Plane Search Raises Questions About Sea of Floating Junk

March 30, 2014 by  
Filed under Featured, plastic

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HT malaysia map search plane ml 140328 16x9 608 Plane Search Raises Questions About Sea of Floating Junk

The search area for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 has been shifted nearly 700 miles northeast, March 28, 2014. (Australian Maritime Safety Authority)

The search for debris from missing Malaysia Airlines flight 370 has not turned up any evidence of a crash, but it has trained the world’s gaze on thousands of pieces of junk floating on the ocean’s surface.

Much of that debris could be made up of plastics, old appliances or parts of homes that have washed away from fragile communities, and cargo containers from ships, according to ocean advocacy group One World One Ocean.

Check out some of the facts about what’s really floating in our oceans:

The Pacific Garbage Patches: The most heavily-researched and well-known example of plastic pollution in the ocean is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, made up of some 3.5 million tons of plastic beverage bottles, grocery bags, and plastic goods that have been pushed together by water currents that circulate between the west coast of North America and the east coast of China and Russia.

The Five Ocean Gyres: Pollutions can easily get caught in one of the five “gyres” of the ocean: the northern and southern Atlantic gyres, the Indian Ocean gyre, and the northern and southern Pacific gyres. The term describes water that moves in a circular, rotational current over a vast space in the ocean, pulling in stray plastics as it moves until they collide and merge with one another.  Because these gyres are trafficked heavily by cargo ships, the garbage patches contain large objects that have gone overboard from ships, including entire cargo containers.

Indian Ocean’s Plastic Problem: Researchers only began focusing on plastic pollution in the Indian Ocean in recent years, and in 2010 discovered garbage patches much like the famous Pacific Garbage Patch, according to Coastal Cares, another clean ocean advocacy group.

Plastic Breaks Down: As the garbage floats into the gyres it is broken down by salt and UV rays and begins releasing chemical properties into the water that then enter the food system, according to the Scripps Institute at the University of California San Diego. The plastics also fall into smaller pieces that can make them difficult to clean up.

Article source: http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/03/plane-search-raises-questions-about-sea-of-floating-junk/

10883 out of 10885 scientific articles agree: Global warming is happening…

March 25, 2014 by  
Filed under Featured, Global Warming

As geochemist James Lawrence Powell continues to prove, the only people still debating whether or not climate change is “real,” and caused by human activity, are the ones who aren’t doing the actual research. In an update to his ongoing project of reviewing the literature on global warming, Powell went through every scientific study published in a peer-review journal during the calendar year 2013, finding 10,885 in total (more on his methodology here). Of those, a mere two rejected anthropogenic global warming. The consensus, as he defines it, looks like this:

Powell even had to expand that itty bitty slice of the consensus pie five times for us to make it out  – the actual doubt about climate change within the scientific community is even tinier.

Adding this new data to his previous findings, Powell estimates that the going rate for climate denial in scientific research is about 1 in 1,000. The outliers, he adds, “have had no discernible influence on science.” From this, he comes up with a theory of his own:

Very few of the most vocal global warming deniers, those who write op-eds and blogs and testify to congressional committees, have ever written a peer-reviewed article in which they say explicitly that anthropogenic global warming is false. Why? Because then they would have to provide the evidence and, evidently, they don’t have it.

What can we conclude?

1. There a mountain of scientific evidence in favor of anthropogenic global warming and no convincing evidence against it.

2. Those who deny anthropogenic global warming have no alternative theory to explain the observed rise in atmospheric CO2 and global temperature.

These two facts together mean that the so-called debate over global warming is an illusion, a hoax conjured up by a handful of apostate scientists and a misguided and sometimes colluding media, aided and abetted by funding from fossil fuel companies and right wing foundations.



UPDATE 3/26/2014 9:27 PM: The headline of this post has been corrected to reflect the correct number of articles referenced by Dr. Powell’s research. Powell also clarifies that many of those studies were authored by multiple scientists, so the complete number is actually higher. The headlines has been updated to reflect this as well.

