Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Greenland: enough ice melted on single day to cover Florida in two inches of water

Greenland’s melting season usually lasts from June to August.
The Danish government data shows that it has lost more than 100bn tons of ice since the start of June this year.
Photograph: Reuters
From The Guardian by Oliver Milman
  • Data shows ice sheet lost 8.5bn tons of surface mass on Tuesday
  • All-time record temperature of 19.8C in region on Wednesday

-Greenland’s vast ice sheet is undergoing a surge in melting, with the amount of ice vanishing in a single day this week enough to cover the whole of Florida in two inches of water, researchers have found.

The deluge of melting has reached deep into Greenland’s enormous icy interior, with data from the Danish government showing that the ice sheet lost 8.5bn tons of surface mass on Tuesday alone.

A further 8.4bn tons was lost on Thursday, the Polar Portal monitoring website reported.

The scale of disappearing ice is so large that the losses on Tuesday alone created enough meltwater to drown the entire US state of Florida in two inches, or 5cm, of water.

Ice that melts away in Greenland flows as water into the ocean, where it adds to the ongoing increase in global sea level caused by human-induced climate change.

“It’s a very high level of melting and it will probably change the face of Greenland, because it will be a very strong driver for an acceleration of future melting, and therefore sea-level rise,” said Marco Tedesco, a glacier expert at Columbia University and adjunct scientist at Nasa.

Tedesco said a patch of high pressure is sucking and holding warmer air from further south “like a vacuum cleaner” and holding it over eastern Greenland, causing an all-time record temperature of 19.8C in the region on Wednesday.

As seasonal snow melts away, darker core ice is exposed, which then melts and adds to sea level rise.

“We had these sort of atmospheric events in the past but they are now getting longer and more frequent,” Tedesco said.

“The snow is like a protective blanket so once that’s gone you get locked into faster and faster melting, so who knows what will happen with the melting now. It’s amazing to see how vulnerable these huge, giant areas of ice are. I’m astonished at how powerful the forces acting on them are.”

Greenland’s melting season usually lasts from June to August.The Danish government data shows that the island has lost more than 100bn tons of ice since the start of June this year and while the severity of melting is less than in 2019 – when 11bn tons of ice was lost in a single day – the area affected is much larger in 2021.

“It’s hard to say if it will be a record year for melting this year but there is a ton of warm and moist air over the ice sheet that’s causing an amazing amount of melt,” said Brad Lipovsky, a glaciologist at the University of Washington.

“The alarming thing to me is the political response, or lack of it. Sea-level rise is like a slow-moving train, but once it gets rolling you can’t stop it. It’s not great news.”

If all the ice in Greenland melted, the global sea level would jump by about 6 meters (20ft), and although this is unlikely to happen on any sort of foreseeable timescale, scientists have warned that the world’s largest island is reaching a tipping point due to the pressures exerted upon it by global heating.

Greenland’s ice is melting faster than any time in the past 12,000 years, scientists have calculated, with the ice loss running at a rate of around one million tons a minute in 2019.Greenland and the earth’s other polar region of Antarctica have together lost 6.3tn tons of ice since 1994.

This rate of ice loss, which is accelerating as temperatures continue to increase, is changing ocean currents, altering marine ecosystems and posing a direct threat to the world’s low-lying coastal cities, which risk being inundated by flooding. 
A 2019 research paper found the Greenland ice sheet could add anything between 5cm and 33cm to global sea levels by the end of the century.The world is on track for “the mid to upper end of that”, Lipovsky said.

“It’s very worrisome,” said Tedesco. 

“The action is clear – we need to get to net zero emissions but also we need to protect exposed populations along the coast. This is going to be a huge problem for our coastal cities.”

A satellite image shows Ingolf Fjord, Greenland July 29, 2021.
Picture taken July 29, 2021.
European Union, Copernicus Sentinel-2 imagery - Processed by @DEFIS_EU/Handout via REUTERS

This image, acquired by one of the Copernicus Sentinel-2 satellites, shows melt ponds 90km Southeast of Kangerlussuaq Fjord, Greenland July 29, 2021.
Picture taken July 29, 2021. 
uropean Union, Copernicus Sentinel-2 imagery - Processed by @DEFIS_EU/Handout via REUTERS

This image, acquired by one of the Copernicus Sentinel-2 satellites, shows the very significant discharge of sediment into the Arctic Ocean by glaciers melting around Constable Pynt as a result of unusually high temperatures, Greenland July 28, 2021. Picture taken July 28, 2021. European Union, Copernicus Sentinel-2 imagery - Processed by @DEFIS_EU/Handout via REUTERS

A satellite image shows Nuuk Fjord, Greenland July 29, 2021.European Union, Copernicus Sentinel-2 imagery - Processed by @DEFIS_EU/Handout via REUTERS 

Links :

Monday, August 2, 2021

Underwater mountain range near California declared a Mission Blue 'Hope Spot'

Black coral, primnoid coral, and feather stars flourish 2,669 m (8,757 ft) deep on the pristine Davidson Seamount off the coast of California. 

 From Forbes by Priya Shukla

California is known for its picturesque beaches and dramatic coastlines filled with sandy beaches, tide pools, and kelp forests.
But, a lesser-known habitat exists further offshore - an underwater mountain range that spans the California coast consisting of approximately 60 seamounts.
Each seamount is slightly different from the rest - some are used by seabirds and whales as rest stops along their migration routes, while others harbor centuries-old deep-sea corals.
However, recent interest in deep-sea mining and destructive fishing practices threatens these diverse and slow-growing ecosystems.
Thus, in an effort to raise awareness about the importance of these seamounts and protect them from intrusive human activities, Mission Blue recently declared these seamounts a "Hope Spot".

