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Scientists say half measures won’t help Great Barrier Reef

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Australian scientists say a government plan for the Great Barrier Reef doesn’t do enough to mitigate threats.

Global warming, coal port dredging seen as key threats

Staff Report

FRISCO — Leading Australian scientists said this week that the government’s business-as-usual plan for the Great Barrier Reef won’t prevent its decline.

While acknowledging a few positive steps in the plan, the Australian Academy of Scientists said the proposal “fails to effectively address any of the key pressures on the reef including climate change, poor water quality, coastal development and fishing.”

And, as is often the case with planning efforts in the U.S., the Australian government’s vision for the reef also doesn’t acknowledge the cumulative impacts that intensify pressure on one of the world’s most diverse marine ecosystems.

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Air pollution: There is no ‘safe’ level

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New York smog and ozone.

Outdoor air pollution causes 3.7 million deaths each year

Staff Report

FRISCO — A new study by an Australian researcher underscores the fact that, when it comes to air pollution, there are no safe levels.

The research by Adrian Barnett, of the Queensland University of Technology, shows that the Australian government’s standards for key outdoor air pollutants are misleading, as many authorities wrongly assume them to be ‘safe’ thresholds for health.

But Barnett’s modeling shows that, if levels of those pollutants were all to rise to just below the government-set limit, it would result in 6,000 additional deaths and more then 20,000 hospital visits. Continue reading

Seabed dredging linked to coral reef disease

Study findings to help inform coastal management

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Dredging near coral reefs can lead to chronic disease and decline.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Along with the stress of global warming and the disappearance of reef-grazing fish, corals are also beset by the increasing pace of coastal development — specifically dredging — which can increase the frequency of diseases affecting corals.

Australian researchers with the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies made their findings after studying a site near Barrow Island, off the West Australian coast, where an 18-month, 7-million cubic metre dredging project took place, developing a channel to accommodate ships transporting liquefied gas to a nearby processing plant. The site was in otherwise very good condition. Continue reading

Are reef fish slowing down as oceans warm up?

Australian study finds warmer ocean temps may be causing problems for coral trout and other large reef fish

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Coral trout may be slowing down as their ocean habitat warms. Photo courtesy Richard Ling, via Wikipedia and the Creative Commons.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Warmer water temperatures in the southeastern Pacific Ocean are taking a toll on coral trout, according to a new study from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University.

Fish rely on swimming for almost all activities necessary for survival, including hunting for food and finding mates, said Dr, Jacob Johansen, explaining that their research found that global warming may reduce the swimming ability of many fish species, and “have major impacts on their ability to grow and reproduce.” Continue reading

Unraveling the secrets of ocean waves

Satellite tracking helps researcher develop a formula to predict swell decay

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Surfers catch an evening wave at Half Moon Bay, Cailifornia, bberwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Surfers have long tracked swells across thousands of miles of open ocean to try and predict when the best waves might hit their local beach, and new research by an Australian National University professor may help fine-tune those forecasts.

“Ocean cargo shipping, offshore oil and gas production, and even recreational activities such as surfing, are all dependent on wave action,” said Ian Young, vice-chancellor of ANU. “It is therefore critical that we are able to predict swell.”

Young, who is affiliated with the Research School of Earth Sciences, was interested in determining the rate at which ocean swells decay as they travel across the ocean, so he tracked them with orbiting satellites. The results showed that the decay of the swell depends on how steep the wave actually is.

“Steep waves decay very quickly. However, typical swell is not very steep and can travel across oceanic basins with only a relatively small loss of energy,” he said.

Over 200 individual cases were tracked, making this study the first to provide such comprehensive data of this decay.

“What we were able to do is track the swell from the satellite as it moved from the south to the north, some 1,400 kilometres. We only chose cases where there was no wind so that we could be confident that all we were measuring was the swell decay … We can take these results and put them into a mathematical formula that can be put straight into computer models used by national weather bureaus

“This will increase our ability to better predict wave action. As 70 per cent of the world’s oceans are dominated by swell, it’s extremely important to be able to predict them accurately,” he said.

It is estimated that 75 per cent of waves across the world are not actually generated by local winds. Instead, they are driven by distant storms which propagate as swell.

“For most of the Indian, Pacific and South Atlantic oceans, it is actually the weather in the Southern Ocean thousands of kilometres away that dominates the wave conditions … The Southern Ocean is dominated by big low pressure systems that move across it year round. These systems generate waves that then grow and can travel tens of thousands of kilometres from where they were actually formed, to crash on a beach in Australia.”

Professor Young’s research is published in the Journal of Physical Oceanography.

Study shows how Aboriginal Australians weathered climate change impacts during last ice age

‘Extreme climate change results in the fundamental social and economic reorganization’

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Ice age research offers clues on climate change impacts.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The peak of the last ice age, about 20,000 years ago, resulted in huge changes for Aboriginal Australians, who had to deal with expanding deserts, big reductions in rainfall and plummeting temperatures.

“Lakes dried up, forests disappeared, deserts expanded, animals went extinct and vast swaths of the Australian land mass would have been simply uninhabitable,” said Sean Ulm, with James Cook University in Cairns, explaining that the Last Glacial Maximum was the most significant climatic event ever faced by humans in Australia.

To assess how those climatic changes affected aboriginal populations, scientists used advanced geospatial techniques to analyze archaeological radiocarbon dates from across Australia. The research included scientists with the Australian National University and the University of New South Wales, Oxford University in the United Kingdom and Simon Fraser University in Canada. Their findings have been published in the Journal of Archaeological Science. Continue reading

Climate: July global temps 6th-warmest on record

Year-to-date readings also rank as 6th-warmest

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A NASA global temperature map for July shows the widespread pattern of above-average land and sea surface temperatures.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The global temperature for July 2013 was 1.10 degrees (all temperatures in Fahrenheit) above the 20th century average, making it the sixth-warmest July on record, according to the National Climatic Data Center.

Nearly every part of Earth reported temperatures well above average with the exception of a few pockets, notably the southeastern and central U.S. and parts of India.

The year to date (January-July) is also ranked as the sixth-warmest on record, with the global land surface temperatures running 1.73 degrees above the 20th century average. Continue reading

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