Doomstead Diner Menu => Environment => Topic started by: RE on November 07, 2015, 06:01:39 PM

Title: Official Ocean Death Watch Thread
Post by: RE on November 07, 2015, 06:01:39 PM
Kicking off with Poisoned Crabs in CA.

King Crab still in the Fish Dept at 3 Bears here.  I may buy some tomorrow before they are gone too.  :'(

RE (

A California crab ban reveals trouble in the Pacific Ocean


Crab fishing is delayed, and poisoned sea lions are washing ashore, with a toxic algae to blame

November 6, 2015 12:22PM ET
by Azure Gilman @azuregilman

In 40 years of crab fishing off the California coast, Dave Bitts has seen the crab season delayed before over price disputes or the quality of the harvest.

But this year is the first time he has seen a nearly statewide delay on crabbing based on health fears.

High levels of domoic acid, a neurotoxin harmful to humans and other animals, have been found in Dungeness crabs along the California coastline. The toxin is produced by algae, which are thriving in warmer ocean temperatures.

As a result, for the first time in memory the California Fish and Game Commission this week delayed the recreational Dungeness crab season that was scheduled to begin Saturday for the area stretching from Southern California’s Ventura County to the Oregon state line. The state has also suspended the rock crab harvest, which is normally allowed year-round.

Commercial crabbing of Dungeness and rock crab along the California coast will be delayed as well, leaving people like Dave Bitts to wonder how drastically their harvest will be impacted.
Crab alert: California health officials warn not to eat them 2:29
Your World This Morning | November 5, 2015

“Worst case, this thing continues, and we just don’t have a season," said Bitts, who makes about half his income off Dungeness crabs, the most common type of crab harvested off the California coast. "That would be a very serious deal indeed.”

Consumers might be annoyed that a favorite seafood will be more scarce, and those who make their living from it are rightly worried about a major financial loss. California’s crabbing industry brings in around $60 million a year for harvesters alone, and the revenues amount to much more when counting the grocery stores and restaurants who sell the catch.

An even more dire concern may be that the contamination of crabs points to the Pacific Ocean facing problems of a magnitude never seen before.

Persistent warm-water conditions along the U.S. West Coast have contributed to the largest toxic algae bloom ever recorded. One type of algae — Pseudo-nitzschia — has poisoned much of the food web, and is drastically affecting marine ecosystems along the West Coast. One sign of that is that sea lions suffering from seizures caused by domoic acid have been washing up on California beaches.

The algae bloom now in the Pacific stretches well beyond state borders, from the Channel Islands off the coast of Santa Barbara to the Aleutian Islands in Alaska. One irregularly warm area of the ocean has been joined by El Niño, a cyclical weather pattern characterized by warm ocean water.

“This is usually the time of year when we expect an algae bloom to dissipate, because typically the water is cooling off,” said Michael Milstein, a public affairs officer at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). “But in this case it doesn’t seem to be tapering off as we would have expected, and that’s in large part because the ocean is still quite warm.”

The persistently warm water and poisonous algae have prompted seafood harvest bans up and down the Pacific Coast, affecting California, Oregon and Washington.

Larry Collins, president of the San Francisco Bay Crab Boat Association, said, “I’ve seen the crabs delayed in Oregon and Washington many times from domoic acid before. What’s unusual is that it’s never happened to us down here.”

California’s delaying the season for crabs is only one of a series of such delays or suspensions since May in fishing for anchovies, shellfish and Dungeness crabs in the Pacific, said Raphael Kudela, a professor of ocean sciences at University of California, Santa Cruz.

“The toxin [domoic acid] has been around so long it’s associated with mortalities of seabirds, of sea lions," he said. "The toxin is working its way through the food web."

Shellfish and anchovies, among others, feed on the toxic algae and are in turn eaten by larger animals, spreading domoic acid up the food chain.

The Marine Mammal Center reported that as of early September it had rescued 180 sea lions, three-quarters of which were suffering from the effects of domoic acid, which can include lethargy, disorientation, seizures and death.

The Pacific’s warmer temperatures pose another danger to sea lions by driving fish they feed on to colder waters. The NOAA has deemed this threat serious enough to declare it an “unusual mortality event.”

On Friday, the federal agency co-sponsored a congressional hearing in Washington, D.C., on the toxic algae bloom. Participants at the event described the impact on West Coast ecosystems and fisheries.

Some experts have said that delaying crabbing season to protect consumers won't address the causes of the algae bloom.

“If you just protect the people, that’s great," said William Cochlan, a senior research scientist at San Francisco State University who studies phytoplankton. "But if you don’t do the research, or our agencies don’t fund scientists to do this sort of research, we’re essentially just sticking our heads in the sand. And there’s no reason to think it’s going to go away."

Bitts, the fisherman who relies heavily on Dungeness crabs and is based in Eureka on the Northern California coast, is hoping for the best.

“This has been a very strange year on the ocean, in ways that I don’t understand,” said Bitts, who captains a fishing boat called the Elmarue. “If you’re a fisherman, you have to put some aside in the good years and hope it’s enough to get you through the bad years.”
Title: Fukushima Five Years Later: "The Fuel Rods Melted Through Containment"
Post by: Surly1 on March 12, 2016, 02:15:14 AM
Fukushima Five Years Later: "The Fuel Rods Melted Through Containment And Nobody Knows Where They Are Now" (


Tyler Durden's picture

Today, Japan marks the fifth anniversary of the tragic and catastrophic meltdown of the Fukushima nuclear plant. On March 11, 2011, a massive earthquake and tsunami hit the northeast coast of Japan, killing 20,000 people. Another 160,000 then fled the radiation in Fukushima. It was the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl, and according to some it would be far worse, if the Japanese government did not cover up the true severity of the devastation.

At least 100,000 people from the region have not yet returned to their homes. A full cleanup of the site is expected to take at least 40 years. Representative of the families of the victims spoke during Friday’s memorial ceremony in Tokyo. This is what Kuniyuki Sakuma, a former resident of Fukushima Province said


For those who remain, we are seized with anxieties and uncertainties that are beyond words. We spend life away from our homes. Families are divided and scattered. As our experiences continue into another year, we wonder: 'When will we be able to return to our homes? Will a day come when our families are united again?'


There are many problems in areas affected by the disaster, such as high radiation levels in parts of Fukushima Prefecture that need to be overcome. Even so, as a representative of the families that survived the disaster, I make a vow once more to the souls and spirits of the victims of the great disaster; I vow that we will make the utmost efforts to continue to promote the recovery and reconstruction of our hometowns.

Sadly, the 2011 disaster will be repeated. After the Fukushima nuclear meltdown, Japan was flooded with massive anti-nuclear protests which led to a four-year nationwide moratorium on nuclear plants. The moratorium was lifted, despite sweeping opposition, last August and nuclear plants are being restarted.

Meanwhile, while we await more tragedy out of the demographically-doomed nation, this is what Fukushima's ground zero looks like five years later. As Reuters sums it up best,  "no place for man, or robot."

The robots sent in to find highly radioactive fuel at Fukushima's nuclear reactors have “died”; a subterranean "ice wall" around the crippled plant meant to stop groundwater from becoming contaminated has yet to be finished. And authorities still don’t know how to dispose of highly radioactive water stored in an ever mounting number of tanks around the site.

Five years ago, one of the worst earthquakes in history triggered a 10-metre high tsunami that crashed into the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station causing multiple meltdowns. Nearly 19,000 people were killed or left missing and 160,000 lost their homes and livelihoods.

Today, the radiation at the Fukushima plant is still so powerful it has proven impossible to get into its bowels to find and remove the extremely dangerous blobs of melted fuel rods.

The plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power has made some progress, such as removing hundreds of spent fuel roads in one damaged building. But the technology needed to establish the location of the melted fuel rods in the other three reactors at the plant has not been developed.

“It is extremely difficult to access the inside of the nuclear plant," Naohiro Masuda, Tepco's head of decommissioning said in an interview. "The biggest obstacle is the radiation.”

The fuel rods melted through their containment vessels in the reactors, and no one knows exactly where they are now. This part of the plant is so dangerous to humans, Tepco has been developing robots, which can swim under water and negotiate obstacles in damaged tunnels and piping to search for the melted fuel rods.

But as soon as they get close to the reactors, the radiation destroys their wiring and renders them useless, causing long delays, Masuda said. 

Each robot has to be custom-built for each building.“It takes two years to develop a single-function robot,” Masuda said. 


Tepco, which was fiercely criticized for its handling of the disaster, says conditions at the Fukushima power station, site of the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in Ukraine 30 years ago, have improved dramatically. Radiation levels in many places at the site are now as low as those in Tokyo.

More than 8,000 workers are at the plant at any one time, according to officials on a recent tour. Traffic is constant as they spread across the site, removing debris, building storage tanks, laying piping and preparing to dismantle parts of the plant.

Much of the work involves pumping a steady torrent of water into the wrecked and highly radiated reactors to cool them down. Afterward, the radiated water is then pumped out of the plant and stored in tanks that are proliferating around the site.

What to do with the nearly million tonnes of radioactive water is one of the biggest challenges, said Akira Ono, the site manager. Ono said he is “deeply worried” the storage tanks will leak radioactive water in the sea - as they have done several times before - prompting strong criticism for the government.

The utility has so far failed to get the backing of local fishermen to release water it has treated into the ocean.

Ono estimates that Tepco has completed around 10 percent of the work to clear the site up - the decommissioning process could take 30 to 40 years. But until the company locates the fuel, it won’t be able to assess progress and final costs, experts say.

The much touted use of X-ray like muon rays has yielded little information about the location of the melted fuel and the last robot inserted into one of the reactors sent only grainy images before breaking down.


Tepco is building the world’s biggest ice wall to keep  groundwater from flowing into the basements of the damaged reactors and getting contaminated.

First suggested in 2013 and strongly backed by the government, the wall was completed in February, after months of delays and questions surrounding its effectiveness. Later this year, Tepco plans to pump water into the wall - which looks a bit like the piping behind a refrigerator - to start the freezing process.

Stopping the ground water intrusion into the plant is critical, said Arnie Gunderson, a former nuclear engineer.

“The reactors continue to bleed radiation into the ground water and thence into the Pacific Ocean,” Gunderson said. "When Tepco finally stops the groundwater, that will be the end of the beginning.”

While he would not rule out the possibility that small amounts of radiation are reaching the ocean, Masuda, the head of decommissioning, said the leaks have ended after the company built a wall along the shoreline near the reactors whose depth goes to below the seabed.

“I am not about to say that it is absolutely zero, but because of this wall the amount of release has dramatically dropped,” he said.

Title: Arctic Death Rattle
Post by: RE on August 22, 2016, 08:26:59 AM
Resort Hotels on the beaches of Nunavut coming soon.

RE (

August 22, 2016
Arctic Death Rattle

by Robert Hunziker


As of August 17th U.S. Naval Research Lab measurements of Arctic sea ice over a 30-day period “shows that the multi-year sea ice has now virtually disappeared,” Storms over Arctic Ocean, Arctic News, August 19, 2016. This means the Arctic has lost its infrastructure. It’s gone.

That means no more 20’-25’ multi-year thick ice, leaving two-dimensional “ice extent” with little thickness and no substantial mass, which charlatans use to prey upon the public’s climate science ignorance by crowing about how far and wide the “ice extent” is during freeze-over so that anthropogenic global warming is made to appear as a hoax. These keynote mountebanks at staged speaking events mislead the public about climate change. They’re found high and low.

In turn, the Arctic negatively affects the entire Northern Hemisphere (source: Jennifer Francis, Instit. of Marine and Coastal Sciences) by altering jet streams at 30,000-40,000 feet altitude, which turns normal weather patterns upside down, wreaking havoc throughout the hemisphere. But, much more significantly, loss of Arctic ice exposes the planet to risks of a crushing blow to the planetary ecosystem, without warning.

Going forward, Arctic ice will consist of young, thin, new yearly ice that easily fractures, turns to slush, turns darker, much more prone to absorbing sunlight, which, unfortunately, could bring on a worldwide catastrophe. Fasten your seat belts!

Ever since the last Ice Age, the Arctic has performed a huge favor by serving as a deep freeze over gigatons of frozen methane (CH4). That locked-in-ice methane, especially in shallow waters where it can make it to the surface in bubbles (already studied by teams of scientists), is a beastly monster beyond anything Hollywood has ever dreamed; it makes Godzilla look like a little whippersnapper.

Natalia Shakhova, head of the Russia-U.S. Methane Study at International Arctic Research Center, University of Alaska believes it is possible that a 50-gigaton (Gt) burp of methane erupts along the shallow waters (50-100 m) of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf, thereby actuating a fierce self-reinforcing feedback process leading to runaway global warming (5Gt of CH4 is currently in the atmosphere). In turn, life on Earth hits a thud!

Still, it’s important to note that the “50-gigaton burp of methane” theory is extraordinarily controversial among climate scientists. Whereas, the startling loss of Arctic ice mass is irrefutable via actual measurement, and it is glaring evidence of global warming, as heat melts ice!

The Guardian’s ace environmental editor John Vidal recently published an article entitled Time to Listen to the Ice Scientists About the Arctic Death Spiral, The Guardian, August 18, 2016, wherein he states: “The Arctic’s ice is disappearing. We must reduce emissions fast, or the human catastrophe predicted by ocean scientist Peter Wadhams will become reality.”

Professor Peter Wadhams (University of Cambridge) has a new book due for release September 1st, 2016 A Farewell to Ice, A Report from the Arctic (Publ. Allen Lane). According to Vidal’s Guardian article, Wadhams’ book offers a new slant on the climate change controversy: “Because Peter Wadhams says what other scientists will not, he has been slandered, attacked and vilified by denialists and politicians who have advised caution or no-action.”

“He and other polar experts have moved from being field researchers to being climate change pioneers in the vanguard of the most rapid and drastic change that has taken place on the planet in many thousands of years. This is not just an interesting change happening in a remote part of the world, he says, but a catastrophe for mankind.”

All of which begs the question: Is runaway global warming a possibility within current lifetimes?

Yes, it is certainly possible if, as Dr. Wadhams suggest, an ice-free Arctic triggers rapid acceleration of climate change. Accordingly, Wadhams beckons people who study climate change to speak up, tell the truth, don’t hold back.

After all, it is already public knowledge that scientists have been tweaking their own work by downplaying the severity of climate change in order to preserve grants and avoid ridicule, and dodge rabble-rousing, extremist name labeling, which can freeze research funds and ruin careers.

Leading climate scientists are not willing to honestly expose their greatest fears, as discovered by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! whilst at COP21 in Paris this past December, interviewing one of the world’s leading climate scientists, Kevin Anderson (University of Manchester) of Tyndall Center for Climate Change Research/UK who said: “So far we simply have not been prepared to accept the revolutionary implications of our own findings, and even when we do we are reluctant to voice such thoughts openly… many are ultimately choosing to censor their own research.”

Forthwith, we know from one of the world’s leading authorities on climate change that climate scientists are censoring (downplaying) their own research, but why?

“What we are afraid of doing is putting forward analysis that questions the paradigm, the economic way that we run society today… We fine-tune our analysis so that it fits into the economic reality of our society, the current economic framing. Actually our science now asks fundamental questions about this idea of economic growth in the short term, but we’re very reluctant to say that. In fact, the funding bodies are reluctant to fund research that raises those questions,” Top Climate Expert: Crisis is Worse Than We Think & Scientists Are Self-Censoring to Downplay Risk, Democracy Now! Dec. 8, 2015.

Dr. Anderson’s last sentence is worth repeating because it goes to the heart of the debate about climate research bias: “In fact, the funding bodies are reluctant to fund research that raises those questions.” To that end, money dictates science. Hmm! Shouldn’t it be the other way around?

Along with Wadham’s unambiguous point-blank warning of serious trouble ahead, Anderson’s revelation is all the more reason to stop and think and act, each and every person, especially leaders because the accumulation of all wars, of all natural disasters, of all famine and heartache throughout all time pales in comparison to a blindside hit by out of control intense climate change, perhaps driven by runaway global warming.

The likely upshot of out of control intense climate change, beyond catching humanity with its pants down, is rapid increase in sea level flooding coastal cities, embedded droughts diminishing or destroying agricultural production, severe storm activity, and horrific heat throughout the mid latitudes, resulting in panic, illness, and sudden death (happening now). The world turns chaotic. Life turns difficult. The American dream turns horribly sour within a generation.

But, the preponderance of published science on climate change leads to the conclusion that such an event is far off in time, decades or in some cases more than 100 years away, and in some cases nothing to worry about, which is the intermittent “gradualists” viewpoint.

Whereas sorrowfully, in point of fact, there is already evidence indicating that the worst-case scenario is in its early stages. Just read Wadhams’ book. The only question going forward is whether climate change rapidly accelerates as an out of control defiant monster or evolves little by little, in which case the gradualists will be correct, meaning future generations can fight the demons of ecosystem collapse.

In any case, anthropogenic (human influenced) climate change/global warming is openly and plainly a deadly serious dilemma that in some cases is severe, happening right under society’s collective nose, for instance, the loss of Arctic sea ice, or 95% of Greenland’s surface turning to slush for the first time in recorded scientific history (1-2 mile thick ice = 23’ sea rise), or Swiss Alps’ glaciers turning into Land O’ lakes, or the Everest base camp glacier turned to stone, or the permanent closing of the world’s highest ski resort Chacaltaya at 17,785 feet turned to rock, or Chinese drought destructiveness doubling over the decades, or Antarctica’s Totten Glacier 90×20 miles irreversibly cascading, or Antarctica’s Pine Island Glacier retreating at fastest rate of any ice mass on Earth, or North Carolina’s Outer Banks irreversibly losing isle land mass to the sea, and the list goes on, and on, and on.

