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The map above shows North American land surface temperatures from May 17–24, 2015, compared to the 2001–2010 average for the same eight-day period. Shades of red depict areas that were hotter than the long-term average; areas in blue were below average for the week. White pixels were normal, and gray pixels did not have enough data, most likely due to excessive cloud cover. NASA Earth Observatory

This temperature anomaly map is based on data from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite. Observed by satellites uniformly around the world, land surface temperatures (LSTs) are not the same as air temperatures. LSTs reflect the heating of the land surface by sunlight and they can sometimes be significantly hotter or cooler than air temperatures. (To learn more about LSTs and air temperatures, read: Where is the Hottest Place on Earth?)

On May 23, the air temperature at Fairbanks International Airport reached 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Celsius), breaking the record of 80°F (26.7°C) from 2002. That same day, thermometers hit 91°F (32.8°C) in Eagle, marking the earliest 90-degree day in state history. The town had nine consecutive days above 80°F. In Barrow, Alaska, on the shores of the Arctic Ocean, temperatures climbed to 47°F on May 21, close to 18°F above normal. Temperatures normally do not reach that high until mid-June.

To the south and east, at least 12 temperature records were set in Canada’s Yukon and Northwest Territories. Temperatures in Faro reached 81.3°F (27.4°C), 14°F (7.5°C) above the old record. With humidity levels between 10 and 20 percent, civil agencies warned of wildfire. At least 31 fires were reported in the Yukon alone as of May 24.

The town of Eagle Alaska, near the border with the Yukon Territory experienced temperatures in the 80's for seven straight days. The warmest was 86. Interior areas of Alaska are now experiencing high fire danger areas, rapid snow melt that is draining into rivers. On Monday, the Dalton Highway which is the only road to the North Slope oil fields, was shutdown by up to 2 feet of water flooding the road.

The image below is not a picture from flood ravaged Texas or Oklahoma. This image was taken at mile post 394 on the north slope of Alaska.

Flooding and erosion of Alaska's Dalton Highway at milepost 394 on May 18, 2015.  (State of Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities) explains that this happened due to Super Typhoons, Noul and Dolphin.

"A series of two western Pacific super typhoons -- Noul and Dolphin -- have done a number on the (jet stream) pattern across the north Pacific following their extratropical transition," says Dr. Michael Ventrice, Operational Scientist at The Weather Channel Professional Division.

Ventrice says the ex-typhoons created "high-latitude wave breaking," creating a pronounced northward diversion of the jet stream over the eastern two-thirds of Alaska and northwest Canada.

A subtle southward dip in the jet stream, or trough, may edge far enough east from the Bering Sea to take the top off temperatures in Alaska's interior early next week.

Otherwise, blocking high pressure aloft -- known by meteorologists as an "omega block" because it resembles the Greek letter omega -- will generally remain over Alaska and western Canada into much of next week.

This means more 70s along the Gulf of Alaska coast, 80s in the interior, and yes, more highs flirting with the 40s in Barrow.

The global view can be see here.

NASA explains:

The global view of land surface temperatures for May 17–24  reflects cooler temperatures in eastern Canada, where vineyards lost some of their crop due to late-season frost. In the southwestern United States, cooler temperatures and data gaps reflect the persistent cloud cover and rainfall over much of the area.

Around the world in southern Asia, however, the LST map shows its limitations. India has also been caught in a heat wave. However, the MODIS sensor did not observe a single cloud-free day across the entire country in the eight-day period. Cloudy patches on different days over different parts of the country may have caused the heat signal to be smoothed out. It is also possible that warm, humid air masses were more responsible for the heat wave than direct solar heating of the ground. Either way, daytime land surface temperatures did not register as anomalous compared to other years.


Mary Landrieu, who lost her Louisiana Senate seat in 2014 to Bill Cassidy, has landed a job with Washington lobbying firm Van Ness Feldman This is not a surprise as she was besties with the biggest fossil fuel industries on the planet. Landrieu’s move to a firm filled with clients she helped promote continues  Washington revolving door of politicians joining the industries she used to promote as Senator.

