Scientists track unexpected oceanic plankton surge

Scientists working in the Gulf of Mexico are tracking BP's spilled oil as it works its way up the food web, from bacteria to plankton. PHOTO COURTESY NOAA.

Will plankton rule in a globally warming world? Photo via NOAA.

‘Something strange is happening here, and it’s happening much more quickly than we thought it should …’

Staff Report

Atmospheric carbon dioxide ending up in the world’s oceans may be fueling a population explosion of microscopic marine algae in the North Atlantic, scientists said in a new study that shows how greenhouse gases can drive dramatic ecosystem changes. Continue reading

Here’s how the climate-denial sausage is made


There’s no question global temperatures have been climbing steadily for decades, yet a small cadre of radical organizations has been working to deceive the public about the realities of climate change.

New Yale study shows funding behind the effort to mislead Americans on climate science

By Bob Berwyn

Organizations funded by ExxonMobil and the Koch brothers form the core of a disinformation network that has spawned a vast body of literature that deliberately tries to deceive the public about global warming, according to a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

The research by Yale University researcher Dr. Justin Farrell closely scoured more than 40,000 texts produced by the climate change counter-movement (164 organizations), finding that  organizations with corporate funding were more likely to have written and disseminated texts meant to polarize the climate change issue. Continue reading

Study IDs Gulf Coast ecosystems at risk

Sea turtles as most vulnerable species

Gulf Coast sunset.

Rising sea level and warming ocean temps are putting Gulf Coast ecosystems at risk, according to a new study. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

Sea turtles breeding along the Gulf Coast are among the species deemed most vulnerable to climate change and rising sea level, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service concluded in a new vulnerability assessment that looked at four Gulf ecosystems and 11 species dependent on them.

The ecosystems are mangrove, oyster reef, tidal emergent marsh and barrier islands. The species are roseate spoonbill, blue crab, clapper rail, mottled duck, spotted seatrout, eastern oyster, American oystercatcher, red drum, black skimmer, Kemp’s ridley sea turtle and Wilson’s plover.

Kemp’s ridley sea turtle is thought to be the most vulnerable species across the Gulf Coast. The report identified the main threat as loss of nesting habitat to sea level rise, erosion, and urbanization. Continue reading

Study: Sharks feeding ability impaired by ocean acidification


Some sharks may lose their edge as the world’s oceans become more acidic in the next few decades. Photo courtesy Paula Whitfield, NOAA.

‘In warmer water, sharks are hungrier but with increased CO2 they won’t be able to find their food’

Staff Report

The effects of ocean acidification on shellfish are already well understood. There’s little doubt shell-forming species like oysters will face big challenges as the water chemistry changes. In some cases, more acidic water will simply corrode there shells.

But a new study found that some top ocean predators will also be affected. Ocean acidification will impair the ability of some sharks to hunt and find food, according to researchers at the University of Adelaide (Australia). Continue reading

Ocean acidification may aid spread of invasive species


Jellyfish are resilient to ocean acidification and may spread to new areas as the oceans absorb more CO2. Photo by Dan Hershman via the Creative Commons.

Plymouth University researchers track ocean impacts of rising CO2 levels

Staff Report

Killer algae outbreaks and toxic jellyfish blooms may spread to new areas of the globe as oceans become more acidic, scientists found in a new study.

Species like Japanese kelp and stinging jellyfish are much more resilient to rising CO2 levels than hard-shelled ocean creatures, whose shells can simply dissolve in more corrosive water.

“We are witnessing the spread of marine life that cause problems, such as toxic jellyfish blooms and rotting algal mats,” said Professor Jason Hall-Spencer, of Plymouth University. Continue reading

Study: Ecosystem tipping points likely before 2-degree Celsius global warming threshold is reached


Massive tree-killing beetle outbreaks are a clear sign that some ecosystems could reach tipping points much sooner than expected. @bberwyn photo.

Abrupt changes likely, scientists warn

Staff Report

Many of Earth’s natural systems could be radically changed by global warming, even below the 2 degree Celsius limit eyed as a “safe” threshold by climate experts.

Abrupt shifts in sea ice and ocean patterns, as well as vegetation and marine productivity are identified as some of the most likely climate tipping points in a new study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The research is based on climate model simulations developed for the 5th Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report. The findings suggest that the tipping points could play out in unexpected ways. Continue reading

New study maps ocean acidification at global scale

This map shows the global distribution of aragonite saturation at 50 meters depth. The graphic shows areas that are most vulnerable to ocean acidification since they are regions where the saturation of aragonite is lower. Aragonite is a calcium carbonate mineral that shellfish use to build their shells.

This map shows the global distribution of aragonite saturation at 50 meters depth. The graphic shows areas that are most vulnerable to ocean acidification since they are regions where the saturation of aragonite is lower. Aragonite is a calcium carbonate mineral that shellfish use to build their shells. Graphic courtesy NOAA.

U.S. West Coast seen as vulnerable

Staff Report

There’s little doubt that all the world’s oceans are being acidified by the release of carbon dioxide, but some areas are more vulnerable than others, scientists said this week after measuring levels of aragonite, a substance that’s critical for shell-building organisms.

The new study, led by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration researchers, says the Arctic and Antarctic oceans, and the upwelling ocean waters off the west coasts of North America, South America and Africa as regions are especially vulnerable to ocean acidification.

When cold waters in those regions, already loaded with CO2, circulate to the upper layers of the oceans they mix with surface waters that are absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, subjecting them to a double whammy of sorts, according to the scientists. The carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is coming primarily from human-caused fossil fuel emissions. Continue reading


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