SOURCE: Breaking Israel News
DATE: June 26, 2020
SNIP: Weeks of heavy rain have put the Three Gorges Dam, the largest hydropower project in the world, in danger of collapse putting 400 million people at risk. The flooding has been described as the worst since 1949 with natural disasters being declared in 24 provinces and municipalities in the southwest and central China, especially in areas near the upper reaches of the Yangtze River and the Three Gorges Dam, causing the reservoir’s water level to exceed the flood control line.
The water level in China’s massive Three Gorges Reservoir reached 147 meters on Saturday, two meters above the flood warning line. Meanwhile, the inflow increased to 26,500 cubic meters per second from 20,500 cubic meters per second on the previous day.
An estimated 400 million people live downstream of the Three Gorges Dam. The Ministry of Water Resources said that 148 rivers had exceeded warning levels. For the first time in history the Chongqing section of the Qijiang River Basin issued a red warning, signifying a flood of more than 10 meters. More than 40,000 people have so far been evacuated.
Made of concrete and steel, the dam is 7,661 feet long and the concrete dam wall is 594 feet high above the rock basis. The dam caused considerable controversy when it was built, displacing over a million people and submerging large areas of the Qutang, Wu and Xiling gorges for about 600km. The dam flooded archaeological and cultural sites and caused significant ecological changes including an increased risk of landslides. The dam has been controversial both domestically and abroad –while creating a deep reservoir that ocean-going freighters can navigate for 2,250km inland from Shanghai on the East China Sea to the inland city of Chongqing.
Days after the first filling of the reservoir, around 80 hairline cracks were observed in the dam’s structure. It was determined that the submerged spillway gates of the dam might pose a risk of cavitation. In addition, the dam sits on a seismic fault. At current levels, 80% of the land in the area is experiencing erosion. In 2010, NASA scientists calculated that the shift of water mass stored by the dams would increase the length of the Earth’s day by 0.06 microseconds and make the Earth slightly more round in the middle and flat on the poles.
In July 2019, a satellite image of Google Maps appeared to show that the Three Gorges Dam was distorted, sparking concerns that it is at the edge of breaking.
SOURCE: CTV News
DATE: June 26, 2020
SNIP: The First Nations Leadership Council (FNLC), which represents First Nations from across the province, is calling for an end to open net-pen salmon farming in B.C.
The FNLC says that among its chief concerns is that farmed salmon may be spreading sea lice to salmon stocks throughout B.C.’s waters, which is lethal to juvenile wild salmon.
While the leadership council acknowledges that there are other contributing factors to a decline in salmon stocks over the past several years, the FNLC cites a study conducted by the Cohen Commission which recommends shutting down net-pen fish farms in the Discovery Islands if they pose a health risk to wild salmon.
The DFO says that if net-pen salmon farms in the Discovery Islands are scientifically proven to “pose more than a minimal risk of serious harm” to wild fish stocks, then fish farms in the area will be required to close.
The FNLC says that now is the time for the DFO to take action, as a recent report published by fish farm companies Mowi, Cermaq and Grieg suggest that sea lice is now appearing in farmed salmon at rates that exceed limits imposed by the government.
“We have known for years that open net-pen salmon farming is one of the main contributors to the massive decline in wild salmon stocks in this province,” said BC Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief Terry Teegee.
“The federal and provincial governments have been taking a piecemeal approach to this problem, with long timeframes for transition to closed containment pens, and only in a few places. We need to end salmon farming in our open oceans now to protect both wild salmon and Indigenous ways of being from extinction,” he said.
SOURCE: The Narwhal
DATE: June 26, 2020
SNIP: The Arctic Ocean could absorb 20 per cent more carbon than previously predicted before the end of the century, according to a recent study.
It’s a jump that could result in even more acidification, jeopardizing marine wildlife.