According to the website Open Secrets, VNF's client base includes several companies dealing in oil and gas, as well as the energy field in general — a natural fit for Landrieu, who served as chair of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources in 2014. The company has offices in Washington D.C. and Seattle.
 A December article in Politico, published shortly after Landrieu lost her bid for the Senate, described her as "a hot commodity on K Street," adding, "Several headhunters, veteran lobbyists and consultants said Landrieu’s status as a moderate Democrat and senior member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee make her a top recruit from Capitol Hill."

 In a statement from VNF, Landrieu was quoted as saying, “I am proud to join Van Ness Feldman. I have always respected the firm and worked closely with them during my 18 years in the Senate. Their substantive and sophisticated approach to important public policy issues in the areas of energy, the environment and natural resources was a major factor in my decision making process. It is a bipartisan firm that has its roots in the Congress itself, being founded in 1977 by four senior counsels of key House and Senate legislative committees. I look forward to being part of the Van Ness Feldman team to help businesses, governments and non-governmental organizations achieve solutions for the wide range of challenges they face."


The Indonesian Navy destroys foreign fishing vessels caught fishing illegally in waters near North Sulawesi yesterday. Photo: REUTERS

Divers and scientists report that Indonesia's reefs are missing their big fish. The mother of all reefs is, and has been, over exploited by illegal foreign fishing ships. Some ships are trawlers that kill everything in the path of it's large and deadly nets. As a result, the coastal communities of Indonesia are fishing for juvenile fish and other protein that they can grind into fishmeal and use as feed for coastal prawn farms.

National Geographic reports.

Indonesia is at the center of the Coral Triangle, one of the most biologically diverse areas in the world with over 76% of the world’s coral species and 37% of the world’s reef fish species within its boundaries. Global trends for this region demonstrate that fishing effort has been and is increasing at a faster rate than any other region of the world’s oceans. Fishery management is failing to reach sustainability. Recent studies have shown that the increase of fishing pressure is threatening the health of fish stocks, impacting coral health, and resulting in underperforming fisheries. This is significant considering that 50% of the protein intake by thousands of coastal communities comes from fish and that hundreds of thousands of people – including many women – have a job direct or indirectly related to Indonesian fisheries.

To date, the challenges of enforcing, monitoring, and controlling catch and effort regulation in Indonesia’s multi-species, multi-gear fisheries have been considered too high. The culprits were considered to be foreign fleets, legal or illegally operating inside Indonesian waters. Also, local fishers would point to roaming groups of dynamite and cyanide fishers as a major problem. Until now, not much thought has been given to how local coastal fishers contribute to overfishing. Since the transmigration programs and programs that provide subsidized technology, today and every day, an armada of hundreds of thousands of small and medium scale fishers put their fishing gears in waters inside the 4-nautical mile zone, along all coasts of the Indonesian archipelago

The good news out of Jakarta yesterday is that the government has had it with this problem and sank a large Chinese fishing vessel.  They also sank 40 other foreign boats that had been caught fishing illegally in Indonesian waters. Beijiing is not expected to take this news lightly. Other regional capitals will bristle as well.

Today reports:

The 300 gross tonne Chinese vessel was destroyed with a low-explosive device on its hull in West Kalimantan, said Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti.

“This is not a show of force. This is just merely (us) enforcing our laws,” Ms Susi was quoted as saying by The Jakarta Post.

The Gui Xei Yu 12661 is the first Chinese boat to be sunk since Indonesian President Joko Widodo declared war on illegal foreign fishing boats last December.

The Indonesian Navy detained Gui Xei Yu in 2009 after it was caught fishing near the South China Sea, a hotly disputed area involving China and South-east Asian nations such as Malaysia and Vietnam.

Besides the Chinese ship, the authorities also destroyed 40 other vessels in different places across the country. They included five boats from Vietnam, two boats from Thailand and 11 from the Philippines, The Post reported.

Shortly after assuming office last October, Mr Widodo launched a campaign to protect Indonesia’s maritime resources and domestic fishing industry, which loses billions of dollars in revenues to illegal fishing each year. He has also pledged to transform Indonesia into a maritime power and, in December last year, orchestrated a much-publicised sinking of three empty Vietnamese vessels.


