the lookout for the tundra grazers after at least 44 traffic collisions with reindeer and sheep occurred during July.

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Lost Wilderness

Only 13 percent of the world’s oceans remain untouched by such human influences as shipping, pollution and fishing, according to an international team of researchers.

Writing in the journal Current Biology, they determined that the areas remaining “mostly free of human disturbance” are now almost entirely in the Arctic and Antarctic, and around some isolated Pacific islands.

Global Warming

Carbon Dioxide Turns Oceans Acidic

Sea creatures are literally being eaten away and ‘dissolved’ by pollution, scientists have discovered.

It’s feared that high levels of carbon dioxide in the water could cause irreparable damage to marine ecosystems after tests found acute levels of the gas cause starfish to dissolve.

A team of marine scientists conducted a four-day experiment at Loch Sween on Scotland’s west coast to measure the response to short-term carbon dioxide exposure.

Previously, tests had focused on the effect high levels of the gas had on individual plants or animals, leaving a gap in knowledge about how whole marine ecosystems respond to sudden influxes of carbon dioxide.

When high levels of carbon dioxide enters the oceans it causes them to become more acidic.

The experiment revealed acute exposure led to net dissolution, meaning calcified organisms such as the coralline algae and starfish were dissolving.

Global Warming

Deadly ocean heatwaves

A heatwave that struck a quarter of the world’s oceans in 2016 was made far more likely by climate change, according to a new study.

Nicknamed “the blob” when it appeared in the eastern Pacific, the mass of warm water was linked with the deaths of marine animals and the devastation of ecosystems.

Ocean water naturally goes through phases of higher temperatures – notably the event known as El Niño, which leads to periods of warmer water in the Pacific Ocean.

Climate change is also thought to contribute to some of this temperature fluctuation, but it can be difficult establishing the exact contribution it makes.

However, a team of Australian scientists has concluded the heatwave of 2016 was influenced by anthropogenic – that is, human-induced – climate change.

The research focuses on warming around northern Australia, which resulted in mass coral bleaching, and the northern Pacific Ocean between Alaska and Russia.

Extreme temperatures in the Gulf of Alaska have been linked with the deaths of thousands of seabirds and whales during this period.

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Wildlife

Oceans – Noise Pollution

The noise pollution produced by ships and marine construction projects in the Gulf of Maine is drowning out the sounds that Atlantic cod and haddock need to communicate with each other, according to a new study.

The U.S. environment agency NOAA says this is altering the behavior, feeding, mating and socializing of the commercially important fish.

The study concludes that since the fish make sounds to attract mates and listen for predators, not hearing those signals could threaten their breeding success and survival.

Environment

Ocean meeting raises funds for marine protection

A global conference to better protect marine life has raised more than $7bn and won commitments to protect huge swathes of the Earth’s oceans.

The European Union, which organised the ‘Our Ocean’ conference in the Maltese capital of Valletta, its 28 member states and its EIB investment bank gave almost half those financial commitments, about $3.4bn.

Representatives from businesses, almost 100 countries and others pushed the total up to the unprecedented level.

The conference focused on funding and leading projects as varied as combating plastics pollution to countering illegal fishing and looking at the effects of climate change.

Global Warming

Ocean acidification is global warming’s forgotten crisis

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Most of us are familiar with the climate change impacts we see and feel in our communities: heatwaves, storms, droughts, floods, and so on.

But a UN meeting this week about climate change and oceans reminds us a related crisis is unfolding largely away public attention: the one-two punch of ocean warming and acidification.

With record temperatures sweeping over continents year after year, it is easy to overlook that the ocean has absorbed some 90% of the heat trapped by the carbon dioxide dumped into the atmosphere since the industrial revolution; and how much of that CO2 has dissolved into seawater as carbonic acid, altering its basic chemistry.

The UN meeting follows on the heels of a new secretary general report that investigates the impacts of these changes and the findings are concerning, to say the least.

The report describes record ocean temperatures pushing fish species toward cooler latitudes and out of reach of artisanal fishers; it documents widespread coral bleaching across the tropical belt and how most reefs could enter a state of permanent decline by 2040; it shows how ocean acidification has damaged a range of calcifying marine life, such as corals and shellfish; and it raises fears that the cumulative effects of the impacts are degrading phytoplankton, zooplankton, and krill, the foundation of the ocean’s food chain.

A sea snail shell is dissolved over the course of 45 days in seawater adjusted to an ocean chemistry projected for the year 2100.

Pterapod shell dissolved in seawater adjusted to an ocean chemistry projected for the year 2100

Environment

Trash Isn’t Just A Problem For Henderson Island, It’s Everywhere

The uninhabited Henderson Island has gained a lot of attention because of the fact that it has no people, but lots of trash.

A recent study determined that the island has become a dumping ground for plastic refuse. Unfortunately, it’s not alone. Here are just a few examples of seemingly pristine locales that have become polluted by humanity’s waste.

The Mariana Trench: The Mariana Trench is the deepest part of the ocean and, as such, one would expect it to be free from humanity’s touch, but that is not the case. A study has discovered that sea life living in the trench were found to have high levels of cancer-causing pollutants in their bodies.

Ironically, the isolated nature of the Mariana Trench is part of the reason that these pollutants often end up there.

“[These chemicals] don’t like water, and so they will stick to things in the water like plastic, and then that plastic will settle,” said the study’s co-author Stuart Piertney. “Because these deep-sea trenches are the very bottom of the sink for the oceans, there’s a sort of inevitability that they’re going to end up there.”

We know less about the depths of the ocean than we do the surface of the moon, but this serves as a reminder that our actions have consequences regardless of whether we are aware of them.

“The fact that we found such extraordinary levels of these pollutants in one of the most remote and inaccessible habitats on Earth really brings home the long-term, devastating impact that mankind is having on the planet,” said co-author Alan Jamieson.

Hawaii’s Northwestern Islands: Hawaii is a tropical paradise and one of the world’s top vacation spots, but it also has a string of uninhabited islands. Those islands serve as a wildlife refuge for many types of marine life, but, like Henderson Island, they too have became littered with trash.

The problem has gotten so bad that the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has organized cleanup efforts. A recent expedition uncovered more than 57 tons of garbage. In addition to polluting the water and ruining the area’s natural beauty, the trash, which is mostly plastic, is dangerous to the local wildlife.

The debris, which includes lighters, bottle caps, and other hard plastic items, are often mistaken for food by seabirds, which will feed the trash to their offspring.

Smaller debris isn’t the only problem facing these islands. Despite the fact that fishing is prohibited in wildlife sanctuaries, lost nets and lines that often end up in the area can kill larger marine life such as dolphins or sea turtles.

Plastic Is The Problem: In the case of both Henderson and Hawaii, the bulk of the discarded trash is made of plastic. Every year, roughly 8 million tons of plastic waste ends up the in ocean. This waste is then caught up in gyres that carry the garbage to remote locations.