The new poster child for climate change had his coming-out party in June 2012, when Petey the puffin chick first went live into thousands of homes and schools all over the world. The "Puffin Cam" capturing baby Petey's every chirp had been set up on Maine's Seal Island by Stephen Kress, "The Puffin Man," who founded the Audubon Society's Project Puffin in 1973. Puffins, whose orange bills and furrowed eyes make them look like penguins dressed as sad clowns, used to nest on many islands off the Maine coast, but 300 years of hunting for their meat, eggs, and feathers nearly wiped them out. Project Puffin transplanted young puffins from Newfoundland to several islands in Maine, and after years of effort the colonies were reestablished and the project became one of Audubon's great success stories. By 2013, about 1,000 puffin pairs were nesting in Maine.
Now, thanks to a grant from the Annenberg Foundation, the Puffin Cam offered new opportunities for research and outreach. Puffin parents dote on their single chick, sheltering it in a two-foot burrow beneath rocky ledges and bringing it piles of small fish each day. Researchers would get to watch live puffin feeding behavior for the first time, and schoolkids around the world would be falling for Petey.
But Kress soon noticed that something was wrong. Puffins dine primarily on hake and herring, two teardrop-shaped fish that have always been abundant in the Gulf of Maine. But Petey's parents brought him mostly butterfish, which are shaped more like saucers. Kress watched Petey repeatedly pick up butterfish and try to swallow them. The video is absurd and tragic, because the butterfish is wider than the little gray fluff ball, who keeps tossing his head back, trying to choke down the fish, only to drop it, shaking with the effort.
Update: DK user New Minas notes that the researchers used a much finer screen size to collect their samples so comparison with the great Pacific garbage patch may be comparing apples and oranges. The screen was finer by greater than a factor of 1,000. It may be impossible to compare samples from ice cores subjected to a very fine screen with samples taken from the open ocean using a relatively coarse screen.
Moreover, the source article apparently misquoted one of its references on the total volume of Arctic sea ice. The number is apparently 500 times the 2012 sea ice minimum, which is clearly not possible. Kudos to New Minas for this excellent unsolicited peer review of the source article.
Polar scientists estimate that rapid warming of the Arctic is going to melt about
2,000 4 trillion cubic meters of sea ice by 2040. If the particle density is about 50 particles per cubic meter, two hundred-trillion plastic particles will go back into the water. This plastic soup will flow into the north Atlantic ocean over the next 3 decades. How this soup of plastic micro-particles will affect sea life has not yet been determined. Plastic is known to be taken up by marine organisms and birds with a variety of detrimental consequences.
This wave, called a Kelvin wave, took four years to build. It has just started to breach the surface. It is so large that it has substantially raised the height of the sea surface for thousands of miles along the equator in the central Pacific ocean. As it pushes towards the west coast it will impact global ocean currents and weather.
Today's explosive increase in human CO2 emissions and warming of the oceans are recreating the conditions of the great Permian extinction 300 million years ago when massive volcanic eruptions in Siberia triggered the release of enormous amounts of stored carbon. A leading theory is that deoxygenation and acidification of the oceans led to the bacterial production of toxic hydrogen sulfide gas which poisoned species dependent on oxygen. By the end of this natural catastrophe 90% to 95% of all marine species were extinct. The biodiversity of the oceans took 30 million years for to recover.
The next mass extinction event may have already begun.
the scale and rate of the present day carbon perturbation, and resulting ocean acidification, is unprecedented in Earth’s known history. Today’s rate of carbon release, at approximately 30Gt of CO2 per year, is at least 10 times faster than that which preceded the last major species extinction (the Paleocene Eocene Thermal Maximum extinction, or PETM, ca. 55 million years ago), while geological records indicate that the current acidification is unparalleled in at least the last 300 million years. We are entering an unknown territory of marine ecosystem change, and exposing organisms to intolerable evolutionary pressure. The next mass extinction event may have already begun.A "deadly trio” of acidification, warming and deoxygenation
COOS BAY — Something is killing large numbers of a keystone species off the Oregon Coast. Federal researchers say it could spell danger for the region’s other marine life.Acidification of sea water in Washington State oyster hatcheries killed the developing oysters. Please watch this outstanding video on ocean acidification.
Bill Peterson, an oceanographer with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, said in the past few weeks millions of dead North Pacific krill have washed up on beaches between Newport and Eureka, Calif.
Peterson said it’s the largest die-off he’s aware of in recent history. ...