Still, people in key American leadership positions, like Donald Trump, publicly state: “Global warming is a hoax.”
Join the debate on Facebook

Robert Hunziker lives in Los Angeles and can be reached at
Title: Re: Official Ocean Death Watch Thread
Post by: azozeo on August 22, 2016, 10:31:12 AM
It should get real interesting now that hurricane season is in full swing.

Wouldn't want to be on the east coast of North America anytime soon.
Title: Re: Official Ocean Death Watch Thread
Post by: azozeo on March 15, 2017, 04:29:18 AM
2017-03-13 - Great Barrier Reef suffers second consecutive mass bleaching as potential for record warm 2017 looms: (
Title: Re: Official Ocean Death Watch Thread
Post by: azozeo on March 19, 2017, 04:27:44 PM
2017-03-17 - The Great Barrier Reef in Australia continues dying like never seen before in human history: (

Quote: "Scientists speculate that the era of never-ending global coral bleaching may have already arrived, decades early. In a new study, published Wednesday as the cover story in the journal Nature, Hughes and his colleagues — the paper includes an astounding 45 co-authors — find that 91 percent of the Great Barrier Reef has bleached at least once during three major bleaching events in 1998, 2002, and 2016. The most recent of these events — triggered in part by a strong El Niño — was so severe that there is no similar analog in the thousands of years of ancient coral cores scientists use to study past climates."
Title: Re: Official Ocean Death Watch Thread
Post by: azozeo on March 31, 2017, 01:40:39 PM
2017-03-29 - Pacific Ocean dying off hard: (
Title: Re: Official Ocean Death Watch Thread
Post by: azozeo on March 31, 2017, 01:48:44 PM
2017-03-29 - Monster El Niño forming - will it be more devastating than the last one? ( (
Title: Beneath the Waves -- Why Climate Change Needs to Be Acknowledged
Post by: RE on June 10, 2017, 01:41:32 AM

Jun 8, 2017 @ 01:30 PM 271

Beneath the Waves -- Why Climate Change Needs to Be Acknowledged

Christopher P. Skroupa , 


I focus on the intersection of government, Wall Street & main street.

Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

In light of the U.S.'s withdrawal of the Paris Climate Agreement, examination of how climate change can affect us is now more crucial than ever to consider.

Jon White is serving as the President and CEO of the Consortium for Ocean Leadership after coming onboard in September 2015 as the Vice President for Ocean Science and Strategy. Prior to this he had a distinguished 32-year career in the U.S. Navy and retired at the rank of Rear Admiral. White’s passion for the ocean and science began at a very early age as he grew up near Florida’s Gulf coast. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Oceanographic Technology from the Florida Institute of Technology, and a Master’s degree in Meteorology and Oceanography from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School.

White had numerous operational assignments at sea and ashore as a Naval Meteorology and Oceanography specialist, culminating in his assignment as Oceanographer and Navigator of the Navy from 2012 to 2015.  This position included appointments as the Director of Navy’s Task Force Climate Change, and Navy Deputy to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Christopher P. Skroupa: In honor of today being World Oceans Day, can you start by talking about how the ocean benefits humans?  Is it all about beach vacations and shrimp dinners?

Jonathan White: To put it simply, our very survival is linked to that of the ocean. Every second breath you take comes from marine phytoplankton, tiny organisms that create half the world’s oxygen through photosynthesis. So to say that it helps us fulfill the very basic functions necessary for life is an understatement. We also have the ocean to thank for many important processes, like the water cycle and weather patterns. Without ocean currents transporting and mixing warm and cool water around the globe, our planet wouldn’t be able to support life as we know it.

The ocean also provides incredible resources to our nation, like seafood, security, economic growth, and so much more. The ocean provides about 20 percent of the animal protein we depend upon for food and it’s indirectly a source of a lot more — marine products can be found in everything from livestock feed to insecticides and fertilizers. Additionally, the ocean economy, which weathered the recession of 2007-2009 better than the U.S. economy as a whole, contributes $359 billion to our gross domestic product. Finally, the ocean plays a key role in our national security. Our 95,000 mile coastline is our nation’s longest border. Our national security isn’t about fortifying that ocean border but about understanding our ocean to best utilize it. Oceanography was a key determinant in the U.S. Cold War victory due to the knowledge advantage provided to our forward deployed maritime forces, especially our submarines.

Skroupa: Sounds like there are a lot of societal benefits from the ocean and that maintaining the integrity of the ocean system is critical. What is the ocean’s role in weather and climate? What do people most often not know or misunderstand about that relationship? How do changes to the broader ocean-atmosphere system threaten the resources and services we depend on from the sea?

White: I’d say that most people don’t understand the complexities of the ocean-weather-climate relationship, so I’ll start with some definitions. There is a difference between weather and climate, and that difference is time — weather is atmospheric conditions in the short-term (minutes to months), while climate is a description of long-term weather patterns in a particular area. To understand weather, you must understand what the ocean does. To understand climate, you must understand what the ocean is.

As anyone who has been to the beach and felt the tug of a current can tell you, what the ocean does is move water, through both surface and deep-water currents. In moving water, the ocean is moving heat — it absorbs half of the sun’s heat that reaches our planet. Currents move warm water from the equator to the poles and cold water from the poles to the equator. This drives weather patterns, keeping regional temperatures from being as extreme as they would be if all the hot water stayed at the equator and all the cold water stayed at the poles. Additionally, as water molecules evaporate, they ultimately lead to precipitation that provides the “water of life” over land.  So that’s what the ocean does — it moves water, through currents and evaporation, and that defines our weather.

Now for what the ocean is — it is a heat sink and a moisture source. The ocean stores more heat in the top three meters than the entire atmosphere does. It acts as the flywheel of our climate, absorbing and releasing heat to stabilize Earth’s temperature as a flywheel absorbs and releases energy to stabilize the speed of an engine. Changes in year-to-year climate, such as El Niño, and longer-term natural climate variability, such as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, are both driven by the ocean. Climate is actually more closely linked to ocean conditions than weather. So as to what the ocean is — it is a heat absorber and climate stabilizer.

Changes to the ocean-atmosphere system absolutely threaten the resources we depend upon from the sea. Warming sea surface temperatures have already caused marine species to shift north to cooler waters, which can wreak havoc on the lives of the fishers and communities dependent upon them. Another major problem is the addition of more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, as about a quarter of all carbon dioxide released is absorbed by the ocean. As the amount of carbon dioxide we release into the atmosphere has grown, so too has the total uptake by the ocean. This has fundamentally changed the chemistry of seawater, making it more acidic, in what is known as “ocean acidification.” If you happen to have a shell made of calcium carbonate (such as oysters, clams, and sea urchins) or weakly-protected bones (like larval fish), this is bad news — a more acidic ocean makes it harder for these species to build their shells or grow into adult fish, which puts the entire food web at risk and threatens coastal economies dependent upon shellfish and finfish fisheries.

Skroupa: So the ocean is a driver of climate, but it is also impacted by the increasing carbon dioxide levels. As someone who has worked at the nexus of national security and climate change for decades, can you explain how these changes impact our national security? And is this a future threat or something that’s already happening?

White: Absolutely, climate change is already happening, and it does impact our national security. It has effects across the board, but there are four key areas I’ll focus on.

The first is how the changing climate impacts our military infrastructure. This includes physical structures, such as bases, but also information infrastructure, like our communications systems and data. For structures, understanding and adapting to this involves more than studying how sea level rise will impact coastal infrastructure. It’s also looking at how changes in the ocean impact weather conditions inland, through events like droughts and floods. In 2010, more than 14 inches of rain and a levee breach caused flood damage to every structure at the Navy’s facility in Millington, Tennessee, which is home to all its personnel information and programs. Some buildings had up to 55 inches of standing water. Likewise, the ability to communicate can also be temporarily disrupted by weather events. We must ensure our military is set up for success by building and updating infrastructure in a way that keeps it out of harm’s way.

The second is the impact of climate change on global stability. As people’s basic needs — such as access to food and water — are undermined, conflict arises. Our troops are deployed in areas of the world teetering on the edge of scarcity-induced unrest, which will only be exacerbated by changing weather patterns.

The third relates to access to the opening Arctic and its natural resources, which include oil and natural gas. As ice melts, we’ll have ability to reach areas we couldn’t before. However, we’ll still need heavy icebreakers to plow through the ice, and we are woefully outnumbered by Russia in this count. We have one working heavy icebreaker (a second is out of service and a third is classified as a medium icebreaker) compared to Russia’s 40. This is linked to Russia’s military build-up in the region, which also includes the reopening of a refurbished Soviet-era base and attempts to claim 460,000 square miles of the Arctic Ocean.
Title: 8,776 square miles The Gulf of Mexico has yielded the largest dead zone EVAH
Post by: azozeo on August 04, 2017, 02:04:58 PM (

A recent expedition to the Gulf of Mexico has yielded the largest 'dead zone' ever recorded in the area.
Measuring 8,776 square miles, this massive patch of oxygen depleted water is wreaking havoc on the Gulf's marine life - a consequence of unchecked agricultural runoff pouring down from the Mississippi River.
Dead zones appear in the Gulf every summer, and the typical size is around 5,800 square miles.
Back in 2002, scientists detected an unusually large dead zone stretching for 8,497 square miles, but this new one, detected just last week, is now the largest ever recorded.
At a whopping 8,776 square miles (22,730 sq km), it's 4.6 times larger than the target size set by the Gulf Hypoxia Task Force.
In the words of the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, this finding shows that "nutrient pollution, primarily from agriculture and developed land runoff in the Mississippi River watershed is continuing to affect the nation's coastal resources and habitats in the Gulf."
Hypoxia is a fancy term for low oxygen, and it's primarily a problem for estuaries and coastal waters. These dead zones have dissolved oxygen concentrations of less than two to three parts per million, and they're triggered by a variety of factors.
In the case of the Gulf of Mexico, excess nutrients stream down the Mississippi river, stimulating massive algal growths that eventually decompose - a process that depletes the oxygen required to support marine life.
Sources of these nutrients include fertilisers from agriculture, golf courses, and suburban lawns, erosion of soil packed with nutrients, and sewage discharge from treatment plants.
Dead zones can cause a loss of fish habitat, or force fish to migrate to other areas to survive.
They can also cause reproductive issues among marine animals.
Studies suggest that dead zones in the Gulf are leading to fewer large shrimp, for instance.
There are over 400 hypoxic zones in the world, but the Gulf of Mexico dead zone is the largest in the US, and one of the largest globally.
The latest measurements in the Gulf were made by a team of scientists led by Louisiana State University and Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium (LUMCON).
Data was recorded aboard the RV Pelican from July 21 to 31.
Sadly, the size of the dead zone didn't come as a surprise.
"We expected one of the largest zones ever recorded because the Mississippi River discharge levels, and the May data indicated a high delivery of nutrients during this critical month which stimulates the mid-summer dead zone," said LSU scientist Nancy Rabalais in a statement.
These findings suggest that efforts to reduce nutrient pollution in the Mississippi River basin aren't working.
The Runoff Risk Advisory Forecast, an initiative to help farmers apply fertilisers at optimum times, is either ineffective or being ignored.
Dead zones obviously affect the fishing industry, but as for farmers, not so much.
It's not immediately clear how voluntary measures to rectify the situation are actually going to shrink the Gulf Zone's dead zone to an annual average of 1,900 square miles, a goal set by the Gulf Hypoxia Task Force.
Perhaps this year's record-setting dead zone will finally get a serious conversation started.

Title: Low oxygen levels, coral bleaching getting worse in oceans
Post by: RE on January 07, 2018, 12:12:54 AM (

Bleached corals are seen at Ko Racha Yai, Thailand, in 2010. (Mark Eakin/NOAA)

Low oxygen levels, coral bleaching getting worse in oceans

There are more than 12 million square miles of ocean with low oxygen levels.

    Saturday, January 6, 2018 8:39pmNation-World

By Seth Borenstein / Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Global warming is making the world’s oceans sicker, depleting them of oxygen and harming delicate coral reefs more often, two studies show.

The lower oxygen levels are making marine life far more vulnerable, the researchers said. Oxygen is crucial for nearly all life in the oceans, except for a few microbes.

“If you can’t breathe, nothing else matters. That pretty much describes it,” said study lead author Denise Breitburg, a marine ecologist at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center. “As seas are losing oxygen, those areas are no longer habitable by many organisms.”

She was on a team of scientists, convened by the United Nations, who reported that the drop in oxygen levels is getting worse, choking large areas, and is more of a complex problem than previously thought. A second study finds that severe bleaching caused by warmer waters is hitting once-colorful coral reefs four times more often than they used to a few decades ago. Both studies are in Thursday’s edition of the journal Science .

When put all together, there are more than 12 million square miles of ocean with low oxygen levels at a depth of several hundred feet, according to the scientists with the Global Ocean Oxygen Network. That amounts to an area bigger than the continents of Africa or North America, an increase of about 16 percent since 1950. Their report is the most comprehensive look at oxygen deprivation in the world’s seas.

“The low oxygen problem is the biggest unknown climate change consequence out there,” said Lisa Levin, a study co-author and professor of biological oceanography at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

Levin said researchers have seen coastal “dead zones” from fertilizer pollution from farms before, as well as areas of low oxygen in open ocean blamed on warmer waters, but this study shows how the two problems are interconnected with common causes and potential solutions.

“Just off Southern California, we’ve lost 20 to 30 percent of our oxygen off the outer shelf,” Levin said. “That’s a huge loss.”

Some low oxygen levels in the world’s ocean are natural, but not this much, Breitburg said. A combination of changes in winds and currents — likely from climate change — is leaving oxygen on the surface, and not bringing it down lower as usual. On top of that, warmer water simply doesn’t hold as much oxygen and less oxygen dissolves and gets into the water, she said.

“Oxygen loss is a real and significant problem in the oceans,” said University of Georgia marine scientist Samantha Joye, who wasn’t part of the study but praised it. Levels of ocean oxygen are “changing potentially faster than higher organisms can cope.”

In a separate study, a team of experts looked at 100 coral reefs around the globe and how often they have had severe bleaching since 1980. Bleaching is caused purely by warmer waters, when it’s nearly 2 degrees above the normal highest temperatures for an area.

In the early 1980s, bleaching episodes would happen at a rate of once every 25 to 30 years. As of 2016, they now are happening just under once every six years, the study found.

Bleaching isn’t quite killing the delicate corals, but making them extremely sick by breaking down the crucial microscopic algae living inside the coral. Bleaching is like “ripping out your guts” for coral, said study co-author Mark Eakin, coordinator of the Coral Reef Watch program for the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Guam has been one of the hardest places hit with eight severe bleaching outbreaks since 1994, four of them in the last five years, Eakin said. The Florida Keys, Puerto Rico and Cuba have been hit seven times.

It takes time to recover from bleaching, and the increased frequency means coral doesn’t get the chance to recover before the next outbreak, Eakin said.

Only six of the 100 coral reefs weren’t hit by severe bleaching: four around Australia, one in the Indian Ocean and another off South Africa.

Georgia Tech climate scientist Kim Cobb, who studies reefs but wasn’t part of this international team, applauded the research and said that as the world warms more there will be “profound and lasting damage on global reefs.”
Title: 🌏 Global Warming Zaps Oxygen
Post by: RE on February 17, 2018, 01:51:22 AM (

Global Warming Zaps Oxygen

by Robert Hunziker / February 16th, 2018


Take a deep breath. A recent scientific study reveals disturbing loss of ocean oxygen. Unnerving climatic events like this justify ringing and clanging of the bells on the Public Square, all hands on deck. In particular, and as expected, the culprit is too much anthropogenic-induced global warming or idiomatically speaking, human activities such as planes, trains, and automobiles… burning tons of coal. Somebody must do something to fix it… ah-ah-ah!

According to Denise Breitburg, lead author marine ecologist with the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center:

    The decline in ocean oxygen ranks among the most serious effects of human activities on the Earth’s environment.1

A team of scientists with GO2NE (Global Ocean Oxygen Network) created by the UN Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission conducted a sweeping all-encompassing study of the state of ocean oxygen:

    In the past 50 years, the amount of water in the open ocean with zero oxygen has gone up more than fourfold. In coastal water bodies, including estuaries and seas, low-oxygen sites have increased more than 10-fold since 1950. Scientists expect oxygen to continue dropping even outside these zones as Earth warms.2

According to Vladimir Ryabinin, executive secretary of the International Oceanographic Commission that formed GO2NE:

    Approximately half of the oxygen on Earth comes from the ocean.

Today, there are actual dead zones where oxygen has plummeted so low that life suffocates. Not only low oxygen that doesn’t suffocate life still stunts growth, hinders reproduction, and promotes disease. In short, low oxygen stresses the entire ecosystem. According to the “legendary ocean researcher” Dr. Sylvia Earle, as recognized by the Library of Congress, and referred to as “Her Deepness” by The New Yorker and former Chief Scientist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) but resigned and started Mission Blue “to save the ocean”: “The ocean is dying… All of us are the beneficiaries of having burned through fossil fuels, but at what costs?  If we continue business as usual, we’re in real trouble.”

If only, a wish list, key federal positions that impact the planet, like the presidency (Trump) and heads of departments, like the EPA (Pruitt), had a smidgen of Dr. Earle’s mindset, knowledge, and consciousness, the great biosphere Earth would have a fighting chance, but no. Regrettably, they are at war with the planet. Their timing in office could not be worse! Indeed, the U.S. economy is the world’s largest at 25% of world GDP.  Its impact on the climate system exceeds all others.

