Archives for August 2015

XTO Energy well in North Dakota suffers blowout, leaks 550 barrels

(Reuters) – A North Dakota oil well owned by Exxon Mobil subsidiary XTO Energy blew out on Saturday, leaking more than 550 barrels (23,100 gallons) of crude, some of which left the wellpad and seeped into surrounding grasses.

Reuters: Environment

2015 National Ocean Sciences Bowl Award Trips

NOSBEach year, the award for the top winning teams at the National Ocean Sciences Bowl (NOSB) Finals Competition is an experiential trip that provides these teams with unique, hands-on field and laboratory experiences in the marine sciences.

The trips expose students to science professionals and career opportunities, while enriching their understanding and stewardship of the ocean. These trips were made possible through funding from the IEEE Oceanic Engineering Society.

The 2015 NOSB national champions from Boise High School (Idaho) were awarded a weeklong trip to southeast Alaska. The trip started in Juneau, AK where the team kicked off the week with tide pooling (a theme for the trip!) on Douglas Island. The students spent the next three days in Juneau visiting the NOAA Auke Bay Lab, touring the DIPAC hatchery and the University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences. The team boarded NOAA’s R/V Sashin to conduct a humpback whale survey. While aboard, they also collected plankton samples and spotted some seals and sea lions. They learned hands-on about the bioenergetics research at Auke Bay and the salmon research at the Auke Creek weir. Next, they learned about Juneau Ice Field ecology and research and got a bird’s eye view by helicopter ride to Mendenhall Glacier. The Juneau portion of the trip rounded out with hook and line sampling for pink salmon alongside Auke Bay researchers. The team then headed off to Sitka, where they toured the Sitka Sound Science Center and learned of the aquarium outreach and hatchery research they do. While in Sitka, they also visited the University of Alaska Southeast campus and went snorkeling (in wetsuits, of course!) in the Sitka Sound. The trip wrapped up with more tide pooling and hiking amongst Alaska native totem poles.

The team from Dexter High School (Michigan) placed second and received a five-day trip to the coast of Texas. In Corpus Christi, the team was provided a behind the scenes tour of the Texas State Aquarium, a meeting with staff of the Port of Corpus Christi and a tour of the USS Lexington. The students spent an entire day with the staff and researchers at the HARTE Research Institute, exploring the labs and learning about marine genomics, fisheries and benthic sampling research. The University of Texas Austin Marine Science Institute in Port Aransas treated the team to a boat ride with a morning of snorkeling in grass beds in the bay. Their last day was a relaxing one, spent at Padre Island National Seashore where they spent the majority of the morning and afternoon enjoying the water.

Congratulations to both teams on their NOSB Finals accomplishment this year.

Consortium for Ocean Leadership

Death to ‘austerity’. Long live sustainable abundance!

Greens are united in opposing neoliberal ‘austerity’, write Rupert Read & Sandy Irvine. But there’s another kind of austerity to which we are committed – that of living within ecological limits. But base the transition on social, economic and environmental justice, and there will be nothing austere about it. The future we’re working for is one of sustainable, life-enhancing abundance.
Environment news & analysis, climate change reports –
The Ecologist

Hawaii First To Harness Deep Ocean Temperatures For Power

An aerial view of the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority. (Credit: United States Department of Energy/Wikipedia Commons)

(Click to enlarge) An aerial view of the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority. (Credit: United States Department of Energy/Wikipedia Commons)

A small but operational ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) plant was inaugurated in Hawaii last week, making it the first in the world. The opening of the 100-kilowatt facility marked the first time a closed-cycle OTEC plant will be connected to the U.S. grid.

(From Scientific American / by Malavika Vyawahare) — But that amount of energy production can power only 120 Hawaiian homes for a year, a tiny drop in the ocean for the island state’s own energy needs. What promise OTEC holds for other regions is even less certain.

The United States entered OTEC research in 1974 with the establishment of the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority (NELHA). But after decades of investment in the development of OTEC, this new Navy-bankrolled project is still seen by many as only a way to test the process rather than secure the place of OTEC as a viable renewable technology.

The company that developed the facility, Makai Ocean Engineering, is named for the Hawaiian word “makai,” which means “toward the ocean.” Hawaii, which is heavily dependent on imported fossil fuels to meet its energy demand, might indeed have to look toward the ocean to meet its ambitious target of having 100 percent renewable energy by 2045. “This plant provides a much-needed test bed to commercialize ocean thermal energy conversion technology and bolster innovation,” Hawaii Gov. David Ige said in a statement.

Robert Freeman, a spokesman at the Office of Naval Research, described the project that is partly funded by the ONR as a “prototype.” Through this plant, the office is trying to understand what the challenges to developing OTEC are, he said. The revenues generated from the plant, which will supply the NELHA facility where it is located, will be plowed back to fund more research and development in OTEC technology.

“Since not much is going on OTEC-wise, having anything that is functioning, visible, however small, is great,” said Gérard C. Nihous, an OTEC expert at the University of Hawaii. “You are looking at tiny, tiny systems that by themselves are not significant,” he said. “Their significance lies in their ability to demonstrate the process.”