Joe Tyburczy, a researcher with the California Sea Grant extension office who has been looking into the dead krill with Peterson, said oceanographic cruises along the northern California coast did find lower oxygen levels than usually seen in Pacific Northwest waters.
“If it is hypoxia, there’s a possibility of implications for other species like crab,” he said.
Oysters started dying by the billions along the Northwest coast in 2005, and have been struggling ever since. When scientists cautiously linked the deaths to plummeting ocean pH in 2008 and 2009, few outside the West Coast’s $110 million industry believed it.Richard Feely and a team of scientists from Pacific Marine Environmental Lab were stunned to discover cold, acidic, low-oxygen water welling up to the surface along the northern California coast in 2007. Scientists had not expected acidification to hit the west coast for 50 to 100 years. Dr. Feely published his work and word of it reached oyster farmers who's hatcheries were failing.
By the time scientists confirmed it early last year, the region’s several hundred oyster growers had become a global harbinger — the first tangible sign anywhere in the world that ocean acidification already was walloping marine life and hurting people.
The oyster farmers invited Feely to their annual conference.Moreover, because processes in the ocean are slow to change this deadly water would continue to affect the Pacific northwest for another 50 years if all human CO2 emissions stopped today. It will take 30 to 50 years for the most acidic water already present along the west coast to well up. This is the beginning of a disaster that we cannot stop. The best we can do is to keep it from growing far larger and far more deadly. The changes happening in the waters of the Pacific northwest are the first stages of a global marine catastrophe if CO2 emissions are not rapidly reduced.
Feely explained that when north winds blew, deep ocean water was drawn right to the beach, which meant this newly corrosive water probably got sucked into the hatchery. That same water also flowed into the Strait of Juan de Fuca and made its way to Hood Canal.
The oyster industry pleaded with Congress, which supplied money for new equipment. Over several years, the hatcheries tested their water using high-tech pH sensors. When the pH was low, it was very low and baby oysters died within two days. By drawing water only when the pH was normal, shellfish production got back on track.
“They told us it was like turning on headlights on a car — it was so clear what was going on,” Feely said.
Deadly trio will have cascading consequences for marine biology & humans
It is the simultaneous occurrence of the “deadly trio” of acidification, warming and deoxygenation that is seriously effecting how productive and efficient the ocean is, as temperatures, chemistry, surface stratification, nutrient and oxygen supply are all implicated, meaning that many organisms will find themselves in unsuitable environments.
These impacts will have cascading consequences for marine biology, including altered food web dynamics and the expansion of pathogens. To make matters even worse, this is all happening to marine ecosystems already undermined by other human pressures such as overfishing, eutrophication and pollution.
The adaption of species to these altered conditions is in some cases possible – as is migration, though as warming demands a poleward migration while acidification encourages the movement to warmer more equatorial waters the “green pastures” will become increasingly scarce and competition for them fierce. Mass extinctions happen in the geological equivalent of overnight; we may already have entered into an extinction period and not yet realized it. What is certain is that current carbon perturbations will have huge implications for humans, and may well be the most important challenge faced since the first hominids evolved.
The world’s oceans are turning acidic at what’s likely the fastest pace in 300 million years. Scientists tend to think this is a troubling development. But just how worried should we be, exactly?My dear Post reporter: It's a troubling development when your cat persistently coughs up fur balls on your bed when you're sleeping. It's a troubling development when your car starts vibrating every time it hits 60 mph. When the chemistry of the ocean is reverting towards a primordial condition when it emitted poisonous sulfurous gases, it is not a troubling development. It is the beginning of a fucking catastrophe of unimaginable proportions.
Here's a clue. Just because you don't know jack about the story you have been assigned don't assume there isn't a fossil record of mass death and destruction beyond anything ever witnessed by humans and beyond anything you are capable of imagining.
But it’s not fully clear what this all adds up to. What happens if the oceans keep acidifying and water temperatures keep rising as a result of global warming? Are those stresses going to wipe out coral reefs and fisheries around the globe, costing us trillions (as one paper suggested)? Or is there a chance that some ecosystems might remain surprisingly resilient?Yes, jellies (jellyfish) and invertebrates have survived multiple mass extinction events. As did sharks. So did cockroaches and scorpions. Three hundred million years ago, at the end of the Permian era, the earth's temperature soared and the oceans acidified when massive quantities of carbon were released as CO2 and methane after massive volcanic eruptions in Siberia.
