Archives for June 2016

Best foot forward: Thai elephant gets her ninth prosthetic leg

LAMPANG, Thailand (Reuters) – Mosha the elephant, who stepped on a landmine along the Thai-Myanmar border 10 years ago, received her ninth prosthetic leg on Wednesday.

Reuters: Environment

Vietnam says Formosa unit’s steel plant caused environmental disaster

HANOI (Reuters) – Vietnam said on Thursday a $ 10.6 billion steel plant run by a unit of Taiwan’s Formosa Plastics caused an until-now mysterious environmental crisis by releasing toxic wastewater into the sea.

Reuters: Environment

An ingredient in your sunscreen can be killing sharks

Most animal lovers wouldn’t dream of harming an animal for fashion. Fur? No, thank you. Leather? I don’t think so. Yet they might be unknowingly killing sharks — and highly endangered kinds on top of that — for their beauty routine.

Unbeknownst to most, one little ingredient in products like sunscreens, moisturizing lotions, lip balms, lipsticks and face creams is responsible for the death of over three million sharks annually.


ENN: Top Stories

Germany waters down climate protection plan

BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany has abandoned plans to set out a timetable to exit coal-fired power production and scrapped C02 emissions reduction goals for individual sectors, according to the latest draft of an environment ministry document seen by Reuters on Wednesday.

Reuters: Environment

Ocean acidification affects predator-prey response

Ocean acidification makes it harder for sea snails to escape from their sea star predators, according to a study from the University of California, Davis.

The findings, published in the journal Proceedings of The Royal Society B, suggest that by disturbing predator-prey interactions, ocean acidification could spur cascading consequences for food web systems in shoreline ecosystems.

For instance, black turban snails graze on algae. If more snails are eaten by predators, algae densities could increase.

“Ocean acidification can affect individual marine organisms along the Pacific coast, by changing the chemistry of the seawater,” said lead author Brittany Jellison, a Ph.D. student studying marine ecology at the UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory.

ENN: Top Stories

Whistling Wormholes Discovered In The Caribbean

Ocean Leadership ~

Caribbean islands  (Credit: © jovannig / Fotolia)

(Click to enlarge) Caribbean islands (Credit: © jovannig / Fotolia)

National Oceanography Centre scientists have discovered the Caribbean Sea works like a whistle. This finding will enable scientists to predict some sea level changes many months in advance, and may be an important factor in regulating how the Gulf Stream varies.

(From Science Daily)– This research, published today in Geophysical Research Letters, has found the Caribbean Current flow is unstable, which causes it to shed eddies, or swirling currents of water hundreds of kilometres in diameter. This is similar to the way in which a jet of air sheds eddies when it hits the lip of a whistle. In a whistle the radiating sound comes from a resonating pressure wave created by the eddies, causing mass to be exchanged with the air around it. In the case of the current the eddies create a resonant Rossby wave in the ocean basin, which because it is not completely closed, allows water mass to be exchanged with the rest of the ocean. The net result is a sloshing of water into and out of the basin with a period of 120 days, corresponding to a note of A flat, many octaves below the audible range.

The sloshing water is big enough to be detected by its gravitational influence on the GRACE satellites. Furthermore, the Rossby wave resonance relies on a peculiar effect known as a Rossby wormhole — the wave propagates to the west across the basin where it seems to disappear, only to reappear in the east. Advanced computer models of the ocean, run at the NOC, predicted this should happen. This prediction was later confirmed using a range of observations, including satellite gravity, satellite sea level measurements, coastal tide gauges and a bottom pressure recorder which is part of the global tsunami warning network.

Professor Chris Hughes, who led the research, said “It was a real surprise to find this oscillation. We were looking at ocean bottom pressure data from round the world as part of an NOC contribution to the global sea level database, which we host, and found this region. It behaved quite differently from the rest of the tropics, which are typically very quiet. With hindsight we found theoreticians had predicted this kind of behaviour, but had never thought to apply their models to the Caribbean Sea — ironically this seems to be the only place where conditions are suitable.”

The oscillation is always present, sometimes with higher and sometimes with lower amplitude. Since the waves van be seen as they propagate across the Caribbean Sea, scientists can predict when the wave will arrive at the coast and cause the sea level to rise or fall at least 120 days in advance.

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The post Whistling Wormholes Discovered In The Caribbean appeared on Consortium for Ocean Leadership.

Consortium for Ocean Leadership

Firefighters control most of big, deadly California wildfire

(Reuters) – Firefighters in central California had by Wednesday contained most of a wildfire ranked as the biggest and deadliest of several blazes raging across the state in an early summer heat wave.

