Saturday, August 30, 2014

Kite sailing

Kite Sailing the Isle of Wight
- Kite Tender - Worlds first commercial kite boat? 

Links :
  • YouTube : K2 Kitefoiler in San Francisco Bay, 2013

Friday, August 29, 2014

A closer look at turbulent oceans and greenhouse heating

Adventure = Disaster that didn’t quite happen.
A few such events when sailing Indian Ocean in 1980 and 1984
(i.e. storm front with waterspout, Andrew C. Revkin with Lon Bubeck on sailboat Rashika, near Maldives).

From NYTimes by Andrew C Revkin

Earth’s climate is shaped by the interplay of two complicated and turbulent systems — the atmosphere and oceans.
(The photo above is from the two years I spent at that interface as crew on ocean-roaming sailboats.) The oceans hold the majority of heat in the system, are full of sloshy cycles on time scales from years to decades and, despite an increase in monitoring using sophisticated diving buoys, remain only spottily tracked.

It’s no wonder, then, that assessing the mix of forces shaping short-term wiggles in global and regional atmospheric temperature (years to decades) remains a daunting exercise.
That’s why it’s worth stepping back after weeks of news about studies of the role of oceans in retarding, and sometimes accelerating, global warming to reflect a bit on the difference between edge-pushing analysis and firm scientific conclusions.
What’s firmly established is that the climate is warming, that the buildup of human-generated heat-trapping greenhouse gases is contributing substantially to the warming and that while the buildup of gases is steady, the rise in temperatures is not.
There’s been a burst of worthy research aimed at figuring out what causes the stutter-steps in the process — including the current hiatus/pause/plateau that has generated so much discussion.
The oceans are high on the long list of contributors, given their capacity to absorb heat.
The recent studies have pointed variously to process in the Pacific and Atlantic and Southern oceans (the latter being the extraordinary band of seas in the Southern Hemisphere where winds circulate around the globe unimpeded by continents).
There’s important work to be done on this question but — as the oceanographer Carl Wunsch notes at the end of this post — the paucity of data on ocean heat makes it tough to get beyond “maybe” answers.
Peter Spotts of the Christian Science Monitor wrote a nice piece on the battle of the ocean basins. Here’s his description of the Atlantic mechanism:
[I]n the Atlantic, the heat is carried north as part of a powerful current system known as the Atlantic thermohaline circulation. The north-flowing Gulf Stream is the most visible manifestation of this circulation.
By the time it reaches the far North Atlantic, the dense, salty water has cooled and sinks. It plunges toward the seafloor and heads south at depth, retaining some of the heat it accumulated on the surface.
In a news article in the journal Science, which published the latest paper on the Atlantic’s role in decades-long global temperature fluctuations, Eli Kintisch described the Pacific argument this way: 
[I]n the 17 August Nature Climate Change study, a team led by [Kevin] Trenberth suggests that natural variability in the Pacific explains more than half of the hiatus. Based on data and climate simulations, they argue that a pattern known as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, which shifts every 20 to 30 years, is driving the increased upwelling as well as other climate trends, including the rapid warming of the Arctic and recent cold winters in Europe.
The newest paper, in the current issue of Science, “Varying planetary heat sink led to global-warming slowdown and acceleration,” argues that the Atlantic not only has shaped the current plateau, but also was responsible for half of the sharp global warming at the end of the 20th century.
The paper, by Xianyao Chen of the Ocean University of China and Ka-Kit Tung of the University of Washington, has a remarkably trenchant abstract:
A vacillating global heat sink at intermediate ocean depths is associated with different climate regimes of surface warming under anthropogenic forcing: The latter part of the 20th century saw rapid global warming as more heat stayed near the surface. In the 21st century, surface warming slowed as more heat moved into deeper oceans. In situ and reanalyzed data are used to trace the pathways of ocean heat uptake. In addition to the shallow La NiƱa–like patterns in the Pacific that were the previous focus, we found that the slowdown is mainly caused by heat transported to deeper layers in the Atlantic and the Southern oceans, initiated by a recurrent salinity anomaly in the subpolar North Atlantic. Cooling periods associated with the latter deeper heat-sequestration mechanism historically lasted 20 to 35 years.
In an e-mail exchange, Ka-Kit Tung noted how this work can help reveal the steady warming in the background that is attributable to human activities:
The underlying anthropogenic warming trend, even with the zero rate of warming during the current hiatus, is 0.08 C per decade.* [That's 0.08 degrees Celsius, or 0.144 degrees Fahrenheit.] However, the flip side of this is that the anthropogenically forced trend is also 0.08 C per decade during the last two decades of the twentieth century when we backed out the positive contribution from the cycle….
This aspect of the work was largely missed in press coverage.
I asked a range of climate and ocean scientists to weigh in on the paper.
Many focused on details of the Atlantic-Pacific debate.
A few took a broader view that’s worth sharing:
Joshua K. Willis of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said this:
In regards to your question, if you mean how robust is the “slowdown” in global surface warming, the answer is it just probably just barely statistically significant. If you are wondering whether is it meaningful in terms of the public discourse about climate change, I would say the answer is no. The basic story of human caused global warming and its coming impacts is still the same: humans are causing it and the future will bring higher sea levels and warmer temperatures, the only questions are: how much and how fast?
As far as the cause of the slowdown, I think there is still some debate, not just about the cause but about the details of what’s going on. For example, there have been several studies including this one to suggest that some deeper layer of the oceans are warming faster now than they were 10 or 15 years ago. This suggestion of an accelerated warming in a deep layer of the ocean has been suggested mostly on the basis of results from reanalyses of different types (that is, numerical simulations of the ocean and atmosphere that are forced to fit observations in some manner). But it is not clear to me, actually, that an accelerated warming of some sub-surface layer of the ocean (at least in the globally-averaged sense) is robustly supported by the data itself.