“The rationale for exploiting fish, oil and gas, and minerals in the deep sea is based on their perceived current monetary value," says Dr. Sylvia Earle, a world-renowned ocean explorer and founder of Mission Blue, "But the living systems that will be destroyed by these activities are perceived to have no monetary value."

Mission Blue aims to develop a global network of marine protected areas.
Marine sites that are declared "Hope Spots" support rare and diverse species, have cultural and/or economic value, and are vulnerable to damage by human actions.
The California Seamounts "Hope Spot" encompasses not only underwater mountains, but also hydrothermal vents and cold methane seeps - both of which also support a wide variety of sea life.
These deep-sea habitats can be found along the Gorda and Mendocino Ridges, which were historically identified as locations for deep-sea mining operations.

Seamounts located within the exclusive economic zone off the coast of California.
Marine Conservation Institute
The unique environment that the seamounts create has allowed a specific suite of animals to live on them.
This is because the seamounts alter ocean currents in a way that allows them to draw in waters enriched with nutrients and food.
Davidson Seamount with the GeoGarage platform (NOAA nautical raster chart)
The Davidson Seamount alone harbors over 230 animals, 15 of which had never been spotted before their discovery on the seamount.
In fact, 20 percent of the animals found on these seamounts cannot be found anywhere else in the world.

"Just as we have created parks to protect Yosemite Valley, and Giant Redwoods, we must act to protect the great mountains underneath the surface of the ocean and the coral forests that live on them," says Dr.
Lance Morgan, President of the Marine Conservation Institute, "The ocean and its life – whether we can see it from the beach or not – is a wonderful creation; and it is our responsibility to be a good steward and protect those things we have been given."  
Links :

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Chay Blyth: 50 years since his impossible voyage

Chay Blyth finished his solo non-stop westwards circumnavigation around the world on 6 August 1971. Credit: Getty

From Yachting Monthly

50 years ago Chay Blyth became the first person to sail solo, non-stop, westwards around the world. Dee Caffari, the first woman to emulate his record, looks back at his achievement 

 (1 Aug 1971) Lone round the World yachtsman Chay Blyth seen 50 miles off Land's End as he neared the end of his voyage
Before the attempt, Sir Francis Chichester commented that he thought the voyage was impossible, and on completion it became known as ‘The Impossible Voyage’.
The Times newspaper in London described it as, ‘The most outstanding passage ever made by one man alone’.
It is still considered the toughest challenge in sailing; only five people have ever managed it, a number which becomes more significant when compared to the 12 people who have walked on the moon.
The plan began in earnest to sail the ‘wrong way’ round the world in 1969.
It was not until 18 October 1970 that Chay Blyth departed from Southampton on board the 59ft ketch, British Steel.
His voyage had never been done before: to sail single-handed, non-stop, westwards around the world.
Thousands cheered and their Royal Highnesses Prince Philip, Prince Charles and Princess Anne were there to greet him as was the then prime minister, Edward Heath.
Chay Blyth’s record breaking 59ft yacht British Steel.
Credit: Getty

In recognition of his impressive achievement, he was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire.
Sponsorship was vital to the success of the venture and Chay secured the backing of The British Steel Corporation.
This experience of gaining and developing a relationship with a major corporation was to shape not only Chay’s personal exploits in the following years but also his business initiatives too.
Those skills were something he happily passed on and I remember receiving advice from Chay about business meetings and how the world of corporate sponsorship worked during regular chats when I was preparing for my solo voyage.
Preparation for such a voyage is an endless task with phone calls, meetings, challenges and hurdles all to be overcome.
There are infinite decisions that need making and as you are the only sailor involved, you are the only one that can make the final decision.
The hours of commuting from boatyard to boardroom and back again gives you plenty of time to think.

Chay, and his wife Maureen, worked tirelessly through their tasks.
I also remember driving back and forth during my preparation, making calls and endless lists. It’s not something that can be done alone.
You need a support network and those closest to you are crucial in fulfilling that role.
Without their support the dream never becomes a reality.
As departure day came closer Chay talked about it being not possible to be completely ready as there was always last-minute organised chaos.
The final night ashore you are unable to relax, your mind racing through final checklists, mixed with nerves and anxiety.
No one can take any more days of tension and pressure – all you want is the start line.
Chay recalled his emotions at his start: ‘I think you are beyond feeling, you don’t feel anything.’

As mentor for my ‘Impossible Voyage’ in 2005/6, his parting words to me as I set off, were to remind me not to cry – it had been done before.
Asked how I felt, I think, like Chay, I was too busy initially to feel anything.
Then it was overwhelming. I was heading towards the Lizard Lighthouse, the stopwatch started and I was swamped with the reality of what I had chosen to undertake.
It took a while to settle into a routine.
Calms and light airs were conditions that both Chay and I seemed to find most difficult to tolerate.
Chay often talked to himself, a trait I can relate to.
It is like giving yourself a running commentary or a set of instructions out loud to follow.
The benefits are two-fold.
First it gives you confidence in your decisions on what actions to take.
It also feels like you have some dialogue or company while you do it.
Both of us were plagued with autopilot issues and had to constantly fix or hand steer in certain conditions, testing our resolve.
Chay had his army and para training to draw upon, and I had my stubbornness and tenacity, but both of us were determined to see things through.
A common topic that comes up no matter whose sailing memoirs you read are the constant references to food.
In the preparation phase the focus is all on performance, sails, navigation, boat systems and weather.
Sir Chay Blyth with Dee Caffari after finishing her own solo Impossible Voyage in 2006.
Credit: Getty
But the reality is that when you are out there, it is the fuel you consume that keeps you going.
That, and sleep or rather the lack of it at times, and how that affects your mood in difficult circumstances.
Recognising how you react at these times, so you can do something about it, is something I probably underestimated in my voyage, despite having read about it in Chay’s book.
My relationship with Sir Chay Blyth started when I was one of his skippers in the 2004 Global Challenge Race – ‘The World’s Toughest Yacht Race’.
He planted the solo non-stop seed in my mind during the Cape Town stop-over, while we were chatting after dinner.