Metaphorically, comparing biosphere Earth to a passenger plane traveling from NY to Paris, nobody notices when half a dozen rivets pop off the fuselage. And, nobody knows when another 10 or 20 pop off. The plane still flies, but as rivets continue to pop off and the fuselage loosens and opens up the plane starts losing altitude. Passengers notice.

Similarly, biosphere Earth has lost many, many rivets but in contrast to the passenger plane scenario, scientists like Dr. Sylvia Earle and Dr. James Hansen, former top climate scientist of NASA, have already noticed, and they forewarned society before the fuselage rips apart, before passengers notice. Consequently, according to Paris ’15, the world takes warnings by scientists seriously and acts to repair the damage, but will it be soon enough? Some scientists don’t think so.

Examples of earthly rivets popping off: (1) “Ocean seasons are changing as a result of too much heat and CO2… The scale of ocean warming is truly staggering with numbers so large that it is difficult for most people to comprehend.”3 , (2) In 2017, the Gulf of Mexico’s Dead Zone, where oxygen is so weak that fish die, is the largest ever at 8,800 square miles.4, (3) The deadly trio, or fingerprints, of mass extinctions, including global warming, ocean acidification, and anoxia or lack of ocean oxygen at current rate of change are unprecedented in Earth’s known history.5, (4) Oceans have lost 40% of plankton production over past 50 years, threatening loss of one of the major sources of oxygen for the planet.6 Many more examples of earthly rivets popping off are extant but time and space limit.

What if the aforementioned airline pilot announced: “This is an urgent message from your pilot: Rivets are popping off the fuselage. Fasten your seat belts!”

In reality, that’s happening now. Earthly rivets are popping off all over the place, and even though scientists are warning of rivets popping off or “tipping points” in the climate system, America’s president Trump relies upon sources like Fox News and the Heritage Foundation for science knowledge. Therefore, it’s guaranteed he’ll never even hear the compulsory final announcement: “Fasten your seat belts.” Well, come to think of it, it’s way too late then anyways.

    “The Ocean Is Losing Its Breath”, University of Californian-San Diego, Science Daily, January 4, 2018. [↩]
    Ibid. [↩]
    Dan Laffoley, IUCN Global Marine and Polar Programme. [↩]
    National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). [↩]
    Alex Rogers, Oxford, scientific director State of the Ocean. [↩]
    Boris Worm, Killam Research Professor, Dalhousie University, Halifax. [↩]
Title: Re: Official Ocean Death Watch Thread
Post by: Palloy2 on February 17, 2018, 02:24:48 PM
WWN-style reporting.  What percentage of the oceans are dead?  The Gulf dead-zone isn't due to global warming so much as agricultural pesticides and other poisons being dumped in the Mississippi - it's outrageous, but nobody cares.  And nobody will care when polar bears go extinct, so long as the Alaskan oil dividend is still being paid to keep everyone quiet, and you can always watch Attenborough videos of them if you like bears that much - bloody nuisance around town.
Title: 🌊 The Great Pacific Garbage Patch Has Even More Garbage Than We Thought
Post by: RE on March 23, 2018, 01:25:50 AM (

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch Has Even More Garbage Than We Thought

Thousands of tons of plastic are swirling around the Pacific Ocean's surface and endangering sea life.


By Steven Sparkman
March 22, 2018

The world's biggest patch of ocean junk is bigger than anyone thought. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which floats somewhere between California and Hawaii, is now estimated to have around 87,000 tons of plastic — four times more than the next highest estimate. And it's growing faster and faster.

The Great Pacific patch is the most famous of the world's garbage patches, but there are many more. They form when strong currents surround an area of the ocean and collect all the plastic that floats by.

But it's hard to estimate how much junk a patch really has, so scientists sent out hundreds of trawling expeditions, which skimmed the top of the ocean for plastic. They also collected aerial images from research planes to help make their estimates.

Related Story
Ocean Plastic Could Triple By 2025Ocean Plastic Could Triple By 2025

They learned a bit more about the Great Pacific patch, too. Microplastics, like small beads and crumbled pieces of bigger objects, have gotten a lot of blame for the debris problem. But the survey found larger objects account for the vast majority of the plastic weight — more than anyone realized.

The biggest contributor is fishing nets, which make up 46 percent of the total plastic weight in the patch. Beyond being a huge part of the garbage problem, these lost and discarded nets also entangle and kill untold numbers of ocean animals.

The research comes from an organization called The Ocean Cleanup, which intends to start skimming huge amounts of debris from the patch this summer. The group estimates it can clean up 50 percent of the patch's plastic in five years.
Title: 🌊 Relax, The Day After Tomorrow isn’t going to happen, like, tomorrow
Post by: RE on April 19, 2018, 01:47:35 AM

bad circulation
Relax, The Day After Tomorrow isn’t going to happen, like, tomorrow
By Eric Holthaus   on Apr 13, 2018


Back in 2004, the blockbuster disaster film The Day After Tomorrow introduced the world to the important role that the Atlantic Ocean’s circulation might play in kicking climate change into overdrive. The ocean’s heat-transport system collapses in the movie, unleashing a tidal wave on New York City, spawning continent-sized superstorms, and freezing much of the Northern Hemisphere.

More than a decade later, mainstream science is still fighting the popular perception that abrupt climate change might just happen one afternoon — a ridiculous notion that skews our perception of the massive real-world consequences climate change is already bringing.

Problem is, there’s a thread of truth to that movie’s skewed premise: We know the Atlantic’s circulation is slowing down. And we know it’s expected to slow down in the future because of climate change. But the evidence of a catastrophic collapse anytime soon remains extremely tenuous.

This week, two teams of researchers published new evidence in the journal Nature that the Atlantic Ocean’s circulation is now at its weakest in at least the past 1,600 years.

Taken at face value, this news is troubling. If the Atlantic’s circulation continues to slow dramatically, it would mean changes in European weather, drought in central and west Africa, fluctuations in hurricane frequency, and sharp rises in sea level on the east coast of the United States as ocean water from the wind-driven Gulf Stream current piled up without an escape route.

Dig further, however, and you’ll find that there are reasons not to lose too much sleep over a looming ocean-triggered apocalypse.

The initial wave of news coverage this time around has been predictably dire, even for jaded journalists routinely confronted with the possibility of climate-induced civilizational collapse.

Take this line from the Washington Post’s coverage: “The Atlantic Ocean circulation that carries warmth into the Northern Hemisphere’s high latitudes is slowing down because of climate change, a team of scientists asserted Wednesday, suggesting one of the most feared consequences is already coming to pass.” Others went further: “Gulf Stream current at ‘record low’ with potentially devastating consequences for weather, warn scientists,” read a headline in The Independent.

Deep breaths, people. The truth isn’t quite so scary.

For starters, these results aren’t especially new. Similar work in 2015 showed largely the same thing — a slowdown coinciding with the rise of industrial civilization. Sure enough, a persistent cool spot has started to appear over the North Atlantic in recent years, just south of Greenland, exactly where we’d expect one if a slowdown was underway.

In phone and email conversations with Grist, the lead authors of both papers as well as outside experts strongly cautioned against making too much of the new research.

“I would not call it a global catastrophe,” says Levke Caesar, a physicist at Germany’s Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and lead author of the first paper.

David Thornalley, a geographer at University College London and lead author of the second paper, mostly agrees. He says the best data available suggests that most likely the Atlantic Ocean’s circulation will gradually weaken over the next century. While that doesn’t rule out a collapse scenario, he says, “We don’t know how close we are to a tipping point.”

Other experts who study the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), the scientific name for this phenomenon, say that recent news coverage has twisted their colleagues’ work out of context.

Isabela Astiz Le Bras, a physical oceanographer at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, says that direct measurements of the AMOC taken over the past 20 years “do not reflect the reported trends” that media coverage has latched on to. That’s partly because the new papers rely on indirect approximations, or proxies, of the AMOC.

“It seems like the uncertainty has been underplayed in the media, and the implications blown out of proportion, which is unfortunate,” Le Bras says.

Martha Buckley, an oceanographer at George Mason University, goes even further. She disputes the claim that the circulation has slowed down primarily as a result of climate change, mostly because there just isn’t enough evidence yet.

“I do not believe the framing of this research as a global catastrophe is supported by the science,” she says. “Furthermore, I believe it detracts from the imminent and certain impacts of climate change, such as sea level rise, more heat waves, melting of ice, and ocean acidification.”

Setting aside possible human influence, the strength of the AMOC varies a lot naturally. David Smeed, an oceanographer at the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton, United Kingdom, is the principal investigator for the leading effort to directly measure the AMOC, which he and his colleagues began in 2004.

“From our measurements that we make, so far what we’ve observed is consistent with natural variability,” Smeed says. “To detect an anthropogenic change, when we compare with the climate models, we realize that we need to measure a lot longer before we’d be able to detect that signal.”

At an international scientific meeting this summer, researchers will present their latest results and hash out their differences.

There is evidence that a sudden slowdown has happened before, about 30,000 years ago, an era defined by stronger storms and sudden sea-level rise. Another collapse would take years — not hours as in The Day After Tomorrow — and Buckley says not a single model predicts this scenario for this century without invoking simultaneous collapses in other climate systems, like the Greenland ice sheet.

But precisely because the AMOC has collapsed relatively quickly before, Thornally says, it’s worth worrying about now, especially because man-made climate change is creating “the right conditions for it to happen” — even if those conditions haven’t been met yet.

The media, says Thornalley, are “right to flag it as something that is potentially catastrophic, though catastrophic obviously in a different way than in a movie.”
Title: Re: Official Ocean Death Watch Thread
Post by: Eddie on April 19, 2018, 05:45:08 AM
The Zombie Apocalypse is so much sexier than a slow planetary death that happens almost too slow for your average clueless human with no ties to the earth to notice. The latter is useless for a movie plot.
Title: Re: Official Ocean Death Watch Thread
Post by: RE on April 19, 2018, 06:10:50 AM
The Zombie Apocalypse is so much sexier than a slow planetary death that happens almost too slow for your average clueless human with no ties to the earth to notice. The latter is useless for a movie plot.

That's why we NEED more films from "Master of Disaster" Roland Emmerich (RE  ;D)  These films can get the message out where Bloggers fail!  :icon_sunny:

I've seen all of RE's Disaster films, they are GREAT!  2012 was a favorite, along with Independence Day.  Watching the Empire State Building and White House blown to smithereens was a true treat.  :icon_sunny: Also watching NYC get inundated by a Tsunami was just fabulous CGI.

There's a scene with Harvey Fierstein I just love in one of the films, but I can't find it right now.

Title: Norfolk Wants to Remake Itself as Sea Level Rises, but Who Will Be Left Behind?
Post by: Surly1 on May 27, 2018, 08:17:52 AM
Of significant concern to me, since I can walk (even yet) to some of the places depicted, and know some of the players mentioning in the article.

Norfolk Wants to Remake Itself as Sea Level Rises, but Who Will Be Left Behind? (

The proud Navy town sees itself as a living lab for coastal resilience, one in desperate need of solutions as flooding worsens. Not every neighborhood will be saved.

By Nicholas Kusnetz

MAY 21, 2018

As another storm swept through Norfolk on a chilly evening, Michelle Cook pointed to the puddles growing on a path where children walk to school in Tidewater Gardens.

Water stood wheels-deep in a nearby intersection. In heavy rain, she said, both the road and the path flood, and children find another way to school. Or, they simply stay home.

"Flooding, rain, just to hear those words, for parents it puts a heavy burden on them," she said.

Cook's kids are grown now, but as president of a tenant's group for one of Norfolk's poorest public housing developments, she remains an advocate for the project's children.

Tidewater Gardens is among the most flood-prone areas in a city with one of the fastest rates of sea level rise in the country—half a foot since 1992, about twice the global average. Parts of the development were built in an old creek bed. When it rains or a storm pushes ocean tides higher than usual, water moves in like an old man settling into a well-worn chair.

Michelle Cook stands on the path children from Tidewater Gardens take to get to school. It frequently floods during storms. Credit: Nicholas Kusnetz/ICN

Michelle Cook stands on the path children from Tidewater Gardens take to get to school. It frequently floods during storms. Credit: Nicholas Kusnetz/ICN

Climate change, sinking land and changing ocean currents have turned Norfolk into a case study on the vulnerability of coastal cities to flooding in a warming world. Over the past two decades, the city has experienced twice as many days of tidal flooding as it had in the previous three decades. At the same time, a warming climate has brought more frequent heavy downpours.

Like many coastal cities, Norfolk has begun raising streets, installing pumps and planning major floodwalls.

But officials here are also embracing a radical, holistic approach to pull Norfolk back from the brink. They want to not just fortify vulnerable areas, but to do so in a way that reshapes and reinvigorates the entire 400-year-old city, which is home to the nation's largest naval base but has seen sluggish economic growth in recent decades.

The aim is to pair climate adaptation with economic development, with an eye toward lifting places like Tidewater Gardens out of poverty and remaking the city into a technology hub for the coastal solutions of the future.

On the Brink

"No one's as advanced on this work as Norfolk," said Carlos Martín, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank. In particular, he said, Norfolk rewrote its zoning code this year to incorporate resilience to rising seas, adopting measures he described as "kind of miraculous."

But at the same time, Norfolk is discovering the limits of how quickly it can change. In Tidewater Gardens, the city's plan—replacing the development with a mixed-income neighborhood while ceding low-lying spots to open space—has residents and housing advocates fearing it will really amount to city-supported gentrification. In wealthier areas, the city's bold move to identify "adaptation" zones—areas so vulnerable to flooding that it won't protect them with expensive infrastructure—could fuel fears among residents that their property values will plummet.

Skip Stiles, a former Congressional staffer who runs a local nonprofit called Wetlands Watch that has worked closely with the city, said Norfolk is stepping into a gap left by the federal government, which has no real plan for how the nation will cope with rising seas, including at Naval Station Norfolk.

"We're living the experiment," he said, "and there's no control."

Most of Norfolk, home to the nation's largest naval base, is less than 15 feet above sea level. Credit: Tyler Folnsbee/U.S. Navy

Most of Norfolk, home to the nation's largest naval base, is less than 15 feet above sea level. Credit: Tyler Folnsbee/U.S. Navy

A Living Lab for Adapting to Rising Seas

On a bright day last winter, several dozen executives, architects, military officers and government officials from around the country gathered in a glass room atop Norfolk's main public library. It was the start of an initiative on coastal innovation, organized by a project of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a local nonprofit that the city of Norfolk created to fund technological solutions to coastal resilience.

The conference was exactly the type of event city leaders had hoped to host: one that draws a national mix of private and public sector leaders to use Norfolk as a laboratory for adapting to rising seas.

The seed was planted in 2015, when Norfolk brought in a group from the Netherlands for what it called the "Dutch Dialogues." Andria McClellan, a city councilwoman who at the time was on the planning commission, said city officials realized then that climate adaptation could provide a vehicle for economic development.

"Their technology around this is a huge portion of their GDP," she said of the Dutch. Much of the Netherlands lies below sea level, and the country's expertise on how to tame and adapt to water has become a national export.

City leaders also began to realize that rather than focusing only on fortifying the areas at risk, they also needed to rethink the places that are relatively safer.

"Let's focus on the areas that aren't at risk, and how we can develop and improve and densify those areas," said George Homewood, Norfolk's planning director, "so that our great little city by the sea gets to continue to be that great little city by the sea because we've been able to move it and shape it over time to places that are less at risk."

Chart: Norfolk's Accelerating Sea Level Rise

In 2016, Homewood led the publication of "Vision 2100," a broad-strokes scoping document for how Norfolk could literally reshape itself into "the coastal community of the future."

The vision divides the city into four color-coded zones. Green and purple represent relatively safe areas where the city should focus future development and improve existing neighborhoods. The red zone—mostly downtown and the Naval base, and including Tidewater Gardens—are areas of dense development that need protection. The yellow zone represents the boldest move: areas where the city can't afford to build expensive flood protection but must instead rely on some combination of adaptation and retreat.

In January, Norfolk passed an overhaul of its zoning code that implements some of the vision, in baby steps. It requires new buildings in the coastal zone—which largely matches the yellow and red areas of Vision 2100—be elevated 3 feet above the level of water expected in a 100-year flood. New buildings have to capture at least the first 1.5 inches of rainfall on-site. It also provides incentives to steer new development away from the coastal zone and toward less-flood-prone areas.

During high tides, the river laps over its walls into the streets of some Norfolk neighborhoods. The city says it won't be able to save communities like this. Credit: Nicholas Kusnetz/ICN

During high tides, the river laps over its walls into the streets of some Norfolk neighborhoods. The Chrysler Museum of Art is just around the corner. Credit: Nicholas Kusnetz/ICN

But if Norfolk is to remake itself, Homewood and others say, it has to include everyone.

The city's median income is below the national average, and many of its poorest citizens are packed into public housing projects or run-down neighborhoods. The fastest growing industries in the city pay low wages. Norfolk also has a history of racism and injustice to overcome.

Nowhere is this more apparent than Tidewater Gardens, which along with two adjacent housing projects makes up an area called St. Paul's.

"This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity we've got, to keep the faith with all of the people in this city," Homewood said, "and to elevate parts of this city, and I mean that in the physical sense and also a social and economic sense, part of the community that quite frankly has been left behind and forgotten."

