Archives for May 2013

The Impending Deluge

Rising sea levels in a warming world threaten us with ever more sudden cataclysms.
NYT > Oceans

Congress Receives FY 2012 National Oceanographic Partnership Program Report to Congress

NOPP FY 2012 Report to CongressThe National Oceanographic Partnership Program (NOPP) is legislated to annually report to Congress on the activities of the Program related to identifying and carrying out partnerships among a variety of stakeholders throughout the oceanographic community in the areas of data, resources, education, and communication.  

Each year the NOPP Support Office compiles a report on the past fiscal year’s activities, which is approved by the National Ocean Council, acting as the National Ocean Research Leadership Council, and submitted to Congress via the Office of Science Technology and Policy.

Highlights of the FY 2012 NOPP Report to Congress include spotlighting the recipients of the NOPP Excellence in Partnering Award, Chuck Fisher and James Brooks for their research on Exploration and Research of Northern Gulf of Mexico Deepwater Natural and Artificial Hard Bottom Habitats with Emphasis on Coral Communities: Reefs, Rigs, and Wrecks.  The report also includes highlights from the NOPP-supported working groups, NOPP investment activities, and updates on the National Ocean Sciences Bowl.

Click here to view the report. (Adobe PDF)

Ocean Leadership is no longer the host for the Support Office of the National Oceanographic Partnership Program.  You can still view the NOPP website by visiting If you have any additional questions about the Support Office, please contact Dr. Joan Cleveland ( at the Office of Naval Research.

Consortium for Ocean Leadership

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Cull humaneness to be judged on noise

Document reveals measures UK government will use to assess humaneness of badger culls that will begin shortly in England

The noises made by shot badgers and comparisons with harpooned whales will be among the measures used to assess the humaneness of badger culls in England, a government document seen by the Guardian reveals.

The paper also acknowledges that none of the shooters will have experience of killing free-running badgers and that the requirement to target the heart and lungs is untested.

Anti-cull campaigners have reacted furiously to the heavily redacted document, which is marked “protect”.

“With such large-scale killing in our countryside, it is simply unacceptable that the government is continuing to be so evasive about how suffering will be measured during the pilot culls,” said Mark Jones, executive director of the Humane Society International UK, which obtained the document through the Freedom of Information Act.

He is particularly concerned that no information has been made public about how wounded animals that retreat underground to die can be included in the humaneness assessment or the proportion of badger carcasses that will be collected for postmortems.

“The design of the study to assess humaneness of the badger-culling pilots has been overseen by an independent expert panel,” said a spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. “All marksmen are required to pass a government training course and must adhere to best practice guidance. Humaneness will be monitored through field observations, postmortems and a report will be drawn up by the independent panel.”

The key aim of the pilot culls to begin in Somerset and Gloucestershire from Saturday are to discover whether night-time shootings of free-running badgers can kill sufficient numbers of the animals in a safe and humane way. Successful pilots would see the rollout of culling nationwide as part of the government’s attempts to curb the rising epidemic of tuberculosis (TB) in cattle, which now costs taxpayers £100m a year and saw 37,000 cattle slaughtered in 2012.

In a previous 10-year trial of badger culling, the animals were trapped in cages before being shot. This method is relatively expensive so in the pilots ministers have allowed marksmen to shoot free-running animals, although this introduces the risk of wounding. Among the factors influencing the accuracy of the shooting, the document notes: “No shooter will have prior experience of shooting badgers.” It also notes previous research on free shooting of wild animals all targeted the brain, rather than the chest area.

The document presents four possible outcomes of the shooting, including “death caused directly by the shooting due to severe trauma to vital organs” and “death caused indirectly by the shooting due to non-lethal wounding associated with secondary infections and starvation due to reduced mobility”. Missed shots and non-fatal wounding are the other possibilities.

The “time to death” (TTD) is cited as a key factor in assessing pain and distress and the document states: “A similar approach as to that which is used to determine TTD in whales is proposed for the current study.” It adds: “Observation of a shot animal’s behaviour and vocalisations is the only method available to determine the degree of pain that may be experienced during the dying process.”

“I am stunned at the ludicrous and unfounded assumptions that Defra appears to make about the relevance of killing methods for entirely different species such as whales,” said Jones. “No credible scientist would have confidence in the way that the government intends to assess the suffering of badgers, and yet Defra appears to be doing all it can to avoid independent scrutiny of its methodology.”

A scientist familiar with the cull policy said: “You need to set a threshold – which is subjective – above which it is not considered humane and the cull is stopped. My view is that the threshold has to be pretty damn high. It is not really acceptable for any animal to go off injured.” The document states that daily data on the cull will be sent to Defra once the shooting begins “so ministers are aware of any welfare issues and if deemed necessary could halt the cull”.

Peter Kendall, president of the National Farmers Union, said: “The purpose of the pilots is to assess whether controlling badger numbers in a controlled way under licence by trained professionals is safe, effective and humane. We are extremely confident that the pilots will go ahead and will be effective.”

