Archives for October 2014

UK faces serious winter blackout risk – National Grid’s rosy nuclear forecast fails reality test

The National Grid’s forecast for UK power supply this winter relies on overstating the availability of increasingly unreliable nuclear power stations, writes Chris Goodall. Realistic estimates of nuclear, gas and coal power station availability shrink the ‘safety margin’ to zero.
Environment news & analysis, climate change reports –
The Ecologist

Tropical storm Vance gathers strength, could head for Mexico

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Tropical storm Vance gathered strength south of Mexico early on Friday and could become a hurricane and head toward the Pacific coast this weekend, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.


Reuters: Environment

Program Update: Advocacy – October 2014

Capitol-Building-at-Night-Washington-DC-featured

Congress has been in recess during the month of September and will return on November 12 after the mid-term elections for a lame duck session. Before adjourning, Congress passed a continuing resolution that funds the government through December 11.

The National Ocean Service (NOS) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has laid out research priorities for the RESTORE Act Science Program in a new Draft Science Plan. The Draft Science Plan will be available for public comment until December 15, 2014. The NOAA RESTORE Act Science Program will host six virtual engagement sessions in November to provide an overview of the draft science plan, explain the public comment process for the plan, and answer questions.

NOS’s Digital Coast team has also developed a new online tool for water level visualization to assist scenario planning in the Great Lakes region. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and NOAA announced a collaborative project to fund approximately $ 17 million in marine biodiversity monitoring projects. The Department of the Navy announced plans for a December 2014 release of a Supplement to the Draft Environmental Impact Statement /Overseas Environmental Impact Statement (for the Northwest Training and Testing Study Area). The National Science Foundation recently published a report on its Survey of Federal Funds for Research and Development for Fiscal Years 2012-14, which includes data on ocean science spending from federal agencies.

This month, Obama nominated Dr. Dava Newman of MIT to be NASA’s Deputy Administrator, and designated Dr. Holly Bamford to serve as NOAA’s Acting Assistant Secretary for Conservation and Management.

Meanwhile, the White House released its Climate and Natural Resources Priority Agenda to address climate change resiliency. The strategy calls for: 1) fostering climate-resilient lands and waters, 2) managing and enhancing U.S. carbon sinks, 3) enhancing community preparedness and resilience by utilizing and sustaining natural resources, and 4) modernizing Federal programs, investments, and delivery of services to build resilience and enhance sequestration of biological carbon. NOAA Sea Grant will provide $ 15.9 million in funding for coastal resiliency projects.

Climate change was also a theme in recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Department of Defense (DoD) publications. The DOD’s 2014 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap presents goals for adaptation and mitigation, and calls for assessing climate change impacts across the Department’s activities. According to a new GAO report, “further action could be taken to advance the federal response to ocean acidification.” The report addressed potential ecological, social, and economic impacts of ocean acidification, and assessed federal action on the issue.

Climate change and ocean acidification was also broached in science briefings this month. A briefing hosted by the Association of Ecosystem Research Centers highlighted the role of ecosystem science in climate change adaptation and mitigation. Also this month, National Association of Marine Laboratories hosted a briefing highlighting the impacts of acidification on ocean and coastal ecosystems while emphasizing the importance of long-term monitoring. Additionally, an American Meteorological Society briefing covered topics including agricultural runoff, nutrient overloading, and harmful algal blooms in coastal ecosystems.


Consortium for Ocean Leadership

Cassini Spies a Sunny Day on Titan’s Seas

During a recent flyby of Saturn's moon Titan, NASA's Cassini mission captured some breathtaking infrared views of the small world, photographing sunlight glinting off its hydrocarbon seas. Continue reading →
Discovery News

Washington state man charged with trying to move river

SEATTLE (Reuters) – A Washington state man accused of using an excavator and a bulldozer to try to alter the Tahuya River was charged on Thursday with environmental violations, the state’s top attorney said.




Reuters: Environment

Opportunity: Section Head, Marine Geosciences Section, Division of Ocean Sciences, NSF

OpportunityNSF’s Directorate for Geosciences (GEO) seeks candidates for the position of Section Head for the Marine Geosciences Section in the Division of Ocean Sciences (OCE).  

The Section Head serves as a member of the Division leadership team and as the Directorate’s principal spokesperson in the area of marine geology, geophysics, paleaoceanography, and chemical oceanography research. Responsible to the Division Director, Division of Ocean Sciences, for the overall planning, management and commitment of budgeted funds for the Section, which includes the Chemical Oceanography and Marine Geology and Geophysics programs.

The Division of Ocean Sciences supports research, infrastructure, and education to advance understanding of all aspects of the global oceans and ocean basins, including their interactions with people and the integrated Earth system. The Section Head participates with the Division Director in providing leadership and direction to the Division of Ocean Sciences; assists the Division Director in carrying out Division-wide responsibilities such as strategic planning and management, human capital management including recruitment of staff, budget preparation for submission to congress, and overseeing the evaluation of proposals and recommendations for awards and declinations.