The Permian ended with the most extensive extinction event recorded in paleontology: the Permian-Triassic extinction event. 90% to 95% of marine species became extinct, as well as 70% of all land organisms. It is also the only known mass extinction of insects. Recovery from the Permian-Triassic extinction event was protracted; on land, ecosystems took 30M years to recover.But a Post reporter can't tell the village that the oceans could acidify, stagnate and develop massive anoxic dead zones emitting sulfurous toxic gases. Ladies would faint.
There is also significant evidence that massive flood basalt eruptions from magma output lasting thousands of years in what is now the Siberian Traps contributed to environmental stress leading to mass extinction. The reduced coastal habitat and highly increased aridity probably also contributed. Based on the amount of lava estimated to have been produced during this period, the worst-case scenario is an expulsion of enough carbon dioxide from the eruptions to raise world temperatures five degrees Celsius.
Another hypothesis involves ocean venting of hydrogen sulfide gas. Portions of deep ocean will periodically lose all of their dissolved oxygen allowing bacteria that live without oxygen to flourish and produce hydrogen sulfide gas. If enough hydrogen sulfide accumulates in an anoxic zone, the gas can rise into the atmosphere. Oxidizing gases in the atmosphere would destroy the toxic gas, but the hydrogen sulfide would soon consume all of the atmospheric gas available to change it. Hydrogen sulfide levels would increase dramatically over a few hundred years. Modeling of such an event indicates that the gas would destroy ozone in the upper atmosphere allowing ultraviolet radiation to kill off species that had survived the toxic gas. Of course, there are species that can metabolize hydrogen sulfide.
Another hypothesis builds on the flood basalt eruption theory. Five degrees Celsius would not be enough increase in world temperatures to explain the death of 95% of life. But such warming could slowly raise ocean temperatures until frozen methane reservoirs below the ocean floor near coastlines melted, expelling enough methane, among the most potent greenhouse gases, into the atmosphere to raise world temperatures an additional five degrees Celsius. The frozen methane hypothesis helps explain the increase in carbon-12 levels midway into the Permian-Triassic boundary layer. It also helps explain why the first phase of the layer's extinctions was land-based, the second was marine-based (and starting right after the increase in C-12 levels), and the third land-based again.
Let's play the old bait and switch. Let's talk about a nicer extinction event.
Another approach is to examine the fossil record. There have been multiple periods in the Earth’s history where atmospheric carbon dioxide levels rose sharply (for natural reasons) and the oceans became warmer and more acidic. That includes the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum, an era 55 million years ago with greenhouse-gas concentrations in the atmosphere roughly comparable to what the Earth could soon face.See, that's not so bad. Only large predators went extinct.
In a recent paper for Science, Norris and his co-authors found that this ancient world had few coral reefs, a poorly oxygenated ocean, and drastically different food chains that had difficulty sustaining large predators like sharks and whales. On the flip side, “the extinction of species was remarkably light, other than a mass extinction in the rapidly warming deep ocean.” So that’s one possible glimpse into our future:
Update from the comments
I have been asked what's going to happen in response to the faltering of the thermohaline circulation around Antarctica. This post is based on a synthesis of very recent research reports. The key report, that found the layer of fresh water between 50 and 150 meters deep, was just published. Deward Hastings explained, in a comment, how disruptive this lens of freshened water could be to the earth's climate system and our models of it:
it IS complicated, and confusingThe best guesses we can make now about the effects of this melt layer are based on paleoclimatology research. Possible effects, based on paleoclimatology studies, are presented in the last few paragraphs. The results of these new studies will be challenging climate modelers for many years.
That lens of (relatively) fresh water that is forming around Antarctica is challenging, and changing, almost everything in global circulation patterns. It freezes sooner (and at a higher temperature). That shields the water from the wind, and reduces wind-driven mixing. It reduces, perhaps to the point of stopping altogether, the present global ocean circulation patterns. That in turn will change global atmospheric weather.
Nobody knows exactly what comes next. We've never seen it happen, and our models, not terribly accurate in describing the world we know, are completely untested in the coming world that we don't know.
Without a constant flow of cold water from the poles the Abyss will warm . . . and without cold slowly rising from the Abyss the mid-ocean and ocean surface will warm (already happening). That will lead to more evaporation (driving a different haline circulation in the tropics) and stronger tropical winds driving different surface currents and greater mixing.
Pretty much everything changes as a result . . . pretty much everywhere. After it's all over some places will have it better and some worse. While it's changing everywhere will be worse, because there is no way to know what to expect (except that it won't be what you've prepared for).
