Posted on May 3, 2013 by Bob Berwyn
Experts to discuss concerns about radioactive dispersion; viewers can ask questions via Twitter during May 9 session
FRISCO — More than two years have passed since a 9.0 earthquake and a 50-foot tsunami catastrophically damaged the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant on Japan’s northeast coast, but questions still linger about the long-term impacts of radioactive pollution in the ocean.
The quake and tsunami killed about 20,000 people, and some coastal Japanese fisheries are still closed due to concern about the radiation. Next week, an international panel of scientists will discuss the accident and potential impacts to the environment and human health in a web-streamed session at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
The panel will be held on May 9, 2013, from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. EDT and simulcast on the Web (http://www.whoi.edu/fukushima). Online viewers are encouraged to participate and send questions for the panel discussion via Twitter. The event hashtag is #WHOIfukushima. Questions during the discussion can also be sent via email to email@example.com. (more…)
Filed under: Environment, ocean conservation | Tagged: Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, Ken Buesseler, Pacific Ocean, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution | 3 Comments »
Posted on March 12, 2013 by Bob Berwyn
Runoff from melting Greenland glaciers may be a significant source of iron in the North Atlantic. Bob Berwyn photo.
Arctic meltdown may have consequences besides raising sea level
By Summit Voice
FRISCO — Melting Greenland glaciers may have an unforeseen side effect on ocean biology, as the surging runoff adds iron to the water, potentially fueling more plankton growth.
Glaciers have just recently been identified as a significant source of iron in a study by biogeochemists and glaciologists at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. The findings suggest that the influx of iron could increase as melting of the Greenland ice sheet escalates under a warming climate.
It’s long been known wind-blown dust and river runoff are source of iron, but meltwater runoff from glaciers and ice sheets was considered too dilute to carry much iron, although previous research has shown a strong correlation between the plankton blooms and the runoff from Greenland ice sheet. (more…)
Filed under: Arctic, climate and weather, global warming | Tagged: Environment, greenland, Greenland ice melt, Greenland ice sheet, National Science Foundation, Nature Geoscience, oceans, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution | Leave a Comment »
Posted on March 3, 2013 by Bob Berwyn
Gulf of Mexico appears more resistant to acidification threats
The impacts of ocean acidification will vary from region to region. Bob Berwyn photo.
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — A 2007 sea voyage through the Gulf of Mexico, around Florida and up the eastern seaboard has increased understanding of how various coastal areas may respond to increased acidity. More than anything, the detailed research helps establish some baseline data against which future changes can be measured, and showed that some areas are more susceptible to higher concentrations of carbon.
The study, measuring levels of carbon dioxide and other forms of carbon in the ocean, was conducted by scientists from 11 institutions across the U.S. and was published in the journal Limnology and Oceanography.
“Before now, we haven’t had a very clear picture of acidification status on the east coast of the U.S.,” says Zhaohui ‘Aleck’ Wang, the study’s lead author and a chemical oceanographer at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. “It’s important that we start to understand it, because increase in ocean acidity could deeply affect marine life along the coast and has important implications for people who rely on aquaculture and fisheries both commercially and recreationally.” (more…)
Filed under: climate and weather, Environment, global warming, greenhouse gases, ocean conservation | Tagged: climate, global warming, Gulf of Maine, Gulf of Mexico, ocean acidification, oceans, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution | Leave a Comment »
Posted on November 25, 2012 by Bob Berwyn
Corrosive waters in Southern Ocean destroying pteropod shells
Pteropods swimming in the Scotia Sea. Photo courtesy British Antarctic Survey.
By Bob Berwyn
FRISCO — Numerous lab experiments have already shown that some shell-forming ocean species will likely suffer as the ocean absorbs atmospheric carbon dioxide and becomes increasingly acidic.
Now, a new study based on 2008 research in the Scotia Sea shows that the shells of tiny marine snails called pteropods are already being dissolved by ocean acidification where atmospheric CO2 being absorbed by the sea is exacerbating acidic conditions resulting from upwelling of cold water from deep below the surface.
The tiny animals are a valuable food source for fish and birds and play an important role in the oceanic carbon cycle. Pteropods are open-ocean animals, moving about by using water wings that evolved from their snail feet. (more…)
Filed under: biodiversity, climate and weather, Environment, global warming, Marine biology, ocean conservation | Tagged: British Antarctic Survey, carbon cycle, carbon dioxide, climate, global warming, ocean acidification, Scotia Sea, Southern Ocean, University of East Anglia, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution | 2 Comments »
Posted on June 25, 2012 by Bob Berwyn
Emperor penguin and chick. PHOTO COURTESY BRITISH ANTARCTIC SURVEY.
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — Not long after biologists with the British Antarctic Survey documented the disappearance of an emperor penguin colony, a new research effort also suggests that climate change may drastically reduce Antarctic habitat for the iconic ice-dwelling birds.
Focusing on a long-studied colony in Terre Adélie, scientists with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution concluded that the number of breeding pairs at the colony could drop by 80 percent by the end of the century.
“The projected decreases in sea ice may fundamentally alter the Antarctic environment in ways that threaten this population of penguins,” said NCAR scientist Marika Holland, a co-author of the study.
Another recent study by the British Antarctic Survey suggested that emperor penguin populations are much higher, perhaps twice as large, as previously believed. Last November, conservation groups petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list emperor penguins under the Endangered Species Act. (more…)
Filed under: biodiversity, climate and weather, endangered species, Environment, global warming | Tagged: Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica, British Antarctic Survey, climate change, Emperor Penguin, global warming, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution | Leave a Comment »
Posted on June 11, 2012 by Bob Berwyn
Shifting monsoons seen as key factor in Harappan decline
The Lower Indus River near Karachi. IMAGE COURTESY NASA.