Since his Impossible Voyage, only three men had followed in his footsteps, Mike Golding, Philippe Monnet and Jean-Luc Van den Heede.
In Chay’s opinion it was only a matter of time before a woman would do it, so why shouldn’t it be me?
Sir Chay Blyth may not have directly passed on his tips and techniques for dealing with mountainous seas and gale force headwinds, but the 14 years’ experience of sailing on Global Challenge races and the teams he put together to compete in them clearly benefited me.
I trusted their confidence and Blyth’s belief in me and my abilities.
When I crossed the finish line 15 years ago, having sailed myself into the history books following in Sir Chay Blyth’s footsteps, the first call I made was to Chay.
I was standing on deck in the rain with the wind blowing 50 knots and the phone inside my hood.
He had heard the news and had popped the Champagne cork and he sounded proud.
As he wrote in the foreword of my book published the following year: ‘The Impossible Voyage may no longer be impossible, but it remains hard, very, very hard.’
Links :

Saturday, July 31, 2021

Image of the week : Impressive shallow seafloor at the coast of Mozambique

Impressive shallow seafloor at the coast of Mozambique.
True color image captured by Sentinel2 with small contrast and saturation adjustment

Localization with the GeoGarage platform (UKHO nautical raster chart)

Friday, July 30, 2021

A brief geography of time

From Worldmapper by Benjamin Hennig

Sometimes referred to as the fourth dimension, time has a highly geographical relevance


For human geography, population sizes can have as much impact on the ‘tempo of places’ as culture or even climate.
In physical geography, the concept of time is indispensable for an understanding of how the natural environment has changed and keeps changing.

In the 21st century, time has been described as being a commodity itself, affecting everything from manufacturing and trade, to financial flows and global transport links.

The general geographic distribution of time zones is based on the general concept of dividing the world into zones of equal time following a 24-hour day around the world.
In theory, this means that there are 12 time zones of 15° width in which each differs by one hour’s time difference.

The 12 TZ for France

The necessity of time zones was closely linked to growing needs of transport and communication links during industrialisation.
British railway companies began adopting Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) which helped to coordinate timetables.
In 1880, GMT became standard across Britain and time differences of tens of minutes between cities in the country started vanishing.
At a global level, time zones became established in the first decades of the 20th century.

But as much as time zones are legal, commercial and social constructs, they are also highly political issues which find their expression in the spatial patterns of today’s time zones.
The adoption of the Greenwich meridian itself can be seen as a highly political act that helped in manifesting a Euro-centric world view.
Furthermore, many of the time zone boundaries do not follow the geographical pattern of each zone.
Most boundaries follow political boundary lines such as country or state borders.
While in some cases this can be practical minor deviations, more often the political decisions for time zones have a considerable impact on people’s everyday lives.

The most extreme example for geographical distortion through time can be seen in the case of China which covers the extent of five time zones, but only uses one, orientated on the location of Beijing (at UTC +8 hours).

 Situation in Antarctica

At the most extreme ends of the country, people use the same time even if sunrise is approximately four hours apart.
India made a similar decision to continue using only one time zone by adjusting Indian time half way between the two time zones that used to divide the country (now at UTC +5:30 hours), with only approximately two hours solar difference appearing between the outermost parts of the country.

Another political decision was North Korea’s creation of Pyongyang Time in 2015, creating a 30-minute distance to its southern neighbour.
Another political decision was Iceland’s move to abolish changing the clocks between summer and winter time in 1968.
Iceland’s decision meant a move towards adopting Greenwich Mean Time and becoming the westernmost country in that zone.
On GMT’s eastern edge, almost all of the western European countries that would geographically fall into this zone instead adopted Central European Time (GMT +1), which has become equally large, touching the geographic extent of almost four time zones.

Larger populations are not always affected by such deviations from the theoretical time zone: The most extreme deviation was created by Kiribati’s decision to realign the zone for the Line Islands with the same date as its territory, meaning that the sparsely populated islands follow the same time as Hawai’i but are one day ahead as the ‘easternmost land’ with the earliest time zone (GMT +14 hours).

The above cartogram shows time zones from the perspective of an equal-population projection – a gridded population visualisation where each small area is proportional to the population living there.
The map highlights how these geopolitical considerations have an effect on the impact that time has on people and the functioning of the world.
Globalisation is far from having resulted in a compression of space and time.

On the contrary, time defines our contemporary world because it has put a new meaning to the spaces of humanity, or, as Tennessee Williams describes it in The Glass Menagerie: ‘Time is the longest distance between two places.’
In an interconnected world, time is equally the longest distance between two people.

Links :

    Thursday, July 29, 2021

    We’ve discovered an undersea volcano near Christmas Island that looks like the Eye of Sauron

    Phil Vandenbossche & Nelson Kuna/CSIRO, Author provided

    From The Conversation by Tim O'Hara

    Looking like the Eye of Sauron from the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, an ancient undersea volcano was slowly revealed by multibeam sonar 3,100 metres below our vessel, 280 kilometres southeast of Christmas Island.
    This was on day 12 of our voyage of exploration to Australia’s Indian Ocean Territories, aboard CSIRO’s dedicated ocean research vessel, the RV Investigator.