On his methodology, Powell notes, he only verified that two out of the 10,885 articles he found concluded that anthropogenic global warming (AGW) is wrong: “It is a safe assumption that virtually all the other 10883 do not reject–that is, they accept–AGW but I can’t say for sure that each one of them does.”


Article source: http://www.salon.com/2014/03/25/10853_out_of_10855_scientists_agree_man_made_global_warming_is_happening/

How Global Warming Is Dissolving Sea Life (And What We Can Do About It)

March 25, 2014 by  
Filed under Featured, Global Warming

How Global Warming Is Dissolving Sea Life (And What We Can Do About It)S

The last time Earth’s oceans were this acidic, a six mile-wide sulphur-rich space rock had just smashed into the Yucatan Peninsula, unleashing a deluge of acid rain that exterminated all sea life in the the top 400 meters of the water column. Now, some 65 million years after the Cretaceous extinction, human activity is threatening to similarly decimate the ocean’s ecosystem—this time, from the bottom up.

How the Oceans Went Out of Whack

Under natural conditions, carbon dioxide is continuously transferred between the ocean, atmosphere, and continents in a delicately balanced process known as the carbon cycle. CO2 is pulled from the atmosphere by photosynthetic plants, which form the base of both terrestrial and oceanic food webs. It’ then subsequently sequestered in sediment when those plants—as well as the animals that feed on them—die and decompose. It’s a nice trick and it helps keep us all breathing.

Simultaneously, a roughly equivalent amount of carbon enters the atmosphere due to air-sea gas exchanges, as well as the respiration of sedimentary microbes as they decompose dead organic matter. Along with the nitrogen and water cycles, this carbon cycle is one of the primary facilitators of life on Earth, constantly recycling the limited supply of carbon that forms the base of every organism alive today.

But since the dawn of the industrial revolution, human activity—specifically, burning coal to produce energy—has upended the balance of the carbon cycle. The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has jumped from 280 ppm prior to industrialization to nearly 400 ppm today. We’re pouring more CO2 into the atmosphere than the system can sequester. This excess of atmospheric greenhouse gas has not only resulted in global warming but wreaked havoc on the ocean’s chemistry as well.

How Global Warming Is Dissolving Sea Life (And What We Can Do About It)S

When carbon dioxide enters the ocean, it reacts with seawater to create carbonic acid. This acid in turn produces a secondary reaction, splitting into separate bicarbonate and hydronium ions, which lower the water’s pH level. The more CO2 present in the atmosphere, the more gets absorbed by the oceans, and the lower the water’s pH will become.

Current scientific estimates suggest that the oceans are absorbing roughly 25 percent of the CO2 we produce each year, with another 45 percent remaining trapped in the atmosphere, and the rest being absorbed by terrestrial plants. Between 1751 and 1994, the surface ocean pH has dropped from an estimated 8.25 to 8.14. That may not seem like much but remember pH is logarithmic, just like the Richter Scale, so a .11 decrease constitutes a 30 percent increase in acidity. And if acidification rates continue at their present pace, the pH of the world’s oceans could drop another .5 units—roughly triple the acidity they are right now—by 2100. This would be cataclysmic for sea life and humanity alike.

What This Means for Sea Life

How Global Warming Is Dissolving Sea Life (And What We Can Do About It)S

While an added abundance of atmospheric C02 may be a boon to plant life, the resulting acidification it causes is seriously impairing the development of oceanic calcifying organisms—everything that lives in a calcium-based shell from the phytoplankton, zooplankton, and corals that form the base of the food web to mollusks and crustaceans like clams, oysters, crabs, and lobsters.

Normally, there’s a supersaturation of carbonate ions, which these animals process into aragonite for use in their shells. However, as the pH decreases, calcium carbonate becomes more soluble which reduces the concentration of available carbonate ions. And not only does this reduce the rate at which organisms can build their protective structures, it also increases the rate at which existing shells dissolve. They’re literally being melted away by increasingly corrosive seawater.