About 7.5 billion tonnes of carbon was projected to be absorbed by the Arctic Ocean in previous estimates, said Jens Terhaar, the lead author of the research paper, released this month in the journal Nature. The new study — a joint undertaking between the University of Bern in Switzerland and École normale supérieure in Paris — found that this number is actually 1.5 billion tonnes higher (under what’s commonly known as the ‘business as usual’ or RCP8.5 high emissions scenario), reaching 9 billion tonnes of carbon absorbed by 2100.
While the Arctic Ocean represents 1 per cent of global seawater, it’s by far the most vulnerable to a changing climate, Terhaar said.
“That’s mainly just because it’s very cold and colder water holds more carbon.”
The Arctic, in general, will bear the most severe effects of climate change, the study says.
As the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increases, the planet warms and more of that carbon dioxide is dissolved in the surface of the ocean. The increase of dissolved carbon in the ocean decreases the ocean’s pH and also decreases the concentration of carbonate ion — a key component in the calcium carbonate used in the shells and skeletons of calcifying organisms.
These conditions produce water that will corrode shells, which a slew of marine organisms depend on to shore up their only line of defence against predators.
Oysters and pea-sized, swimming sea snails known as sea butterflies, for instance, can’t build their shells without calcium carbonate minerals, leaving them more susceptible to hungry marine mammals such as walruses and whales.
These creatures can adapt to aggressive changes to a degree, Terhaar said, but if acidification gets more pronounced, they simply won’t be able to keep up. He pointed to U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association laboratory tests that show the shell of the sea butterfly can almost completely disappear over a 45-day period when submerged in sea water with pH and carbonate levels projected for the year 2100.
Sea butterflies are as small as the pin of a head and are known to feed a wide variety of marine life from krill, to salmon to whales.
The Arctic Ocean is relatively shallow, making these sources of food easy pickings. If overfeeding occurs, there could be nothing left for marine mammals to eat, Terhaar said.
“I think it’s likely it’s going to be worse than before. It’s very hard to say what it’s doing to the food chain.”
SOURCE: National Geographic
DATE: June 23, 2020
SNIP: An extended heat wave that has been baking the Russian Arctic for months drove the temperature in Verkhoyansk, Russia—north of the Arctic Circle—to 100.4°F on June 20, the official first day of summer in the Northern Hemisphere. This record high temperature is a signal of a rapidly and continually warming planet, and a preview of how Arctic warming will continue in an increasingly hot future, scientists say.
“For a long time, we’ve been saying we’re going to get more extremes like strong heat waves,” says Ruth Mottram, a climate scientist at the Danish Meteorological Institute. “It’s a little like the projections are coming true, and sooner than we might have thought.”
Saturday’s record wasn’t just a quick spike before a return to more normal summer temperatures for the Russian Arctic: The heat wave behind it is projected to continue for at least another week. It was the hottest temperature ever recorded in the town, where records have been kept since 1885.
[C]limate change is “loading the dice” toward extreme temperatures like the one recorded this week…. The Arctic is warming more than twice as fast as the rest of the planet: Baseline warmth in the high Arctic has increased by between 3.6 to 5.4°F(2 to 3°C) over the past hundred or so years. About 0.75°C of that has occurred in the last decade alone.
That means any heat waves that hit the region are strengthened by the extra warming. So the average warmness of a summer increases, and the extremes do too.
This month’s super-hot day emerged from a potent mix of factors. First, climate change nudged base temperatures up. Then, western Siberia experienced one of its hottest-ever spring seasons, according to climate scientists at the EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service. Since December, air temperatures in the region have averaged nearly 11°F (6°C) above the average seen between 1979 and 2019. The high heat is also likely well above the average seen in any similar six-month stretch going back to 1880. In May, air temperatures hovered some 18°F (10°C) above the “normal” May average of 33.8°F (1°C )—something that would be likely to occur only once in 100,000 years, if human-caused climate change hadn’t thrown a wrench in the climate system’s plumbing.
The warm winter and hot spring meant that the snow usually blanketing the ground across much of the region melted about a month earlier than normal. Bright white snow plays a crucial role in keeping parts of the Arctic cool, by reflecting the sun’s incoming heat. Once it had gone away, dirt and plants readily soaked up the heat instead.