According to NOAA's GODAS system the heat content of the top 300 meters (about a thousand feet) of the North Atlantic ocean off the east coast from Cape Hatteras the Prince Edward Island is way above normal. The average temperature of the water column from the surface to 300 meters deep is greater than 2 °C above normal.
Click on image for movie.
The deep pool of unusually warm water is the source of large amounts of additional water vapor to storms. Warming water 5 degrees Fahrenheit above normal, as this figure shows, increases the amount of precipitation greatly because evaporation rates rise very rapidly with increasing water temperature. That leads us to the forecast for Wednesday.
If Dolphins didn't have enough to worry about with Climate Change and the Challenges the Deep Water Horizon created for them over the past couple of years, it seems there is now someone killing dolphins in their birthing grounds.
Horrific and mindless murders of dolphins is happening in the gulf and no one can explain it but it needs to be stopped.
Someone has turned a crucial dolphin birthing area off the U.S. Gulf Coast into a killing zone and the race is on to find the culprit or culprits before the marine mammals begin giving birth and the newborn dolphins are put at risk.What do we need to do? Spread this far and wide because they want the public's help to find whomever is committing these cruel and heinous acts. The punishment is steep, just one act of harming a dolphin is punishable by a fine of up to $100,000 and up to a year in jail.
"There is a sense of urgency. It is important that we find the person or persons who is perpetrating this heinous act," said Moby Solangi, lead biologist of The Institute of Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport, Mississippi.
"It looks like somebody is deranged. It's really senseless. It's repugnant. It's illegal. I don't understand what sort of person would do such a cruel act," Solangi told CNN during an aerial tour of the sites where many of the dolphin carcasses were found.
Solangi, who performed necropsies of all the slaughtered dolphins, said the cruelty of what he's seen is the equivalent of having your pet dog's neck sliced.
"This is gruesome really," Solangi said. "It's not only killing them, it's also mutilating them. And the parts that are taken are disposed of; not next to the animal, they are taken. And they are not worth anything."
If you have any information, contact the NOAA Enforcement hotline at 800-853-1964.
There's been a lot of buzz about coal exports lately, but if I was a betting woman, I'd say the smart money is on these coal industry pipe dreams never becoming a reality. That’s because local communities that would receive the brunt of the pollution from transporting all that coal are standing up and saying no, one after another. Communities across the Pacific Northwest continue to band together in opposition to coal export terminals and the massive increase in rail traffic that would come with it.
Especially breath-taking and poignant was this statement from 57 Northwest tribal communities calling "on the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers to conduct a full environmental analysis for all six proposals to transport and export coal through their shared lands and waters." (PDF)
I have loved this photo for a while now, captioned, reposted it, I adore dolphins and whales and have written about both quite a bit here. I believe that they need protection, from us. There are still a multitude of dangers to these amazing creatures, from dolphins slaughters to whaling.
But today I wanted to share something positive, you see, the dolphin getting a lift from a whale isn't so far fetched, its happened before and I came across a piece from earlier in the year at Treehugger that explains how it's more common than you think.
Many species interact in the wild, most often as predator and prey. But recent encounters between humpback whales and bottlenose dolphins reveal a playful side to interspecies interaction. In two different locations in Hawaii, scientists watched as dolphins "rode" the heads of whales: the whales lifted the dolphins out of the water, and then the dolphins slid back in. The two species seemed to cooperate in the activity, and neither displayed signs of aggression or distress. Whales and dolphins in Hawaiian waters often interact, but playful social activity such as this is extremely rare between species. These are the first recorded examples of this type of behavior.
The production rate of the coldest, densest ocean water on earth is in rapid decline. Production of Antarctic bottom water, which rests on the bottom of all of the world's oceans except the Arctic and north Atlantic has been in continuous linear decline since 1980. The investigators at the University of Washington have not concluded whether the rapid decline is caused by natural cycles or a warming climate.
Two oceanographers from NOAA and the University of Washington find that Antarctic Bottom Water has been disappearing at an average rate of about eight million metric tons per second over the past few decades, equivalent to about fifty times the average flow of the Mississippi River or about a quarter of the flow of the Gulf Stream in the Florida Straits.One possible explanation might be that the melt rate of Antarctic glaciers has increased since 1980. The fresh water added to the southern ocean may lower the density of the water around Antarctica so that deep water production stops in areas where large amounts of melt water have been added. This is my suggestion, not the co-authors'.