How Global Warming Is Dissolving Sea Life (And What We Can Do About It)S

And it’s not just shellfish that are at risk. Decreased pH levels have been linked to a number of other adverse effects—both direct and indirect—such as the CO2-induced acidification of body fluids, known as hypercapnia, the reduced metabolism in jumbo squid, slowed embryonic development in Atlantic longfin squid, the inability of juvenile clownfish (poor Nemo!) to hear and smell approaching predators, and the diminished echolocation capacity of dolphins and whales.

Nowhere, though, is the effect more clearly illustrated than in coral. Both tropical and deep sea coral species, whose calcium carbonate homes form reefs that support entire ecosystems—acting as both nurseries for a number of commercial fish stocks as well as habitat for countless other species—are showing slower rates of growth than in the past and are suffering from the effects of coral bleaching at unprecedented levels. In 2005, for example, nearly half of the coral around the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico were lost in a single year to mass bleaching events.

How Global Warming Is Dissolving Sea Life (And What We Can Do About It)S

Image: Acropora

The loss of their coral homes only serves to amplify the pressure exerted on existing fish and crustacean populations from overfishing, habitat loss, pollution, and rising sea temperatures. It won’t be long before humanity is directly affected too.

What This Means for Humans

The ocean acts as the primary source of protein for over a billion people worldwide. The US commercial fishing industry exported more than $5.1 billion of fish products in 2012 alone while providing employment for more than a million Americans. We are the fifth-largest seafood producer behind China, Peru, India, and Indonesia—catching just 3.8 percent of the global total annually.

Ocean acidification threatens to topple this industry in the near term if steps are not taken to correct it. The populations of popular shellfish like lobsters, crab, scallops, shrimp, oysters, mussels, and clams are in danger of collapse as the concentration of carbonate ions continues to decline. What’s more, the increased water acidity is doing strange things to crab stocks.

How Global Warming Is Dissolving Sea Life (And What We Can Do About It)S

Image: Sasha Isachenko

Alaskan Red King Crabs—the centerpiece of the Alaskan crabbing industry, which fetched $92.5 million for just 14.8 million pounds in 2011—show a 100 percent increase in larval mortality (twice as many die) when raised in acidified water, though the less sought-after dungeness crabs, which live in the same areas as King Reds, are less unaffected by the pH change. Maryland Blue crabs, on the other hand, will grow three times their average size when raised in lower pH waters and become extremely aggressive predators. Still, should these populations collapse, the damage to the regional fishing industry—not to mention the prices at your supermarket—will take decades to repair.

What We Can Do About It?

Since ocean acidification (like global warming) is the result of human activity, it therefore can be mitigated by changing the way we interact with the environment.

One obvious answer is to simply reduce the amount of CO2 we’re discharging into the air, though that is far easier said than done. While the world’s governments continue t0 work towards a political solution (see: the Kyoto Protocol) and coastal fisheries simultaneously strive to both slow the rate of acidification and adapt to changing water chemistry, there are a number of steps individuals can take to reduce their carbon footprint. And while reducing your personal carbon emissions may not make a very big impact, the actions of 6 billion individuals taken together could very well save the world. [PhysOrg – Wiki 1, 2, 3 – NOAA 1, 2, 3, 4NRDCWHOIEPASeattle TimesReal Science]

top image: Ethan Daniels

Article source: http://gizmodo.com/how-global-warming-is-dissolving-sea-life-and-what-we-1532266705

Global warming documentary Chasing Ice to show at Princeton film festival

January 17, 2013 by  
Filed under Featured, Global Warming

Houses swept away by floodwaters; record drought, wildfire and hurricanes; melting ice caps and the hottest summer on record – how can anyone doubt global warming?

Photographer James Balog, once a skeptic, sets out to prove it through his Extreme Ice Survey, capturing photographic evidence of melting, disappearing glaciers. Filmmaker Jeff Orlowski documents the lengths to which Balog goes to prove his point – including kicking off his boots to plunge into the icy water for one chilling shot in Chasing Ice.

decaying ice, Iceland copyright JAMES BALOGDespite a bum knee, Balog hikes ice caps in Alaska, Iceland and Greenland, placing specially developed cameras that will endure the harsh conditions and record the glacier meltdown through time-lapse photography.

