Saturday, September 24, 2011

Ricardo Diniz, "Kick Ass or Get Lost"

In this talk at TEDxEdges 2011, Ricardo Diniz gives us a provocative talk on "Kicking Ass or just Getting Lost!".

Originally from a fishing village in Portugal, Ricardo has travelled the world fast and furious as an offshore sailor and young entrepreneur.
At the grand age of 22 he was living it large as a captain in the Caribbean making his first decent money, which he promptly invested in his sailing projects and first company.
By the age of 24 Ricardo had approached over 4000 companies around the world.
His day to day was about hitting up big companies for big bucks to fund big dreams.
Most of them said NO!
This tough, often soul destroying trek, proved to be essential in defining his passion for excellence and team work.
For years Ricardo has passionately promoted Portugal globally through creative sailing and educational projects, now making him one of the most sought after speakers in schools, universities and companies.
Co-Founder and President of the Portugal Ocean Race, Ricardo is on a mission to create “… the world’s leading around the world yacht race as the ultimate way to communicate Portugal’s incredible maritime and business potential to the world”.

Brussels nominated him European Ambassador for the Oceans.
Shortly after he was a finalist in Portugal's Most Motivating Person Award.
CNN, BBC, National Geographic and pretty much every single major media entity in Portugal have generously covered Ricardo's projects since 1996.
Co-Founder and President of the Portugal Ocean Race, Ricardo will share his thrilling experience with us.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Climate change threatens California beaches

Homeowners along Broad Beach in Malibu have been building huge sandbag walls reinforced with truckloads of boulders to stem damage caused by rising seas and stormy tides.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

From AFP

Global warming could cost California beach communities hundreds of million dollars due to lost tourism and other income earned on the famously surfer-friendly coastline, a new study said.
Storm damage and erosion will narrow beaches over the next century, cutting facilities for tourists and wildlife, said the report which looked at five coastal communities including Venice beach and Malibu.

From the Beach Boys to "Baywatch," California is famous for its oceanfront lifestyle and year-round sunshine, but the Golden State needs to prepare for the encroaching Pacific, said the study commissioned by the California Department of Boating and Waterways.

"California? shorelines are ecologically, economically and socially important," it said.
Coastal erosion, "which is projected to accelerate in the coming century," threatens ecosystems, reduces shoreline storm buffering capacities, and limits recreational opportunity, it said.
"You need a certain amount of space for people to recreate, and, as beaches erode, you lose beach size and you lose tourism," said study author Phillip King, economics professor at San Francisco State University.

Specifically the report looked at the impact of rising sea levels on five locations from San Diego in the south, to Los Angeles' Venice Beach and two seafront areas in Malibu, up to San Francisco's Ocean Beach.
It modeled three sea level rise scenarios: of one meter (three feet), 1.4 meters (3.3 feet), and two meters (6.5 feet) by the year 2100.
Venice Beach, famous for its medical marijuana shops, skateboard park and open-air bodybuilding, could lose up to $440 million in tourist and other revenue if the Pacific rises 55 inches (1.4 meters) by 2100, said the study.

An hour up the coast, a dropoff in visitors to Malibu's Zuma and Broad beaches could cost up to $500 million in lost tourist income and tax revenue, according to the report.
"The economic risks in this report, presented conservatively, demonstrate the scale and importance of sea-level rise impacts in a local planning context," said the report.
"Sea level rise is here... and we need to start planning for it," added King.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Beauty at the bottom of the food chain

Secret Lives of Plankton Revealed in Microscopic Glory The diversity of these ocean drifters, crucial to all life on Earth, is revealed in a new book

From WSJ

Look at the very bottom of the food chain and you will find them.
Plankton are organisms with a name derived from the Greek adjective planktos, meaning “errant”, “wanderer” or “drifter”.
Plankton include microscopic plant-like cells (phytoplankton) and the tiny animals that eat them (zooplankton), and they typically flow with ocean currents.
Though diminutive, their impact on ocean health is monumental– they remove carbon dioxide from the sea and provide our atmosphere with oxygen.

The plankton food web extends from photosynthesizing phytoplankton to whales, seabirds, crabs, worms and starfish of the seabed and thus supports the entire marine food chain.
Despite this important role in the ecosystem, plankton remain mysterious to scientists who have not charted the full extent of their adaptations and biodiversity.
As the plankton habitat alters with sea surface temperatures warming due to global climate change, the plankton are changing their locations with ramifications for the marine food chain.