    Previously unknown and unimagined, this volcano emerged from our screens as a giant oval-shaped depression called a caldera, 6.2km by 4.8km across.
    It is surrounded by a 300m-high rim (resembling Sauron’s eyelids), and has a 300 m high cone-shaped peak at its the centre (the “pupil”).
    Sonar image of the ‘Eye of Sauron’ volcano and nearby seamounts on the sea bed south-west of Christmas Island.
    Phil Vandenbossche & Nelson Kuna/CSIRO, Author provided

    A caldera is formed when a volcano collapses
    The molten magma at the base of the volcano shifts upwards, leaving empty chambers.
    The thin solid crust on the surface of the dome then collapses, creating a large crater-like structure
    Often, a small new peak then begins to form in the centre as the volcano continues spewing magma.
    One well-known caldera is the one at Krakatoa in Indonesia, which exploded in 1883, killing tens of thousands of people and leaving only bits of the mountain rim visible above the waves.
    By 1927, a small volcano, Anak Krakatoa (“child of Krakatoa”), had grown in its centre. 
    A great eye, wreathed in flame emerging from the seabed

    In contrast, we may not even be aware of volcanic eruptions when they happen deep under the ocean.
    One of the few tell-tale signs is the presence of rafts of light pumice stone floating on the sea surface after being blown out of a submarine volcano.
    Eventually, this pumice stone becomes waterlogged and sinks to the ocean floor.
    Our volcanic “eye” was not alone.
    Further mapping to the south revealed a smaller sea mountain covered in numerous volcanic cones, and further still to the south was a larger, flat-topped seamount.
    Following our Lord of the Rings theme, we have nicknamed them Barad-dûr (“Dark Fortress”) and Ered Lithui (“Ash Mountains”), respectively. 


    The voyage of the RV Investigator around Christmas Island. 
    Tim O'Hara/Museums Victoria
    Localization with the GeoGarage platform (AHS nautical raster chart)
    Although author J.R.R. Tolkein’s knowledge of mountain geology wasn’t perfect, our names are wonderfully appropriate given the jagged nature of the first and the pumice-covered surface of the second.
    The Eye of Sauron, Barad-dûr, and Ered Lithui are part of the Karma cluster of seamounts that have been previously estimated by geologists to be more than 100 million years old, and which formed next to an ancient sea ridge from a time when Australia was situated much further south, near Antarctica. The flat summit of Ered Lithui was formed by wave erosion when the seamount protruded above the sea surface, before the heavy seamount slowly sank back down into the soft ocean seafloor.

    The summit of Ered Lithui is now 2.6km below sea level.

    A flyby of the seamounts, south of Christmas Island.
    3D imagery courtesy of CSIRO/MNF, GSM
    But here is the geological conundrum.
    Our caldera looks surprisingly fresh for a structure that should be more than 100 million years old.
    Ered Lithui has almost 100m of sand and mud layers draped over its summit, formed by sinking dead organisms over millions of years.
    This sedimentation rate would have partially smothered the caldera. Instead it is possible that volcanoes have continued to sprout or new ones formed long after the original foundation.
    Our restless Earth is never still.

    The large deep-sea predatory seastar Zoroaster.
    Rob French/Museums Victoria, Author provided
    Small batfish patrol the seamount summits.
    Rob French/Museums Victoria, Author provided 
    Elasipod sea cucumbers feed on organic detritus on deep sandy seafloors.
    Rob French/Museums Victoria, Author provided
    But life adapts to these geological changes, and Ered Lithui is now covered in seafloor animals.
    Brittle-stars, sea-stars, crabs and worms burrow into or skate over the sandy surface.
    Erect black corals, fan-corals, sea-whips, sponges and barnacles grow on exposed rocks.
    Gelatinous cusk-eels prowl around rock gullies and boulders.
    Batfish lie in wait for unsuspecting prey.

    Our mission is to map the seafloor and survey sea life from these ancient and secluded seascapes.
    The Australian government recently announced plans to create two massive marine parks across the regions.
    Our expedition will supply scientific data that will help Parks Australia to manage these areas into the future.

    Scientists from museums, universities, CSIRO and Bush Blitz around Australia are participating in the voyage.
    We are close to completing part one of our journey to the Christmas Island region.
    Part two of our journey to the Cocos (Keeling) Island region will be scheduled in the next year or so.

    No doubt many animals that we find here will be new to science and our first records of their existence will be from this region. We expect many more surprising discoveries.
    Links :

    Wednesday, July 28, 2021

    Deadly coral disease sweeping Caribbean linked to wastewater from ships

    A researcher off the Virgin Islands swims past a pillar coral showing signs of stony coral tissue loss disease (SCTLD).
    Photographs: Lucas Jackson/Reuters

    From The Guardian by Jewel Fraser

    Researchers find ‘significant relationship’ between stony coral tissue loss disease and nearby shipping

    A virulent and fast-moving coral disease that has swept through the Caribbean could be linked to waste or ballast water from ships, according to research.

    The deadly infection, known as stony coral tissue loss disease (SCTLD), was first identified in Florida in 2014, and has since moved through the region, causing great concern among scientists.

    It spreads faster than most coral diseases and has an unusually high mortality rate among the species most susceptible to it, making it potentially the most deadly disease ever to affect corals.
    More than 30 species of coral are susceptible.
    It was found in Jamaica in 2018, then in the Mexican Caribbean, Sint Maarten and the Bahamas, and has since been detected in 18 other countries.

    In Mexico, more than 40% of reefs in one study had at least 10% of coral infected by SCTLD, and nearly a quarter had more than 30%.
    In Florida, regional declines in coral density approached 30% and live tissue loss was upward of 60%.