Read the full article here:

Consortium for Ocean Leadership

Chaos Tamed with New Math Definition

A mathematical way to describe chaotic systems uses a simple numerical scale to show if things might fly out of control.
Discovery News

New study predicts future Antarctic ice loss

A new international study is the first to use a high-resolution, large-scale computer model to estimate how much ice the West Antarctic Ice Sheet could lose over the next couple of centuries, and how much that could add to sea-level rise. The results paint a clearer picture of West Antarctica’s future than was previously possible. The study has been published in The Cryosphere, an open access journal of the European Geosciences Union (EGU).

“The IPCC’s [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] 4th and 5th Assessment Reports both note that the acceleration of West Antarctic ice streams in response to ocean warming could result in a major contribution to sea-level rise, but that models were unable to satisfactorily quantify that response,” says Stephen Cornford, a research assistant at the University of Bristol, UK and lead-author of the study.

ENN: Top Stories

Tropical Storm Fred strengthens over eastern Atlantic

MIAMI (Reuters) – Tropical Storm Fred strengthened in the eastern Atlantic off the coast of Africa on Sunday, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

Reuters: Environment

Even safe levels of air pollution found to have health impacts in European study

Particulate matter and NO2 air pollution are associated with increased risk of severe heart attacks despite being within European recommended levels, according to research presented at ESC Congress today by Dr Jean-Francois Argacha, a cardiologist at University Hospital Brussels (UZ Brussel-Vrije Universiteit Brussel), in Belgium.1

“Dramatic health consequences of air pollution were first described in Belgium in 1930 after the Meuse Valley fog,” said Dr Argacha. “Nowadays, the World Health Organization (WHO) considers air pollution as one of the largest avoidable causes of mortality. Besides the pulmonary and carcinogenic effects of air pollution, exposition to air pollution has been associated with an increased risk in cardiovascular mortality.”

ENN: Top Stories

Ocean Leadership President & CEO Featured in JOCI Newsletter

Sherri GoodmanWhile at the Joint Ocean Commission Initiative’s (JOCI) Arctic Roundtable in April, the JOCI newsletter team sat down with Sherri Goodman to discuss her view of ocean issues, key takeaways from the JOCI Arctic meetings, and what she hopes to accomplish in her role at Ocean Leadership.

The interview, titled “Leadership Council Spotlight with Sherri Goodman,” was featured in the recent JOCI Summer 2015 Newsletter:

Sherri Goodman is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Consortium for Ocean Leadership. Prior to this role, she served as Senior Vice President, General Counsel, and Corporate Secretary of CNA, a nonprofit organization based in Virginia that conducts high-level, in-depth research and analysis to inform the important work of public sector decision-makers. From 1993 to 2001, Ms. Goodman served as Deputy Undersecretary of Defense (Environmental Security), the chief environmental, safety, and occupational health officer for the U.S. Department of Defense.

Drawing on your background in defense/national security, what do you see as critical ocean policy issues?

Since we are here in Alaska I will start in the Arctic—a new ocean is emerging here. We need to plan for accidents like oil spills and stranded vessels. It is important to work on both prevention and response. We also need to recognize the changing geopolitics in the region; there are many more national interests emerging in the Arctic than in previous years. So while we hope and plan for continued peaceful cooperation around various uses of the Arctic, we also have to prepare for other futures.

Broadening the scope from the Arctic, oceans are our last frontier. We know less about the deep ocean than we know about space, so there are many opportunities to explore, observe, and monitor our oceans. We need to gain more maritime awareness so we can manage our future.

The CNA Military Advisory Board, which you helped found in 2006, was one of the first groups to connect climate change to national security. What was it like to put forth this groundbreaking research? How have you seen the discussion of this connection change over time?

We now have a better understanding of the national security implications of climate change, including its impact on the oceans. The CNA Military Advisory Board characterized climate change as a threat multiplier for instability, and we have seen evidence of this globally over the years. For example, conflicts that gave way to the Arab Spring were in part caused by increased food prices as a result of drought in other regions of the world.

In 2015, almost 10 years after the CNA Military Advisory Board was established, we see that many governments around the world have integrated the national security impacts of climate change into defense and security planning. These issues have also emerged as robust fields of scholarship. I am very proud that we have been part of creating a new field of study and practice.

As part of your role on the JOCI Leadership Council, you helped convene the Arctic Ocean Leadership Roundtables, both in Washington, DC and in Alaska. What are some of your key takeaways from these meetings?

One lesson is that policy cannot be made in a vacuum—we have to listen to local voices. It was a great decision for JOCI to come to the region and hear from Alaskans from many parts of the large and diverse state. It was also great to learn about the robust research capabilities at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and throughout the Arctic. A second lesson is that responsible decision-making is about making choices. Recognizing that resources are not infinite, we need to formulate key priorities as we look to the next chapter in oceans policy. Lastly, we should enable more Americans to appreciate the value and importance of oceans. Most goods are shipped by sea and agriculture is directly affected by changing ocean circulation patterns, so even the heartland is deeply connected to the oceans.

What are you most excited about as you start your new role as President of the Consortium for Ocean Leadership? What do you hope to accomplish during your time at the organization?

I’m most excited about working with the ocean science research community that cares so deeply about our oceans and is so invested in expanding our knowledge of and capability to operate in our oceans. Like JOCI, I hope to raise more awareness across America for the importance of our oceans and to give ocean science research a greater voice in that process.

Consortium for Ocean Leadership

Can You Ever Avoid a Hangover?

Can eating or drinking water right after imbibing lessen the next-day effects? Science weighs in on the hangover. Continue reading →
Discovery News