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...
‘Cooked’: Study finds Great Barrier Reef transformed by mass bleaching

‘Cooked’: Study finds Great Barrier Reef transformed by mass bleaching

SOURCE: The Sydney Morning Herald DATE: April 18, 2018 SNIP: Corals in the Great Barrier Reef have a lower tolerance to heat stress than expected, contributing to a permanent transformation of the mix of species in some of most pristine regions, a team of international researchers has found. The scientists examined the impact of the 2016 marine heatwave that alone caused the death of about one-third of the Great Barrier Reef corals, mostly centered on the northern third section. They studied how much abnormal heat triggers bleaching, the additional heat that killed the corals, and the accumulation needed to cause “an ecological collapse in the transformation of species”, said Terry Hughes, Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University, and the lead of author of the paper published Thursday in Nature. The thresholds “are lower than we thought they would be“, Professor Hughes told Fairfax Media. Just as coral species responded differently to the heat stress, so too have fish species that depend on them. Butterfly fish, for instance, feed on only a couple of coral species. “If their diet disappears, so do they,” Professor Hughes...
As coral reefs die, huge swaths of the seafloor are deteriorating along with them

As coral reefs die, huge swaths of the seafloor are deteriorating along with them

SOURCE: Washington Post DATE: April 20, 2017 SNIP: U.S. government scientists have found a dramatic impact from the continuing decline of coral reefs: The seafloor around them is eroding and sinking, deepening coastal waters and exposing nearby communities to damaging waves that reefs used to weaken. “We knew that coral reefs were degrading, but we didn’t really know how much until we did this study,” said USGS oceanographer Kimberly Yates, the lead study author. “We didn’t really realize until now that they’re degrading enough that it’s actually affecting the rest of the seafloor as well.” “Erosion of coral reefs and seafloor is happening much more and much faster than what was previously known or expected, enough so that it’s affecting those local sea level rises,” said Yates. “Enough so that it increases the risk to the coastlines from coastal hazards, storm waves, every day persistent waves, tsunamis and those kinds of...
Huge Puffin Die-Off May Be Linked to Hotter Seas

Huge Puffin Die-Off May Be Linked to Hotter Seas

SOURCE: National Geographic DATE: November 8, 2016 SNIP: “The Bering Sea has been off-the-charts warm,” said Nate Mantua, an ecologist at NOAA’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center in Santa Cruz, California. “We’ve never seen anything like this. We’re in uncharted territory. We’re in the midst of an extraordinary time.” Several hundred birds have now washed up, nearly 200 times the normal rate. And since St. Paul and its rocky sister island, St. George, are the only land masses anywhere nearby, scientists are certain they’re seeing just a tiny fraction of the deaths. “In 10 years of monitoring, we’ve only seen six puffins wash in—total,” said Julia Parrish, a University of Washington professor who coordinates a West Coast volunteer bird-monitoring network. “Now we’ve seen nearly 250 in 20 days. And these islands are small dots in the middle of a huge ocean. The entire puffin population is only 6,000 birds, and we project half that many may be affected.” Parrish said the birds—deep-diving fish eaters that chow on forage fish, such as baby walleye pollock—aren’t sick. Scientists see no evidence of disease. The animals are just in such an advanced state of starvation “they appear to be eating themselves inside...