A glossy new photography book, Ocean Drifters, by Richard R. Kirby, from Firefly Books explores this rarely seen world.
Dr. Kirby and his team collected samples from the Northeast Atlantic and examined them once back in the laboratory.
The plankton are collected in a fine net that can be towed vertically through the water column, or towed obliquely just below the surface.
A bottle at the end of the net collects the plankton.
In the lab the samples were photographed, alive, using a Zeiss microscope.
To create these dramatic photographs, Dr. Kirby utilized dark field microscopy, an illumination technique that highlights the specimen and allows the surrounding area to go dark.

All photographs courtesy Dr Richard Kirby, Royal Society Research Fellow at Plymouth University/Firefly Books.

Single-celled Acantharea and their zooxanthellae.

The zooxanthellae live inside the Acantharea and provides the Acantharea with carbon food source from their photosynthesis, and in return the microalgae gain nutrients from their host.
Although Acantharea can be very abundant in the plankton, little is known about their ecology because they are fragile and difficult to sample.

The eye of this young rockling fish will help it find its food and avoid predators during its short life in the plankton, before it swims to the sea bed where it will live its adult life beneath a rock.

The by-the-wind sailor, Velella velella seen in a side view, bird’s eye view, and fish’s-eye view.

The V. velella is a predatory jellyfish that uses it’s stiff vertical vane of chitin as a diminutive sail to catch the wind.
Air filled tubes form an oval float below the vane that provide bouyancy.
In some V. velella the vane, which makes the animal sail at 45 degrees to the wind, is angled to the right, and in others it is angled to the left.
The prevailing winds sort these two forms so that a particular variant dominates on opposite sides of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

The larva of Luidia sarsi (starfish)

When the yellow-orange juvenile starfish detaches from the larval body and sinks to the sea bed, the rest of the larval body may then continue to swim in the plankton for more than a month before it dies.

A dragonet larva, Callionymus lyra.

Plankton is a critical food source for young fish like this one.

Larvae of a sea anemone

Links :
  • YouTube : Weird creatures feed on plankton - Blue Planet - BBC
  • NOAA : COPEPOD, the global plankton database

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Arctic drilling: EPA grants Shell an air quality permit for drilling vessel

This video details the amount of oil and gas estimated to be in the Alaska offshore and what it could mean for the state of Alaska, the Nation and the aging Trans-Alaska Pipeline.
University of Alaska economist, Scott Goldsmith, talks about the Alaska economy and the 35-thousand jobs that would be created if the Alaska offshore is opened up to exploration and development.
Shell Alaska Vice President, Pete Slaiby, discusses the mean estimate of the oil and gas availability in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas and historical footage is used showing the Trans-Alaska Pipeline being built.

From HuffingtonPost

Shell Oil Co. on Monday took a step closer to tapping vast petroleum reserves off Alaska's Arctic coasts when the federal Environmental Protection Agency approved an air quality permit for one of the company's drilling vessels.

The EPA approved the air permit for the drilling vessel Noble Discover, which Shell hopes to use for exploratory wells in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska's northwest coast, and its support fleet of oil spill response and supply vessels.

Shell Alaska spokesman Curtis Smith said the permit was a hopeful step.
"The delivery of final air permits for our exploration program is another in a series of recent, positive developments and adds to our confidence that we will be drilling our offshore Alaska leases by July of next year," Smith said in an email.

Environmental groups and some Alaska Native groups bitterly oppose offshore Arctic drilling.

Drilling during the ice-free months this year was blocked in part by a successful appeal of two air permits the EPA issued to Shell in 2010.
The agency's independent Environmental Appeals Board overturned the permits in December.

The EPA said Monday that under the new permits, Shell will reduce its fleet emissions of most key air pollutants, including fine particulates and nitrogen dioxide, by more than 50 percent from levels allowed in the 2010 permits.
The reductions, the agency said, are due largely to new emissions controls Shell added to meet a new nitrogen dioxide standard that took effect this year.

Melting ice fresh water ponds (NASA/Kathryn Hansen)

Shell has spent $4 billion on leases in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas, where outer continental shelf reserves are estimated at 26.6 billion barrels of recoverable oil and 130 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
The U.S. arm of Royal Dutch Shell PLC needs a second air permit for a drilling vessel it hopes to use in the Beaufort Sea off Alaska's north coast.
Shell's current exploration plan calls for drilling up to three exploratory wells in the Chukchi Sea and two in the Beaufort Sea in 2012 and the same number in 2013.

Shell faces other hurdles before drilling can begin.
Alaska Native groups contend a spill and the side effects of exploration, including noise, will hurt their ability to harvest wildlife such as whales.
Environmental groups say major industrial activity should not be allowed in the Arctic and that oil companies have not demonstrated an ability to clean up a spill in ice-choked waters.