Scientists have discovered that the ice shelves of South Antarctica, located in the Bellingshausen sea, are in rapid melt. This new study follows reports that the remnants of Larsen B should disintegrate within a few years, that a 17 mile crack has been spotted on Larsen C and that Larsen C is at risk of collapse. The discovery that the southern ice shelves are in rapid melt is new. reports:

Using measurements of the elevation of the Antarctic ice sheet made by a suite of satellites, the researchers found that the Southern Antarctic Peninsula showed no signs of change up to 2009. Around 2009, multiple glaciers along a vast coastal expanse, measuring some 750km in length, suddenly started to shed ice into the ocean at a nearly constant rate of 60 cubic km, or about 55 trillion litres of water, each year.

This makes the region the second largest contributor to sea level rise in Antarctica and the ice loss shows no sign of waning.

The  Christian Science Monitor expands on the story.
As Antarctica’s ice shelves collapse, the glaciers they buttress will contribute to sea level rise. Currently, the glaciers in the study, which lie along 500 miles of the southern Antarctic Peninsula coast, are losing some 56 billion tons of ice a year to the ocean, according to the new study.

The losses began suddenly in 2009 and come in addition to losses from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, which is shedding 80 billion to 110 billion tons of ice a year, according to the study.

Some losses from nearby ice shelves have been underway for decades. But the seemingly abrupt onset of significant ice losses along the southern coast of the Antarctic Peninsula is an eye-opener, suggests Dr. Gardner of JPL.

Recent studies have shown that Antarctica's two continental ice sheets are more sensitive to changes in ocean and air temperatures than previously thought, he notes. But as relatively warm water from deep reaches of the Southern Ocean moved onto the continental shelf, the thinning sped up, melting the ice shelves from underneath, the researchers of the new study concluded.


Example of an ocean eddy (not from the study) as seen from space (Credit: NASA Earth Observatory)

We are aware of the dead zones along inhabited areas of coast line, particularly in the US East Coast Gulf of Mexico and the Baltic Sea. These dead zones are a result of fertilizer, oil (think BP's Gulf of Mexico oil spill) and other chemicals. No sea life can survive in them as the pollutants trigger massive algae blooms. Once the bloom dies it sinks to the sea bed and are consumed by bacteria that depletes the oxygen in the water. For the first time dead zones have been found in deep open water in the tropical Atlantic ocean.

The European Geosciences Union reports that a team of German and Canadian researchers have discovered dead zones hundreds of miles off the coast of Africa. These dead zones are created by large eddies and have a probability of encountering islands killing all the ocean life that the residents need to survive.

The newly discovered dead zones are unique in that they form within eddies, large masses of water spinning in a whirlpool pattern. “The few eddies we observed in greater detail may be thought of as rotating cylinders of 100 to 150 km in diameter and a height of several hundred metres, with the dead zone taking up the upper 100 metres or so,” explains Karstensen. The area around the dead-zone eddies remains rich in oxygen.

“The fast rotation of the eddies makes it very difficult to exchange oxygen across the boundary between the rotating current and the surrounding ocean. Moreover, the circulation creates a very shallow layer – of a few tens of meters – on top of the swirling water that supports intense plant growth,” explains Karstensen. This plant growth is similar to the algae blooms occurring in coastal areas, with bacteria in the deeper waters consuming the available oxygen as they decompose the sinking plant matter. “From our measurements, we estimated that the oxygen consumption within the eddies is some five times larger than in normal ocean conditions.”

The eddies studied in the Biogeosciences article form where a current that flows along the West African coast becomes unstable. They then move slowly to the west, for many months, due to the Earth’s rotation. “Depending on factors such as the [eddies’] speed of rotation and the plant growth, the initially fairly oxygenated waters get more and more depleted and the dead zones evolve within the eddies,” explains Karstensen. The team reports concentrations ranging from close to no oxygen to no more than 0.3 millilitres of oxygen per litre of seawater. These values are all the more dramatic when compared to the levels of oxygen at shallow depths just outside the eddies, which can be up to 100 times higher than those within.