The Sundance Film Festival award-winner will be screened at the seventh annual Princeton Environmental Film Festival Feb. 2, 7 p.m. It is one of 35 films that will be shown over three weekends, Jan. 24 through Feb. 10, at the Princeton Public Library.

Documenting climate change

Chasing Ice “is the best visual representation of climate change I’ve ever seen,” said festival director Susan Conlon.

It took seven years for Balog to create and station his cameras and have them execute the images, yet his time-lapse videos compress those years into seconds to show ancient mountains of ice disappear before our eyes.

Observing Balog up close, “I have never met someone so dedicated to their passions,” filmmaker Orlowski said.

One of the scariest moments was watching Balog climb down the canyon and onto a broken piece of ice as he looked into a shaft in the glacier. “None of us were sure if it was going to break,” said Orlowski, 28. “Everyone was on the edge of the seats.”

Indeed the entire crew engaged in risky behavior in order to help Balog fulfill his mission. Note to Orlowski’s parents: do not read the following quote from your son. “In retrospect, there were a lot of life-threatening experiences.”

At the end of the film, Balog says he went to such lengths so his children would know he did all he could to inform the world about climate change. Those who continue to deny climate change “do not have access to the science,” said Orlowski. “Most of climate science is in numbers and graphs and in such technical terms that people don’t understand it and think it is not true. Now we have evidence that is accessible to all people.”

Our connection with nature

The theme for this year’s Princeton Environmental Film Festival is “sense of place.” When we think of environmental issues such as climate change, reckless development and green energy affecting our own state, town, even neighborhood, they become more threatening.

“Many of the films tell stories about people and places outside our state, and reveal how we are more connected than we realize,” said Conlon.

Films falling into this category are “You’ve Been Trumped” (d. Anthony Baxter) in which a group of townspeople in Scotland band together when developer Donald Trump begins construction of an elaborate golf resort on a fragile piece of wilderness in Scotland; Detropia” (d. Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady), told through the eyes of people struggling to stay in post-industrial Motor City, once a grand city; “The Battle for Brooklyn” (d. Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley) about the struggle of residents fighting to preserve their neighborhood from the developer of Atlantic Yards, including Barclays Center sports arena.

Princeton resident Andrea Odezynska made Felt, Feelings and Dreams, following a small group of Kyrgyz women who pull themselves out from crushing poverty by reviving ancient traditions of making crafts and art from felt.

Against scenes of rocky mountains dotted with yurts and traditional ethnic music from the region, we see women of all ages pouring their might into shearing, soaking and beating the wool fibers, rendering it into colorful textiles.

In the six years since the festival was begun, “we have learned a lot about what makes it appealing to people returning from previous years and those just discovering it,” said Conlon.

The most important criteria for selecting films is the quality of the film, and emphasis on storytelling. “We do not set out with a list of issues or a checklist. What we want the films, on their own and as part of the whole festival, to do is encourage us to explore and expand our concepts of sustainability.”

As attendees become impassioned by what they see, “Our community organizations like Sustainable Princeton, Stonybrook-Millstone Watershed Association, DR Greenway Land Trust, school gardens, and others are great gateways for people to get involved,” said Conlon. “There are resources provided on many of the films’ websites that offer opportunities to learn more about issues explored in the films. And some people have been inspired to tell their stories by making their own films, seeking opportunities to learn about filmmaking and access equipment at Princeton’s TV-30.”

The Princeton Environmental Film Festival takes place Jan. 24-27, Jan. 31-Feb. 3 and Feb. 7-10 at the Princeton Public Library, 65 Witherspoon St., Princeton. The complete schedule can be found at the festival’s website. Free admission to all films, thanks to support from Church Dwight, Inc., Terra Momo Restaurant Group, and The Whole Earth Center of Princeton. Doors open 30 minutes prior to screening; reservations not accepted.

Article source: http://www.newsworks.org/index.php/local/item/49638

Deep sea expedition reveals Mediterranean secrets

August 30, 2012 by  
Filed under Featured, Secrets of the Ocean

During most of August, Ballard’s research team on board the EV Nautilus have concentrated on the unique geological makeup of the Eratosthenes Seamount, one of the largest features on the eastern Mediterranean seafloor.

