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

Environment: EPA eyes new rules for oil spill dispersants

Public comment sought on proposed standards

Dispersant being applied to the Gulf of Mexico.

Dispersant being applied to the Gulf of Mexico.

Staff Report

FRISCO — When BP’s failed Deepwater Horizon drilling rig spewed millions of gallons of crude oil in the Gulf of Mexico nearly five years ago, the emergency response included the massive use of oil dispersants, chemicals meant to break up potential oil slicks before they reached the shoreline. Continue reading

NOAA reports major coral bleaching in 2014

Hawaii bleaching the worst on record

CoralDegreeHeatingWeeks_global_4096

Coral reefs experienced major heat stress in 2014. Map courtesy NOAA Climate.gov – Dan Pisut.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Even without a surge of El Niño ocean heat, there was widespread coral bleaching across parts of the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean this past summer.

Reefs in the Florida Keys saw their worst bleaching episode since 1997-1999, when a major El Niño was followed by strong La Niña conditions, NOAA scientists reported recently. The surprising intensity of bleaching across multiple ocean basins in 2014 has scientists wondering what to expect in 2015, when El Niño is forecasted to finally develop. Continue reading

Can some Caribbean corals survive global warming?

Coral and other marine resources in the Florida Keys are at risk from an approaching oil plume.

Some corals are less sensitive to ocean acidification than others, according to a new study. Photo via NOAA.

Study say soft Gorgonian coral species can still calcify under elevated CO2 levels

Staff Report

FRISCO — Not all corals are equal when it comes to withstanding the ravages of global warming.

Some Caribbean soft corals, known as gorgonians, may be able to calcify and grow under elevated carbon dioxide concentrations. Those corals may be more resilient to the ocean acidification levels projected by the end of the 21st century than previously thought, according to a new study published in the journal Coral Reef. Continue reading

Global warming: Oceans at all-time record high temps

Pacific Ocean is cooking, even without El Niño

NOAA Sea Surface Temperature anomaly (with respect to period 1854-2013) averaged over global oceans (red) and over North Pacific (0-60oN, 110oE-100oW) (cyan). September 2014 temperatures broke the record for both global and North Pacific Sea Surface Temperatures. b) Sea Surface Temperature anomaly of September 2014 from NOAA's ERSST dataset. Credit: Axel Timmermann

NOAA Sea Surface Temperature anomaly (with respect to period 1854-2013) averaged over global oceans (red) and over North Pacific (0-60oN, 110oE-100oW) (cyan). September 2014 temperatures broke the record for both global and North Pacific Sea Surface Temperatures. b) Sea Surface Temperature anomaly of September 2014 from NOAA’s ERSST dataset.
Credit: Axel Timmermann.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Global ocean temperatures have soared to the highest level in recorded history this year, and the rate of warming has accelerated since April, according to scientists with the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

“This summer has seen the highest global mean sea surface temperatures ever recorded since their systematic measuring started,” said Axel Timmermann, a climate scientist at the university’s International Pacific Research Center. “Temperatures even exceed those of the record-breaking 1998 El Niño year,” Timmermann said, adding that the new data analysis shows that the global warming pause, if there was one, is over.

“The 2014 global ocean warming is mostly due to the North Pacific, which has warmed far beyond any recorded value,” he said, adding that the temperature trend in the Pacific has shifted hurricane tracks, weakened trade winds, and bleached corals around the Hawaiian Islands. Continue reading

New maps detail ocean acidification patterns

n northern winter, the Bering Sea, dividing Alaska and Siberia, becomes the most acidic region on earth (in purple) as shown in this February 2005 acidity map in pH scale. Temperate oceans are less acidic. The equatorial Pacific is left blank due to its high variability around El Niño and La Niña events. (Takahashi

During the northern hemisphere winter, the Bering Sea, dividing Alaska and Siberia, becomes the most acidic region on earth (in purple) as shown in this February 2005 acidity map in pH scale. Temperate oceans are less acidic. The equatorial Pacific is left blank due to its high variability around El Niño and La Niña events. Map courtesy Taro Takahashi.

New benchmark data will help track future changes

Staff Report

FRISCO — The world’s oceans are acidifying at a rate of about 5 percent each decade, a trend that could cost the global economy $3 trillion a year in lost revenue from fishing, tourism and other intangible lost ecosystem services.

At that pace, warm-water corals by the end of the century could be living in waters 25 percent more acidic than they are today, raising questions about the long-term survival of coral reef ecosystems.

To paint a more detailed picture of potential impacts, scientists have created an ocean acidification map, showing how how acidity levels vary across the world’s oceans. The data should help provide a benchmark for the future, as enormous amounts CO2 from fossil fuels ends up in the sea. Continue reading

Environment: Shifting a small amount of global military spending to conservation would go a long way

Elk Rocky Mountain National Park

Well-protected elk browse in Rocky Mountain National Park.

New paper outlines need for renewed conservation emphasis

Staff Report

FRISCO — Shifting just a small fraction of the world’s military spending to conservation could help ensure protection and sustainable management for important wildlife habitat, experts say in a new report released ahead of the upcoming IUCN World Parks Congress in Sydney.

The paper, published in Nature, was compiled by experts with Wildlife Conservation Society, the University of Queensland, and the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas. The authors concluded that allocating US $45 – $76 billion —  just 2.5 percent of  global annual military spending — would go a long way toward meeting the need for better management of protected areas. Continue reading

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