Then, the weather conditions aligned. A big, high-pressure system settled into place over western Siberia, where it stalled. These kinds of systems often have clear, cloudless skies—perfect for solar heat to shine through unobstructed, straight onto the hot Siberian ground.
In recent years, the effects of these kinds of immobile heat waves have become more obvious across the Arctic. In 2012, 97 percent of the Greenland ice sheet’s surface got so warm it turned essentially to slush. In 2016, it was so warm in High Arctic Svalbard, Norway, that rain fell instead of snow for part of the winter. Last summer, the edges of the Greenland ice sheet experienced up to three extra months of melting weather. Limpid blue pools formed on its surface; floods of melt gushed off the edge of the continent, and fires broke out in its sparse landscapes after a heat wave parked over the island for weeks.
The poles are warming up more quickly than the rest of Earth because of a phenomenon called “polar amplification.” The sea ice that used to blanket much of the Arctic Ocean provided a bright white cap across the northernmost reaches of the planet. Like the snow that reflects incoming solar radiation in Siberia, the ice bounced the sun’s heat back toward space.
But as Earth has warmed, there’s less sea ice covering the Arctic Ocean, leaving behind dark waters that absorb much more heat. Sea ice forms less readily in that warm water, leading the water to absorb even more solar heat, and the system goes on a self-reinforcing loop.
In June, defrosted soils may have led to the collapse of a diesel storage tank in Siberia, spilling 20,000 metric tons of fuel into a nearby river.
Fires have also been smoldering across the Russian Arctic. The overwarm spring dried out both soils and vegetation, leaving them primed to burn, and over 12 million acres were on fire as of early June, according to Russia’s forest service.
SOURCE: The Guardian
DATE: June 22, 2020
SNIP: In a subarctic fjard estuary just a few miles from frozen tundra, Inuit hunter Karl Michelin says he owes his life to the thousands of barking ringed seals that congregate year-round in local waters.
The seals’ jet-black, heavily fatted meat is a staple for Michelin, his wife, and their toddler. With food insecurity rampant among the region’s Inuit, neighbors are similarly dependent on seals and other wild-caught food. The town’s isolation makes regular employment opportunities scarce, and food prohibitively expensive to import.
But Michelin says his ability to harvest seals is facing a threat from an unexpected quarter: America’s hunger for cheap and renewable electricity.
Canada’s indigenous leaders say an unprecedented push for clean energy in the United States is inadvertently causing long-term environmental damage to the traditional hunting grounds on their public lands.
Rigolet lies downstream of Muskrat Falls, a $12.7bn dam on the Churchill River, a key drainage point for Labrador’s biggest watershed. Nalcor, the state-owned company that completed Muskrat Falls last year, is already planning Gull Island, another Churchill dam that would produce three times as much electricity, mostly for export to the US.
The Nunatsiavut government, which governs 2,700 Inuit in the area, says those dams will disrupt the hydrologic cycle underpinning the ecosystem, and increase exposure to a toxin associated with dam reservoirs.
When land is flooded, naturally occurring mercury is unlocked from the soil and vegetation and released into the water column, where it is taken up by bacteria and transformed into methylmercury, a neurotoxin that makes its way up the food chain and bioaccumulates in fish, waterbirds and seals.
Those species are critical to the sustainable lifestyle practiced by the Inuit.
“When they poison the water, they poison us,” said conservation officer, David Wolfrey, who ensures that Rigolet’s 310 residents observe hunting and fishing limits on fish, caribou, moose and polar bear.
Over the past four years, a slew of US states have unveiled ambitious renewable energy goals: Maine has mandated 80% renewable energy production in Maine, 90% in Vermont, and 100% in Minnesota, California, New York, Washington and Rhode Island. Because those states lack a clear path to meet these goals through local generation, lawmakers are eyeing the reserves of renewable power across the northern border.
Though it has just 37 million people, Canada lags only China among the world’s hydropower superpowers, according to WaterPower Canada, an industry association. With 900 large-scale dams, big hydro already supplies 60% of Canada’s domestic needs.