    Biologist Emily Williams moves corals between tanks as researchers try to find out more about an outbreak of SCTLD in Florida in 2019

    Scientists have not yet been able to determine whether the disease is caused by a virus, a bacterium, a chemical or some other infectious agent, but the peer-reviewed study in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science supports the theory that ballast water from ships may be involved.
    Conducted in the Bahamas by scientists at the Perry Institute for Marine Science, it found that SCTLD was more prevalent in reefs that were closer to the Bahamas’ main commercial ports, in Nassau and Grand Bahama, suggesting a likely link between the disease and ships.

    Judith Lang, scientific director at the Atlantic and Gulf Rapid Reef Assessment project, which has been tracking the disease, said: “The prevailing currents in the Caribbean push seawater to Florida and not in the reverse direction, and the predominant wind direction is westward.
    So human dispersal [to those three territories] in 2018 seems necessary.”

    In 2017, the spread of deadly pathogens by ships when they discharge ballast water prompted the International Maritime Organization to implement the Ballast Water Management Convention, which requires that ships discharge their ballast water – used to maintain the ship’s stability – 200 nautical miles from shore in water at least 200 metres deep before entering port, to ensure they do not bring in harmful foreign pathogens.

    A research technician cuts a coral with a steel chisel to remove the section being killed by SCTLD, US Virgin Islands

    In the Bahamas, SCTLD has spread rapidly since first being identified in December 2019.

    Krista Sherman, senior scientist at the Perry Institute and a co-author of the recently published paper, said: “The disease is spread along about 75km of reef tract, about 46 miles – so for Grand Bahama that is a large structure of reef.
    We’re talking about mostly covering the entire southern coastline of the island.”

    The disease is also widespread in the coral reefs of New Providence, where the Bahamas’ capital, Nassau, and main port are located.
    The study notes the presence of international container ships, cruise ships and pleasure boats at that location, as well as a fuel shipping station.

    Infection rates among the most susceptible species were 23% and 45% across New Providence and Grand Bahama respectively, and recent mortality rates have reached almost 43%.

    With the exception of two species, the researchers found “there was a significant relationship” between the disease and proximity of reefs to the major shipping ports.
    They noted “an increasing proportion of healthy colonies as distance from the port increased on both islands, and a greater proportion of recently dead colonies closer to the port than farther away”.

    The locations where SCTLD is prevalent in the Bahamas are all popular with tourists, recreational fishers and divers, Sherman said.

    A research assistant applies an antibiotic ointment to a mountainous star coral affected by SCTLD near Key West, Florida

    There are concerns that the coral disease could affect the country’s main fishery export, spiny lobster, said Adrian LaRoda, president of the Bahamas Commercial Fishers Alliance.
    Although the lobster fishers work further out to sea, the industry would be affected if the reefs die.
    The spiny lobster fishery brings in $90m (£66m) a year and employs 9,000 people.

    “Any negative impact on our reefs would definitely drastically affect our spiny lobsters because the mature animals migrate [from the reefs] to the fish aggregating devices [a technique for catching fish],” LaRoda said.
    He added that the lobsters’ reproduction rate and the food supply for juvenile lobsters in the reef would also be affected.

    The Bahamian government has set up a national taskforce to tackle the problem.
    Currently, the most effective treatment for the disease is the application of the antibiotic amoxicillin directly to the corals, which has seen some success in reducing mortality, but no realistic permanent solution is available.

    According to Lang, rather than treating the symptoms, there is a need to tackle the possible human-made causes.
    “Given a chance, nature can heal naturally,” she said.

    Links :

    Tuesday, July 27, 2021

    The importance of surveying relic munitions and unexploded ordnance

    Relic munitions and unexploded ordnance are a global problem, ubiquitously affecting European coastal waters.
    The risk of possible detonations and environmental contamination hinders the development of many sectors of the blue economy — including offshore energy, shipping, aquaculture and tourism. 

    From Euronews

    For the police divers who work for the Schleswig-Holstein Bomb disposal unit in Kiel, their daily job is to go down into the murky cold sea to find lost weapons of war, a deadly legacy of the 20th century.

    The coastal waters of Germany and other European countries are scattered with old munitions.
    They rarely explode, but some can detonate if hit by an anchor.

    Measures to protect the seafloor
    On the day we visit Schleswig-Holstein's special unit, the bomb hunters are heading to the military port of Kiel.
    Navy specialists have found a submerged explosive device close to the pier there.

    As a rule, the divers try to extract the weapons for proper on-land disposal.
    Only when that is not possible, are the bombs detonated on the seafloor.

    Frank Ketelsen, Head of the diving operations at the Schleswig-Holstein Bomb disposal unit, tells us that if they must detonate a bomb in the water, they set up "air bubble curtains to protect marine mammals".

    The tip of the iceberg
    At the bomb unit headquarters, there are many samples of munitions from various periods and of different origins.
    The collection is used to train new police officers.

    Unexploded bombs found on land often make the news, but munitions on the seabed are rarely heard of, yet their quantity is unbelievable.

    Oliver Kinast, Head of the Schleswig-Holstein bomb disposal unit, says that there's an estimated "1.6 million tonnes of munition from the World Wars in the North and Baltic Sea, 300 000 tonnes of which are in the Baltic Sea alone".
    According to him though, those figures don't fully take into account munitions lost during battle operations.

    The hunt for underwater munitions
    Littorina, a scientific vessel from the GEOMAR institute, takes us along with a team of scientists to a large munitions dumpsite a few kilometres off the Baltic coast of Germany.
    Two EU-funded projects, BASTA and ExPloTect, are testing new methods of finding bombs there: relic munitions are becoming a growing problem for marine industries and underwater ecosystems.