A cemetery on the shoreline on Majuro Atoll being flooded at high tide in 2008. The low-lying Marshall Islands, a Pacific atoll chain that rises barely a meter above sea level. Giff Johnson/AFP/Getty Images

At a recent meeting in London, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) passed on the opportunity to set global emissions standards for the shipping industry. The Marshall Islands, which are experiencing the effects of rapid sea level rise, had proposed a cap on the shipping industry's emissions. Due to no verifiable measure on how to monitor progress, the Pacific island nation's plea was rejected by the IMO. Eficiency is a very top priority of the shipping industry and progress has been made.  But it's just not enough as Maritime CO2 emissions are projected to increase 50% to 250% percent by 2050.

In a must read blog post by Carbon Brief, the growing shipping sector has become a major player in GHG.

More than 90% of global trade goes by sea. According to the IMO, there were more than 104,000 ships in the world registered in over 150 nations in 2010.This comes with an environmental cost. Shipping is responsible for around 3.1% of global carbon dioxide emissions. Every year between 2007 and 2012, ships emitted an average of one billion tonnes of carbon dioxide - more than Germany.Total global emissions must fall to  net zero in the second half of the century in order to have a good chance of meeting an international target of limiting average temperature rise to below 2C, according to the UN's panel of climate scientists.

Sea level rise will threaten every single sea port in the near future. The most danger comes from storm surge which we witnessed with hurricanes Katrina, Rita and most recently super storm Sandy. "Warmer water in the oceans pumps more energy into tropical storms, making them stronger and potentially more destructive. Even with storms of the same intensity, future hurricanes will cause more damage as higher sea levels exacerbate storm surges, flooding, and erosion."Bloomberg Business reports on the top 20 cities with billions at risk from climate change.

More than 130 port cities around the world are at increasing risk from severe storm-surge flooding, damage from high storm winds, rising and warming global seas and local land subsidence. Poorly planned development often puts more people in vulnerable areas, too, increasing risk. About $3 trillion of assets are at risk today, a tally on track to reach $35 trillion by 2070, according to an ongoing study by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development.
The world's seaports are not prepared for the expensive infrastructure improvements needed to survive sea level rise. Only a few have even begun to discuss adaption and that first occurred in 2009. In researching this diary, I have found very few studies and data on sea level rise impacts to the worlds ports. The NY Times reported on this issue back in 2011, but had to focus primarily on what had been observed on the Gulf coast after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita as data is simply not available. Powerful wind storms can not only inundate the port, but roads, train lines, electricity, and other infrastructure. Pacific Islands look to first zero emissions cargo network stating that the best option may be to delve into their own maritime traditions.

Attribution unknown

Pacific Islands look to first zero emissions cargo network

If wind power is adapted, a huge dent in GHG emissions are possible. Good intentions do not make policy though.

This, at least, is the vision of several groups, including Sailing for Sustainability and the Fijian Island Voyaging Society, which are trying to bring these designs back to life and apply them in a way that could act as inter island traders. Greenheart projects campaigns co-ordinator Jennifer Teeter said the “Sail-Powered Village Vessels” pilot Programme, and the creation of the first zero-emissions cargo network in the world, would be transformative for the Pacific community. “Sea-transport is literally these islands’ lifelines and servicing such communities has long been a major development barrier for Pacific governments,” she says.


Images: NASA Earth Observatory, gif by Rosamund Pearce for Carbon Brief

Click to view the break up of Larsen B

Of the 4 Larsen ice shelves, Shelf A became the first ice shelf to collapse in Antarctica in 1995. Shelf B collapsed in 2002. The next southern shelf C, is on the verge of collapse and even further south only Shelf D will remain for the foreseeable future. This process has taken 20 years of warming to get us to this point. Shelf C is about the area of Scotland, "it is five times larger than the Larsen B (itself five times as large as the Larsen A), “so when Larsen C goes, it’s going to be a really big event,” Paul Holland, a researcher with the British Antarctic Survey, said."

Climate Central reports.