Ballard shot to fame after ‘discovering’ the Titanic in 1985

“We have found a lot of fascinating things,” Ballard told DW, on board the Nautilus. “You have to realize that when you go where no one has gone before on planet earth, you are not really sure what you’re going to find.”

“We’ve been making some real biological discoveries, and we’ve also been mapping two Ottoman war galleys which sank about 3,000 feet beneath where we are right now.”

The remains of the Ottoman war galley were found along with a flintlock pistol and what appeared to be black rum bottles littering the sea floor.

Surprisingly, the metal pistol seemed to be remarkably well-preserved, but most of the wood from the ship has deteriorated having been eaten away by marine organisms.

Uncharted waters

Ballard found global fame in 1985 after discovering the Titanic some three miles below the surface of the Atlantic. This discovery gave the world its first glance at the ghostly ship that sank in April 1912 after hitting an iceberg.

His sensational discovery launched a whole new Titanic movement – spawning books, films and documentaries. It also gave Ballard the opportunity to be able to indulge in his passion of going “where no man has gone before.”

Ballard and his team have found a range of artefacts

His crew for the Cyprus expedition includes researchers, geologists and the renowned NASA astronaut, Cady Coleman, who is working as their navigator. She says that the earth’s oceans, much like deep space, remain a largely unexplored frontier.

“There are a lot of similarities in a general sense, but sometimes things happen really quickly – we suddenly see something underwater, we want to record its position immediately … And it’s up to me to coordinate those things and that’s kind of similar to being up in space.”

Rare discoveries

For those onshore, the expedition brought a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, as cameras beamed live, high definition pictures from the bottom of the Mediterranean sea to the internet.

Katy Croff Bell, chief scientist of the Nautilus Exploration Programme, says that many viewers to the web stream were able to delve into the oceans’ secrets. Viewers witnessed a huge shark crossing the ship’s path with other highlights – including live pictures of mating squid and fossilized whale bones.

“The most unexpected discovery,” says Bell “was the fossilized rib cage of a large mammal, possibly a whale. We immediately contacted marine mammal specialists who are following up on the discovery to determine what and how old it is. We have also observed mating squid possibly for the first time ever for this species, and increased the known depth range of a particular species of fish.”

Biological discoveries have been made as well – above we see what’s believed to be fossilized whale bones

Technology applied

Bell says one of the most important results of their exploration was the use of a so-called tele-presence, which means experts were on-call day-and-night to assist the team onboard when discoveries were made.

“In every case, we were able to contact specialists who provided their expertise on how to proceed with studying the amazing discoveries that we have made in Cypriot waters,” she says.

For Robert Ballard, the most fascinating aspect of the expedition was the in-depth probe of the Eratosthenes Seamount, which measures 120 km long and 80 km wide. Its peak lies at the depth of 690 meters and it rises 2000 meters above the surrounding seafloor.

“It’s large, and it’s situated between Cyprus and Egypt, so we’re in an area traversed by a lot of ancient mariners. And during our time here we’ve been able to document a whole range of artifacts that have fallen to the ocean floor.”

Article source: http://www.dw.de/dw/article/0,,16206778,00.html

Pollution Playing A Major Role In Sea Temperatures

April 4, 2012 by  
Filed under Featured, Global Warming

The Atlantic Ocean, especially the North Atlantic, is peculiar: Every few decades, the average temperature of surface water there changes dramatically.

Scientists want to know why that is, especially because these temperature shifts affect the weather. New research suggests that human activity is part of the cause.

Scientists originally thought that maybe some mysterious pattern in deep-ocean currents, such as an invisible hand stirring a giant bathtub, created this temperature see-saw.

And that may be part of it. But there’s a new idea: The cause isn’t in the water; it’s above it — a kind of air pollution called aerosols.

NASA Earth Observations

This NASA map shows the size of aerosol particles in the atmosphere. Green areas indicate larger, more naturally occurring particles like dust. Red areas indicate smaller aerosol particles, which can come from fossil fuels and fires. Yellow areas indicate a mix of large and small particles.