While some city leaders have wanted to redevelop St. Paul's for more than a decade, their plan has only come to fruition in recent years, as officials have superimposed their resilience plans on the area.

"Bottom line is, Tidewater Gardens? We gotta get them out of there," Homewood said.

'Everybody Needs Housing'

Tidewater Gardens and two adjacent developments were built in the 1950s after the city cleared away older slums near downtown. It was meant to solve problems of housing and poverty, but it created challenges of its own.

Two-story brick buildings are arrayed in large blocks like military barracks. They host no stores and no restaurants. The median annual household income is about $12,000. More than 95 percent of residents are black. Now, Norfolk wants to knock it all down once again and build a mixed-use, mixed-income neighborhood that would provide jobs, break up the concentration of poverty and resolve flooding.

"The crown jewel of the neighborhood," one planning document from last year reads, "will be the transformation of the low-lands area that is often devastated by flooding into a water eco-center comprised of great parks and green spaces," adding: "Norfolk will no longer be on the water but rather will be of the water."

What's not clear, however, is what will happen to the 4,200 people who live in the three public housing projects. And Cook and many others fear that ultimately, many of them will be left to fend for themselves.

Michelle Cook acts as a liaison between residents of Tidewater Gardens and the city of Norfolk. Credit: Nicholas Kusnetz/ICN

Michelle Cook acts as a liaison between residents of Tidewater Gardens and the city of Norfolk. She and others in the community worry about the city's plans to raze the low-income housing project and replace it with a mixed-income neighborhood, and what it will mean for their futures. Credit: Nicholas Kusnetz/ICN

Cook, 57, is president of the Tidewater Gardens Tenant Management Corporation, which acts as a liaison between residents and the city. She's a tall woman, and she wraps her hair in brightly colored scarves. She grew up in Norfolk and for years lived outside of public housing. She raised three boys and worked full-time as a certified nursing assistant while supplementing her income with part-time work in fast food and as a security guard. "Whatever money these two hands made," she said, "that was it."

About 20 years ago, Cook developed kidney disease that required dialysis. She was unable to hold a full-time job, and she ended up in Tidewater Gardens. She eventually received a kidney transplant, but that put her on a lifetime course of steroids and immunosuppressants.

Across the country, cities have moved away from a 20th century model of public housing, where government-run and -subsidized buildings are clustered together. Instead, some cities have adopted a goal of integrating low-income housing into mixed-income neighborhoods while leaning on a system of vouchers to help residents pay market-based rents. In some cases, however, residents have been left without enough support or affordable housing.

After Norfolk knocks down St. Paul's public housing, which it hopes to do in phases beginning early 2020, it will not replace all 1,700 subsidized units. Instead, privately owned buildings would include a mix of market rate and rent-controlled units. The city expects 600 households will remain in the new buildings with rental assistance, while about 700 will enter the private rental market with vouchers. Another 400 will "transition out of assisted rental housing." The city says it will provide case management and vocational services for every family and that no one will be forced to leave the area.

Cook said she and many residents are increasingly stressed by the uncertainty of what's to come. She's working on a plan for what to do when Tidewater Gardens is gone. She wants to work as a pharmacy technician, but can't do it full-time. Currently, she lives off her Social Security payments, which cover her rent of about $250 per month.

Sarah Black and Chris Galloway, legal aid lawyers who have been lobbying against the redevelopment on their own time, say the city's plans for St. Paul's are overly optimistic at best. The rental market is tight and waiting lists are long for vouchers and public housing. Anyone with a history of late payments or evictions, they say, will likely be passed over by landlords. "Most of them would be entering a life of housing instability," Black said.

Animation: What Will Sea Level Rise Look Like in Norfolk, Va.?

The city has a history of demolishing housing for poor, black residents and not following through on promises to help them find somewhere better. This time, officials say, things will be different. One difference Cook counts on is that two years ago the city elected its first black mayor, Kenneth Cooper Alexander.

The city was poised to approve a redevelopment plan last year, but after Cook and others criticized the city for moving forward without adequate public review, the City Council postponed the measure. In January, the council passed a measure to develop a "People First" plan, which would include case management for each family, while also authorizing the housing authority to begin a process to demolish the units.

Lori Crouch, a spokeswoman for the city, declined to make anyone available for an interview, saying there's no specific plan for redevelopment yet. She pointed instead to the "People First" plan, which according to a newsletter given to the community, was "designed to help you and every person in your household reach his or her goals."

The plan hasn't settled the fears of many residents.

"Hello, excuse me. Everybody needs housing," Cook said. "It just don't make any sense to me to say you're going to tear down housing and not replace what you take down."

The 'Yellow Zone': Some Neighborhoods Won't Be Saved

Along the coasts of the United States, cities were built under the seemingly safe assumption that land is land, and water is water. But the assumption of fixed coastlines proved wrong, and many neighborhoods may soon find themselves on the wrong side of the line.

Around Norfolk, seas are expected to rise another 6 inches to 1.5 feet over the next three decades. The rate of sea level rise in the second half of the century is more uncertain. A rapid cut in global emissions would make a tremendous difference. Without that, more pessimistic projections say seas could rise 6.5 feet or more by 2100, a level that would inundate nearly 40 percent of Norfolk at least twice a month, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists. About 350 other U.S. communities would be in similar shape or worse.

While many of those communities may end up protected by walls or other infrastructure, there's growing recognition that some places will just get wetter and wetter and be lost to the sea.

Map: Water Keeps Returning to Norfolk's Historic Shorelines

For Norfolk, these neighborhoods are represented in the "yellow zone" of Vision 2100, the places where innovation, adaptation or retreat will take the place of hardened protections like floodwalls or levees. This concession raises a host of ethical and even existential questions for cities, about who and what to protect and what to do as a place like Norfolk, bound by water on three sides, begins to shrink.

David Chapman lives in this yellow zone, in Norfolk's Larchmont neighborhood, a middle-class area home to professors and military families. He and his wife bought their home, four blocks from the water, in 1986, when flooding was merely an occasional nuisance.

Over the past decade, he's watched the tide swallow his street during the biggest storms.

The end of his street now becomes impassable in heavy rain. A block away, Hampton Boulevard—the main conduit connecting downtown and the Navy base—floods regularly. The water has come as far as the top step of his low stoop. He's convinced his home's value will decline, and he wants to get out.

"We've got to move one of these days," he said. "And if we move, I want to be in a condo that's on the second floor, way above water."

David Chapman lives in Larchmont in a part of Norfolk's Yellow Zone. He points to where flooding has risen up his stairs in the past. Credit: Nicholas Kusnetz/ICN

David Chapman points to where water has risen up the stairs of his Larchmont neighborhood home during past flooding events. Credit: Nicholas Kusnetz/ICN

If enough of his neighbors harbor the same fear—along with potential buyers—it could prove disastrous for the city.

"There's going to be a point where the value of homes in neighborhoods that repeatedly flood decline suddenly and precipitously," said Harriet Tregoning, who oversaw disaster recovery at the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development under President Obama. Maybe a potential buyer can't afford a newly raised flood insurance premium, or maybe a bank won't provide a 30-year mortgage. If this happens in a place like Larchmont, a small crisis could spread quickly. "It's not a mortgage here or there. It's hundreds of thousands of mortgages over time."

In 2016, Freddie Mac, the federally backed mortgage bank, said rising seas were likely to displace millions of people from homes worth hundreds of billions of dollars in this century. It warned of a mortgage crisis like what Tregoning envisioned, and said while the losses may be gradual, they would likely be greater than those of the junk-mortgage-fueled Great Recession. "Non-economic losses may be substantial as some communities disappear or unravel," the report states flatly. "Social unrest may increase in the affected areas."

Such a collapse is not imminent. But there are grounds for concern.

One recent study in Florida's Miami-Dade County found that home values closer to sea level are not appreciating as much as those higher up. Norfolk's real estate assessment growth has slowed over the past decade, though no one has tied that to flooding.

"That's what Vision 2100 is all about," said Homewood, the planning director. It's about signaling risk. "That's not to say this area is going away and we ought to run like hell right now," he said. "If you're into, 'bring on the risk,' well then come on down. And slowly but surely, property values and things like that are going to start adjusting."

It's not uncommon to find houses in Norfolk neighborhoods near the water that have been raised several feet above ground level. Credit: Nichols Kusnetz/ICN

It's not uncommon to find houses in Norfolk neighborhoods near the water that have been raised several feet above ground level. Credit: Nichols Kusnetz/ICN

In 2015, Moody's Investors Services issued a report about Hampton Roads, the region surrounding Norfolk, saying that while flooding hadn't yet affected the bond ratings of the area's cities, "further capital investment and effective planning" would be needed "to mitigate negative credit effects."

The city has since received encouragement from Moody's about its work, but the flooding will only get worse. McClellan, the city councilwoman, said politicians need to get ahead of the problem, though she's not sure quite how.

"How can we be proactive enough, and spend the money we don't have, with the resources we don't have, so that we don't get to that point where we have a slippery slope?" she said. "If housing prices start to go down, you have less tax revenue, so you have less city services, and it's a spiral that can be very dangerous."

'We're Beginning to Ask the Right Questions'

Hours after he attended the coastal innovation conference earlier this year, Homewood sat in his office overlooking the water. The event left him invigorated.

"I truly believe that technology will begin to address some of our climate issues and some of our sea level rise issues," he said.

Homewood has floppy white hair and glasses, and he's unusually blunt for a public official. He recalled a conversation from that morning with another participant about a city of floating houses, or other as-yet-unimagined solutions. "There are obviously some issues, but in theory, can we live with water? Can we make it so the water comes, the water goes, and we just keep on keepin' on?"

And yet he gave a sobering assessment for the city and how much it can actually achieve.

Parts of downtown Norfolk are partially protected by flood gates. Credit: Nicholas Kusnetz/ICN

Parts of downtown Norfolk are protected by flood gates. George Homewood, Norfolk's planning director, sees proposals for new barriers as little more than a Band-Aid on a much larger problem. Credit: Nicholas Kusnetz/ICN

The Army Corps of Engineers has proposed a $1.7 billion series of seawalls, storm surge barriers and other infrastructure to protect much of Norfolk from a 50-year storm with 1.5 feet of sea level rise. But the proposal would do little to address routine flooding from rising seas in some areas because the barriers would need to remain open except during major storms.

Homewood characterized the proposal as a Band-Aid: "over $1 billion to buy us 20 years," he said.

The Navy base—which is critical to the city's economy—has identified 1.5 feet of sea rise as a tipping point that would dramatically increase the risk of flood damage, but it has no specific plan to address the threat.

Norfolk officials say they don't know how exactly their city will cope in the long term if seas rise quickly. They voice an understandable, but ultimately troubling faith that someone, somehow, will figure out a solution. Homewood acknowledges that, on some level, it won't be enough.

"There are parts of the city that are vulnerable and cannot be effectively protected. And then there's other parts of the city where you've got to scratch your head and say, you know, maybe we could protect it, but what's the cost-benefit of that? The good thing is, there's an awful lot of discussion going on. The city is having the conversation," he said. "We don't have all the answers, but we're beginning to ask the right questions."

Top photo: High tides have started to creep into the outlines of Norfolk's former shorelines, areas that were filled in years ago and built up. Credit: Kyle Spencer/City of Norfolk

Title: Re: Official Ocean Death Watch Thread
Post by: g on May 27, 2018, 08:31:32 AM
How Fucked Up is This.

What does it say about people and their perspective in general?? :icon_scratch:

Reminds me of the four thousand room casinos going up in Vegas.

Next they will want to rebuild the city atop a giant raft, or oil tanker.
Title: Re: Official Ocean Death Watch Thread
Post by: Karpatok on May 27, 2018, 08:51:01 AM
How Fucked Up is This.

What does it say about people and their perspective in general?? :icon_scratch:

Reminds me of the four thousand room casinos going up in Vegas.

Next they will want to rebuild the city atop a giant raft, or oil tanker.
Yep! As if people have never suffered the consequences by water of their sinfulness before. Some survived then, the righteous ones, and some will again.
Title: Re: Official Ocean Death Watch Thread
Post by: Surly1 on May 27, 2018, 08:52:27 AM
How Fucked Up is This.

What does it say about people and their perspective in general?? :icon_scratch:

Reminds me of the four thousand room casinos going up in Vegas.

Next they will want to rebuild the city atop a giant raft, or oil tanker.

I suspect that they will eventually build bulkheads or dikes to protect some areas, and turn others into "sacrifice zones," which is the truth of it that no one will speak for attribution.

Meanwhile, the world's largest naval base is not able to officially plan or execute flood mitigation plans because climate change is a left-wing myth. Any plans with such words get red-lined.
Title: Re: Official Ocean Death Watch Thread
Post by: Karpatok on May 27, 2018, 09:14:42 AM
Not gonna cry for America's largest naval base or any naval base for that matter. Let them all drown in a flood as if they burned in hell. Same difference. And all those compliant workers in the military. Fucking boo hoo!
Title: Re: Official Ocean Death Watch Thread
Post by: Eddie on May 27, 2018, 09:42:29 AM
They'll just build a new base.

Title: Re: Official Ocean Death Watch Thread
Post by: Eddie on May 27, 2018, 09:46:00 AM
The ongoing death of the ocean sure makes me want to go cruising while it's still fairly vibrant, which it is, although not like it once was.  The clock is ticking.
Title: Re: Official Ocean Death Watch Thread
Post by: Karpatok on May 27, 2018, 09:53:24 AM
Title: Re: Official Ocean Death Watch Thread
Post by: Surly1 on July 31, 2018, 03:36:18 AM
A thoughtful set of observations from a climate scientist who is also a mother.

We Should Never Have Called It Earth (

We Should Never Have Called It Earth

We Should Never Have Called It Earth


We should never have called it Earth. Three quarters of the planet’s surface is saltwater, and most of it does not lap at tranquil beaches for our amusement. The ocean is deep; things are lost at sea. Sometimes we throw them there: messages in bottles, the bodies of mutinous sailors, plastic bags of plastic debris. Our sewage.

Sometimes the things we lose slip unnoticed down the sides of passing ships. We expect never to see lost objects again, but every so often they are carried by shifting currents and swirling eddies to wash ashore on distant beaches. We are reminded that things, once submerged, have a habit of returning.

I am not afraid of the ocean, although I should be. On hot summer weekends I take my son to the beach. He toddles toward the water, laughs at the lazy waves splashing his fat baby legs. I follow behind, turn him back when the water reaches his naked belly. He is too young to know the sea gets deeper, that eventually it rises above your head and you must swim so as not to drown. I am prepared for nightmares as he grows and learns about the vastness of the ocean and the monsters real and imagined that swim there. He will soon know that evil things lurk in the deep.

Photo by Shifaaz Shamoon (Unsplash / Public Domain Dedication (CC0))

I am a climate scientist, a computer modeler studying the things we put in the atmosphere. On first glance, my work seems confined to a realm wholly above and separate from the underwater world. But the ocean and the air are the great conspirators of our climate. The motions of the atmosphere, the rise and fall of air above us, are dictated by the temperature of the sea surface. Much of our weather is shaped by the back-and-forth slosh of water in the tropical oceans.

Some years, around Christmas, the waters of the Eastern equatorial Pacific become abnormally warm. This El Niño, an imaginary visitation from the Christ child, feeds violent tropical thunderstorms above the warm pool of water. The tropical East floods; drought comes to the West. Indonesia and Australia burn.

The atmosphere is listening, and it carries the sea’s messages far afield. The trade winds weaken, barometers measure drops and rises in pressure, and air currents are re-directed. El Niño brings rain to the American Southwest, mild winters to southern Canada, reduces hurricanes in the north Atlantic. The average temperature of the entire planet increases. We, all of us, are at the mercy of the ocean.

Before we existed, and after we are gone, the ocean will continue to whisper to the atmosphere. Weather patterns will change back and forth with the natural oscillations of air and water. But we do exist, and we are treating the atmosphere as a limitless dumping ground. A signal of our handiwork is emerging against this cacophony of noise. Things are changing.


Dive into the ocean and there is no immediate impediment to progress. At some point your ears pop. Stray too deep or too long and gases make bubbles that pop in your joints. To dive into land requires mechanical assistance: dirt beneath fingernails, shovels in sweaty hands, a screw turned by internal combustion. Deep in the ocean you may find a wrecked ship, tarnished gold, dissolved clothing threaded through buried skeletons. Deep in the earth we find fossils, the compressed detritus of primeval death. Burning these gives us light and energy and heat. Some of this is deliberate and localized. Some, however, is not.

We find greenhouse gases difficult to understand. Accepting that gas means danger is a sad condition of modernity. But we imagine rancid air that tickles then chokes, yellow clouds on a battlefield in Flanders. We accept that burning is warmth, but that its byproducts may linger and mix without color, odor, or taste seems too strange. Linger they do though. They trap the thermal effluence of the planet and, in so doing, warm the planet.

The warming is not immediate. Delays are built into the system: there are different forms of inertia here. The air warms first, then the land, then surface winds mix the shallow surface layer of the sea and finally the abyssal reaches of the ocean. The heat slowly trickles down to the deep, churned by slow overturning ocean currents. The ocean is slow to warm, but it will receive the message in time.