    Aaron Beck is a researcher in aquatic biogeochemistry for the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel.
    He has realised that the more they develop offshore resources, the more munitions they encounter and "the more they have to be cleaned up".
    He thinks that "the biggest impetus for cleaning them up is wind farm installation, cable laying and so forth".

    Polluting the sea
    However, that is not the only problem these munitions pose. 
    They are becoming big pollutants. 
    "All of these munitions are in metal casings, and they all have been corroding for 70-80 years. We're coming up to a point where all the chemicals that have been inside will all start to come out", Aaron adds.

    Much of the munitions on the seabed, both conventional and chemical, were deliberately disposed of in large numbers by the armed forces of many different countries.
    Our knowledge of where exactly all these dumpsites are is patchy.

    An AUV image of underwater munitions, chunks of TNT and other explosives
    Vehicles adapted for seafloor exploration
    Autonomous underwater vehicles explore the seafloor quickly and efficiently.
    They take pictures and measurements using a magnetometer.
    Several of these devices can work simultaneously, which greatly reduces the costs.

    On the seafloor, we see a hoard of decaying munitions that includes two-meter-long bombshells and bare chunks of toxic explosives.
    Similar dumpsites can be found off the coasts of various countries in Europe and around the world.

    AUV LUISE being lowered into the seaeuronews
    The BASTA project vehicle, LUISE, explores the seafloor along a programmed trajectory, transmitting collected data to a ship.
    The detailed photos and magnetic measurements, together with results of previously conducted acoustic scanning, reveal the exact shape of the suspicious objects and the presence of metal in their composition.

    Marc Seidel, a Geophysicist for GEOMAR tells us that by combining the camera footage and the magnetic signatures that they measure, they get a good idea of what the object might be. Chemical analysis gives even more clarity.

    'Silver bullet' technology

    Scientists from the ExPloTect project are developing a sampling system with special filters for catching dissolved particles of explosive materials from the seawater.
    Back on the ship, the samples are further concentrated and analysed with a compact mass spectrometer that indicates the presence of various explosives.
    This method can drastically speed up detection of underwater munitions.

    According to Aaron Beck, a researcher in aquatic biogeochemistry for the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, with the new chemical analysis, they've gone from two to three months from collecting a sample to getting the data to the whole process potentially only taking 15 minutes. 
    "We need that kind of rapid response", he says.

    The ExPloTect system visualisationK.U.M. Umwelt- und Meerestechnik Kiel

    Developers call this new weapon in the fight against underwater munitions a "silver bullet".
    It hits the target for many industrial sectors that now spend a lot of time and resources clearing unexploded ordnances (UXOs), off the seabed.

    The technology is also helping out the environment.
    Onno Bliss, Business Development Manager for K.U.M. Umwelt und Meerestechnik, says that they will adapt the technology to different kinds of structures.
    It will enable them to do long-term "permanent environmental monitoring at known UXO fields".
    Doing so is also another way to decide where to start clearing the munitions first.

    But how can the huge amount of data collected by underwater vehicles be processed?

    Artificial intelligence

    Egeos, a company based in Kiel, is developing a software platform that brings together new scientific data and relevant historic records like old archives documenting coastal military operations.
    The algorithms look for relevant data patterns, suggesting areas that are likely to be contaminated with munitions.

    To the CEO and founder of Egeos, Jann Wendt, "automation is definitely helping".
    The process is still quite manual, but they're improving every day. 
    "We are getting smarter from the side of data analytics. We are getting smarter from the perspective of autonomous underwater vehicles, autonomous sensors that are capturing this data and that makes the whole process cheaper", he explains.

    Clearing the seabed is a task with huge economic potential.
    Private companies are already developing large-scale projects for the recovery and proper disposal of underwater munitions.
    According to Aaron Beck, there's a whole industry of people able to find and clean up munitions on the seabed.
    All they really need is the funding to be able to do so.

    Huge masses of underwater munitions are rusting and will release toxic content into the seas in the near future.
    Can we stop this ticking time bomb before it’s too late? 
    Links :

    Monday, July 26, 2021

    Getting to the bottom of trawling’s carbon emissions

    Trawling nets like these disturb delicate ocean floor ecosystems and inadvertently release stored carbon. Credit: Alex Proimos, CC BY 2.0

    From EOS by Nacy Averett

    A new model shows that bottom trawling, which stirs up marine sediments as weighted nets scrape the ocean floor, may be releasing more than a billion metric tons of carbon every year.

    Bottom trawling, a controversial fishing practice in which industrial boats drag weighted nets through the water and along the ocean floor, can unintentionally dig up seafloor ecosystems and release sequestered carbon within the sediments.
    For the first time, researchers have attempted to estimate globally how this fishing technique may be remineralizing stored carbon that, as the seabed is tilled, ends up back in the water column and possibly the atmosphere, where it would contribute to climate change.
    “The ocean is one of our biggest carbon sinks, so when we put in more human-induced CO2 emissions…we’re weakening that sink.”“The ocean is one of our biggest carbon sinks,” said Trisha Atwood, who researches aquatic ecology at Utah State University.
    “So when we put in more human-induced CO2emissions, whether that’s directly dumping CO2 into deep waters or whether that’s trawling and enhancing remineralization of this carbon, we’re weakening that sink.”

    Atwood helped build a model that shows that bottom trawling may be releasing as much as 1.5 billion metric tons of aqueous carbon dioxide (CO2) annually, equal to what is released on land through farming.
    Her work was part of a paper recently published in Nature that presents a framework for prioritizing the creation of marine protected areas to restore ocean biodiversity and maximize carbon storage and ecosystem services.