In the coming years, the industry sees $100bn in expected investments and a potential tripling of output, largely by damming the nation’s last remaining wild rivers.
Potential markets include New York City, where Mayor Bill De Blasio is aggressively pursuing a $3bn transmission line, and Maine, which is considering a $950m transmission line that cuts across its storied north woods.
In recent years, Nalcor and other dam-builders have aggressively courted support from local aboriginal populations – in addition to staffing internal indigenous relations departments, their projects now typically include agreements to fund local community initiatives and, in some cases, full partnerships that have resulted in lucrative payouts to the affected communities.
But those efforts are unlikely to convince Inuit like Alex Saunders, 78, of Labrador’s Happy Valley-Goose Bay. Saunders has been treated for methylmercury poisoning he associates with his heavy dependence on ocean fish and local wildlife. Saunders wishes Americans wouldn’t support large scale hydropower.
“Think about what you’re buying here,” he said. “You’re buying the misery from the local people of northern Canada. That’s not a good thing.”
SOURCE: Physics World
DATE: June 20, 2020
SNIP: Using aerosols to reflect sunlight and cool the planet will weaken storm tracks in the temperate latitudes in both hemispheres, an international team of scientists warn. Their modelling suggests that while such solar geoengineering schemes could reduce the severity of winter storms, they would also stagnate weather systems in the summer. This could lead to more intense heat waves, increases in air pollution, and changes in ocean circulation.
Solar geoengineering involves cooling the Earth by reflecting incoming sunlight and is seen by some scientists as a way of mitigating the effects of global warming. One popular strategy involves placing reflective aerosols in the stratosphere – using aircraft, balloons or blimps – to block sunlight.
But the effects of solar geoengineering are unknown. It would not work as simply as cooling the planet and therefore returning Earth’s climate to pre-industrial levels. Climate under solar geoengineering would be different, as there would still be marked increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels.
Charles Gertler, a graduate student in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in the US, and colleagues were interested in how injecting aerosols into the atmosphere would impact the pole‐to‐equator temperature gradient in both hemispheres, and the effect that could have on extratropical storm tracks. These are regions in the mid and high latitudes with heightened incidences of storms known as extratropical cyclones, which play a significant role in determining the day-to-day weather conditions in many parts of the world.
“Our results show that solar geoengineering will not simply reverse climate change,” Gertler explains. “Instead, it has the potential itself to induce novel changes in climate.”
“A weakened storm track, in both hemispheres, would mean weaker winter storms but also lead to more stagnant weather, which could affect heat waves,” Gertler says. “Across all seasons, this could affect ventilation of air pollution. It also may contribute to a weakening of the hydrological cycle, with regional reductions in rainfall. These are not good changes, compared to a baseline climate that we are used to.” In the southern hemisphere changes in storm track intensity could impact wind‐driven ocean circulations and affect the stability of Antarctic ice sheets, the researchers warn.
“This work highlights that solar geoengineering is not reversing climate change, but is substituting one unprecedented climate state for another,” Gertler says.
SOURCE: Bern University
DATE: June 17, 2020
SNIP: The Arctic Ocean will take up more CO2 over the 21st century than predicted by most climate models. This additional CO2 causes a distinctly stronger ocean acidification. These results were published in a study by climate scientists from the University of Bern and École normale supérieure in Paris. Ocean acidification threatens the life of calcifying organisms – such as mussels and “sea butterflies” – and can have serious consequences for the entire food chain.
The ocean takes up large amounts of man-made CO2 from the atmosphere. This additional CO2 causes ocean acidification, a process that can already be observed today. Ocean acidification particularly impacts organisms that form calcium carbonate skeletons and shells, such as molluscs, sea urchins, starfish and corals. The Arctic Ocean is where acidification is expected to be greatest.