Click to see a high-resolution version of this image

Ben Booth, a climate scientist at Britain’s Met Office Hadley Center, says that aerosols create clouds.

“The more aerosols you have, the more places there are for water vapor to condense,” he says. “And so what aerosols do is they cool.”

They cool the ocean because clouds reflect sunlight back into space before it can hit the ocean.

Aerosols are fine particles like soot or sulfur compounds, mostly from burning fuel. They seed a kind of cloud that’s especially good at reflecting solar radiation back into space. Even on their own, without clouds, these aerosols act like sunblock.

Volcanoes create aerosols, too, but air pollution appears to produce more, and then the aerosols sweep across the Atlantic sky.

Booth has calculated their effect on sea surface temperature swings.

“If you combine the role of volcanic activity and the human emissions of aerosols, we account for 76 percent of the total variation in sea surface temperature in our study,” Booth says. That’s a huge amount.

Booth and his colleagues aren’t the first to propose that aerosols influence sea surface temperatures. But climate scientist Amato Evan at the University of Virginia says they’ve done the most thorough job to date of tracking and confirming those changes.

“If they’re right, human activity has a huge influence on just so many climate processes around the Atlantic Ocean,” he says.

Surface temperatures around the Atlantic influence the amount and timing of rainfall in West Africa and the Amazon in South America, and whether there’s drought there. They affect the number and strength of Atlantic hurricanes and even where hurricanes go.

That’s if, as Evan says, Booth and his team are right.

Booth used computer models to analyze a very complicated process — the interaction of ocean and atmosphere over many decades. The models’ predictions didn’t match all the changes people have actually observed in the Atlantic.

Evan says scientists need more hard evidence to nail down exactly how aerosols affect oceans, but he’s observed a similar process going on in the Indian Ocean.

“The same type of release of pollution aerosols coming from the Indian subcontinent is actually changing the monsoon,” he says, referring to the pattern of rainy and dry weather in the Indian Ocean.

The new research appears in the journal Nature. If it’s confirmed, it could foretell a warmer Atlantic, because the aerosol pollution has apparently cooled the Atlantic some. But new pollution controls are reducing the amount of those aerosols — that’s good for public health, but it also means the ocean loses its sunblock.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/2012/04/04/150005074/pollution-playing-a-major-role-in-sea-temperatures

Marine Scientists Discover New Chemosynthesis Process In “Mussel Power”

August 13, 2011 by  
Filed under Featured, Ocean Energy


Researchers from the Max Planck Institute of Marine Microbiology and the Center for Marine Environmental Sciences (MARUM)  have discovered a third form of energy that powers the likes of certain mussels, shrimp, and worms found in the surroundings of hydrothermal vents. Earlier discoveries of chemosynthesis at the vents included sulfur oxidation and methane oxidation systems, but now it appears that the creatures oxidize hydrogen too – and a lot of it!

Hydrothermal vents spew hot minerals into the sea from newly formed crusts in the earth: © MARUM
Hydrothermal vents spew hot minerals into the sea from newly formed crusts in the earth:
© MARUM

Discovered some 30 years ago, hydrothermal vents are created at the depths of the ocean floors where tectonic plates have shifted and, like an underwater volcano, spurt tremendously hot, dissolving minerals into the sea.  As hot as 400°, the inorganic compounds delivered by the liquid minerals provided energy for life through a process called chemosynthesis.

The first two sources of energy discovered to power chemosynthesis at hydrothermal vents were hydrogen sulfide and methane, each utilized by animals with symbiotic oxidation systems. But this latest discovery led by the Max Planck Institute found that the deep vent mussels, shrimp, and the giant tubeworm at Logatchev, a vent field halfway between the Caribbean and the Cape Verde Islands on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, were powered by hydrogen.

Assisted by remotely-driven submersible excavators, researchers took live samples on board their ships and conducted experiments showing that the mussels consumed hydrogen. In their land-based labs, they discovered that the mussels had a key enzyme for hydrogen oxidation, the symbiont hydrogenase.

