New federal study outlines impacts of seismic air gun blasting in Gulf of Mexico

Oil and gas exploration would have widespread effects on marine mammals

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Seismic blasting is bad for marine mammals in the Gulf of Mexico. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

Conservation advocates have long been saying that blasting the Gulf of Mexico with seismic airguns to find more oil and gas beneath the seafloor would result in unacceptable harm to marine mammals and other marine life, and a new draft environmental study by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management seems to confirm those concerns.

The study was completed under the terms of a court-ordered settlement of a lawsuit brought by environmental groups. It shows that the blasting would have widespread impacts on marine life, including injuries to endangered sperm whales and Bryde’s whales. The draft report outlines possible mitigation measures, including closure areas where seismic blasting would be banned, and reductions in the amount of activity permissible each year. Continue reading “New federal study outlines impacts of seismic air gun blasting in Gulf of Mexico”

Climate connections

Fish die-offs spread, winter retreats and ocean currents are changing

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The meltdown of glaciers and ice shelves around both poles is starting to affect the circulation of the oceans. @bbberwyn photo.

By Bob Berwyn

My recent reporting for InsideClimate News includes coverage of the massive Yellowstone fish kill, something that anglers and fisheries managers in Colorado also should probably be prepared for as rivers warm to a level that is conducive to the spread of parasites. Read the details here: Fish Deaths in Montana’s Yellowstone River Tied to Warming Waters.

I also explored how Austria is preparing for climate change. The mountainous country has seen its average temperature increase at nearly twice the global average in the past century, with huge implications for water supplies, agriculture, urban heatwaves and tourism. But rather than argue about the causes, Austrians are actively trying to figure out how to make their society and ecosystems more resilient to the changes ahead. Read here: Austria Braces for Winter’s Retreat.

There’s other research showing a significant shift in most key ocean currents that run along the edges of continents. Those currents are key drivers of weather systems and the changes documented by scientists suggest that the currents are strengthening and transporting more heat, which is affecting weather in densely populated areas. China and Japan, in particular, can expect more devastating storms and typhoons in the future: In Warming Oceans, Stronger Currents Releasing Heat in Bigger Storms.

It seems pretty clear that we have to try and prevent runaway climate change and the way to do that is to stop spewing heat-trapping pollution into the sky. We need to bite the bullet and figure out how to decarbonize our energy systems and economy in the most rational way, which means making plans and decisions now, not in 20 years. Every additional dollar used to subsidize fossil fuels, or to build fossil fuel infrastructure, is another nail in our own coffin. Offshore wind power is still grossly under-utilized in the U.S. but that is starting to change.

Offshore wind makes so much sense because the power sources can developed near the large coastal cities that are the largest consumers of power from the grid. Here’s how Hawaii is approaching the issue: Hawaii Eyes Offshore Wind to Reach its Clean Energy Goal.

Report offers cold, hard truth about global warming

Scientists say Paris deal is not nearly enough to curb harmful global warming

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The average global temperature has spiked to dramatic new highs in the past few months.

By Bob Berwyn

The Paris climate agreement will likely be triggered into force within the next few weeks, which marks the beginning — not the end — of an intense effort to try and cap global warming before the planet is overwhelmed by heatwaves, droughts and super storms.

Governments and citizens need to rapidly ramp up efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions, a group of scientists said this week, releasing a new report showing that the climate pledges made toward the Paris agreement won’t do the trick. Continue reading “Report offers cold, hard truth about global warming”

Sunday set: Hello, autumn!

Fall colors …

Clear autumn light, tinged by a low-angle sun through changing foliage, is one of the best times of the year to take landscape photos. In the past 12 months, I’ve enjoyed some spectacular fall scenery in the vineyards of southern Austria, the hill country of the Provence and mountain canyons in the Alps, and the magic stays the same — autumn is golden!

Endangered and invasive species meet in the desert Southwest

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A southwestern willow flycatcher. Photo courtesy USGS.

New data to help inform tamarisk eradication and bird conservation efforts

Staff Report

New mapping by the U.S. Geological Survey may help resource managers in the southwestern U.S. figure out how they can bolster populations of the endangered southwestern willow flycatcher while at the same time trying to control an unwanted invasive plant that provides habitat for the tiny songbird.

The new report from the USGS provides detailed habitat information on the entire range of of the flycatcher, which breeds in lush, dense vegetation along rivers and streams from May through September. In 2013, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated 1,975 stream kilometers as critical flycatcher habitat, located in six states and 38 counties.

“The satellite model provides us with new capabilities to locate and monitor potential flycatcher habitat within individual watersheds and across its entire range” said James Hatten, Research Biogeographer with the USGS and the report’s author. “The satellite model also revealed how the quantity of flycatcher habitat is affected annually by drought conditions, with habitat declining in California from 2013 to 2015, while increasing in New Mexico and Texas.” Continue reading “Endangered and invasive species meet in the desert Southwest”

California sea otter population growing steadily

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A Southern sea otter. Via USFWS.

Survey results show healthy core population

Staff Report

The Southern sea otter population is healthy at the core of its range along the California coast, but the aquatic mammals are still struggling to expand north and south, probably because of predation by sharks, scientists said as they released the results of the latest annual otter survey.

“The population index has exceeded 3,090 for the first time, and that’s encouraging,” said Lilian Carswell, Southern Sea Otter Recovery Coordinator for USFWS, referring to a threshold number for recovery. If the population stays above that number for three years in a row, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service could consider a delisting proposal.Sea otters were presumed to be extinct in California in the early 1900s, but a remnant population of 30 animals was discovered and protected in the 1930s near Bixby Bay, north of Big Sur. They were listed as a threatened species in 1977, deemed at risk from oil spills. Continue reading “California sea otter population growing steadily”

How long can the oceans soak up CO2?

What’s the tipping point?

Researchers examine ocean acidification rates

Staff Report

For now, the world’s oceans are sucking up so much carbon dioxide that it’s helping to slow the rate of global warming. But that’s expected to change in the future, researchers warned after taking a detailed look at the rate of ocean acidification in the northeast Pacific Ocean. Continue reading “How long can the oceans soak up CO2?”