Appointment to this Senior Executive Service position may be on a career or on a one to three-year limited-term basis, with a salary range of $ 157,000 to $ 174,100.  Alternatively, the incumbent may be assigned under Intergovernmental Personnel Act (IPA) provisions.

Announcement OCE-2014-0016, with the position requirements and application procedures are posted on NSF’s Home Page at http://www.nsf.gov/about/career_opps/.  Applicants may also obtain the announcement by contacting the Executive Personnel Staff at 703-292-4345 (Hearing impaired individuals may call TDD 703-292-5090).  Applications must be received by October 31, 2014 NOVEMBER 14, 2014.

NSF is an Equal Opportunity Employer.


Consortium for Ocean Leadership

Opportunity: Section Head, Ocean Section, Division of Ocean Sciences, NSF

OpportunityNSF’s Directorate for Geosciences (GEO) seeks candidates for the position of Section Head for the Ocean Section in the Division of Ocean Sciences (OCE).  

The Section Head serves as a member of the Division leadership team and as the Directorate’s principal spokesperson in the area of biological and physical oceanography research. The incumbent is responsible to the Division Director, Division of Ocean Sciences, for the overall planning, management and commitment of budgeted funds for the Section, which includes the Biological Oceanography and Physical Oceanography programs.

The Division of Ocean Sciences supports research, infrastructure, and education to advance understanding of all aspects of the global oceans and ocean basins, including their interactions with people and the integrated Earth system. The Section Head participates with the Division Director in providing leadership and direction to the Division of Ocean Sciences; assists the Division Director in carrying out Division-wide responsibilities such as strategic planning and management, human capital management including recruitment of staff, budget preparation for submission to congress, and overseeing the evaluation of proposals and recommendations for awards and declinations.

Appointment to this Senior Executive Service position may be on a career or on a one to three-year limited-term basis, with a salary range of $ 157,000 to $ 174,100.  Alternatively, the incumbent may be assigned under Intergovernmental Personnel Act (IPA) provisions.

Announcement OCE-2014-0013, with the position requirements and application procedures are posted on NSF’s Home Page at http://www.nsf.gov/about/career_opps/.  Applicants may also obtain the announcement by contacting the Executive Personnel Staff at 703-292-4345 (Hearing impaired individuals may call TDD 703-292-5090).  Applications must be received by October 31, 2014 NOVEMBER 14, 2014.

NSF is an Equal Opportunity Employer.


Consortium for Ocean Leadership

300 Feared Missing in Sri Lanka Mudslides

At least 16 people are dead and hundreds missing after a landslide in central Sri Lanka.
Discovery News

Fracking is driving UK civil and political rights violations

Extreme energy in the UK is arousing extreme reactions, write Jess Elliot & Damien Short. On the one side stand citizens committed to preserving the quality of the local and global environment. And against them, a government determined to let fracking rip, and police forces prepared to ignore legal norms to suppress the growing popular resistance.
Environment news & analysis, climate change reports –
The Ecologist

Oceans Could Lose $1 Trillion in Value Due to Acidification

Spanish hogfish at coral reef. (Credit: NOAA)

(Click to enlarge) Spanish hogfish at coral reef. (Credit: NOAA)

This month, the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity released a report updating the impacts of ocean acidification on marine life.

(From Scientific American / by Jennifer Huizen and ClimateWire)–This time, it put estimated costs on the predicted damage, hoping to make governments aware of the potential size of the various threats.

While many of the effects of growing acidification remain invisible, by the end of this century, things will have changed drastically, the report found. One estimate looking only at lost ecosystem protections, such as that provided by tropical reefs, cited an economic value of $ 1 trillion annually.

Over the last 200 years, the world’s oceans have absorbed more than a quarter of the carbon dioxide released by humans, becoming 26 percent more acidic. Though technically waters have not yet become acidic, according to the pH scale, the report found this could occur by 2100 if emissions continue to rise.

Though large, these changes are still difficult to comprehend, said Murray Roberts, a professor of marine biology at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland, who co-edited the report. That’s why the economics of ocean acidification need to be discussed, he said.

“We tried to give as much of an economic and governmental context as we could to the report, highlighting the areas we can work to change now,” said Roberts. “Yet there remains a huge level of uncertainty at this level; there just aren’t a great deal of key references to go by.”

Roberts, who works with deep-sea corals, said the report is a starting point. While areas of study like his remain mostly elusive, work with tropical counterparts is generating the foundation for further work.

“We used what we have right now,” he said, “which I think has generated the beginnings of what will become a much more detailed conversation.”