Mussels at the Logatchev hydrothermal vent site are powered by hydrogen: © MARUM
Mussels at the Logatchev hydrothermal vent site are powered by hydrogen:
© MARUM

In fact, the hydrogenase proved to be more powerful than the hydrogen sulfide and methane in converting geofuels to biomass in the Logatchev region. One researchers estimated that the population of some 1/2 million mussels could be consuming up to 5,000 liters of hydrogen per hour.

Maybe some day we will run our cars on mussel power….

Article source: http://inventorspot.com/articles/marine_scientists_discover_new_chemosynthesis_process_mussel_pow

Greenland Ice Sheet Experiences Record Melt

January 22, 2011 by  
Filed under Featured, Global Warming

New research shows the ice sheet is melting

The Greenland ice sheet, a vast body of ice covering 80% of the country, experienced a record melt in 2010.

The remote island of Greenland is at the coal face of global warming. The Greenland ice sheet makes up around one-twentieth of the worlds ice. In 2010 much of Greenland experienced unusually warm weather, extending the annual melting season by 50 days.

Research published by the City College of New York’s Cryospheric Processes Laboratory shows that since 1979 the area subject to melting in Greenland has been increasing at a rate of 17,000 kilometers square each year. This means that an area the size of France melted in 2010 which would not have melted three decades ago.

Greenland's icesheets experience record melt - M. Tedesco/WWFThe Greenland ice sheets annual melt started exceptionally early in 2010 and extended exceptionally late, lasting from the end of April to mid-September. The studys co-author Marco Tedesco, director of the Cryospheric Processes Laboratory, explained that this was caused by above-normal near-surface air temperatures.

The teams research was based on satellite data and ground observations, as well as data collected by automated weather stations installed by the Institute of Marine and Atmospheric Research Utrecht in 2003.

If the entire 2,850,000 km3 of the Greenland ice sheet were to melt, global sea levels would rise by a catastrophic 7.2 meters. The 2010 melt beats the previous record set in 2007. Eight of the largest melts on record happened between 1998 and 2010.

2010 was the warmest year on record for Nuuk, Greenlands capital city. It is projected that local warming in Greenland will exceed 3 degrees Celsius (5.4 degrees Fahrenheit) before the end of this century. Continued warming such as this would see the Greenland ice sheet cross a threshold where long-term melting is inevitable.

Canyon over the ice sheet formed by meltwater - M. Tedesco/WWFThese new findings come as the United States grapples with its funding of international climate change initiatives. A recently released budget plan prepared by the Republican Party includes a provision to eliminate all taxpayer subsidies to the United Nationals Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. According to New York Times environment reporter Andrew C. Revkin, dont look for the vital 21st-century energy quest, let alone a reality-based approach to global warming, to begin within the borders of the United States.

The ice in the Greenland ice sheet is up to 130,000 years old, making it an important record of past climatic conditions. Scientists have been able to drill 4 kilometers deep ice cores, providing an accurate snap shot of global climate changes, ocean volumes and volcanic eruptions.

By area Greenland is the worlds largest island. Its population totals less than 57,000, making it the least densely populated country or dependency in the world.

Article source: http://www.suite101.com/content/greenland-ice-sheet-experiences-record-melt-a336236

Preserving sandy beach ecosystems – the way forward

March 4, 2009 by  
Filed under Featured, Protecting Habitats

European Commission DG ENV, Science for Environment Policy Environment News Alert Service
Special Issue 8, Sept 2008

European sandy beach.

The combined impacts of climate change and increasing population pressures on coastal areas for living and recreation have placed beach ecosystems under severe pressure. New research suggests efforts to preserve the biodiversity of sandy beach ecosystems should be undertaken within the framework of Integrated Coastal Management(1). The aim is to integrate the physical protection of coastlines with the conservation of threatened ecosystems.

As key recreational sites, sandy beaches are of prime social, cultural and economic importance and dominate the world’s coastlines. They also provide critical and irreplaceable ecosystem services and there is a growing recognition of the ecological value of beaches. However, current beach management is largely concerned with managing sand budgets and erosion, while ecological aspects are rarely considered.

