Archives for January 2015

Program Update: National Ocean Sciences Bowl – January 2015


During the month of January, the National Ocean Sciences Bowl (NOSB) hosted a special professional development opportunity for NOSB coaches, as well as other middle and high school educators nationwide. The free online webinar series focused on the 2015 NOSB competition theme of ‘the science of oil in the ocean.’ The purpose of the series was to provide teachers with the opportunity to enhance their knowledge and understanding of topics related to the origins of oil in the ocean, the transport and breakdown of oil and oil’s impact on ecosystems. Three presenters each gave a one-hour live webinar presentation on their current research or topic of interest, followed by a 30 minute Q&A session. Recordings of each webinar, as well as additional resources provided by the presenters, are available on the NOSB website. Please view the webinars and share them with interested educators!

The 2015 NOSB regional competitions are quickly approaching.  During these 23 competitions, which will take place on February 7 and February 28, teams of 4-5 students will be tested on their knowledge of ocean science and technical disciplines, as well as the 2015 theme, through quick-answer, buzzer questions and more complex team challenge questions (TCQs). To find a regional bowl in your area, click here.

The winning team from each regional bowl will attend the 18th Annual NOSB Finals Competition at the University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast Research Laboratory on April 23-26, 2015 in Ocean Springs, Mississippi.


Consortium for Ocean Leadership

NASA’s New Soil Moisture Satellite Could Improve Forecasts

 NASA's SMAP mission will monitor large swathes of Earth. (Credit: NASA/JPL)

(Click to enlarge) NASA’s SMAP mission will monitor large swathes of Earth. (Credit: NASA/JPL)

Globally, soils hold a tiny fraction of Earth’s water. But that moisture is nevertheless a crucial quantity in water, carbon, and energy cycles: It determines how vulnerable regions are to drought and flood, how well plants grow and suck up atmospheric carbon, and how Earth heats up and cools off—a key driver for storms.

(From Science / by Eric Hand)– Yet for the most part, soil moisture has been monitored by a sparse set of probes stuck in the ground. “The three biggest cycles in a climate model are being modeled with something that’s a complete fantasy,” says Dara Entekhabi, a hydrologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge.

That will change with NASA’s Soil Moisture Activity Probe (SMAP), a $ 916 million satellite due to launch on 29 January. A high priority among U.S. earth scientists, the mission will generate a global map of soil moisture every 2 to 3 days at 10 kilometers resolution, helping improve weather forecasts, flood forecasts, and drought monitoring. “This is an important factor that people have been chasing from the earliest days of optical remote sensing,” says Entekhabi, the science team leader for the mission.

The satellite looks like a contraption out of a Dr. Seuss book: a dish antenna 6 meters across spins like a lasso atop a long boom. Soon after reaching orbit, the boom will extend and the dish will unfurl. The dish, made of a gold-plated molybdenum webbing, serves as a reflector for both of the satellite’s instruments: a radar and a radiometer. The radar works actively, by sending a pulse bouncing off the dish to Earth and then listening for the reflection. The radar has higher resolution, but has a harder time penetrating foliage than the radiometer, which detects radiation emitted from the soil itself (with poorer resolution but fewer interference problems).

Read the full article here:

Consortium for Ocean Leadership

Program Update: Advocacy – January 2015


The 114th Congress convened this month, with Republicans having majority control of both the House and the Senate. President Obama delivered his penultimate State of the Union address, which highlighted the importance of science and climate change. House and Senate Committees have begun to set their rosters and agendas for the year. Of critical importance to the ocean science community will be the leadership of John Culberson (R-TX) who takes the gavel of the Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations Subcommittee, which sets spending priorities for NSF, NOAA and NASA.