Food security impact may be large
Ocean acidification, first discussed in the 1990s, didn’t become a well-documented trend until 2004. But since then, the number of researchers entering the field has grown substantially. From 2004 to 2013, the report found, studies published on the topic grew twentyfold.

“This alone warranted an update to the report,” said Roberts.

But it wasn’t the only factor; the whole scope of the 2009 study needed to be altered to reflect reality, he explained.

“In 2009, we didn’t take into consideration societal implications, loss of ecosystem services or policy at all,” said Roberts. “But by just looking at an example such as tropical reefs, it’s clear destruction of these reefs can lead to decreased food security, income loss, shoreline damage and much more.”

The most recent report used four fundamental ecosystem services — provisional (food sources), regulatory, cultural and supporting services like coastal protection — as criteria to help characterize the impacts of acidification.

Of the 400 million people cited to live within 62 miles of tropical reefs, many rely on these fish habitats for their livelihoods and a vast majority of their protein intake. So negative impacts on reefs represent a direct threat to human populations, explained Roberts.

“Children watch ‘Finding Nemo’ and other such films, [which] is great and shows just how far we’ve come in educating the public about these environments, but most still think corals are a rock or a plant, not an animal,” he said. “Most of us remain divorced from the ocean.”

The list of unknowns grows
Philip Munday, a marine biologist at James Cook University in Queensland, Australia, who helped author the report, added: “Ocean acidification is a very young field, but if you look at what we’ve learned even in the past five years, it’s pretty encouraging. And realistically, a lot of the worst impacts we predict are decades out. This gives us time to make changes.”

Munday, who has worked on the effects of warming and ocean acidification on fish, said that with rapid advancements in the field came whole new suites of unanticipated questions.

A selection from Washington state’s oyster crop that is already suffering from ocean acidification. Photo courtesy of Gov. Jay Inslee.

The 2009 study only looked at the impacts of acidification on calcifiers, organisms that build shells ranging from plankton to commercial crustaceans. It failed to consider genetic adaption potential, explained Munday.

While shell-making species will certainly be affected by acidification, as the forms of elements they require to build and maintain their shells disappear under lower pH conditions, they are certainly not the only organisms at risk.

“When I began, almost nothing was known about how fish would react to these kind of steady increases in carbon dioxide. Past studies all looked at instantaneous large increases and how organisms physiologically responded,” he said.

On this front, fish have more flexibility, he said. Under high levels of CO2, fish can maintain internal pH by monitoring ions in their blood and accumulating bicarbonate, but at a cost of expended energy.

“The question changes from whether fish can survive under future conditions to how much it will cost them to survive in these conditions,” he said.

The report also found that shellfish have some adaptive capability. It described case of the northwest U.S. oyster populations. In 2006, some oyster hatcheries were experiencing mortality rates as high as 80 percent due to acidification accelerating the region’s already-low pH. But by recirculating water, keeping stock away from fluctuations and increasing feed, the industry has returned to normal rates in the past few years.

Measures like this could also help protect fish populations, explained Munday, but he added that this might not necessarily be enough for species to adjust in time.

Additional factors beyond the ability to function under decreased pH, like habitat loss and behavioral changes, he said, may present even more immediate threats to marine species. At lower pH levels, many fish loose their ability to understand chemical cues that help them learn their environment and avoid predators.

Fish that lose their sense of predators “also expose themselves to further risk exhibiting bold behavior in the search for more food to meet their new energetic demands,” he explained. “These kind of findings could have never been anticipated; we found them by virtue of asking seemingly unrelated questions.”

How fast can adaptation happen?
Actual adaption potential remains one of the biggest unknowns, said Munday, and one of the biggest questions for the future, as will be adding in the other factors known to be simultaneously occurring in oceans worldwide.

“Now we are tasked with looking at adaptive potential amidst the combined effects of acidification and warming,” he said.

Roberts said while the report tried to frame recommendations in an obtainable light, focusing on goals that be implemented right away, like limiting construction debris, sewage and pollution levels, the ultimate task of actually decreasing carbon emissions is further off.

“Emissions are of course the final and only real solution at the end of it all,” said Roberts, “but we’ve got to be realists. Renewable energy sources won’t be possible everywhere anytime soon, and the damage already done has been shown historically to take thousands of years to repair.”

The last time the Earth’s oceans experienced these kinds of carbon dioxide changes, the report found, was 56 million years ago, during the Paleo-Eocene Thermal Maximum, or PETM, when 2,000 to 3,000 petagrams of CO2 was released over 10,000 years.

The results killed a vast abundance of marine life, primarily calcifiers. Then it took the oceans roughly 100,000 years to rebalance. By comparison, today’s changes are occurring at 10 times this rate, with projections of PETM levels by 2600 if emission levels remain the same.


Consortium for Ocean Leadership