Huge ‘hot blob’ in Pacific Ocean killed nearly a million seabirds

Huge ‘hot blob’ in Pacific Ocean killed nearly a million seabirds

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: January 16, 2020 SNIP: A million seabirds died in less than a year as a result of a giant “blob” of hot ocean water off the coast of New Zealand, according to new research. A study released by the University of Washington found the birds, called the common murre, probably died of starvation between the summer of 2015 and the spring of 2016. Most dead seabirds never wash ashore, so while 62,000 dead or dying murres were found along the coasts of Alaska, Washington, Oregon and California, researchers estimate the total number is closer to 1 million. Alaska saw the most birds wash up. In Prince William Sound in southern Alaska, more than 4,500 bird carcasses were found every kilometer, or 0.62 miles. The blob stems from a years-long severe marine heatwave, believed to be caused by an anticyclone weather system that first appeared in 2013. A weather phenomenon known as El Niño accelerated the warming temperatures beginning in 2015 and, by 2016, the rising heat resulted in water temperatures nearly 11F (6C) above average. Anticyclones form when a mass of air cools, contracts and becomes more dense, increasing the weight of the atmosphere and the surface air pressure. Heat maps at the time showed a massive red blob growing, spanning more than 380,000 sq miles (1 million sq km). That’s nearly 1.5 times the size of Texas or four times larger than New Zealand. The study found that the murres mostly likely starved to death. The seabird must eat half its body weight to survive, but food grew scarce amid intense competition from other...
Ocean Warming Is Speeding Up, with Devastating Consequences, Study Shows

Ocean Warming Is Speeding Up, with Devastating Consequences, Study Shows

SOURCE: Inside Climate News DATE: January 14, 2020 SNIP: The world’s oceans are warming at a rapidly increasing pace, new research shows, and the heat is having devastating effects on marine life and intensifying extreme weather. Last year, the oceans were warmer than any time since measurements began over 60 years ago, according to a study published Monday in the journal Advances in Atmospheric Sciences. While global surface temperature measurements go back farther in time, the measurement of ocean heat content is considered one of the most effective ways to show how fast Earth is warming because more than 90 percent of the heat trapped by greenhouse gases goes into the oceans. The new study, the first to analyze ocean temperatures for 2019, was based on two independent data sets and used a new way of filling data gaps to measure ocean temperatures going back to the 1950s. When the scientists compared ocean temperature data from the last three decades (1987-2019) to the three decades before that (1955-1986), they found the rate of warming had increased 450 percent, “reflecting a major increase in the rate of global climate change.” Measured by a common energy unit used in physics, the oceans absorbed 228 sextillion joules of heat in the past 25 years. That’s equivalent to adding the energy of 3.6 billion Hiroshima-size atom bomb explosions to the oceans, said the study’s lead author, Lijing Cheng, with the International Center for Climate and Environmental Sciences at the Institute of Atmospheric Physics. The warming of the oceans has widespread effects. It causes marine heat waves that kill fish and coral reefs, fuels...
Ocean temperatures hit record high as rate of heating accelerates

Ocean temperatures hit record high as rate of heating accelerates

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: January 13, 2020 SNIP: The heat in the world’s oceans reached a new record level in 2019, showing “irrefutable and accelerating” heating of the planet. The world’s oceans are the clearest measure of the climate emergency because they absorb more than 90% of the heat trapped by the greenhouse gases emitted by fossil fuel burning, forest destruction and other human activities. The new analysis shows the past five years are the top five warmest years recorded in the ocean and the past 10 years are also the top 10 years on record. The amount of heat being added to the oceans is equivalent to every person on the planet running 100 microwave ovens all day and all night. Hotter oceans lead to more severe storms and disrupt the water cycle, meaning more floods, droughts and wildfires, as well as an inexorable rise in sea level. Higher temperatures are also harming life in the seas, with the number of marine heatwaves increasing sharply. The most common measure of global heating is the average surface air temperature, as this is where people live. But natural climate phenomena such as El Niño events mean this can be quite variable from year to year. “The oceans are really what tells you how fast the Earth is warming,” said Prof John Abraham at the University of St Thomas, in Minnesota, US, and one of the team behind the new analysis. “Using the oceans, we see a continued, uninterrupted and accelerating warming rate of planet Earth. This is dire news.” “We found that 2019 was not only the warmest year on...
Antarctic Waters: Warmer with More Acidity and Less Oxygen

Antarctic Waters: Warmer with More Acidity and Less Oxygen

SOURCE: University of Arizona News DATE: January 6, 2020 SNIP: The increased freshwater from melting Antarctic ice sheets plus increased wind has reduced the amount of oxygen in the Southern Ocean and made it more acidic and warmer, according to new research led by University of Arizona geoscientists. The researchers found Southern Ocean waters had changed by comparing shipboard measurements taken from 1990 to 2004 with measurements taken by a fleet of microsensor-equipped robot floats from 2012 to 2019. The observed oxygen loss and warming around the Antarctic coast is much larger than predicted by a climate model, which could have implications for predictions of ice melt. “It’s the first time we’ve been able to reproduce the new changes in the Southern Ocean with an Earth system model,” said co-author Joellen Russell, a professor of geosciences. The research is the first to incorporate the Southern Ocean’s increased freshwater plus additional wind into a climate change model, she said. The team used the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s ESM2M model. Previously, global climate change models did not predict the current physical and chemical changes in the Southern Ocean, said Russell, who holds the Thomas R. Brown Distinguished Chair in Integrative Science. “We underestimated how much influence that added freshwater and wind would have. When we add these two components to the model, we can directly and beautifully reproduce what has happened over the last 30 years,” she said. Now, models will be able to do a better job of predicting future environmental changes in and around Antarctica, she said, adding that the Southern Ocean takes up most of the heat...
Gulf Coast Coral Likely To Face Widespread Destruction By The End Of The Century

Gulf Coast Coral Likely To Face Widespread Destruction By The End Of The Century

SOURCE: Kera News DATE: December 26, 2019 SNIP: Without a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, coral reefs throughout the Gulf of Mexico are likely to face widespread bleaching and collapse by the end of the century, according to a new report from several research universities. Researchers from Rice University, the University of Texas at Austin and Louisiana State University used climate models to project future changes in the Gulf’s waters, from Texas to Florida. Specifically, they looked at factors that stress coral reefs, such as temperature rise and acidification. “All of the trends are negative in that we find that the oceans are warming; the ocean is becoming more acidic. Everything that is conducive to coral health is being degraded rapidly,” said Sylvia Dee, an assistant professor of Earth, environmental and planetary sciences at Rice. “What we can say with certainty is that by the end of the 21st century it is highly likely, and almost certain, that many of the coral reef communities in the Gulf of Mexico will be undergoing heating conditions and acidification conditions that are likely to destroy them.” The Gulf Coast is home to numerous coral reef systems, many of which are inside protected areas such as Florida’s John Pennekamp state park and the Flower Banks National Marine Sanctuary off the coast of Galveston. The reefs support fisheries, help protect coastlines and contribute to tourism, Dee said. The researchers also looked at other factors contributing to poor coral health, such as runoff pollution, coral mining and over-fishing. “Those are problems that could be eradicated now, those things could be stopped immediately,” she...