Reuters: Environment

Experts Demand More Effort To Save Coral Reefs

Ocean Leadership ~

The Great Barrier Reef (Credit: Kyle Taylor / Flickr)

(Click to enlarge) The Great Barrier Reef (Credit: Kyle Taylor / Flickr)

As the largest international gathering of coral reef experts comes to a close, scientists have sent a letter to Australian officials calling for action to save the world’s reefs, which are being rapidly damaged.

(From Sci-Tech Today / by Caleb Jones)– The letter was sent Saturday to Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull imploring his government to do more to conserve the nation’s reefs and curb fossil fuel consumption. The letter, signed by past and present presidents of the International Society for Reef Studies on behalf of the 2,000 attendees of the International Coral Reef Symposium that was held in Honolulu this week, urged the Australian government to prioritize its Great Barrier Reef.

“This year has seen the worst mass bleaching in history, threatening many coral reefs around the world including the whole of the northern Great Barrier Reef, the biggest and best-known of all reefs,” the letter said. “The damage to this Australian icon has already been devastating. In addition to damage from greenhouse gasses, port dredging and shipping of fossil fuels across the Great Barrier Reef contravene Australia’s responsibilities for stewardship of the Reef under the World Heritage Convention.”

Leaders from the scientific community at the convention in Honolulu said Friday that the “unprecedented” letter was critical to the conservation of the fragile reef habitat. Scientists are not known for their political activism, said James Cook University professor Terry Hughes, but they felt this crisis warranted such action. “We are not ready to write the obituary for coral reefs,” said Hughes, who is also the president of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies in Australia.

A call to action from three Pacific island nations whose reefs are in the crosshairs of the largest and longest-lasting coral bleaching event in recorded history was presented Friday at the conclusion of the International Coral Reef Symposium in Honolulu. The Associated Press was given advance access to the call for action and the scientific community’s response.

Read the full article here:

The post Experts Demand More Effort To Save Coral Reefs appeared on Consortium for Ocean Leadership.

Consortium for Ocean Leadership

Floating Solar: A Win-Win for Drought-Stricken Lakes in U.S.

The Colorado River’s two great reservoirs, Lake Mead and Lake Powell, are in retreat. Multi-year droughts and chronic overuse have taken their toll, to be sure, but vast quantities of water are also lost to evaporation. What if the same scorching sun that causes so much of this water loss were harnessed for electric power? 

Installing floating solar photovoltaic arrays, sometimes called “floatovoltaics,” on a portion of these two reservoirs in the southwestern United States could produce clean, renewable energy while shielding significant expandes of water from the hot desert sun. 

ENN: Top Stories

Watermelon Snow: Not Edible But Important For Climate Change

Ocean Leadership ~

Waves of 'watermellon snow' (Credit: Bryan Olsen / Flickr)

(Click to enlarge) Waves of ‘watermellon snow’ (Credit: Bryan Olsen / Flickr)

Summer is the season to cool off with a big chunk of watermelon. But there’s another kind of watermelon that’ll have you trading in your sandals for hiking boots if you want to experience it. While you’re not going to want to eat what some people call “watermelon snow,” researchers have found that having a better understanding of it could be important in a warming world.

(From The New York Times / by Joanna Klein)– In snowy places across the globe, “watermelon snow” forms as the summer sun heats up and melts winter’s leftovers. The colorful snow is made up of communities of algae that thrive in freezing temperatures and liquid water, resulting in algal blooms. When these typically green organisms get a lot of sun, they produce a natural type of sunscreen that paints the slopes pink and red. The addition of color to the surface darkens the snow, allowing it to heat up faster, and melt more quickly.

“Imagine wearing black instead of a white T-shirt in the sun. It feels much hotter,” wrote Stefanie Lutz, a geobiologist at GFZ German Research Center for Geosciences, in an email. “It is the same for the snow: More heat means more melting.”

Dr. Lutz, together with Liane Benning and their colleagues at a number of universities, published a study Thursday in Nature Communications that examined microbes in summer snow, and noted that while bacterial communities differ from place to place, the same algae that produce watermelon snow appear to be so global that it’s time for climate models to consider their effects on snow and ice melt.

Algae changes snow’s albedo, or how much light, or radiation, its surface reflects back into the atmosphere. Based on 40 samples from four locations, the new study estimated that blooms of snow algae can lead to an albedo decrease of 13 percent over the course of an Arctic melt season, compared with clean snow, meaning the dark snow would absorb much more light. Just how much melting this will account for, or how much that may affect sea level rise, however, is still to be determined. But algal effects on albedo are going to be important for melting glaciers, which play a huge role in the climate system, said Dr. Lutz.

Read the full article here:

The post Watermelon Snow: Not Edible But Important For Climate Change appeared on Consortium for Ocean Leadership.

Consortium for Ocean Leadership