Sea ice (at top) meets land as seen from NASA’s Operation IceBridge research aircraft along the Upper Baffin Bay coast above Greenland. NASA’s Operation IceBridge has been studying how polar ice has evolved over the past nine years and is currently flying a set of eight-hour research flights over ice sheets and the Arctic Ocean to monitor Arctic ice loss aboard a retrofitted 1966 Lockheed P-3 aircraft. According to NASA scientists and the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), sea ice in the Arctic appears to have reached its lowest maximum wintertime extent ever recorded on March 7, 2017. (Mario Tama / Getty Images / © All Rights Reserved)

Someday I must tell my son what I have done. My comfortable, safe life is in large part a product of the internal combustion engine. Fossil fuels power the trains that take us to the beach, the factories that make his plastic bucket and spade, the lights I switch off when I kiss him good night. We can make small adjustments: recycling, buying reusable bottles for our water and ice coffee, foregoing the occasional plastic bag. But these small things, even multiplied by a large population, are still small in the end.

I cannot deny my son or myself the ease of modern life, and I have no wish to isolate him from friends and family by insisting on radical changes. A carbon-free life seems a solitary one: no travel to see grandparents, awkward refusals of invitations, precious time with friends replaced by gardening, canning, mending, building, working. I search for political solutions, an advocacy muted by the cowardice of my personal choices. In the end, I am responsible for the gases that are changing the climate and, in raising my son in comfort and convenience, am passing on that responsibility and guilt to him.

Greenhouse gases are indisputably warming the whole planet. We are moving toward a future where the natural variations of El Niño are swamped by rising ocean temperatures. There will be no weather that we have not somehow touched. And our legacy travels deeper than we think: We have left to our children a time bomb of warming. Even if we somehow managed to halt the increase in greenhouse gases, freezing them at today’s levels, the planet’s temperature would continue to rise as the heat trickles into the deep, slowly creating a new equilibrium. The ocean will eventually know what we have done to the atmosphere. The process is slow, but inexorable. We have committed ourselves to this warming, a legacy to future generations.

To be a climate scientist is to be an active participant in a slow-motion horror story. These are scary tales to tell children around the campfire. We are the perfect, willfully naïve victims: We were warned, and we did it anyway. Dark fairytales, of course, are as old as human history, and we tell them for a reason. But here, the culprit is the teller, both victim and villain.

The moral of this fable is murkier than the simplicity a children’s tale demands. At the end of the story, the fear persists. We continue to burn fossil fuels and the gases they make continue to trap heat, warming the air, the land, the shallow seas. The heat is mixed deep into the ocean, a long slow slog to equilibrium. There is no way to stop it.

What do I tell my son? A monster awaits in the deep, and someday it will come for you. We know this. We put it there.

Title: Re: Official Ocean Death Watch Thread
Post by: John of Wallan on August 26, 2018, 11:56:21 PM
Sobering article.
Link: (


James Bradley
The end of the oceans
The world’s oceans and all marine life are on the brink of total collapse

In June this
year, scientists from the University of Tasmania and the University of Technology Sydney published research showing that over the past decade the biomass of large fish in Australian waters has declined by more than a third. The results may have jarred with government claims of Australian fisheries being among the most sustainable in the world, but they closely matched official figures showing a 32 per cent decline in Australian fishery catches in the same period. The declines were sharpest in species targeted for fishing and areas in which fishing is permitted, but even populations of species not exploited by fishing declined across the same period.
The notion that a third of large fish in Australian waters disappeared in just 10 years should be of profound concern to all. The health of marine food webs depends upon healthy populations of the predator species that regulate populations of smaller species; declines in their numbers are likely to lead to hastening disruption of ocean ecosystems.
Even more disturbingly, these falls mirror similar declines in marine life around the world. According to a 2015 report by the World Wildlife Fund for Nature, populations of marine vertebrates including fish, turtles, birds, whales, dolphins and seals fell by half between 1970 and 2010. And although the drops in numbers were most extreme during the 1970s and early 1980s, in recent years they have accelerated again, suggesting a similar study conducted today would find an even greater decline. And in a separate study the United Nations found that, although demand for fish is still rising, almost 90 per cent of the world’s fisheries are fully fished or overfished.
There is no question these headline figures disguise considerable variation between species and regions. (The study of Australian fisheries found the biomass of exploited species actually increased in areas where they were protected from fishing.) But that should not divert our attention from the fact that declines were worst in those species humans rely upon for food: the WWF study found populations of tuna, mackerel and bonito dropped by 74 per cent in the same period. Or that other studies estimate the populations of large species such as whales, dolphins, sharks, seals, rays and turtles have declined by more than 75 per cent on average, with some species, such as right whales, leatherback turtles and blue whales, declining by 90 per cent or more.
Half of all marine vertebrates gone in 40 years. A third of large fish in Australian waters gone in the past decade. Ninety per cent of the world’s fisheries already at their limits or beyond. These figures speak to a reality few want to acknowledge, and the decline is made even more shocking by the fact that it has taken place so rapidly. As Eelco Rohling, professor of ocean and climate change at the Australian National University, points out, although there is evidence that hominids were travelling by boat more than 50,000 years ago, and middens and other archaeological evidence make it clear we have relied upon the ocean for even longer, marine environments remained largely pristine until fewer than 500 years ago. In fact, they only really began changing in the early 1800s. “While we were still sailing around in wooden ships powered by the wind, humans didn’t really have much of an influence. The real change comes with industrialisation, and the power to move ourselves around with steam and other technologies. Once that happens, you begin to see mass whaling and fishing on scales that were unimaginable beforehand.”
It is difficult for us to imagine the oceans before humans transformed them, and how they teemed with life. In Anna Clark’s history of fishing in Australia, The Catch, she describes the “fishing Eden” that greeted early Europeans: “the sea floor off the west coast of Tasmania carpeted red with crayfish; fish so thick that nets could be set at any time of the day; an ‘astonishing magnitude’ of Australian salmon; and mountains of mullet that migrated annually up the east coast”. This accords with James Cook’s and Joseph Banks’ descriptions of the density of marine life they found in Botany Bay, where the crew speared stingrays weighing as much as 152 kilograms and reported catching “about 300 pounds weight of fish” in just “3 or 4 hauls” of the net. In Tasmania, whales congregated in the Derwent River in such numbers they were a hazard to shipping, while on the other side of the globe, off the coast of Cornwall, a shoal of sardines was spotted in 1836 that stretched for well over 100 kilometres. Today there are approximately 90,000 nesting female green turtles left worldwide, but studies suggest that when Europeans arrived in the Americas there were more than 50 million in the Caribbean alone. Reports describe them filling the ocean from horizon to horizon as they grazed upon the seagrass that surrounded the Cayman Islands; as late as the 18th century, ships en route to the Caymans could navigate through darkness by the sound of the turtles’ shells knocking together as they fed. Further back again the Roman writer Oppian describes a Mediterranean so full of fish it was possible to catch tuna by simply dropping a log with a spike on it into the water.
More often than not, these descriptions of astonishing abundance were merely the prelude to their destruction. Despite Indigenous Australians having fished along coastlines for tens of thousands of years without adverse effect, Australian fisheries began to collapse within a few generations of European colonisation. The bays around Sydney were denuded of oysters by the 1860s; by 1880 Sydney Harbour, once brimming with fish, was described as “scarcely … a source of supply at all”; and by the 1920s stocks of Sydney’s tiger flathead had collapsed due to the introduction of ocean trawling. The decline in numbers also brought reductions in size, as fish were caught and killed before they could reach adulthood: where once sturgeon up to 5 metres long were common in the bays and estuaries of North America, now they are gone, while the immense rays that glided across the sandy bottom of Botany Bay in Cook and Banks’ time would be exceptional today. Even Oppian’s teeming Mediterranean is now so devoid of fish that many marine biologists call it the Deaditerranean.
Yet for sheer focused ferocity, little compares to the carnage wrought upon marine mammals by whalers and sealers. Scientists estimate at least three million whales were wiped out in the 20th century alone, a massacre that peaked in the 1960s and killed more than two thirds of the global population of sperm whales and 90 per cent of blue whales, as well as bringing northern right whales (so known because their placid nature and tendency to float after death made them the “right” whale to kill) to the brink of extinction. Seals were also killed in the millions: in his classic book, Sea of Slaughter, Canadian writer Farley Mowat calculates at least 13 million seals were killed between 1830 and 1860 in Newfoundland alone, while in the early years of the 19thcentury populations of southern fur seals on subantarctic islands were reduced from between one and two million to a mere few hundred in just a few decades.
It is difficult not to recoil from these sorts of statistics. The violence and cruelty they speak to horrified even observers of the era, and in a time when we are increasingly aware that other animals think and feel and even grieve, the idea of this sort of slaughter is almost unbearable. Yet such exploitation is also only one symptom of a much larger crisis overtaking marine environments, a perfect storm of pressures that is altering the oceans in profound and often irreversible ways. The magnitude of this transformation is difficult to comprehend. Making sense of it demands we grapple with its terrifying scale and rapidity in geological terms. But, more deeply, it demands that we recognise not just the complexity and interconnectedness of the forces that shape life on Earth but also the degree to which we are all implicated in what is taking place.

Two hundred kilometres to the east of the Philippines, the ocean floor drops vertiginously into the Mariana Trench, a vast crescent-shaped scar in the Earth’s surface. More than 2500 kilometres long, and averaging some 70 kilometres in width, its deepest point, the Challenger Deep – a small, slot-shaped valley at its southern end – lies 11 kilometres beneath the surface. Testament to the violence of the forces that drive the Earth’s drifting continental plates, it was once believed to be evidence for the now-discredited theory that the Pacific basin is the wound left when the Moon’s matter was ripped free of the Earth by centrifugal force.
The depth of the Mariana Trench makes it impossibly hostile to surface-dwelling life. Water pressure is more than 1000 times that at sea level, and temperatures rarely rise above 4 degrees Celsius. Humans have been there only four times, yet in May of this year researchers from Japan’s Global Oceanographic Data Center found a plastic bag at its bottom.
This bag has the dubious distinction of being the deepest known piece of plastic waste. Yet it is only one of the thousands of pieces of rubbish catalogued in the centre’s Deep Sea Debris Database, which also includes fishing nets, tyres, washing machines, bottles, tins, sneakers … even a gym bag. Of these items, more than 33 per cent are plastic, and 89 per cent of those are single-use products such as plastic bottles and utensils, ratios that increase to 52 per cent and 92 per cent at depths of more than 6 kilometres.
Until recently, public concern about marine pollution was primarily focused on oil spills and their catastrophic effects on seabirds and coastal environments. These mostly used to come from tankers – 1989’s Exxon Valdez disaster released more than 40 million litres of crude oil across 28,000 square kilometres of ocean and 2100 kilometres of coastline. But as demand has pushed global oil production ever higher and technology has allowed fossil-fuel companies to drill in waters that only a few decades ago would have been regarded as impossibly deep, the number of spills from pipelines and drilling has increased fourfold. This convergence of growing technological capability and increased risk underpins public resistance to recent attempts to open the relatively pristine waters of the Great Australian Bight to exploration and drilling.
As is often the case, though, this is only part of the story. While the short-term effects of oil spills are often catastrophic – the Exxon Valdez disaster killed hundreds of thousands of seabirds, thousands of otters, large numbers of seals, dolphins and orcas, and countless fish and invertebrates, as well as causing long-term damage to the area’s ecosystems – the amount of oil released by spills is barely a third of the amount that enters marine environments as run-off from human activities on land, shipping discharges, and use of fossil fuels.
In recent years, however, concern about oil spills has been overtaken by growing alarm about the impact of plastic upon marine environments. Humans have produced 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic since mass production of it began in the early 1950s, a figure that continues to rise vertiginously year by year: a staggering 335 million metric tonnes is estimated to have been created in 2016 alone. Able to be produced so cheaply that recycling is rarely economic, most plastic ends up in incinerators and landfill. The rest leaks out into the environment, with at least 8 million tonnes a year washing into the oceans.
Jennifer Lavers, a marine biologist at the University of Tasmania, recently made the scale of the problem graphically clear. In 2015, Lavers and six others travelled to Henderson Island in the South Pacific to conduct preliminary work on a program to eradicate rats introduced by Polynesians almost a thousand years ago.
Henderson Island is roughly midway between New Zealand and South America. Save for the 50 people living on Pitcairn Island some 200 kilometres to the south-west, one must travel almost 700 kilometres west to the Gambier Islands before encountering human habitation. To the east there is nothing but Easter Island, almost 2000 kilometres away. Prior to this year Henderson was principally famous as a footnote to literary history: in 1820 Captain George Pollard and what was left of his crew made landfall on the island after their ship, the Essex, was rammed and sunk by a sperm whale; 30 years later their story would help inspire Moby Dick.
Lavers has been studying plastic pollution for much of her career. Yet what she saw when she arrived on Henderson Island shocked even her. “I know plastic is ubiquitous. It’s found from the Arctic to the Antarctic and everywhere in between, so I don’t go anywhere without expecting to find it. Yet every now and then I arrive somewhere I’m caught off guard. Henderson is one of the most remote islands in the world, it’s one of only a handful of raised coral atolls in the world, it’s World Heritage listed, it’s surrounded by one of the largest marine protected areas in the world. And yet there laid out in front of me was a concentration of plastic unlike anything I’d ever seen.”
Lavers and her team calculated there were 17.6 tonnes of plastic littering Henderson’s beaches with an average of more than 670 individual pieces per square metre. Of this, most was lying on the surface or buried in the first 10 centimetres of sand. And these amounts were increasing all the time: a survey of a 10-metre stretch of the island’s north beach found new pieces of plastic washing up every day. Yet as Lavers points out, the 17.6 tonnes of plastic she and her team found on Henderson constitutes less than two seconds of the annual global production of plastic, and only a tiny proportion of the estimated five trillion pieces of plastic believed to be floating in the ocean.
One does not have to look far for examples of the toll plastic exacts upon ocean wildlife: birds, fish, whales and other marine animals are all vulnerable to entanglement. Likewise, studies of turtles, seals, dolphins and birds suggest tens of thousands perish every year from swallowing plastics. On Midway Atoll, in the North Pacific, up to a third of albatross chicks die every year, many of them starving to death after being fed plastic refuse that their parents have mistaken for food. American photographer Chris Jordan’s images of their bedraggled corpses, rotting bellies distended with plastic caps and other refuse, provide a mutely eloquent testament to the effects of this process.
But plastics also pose a more insidious threat. Once adrift in the ocean they begin to break down, dissolving into what is known as microplastics, tiny fragments ranging in size from millimetres to nanometres. The highest concentrations of these microplastics are found in the oceans’ gyres: vast circulating currents created by the Earth’s rotation that act like huge vortices, drawing waterborne objects toward their centres.
The best known of these gyres is in the North Pacific, and at its centre lies the now-infamous Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Located midway between Hawaii and North America, the patch covers approximately 1.6 million square kilometres (or twice the size of New South Wales), with concentrations of plastic pollution reaching 100 kilograms per square kilometre at its centre. But while the Great Pacific Garbage Patch has received the most attention, it is not alone. As Lavers’ experience on Henderson demonstrates, high concentrations of plastic pollution are also to be found at the centre of the South Pacific gyre, as well as those in the North and South Atlantic, while new research by Lavers and others suggests the Indian Ocean gyre may actually be more polluted than the Pacific’s.
Along with the tiny beads of plastic deliberately added to products such as face scrubs and toothpaste, and the billions of tiny filaments produced by artificial fibres, these microplastics have invaded the ocean’s food chain, gathering in higher and higher concentrations as one moves upward through the layers of predation. In the eastern Pacific, microplastics are now ubiquitous in the host of species of tiny free-swimming or floating animals known as zooplankton. These creatures fill the oceans’ waters and act as a foundation of the oceans’ ecosystems. In some parts of the ocean there is now more plankton-sized plastic than plankton, meaning organisms that rely on plankton for food, such as whales, are consuming it in extremely large quantities.
The long-term effects of this are not yet well understood, but there is no doubt ocean microplastics are also being consumed by humans: studies have detected them in fresh and tinned fish, while a study published earlier this year found that mussels in Britain contained up to 700 pieces of microplastic per kilogram, and other studies have found them in both fish and sea salt, while a study in California found a fifth of fish in local markets contained fibres from artificial fabrics (one study found a single load of polyester or acrylic clothing can release more than half a million microfibres). Their prevalence is made even more disturbing by the growing evidence that microplastics absorb pollutants such as DDT from seawater, as well as organic molecules such as oestradiol, which is used for birth control. Other studies have found that microplastics contain high levels of chemicals that are known to disrupt the endocrine system and affect reproduction in many species.
Plastic pollution is far from the only form of oceanic pollution. Eelco Rohling from ANU, for instance, points to the largely unreported threat of poly-chlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs. Originally used in the 1920s for cooling and insulation, PCBs were quickly incorporated into paints, adhesives, the PVC coatings on electrical wires and many other products. While their widespread use meant large quantities were released into the environment, it was not until the mid 1960s that Sören Jensen, a Danish scientist looking for evidence of DDT in fish, found traces of PCBs in pike caught in Sweden. Over the next two years he found traces of them everywhere: in fish, in birds, even in the hair of his wife and daughter.
In the years since Jensen’s discovery, PCBs have been banned or regulated in many countries. But PCBs have not gone away. Quite the opposite: studies show PCBs have permeated marine environments around the world, so much so that one recent study found high concentrations of them in the bodies of shrimp-like crustaceans called amphipods living almost 10 kilometres beneath the ocean’s surface.
The presence of PCBs in the ocean is extremely concerning. Highly toxic in even small doses, they cause cancer, liver damage, reproductive problems and deformities in many species, including humans, as well as disturb hormonal balances in fish, birds and mammals, and cause neurological disorders in birds. Because they collect in fatty tissues they also become more concentrated as they move up the food chain, meaning they accumulate in the bodies of long-lived high-level predators such as sharks, seals and cetaceans.
The long-term effects of this are not yet fully understood, but they may well be significant: PCBs have already been implicated in mass die-offs of certain populations of dolphins, and are known to result in increased infant mortality in whales and dolphins, who transfer high concentrations of them to their young in their milk. Worse yet, PCBs break down extremely slowly when kept out of sunlight, meaning they can linger in the deep ocean and in the bodies of animals and fish for decades or even longer, their continued presence a reminder of the way the effects of our actions persist.

