West Coast’s biggest starfish vanishing amid disease, warming oceans, study finds

West Coast’s biggest starfish vanishing amid disease, warming oceans, study finds

SOURCE: Seattle Times DATE: January 30, 2019 SNIP: Once a common delight of every beachcomber, sunflower starfish — the large, multi-armed starfish sometimes seen underwater at the near shore — are imperiled by disease and ocean warming along the West Coast. The devastation occurred over just a few years and even affected starfish in deeper water, according to research co-led by the University of California, Davis, and Cornell University published in the journal Science Advances. At one time plentiful, the sea suns, or sunflower starfish, right now cannot be found off the California coast and are rare northward into Alaska, said Drew Harvell, the paper’s co-author and Cornell professor of ecology and evolutionary biology. The starfish have become so rare over the past three years the scientists consider them endangered in the southern part of their range. Sea star wasting disease beginning in 2013 caused a massive die-off of starfish of multiple species, from Mexico to Alaska. Hideous to behold, the disease causes starfish to fall apart, with pieces of their arms walking away, or their bodies disintegrating on pilings, beaches, rocks and the seafloor. The sunflower star continues to decline, even in the deepest ocean, and is not recovering like some other species, such as the ochre star. Global warming is likely a major cause of the disease, causing a heat wave in the oceans. Warmer temperatures exacerbate sea star wasting disease, allowing it to kill faster and have a bigger impact. Starfish matter in the ocean — and not only because they are every kid’s first friend on the beach. Sunflower stars in particular prey voraciously on sea urchins — which...
Our oceans broke heat records in 2018 and the consequences are catastrophic

Our oceans broke heat records in 2018 and the consequences are catastrophic

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: January 16, 2019 SNIP: Last year was the hottest ever measured, continuing an upward trend that is a direct result of manmade greenhouse gas emissions. The key to the measurements is the oceans. Oceans absorb more than 90% of the heat that results from greenhouse gases, so if you want to measure global warming you really have to measure ocean warming. There are other ways to measure climate change, but none are as convincing as the oceans. While there is certainly a long-term trend of higher air temperatures, any given year may be warmer or colder than the last. So oceans are key, and they are telling us a clear story. The last five years were the five hottest on record. The numbers are huge: in 2018 the extra ocean heat compared to a 1981-2010 baseline amounted to 196,700,000,000,000,000,000,000 joules. The current rate of ocean warming is equivalent to five Hiroshima-size atomic bombs exploding every...
Ocean Warming Is Accelerating Faster Than Thought, New Research Finds

Ocean Warming Is Accelerating Faster Than Thought, New Research Finds

SOURCE: NY Times DATE: January 10, 2019 SNIP: Scientists say the world’s oceans are warming far more quickly than previously thought, a finding with dire implications for climate change because almost all the excess heat absorbed by the planet ends up stored in their waters. A new analysis, published Thursday in the journal Science, found that the oceans are heating up 40 percent faster on average than a United Nations panel estimated five years ago. The researchers also concluded that ocean temperatures have broken records for several straight years. “2018 is going to be the warmest year on record for the Earth’s oceans,” said Zeke Hausfather, an energy systems analyst at the independent climate research group Berkeley Earth and an author of the study. “As 2017 was the warmest year, and 2016 was the warmest year.” As the planet has warmed, the oceans have provided a critical buffer. They have slowed the effects of climate change by absorbing 93 percent of the heat trapped by the greenhouse gases humans pump into the atmosphere. Because they play such a critical role in global warming, oceans are one of the most important areas of research for climate scientists. Average ocean temperatures are also a consistent way to track the effects of greenhouse gas emissions because they are not influenced much by short-term weather patterns. As the oceans heat up, sea levels rise because warmer water takes up more space than colder water. In fact, most of the sea level rise observed to date is because of this warming effect, not melting ice...
Oceans Have Absorbed 60 Percent More Heat Than Previously Thought

Oceans Have Absorbed 60 Percent More Heat Than Previously Thought

SOURCE: Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Nature. DATE: November 1, 2018 UPDATE: November 13, 2018 Scientists acknowledge key errors in study of how fast the oceans are warming Scientists behind a major study that claimed the Earth’s oceans are warming faster than previously thought now say their work contained inadvertent errors that made their conclusions seem more certain than they actually are. Two weeks after the high-profile study was published in the journal Nature, its authors have submitted corrections to the publication. The Scripps Institution of Oceanography, home to several of the researchers involved, also noted the problems in the scientists’ work and corrected a news release on its website, which previously had asserted that the study detailed how the Earth’s oceans “have absorbed 60 percent more heat than previously thought.” “Unfortunately, we made mistakes here,” said Ralph Keeling, a climate scientist at Scripps, who was a co-author of the study. “I think the main lesson is that you work as fast as you can to fix mistakes when you find them.” ORIGINAL SNIP: For each of the past 25 years, oceans have absorbed an amount of heat energy that is 150 times the energy humans produce as electricity annually, according to a study led by researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego and Princeton University. The strong ocean warming the researchers found suggests that Earth is more sensitive to fossil-fuel emissions than previously thought. Study lead author Laure Resplandy, a Princeton assistant professor of geosciences, said that this estimate is more than 60 percent higher than the figure in the most recent...
An ocean ‘heat wave’ just drove temperatures off Maine to near-record highs

An ocean ‘heat wave’ just drove temperatures off Maine to near-record highs

SOURCE: Washington Post DATE: August 31, 2018 SNIP: Sea surface temperatures in the vast Gulf of Maine hit a near-record high of 68.93 degrees Fahrenheit on Aug. 8, part of what scientists called a month-long “marine heat wave” in the normally chilly waters that are home to everything from lobsters to whales. In some parts of the gulf, surface temperatures soared to nearly 11 degrees warmer than normal. Using satellite data, scientists at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute said that over the past 30 years, the waters there have warmed at a rate more than three times the global average. Over the past 15 years, it has warmed at seven times that average. “We’ve set 10 daily temperature records this summer, after setting 18 this winter,” Andrew Pershing, chief scientific officer at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, said, adding that the institute “had to add new colors to our temperature illustrations to reflect just how warm the Gulf of Maine has been this year.” Concerns about marine heat waves have been rising in recent years, in the wake of the widespread bleaching and death of corals caused by similar events in the globe’s tropical...