    Estimating Carbon Loss from the Ocean Floor

    To create the model, Atwood and her coauthors first needed to figure out how much of the ocean floor is dredged by trawlers.
    They turned to data from the nonprofit Global Fishing Watch, which recently began tracking fishing activity around the world and compiled data on industrial trawlers and dredgers from 2016 to 2019.

    The next step was to find data on how much carbon is stored in the world’s ocean sediments.
    Because that information was not readily available, Atwood and colleagues built a data set by analyzing thousands of sediment cores that had been collected over the decades.

    Last, they dug through the scientific literature, looking at studies that examined whether disturbances to the soil in coastal ecosystems, such as seagrasses, mangroves, and salt marshes, exposed carbon that was once deep in marine sediments and enhanced carbon production in the ocean.
    A group of twin-rigged shrimp trawlers in the northern Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana.
    The trawlers are trailed by a plume of sediment, suggesting that their nets are scraping against the seafloor.
    Credit: SkyTruth Galleries, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

    “We lean really heavily on that literature,” said Atwood.
    “We used a lot of the equations [in previous papers] to build our model and extend it into the seabeds in these more open ocean locations.
    And from there, we were able to come up with this first estimate.”

    Their investigation did not attempt to determine whether sequestered carbon that has been released by bottom trawling remains in the water column or is released into the atmosphere, although they noted potential problems either way.
    In the paper, the authors noted that it is likely to increase ocean acidification, limit the ocean’s buffering capacity, and even add to the buildup of atmospheric CO2.

    Atwood and the lead author of the paper, Enric Sala, a conservation ecologist who is also a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, are working with Tim DeVries, who studies ocean biogeochemistry at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and scientists at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center to build atmospheric models to try to figure out where the released carbon goes.

    Existing Trawling Data May Be Too Scant

    Not everyone, however, is convinced that Atwood and Sala’s model on bottom trawling and loss of carbon sequestration in marine sediments is accurate.
    Sarah Paradis, who is studying the effects of bottom trawling on the seafloor for her Ph.D.
    at the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology in Barcelona, is skeptical.

    In an email to Eos, Paradis noted that since the 1980s, there have been fewer than 40 studies that address the impacts that bottom trawling has on sedimentary organic carbon.
    These few studies are not enough to build a model on, she said, and in addition, the studies reach different conclusions.
    Some studies have observed that bottom trawling decreases organic carbon content of the seafloor, whereas others show it increases organic carbon.“We in no way intended our model to be the end-all in the trawling conversation.
    We hope that many more studies will come along that help produce more localized results.”In addition, Paradis wrote that lower organic carbon on the seafloor does not necessarily mean its remineralization to CO2.
    Rather, it could simply mean loss of organic carbon through erosion, which means the carbon moves to another area of the seabed but very little is remineralized into CO2.
    She pointed to several studies, including one that she was a part of, that showed loss of organic carbon through erosion.

    “I want to emphasize that [the authors] address a very important issue regarding how bottom trawling, a ubiquitous and very poorly-regulated anthropogenic activity, is affecting the seafloor,” she wrote.
    “But the values they propose are far from being credible.”

    Atwood disagreed.
    “We don’t need lots of studies on the effects of trawling because we built our model using decades of carbon cycling research,” she wrote in an email to Eos.
    “Trawling is simply a perturbation that mixes and re-suspends sediments, leading to increases in carbon availability.
    All we needed to know about trawling to apply a carbon model to it is where trawling occurs and how deep in the sediment the trawls go.”

    In addition, Atwood said, “We in no way intended our model to be the end-all in the trawling conversation.
    We hope that many more studies will come along that help produce more localized results.”

    Links :

    Sunday, July 25, 2021


    Five barrels on one wave !

    Friday, July 23, 2021

    First map of marine structures shows how much we've modified the oceans

    Through structures like oil rigs, humans have made a big imprint on the world's oceans

    From NewAtlas by Nick Lavars

    With our long history of altering the environment through manmade structures, we humans sure have made our mark on the Earth in our relatively short time here.
    Scientists in Australia have turned their attention to what this perpetual development means for the world’s marine environments, calculating the extent of our construction footprint on the oceans for the first time ever.

    The research was carried out at Australia’s University of Sydney and the Sydney Institute of Marine Science, with the team collating data on marine-built structures of all kinds.
    These include oil rigs, wind farms, the length of telecommunication cables, commercial ports, bridges and tunnels, artificial reefs and aquaculture farms, with the data painstakingly sourced from the individual sectors of these different industries.

    The result is what the scientists call the first map of human development in the world’s oceans, revealing how much of the marine environment had been altered by our activity.
    According to the team, a total of around 30,000 sq km (11,600 sq mi) has been modified by human construction, which amounts to 0.008 percent of the entire ocean.
    But as lead author Dr Ana Bugnot explains, the effects are a lot more far-reaching than that.

    “The effects of built structures extend beyond their direct physical footprint,” she tells New Atlas.
    “Marine construction can modify surrounding environments by changing ecological and sediment characteristics, water quality and hydrodynamics, as well as noise and electromagnetic fields.”

    Scientists have pieced together the first global map of marine construction
    Bugnot et al., 'Current and projected global extent of marine built structures', Nature Sustainability

    Dr Bugnot and her team drew on existing data and research to quantify the impact of these types of flow-on effects, and found that the footprint of these structures is actually two million square kilometers (770,200 sq mi), more than 0.5 percent of the ocean as a whole.
    Among the more surprising revelations from the analysis were that 40 percent of the physical footprint of all structures can be attributed to aquaculture farms in China, and that noise pollution can carry up to 20 km (12 mi) from commercial ports.