The threat posed by plastics, PCBs and other forms of marine pollution may be immense, but it pales into insignificance against that of climate change, something that was made heartbreakingly clear in 2016 and 2017, when the Great Barrier Reef suffered devastating back-to-back bleaching events that killed almost half of its coral.
Coral bleaching occurs when rising water temperatures cause coral polyps to expel the colourful algae they secrete in their bodies. Because the polyps – tiny animals that exist in a symbiotic relationship with the algae – rely upon the algae for food, bleached corals quickly starve or succumb to disease. With the coral gone, reef ecosystems collapse, the teeming communities of fish and other organisms giving way to the algae-coated skeletons of dead coral.
Only 40 years ago, coral bleaching was almost unknown. But in the 1980s researchers began to observe bleaching events on reefs in the Pacific and the Caribbean. At first these events were geographically confined and, in the Pacific at least, associated with the elevated sea temperatures produced by El Niño events. Then, in 1998, unusually warm waters triggered mass bleaching events on reefs around the globe, killing 16 per cent of the world’s coral. The pattern was repeated when mass bleaching struck the Great Barrier Reef in 2002, but this time with a frightening new twist. Whereas the elevated sea temperatures of 1998 had been produced by the intense El Niño of 1997–98 compounding the background warming associated with climate change, in 2002 there was no El Niño: the water was just hot.
In the decade and a half since 2002, rising ocean temperatures have led to more frequent bleaching on reefs around the world. Yet the events of 2016 and 2017 were exceptional in both scale and severity, and suggested we have entered a new and critical phase in the transformation of marine environments. In previous bleaching events there tended to be what James Kerry, a researcher at the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University and coordinator of the National Coral Bleaching Taskforce, calls “a spectrum of winners and losers”, meaning some corals – mostly the less structurally complex varieties – fared better than others. But, in 2016 especially, temperatures were so high that even the really hardy corals became losers. Kerry explains that “we have categories we use to assess the level of bleaching, the highest of which is category four, which means 60 per cent or more of the coral is bleached. But after 2016 we really need a category five, for reefs that are 80 or 100 per cent bleached.”
For Kerry and many other scientists who work on the Great Barrier Reef, the events of 2016 and 2017 were deeply upsetting. Describing his first sight of the damage, he hesitates. “We had one day in a helicopter when we flew for eight hours, and of the 500 reefs we surveyed only three weren’t bleached, which meant you were flying for hundreds of kilometres and every reef you saw was white. That was really difficult.”
This situation is being repeated around the world. In the Maldives, up to 90 per cent of reefs bleached in 2016 and 2017. Elsewhere in the Indian Ocean, reefs in Kenya, Sri Lanka and along Australia’s west coast all suffered extensive damage, with up to 90 per cent of shallow-water corals affected. Reefs in the Caribbean have been badly damaged, losing up to 80 per cent of hard coral cover since the 1970s, while in Florida one survey found up to two thirds of coral had died.
For Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, professor of marine science at the University of Queensland and coordinating lead author on the oceans chapter of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fifth Assessment Report, the events of 2016 and 2017 were not a surprise. In 1999 Hoegh-Guldberg published a paper predicting the disappearance of most warm-water corals and the reefs they build by the middle of the century. At the time his predictions were dismissed as alarmist; today they look conservative. “We underestimated how quickly the changes would occur. Two decades ago we predicted back-to-back bleaching events by mid century. They’re happening right now.”
Given time, reefs can recover, recolonised from other reefs or deeper, cooler water. But this process is slow: even fast-growing corals require 10 to 15 years to regrow, while others can take decades. In a warming world, that is not time they are likely to get, as Kerry makes clear. “Year on year, there’s a 30 per cent chance that each year will be hotter than the year before, so the chances of getting another bleaching event are very high. The chances that those corals will reach adulthood without experiencing a serious bleaching event is very low. That means the problem isn’t that the reef doesn’t have the capacity to regenerate, but that it will keep getting knocked down by these big events. Looking ahead, that’s the most likely scenario.”
Hoegh-Guldberg’s assessment is even starker. Without decisive action on climate change he foresees bleaching events becoming an annual occurrence within a decade or two. “If we don’t rapidly put the brakes on emissions, coral reefs as we know them will disappear by 2025 or 2030.”

The coral reef might be the first marine ecosystem to suffer irreversible damage or collapse due to climate change, but it will not be the last. In many parts of the world, kelp beds, which underpin a range of temperate marine ecosystems, are retreating, driven towards the poles by the effects of warming waters. In Australia this process is already visible along the east coast: in northern New South Wales the range and health of kelp forests are already significantly diminished, while kelp beds off the Solitary Islands near Coffs Harbour have entirely disappeared. Similarly on the west coast, 100 kilometres of kelp beds disappeared in the aftermath of a marine heatwave in 2011. Yet nowhere have the effects of this process been felt more acutely than in Tasmania. Beds of giant kelp that were once so thick they had to be marked on shipping maps have all but disappeared, largely as a result of the arrival of the long-spined sea urchin, borne south from the mainland by warming waters.
Likewise in Antarctica, where upper ocean water temperatures have risen by more than 1 oC since 1950, new species such as the king crab (a ferocious predator previously confined to the deep ocean) are invading the ecosystems of the continental shelf.
Nor are warming waters the only threat associated with climate change. In 2013 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted sea-level rises of between 26 and 82 centimetres by the end of this century, but those figures look increasingly optimistic. In 2015 NASA research predicted sea-level rises of a metre or more over the next century or so, while a 2017 report from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found that rises of 2 to 2.7 metres were plausible, particularly in light of the increasing instability of Antarctic ice sheets.
To say we are unprepared for this is an understatement. Sea-level rises of up to a metre or more within decades are now inevitable. And while these will significantly affect cities and communities in low-lying areas, they will also threaten the viability of a wide range of coastal and estuarine environments, in particular vitally important mangroves and seagrass beds, and place even greater pressure upon coral reefs. These effects will be amplified by the likelihood of more violent storms and larger waves.
Yet the most insidious and dangerous effect of climate change may lie elsewhere, in what Eelco Rohling calls the “silent killer” of ocean acidification. To appreciate the problem of ocean acidification it is necessary to understand that ocean chemistry and atmospheric chemistry are linked, and that the levels of gases in each are in equilibrium. As the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere rises, so too does the concentration of carbon dioxide dissolved in seawater.
Dissolving carbon dioxide in seawater causes a chemical reaction that produces carbonic acid and liberates hydrogen ions. This increases the acidity of the water (the “H” in the term pH refers to hydrogen) and, because some of these hydrogen ions also bind with carbonate and aragonite, also reduces the amount of these chemicals present in seawater.
This reaction is part of what is known as the marine carbon cycle. Inorganic carbon transferred from the atmosphere into the warmer surface layers of the oceans is absorbed by the actions of algae that photosynthesise it into organic carbon, and organisms such as shellfish, coral and plankton that combine it with carbonate and aragonite to create calcium-carbonate shells and skeletons. Upon the death of these organisms, much of the organic carbon and calcium carbonate they created is transferred to the colder deep ocean, where it either settles into sediment or is returned to the upper levels of the ocean through the processes of thermohaline exchange that drive the world’s currents. Over the long time-scales of natural variability, these cycles regulate the pH of the ocean’s waters, preventing significant change. But very rapid increases in carbon dioxide, such as those of recent decades, cannot be accommodated by these natural cycles, resulting in rising acidity.
Although the bulk of carbon dioxide has been produced since the 1960s, humans have been adding it to the atmosphere since the start of the industrial revolution. This has occurred either through the use of fossil fuels or by interfering with the planet’s capacity to absorb the gas by clearing forests or draining natural carbon sinks like swamps and peat bogs. Of that extra carbon dioxide, somewhere around 30 per cent has been absorbed by the oceans, increasing their acidity and decreasing their average pH from 8.2 in pre-industrial times to 8.1 today. (Somewhat confusingly, an increase in acidity corresponds to a decrease in pH.)
This might seem an insignificant amount, but pH is a logarithmic scale, where one unit equals a tenfold change, which means this drop of 0.1 corresponds to a 30 per cent change. And this process is expected to accelerate as the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere continues to increase, reducing the pH of the oceans to 7.8 or 7.7 by the end of the century. Seawater is naturally slightly alkaline, so this sort of increase won’t transform it into battery acid. Nonetheless this rate of change is terrifyingly fast in geological terms: a similar rate of change has not been recorded since the mass extinctions that accompanied the disappearance of the dinosaurs. Rapid acidification of the oceans was also at least partly responsible for the Permian-Triassic Extinction event that took place just over 250 million years ago. This was the single largest mass extinction in our planet’s history, wiping out 90 per cent of all life on Earth and 95 per cent of life in the oceans.
Ocean acidification is likely to affect some marine animals directly. Research shows fish exposed to more acidic water develop a condition known as acidosis, affecting their growth, respiration and ability to reproduce. Other studies suggest more acidic waters interfere with a neurotransmitter that plays a crucial role in regulating a range of behaviours in a wide variety of organisms. Snails and crabs affected in this way become less able to make survival decisions or become confused when evading predators, while clownfish exhibit behaviours that suggest their sense of smell – crucial for their ability to avoid predators – is significantly impaired, making them prime candidates for extinction.
The increased energy required to absorb carbonate from more acidic water will also have serious consequences for molluscs, corals, crustaceans, and other marine organisms that use calcium carbonate to construct shells and other skeletal structures. As Eelco Rohling explains, “If an organism has to expend too much energy because the water is too acidic then the organism’s shell will be incomplete or malformed or won’t form at all, meaning the organism isn’t viable. Larvae that have to produce carbonate to grow will find that particularly difficult, and many simply will not survive.”
Studies simulating the effects of levels of acidity expected by the end of the century show many molluscs and crustaceans will decrease in size and become more vulnerable to predators and disease. These effects are already visible in some parts of the world, with acidifying waters linked to the decline in oyster numbers along the west coast of the United States, and to reduced sizes in crabs and other crustaceans in Alaska.
Acidification will also place further pressure on coral reefs already devastated by rising water temperatures. Research shows increased acidity is affecting the ability of polyps to lay down the calcium-carbonate skeletons that support the branches and folds of bony corals, weakening their structure and slowing their growth. Even more disturbingly, research shows reefs exposed to more acidic water will actually begin to dissolve, a process that is already taking place in Florida and Hawaii, and is likely to overtake reefs worldwide by 2050 if current rates of acidification are maintained.
Ocean acidification has a massive impact on some of the ocean’s smallest inhabitants, in particular upon the tiny molluscs known as pteropods. These zooplankton, seldom larger than a centimetre in length, are actually sea snails in which the foot has divided to become wing-like appendages that they use to propel themselves through the water. Seen through a microscope pteropods are creatures of extraordinary, otherworldly beauty, their almost transparent wings emerging from translucent shells whose cones and whorls resemble impossibly delicate ice sculptures. The intricate structures of these shells are incredibly thin, ranging from 6 to 100 thousandths of a millimetre in thickness, and as a result, are particularly vulnerable to acidifying waters: placed in water for six weeks with the sorts of acidity levels expected by the end of the century, pteropods’ shells simply dissolve. In the Arctic, where melting sea ice is causing rapid changes to ocean chemistry, changes in pteropod shells have already been observed, while Antarctic waters are expected to reach similar levels of acidity within a decade or two.
Krill are also likely to be seriously affected by acidification. Usually no more than a centimetre or two in length, these shrimplike crustaceans gather in vast schools that can spread across hundreds of square kilometres. Although the populations of most krill species are immense, none comes close to that of the Antarctic krill. Even allowing for recent reductions caused by changes in sea ice, Antarctic krill is the most abundant species on Earth, with a population of 300 to 400 trillion and a combined biomass that exceeds that of every human on the planet. Yet even the Antarctic krill’s astonishing abundance may not be enough to save it from the effects of acidification: in 2013 a study by Australian Antarctic Division scientists found acidifying waters interfere with the complex life cycle of the krill, and could push them towards a tipping point beyond which their numbers might collapse.
Fish, whales and many bird species rely on krill for survival; crabeater seals alone consume more than 100 million tonnes of krill every year. As the Australian Antarctic Division study noted, in a departure from the carefully anodyne language that characterises most scientific reports, any collapse in krill populations would have “catastrophic consequences” for marine mammals and birds of the Southern Ocean.

It is not really a surprise that we find it difficult to assimilate this sort of information. Our ability to conceptualise fundamental changes to the world we inhabit is extremely limited, as is our capacity to think meaningfully about problems that are years or even decades away. To exist in a moment in which geological time and human time are collapsing into each other is to be brought up against the bounds of our imaginations.
This problem is amplified when it comes to the ocean: although we may know one part of the coastline intimately, the ocean’s immensity means that for most of us the rest of the ocean remains essentially unknown, a trackless non-place. Nowhere is this clearer than in the way contemporary travel reduces the ocean to a blue emptiness glimpsed in passing through a window or, just as often, a blue space on a screen.
An awareness of this is one of the things that drives Jennifer Lavers. “People can’t care about what they don’t know about. You can’t inspire people to fight for things they don’t even know exist. Ninety-nine point nine per cent of the world’s population will never go to Henderson, it’s completely off limits. So, for me, it wasn’t just about collecting data and crunching numbers; it was about telling a story that helped people feel a connection with these places. I have to show people how beautiful these islands are, how special these species are, how important their ecosystems are, then they can understand the tragedy of what’s happening.”
Yet there is no question we are on the brink of a moment unimaginable even a generation ago. “We’re at a point of complete transformation,” says Professor Jessica Meeuwig, director of the Centre for Marine Futures at the University of Western Australia. “A few years ago the French marine biologist Daniel Pauly said that at the rate we’re fishing down the food web it won’t be long before we’ll all be eating jellyfish. A few weeks ago I was in Beijing and I went to the fish markets and where once they would have been full of fish, I was overwhelmed by the amount of jellyfish and other invertebrates that were being sold.”
For Meeuwig the situation is doubly frustrating because, when it comes to fish stocks, the real problem is not scientific but political. Like many marine scientists she points to years of studies showing that creating marine reserves covering 30 to 40 per cent of the world’s oceans is the only effective way to protect declining fish stocks, but emphasises this strategy is a win-win for fisheries. “The data is really clear. Protecting areas from fishing doesn’t just protect fish in the reserves, it increases the economic value of fisheries associated with those reserves.” She cites work by Professor Rashid Sumaila of the University of British Columbia, Canada, demonstrating that closing the high seas to fishing would not only increase the number of fish we could catch, as the rising number of fish in the protected areas spilled out into neighbouring waters, but also lay the groundwork for a far more just distribution of the wealth generated by fisheries. “Instead of all the economic benefit flowing to Spanish, Taiwanese and Korean distant-water fishing fleets,” Meeuwig says, “countries like Indonesia and nations in west and east Africa would be able to take advantage of their domestic fisheries.”
The social-justice dimension of fishery management is seldom discussed, but for Meeuwig it is a vital part of any conversation about fish stocks. “A lot of the pirates in Somalia were former fishermen who could no longer catch fish because foreign fishing fleets had swooped in and trashed the place.” Likewise, declining fish stocks contribute to slavery and other forms of labour abuse that persist in the fishing sectors of many countries. Recent reports show Rohingya refugees and Cambodians have been used as slaves on Thai fishing vessels, and Indonesians have been kept in slave-like conditions on South Korean vessels in New Zealand waters.
Meeuwig says that “catches are now so low the only way many distant-water fishing industries can make a buck is through government subsidies or by not paying their labour”. She also argues that creating effective marine reserve systems is a key strategy for building resilience to pressures such as pollution and climate change, pointing to studies of the impact of warming waters on kelp forests in Tasmania. “In areas where there was no fishing the kelp didn’t collapse because it was more resistant to climate invaders. In the same way research shows that after the flooding in 2011 the areas around Brisbane that were closed to fishing recovered faster, and that areas of the Great Barrier Reef that were closed to fishing have been more resilient to bleaching and crown-of-thorns starfish.”
Nonetheless, in March of this year the Turnbull government wound back protections for Australia’s marine parks. The move, which more than 1200 scientists had described as “deeply flawed” and “retrograde”, opened almost half the area previously classified as protected to commercial fishing. Most contentious was the opening of large areas of the Coral Sea, a region already under assault from climate change, to both recreational and commercial exploitation. Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg hailed the decision as a win for both fisheries and the environment. Meeuwig doesn’t mince her words: “The idea we’d actively undermine resilience by allowing fishing in reserves is just incredibly stupid.”
Meeuwig is equally direct about where these choices are taking us. “For a long time, scientists have argued that you don’t see extinctions in the ocean because broadcast [or mass] spawning makes it difficult to wipe out an entire species. But the only reason it looks different is that we only started industrialising the oceans in the 1960s, whereas we’ve been industrialising terrestrial environments for thousands of years. So we’re just catching up, and that means that we’re going to begin seeing extinction rates in the ocean that are unparalleled.”
For those working in areas where climate change is the driving force, the situation is even grimmer. “We’re at breaking point,” says Eelco Rohling. “Sometime in the [next] decade we’re going to have to make a choice. Do we keep doing what we’re doing or do we go all out and really decrease emissions, not just by some negligible percentage a year, but rapidly and towards zero? Because if we don’t do that, we’re going to make the planet unliveable.”
Jennifer Lavers concurs. “Miners used to take canaries down into the coalmines with them to warn them if the air became poisonous. As long as the birds kept singing they knew it was okay. In the same way, seabirds and other marine species are reliable sentinels of ocean health. And seabirds are declining faster than any other bird group. The birds tell us the tipping point is near.”
For coral reefs, that tipping point is already here. Yet those who work on them are wary of allowing despair to colour their work, insisting there is still time to save reefs. As James Kerry argues, “If we say the Great Barrier Reef is written off, then the politicians will write it off.”
Despite his prediction that most of the world’s coral reefs will be gone within a decade or two, Ove Hoegh-Guldberg also refuses to give up. “The fact we might lose 70 to 90 per cent of corals over the next decade or two shouldn’t be our focus. Our focus has to be on the 10 to 30 per cent we can save, and on stabilising global climate as close to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial temperatures as we can. That’s still possible if we make a very rapid shift away from fossil fuels. And that’s the double punch we need. We have to get to the lowest levels of CO2 and other greenhouse gases as fast as possible, while protecting more fortunate regions where the climate may be changing less rapidly. It’s incredibly important we protect these more fortunate sites from local impacts such as pollution, overfishing and unsustainable coastal development that is so damaging to reefs. Because they’re the places from which regeneration will be possible if we stabilise Earth’s atmosphere and climate.”
The forces ranged against effective action on climate change and the other pressures transforming the oceans are powerful. But change is possible. In Hoegh-Guldberg’s words, “We have to really confront those people who support fossil fuels, and outline the massive environmental and human costs of the path we’re on relative to the cost of shifting to low-carbon renewables. The argument we can’t switch because it’s too expensive is simply baloney. And, quite frankly, reckless. It doesn’t cost that much relative to the damage, and we really need to compel our political leaders to stop treating climate change like a second-tier irritation and start treating it as a global emergency.”
Achieving that requires people to do more than merely hope. It requires us to take action, not just as individuals but also collectively. As Lavers says, “Hope is an incredibly dangerous thing because it’s what we do when we feel we don’t have any control anymore. That’s why I ask people, I plead with people: don’t hope, do. Do something. Do anything. Do whatever you can. At an individual level, at a community level. Don’t give up. Don’t wave the white flag. Just do something.