The groups have challenged the legitimacy of the 2008 Chukchi sale in court, claiming the former federal Minerals Management Service failed to conduct adequate environmental studies.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy, Management, Regulation and Enforcement announced last month that it had taken steps to correct flaws a federal judge cited in environmental work.
Public comments on the agency's supplemental environmental work are being taken through Sept. 26.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar suspended Arctic offshore drilling operations after the blowout of BP's Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico and said the federal government will proceed with "utmost caution."

Brendan Cummings, an attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, said the EPA's decision was not surprising since the Obama administration had indicated it was going to issue the permits "regardless of what the analysis revealed."
"With EPA's recent retreat on national air quality standards for ozone, its delay of greenhouse regulation for power plants, and now Shell's permit, September has been polluter-appreciation month at EPA," he said by email.

Regardless of the fleet's air pollution, Cummings said, the biggest problem with Arctic drilling remains an inability to clean up an oil spill in the region.
Shell contends its response fleet will be able to handle spills in Arctic waters.

Links :

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

For sale: pieces of polar explorers' dramatic past

H. G. Ponting, photographer for Scott's last expedition, nearly died when killer whales leapt onto ice where he stood with his camera.
During those midnight days, when others slept and only the night watch and I were awake...I secured some of the best of my polar studies,' Ponting wrote of this image.
Credit: Courtesy of Charles Leski, Leski Auctions.

From OurAmazingPlanet

This week, Leski Auctions in Melbourne, Australia, is offering up 101 photographs, documents, books, letters, stamps, illustrations and other memorabilia from polar journeys both Arctic and Antarctic
Mementoes from many of polar exploration's biggest names — Cook, Peary, Shackleton — are up for sale.
(Later this month, Christie's is selling a well-preserved cracker that British explorer Ernest Shackleton left behind in Antarctica during his first expedition to the southernmost continent, from 1907 to 1909.)

Yet some of the priciest items on offer are photographs from the famed race to conquer the South Pole, which this year is celebrating its centenary.
The grueling contest pitted British explorer Robert Falcon Scott against Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, who claimed victory on Dec. 14, 1911 — a full month before Scott's team arrived.
The race made Amundsen a hero. Scott never made it home.

Antarctic living

The photographs on the auction block tell Scott's side of the story — a tale fraught with nationalism, narcissism, bravery, sacrifice, and, ultimately, for Scott and several of his men, a frigid and lonely death. [See photographs from Scott's expedition.]

The photograph shows the Terra Nova tied up at the foot of the ice in Cape Evans on Ross Island, which lies just off the portion of the Antarctic coast that lies south of the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
It was at this site that Scott built his famed hut, which served as the expedition's hub of operations and still stands there today.
The aptly-named vessel was launched in 1884 as a whaling ship, and had voyaged to both the Arctic and Antarctic before the British explorer used the ship for his doomed attempt to be the first man to set foot at the South Pole.

"It's such a complicated story of meaningless failure at one level and heroic transcendence on the other," said Ross MacPhee, curator of vertebrate zoology at the American Museum of Natural History, and author of the book, "Race to The End: Amundsen, Scott, and the Attainment of the South Pole" (Sterling Innovation, 2010).

For sale this week are more than a dozen images taken by Herbert George Ponting, Scott's official photographer.
Although many images show daily life during the 1910 to 1912 expedition — penguins, seals, desolate expanses of glittering ice — several depict aspects of Scott's expedition that some have pointed to as signs of foolhardy decisions that led to his downfall.

One photograph shows some of the 19 Siberian ponies Scott brought to Antarctica for the trek to the Pole. [See the horses here.]
"There's nothing for them to eat there, and they're herbivores, so you can't feed them to each other like dogs," MacPhee said.

However, he added, horses weren't a totally outlandish choice. Scott knew Shackleton had used horses in Antarctica — and they're far stronger pack animals than dogs.
"It was not a completely ludicrous idea to use ponies, but on the other hand it wasn't a great one either," MacPhee said.

Again, MacPhee explained, these were not senseless luxuries. The team planned to be there for a long time."And with the vagaries of the weather— there's such a narrow window for vessels to come and go — they had to prepare for every exigency," MacPhee said."With those long Antarctic nights, you want to fill them with something."
As shown in Ponting's photograph, Scott often filled his nights by writing in his diary. The image was taken in early October 1911, just three weeks before Scott set off for the Antarctic interior.

Antarctic death

Two-and-a-half months after they began, Scott, along with four of his men, reached the South Pole on Jan. 17, 1912 — only to discover a Norwegian flag standing at the spot.

Ill-equipped, and hampered by the tightening grip of the harsh Antarctic winter, all five men perished on the return trek.
It is Scott's faithful records of his journey, uncovered near his frozen corpse nearly 6 months after his death in March 1912, that revealed the true fate of the men who set off to conquer the Pole and never returned.
"The last three remaining companions soldiered on until the last moment," MacPhee said. "You just have to be impressed with what these fellows put up with."