Until we clear up whether there has been some kind of accelerated warming at depth in the real ocean, I think these results serve as interesting hypotheses about why the rate of surface warming has slowed-down, but we still lack a definitive answer on this topic.
Here’s Andrew Dessler of Texas A&M University:
There are a few interesting things to note here.
First, the hiatus is example of how science works. When it was first observed a few years ago, there were lots of theories — including things like stratospheric water vapor, solar cycles, stratospheric aerosol forcing. After some intense work by of the community, there is general agreement that the main driver is ocean variability. That’s actually quite impressive progress and shows how legitimate uncertainty is handled by the scientific community.
Second, I think it’s important to put the hiatus in context. This is not an existential threat to the mainstream theory of climate. We are not going to find out that, lo and behold, carbon dioxide is not a greenhouse gas and is not causing warming. Rather, I expect that the hiatus will help us understand how ocean variability interacts with the long-term warming that humans are causing. In a few years, as we get to understand this more, skeptics will move on (just like they dropped arguments about the hockey stick and about the surface station record) to their next reason not to believe climate science.
As far as this particular paper goes, I think the findings that the heat is going into the Atlantic and Southern Ocean’s is probably pretty robust. However, I will defer to people like Josh Willis who know the data better than I do.
What’s most exciting to me is that this is really a fascinating conundrum. People like Kevin Trenberth and Kosaka and Xie have published quite convincingly that the action seems to be in the Pacific. So the challenge is to try to resolve that evidence with the ocean heat data that shows that the energy is going into other ocean basins. Ultimately, the challenge come up with the parsimonious theory that fits all of the data.
I do think that ocean variability may have played a role in the lack of warming in the middle of the 20th century, as well as the rapid warming of the 1980s and 1990s. But the argument that the hiatus will last for another decade or two is very weak and I would not put much faith in that. If the cycle has a period of 60-70 years, that means we have one or two cycles of observations. And I don’t think you can much about a cycle with just 1-2 cycles: e.g., what the actual period of the variability is, how regular it is, etc. You really need dozen of cycles to determine what the actual underlying variability looks like. In fact, I don’t think we even know if it IS a cycle.
And this brings up what to me is the real question: how much of the hiatus is pure internal variability and how much is a forced response (from loading the atmosphere with carbon). This paper seems to implicitly take the position that it’s purely internal variability, which I’m not sure is true and might lead to a very different interpretation of the data and estimate of the future.
Thus, their estimate of 1-2 more decades before rapid warming resumes might be right; but, if so, I’d consider them lucky rather than smart.
John Michael Wallace, a professor emeritus of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington, offered these thoughts:
Back in 2001 I served as a member of the committee that drafted the National Research Council report, “Climate Change Science: An Analysis of Some Key Questions.” The prevailing view at that time, to which I subscribed, was that the signal of human-induced global warming first clearly emerged from the background noise of natural variability starting in the 1970s and that the observed rate of increase from 1975 onward could be expected to continue into the 21st century. The Fourth Assessment Report of the IPCC, released in 2007, offered a similar perspective, both in the text and in the figures in its Summary for Policymakers.
By that time, I was beginning to have misgivings about this interpretation. It seemed to me that the hiatus in the warming, which by then was approaching ten years in length, should not be dismissed as a statistical fluke. It was as legitimate a part of the record as the rapid rises in global-mean temperature in the 1980s and 1990s.
In 2009 Zhaohua Wu contacted me about a paper that he, Norden Huang, and other colleagues were in the process of writing in which they attributed the stair-step behavior in the rate of global warming, including the current hiatus, to Atlantic multidecadal variability. I was initially a bit skeptical, but in time I began to appreciate the merits of their arguments and I became personally involved in the project. The paper (Wu et al.) encountered some tough sledding in the review process, but we persisted and the article finally appeared in Climate Dynamics three years ago. [See Judith Curry's helpful discussion.]
The new paper by Tung and Chen goes much farther than we did in making the case that Atlantic multidecadalvariability needs to be considered in the attribution of climate change. I’m glad to see that it is attracting attention in the scientific community, along with recent papers of Kosaka et al. and Meehl et al. emphasizing the role of ENSO-like variability. I hope this will lead to a broader discussion about the contribution of natural variability to local climate trends and to the statistics of extreme events.
Carl Wunsch, a visiting professor at Harvard and professor emeritus of oceanography at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, offered a valuable cautionary comment on the range of papers finding oceanic drivers of short-term climate variations.
He began by noting the challenge just in determining average conditions:
Part of the problem is that anyone can take a few measurements, average them, and declare it to be the global or regional value. It’s completely legitimate, but only if you calculate the expected uncertainty and do it in a sensible manner.
The system is noisy. Even if there were no anthropogenic forcing, one expects to see fluctuations including upward and downward trends, plateaus, spikes, etc. It’s the nature of turbulent, nonlinear systems. I’m attaching a record of the height of the Nile — 700-1300 CE. Visually it’s just what one expects. But imagine some priest in the interval from 900-1000, telling the king that the the Nile was obviously going to vanish…