The Arctic received much attention this month, starting with an Executive Order to establish an “Arctic Executive Steering Committee.” This initiative would help coordinate the efforts of federal agencies that have overlapping jurisdictions in the Arctic. Furthermore, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) and Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) were released by the Department of the Interior (DOI). The ANWR conservation plan, which is open for public review, recommends 12.2 million acres be given wilderness status – the highest level of federal protection. This effort to protect the nation’s environmental heritage has expectedly stirred up strong opposition from Republican lawmakers, most notably from the Alaska congressional delegation. “What’s coming is a stunning attack on our sovereignty and our ability to develop a strong economy that allows us, our children and our grandchildren to thrive,” Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) said. “It’s clear this administration does not care about us, and sees us as nothing but a territory.”

In a move opposed by environmental groups, the Obama Administration released a map of its five-year offshore oil and gas leasing plan, which allows leasing of the continental shelf in the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean only. The zone it proposes to allow drilling in covers federal coastal waters off Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. A similar idea was shelved in 2010 after the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig explosion and oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The controversial Keystone XL pipeline debate has dominated the legislative agenda this month. Both the Senate and the House have debated their respective Keystone XL Pipeline Acts (S.1 and H.R.3) in the first few days of the new Congress. H.R.3 was passed by the House without amendments, while S.1 was passed after being on the Senate Floor for more than a week with dozens of amendments considered. Several climate science amendments have been considered and have garnered the support of up to 15 Senate Republicans.

On a less contentious note, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology passed three bipartisan bills to prioritize research that would improve tsunami (H.R.34) and windstorm preparedness (H.R.23), as well as low-dose radiation research.

Weather forecasting and its associated technology were popular topics on the Hill this month. The University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) held a briefing on the impacts of El Niño on the U.S.; and Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and International Research Institute for Climate and Society held a briefing on improving subseasonal to interannual forecasts. Despite improvements in model sophistication, experts claim that gaps are still present in the data needed to improve weather forecast predictions. Topics such as the effects of climate change, the global impacts of El Niño, are still unknown but could hold severe implications for human health and the U.S. economy. Scientists urge for more resources to maintain and improve the infrastructure that generates data for such research. In a Congressional briefing, the Marine Technology Society (MTS) discussed Blue Technology and its opportunities to help improve the nation’s economy and employment prospects. This technology is rapidly growing as it helps to inform decisions that impact America’s safety, economy, and environment, but experts agree that a true government and industry partnership is required to grow towards technology that supports sustainable energy.

On the federal agency front, Craig McLean was appointed director for NOAA research; NOAA RESTORE Act Science Program released its first federal funding opportunity (FFO-2015) (which will support projects that synthesize current scientific understanding and management needs and will inform the future direction of the NOAA RESTORE Act Science Program as well as other science and restoration initiatives in the Gulf of Mexico region); and the National Research Council (NRC) released their Sea Change: 2015-2025 Decadal Survey of Ocean Sciences (a report identifying decadal strategic priorities for ocean sciences, which highlight strategic investments necessary at the NSF, who is the primary funding source for ocean research).

Consortium for Ocean Leadership

Food Industry has long way to go when it comes to using recyclable and compostable packaging

Let's face it: We are people who consume many of our meals on the go. That means we're not eating on real plates or bowls but out of plastic containers and paper boxes. And perhaps daily, we drink our coffees and sodas out of plastic or plastic-lined paper cups. Overall, Americans recycle at the lamentable rate of 34.5 percent and recycle plastic packaging at the even measlier rate of 14 percent. So the majority of that food packaging is ending up in landfills, or on the street as litter, where it may eventually get swept into the ocean. There, our wrappers and cans and cups become a much bigger problem — a direct threat to marine life that may ingest it and die.

ENN: Top Stories

Where is Philae? Search for Rosetta’s Lander Continues

Rosetta scientists are scouring comet images in the hope of finding where Philae ended up — and there's hope the tiny lander might reawaken as soon as May.
Discovery News

Ocean Acidification Changes Balance Of Biofouling Communities

A close up of the pipe shows Spirobid worms and sponges used in the experiment. (Credit: Deborah Power)

(Click to enlarge) A close up of the pipe shows Spirobid worms and sponges used in the experiment. (Credit: Deborah Power)

A new study of marine organisms that make up the ‘biofouling community’ — tiny creatures that attach themselves to ships’ hulls and rocks in the ocean around the world — shows how they adapt to changing ocean acidification.