The loss of the Larsen A and B ice shelves caused the glaciers behind them to speed their flow to the sea, contributing to the rise of global sea levels that are already threatening the the more than 1 billion people that live along coastlines. Since the beginning of the 20th century, global sea levels have risen by 8 inches, making storm surges during events like Hurricane Sandy higher and more destructive than they once were and causing more regular minor floods in coastal areas.
But on the Antarctic Peninsula — the arm that stretches northward from the continent toward South America — rising air temperatures are impacting the ice. The region is a global hotspot for warming, with temperatures that have risen by about 5°F in the past 50 years, while the globe as a whole has warmed by about 1.3°F.

A study published last year pointed the finger at this warming as the reason for the Larsen B collapse, arguing that the elevated temperatures caused excessive surface melt that led to significant cracks in the ice.

When it comes to the Larsen C shelf, both warming air and melting ice are potential culprits. The surface of the ice shelf has been getting lower and lower in recent decades, but it was unclear what the source of that lowering was. It could be that the layer of compacted snow at the surface, called firn, was melting and compacting further still, or it could be that ice from the bottom of the shelf was melting, causing the height of the glacier to adjust. Or it could be some combination of the two.

The Carbon Brief explains the new study's finding on the two pronged attack to Larsen C.
The Antarctic Peninsula is one of the fastest warming regions on Earth. Temperatures have risen by 2.5C in the past 50 years, the researchers say.

A separate study last year found that warming air was the principal cause of the Larsen-B collapse. When warm air melts the top of an ice shelf, pools of water form on the surface. The water seeps into cracks in the ice, eroding and widening them until the ice shelf splits and pieces break off. This is how icebergs are formed, in a process called 'calving'. Larsen-B collapsed because of rapid and widespread calving, the researchers found.

Ice shelves can also melt from underneath as the ocean warms. As the ice thins, it loses support from the sea bed as it retreats. This can make it unstable and vulnerable to collapse.

Previously, scientists weren't sure whether the Larsen-C ice sheet was melting from the top down or the bottom up. In another video clip from BAS, Prof David Vaughan, who wasn't directly involved in the study, says the research shows it's actually both:

"All of the indications are that Larsen-C is thinning, and this current research tells us it's thinning from above and from below - a two-pronged attack."

Ice Shelf Stability

There are different factors that affect the stability of the ice shelf, today's paper says. Some would would trigger a collapse over many decades, but others could threaten it in a few years.

For example, a separate study earlier this year found a large crack in the Larsen-C ice shelf grew rapidly during 2014 - at one point extending 20 km in just eight months. This rift could cause a large section of ice to break off, generating "the largest calving event since the 1980s", presenting a significant risk to Larsen-C's stability, the study says.

While scientists might not be able to pin down exactly when the collapse of Larsen-C might be set in motion, today's paper suggests it could well happen without much warming.

We have known that many projections of climate change have been conservative. This is another instance of conservative projections being incorrect. The earths polar regions are warming much more than the rest of the planet. Our coastal populations are threatened even sooner then expected with rising sea levels.

The new study was published today in The Cryosphere.


This July 17, 2012 photo released by the U.S. Geological Survey shows adult female walruses on an ice flow with young walruses in the Eastern Chukchi Sea, Alaska. A remote plateau on the Arctic Ocean floor, where thousands of Pacific walrus gather to feed and raise pups, has received new protections from the Obama administration that recognize it as a biological hot spot and mark it off-limits to future oil drilling

Shell Oil has received permission from the Bureau of Ocean Management to drill for oil in the Chukchi. What is odd is that Obama just approved a large section of the Chukchi for protection. Any spill of oil will just slosh around in the currents and contaminate the shoal that he preserved anyways.

Hanna Shoal rises from the shallow Chukchi Sea and teems with plankton, clams and marine worms that attract walrus and bearded seals. The remote area lies 80 miles off the state's northwest coast, beyond even sparsely populated subsistence whale hunting towns such as Barrow, the northernmost community in the U.S.
Federal estimates, however, show that the Chukchi and Beaufort seas could hold 26 billion barrels of recoverable oil, and many Alaska leaders are eager to begin drilling in the area to create jobs and fund state government projects and services.
Time reports:
The oil and gas giant still must receive approval from other agencies, but a stamp of approval from the federal BOEM removes what was perhaps the plan’s most significant potential stumbling block.