Variations in the height of the Nile River over the centuries.
Credit Carl Wunsch
Or pick your own interval. Or look at the central England temperature record or any other long geophysical one. If the science is done right, the calculated uncertainty takes account of this background variation. But none of these papers, Tung, or Trenberth, does that. Overlain on top of this natural behavior is the small, and often shaky, observing systems, both atmosphere and ocean where the shifting places and times and technologies must also produce a change even if none actually occurred. The “hiatus” is likely real, but so what? The fuss is mainly about normal behavior of the climate system.
The central problem of climate science is to ask what you do and say when your data are, by almost any standard, inadequate? If I spend three years analyzing my data, and the only defensible inference is that “the data are inadequate to answer the question,” how do you publish? How do you get your grant renewed? A common answer is to distort the calculation of the uncertainty, or ignore it all together, and proclaim an exciting story that the New York Times will pick up.
A lot of this is somewhat like what goes on in the medical business: Small, poorly controlled studies are used to proclaim the efficacy of some new drug or treatment. How many such stories have been withdrawn years later when enough adequate data became available?
Addendum, 6:30 p.m. | Ka-Kit Tung responded to Wunsch and Dessler in an e-mail.
Here’s his reply to Carl Wunsch’s reaction:
Carl Wunsch’s concern over the sparsity of the ocean data, as expressed in his recent papers, is mostly related to the part of the ocean below 2000 m (the abyssal ocean). He pointed out the signal in the abyssal oceans were mostly at least 500 years old. The signals that we are interested for the current hiatus of the past 15 years came down from above and have not reached the part of the ocean below 2000 m. We used only data above 1500 m and our case was made in Figure 2 of the paper using recent data with better coverage.
And Andrew Dessler’s reaction:
We did not predict in our Science paper that the current hiatus will last another decade or two. The statement that it will last another “15 years” was found in the press release by Science magazine. We were not given a chance to approve it; it probably was not their practice. In the paper itself, we discussed the fact that “historically” lasted 20-35 years. In our university’s press release, we emphasized that it is difficult to predict how long it will last given the changing climate conditions.
Dessler mentioned that there is only 1-2 cycles of this 60-year variability in the short climate record. We discussed this issue in our paper: The global instrumental record since 1850 contains only 2 and half cycles of this 65-year cycle. Tung and Zhou (2013, PNAS) extended it a few hundred years using Central England temperature data. We are currently reexamining Greenland ice-core data that extends the cycle back another thousand years. In addition, free-running models have produced this multidecadal cycles in their control runs (i.e. without anthropogenic forcing), although the latest batch of models have problems getting the period right.