A study that was recently published in the scientific journal Nature by Jens Terhaar from Bern and Lester Kwiatkowski and Laurent Bopp from the École normale supérieure in Paris shows, that ocean acidification in the Arctic Ocean is likely to be even worse than previously thought. The results show that the smallest of the seven seas will take up 20% more CO2 over the 21st century than previously expected, under the assumption that the atmospheric CO2 concentrations continue to increase. “This leads to substantially enhanced ocean acidification, particularly between 200 and 1000 meters”, explains Jens Terhaar, member of the group for ocean modeling at the Oeschger-Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of Bern. This depth range is an important refuge area for many marine organisms.
Ocean acidification negatively impacts organisms that build calcium carbonate skeletons and shells. In sufficiently acidic waters, these shells become unstable and begin to dissolve. “Our results suggest that it will be more difficult for Arctic organisms to adapt to ocean acidification than previously expected“, says co-author Lester Kwiatkowski. A loss of these organisms is likely to impact the entire Arctic food chain up to fish and marine mammals.
Closer and closer to the last dance: Sage grouse continue to struggle as feds try to roll back protections
SOURCE: Magic Valley News
DATE: June 17, 2020
SNIP: About a dozen birds fly in at about 4:30 a.m. from all directions, like a rag-tag squadron of chicken-sized helicopters.
It takes a minute for all the male grouse to arrive at the small clearing in the sagebrush. Their wings whoosh loudly in the pitch black, fluth-uth-uth-uth-uth-uth-th-th-th-t-t-t-t.
When the sage grouse land at the lek, their group breeding grounds, they start dancing. Until dawn, when the sun peaks over the snow-covered buttes and casts an orange glow over the sagebrush, you just hear this display, the bouncy, water-drop sound of the males inflating the air sacks on their chests, competing to attract females.
The spring mating ritual of this stocky, flamboyant bird is becoming increasingly rare. For the past 60 years sage grouse numbers have been declining steadily, but in the last handful of years populations across the bird’s western range have nosedived. Sage grouse numbers have always fluctuated, cyclically, but experts say that doesn’t account for the recent drops.
While leks like this one in southern Twin Falls County, accessible by rugged two-tracks and backdropped to the south by white mountains, are doing relatively well, even sage grouse in the Magic Valley have suffered big losses in the past few decades. Again and again, massive fires gobble up thousands of acres of critical sagebrush habitat.
According to Idaho Fish and Game, the state population, much of which is in the Magic Valley, dropped 52% between 2016 and 2019 — Fish and Game is still analyzing the 2020 lek count data, but Magic Valley Regional Wildlife Manager Mike McDonald said this year’s numbers are similar to 2019’s.
Experts say if protection efforts for sage grouse at the federal and state levels don’t improve, the bird faces a bleak future. Since 2016, the Trump administration has worked to roll back sage grouse protections at a time when scientists say the entire sagebrush ecosystem is under threat and the best available data suggest the bird needs more, not less, help to avoid extinction.
“There’s really no concrete evidence that they (federal agencies) are doing much other than some bureaucratic arm waving,” said Jack Connelly, a leading sage grouse expert who spent decades studying the bird as an Idaho Fish and Game biologist. “It’s pretty discouraging.”
In the past few decades, millions of acres of sagebrush have been lost to wildfire and much more habitat has been degraded by oil and gas mining, new infrastructure and other activities [ED NOTE: Cattle grazing]. Sage grouse are highly specialized to a life in sagebrush — they can’t live without it.
Just under 40% of remaining sage grouse habitat is in Wyoming, where the primary threat to the bird is energy production. In Idaho, another sage grouse stronghold with 14% of remaining sage grouse habitat, the bird mainly faces two, intertwined, threats: Wildfire and invasive species [ED NOTE: Caused by cattle grazing].
There are several factors that have led to massive increases in wildfires — humans, with greater access to public lands, are starting many more fires and climate change is playing a role — but non-native, invasive species like cheatgrass are the biggest contributing factor.
When a fire decimates sagebrush habitat, cheatgrass often springs out of the blackened ground first. The species outcompetes native plants and dries early in the year, turning into thousands of acres of fuel, which often burns once more, kickstarting the cycle anew.