(From ScienceDaily)– Reporting in the journal Global Change Biology, the authors examine how these communities may respond to future change.

There is overwhelming evidence to suggest the world’s oceans are becoming, and will continue to become more acidic in the future, but there are many questions about how it will affect marine life. The ‘biofouling community’ — consisting of tiny species like sea squirts, hard shell worms and sponges — affects many industries including underwater construction, desalination plants and ship hulls. Removing these organisms (a process called antifouling) is estimated to cost around $ 22 billion a year globally.

For the first experiment of its kind, over 10,000 animals from the highly productive Ria Formosa Lagoon system in Algarve, Portugal were allowed to colonise hard surfaces in six aquarium tanks. In half the tanks, the seawater had the normal acidity for the lagoon (PH 7.9) and the other half were set at an increased acidity of PH 7.7. The conditions represented the IPCC’s prediction for ocean acidification over the next 50 years.

After 100 days, animals with hard shells (Spirobid worms — Neodexiospira pseudocorugata) reduced to only one fifth of their original numbers, while sponges and some sea squirts (Ascidian Molgula sp) increased in number by double or even fourfold.

Read the full article here:

Consortium for Ocean Leadership

BICEP2 Gravitational Wave ‘Discovery’ Deflates

Physicists have announced that last year's much-publicized 'discovery' of gravitational waves embedded in the 'echo' of the Big Bang was a misstep.
Discovery News

Nuclear safety push to be softened after U.S. objections

VIENNA (Reuters) – The United States looks set to succeed in watering down a proposal for tougher legal standards aimed at boosting global nuclear safety, according to senior diplomats.

Reuters: Environment

Study finds atmosphere will adapt to hotter, wetter climate

A study led by atmospheric physicists at the University of Toronto finds that global warming will not lead to an overall increasingly stormy atmosphere, a topic debated by scientists for decades. Instead, strong storms will become stronger while weak storms become weaker, and the cumulative result of the number of storms will remain unchanged. “We know that with global warming we'll get more evaporation of the oceans,” said Frederic Laliberte, a research associate at U of T's physics department and lead author of a study published this week in Science. “But circulation in the atmosphere is like a heat engine that requires fuel to do work, just like any combustion engine or a convection engine.”

ENN: Top Stories

Executive: No Guarantee BP Will Help Pay Subsidiary’s Fines

BPAn executive for the BP subsidiary that faces billions of dollars in possible fines for the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill says it is uncertain whether other BP entities would step in to help pay a steep penalty.

(From ABC News / by Kevin McGill(AP) – The day’s first witness was Richard Morrison, regional president and chairman of the board for BP Exploration and Production, often referred to in court as BPX&P. He acknowledged three times since the spill when BP entities have aided his corporation with loans or equity purchases but added that he had no way of knowing whether parent corporation BP PLC or other entities would provide more help.

“They have to consider the overall business environment that we’re going into,” Morrison said. “The ability of not only BPX&P, but all of their businesses around the world to generate cash from their operations at oil prices less than 50 bucks a barrel.”

Morrison and others testified as BP attorneys sought to convince U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier that BP should pay far less than the estimated $ 13.7 billion maximum penalty for the deadly 2010 disaster. Justice Department attorneys last week outlined their case that the environmental, economic and social damage caused by the spill warrants a penalty at or near the maximum.

The April 20, 2010, explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig killed 11 workers at BP’s Macondo well and sent oil spewing into the Gulf for 87 days.

The trial is expected to last into next week, and a ruling from Barbier isn’t expected until April at the earliest.

Read the full article here:

Consortium for Ocean Leadership