“We have taken a thoughtful approach to carefully considering potential exploration in the Chukchi Sea,” said BOEM Director Abigail Ross Hopper in a statement. The drilling would be consistent with “high standards for the protection of this critical ecosystem, our Arctic communities, and the subsistence needs and cultural traditions of Alaska Natives,” she said.

This approval comes just a month after Shell's drill ship Noble Discoverer failed inspection in Honolulu.

Think Progress notes the BOEM rule that is supposed to keep oil out of the delicate Arctic ecosystem.

The proposed rule, which is preliminary and is expected to take at least a year to reach its final version, would for the first time impose specific requirements on oil companies that want to take the plunge into the Arctic’s icy waters. Among those are requirements for companies to have contingency plans for mishaps — companies must be able to “promptly deploy” emergency containment equipment to deal with a spill, and must build a second rig close to their initial operations so a relief well could be drilled in the event of a blowout, among other things.

Only exploratory drilling is covered by the rule, not large-scale production, which is not expected to be approved for another few years. Thirteen percent of the world’s undiscovered oil reserves and 30 percent of its undiscovered gas — up to 160 billion barrels of oil — are thought to be held in the Arctic.

On the one hand, environmentalists are glad that some kind of safety rule has been proposed, but on the other, they are queasy about the prospect of drilling in one of the most environmentally sensitive and isolated areas of the world. One of the loudest criticisms of Arctic drilling is that oil spills there would be notoriously hard to clean — weather conditions are frigid and often unpredictable. In a 2011 report, Canada’s National Energy Board found that even during the warm season, cleanup conditions are not possible about 20 percent of the time in June, 40 percent of the time in August and 65 percent of the time in October.

Please see zmom's diary on this subject. This news is just maddening.

Earth just experienced the warmest winter on record. Temperatures for December–February beat the previous winter record in 2007 by 0.05 degrees, NOAA's National Climatic Data Center reported. Global temperature records go back to 1880. The State of Oregon, where Mount Hood's Sandy Glacier, experienced it's second warmest winter in 2014 and 2015.

The Sandy Glacier on Mount Hood has a system of glacial ice caves that have responded to this unprecedented heat. Ice caves are temporary, but the Snow Dragon cave's roof collapsed highlighting the rapid melting process that can be seen from below the glacier.

Glacier Hub reports:

This was always a fate for the ice cave that could have been anticipated. For years, many climbers  have said Snow Dragon and other cave systems like it would melt before long. Ice thawing from within the glaciers forms the caves. As that thawing continues and expands outwards, it begins to breach the surface. Once tunnels open to the surface, the glaciers continue to melt in an increasing positive feedback: warm surface air travels down the tunnels to the glacier’s core, increasing the rate of melt and creating new surface openings.
Brent McGregor and Eddy Cartaya have been documenting the caves since 2011. Check out their Facebook page and Instagram accounts.

Moulins and caves are normal features in glaciers. They compose the drainage system for rivers of ice. Outdoor Project elaborates:

Glaciologists have found that large glacial caves such as these only occur in thin, dying glaciers, whereas caves that form in larger and thicker glaciers quickly collapse under their own weight. Because the peaks of the Cascade Range lie in relatively warm climates (as opposed to Alaska, for instance), surface friction alone is often enough to introduce some melting. Once a channel of water is formed, its size will only increase over time as more water passes through. Additionally, the caves allow warm air to enter deep into the glacier, ensuring an even quicker melting process.

The process is not without precedent: The Paradise Glacier Caves on Mount Rainier's south side were once a major attraction to the national park. By the 1970s, however, the ceiling began to collapse. Today, the caves are long gone, and the lower portion of the glacier no longer exists.

“Requiem of Ice” Amazing Timelapse Video Shows Melting of the Largest Glacier Cave in the Country


A very punny screenshot from the organizers' website.

Not only is Shell's arctic drilling fleet expected to cause catastrophic impacts to the Arctic Ocean, it apparently causes problems in local waters where ever it goes.

Vice News reports:

A drill ship at the heart of Shell's hunt for Arctic oil flunked a Coast Guard inspection last month when a piece of anti-pollution gear that already cost its owner millions in fines failed again.