Co-operation between beach managers and ecologists is therefore important, according to the researchers. They produced 50 ‘key statements’ summarising how essential features of sandy beach ecosystems function and are structured, which include defining the physical features of beaches, the functioning of beaches as ecosystems and incorporating the protection of beach ecosystems with wider management practices.

The researchers suggest that climate change will have a significant impact on the ecology of sandy beaches. It is
anticipated that climate change will affect the following:

  • Sea levels – Average sea levels have risen by 0.17 metres in the last century and there are more occurrences
    of damaging high seas during storms. Continued loss of beaches will severely impact on coastal habitats and
    communities.
  • Extreme weather events – It is likely that changes in cyclone and storm behaviour will produce higher and more
    powerful waves, increasing beach erosion.
  • Precipitation – the pattern of precipitation is changing with more incidences of floods and altered freshwater flow
    to the oceans and this will affect the ecology of the beaches.
  • Changes in the ENSO (El-Niño-Southern Oscillation) events cause alterations to precipitation and this may
    affect beach ecosystems.
  • Within decades, acidification of the oceans will negatively affect marine organisms that need calcium carbonate to form shells, such as urchins and snails.


Four principles have been proposed by the researchers to integrate the ecological and physical aspects of management strategies for sandy beaches, which will help beach ecosystems withstand the pressures of climate change. It is suggested that ecologists, managers and policy makers work together at all levels of decision making in implementing effective and enduring strategies to conserve coastal ecosystems. There is also a need for further development of modelling techniques to study the impacts of climate change on beach ecology and to combine this with the effects that various management strategies will have on beach systems.

A further issue highlighted by the study are the special difficulties caused by tidal conditions for scientists trying to study beach organisms. The researchers have consequently produced a code of ‘best practice’ which contains 11 recommendations to help ecologists develop the most appropriate methods when collecting samples.

1. See http://ec.europa.eu/environment/iczm/ for information on Integrated Coastal Zone Management in Europe

Source: Schlacher, T.A., Schoeman, D.S., Dugan, J. et al. (2008). Sandy beach ecosystems: key features, sampling issues, management challenges and climate change impacts. Marine Ecology. 29(Suppl. 1): 70-90.
Contact: tschlach@usc.edu.au

Sea levels set to rise faster than expected

November 27, 2008 by  
Filed under Featured, Global Warming

Geneva, Switzerland: Even warming of less than 2°C might be enough to trigger the loss of Arctic sea ice and the meltdown of the Greenland Ice Sheet, causing global sea levels to rise by several metres.

Ahead of next week’s meeting of governments in Poznan, Poland for UN climate talks WWF analysis of the latest climate science comes to the dire conclusion that humanity is approaching the last chance to keep global warming below the danger threshold of 2°C.

”The latest science confirms that we are now seeing devastating consequences of warming that were not expected to hit for decades,” said Kim Carstensen, WWF Global Climate Initiative leader.

“The early meltdown of ice in the Arctic and Greenland may soon prompt further dangerous climate feedbacks, accelerating warming faster and stronger than forecast.

“Responsible politicians cannot dare to waste another second on delaying tactics in the face of these urgent warnings from nature.

“The planet is now facing a new quality of change, increasingly difficult to adapt to and soon impossible to reverse.

“Governments in Poznan must agree to peak and decline global emissions well before 2020 to give people reasonable hope that global warming can still be kept within limits that prevent the worst.

“In addition to constructive discussions in Poznan we need to see signals for immediate action.”

The CO2 storage capacity of oceans and land surface – the Earth’s natural sinks – has been decreasing by 5 per cent over the last 50 years. At the same time, manmade CO2 emissions from fossil fuels have been increasing – four times faster in this decade than in the previous decade.

WWF is urging governments to use the Poznan talks for an immediate U-turn away from the fatal direction the world is heading in.

“We are at the point where our climate system is starting to spin out of control,” said Carstensen. “A single year is left to agree a new global treaty that can protect the climate, but the UN talks next year in Copenhagen can only deliver this treaty if the meeting in Poznan this year develops a strong negotiation text.”

Article copyright WWF

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