Jilly Cooper, author, animal rights campaigner and Gloucestershire landowner, said: “I fear that massacring England’s badgers in the vain hope of tackling bovine TB is going to be as brutal as it is useless.” © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

Environment news, comment and analysis from the Guardian |

Book Review: Happy Money – The Science of Smart Spending

While most people pay a lot of attention on how they invest their money, there's scarcely any thought given to how they are spending it. Research shows that most spending decisions are taken purely on intuition, and these are often wrong. The authors
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The week in wildlife

A giant fluorescent pink slug, a baby giraffe and mountain gorillas feature among this week’s pick of images from the natural world

Environment news, comment and analysis from the Guardian |

Life’s a Beach: Rover Finds Mars Pebbles

When Curiosity was coasting through interplanetary space on its way to Mars, I doubt it considered the possibility that the landing site inside Gale Crater would be a pebbly beach — almost. Continue reading →
Discovery News

ONW: Week of May 27, 2013 – Number 204

Consortium for Ocean Leadership

Carbon milestone caused barely a ripple

Newspapers, for whom marking round numbers is the easiest excuse to report an issue, were mostly disinterested

We are pattern-forming creatures which may explain the round number theory of history. That is our habit of seeking order and meaning in easy round numbers where there may be none. Whole nations grind to a halt to celebrate a royal anniversary arbitrarily divisible by the number 10 or five. Conversely, at the turn of the first Christian millennium an apocalypse was expected to mark the neatly rounded year 1000AD.

When it failed to materialise, doom-laden millenarians claimed that they weren’t wrong, but had failed to allow for the lifetime of Christ. The end was due in 1000AD plus 33 years. We don’t learn. Remember the febrile anticipation approaching 2000AD? In spite of the fact that in other calendars it was a much less attractively round number – the Buddhist year 2544, and the Hebrew calendar’s year 5760-5761.

Irrationally we give space to big round numbers, inject them with meaning and use them to reflect or trigger alarm. It was odd, then, that when a round number came along, symbolic of a genuine threat to stable civilisation, one that was worthy of reflection if not a little alarm, it caused barely a ripple. Newspapers especially, for whom marking round numbers is the easiest excuse to report an issue and fill pages, mostly yawned with disinterest.

On the 10 May readings taken at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii were made public. They showed that the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere had passed 400 parts per million (ppm). A twitter feed, @Keeling_curve, from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego had been daily counting-up to this point.

To put the number into perspective, remember the words of James Hansen from 2008: “If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted … CO2 will need to be reduced … to at most 350ppm.”

No centenary or diamond jubilee then, just a clear round number on a path leading away from the climate which was the nursery to civilisation to a future, if unchanged, of certain greater chaos and upheaval.

What priority did Britain’s national newspapers give this the following day, how did they rank it alongside other important events? The front pages, an obvious test, made interesting reading.

The Mirror, with glorious abandon, ran with an offer for a free trip into space, and something about the long-running Savile scandal. The Sun, more earthbound, led with a free trip to Legoland and something about retiring football manager Alex Ferguson. The Express had something about pensions and the Daily Mail warned about “deadly drugs for sale on Amazon”. The Times ran with something about the Metropolitan police, and the Telegraph with a story about a No 10 adviser. The Financial Times stayed in its comfort zone with another tale of corrupt banking. Even the Guardian, which did cover the story inside its paper and online, gave front page priority to a report on how horsemeat was still galloping out of control through our food chain. Only the humble Independent splashed the story on its front page.

Such lassitude concerning events that determine our chances of collective, convivial survival, may explain why the British establishment in the form of the House of Commons Transport Committee saw nothing wrong in picking the same day to call for the expansion of aviation – the transport mode most targeted to wreck the climate.

This lack of consensus on media and political priorities contrasts with the scientific consensus, with various studies of peer-reviewed literature demonstrating vanishingly little disagreement over the reality and critical importance of addressing human-driven global warming.

Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley recently co-ordinated a “consensus statement”, signed by over 500 scientists from around the world, that concluded our current economic path is rapidly taking us to a tipping point, and that the result will be substantial degradation of human quality of life.

Beyond that consensus, out of sight is out of mind. But we could tackle that with one simple innovation. The press and broadcast media daily report a handful of dull statistics. We’re told about exchange rates and the performance of stock markets in a way that reinforces a prejudice that such things are what truly matter. Why not meet the real world half way, and add a daily notification of the rising CO2 level to every daily paper and major news broadcast? It won’t cost extra, will be harder to ignore and the price of doing so will be very high indeed. © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

Environment news, comment and analysis from the Guardian |

Asia-Pacific Analysis: Rain harvesting can avert crisis

To ensure South-East Asias’s growing population has enough water to drink, we need to collect more rain, says Crispin Maslog. The world’s next major crisis will be a lack of water for home use, including drinking water, many scientists predict. Humans can survive around 40 days without food, but much less than that without water to drink. The scarcity of water for domestic use is becoming a critical problem, especially in rural parts of developing countries. Surface water in rivers, streams or lakes, and groundwater, are increasingly becoming contaminated with pollutants from factories, households, farms and mines. Wells dug deeper to extract groundwater are drying up.
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