The Coast Guard held the Noble Discoverer in Honolulu for a day until engineers could repair the device that separates oil from the water in the ship's bilges, said Lt. Scott Carr, a spokesman for the service. The April 23 inspection occurred less than five months after vessel owner Noble Drilling pleaded guilty to a variety of federal charges and paid $12.2 million in fines, partly for dumping oily water overboard when the same machine didn't work.

"They attempted to fix it. They couldn't get it fixed," Carr told VICE News. "They couldn't get it operating, and they were given a detention hold. Then they got the part, got it fixed, and got it out the door."

The 514-foot ship is now en route to Seattle, where Shell plans to muster another expedition into the remote Chukchi Sea off Alaska. It will be the multinational oil giant's first attempt to drill there since the ill-fated summer of 2012, when Noble Discoverer was plagued by engine trouble and the drill platform Kulluk ran aground in a storm at the season's end.


The drill ship Noble Discoverer whose operators just pleaded guilty to 8 environmental and maritime felonies and paid $12.2 million in fines and community service due to the drilling rig Kulluk. a 266-foot conical drill barge breaking free of its lines while being towed back to port in Seattle after a 2012 summer season of drilling for oil off the coast of Alaska. Troubles were compounded when the tow vessel, the Aiviq, lost all four of its engines due to possible fuel contamination, and the drill rig was briefly adrift.

Apparently, Noble Drilling (U.S.) LLC  has not corrected the problem of it's oil water separator (OWS). "The OWS is supposed to prevent oil-contaminated water from being dumped overboard, but the Noble Discoverer used an impromptu, uncertified pollution system instead, dumped stuff overboard anyway, and hid it from the Coast Guard. The piece of equipment that failed in Hawaii? The OWS." reports the Stranger.

The DOJ in a press release on 12-8-14, noted some of the terms of the plea agreement.

Under the terms of the plea agreement, Noble admits that it knowingly made false entries and failed to record its collection, transfer, storage, and disposal of oil in the Noble Discoverer’s and the Kulluk’s oil record books in 2012. Oil record book entries falsely reflected that the Noble Discoverer’s Oil Water Separator (OWS) was used during periods of time when in fact the OWS was inoperable. Under the International MARPOL protocol and the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships, all overboard discharges must pass through an operating OWS to insure that water pumped overboard does not contain more than 15ppm of oil.

Noble also admits that it failed to log numerous transfers and storage of machinery space bilge water and waste oil and failed to log that the Noble Discoverer’s oil content meter audible alarm was nonfunctional. Noble also made modifications to the Noble Discoverer’s new OWS system after the OWS system passed inspections by the Classification Society and the U.S. Coast Guard. Noble did not inform the U.S. Coast Guard or the Classification Society of the modifications and did not receive an International Oil Pollution Prevention certificate that documented the unapproved decanting system, the increased storage, or the new OWS piping arrangement.

Noble had problems managing the bilge and wastewater that was accumulating in the engine room spaces of the Noble Discoverer. This and other conditions led to a number of problems. Noble devised a makeshift barrel and pump system to discharge water that had entered the vessel’s engine room machinery spaces directly overboard from the Noble Discoverer without processing it through the required pollution prevention equipment as required by law. Noble failed to notify the Coast Guard about this system, and took steps to actively hide the fact that it was being used. These false and missing record entries and the use of the illegal overboard discharge system all violated the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships.

In the factual basis of the plea agreement, Noble also admits that it negligently discharged machinery space bilge water from the Noble Discoverer into Broad Bay, Unalaska, on July 22, 2012. While anchored in Dutch Harbor, the Noble Discoverer’s bilge holding tank 27S overflowed and went overboard, creating a sheen in Broad Bay.

In Washington state a three-day-long "festival of resistance" against Shell's presence in Seattle between May 16 and May 18 is planned.

"We are taking action against Shell because we are fighting for the lives of people facing the brunt of climate change, in countries such the Philippines, Vanuatu, Maldives, and Tuvalu," Bayan-USA Pacific Northwest co-coordinator Katrina Pestaño said in a statement.