Charles Leski, the man behind Leski auctions, said this week's sale has special meaning. He himself was ensnared by the romance of polar exploration as a young stamp collector in 1961, on the 50th anniversary of Australia's first Antarctic expedition; he finally visited Antarctica in 2004.
"I felt ecstatic surrounded by such rare beauty, silence and a sense of isolation," Leski said, adding that someday he hopes to make it as far as the South Pole.
Although Scott didn't survive his own trek to the South Pole, he did set a precedent that has little to do with purely nationalistic glory.
"Scott was very, very keen on scientists taking part in his expeditions, and it actually cost him to have these nonproductive types along, who were just there to collect information," MacPhee said.

Thanks, in part, to Scott's example, polar science has become a priority, and an increasingly important one. "And we recognize that now," MacPhee said, "how with climate change, the poles are the bellwethers for what is going on."
The Amundsen-Scott South Pole research station is staffed with scientists year-round; scientists have been working at the Pole since the 1950s, when the first permanent structure was built there.
"Every scientist working in Antarctica today owes Scott something," MacPhee said.

Links :

Monday, September 19, 2011

iPad compatible waterproof case : panorama of solutions

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Deep oceans can mask global warming for decade-long periods

Regions that are blue or green will likely be at lower risk of drought, while those in the yellow and red spectrum could face more unusually-extreme drought conditions.
This color scale is different from the one used in the still images, below. UCAR)

From LiveScience

Temperatures are projected to rise by several degrees this century, but the deep oceans will periodically interrupt the increase by absorbing excess heat, a new study says.

The world is projected to continue warming over the century; however, the increase isn't expected to be a smooth one.
Projections show that temperatures will likely stabilize for periods as long as a decade before the warming continues.

So where is that extra heat going? The deep oceans, scientists say.

"We will see global warming go through hiatus periods in the future," said Gerald Meehl, lead author of a new study that connects warming hiatuses with absorption of heat by the deep ocean and a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Colorado.
"However, these periods would likely last only about a decade or so, and warming would then resume. This study illustrates one reason why global temperatures do not simply rise in a straight line."

To figure out where the heat was going, Meehl and his colleagues ran five simulations on a computer model that portrays complex interactions between the atmosphere, land, oceans and sea ice.

Their results showed that temperatures would rise by several degrees during this century, but with hiatus periods interrupting the increase.
During these hiatus periods, simulations showed that extra energy entered the deep oceans, absorbing a disproportionate amount of heat.

They found the vast area deeper than 1,000 feet (300 meters) warmed by about 18 to 19 percent more during the hiatus periods than at other times.
Meanwhile, shallower waters warmed substantially less.

"This study suggests the missing energy has indeed been buried in the ocean," said Kevin Trenberth, a study author and NCAR scientist.
"The heat has not disappeared and so it cannot be ignored. It must have consequences."

Their study showed that the deep-ocean absorption of heat had a familiar effect.
During a hiatus period, sea-surface temperatures decreased across the tropical Pacific, while increasing in the higher latitudes.

This pattern resembles that of a La Niña event (El Niño's counterpart), a climate pattern marked by cooler tropical Pacific temperatures.

The study is published in the Sept. 18 issue of the journal Nature Climate Change.

Links :
  • UCAR : Climate change: Drought may threaten much of globe within decades

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Image of the week : melt ponds, Petermann ice island

download large image


After more than a year and several thousand kilometers of sailing the seas, Petermann Ice Island is still drifting in the North Atlantic off the shores of Newfoundland, Canada.
Once a hunk of ice fives times the size of Manhattan Island, the ice island has splintered several times since it dropped off the edge of Greenland's Petermann Glacier.
Yet still it behaves a bit like the massive ice sheet it left 14 months ago.
Astronauts on the International Space Station used a digital camera to capture this view of Petermann Ice Island A, fragment 2, off of the northeast coast of Newfoundland on August 29, 2011.
Spanning roughly 4 kilometers by 3.5 kilometers (2.5 by 2 miles), the ice island is covered with melt ponds and streams, much as the surface of Greenland looks in mid-summer.

As ice melts on top of the Greenland ice sheet, the melt water forms streams and pools in the depressions on the ice surface.
Drawn downslope by gravity—much like streams on a mountainside—water also runs toward the edges of the ice.
In some cases, it cracks through it and rushes to the bottom. Such processes appear to be at work on the ice island as well.

August 2011 was a busy month in the life of the ice island, according to the Canadian Ice Service.
On August 7, it became grounded on a shoal or shallow seafloor off of St. Anthony, Newfoundland, where it sat for 11 days.
By August 18, the ice island broke free and began drifting again, only to split into two large pieces about five days later.
The Ice Service last reported on it on August 25.

Links :