Report says ocean acidification likely to take a big economic toll on coastal communities

New England, Gulf of Mexico, Mid-Atlantic regions all vulnerable to ocean acidification threats

Love oysters? Then you should be worried about global warming.

Love oysters? Then you should be worried about global warming. bberwyn photo

Staff Report

FRISCO — Some coastal communities with long traditions of relying on shellfish to support their economies could be facing a triple whammy of pollution.

Increasing ocean acidification, combined with cold, upwelling water and polluted runoff from land could put many of those communities at long-term economic risk, according to a new study funded by the National Science Foundation’s National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center.

“Ocean acidification has already cost the oyster industry in the Pacific Northwest nearly $110 million and jeopardized about 3,200 jobs,” said Julie Ekstrom, who was lead author on the study while with the Natural Resources Defense Council. She is now at the University of California at Davis. Continue reading

More climate clues from ancient corals

Mapping coral diseases is helping researchers determine the cause. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Coral reefs near Panama stopped growing during an exstended phase of La Niña-like conditions in the Pacific Ocean. Photo courtesy NOAA.

‘It’s possible that anthropogenic climate change may once again be pushing these reefs towards another regional collapse …’

Staff Report

FRISCO — Past climate shifts resulting in La Niña-like conditions off the coast of Panamá resulted in a 2,500-year shutdown in coral reef growth, scientists said this week, warning that human-caused global warming could lead to similar conditions in the coming decades.

“We are in the midst of a major environmental change that will continue to stress corals over the coming decades, so the lesson from this study is that there are these systems such as coral reefs that are sensitive to environmental change and can go through this kind of wholesale collapse in response to these environmental changes,” said Kim Cobb, an associate professor in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Continue reading

Southern Ocean carbon cycle may be key climate driver

‘Changes in ocean carbon storage are important drivers of natural atmospheric CO2 variations …’

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Melting icebergs along the shore of Dundee Island, near the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — The Southern Ocean’s carbon cycle may be a huge driver of climatic shifts between ice ages and interglacial periods, according to new research published last week in Nature.

The study shows that carbon stored in an isolated reservoir deep in the Southern Ocean re-connected with the atmosphere, driving a rise in atmospheric CO2 and an increase in global temperatures that may have helped end the global ice ages. Continue reading

Global warming could starve oceans of oxygen

‘Our modern ocean is moving into a state that has no precedent in human history’

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A melting glacier on Deception Island, just off the Antarctic Peninsula, discharges sediments into the Southern Ocean. bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — If climate clues from ages gone by are any indication, then the world’s oceans could see an abrupt, extensive loss of oxygen as the atmosphere warms and ice sheets melt.

That’s exactly what happened about 10,000 to 17,000 years ago, according to new research by scientists with the University of California, Davis, who analyzed marine sediment cores from different world regions to document the extent to which low oxygen zones in the ocean have expanded in the past, due to climate change. Continue reading

Climate: Is the Great Barrier Reef doomed?

New study projects staggering coral losses as oceans warm

Coral Gardens: A school of surgeonfish cruise coral reefs near Palmyra Atoll.

A school of surgeonfish cruise coral reefs in the Pacific. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Staff Report

*More Summit Voice reporting on coral reefs

FRISCO —Even under a moderate climate change scenario, with just 1 to 2 degrees Celsius warming, the Great Barrier Reef may be doomed to become just a shadow of itself within a few decades, researcher said this week, warning of the cumulative impacts of warmer water, acidification, pollution and over-fishing.

In the short term, the combined effects of those impacts enable seaweed to over-run corals, in effect suffocating them. In the longer term, interactions among reef organisms would lead to dominance by other groups, including sponges and soft corals known as gorgonians. Continue reading

Climate: Melting glaciers adding dissolved carbon to world’s oceans

Scientists eye impacts to high-latitude marine ecosystems

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Melting glaciers, like the Dachstein in Austria, may be a big source of dissolved carbon with the potential to affect downstream ecosystems. bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — As if rising sea levels aren’t enough to worry about, U.S. Geological Survey scientists say melting glaciers may also adding significant amounts of carbon to the oceans, where it’s readily available to microscopic organisms at the base of the food chain.

By 2050, that carbon could total as much as 17 million tons, equal to about half of the annual flux of dissolved organic carbon from the Amazon River, the researchers reported in the journal Nature Geoscience, cautioning that their calculations are subject to revision.

The study aimed to better understand the role glaciers play in the global carbon cycle, especially as climate warming continues to reduce glacier ice stores and release ice-locked organic carbon into downstream freshwater and marine ecosystems. Continue reading

It’s official: 2014 was the warmest year on record

More heat ahead …

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Record warmth around the world in 2014.

Staff Report

FRISCO — 2014 ended up as the warmest year ever for planet Earth, but just by a whisker, edging out 2005 and 2010 by 0.07 degrees Fahrenheit. The new temperature record was driven by persistent warmth across the world’s oceans, which have been absorbing most of the heat trapped by greenhouse gas pollutants.

Heat absorbed in the oceans will fuel global warming for years to come, said Tom Karl, directory of NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center, which generates the monthly and annual climate reports for the U.S. and the world. With greenhouse gas emissions still rising, Karl said more record-warm years are ahead. Read the full report here. Continue reading

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