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'It's catastrophic, really. They kill 99 per cent of things they come in contact with".
David Barnes, British Antarctic Survey

An iceberg 17 miles long,  now named B-34,  cracked and broke loose from Antarctica's Getz Ice Shelf. The Getz ice shelf is roughly 300 miles long and up to 60 miles wide. Ice shelves in Antarctica have an average thickness of between 1,300 to 1,600 feet and some can extend out hundreds of miles off the coast. The Amundsen shelves are grounded on a bed that lies below sea level and several large islands are partially or wholly embedded in the ice shelf.  The Amundsen Sea ice shelves are weak and more prone to climate change. It is thought to be melting at a rate triple of what it had 10 years ago. NASA notes:

"Why is the Amundsen Sea region more at risk than other parts of West Antarctica?

In addition to the ice sheet being grounded below sea level, there are three main reasons. First, the glaciers here lack very large ice shelves to stem ice flow. Second, they aren’t "pinned" by obstructions in their beds except in a few small places, unlike the Ronne and Ross shelves which are pinned down by large islands. Third, as first observed in the 1990s, the area is vulnerable to a regional ocean current, ushered in by the shape of the sea floor and the proximity of the circumpolar deep current. This current delivers warm water to grounding lines and the undersides of ice shelves in the region."

NASA reports on the recent finding that B-34 has separated from the ice shelf:

B-34 is the 34th iceberg from the “B” quadrant of Antarctica (located between 90 degrees East and 180 degrees) to be tracked by the NIC. The new berg is still smaller, however, than the much older B-15T—a fragment of B-15 that initially broke off from the Ross Ice Shelf in March 2000.

Large icebergs can have large-scale impacts on the Southern Ocean. For example, as the bergs melt, the addition of cold, fresh water to the saltwater ocean can affect ocean currents and circulation. Researchers have shown, however, that even more fresh water comes from the melting of smaller and much more numerous bergs.

In just 17 years, icebergs have decimated the sea life near western Antarctica. In 1997 a 500 square mile section of sea bottom was studied and discovered to have colorful coral like creatures called "moss animals". These creatures filter the water for food. Upon return in 2013, the researchers discovered that all but one of these species had vanished.

CBC news reports:

As the glaciers retreat and the ice shelves collapse on the West Antarctic Peninsula, they break off into floating chunks of ice, some of them extremely massive.

Fifty years ago, icebergs couldn't move around much because most years, the sea surface was frozen for much of the year. But recently, Barnes said, most years, the sea is frozen for less than 50 days a year. That leaves the icebergs free to drift and blow in the wind until they crash boulders on the sea floor, pounding and scraping away everything that lived on them.

The animals that live on the sea floor are called benthos. Species can include sea anemones, sponges, corals, sea stars, sea urchins, worms, bivalves, crabs, and many more. These organisms grow very slowly in the ice cold water, have low levels of reproduction, colonization and growth. Ice shelves and ice bergs scour the bottom killing everything in its path. This is not good news for the southern ocean food web.

From Current Biology:

Life on Antarctica’s coastal seabed rollercoasters between food-rich, open-water, iceberg-scoured summers and food-sparse winters, when the sea surface freezes into ‘fast-ice’, locking up icebergs, reducing their seabed collisions (scouring). In the last half century, there have been massive losses of winter sea ice along the Antarctic Peninsula, as well as retreat of glaciers and disintegration of ice shelves coincident with rapid recent regional warming [1] . More calving from glaciers and ice shelves coupled with less winter ice should increase scouring of the seabed — which is where most Antarctic species live (http// Polar benthos are considered highly sensitive to change, slow growing and all endemic. However, the only published effect of increased scouring on benthos has been increased mortality of the pioneer species Fenstrulina rugula, adjacent to Rothera Research station, West Antarctic Peninsula [2] (Supplemental information; Figure S1 ). It is likely that the recent increase in mortality in this species reflects the mortality of other species on hard substrata. A 2013 survey dive at a nearby locality (Lagoon Island) revealed large areas where no live mega- or macro-fauna could be found, the first time this has been observed there despite being regularly visited by scientific divers since 1997. Here, we report the first assemblage level changes coincident with increased scouring.
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