Since 2015, the situation for sage grouse has only gotten worse. Thousands of new oil and gas wells have been permitted and huge amounts of additional sagebrush habitat have burned.
Sage grouse were close to being listed a decade ago, and state populations have already declined by 44% on average since then.
In order for recovery efforts to have a chance to succeed, Connelly said, agencies have to set policies grounded in objective, scientific data. But, he added, the BLM is not making decisions based on science, and the people calling the shots on sage grouse aren’t very knowledgeable.
Besides reducing protections, there are major problems surrounding many of the BLM’s ongoing efforts to help sage grouse, Connelly said.
For example, the BLM plans to build thousands of miles of new fuel breaks, to try and slow down wildfires. Many scientists say the program could do more harm than good. Fuel breaks typically involve new landscape disturbance and there isn’t much data to show they’re effective.
They have to be placed strategically, too, in order to avoid causing new harm to sage grouse habitat.
SOURCE: Anchorage Daily News
DATE: June 17, 2020
SNIP: Modern seismic work conducted for oil companies could leave decades-long scars on the tundra, similar to tracks left by heavy vehicles in the 1980s, according to a paper led by researchers with the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
The research paper, published in April in the journal Ecological Applications, comes as the federal government plans to auction leases for oil exploration in the refuge this year for the first time.
Seismic exploration, in which vehicles travel over protective ice and snow to analyze oil potential underground, would likely precede drilling in the refuge.
The paper analyzed “landscape impacts” from seismic work conducted in the refuge in the mid-1980s that relied on older, two-dimensional seismic shoots. It also looked at past studies of impacts from three-dimensional seismic shoots starting in the 1990s.
The paper estimated potential impacts of SAEexploration’s 2018 proposal. Vehicles would make about 40,000 miles of tracks in the refuge as they crisscrossed the tundra in a grid pattern, the paper said.
About 3,700 miles of those winter trails, or close to 10%, would still be visible a decade after the shoot, the paper says. The impacts include thawing permafrost and permanent changes in vegetation.
SOURCE: Center for Biological Diversity
DATE: June 16, 2020
SNIP: After a contentious 12-hour meeting, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission rejected conservation proposals to adopt a uniform 24-hour trap check time for all wildlife and to ban beaver trapping on federally managed public lands.
The commission also voted 6-1 last Friday to continue the state’s existing furbearer trapping and hunting regulations for the next two years. Oregon’s trapping policies currently allow animals to languish in traps anywhere from 48 hours to 30 days, depending on how they are categorized by statute or rule.
“It’s troubling that the commission upheld Oregon’s cruel, outdated and wasteful trapping program for the benefit of just 1,000 licensed trappers in the entire state,” said Quinn Read, Oregon policy director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “This decision is completely out of step with Oregonians’ changing wildlife values. It’s time to relegate trapping to the dustbin of Oregon’s history.”
While the commission declined to adopt the conservation proposals, they voted unanimously to direct agency staff to review trap-check time requirements and identify proposals for rule changes by January 2021. The commission also supported the concept of forming a beaver working group and indicated its intent to define the roles and responsibilities of such a group at its July meeting.
The Center and its conservation allies advocated for two proposals to reform Oregon’s trapping program. The first proposal asked the commission to close federally managed public lands to commercial and recreational beaver trapping and hunting. Beavers and their dam-building activities are crucial to restoring riparian ecosystems and reducing the harms of climate change, yet beavers are still widely trapped and hunted across the state.
The second proposal asked the commission to adopt a more humane and consistent approach to trap check times by adopting a 24-hour trap-check time for all categories of native wildlife. This state’s current approach, which can leave traps unchecked for days or even weeks, imposes arbitrary suffering on different animals and is out of step with the majority of states that have adopted a daily or 24-hour trap-check requirement.
Oregon’s furbearer regulations govern the trapping of furbearers for their hides and pelts and accompanying reporting requirements. Under Oregon law furbearers include such animals as bobcats, muskrats, river otters, beavers and raccoons.
[ED NOTE: Only a sick and twisted culture that views living beings as objects would support trapping. We live in such a culture.]