The ocean is part of us, part of every living thing. We bear the memory of it in our cells, encoded into our DNA. It affects almost every aspect of life on Earth: influencing the weather, regulating the atmosphere and the temperature, shaping our history and culture. It even suffuses our imaginative lives – its immensity and great cycles of tide and wind and wave speaking to our sense of the infinite, its mystery to our apprehension of time’s depth.
Yet while we are accustomed to thinking of the ocean as limitless, it is not. We have pushed many of its inhabitants to the brink of extinction and beyond. We have choked its waters with plastics and other pollutants, leaching poisons into the bodies of fish and other animals as well as ourselves. We have already irreversibly altered its ecology, its biology, even its very chemistry.
Many of the effects of our actions will be felt for millennia. But, despite the scale of the changes we have unleashed, there still remains an ever-narrowing window of opportunity to stave off the worst effects of the disaster that is unfolding around us.
As I write this, the Bureau of Meteorology is reporting that a new El Niño may be building in the Pacific, potentially bringing another round of catastrophic bleaching to the Great Barrier Reef. Perhaps it will be spared this year, but even if it is, the upward trend in water temperatures ensures that in the absence of concerted action to reduce emissions any reprieve will be temporary at best. Whether that happens is up to us. We need to recognise that by failing to act we are making a choice, the effects of which will soon be out of our hands.
James Bradley is an author and a critic. His books include the novels Wrack, The Resurrectionist and Clade.
Title: Re: Official Ocean Death Watch Thread
Post by: Eddie on August 27, 2018, 07:33:54 AM
Scary shit there. A third in ten years time is not a small thing. We are nearing the end, I expect.
Title: Re: Official Ocean Death Watch Thread
Post by: K-Dog on August 27, 2018, 08:37:58 AM
Scary shit there. A third in ten years time is not a small thing. We are nearing the end, I expect.

Save the fish, start a war.  The ocean has been successfully ignored as a source of doom for years.  Sea level rise does not count, that only causes personal inconvenience.  As it has been successfully ignored nothing will change.


The oceans are dying.
Title: Re: Official Ocean Death Watch Thread
Post by: Eddie on August 27, 2018, 09:45:04 AM
Fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico appear to be holding on, within reason. Shrimp harvests had been headed down for years, but made something of a comeback this summer.

Overfishing has been a big part of the fisheries problem, and that is being addressed to some degree.  Oysters are another story. The BP Horizon spill was deadly for oysters in the gulf, and in Texas they say 50 to 85% of the historic oyster habitats are gone, mostly due to over-harvesting.

The biggest commercial fish catch is Red Snapper, I think. The way the permits are handed out is some kind of bizarre system that allows about 50 people to control almost all the catch.

We don't have the big foreign commercial boats plying these waters like Oz does, and the US does on the Pacific side. But it's bad enough, I suppose.
Title: Every Animal Pulled From the Deepest Part of the Ocean Had Plastic in Its Gut
Post by: Surly1 on March 02, 2019, 10:52:03 AM
Every Animal Pulled From the Deepest Part of the Ocean Had Plastic in Its Gut (
“What you put in the trench stays in the trench.”



Stories of whales, turtles, and seabirds with guts filled with plastic have become increasingly common. 

Recently, a team of scientists wanted to determine the extent of plastic pollution and its effects on animals by investigating the most remote regions of the ocean, sending vehicles to the deepest marine trenches to collect tiny amphipods — shrimp-like creatures — that scavenge for food in the harsh environment.

In the Mariana Trench, the deepest point of the ocean, every single amphipod captured had at least one plastic fiber in its stomach, according to the research published Wednesday in the journal Royal Society Open Science

Across six trenches that were studied, 72% of amphipods contained plastic particles. Although the plastic pieces were minuscule, the researchers told the Atlantic that relative to the creature’s size, the fibers were equivalent to a human swallowing a meter of plastic rope.

Alan Jamieson, the lead author of the report, told the Atlantic that the plastic likely harms the creatures in multiple ways. For one, plastic is indigestible and therefore takes up space in the gut. If enough plastic is in an animal’s stomach, the creature could mistakenly think it's full and starve to death as a result.

Plastic can also be a magnet for toxic chemicals such as polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, that disrupt the health of animals. Jamieson has documented PCB pollution in marine environments in other research.

Read More: Every Marine Animal Studied in This Report Contained Microplastics

Amphipods living in the deepest parts of the oceans are, by necessity, excellent scavengers. The relative scarcity of food and lack of light miles underwater make any morsel of food valuable. As a result, amphipods are uniquely vulnerable to consuming pieces of plastic.

Future research will have to be done to figure out how plastic consumption affects amphipod health.

But the impact of plastic on other animals could provide some clues. One team of researchers found that turtles become 20% more likely to die after consuming a single piece of plastic, and many beached whales have been found with guts full of plastic. Even coral reefs are adversely impacted by plastic pollution.

It’s likely that amphipods are similarly harmed by plastic and, if that’s the case, then plastic pollution poses an existential to marine ecosystems. These tiny creatures are a source of food for other animals and their decline could ricochet throughout marine food chains.

Read More: Scientists Found a Plastic Grocery Bag in the Ocean's Deepest Trench

Each year, more than 8 million tons of plastic enter the world’s oceans and more than 5 trillion pieces of microplastic currently contaminate marine environments.

As rates of plastic production continue to climb, perhaps the decline of marine species will serve as a wake-up call for countries to protect the oceans.

“What you put in the trench stays in the trench,” Jamieson told the Atlantic. “[The plastic problem] is only going to get worse. Anything going in there isn’t coming back.”

Title: These corals choose to eat plastic over food
Post by: azozeo on June 26, 2019, 12:12:52 PM

SCIENTISTS HAVE FOR the first time shown that some wild corals are feeding on tiny shreds of plastic trash. Worse, the animals seem to prefer those ‘microplastics’ over their natural food—even when the plastic is carrying bacteria that can kill them.

The new study, published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, focused on a temperate species of coral collected off Rhode Island, one that builds small clusters no larger than a human fist. But researchers say the findings suggest that more familiar tropical, reef-building corals may also be consuming—and being harmed by—microplastics, which are defined as bits of plastic waste smaller than a fifth of an inch across.

The new results add to the growing sense that microplastics are ubiquitous in the environment, from tall mountain peaks to the deepest ocean trenches. Many organisms, from fish to birds, have been found to eat small bits of plastic. So do humans, through tainted water and food sources. (
Title: Promising Study Suggests that Magnetic Nano Coils Can Decompose Ocean Microplast
Post by: azozeo on August 31, 2019, 03:04:56 PM

August 21st, 2019

By Nikki Harper

Contributing Writer for Wake Up World

The scale of plastic waste in our oceans is enormous. We’ve all seen and recoiled at the photos of precious marine wildlife and birds with plastic-filled stomachs, but as previously reported here on Wake Up World, it’s not only the larger pieces of plastic which are a threat. Microplastics, pieces 5mm across or smaller, are everywhere. According to a 2015 study, there could be up to 51 trillion pieces in our oceans. [1]

Microplastics have been found at the bottom of the Mariana Trench, the deepest point in the ocean. [2] They are also found in the fish and shellfish we eat, and therefore in human excrement. We don’t yet know for sure how the microplastics we ingest harm our health, but it’s a pretty safe bet that they do. The microplastics ingested by marine life are known to cause tumours and liver issues. [3]

Although some innovative ideas are being developed to deal with large plastic waste, combatting microplastics has remained a key problem. That could be about to change, as a new study published in the journal Matter reveals. [4]

Scientists have created microscopic nano tubes, thinner than a human hair, made from carbon and coated with nitrogen and manganese, a magnetic metal. The two coatings create a chemical reaction which results in highly reactive oxygen molecules. This oxidation process decomposes and mineralizes microplastics, turning them into carbon dioxide, water and harmless salts. These end products are harmless to the marine environment, or even potentially beneficial as a carbon source for algae growth.
Title: Re: Official Ocean Death Watch Thread
Post by: John of Wallan on August 31, 2019, 08:28:04 PM
What could possibly go wrong?
Just like we always seem to want a pill to instantly fix our ails rather than change lifestyle, or even god forbid put up with some discomfort, we now want an instant techno fix rather than stop trashing the joint.
Every technological advance has unforeseen side effects, just like every drug has side effects, some unforeseen. Thalidomide anyone?

You want less plastic in the oceans?
Stop buying shit made of plastic morons.

Everywhere I see stupid people. I think I will become a hermit.

Title: Re: Official Ocean Death Watch Thread
Post by: Surly1 on September 01, 2019, 03:12:17 AM
What could possibly go wrong?
Just like we always seem to want a pill to instantly fix our ails rather than change lifestyle, or even god forbid put up with some discomfort, we now want an instant techno fix rather than stop trashing the joint.
Every technological advance has unforeseen side effects, just like every drug has side effects, some unforeseen. Thalidomide anyone?

You want less plastic in the oceans?
Stop buying shit made of plastic morons.

Everywhere I see stupid people. I think I will become a hermit.


There will probably be plastic there, too.

You want less plastic in the oceans?
Stop buying shit made of plastic morons.

It is just that simple.
Title: Re: Official Ocean Death Watch Thread
Post by: azozeo on September 01, 2019, 10:57:27 AM
What could possibly go wrong?
Just like we always seem to want a pill to instantly fix our ails rather than change lifestyle, or even god forbid put up with some discomfort, we now want an instant techno fix rather than stop trashing the joint.
Every technological advance has unforeseen side effects, just like every drug has side effects, some unforeseen. Thalidomide anyone?

You want less plastic in the oceans?
Stop buying shit made of plastic morons.

Everywhere I see stupid people. I think I will become a hermit.


This Hermitista virus seems to be catching......

2 diners in 1 week, not bad !  :icon_mrgreen:
Title: 🐠 As new disease wipes out Caribbean coral, scientists tear up reefs to stop
Post by: RE on September 28, 2019, 12:54:53 AM

As new disease wipes out Caribbean coral, scientists tear up reefs to stop the spread


Coral Collapse

The reef plague

The building blocks of the undersea infrastructure are being decimated by a mysterious plague. And no one is sure how to stop it.

Photography by Lucas Jackson
Story by Lucas Jackson and Chris Prentice
Graphics by Travis Hartman

PUBLISHED Sept. 26, 2019   

Off the coast of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, a group of scientists is tearing a reef apart in a feverish attempt to save some of its coral.

They are battling a fast-moving, lethal disease that researchers say is unprecedented in the speed with which it can damage large numbers of coral species across the Caribbean Sea.

Breaking their cardinal rule to never touch the coral, the scientists are removing diseased specimens to try to stop the disease spreading and save what remains.

Meanwhile, researchers and divers in Florida, where the disease was first spotted in 2014, are also removing coral samples and shipping them to places as far-flung as Kansas and Oklahoma, in a last-ditch effort to save the 20 species or more thought to be susceptible to what has been dubbed Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease.


Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease was first observed around Virginia Key near Miami in 2014. It spread to the northernmost extent of the Florida coral reef tract by 2017 and has now extended past Key West to the south.

Source: Florida Department of Environmental Protection

The disease prompts rapid tissue loss, appearing first as white patches that sprawl out across the coral, before eventually stripping it of color and life altogether.

About half the coral species that make up Florida’s reef tracts and about a third of those throughout the Caribbean are vulnerable to the disease, at a time when the delicate ecosystems are already threatened by climate change.

Overall, Florida’s Upper Keys have seen greater than 40% loss in coral cover between 2013 and 2018, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission.

Diver downGraduate students and research technicians (top) regularly dive around the University of the Virgin Islands campus in St. Thomas to inspect corals affected by Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease (SCTLD). Research technician Danielle Lasseigne, works with graduate students (left) to remove diseased corals. Lasseigne cuts a brain coral (Pseudodiploria Strigosa) with a steel chisel to remove the portion of the animal being killed by SCTLD.Photos by Lucas Jackson

Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease has been identified in seven other Caribbean localities, according to the Florida Sea Grant, a university-based program funded by the federal government. Unlike the more well-known coral bleaching phenomenon, coral typically cannot recover from Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease. The species fall victim to it at different paces, with a mortality rate of 66-100 percent.

“I have never seen anything that affects so many species, so quickly and so viciously — and it just continues,” said Marilyn Brandt of the University of the Virgin Islands, who is one of the researchers involved in the efforts to save the reefs near St. Thomas.

DiseasedA nail is used to mark the extent of tissue killed by SCTLD.Photo by Lucas Jackson


Pillar coral are composed of colonies of up to thousands of small polyps that grow slowly over hundreds of years. They feed via a symbiotic relationship with the algae (zooxanthellae) in their skin, slowly forming a limestone skeleton that helps provide shelter and breeding grounds for aquatic life.

“All the diseases I’ve studied in the past could be considered like the flu. They come every year, seasonally, and sometimes there are worse outbreaks. This thing is more like Ebola. It’s a killer, and we don’t know how to stop it.”

Brandt’s team first spotted the disease along the west coast of St. Thomas in January and have launched a frantic effort to try to stem its advance, resorting to removing diseased corals with a hammer and chisel to try to salvage the rest.

“The coral basically liquefies from the inside out,” Brandt said.

Healthy Coral

Healthy coral have a symbiotic relationship with the algae that lives in its skin cells. The algae gives the normally transparent coral polyp its color and provides the coral with up to 90% of its energy which allows it to multiply and build up its limestone skeleton.


Abnormally warm or cold water, pollution or some other stressor causes the algae to leave the coral polyp’s skin. The white limestone skeleton now shows through the transparent polyp. It can recover if the stressor subsides in time and the algae returns.

Stony Coral Tissue Loss

The disease causes rapid tissue loss when the coral and the algae within liquify from the inside out. If the disease does not fully destroy the colony, the coral has a chance to regrow, though it is very rare that SCTLD leaves any part of the coral alive.


The disease was first identified near Miami, Florida, where the port was conducting a dredging project, and has now spread throughout almost all of the state’s reef tract.

The coral in the area were already stressed from the dredging and a recent bleaching event, so it was unsurprising they got hit with a disease, the scientists told Reuters. Like with a human body, a weakened immune system can make coral more susceptible to disease.

“All the diseases I’ve studied in the past could be considered like the flu. They come every year, seasonally, and sometimes there are worse outbreaks. This thing is more like Ebola. It’s a killer, and we don’t know how to stop it.”

Marilyn Brandt

Research Associate Professor, University of the Virgin Islands

“We tend to just study these events. We monitor them. We try to research what to do. We just watch it happen and assume that Mother Nature is going to be able to take the reins and everything’s going to be fine,” said Maurizio Martinelli, Coral Disease Response Coordinator at the Florida Sea Grant.

But the scale of the new disease has led to a more urgent approach. Large coral individuals that scientists have estimated to be hundreds of years old have been dying within a matter of several weeks, according to the scientists’ estimates.

“We can’t just watch these corals all die in front of us,” Martinelli said.

First noticed

January 2019

Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease is first spotted around the Flat Cay islands.

Spreading by current

February 2019

The disease seems to be following the prevailing near-shore currents which tend to run east to west along the south side of the island.