“Because of its high density, Antarctic Bottom Water fills most of the deep ocean basins around the world, but we found that the amount of this water has been decreasing at a surprisingly fast rate over the last few decades,” said lead author Sarah Purkey, graduate student at the School of Oceanography at the University of Washington in Seattle, Wash. “In every oceanographic survey repeated around the Southern Ocean since about the 1980s, Antarctic Bottom Water has been shrinking at a similar mean rate, giving us confidence that this surprisingly large contraction is robust.”
A layer of Antarctic Bottom Water colder than 0ºC (colors, with darkest blue areas having the thickest layer, and white none) covers the ocean floor around Antarctica (center, shaded grey). Rates at which this layer is thinning during the study period (red numbers in meters per decade) are shown for for each deep basin (outlined by thin grey lines). These rates are estimated using data from repeated oceanographic expeditions (ship tracks shown by thick black lines). Note that seawater at the ocean surface stays liquid even at temperatures approaching -2ºC because of its high salt content.
The disaster movie story of the weakening of the Gulf Stream and the collapse of the overturning circulation in the north Atlantic Ocean is not occurring. However, the collapse of the Antarctic meridional overturning circulation could have global effects just as disastrous as the slowing of the Gulf Stream. The geologic record shows overturning oscillates between the hemispheres. The flux of warm salty water to the Atlantic and Arctic ocean could be increasing as the Antarctic bottom water production declines. This possible increase of warm salty water moving from the Indian ocean around Africa then up to the north Atlantic could cause rapid warming of the North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans. In fact, that's just what we're observing now. (my speculation, not the report's co-authors')
Changes in the temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, and dissolved carbon dioxide of this prominent water mass have important ramifications for Earth’s climate, including contributions to sea level rise and the rate of Earth’s heat uptake.
“People often focus on fluctuations of currents in the North Atlantic Ocean as an indicator of climate change, but the Southern Ocean has undergone some very large changes over the past few decades and also plays a large role in shaping our climate,” said Johnson.
Eight thousand feet deep in the southern ocean between Antarctic and south America, a ghostly white octopus glides through a bizarre world of 700°F black smoking vents, mounds of white crabs that look strangely like David Hasselhoff and pale anemones dancing in the current.
UK scientists have found prodigious numbers of a new crab species on the Southern Ocean floor that they have dubbed "The Hoff" because of its hairy chest.
The animal was discovered living around volcanic vents off South Georgia.
Communities of never-before-seen life forms in the deep ocean were first found in 1977 during investigations of volcanic vents around the Galapagos Islands. Life had never been found around deep vents in Antarctic waters because the waves and storms were so harsh that scientists were not able to investigate the deep. The rich undersea communities discovered near Antarctic astonished scientists with their abundance and diversity.
|It was "almost like a sight from another planet," said expedition leader Alex Rogers, a professor of zoology at Oxford University.
To see these animals in such huge densities was just amazing... We were absolutely stunned to see the animal communities, because they were so different from the hydrothermal vents seen elsewhere.
The yeti crabs seem to cultivate "gardens" of bacteria on their chests, which are covered with hairy tendrils. These bacterial mats almost certainly provides the crabs with sustenance, Rogers said. In turn, predatory seven-armed sea stars stalk the periphery of the vents, snacking on unfortunate crabs.
PLOS Biology Author Summary
Deep-sea hydrothermal vents are mainly associated with seafloor spreading at mid-ocean ridges and in basins near volcanic island arcs. They host animals found nowhere else that derive their energy not from the sun but from bacterial oxidation of chemicals in the vent fluids, particularly hydrogen sulphide. Hydrothermal vents and their communities of organisms have become important models for understanding the origins and limits of life as well as evolution of island-like communities in the deep ocean. We describe the fauna associated with high-temperature hydrothermal vents on the East Scotia Ridge, Southern Ocean, to our knowledge the first to be discovered in Antarctic waters.
These communities are dominated by a new species of yeti crab, stalked barnacles, limpets and snails, sea anemones, and a predatory seven-armed starfish. Animals commonly found in hydrothermal vents of the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans, including giant Riftia tubeworms, annelid worms, vent mussels, vent crabs, and vent shrimps, were not present at the Southern Ocean vents. These discoveries suggest that the environmental conditions of the Southern Ocean may act as a barrier to some vent animals and that the East Scotia Ridge communities form a new biogeographic province with a unique species composition and structure.