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — In what could be a warning sign for modern civilizations that sustain themselves with complex water diversion schemes, a new study of the Indus River Basin suggests that climate change led to the collapse Harappan Civilization almost 4000 years ago.
The Indus civilization was the largest —but least known — of the first great urban cultures that also included Egypt and Mesopotamia. At its height, the culture spread across about 600,000 square miles in what is now Pakistan, northwest India and eastern Afghanistan.
Like their contemporaries, the Harappans, named for one of their largest cities, lived next to rivers owing their livelihoods to the fertility of annually watered lands.
The new study suggests declining monsoons reduced the river flows and associated floodplain development that helped fuel the development of the Harappan culture by nurturing agricultural surpluses used to build wealth. (more…)
Filed under: Archaeology, climate and weather, Drought, global warming | Tagged: climate change, Harappan, Indus River, Indus Valley Civilization, Mesopotamia, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution | Leave a Comment »
Posted on May 23, 2012 by Bob Berwyn
Extensive sampling will help assess future changes
How will climate change affect the carbon cycle in the Arctic Ocean? IMAGE COURTESY NASA.
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — As the Earth’s atmosphere warms and oceans become more acidic, the carbon cycle has become the subject of intense study for climate scientists. And new research by researchers with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution that establishes a baseline for Arctic ocean carbon levels should provide a yardstick against which to measure future changes.
The study, recently published in the journal Biogeosciences, will help researchers better understand how carbon enters and is used by the marine ecosystem.
Some researchers think that global warming could lead to a more intense precipitation cycle over northern Canada, Alaska, and Siberia, resulting in more runoff from melting permafrost and eroded soil — both rich sources of organic carbon. That could result in a net gain of carbon, as bacteria in Arctic Ocean use the new influx of carbon as a food source, they may create CO2 as a byproduct.
“Carbon is the currency of life. Where carbon is coming from, which organisms are using it, how they’re giving off carbon themselves—these things say a lot about how an ocean ecosystem works,” said lead author David Griffith. “If warming temperatures perturb the Arctic Ocean, the way that carbon cycles through that system may change.” (more…)
Filed under: climate and weather, Environment, global warming | Tagged: Arctic Ocean, carbon cycle, climate, global warming, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution | Leave a Comment »
Posted on March 27, 2012 by Bob Berwyn
Deep sea research mission documents extensive impacts
One of the impacted corals with attached brittle starfish. Although the orange tips on some branches of the coral is the color of living tissue, it is unlikely that any living tissue remains on this animal. PHOTO COURTESY Lophelia II 2010, NOAA OER and BOEMR.
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — Deep-sea research in the Gulf of Mexico has confirmed that oil from BP’s failed Macondo Well and Deepwater Horizon drilling rig had a serious impact on coral ecosystems miles away from the source of the oil.
“These biological communities in the deep Gulf of Mexico are separated from human activity at the surface by 4,000 feet of water,” said Penn State University Professor of Biology Charles Fisher. “We would not expect deep-water corals to be impacted by a typical oil spill, but the sheer magnitude of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and its release at depth make it very different from a tanker running aground and spilling its contents. Because of the unprecedented nature of the spill, we have learned that its impacts are more far reaching than those arising from smaller spills that occur on the surface.”
The failed well leaked an estimated 160 million gallons of oil into the sea in the spring and summer of 2010. An early survey of nine sites more than 12 miles from the Macondo Well found deep-water coral communities unharmed. But a followup dive by a remotely operated submarine about six miles southwest of the spill discovered numerous coral communities covered in a brown flocculent material and showing signs of tissue damage. (more…)
Filed under: biodiversity, BP Gulf oil spill, coral reefs, Environment | Tagged: coral reefs, Deepwater horizon oil spill, Gulf of Mexico, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution | Leave a Comment »
Posted on October 13, 2011 by Bob Berwyn
Ocean bacteria may play a big role in the Earth's carbon cycle.
Researchers say bacterial communication may affect how much carbon the oceans absorb
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — A previously unknown level of communication among ocean-dwelling bacteria may have a significant impact the Earth’s climate, according to new research by a team marine biogeochemists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
In marine environments, bacteria coalesce on tiny particles of carbon-rich detritus sinking through the water, sending out chemical signals to discern if other bacteria are in the neighborhood. If enough of their cohorts are nearby, then bacteria en masse commence secreting enzymes that break up the carbon-containing molecules within the particles into more digestible bits.
The source of carbon in the particles is atmospheric carbon dioxide, a heat-trapping greenhouse gas. Bacterial communication could lead to the release of carbon from the particles at shallower depths, rather than sinking to the ocean’s depths. According to the Woods Hole scientists. (more…)
Filed under: climate and weather, Environment, global warming, Summit County news | Tagged: carbon cycle, Earth, Environment, Greenhouse gas, Ocean, Summit County News, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution | 1 Comment »
Posted on September 12, 2011 by Bob Berwyn
Sea level rise is a serious concern for low-lying countries in coastal areas.
Findings will help model future sea-level changes
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — New evidence gathered from coral reef fossils suggests that sea levels fluctuated by 13 to 20 feet within the span of just a few thousands of years during a warm interglacial period known as the Eemian Age, about 125,000 years ago.
“This was the last time that climate was as warm as — or warmer than — today,” said William G. Thompson, a geochronologist with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. “If today’s ice sheets continue to melt, we may be headed for a period of ice sheet and sea-level change that is more dynamic than current observations of ice sheets suggest.” (more…)
Filed under: climate and weather, coral reefs, Environment, global warming | Tagged: Environment, global warming, Interglacial, sea level, sea level rise, Summit County News, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution | 5 Comments »