    While evidence of manmade alterations to the oceans dates back thousands of years, to the early construction of ports and breakwaters to protect low-lying coasts, the phenomenon began to accelerate around the mid-point of the 20th century, according to the team.
    This construction mostly takes place in coastal areas, and to better understand this trend the team cast an eye to the future, assessing data on planned projects and assuming a business-as-usual approach.

    "The numbers are alarming," Dr Bugnot says.
    "For example, infrastructure for power and aquaculture, including cables and tunnels, is projected to increase by 50 to 70 percent by 2028.
    Yet this is an underestimate: there is a dearth of information on ocean development, due to poor regulation of this in many parts of the world.”

    The team hopes the study can draw attention to the importance of conserving marine environments, and that the findings can provide a starting point for further investigation and tools to track of these types of ocean construction projects on an ongoing basis.

    “The estimates of marine construction obtained are substantial and serve to highlight the urgent concern and need for the management of marine environments,” says Dr Bugnot.
    “We hope these estimates will trigger national and international initiatives and boost global efforts for integrated marine spatial planning.
    To achieve this, it is important to rump up efforts for detailed mapping of historical and existing marine habitats and ocean construction.”

    Links :

    Thursday, July 22, 2021

    Canada (CHS) layer update in the GeoGarage platform

    2 new nautical raster charts added

    Ocean Data for All: Why we need to break down barriers for the global sharing of ocean data

    From Institute of Oceanography, National Taiwan University by Linwood Pendleton

    The ocean works at a global scale.
    To understand changes at a global scale, we need to ensure that ocean data are readily available in global data sets.
    Unfortunately, ocean data are often siloed – trapped in national databases, on laptops, and in logbooks.
    How does Ocean Data For All solve the problem?

    We have only one ocean

    The Ocean supplies the air we breathe, regulates the climate, feeds billions of people, and supports an important and growing global economy.
    There are 150 ocean countries, 83 of which are more ocean than land.
    To manage this ocean, we need a robust global set of ocean data from all of this ocean.
    Ocean data are used to monitor oceanic and climatic change, to assess fisheries health, to track biodiversity, and to alert the public of hazards like harmful algal blooms.
    These data also are used to create models to warn of storms and tsunamis, changes in fish abundance, and to plan for ocean change.
    Ocean data and the science needed to produce them are essential to plan for sustainable development and are so important that the United Nations declared that the next decade will be the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development.

    “The ocean works at a global scale. To understand changes at a global scale, we need to ensure that ocean data are readily available in global data sets. Artificial intelligence and machine learning methods are needed to understand and predict global ocean processes. Yet, AI can only be applied if the data are all in one place, organized and easy to read by computers.”

    Unfortunately, ocean data are often siloed – trapped in national databases, on laptops, and in logbooks.
    Even when data are shared online, it is often difficult to find and access these online databases.
    The United Nation’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission has long been a home to such a global database of ocean data.
    Stewarded by the International Ocean Data and Information Exchange, the World Ocean Database (WOD) and the Ocean Biodiversity Information System (OBIS) have provided global sources of ocean data.
    But, even with the backing of most of the world’s ocean countries, the WOD and OBIS still do not fully reflect ocean conditions around the planet.

    Head of northern right whale with NOAA Ship DELAWARE II in background. 
    (Source: NOAA on Unsplash)

    We don’t have the global data we need to manage the ocean

    Today, fewer than 30 countries regularly contribute to the World Ocean Database – the oldest and most global set of essential ocean data (compared to more than 60 countries just 2 decades prior).
    In 2018, the World Ocean Database had fewer than one data station per 1000 km2 for nearly three-quarters of the world’s coastal waters (the blue in the first map).
    Without these data, global ocean and climate models do not account for conditions in many of the world’s sovereign ocean areas and we are unable to assess the impacts of climate change or progress towards certain Sustainable Development Goals.
    Data regarding biodiversity are similarly lacking (second map).
    We have a higher density of biodiversity data for Antarctic waters than for nearly all of the Global South.

    “Barriers to data sharing must be removed.
    Many countries have ocean data, but do not share these data.
    In some cases, lack of human, technical, and financial capacity may limit data sharing.
    Formal policies and informal practices may also slow data flow.
    National security interests, real or perceived, may prevent ocean data sharing.
    Of course, in some places there are simply no data to share.”

    Leadership is needed to overcome barriers to ocean data sharing

    With more than 120 ocean countries failing to regularly share ocean data and virtually no shared data for the vast majority of ocean countries, steps need to be taken to fill the gaps in our understanding of ocean conditions and change.
    Without these data, it will be difficult to achieve sustainable development goals and a sustainable blue economy.

    To begin to address these hurdles to ocean data sharing, a unique partnership – Ocean Data For All - has been created by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy, the World Economic Forum’s Future of a Connected Planet Program, and the Centre for the 4th Industrial Revolution – Ocean.

    These partners are working to analyze patterns of ocean data sharing to understand whether, when, and where increased sharing of ocean data could be achieved through technological, political, legal, cultural, financial, or other means.
    While the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development is focused on increasing the capacity to create new data through science, the Ocean Data for All project seeks to make sure that these new data and knowledge are shared in ways that are global and open – allowing scientists, planners, and industries around the world to benefit from a more global understanding of ocean processes and conditions.
    To go from analysis to action, however, will require the involvement of leaders in government, industry, technology, and philanthropy all of whom are needed to supply the intellectual and financial resources to break down these barriers.

    Through opportunities like Taiwan’s Ocean Challenge event in Kaohsiung, I am reaching out to students, governments, and leaders in the technology and business to enlist their help in this global effort.
    We all have a role to play in ocean science.