Widespread disease

April 2019

Five months after first sighting, the disease has progressed to coral reefs on the north side of the island.

Severe problem

June 2019

The first group of coral reefs that were seen to have the disease have become severely infected.

Source: Data courtesy of Marilyn Brandt, University of Virgin Islands

Corals, which cover about 1 percent of the Earth's surface, are animals that settle on the ocean floor and support more sea life than any other marine environment. As well as supporting thousands of species of plants, fish and other sea life, they draw huge numbers of tourists, scientists and divers.

They also provide a natural barrier to flooding, preventing $1.8 billion worth of damages to buildings, business and coastal economies and protecting more than 18,000 citizens annually in the United States alone, according to a 2019 U.S. Geological Survey report.

Four PillarsFour varieties of pillar corals (Dengrogyra cylindrus) to be studied by scientists sit in water at the Florida Aquarium. This species of coral is extremely susceptible to SCTLD.Video by Lucas Jackson

But the federal budget to protect coral reefs has been largely unchanged for years, and that's left coral science in the "Middle Ages," said coral scientist William Precht.

The disease is likely the deadliest for coral since so-called white-band disease emerged in the 1970s, almost wiping out two kinds of coral, he said.

“Now, we’re looking at a similar type of disease, but instead of affecting two species, it hits 22,” said Precht.

“The end result could be catastrophic.”

Coral illustrations by Julia Ledur
Visual editing by Christine Chan
Editing by Rosalba O’Brien
Title: Half of the Great Barrier Reef has died since 2016
Post by: Surly1 on October 09, 2019, 05:13:16 PM
Half of the Great Barrier Reef has died since 2016 — here's what happens if all coral reefs on Earth die off (

Some of the corals here are already bleaching, losing their color, which is a sign that they're being stressed by heat or acidity. The Ocean Agency/XL Catlin Seaview Survey/Richard Vevers

--Since 2016, coral bleaching events have killed off approximately half of the Great Barrier Reef, the largest and most extensive reef system in the world.
--The heat and acidity devastating the Great Barrier Reef are killing other corals around the globe.
--Without coral reefs, there could be a rippling ecosystem collapse in the oceans, with devastating effects on the planet.

For coral reefs around the world, time is running out. That bad news for reefs is also bad news for the rest of the ocean and for humanity, since we depend on the planet's seas.

One-third of the 3,863 reefs that make up the Great Barrier Reef — the largest, most extensive reef system in the world — went through a catastrophic die-off after a searing heat wave in 2016, according to a study newly published in the journal Nature. A bleaching event in 2017 devastated even more of that reef, and the cumulative effects have killed an estimated half of the magnificent system in just two years.

The same devastation is hitting reefs around the world .According to some estimates, similar conditions around the globe have killed off about half the world's coral reefs in the past 30 years.

The Great Barrier Reef corals were vulnerable because they've been subjected to warming oceans that are rapidly becoming more acidic. Those changes have been driven by human-caused greenhouse gas emissions, which are warming the world and causing Earth's climate to change faster than reefs can keep up.

A healthy ocean depends on reefs

Reefs are stunning psychedelic wonderlands that snorkelers and divers love to explore — they're full of colorful shapes, swaying and branching creatures, and more. Reefs provide jobs for people in fishing and tourism industries, and they also protect coastal areas from surging seas.

But perhaps more importantly, 25% of fish species spend some part of their life cycle in reefs, despite the fact that they cover less than 1% of the ocean floor.

Losing such an essential part of the ocean environment could therefore have rippling effects that cause much broader collapse.

As Michael Crosby, a marine scientist and the president of Mote Laboratory and Aquarium, told Business Insider for a recent feature on reef restoration, loss of reefs could have potentially terrifying consequences.

“You like to breathe?” Crosby asked. “Estimates are that up to 80% of the oxygen you are breathing in right now comes from the ocean. It doesn’t come from the land. In order for you to continue to breathe, you have to have a healthy ocean.” 

coral bleaching reefs
There are ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ among corals as they respond to the accumulating impacts of climate change.
ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies/ Mia Hoogenboom

How reefs end

The reason reefs are dying is human activity.

In some places, overfishing has wiped out healthy food chains, allowing algae and parasites to overwhelm corals. At other sites, boats dragging anchors and nets — or just scraping along the sea floor — have damaged or destroyed reefs. Pollution from agriculture and runoff from cities can cause disease and kill these creatures as well.

But most importantly, the burning of fossil fuels has warmed the planet. And Earth's oceans have absorbed the majority of that heat, about 90% of it so far. 

As waters rapidly warm, corals lose the components that give them color and help them produce food, a process called bleaching. That slows their growth and makes them vulnerable to algae, disease, and death. Increased ocean acidification caused by the absorption of carbon dioxide causes bleaching, too.

It's these bleaching events that have rapidly wiped out so much of the Great Barrier Reef. The same conditions can be seen in the Caribbean and other sites around the world.

At present rates, it's expected that by 2030, 60% of all coral reefs are expected to be highly or critically threatened, and 98% of reefs will be exposed to potentially fatal conditions every year.

It's possible that coral reefs around the world could be mostly wiped out by 2050 or soon after.

As the authors wrote in the recent Great Barrier Reef study, these processes are likely to continue — and they'll totally transform ocean ecosystems.

"The most likely scenario, therefore, is that coral reefs throughout the tropics will continue to degrade over the current century until climate change stabilizes, allowing remnant populations to reorganize into novel, heat-tolerant reef assemblages," the authors wrote.

In other words, reefs as we know them – and the habitats and greater ecosystems they support — will be gone. What'll remain are areas or corals that happen to be abnormally tolerant of heat or acid. But coral reefs overall won't be the same and whatever does survive likely won't be able to make up for the lost functions.

A last ditch effort to save reefs?

Around the world, scientists are trying to come up with ways to save reefs.

Efforts include identifying coral that's particularly resilient to heat or acidity, and pioneering ways to quickly regrow coral so that dying reefs can be re-populated.

Coral 2x1
Courtesy Mote Marine Laboratory

Scientists involved in this work have achieved impressive results: in some cases they've recreating coral organisms that originally took a century or two to grow in just a few years.

Other researchers are looking at ways to breed super-corals. On the Great Barrier Reef, researchers have been able to replant coral larvae in some sections after collecting eggs and sperm.

But as demonstrated by the massive die-offs at the largest reef system in the planet, these sorts of efforts won't be enough to save the world's reefs without dealing with the larger carbon emissions problem. Individual efforts can't keep up when 50% of the world's biggest reef system dies in just a couple of years.

As the researchers wrote in their new paper, the important question is when climate change could stabilize. If humans make that happen soon, more reef systems will be able to be preserved. Then — using these sorts of regrowing techniques — they could eventually be restored to some degree.

But if climate change isn't stabilized soon, the authors wrote, "[t]he large-scale loss of functionally diverse corals is a harbinger of further radical shifts in the condition and dynamics of all ecosystems, reinforcing the need for risk assessment of ecosystem collapse."

In other words, if we don't deal with the problem soon, we should think about what widespread ocean ecosystem collapse will look like and mean for humanity.

In that type of scenario, cities will lose their protection against big storm surges, fishing and tourism industries could be eliminated, and the ocean may become largely lifeless or at least extremely transformed.

As Crosby said, the consequences from that bleak transformation could be more severe than most of us can imagine.

Title: History Made - Successfully Collects First Plastic From The Great Ocean Patch
Post by: azozeo on December 06, 2019, 09:52:54 AM

Arjun Walia

    The Facts:The Ocean Cleanup organization announced this week that their System 001/B vessel is capturing and collecting plastic debris in in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
    Reflect On:There are many young people out there with the desire to do good and have a positive impact. Many people have a strong desire to change the world in various ways, and that’s an encouraging thought was we move into 2020 and beyond.

In the Pacific ocean, North East of Hawaii, there exists a giant whirlpool of plastic debris that’s accumulated by the ocean currents. It’s referred to at the North Pacific Gyre, but also commonly referred to as “The Great Pacific Garbage Patch.” It’s one of the largest ecosystems on Earth, made up of millions of square kilometers. The Great Garbage Patch is approximately the size of Queensland, Australia, where an enormous amount of plastic is spread throughout the ocean.

Plastic pollution in our oceans is obviously one of the biggest issues our planet faces today. We must clean up our mother, and we must do it now. Plastic pollution has also created microplastic pollution. Microplastics are a huge problem, and microplastic contamination is now extremely widespread. More than five trillion pieces of plastic, collectively weighing nearly 269,000 tonnes, are floating in the world’s oceans. Data collected by scientists from the US, France, Chile, Australia and New Zealand suggests a minimum of 5.25 tonnes of plastic particles exists in the oceans, most of them being microplastics measuring less than 5mm. (source)

All living beings within the ocean are also suffering from microplastic pollution.  The good news is is that the contraption below is also harvesting microplastics.

This is why it was encouraging when we came across news showing that after one year of testing, The Ocean Cleanup organization announced this week that their System 001/B vessel is capturing and collecting plastic debris in this area of the ocean, and doing so successfully. The system uses natural forces of the ocean to catch the plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a principle behind the cleanup that was first presented by the creator, Boyan Slat back in October 2012.

The patch, again, is very large, representing a huge piece of trash that’s drifting halfway between California and Hawaii.

As the Good News Network explains:

    After discovering the patch in the 90s, scientists said it would take thousands of years to clean it up—but Slat quickly made a name for himself after he presented a TEDx talk in which he claimed that he could do it in less than ten, if he could get his special machinery built.

    Though his claim caused many skeptics to raise their eyebrows, Slat dropped out of college so he could bring his plans to life. In addition to crowdfunding $2.2 million for his idea, he garnered millions more dollars through interested investors.

    Now, the System 001/B vessel—which launched from Vancouver in June—is The Ocean Cleanup’s second attempt to prove its concept of collecting garbage from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. In addition to collecting plainly visible pieces of plastic debris, as well as much larger ghost nets associated with commercial fishing, System 001/B has also successfully captured microplastics as small as 1 millimeter—a feat which the organization was pleasantly surprised to achieve. (
Title: Scientists Are Playing Sounds Underwater to Bring Dead Coral Reefs Back to Life
Post by: azozeo on December 06, 2019, 09:57:03 AM

Scientists have discovered an ingenious way to restore life to the dead patches of the Great Barrier Reef.


TMU) — Dead coral reefs have become one of the major horrors resulting from human impact, with thousands of miles of coral ecosystem across the globe being transformed into bleached-out graveyards due to the devastating impact of fast-heating ocean temperatures, rising sea levels, pollution, and overfishing

And for years, the Great Barrier Reef off Australia’s coast—the largest living structure on the entire planet—has faced a slow death, with massive amounts of the corals simply dying while the rest of the once-dazzling coral transforms into bleached, lifeless matter.

But now, scientists have discovered an ingenious way to restore life to the dead patches of the Great Barrier Reef: by playing the ambient sounds of nature through loudspeakers to lure fish to the area. The fish would then help to clean up the reef, allowing for the growth of fresh corals necessary to recover reef ecosystems.

Scientists had long been concerned about the deadly quiet surrounding damaged coral reefs, which once teemed with the sound of healthy marine life, creating a sort of oceanic orchestra of sounds from fish, shrimp, and various other reef denizens. But without the sound of such traffic, many fish simply avoid the dead zones.

So a team of researchers led by marine biologists at the University of Exeter set up a system of submarine loudspeakers to play recordings of healthy reefs in a bid to attract the attention of fish to the dead coral patches around Lizard Island on the Great Barrier Reef.

The results, which were published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Nature Communications, were astounding.

According to a Friday press release by the University of Exeter:

    “The study found that broadcasting healthy reef sound doubled the total number of fish arriving onto experimental patches of reef habitat, as well as increasing the number of species present by 50 percent.”

The study’s lead author, marine biologist Tim Gordon, said:

    “Fish are crucial for coral reefs to function as healthy ecosystems … Boosting fish populations in this way could help to kick-start natural recovery processes, counteracting the damage we’re seeing on many coral reefs around the world.”

Steve Simpson, a fellow marine biologist at the University of Exeter and co-author of the study, added:
“Healthy coral reefs are remarkably noisy places—the crackle of snapping shrimp and the whoops and grunts of fish combine to form a dazzling biological soundscape. Juvenile fish home in on these sounds when they’re looking for a place to settle.

    Reefs become ghostly quiet when they are degraded, as the shrimps and fish disappear, but by using loudspeakers to restore this lost soundscape, we can attract young fish back again.

The loudspeaker experiment, which lasted about six weeks, could provide one more tool in the ongoing fight to restore and protect the world’s dying coral reefs.

However, the broadcasting of healthy reef sounds won’t necessarily allow the dead patches to miraculously swing back to life. Continued restoration efforts and moves to mitigate or halt climate change remain crucial in saving the Great Barrier Reef.

Andy Radford, a co-author from the University of Bristol, noted:

    “Acoustic enrichment is a promising technique for management on a local basis.

    If combined with habitat restoration and other conservation measures, rebuilding fish communities in this manner might accelerate ecosystem recovery.

    However, we still need to tackle a host of other threats including climate change, overfishing and water pollution in order to protect these fragile ecosystems.”
Title: 🐧 'The Blob' blamed for largest Pacific NW seabird die-off in history
Post by: RE on January 23, 2020, 02:25:42 AM

'The Blob' blamed for largest Pacific NW seabird die-off in history

by Karina Mazhukhina | KOMO News Sunday, January 19th 2020


FILE - In this Jan. 7, 2016 file photo, dead common murres lie washed up on a rocky beach in Whittier, Alaska. In August 2018, federal wildlife officials are asking Alaska coastal communities to report dead and dying seabirds that have appear along beaches since May. Hundreds of thousands of common murres, a fast-flying seabird, died from starvation four winters ago in the North Pacific, and a new research paper attempts to explain why. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen, File)

SEATTLE – Though murres look like skinny penguins, these resilient birds can dive more than two football fields below the ocean’s surface in search of prey.

So, when nearly one million of them washed ashore from California to Alaska in 2015 and 2016, scientists all over the nation were stunned, including those at the University of Washington.

UW researchers blame this phenomenon on the unexpected squeeze on the ecosystem’s food supply, brought on by the long-lasting marine heat wave known as the “The Blob.”

“Think of it as a run on the grocery stores at the same time that the delivery trucks to the stores [stop] coming,” said UW professor Julia Parrish, one of the key finders of the study in a news release.

She says that there were fewer fish and smaller prey in general for murres to feast on. At the same time, there was increased competition from big fish predators like walleye, pollock and Pacific cod.

FILE -In this Jan. 7, 2016, photo, dead common murres lie on a rocky beach in Whittier, Alaska. Hundreds of thousands of common murres, a fast-flying seabird, died from starvation four winters ago in the North Pacific, and a new research paper attempts to explain why. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen, File)

Researchers found that persistent warmer temperatures associated with “The Blob” interrupted food patterns of creatures in the food chain, whether big or small.

For example, cold water produces the biggest and fattiest varieties of forge fish, the main prey of murres. But the heatwave reduced the nutritional value of zooplankton by stunting their growth.

Also, the metabolism of large fish like Pacific cod, walleye and pollock increased in warmer waters, so these guys began eating more forge fish.

With predatory fish eating up, the demand to sustain food for the “big guys," aka murres, wasn’t happening. The demand to supply ratio just wasn’t there, so the once bountiful school of forge fish that murres relied on become harder to find.

FILE - In this March 11, 2016 file photo, wildlife biologists Rob Kaler, of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Sarah Schoen, of the U.S. Geological Survey, examine body parts of a common murre during a necropsy on in Anchorage, Alaska. Hundreds of thousands of common murres, a fast-flying seabird, died from starvation four winters ago in the North Pacific, and a new research paper attempts to explain why. (AP Photo/Dan Joling, File)

“Food demands of large commercial groundfish like cod, pollock, halibut and hake were predicted to increase dramatically with the level of warming observed with the "Blob," and since they eat many of the same prey as murres, this competition likely compounded the food supply problem for murres, leading to mass mortality events from starvation,” said lead author John Piatt, a research biologist at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Alaska Science Center and an affiliate professor in the UW School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences.

Citizen scientists in Alaska monitoring long-term nesting sites of murres along the cliffs and rocky ledges overlooking the ocean, counted deaths that reached 1,000 times more than normal for their beaches.

Many of those birds were breeding-age adults. The study authors found that as food availability shifted, so did the murre’s ability to reproduce for years during and after the heat wave.

FILE - In this Jan. 5, 2016, file photo, Guy Runco, director of the Bird Treatment and Learning Center, releases a common murre near the Anchorage small boat harbor in Anchorage, Alaska. Hundreds of thousands of common murres, a fast-flying seabird, died from starvation four winters ago in the North Pacific, and a new research paper attempts to explain why. (AP Photo/Dan Joling, File)

Though about 62,000 murre carcasses washed ashore, scientists estimate that the actual number of deaths was closer to a million. That’s because only a fraction of birds that die will wash ashore and only a fraction will be in areas that people can access.

The Pacific Coast’s warming temperatures can be dated back to the fall and winter of 2013 and persisted for another two years. The arrival of El Niño in 2015 perpetuated warmer waters, and it wasn’t just the murres that suffered the consequences. Tufted puffins, Cassin’s auklets, sea lions and baleen whales all died in large numbers – though the murre die-off was by far the largest.

“The magnitude and scale of this failure has no precedent,” Piatt said. “It was astonishing and alarming and a red-flag warning about the tremendous impact sustained ocean warming can have on the marine ecosystem.”