Links :
  • The Guardian : Unpacking unpaused global warming – climate models got it right
  • Phys : Ocean circulation explains why the Arctic affected by global warming more than the Antarctic
  • Washington University : Cause of global warming hiatus found deep in the Atlantic Ocean


Thursday, August 28, 2014

US NOAA update in the Marine GeoGarage

As our public viewer is not yet available
(currently under construction, upgrading to Google Maps API v3 as v2 is officially no more supported),
this info is primarily intended to our iPhone/iPad universal mobile application users

(Marine US on the App Store)
and also to our B2B customers which use our nautical charts layers in their own webmapping applications through our GeoGarage API

 NOAA raster chart coverage

18 charts have been updated in the Marine GeoGarage
(NOAA update August 2014, released August 15th 2014)

  • 1116A ed78 Mississippi River to Galveston (Oil and Gas Leasing Areas)
  • 11340 ed78 Mississippi River to Galveston
  • 11344 ed40 Rollover Bayou to Calcasieu Pass
  • 11392 ed8 St. Andrew Bay - Bear Point to Sulpher Point
  • 11452 ed23 Intracoastal Waterway Alligator Reef to Sombrero Key
  • 11505 ed5 Savannah River Approach
  • 11542 ed19 New River;Jacksonville
  • 12224 ed26 Chesapeake Bay Cape Charles to Wolf Trap
  • 12226 ed19 Chesapeake Bay Wolf Trap to Pungoteague Creek
  • 12283 ed29 Annapolis Harbor
  • 13326 ed14 Machias Bay to Tibbett Narrows
  • 14970 ed27 Marquette and Presque Isle Harbors
  • 16436 ed11 Shemya Island;Alcan Harbor;Skoot Cove
  • 16587 ed3 Semidi Islands and Vicinity
  • 17367 ed12 Thomas. Farragut. and Portage Bays. Frederick Sound
  • 11356 ed41 Isles Dernieres to Point au Fer
  • 11528 ed1 Cooper River Above Goose Creek
  • 13292 ed41 Portland Harbor and Vicinity
Today 1026 NOAA raster charts (2168 including sub-charts) are included in the Marine GeoGarage viewer (see PDFs files)

How do you know if you need a new nautical chart?
See the changes in new chart editions.
NOAA chart dates of recent Print on Demand editions

Note : NOAA updates their nautical charts with corrections published in:
  • U.S. Coast Guard Local Notices to Mariners (LNMs),
  • National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency Notices to Mariners (NMs), and
  • Canadian Coast Guard Notices to Mariners (CNMs)
While information provided by this Web site is intended to provide updated nautical charts, it must not be used as a substitute for the United States Coast Guard, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, or Canadian Coast Guard Notice to Mariner publications

Please visit the
NOAA's chart update service for more info or the online chart catalog

Why are we importing our own fish?

Hundreds of shrimp trawlers setting off from the Shenjiamen fishing port in eastern China in 2010. Credit Hu Sheyou/Xinhua Press, via Corbis

From NYTimes by Paul Greenberg

In 1982 a Chinese aquaculture scientist named Fusui Zhang journeyed to Martha’s Vineyard in search of scallops.
The New England bay scallop had recently been domesticated, and Dr. Zhang thought the Vineyard-grown shellfish might do well in China. After a visit to Lagoon Pond in Tisbury, he boxed up 120 scallops and spirited them away to his lab in Qingdao.
During the journey 94 died.
But 26 thrived.
Thanks to them, today China now grows millions of dollars of New England bay scallops, a significant portion of which are exported back to the United States.

As go scallops, so goes the nation.
According to the National Marine Fisheries Service, even though the United States controls more ocean than any other country, 86 percent of the seafood we consume is imported.
But it’s much fishier than that: While a majority of the seafood Americans eat is foreign, a third of what Americans catch is sold to foreigners.

The seafood industry, it turns out, is a great example of the swaps, delete-and-replace maneuvers and other mechanisms that define so much of the outsourced American economy; you can find similar, seemingly inefficient phenomena in everything from textiles to technology.
The difference with seafood, though, is that we’re talking about the destruction and outsourcing of the very ecological infrastructure that underpins the health of our coasts.
Let’s walk through these illogical arrangements, course by course.

Appetizers: Half Shells for Cocktails

Our most blatant seafood swap has been the abandonment of local American oysters for imported Asian shrimp.
Once upon a time, most American Atlantic estuaries (including the estuary we now call the New York Bight) had vast reefs of wild oysters.
Many of these we destroyed by the 1800s through overharvesting.
But because oysters are so easy to cultivate (they live off wild microalgae that they filter from the water), a primitive form of oyster aquaculture arose up and down our Atlantic coast.

Until the 1920s the United States produced two billion pounds of oysters a year.
The power of the oyster industry, however, was no match for the urban sewage and industrial dumps of various chemical stews that pummeled the coast at midcentury.
Atlantic oyster culture fell to just 1 percent of its historical capacity by 1970.

Just as the half-shell appetizer was fading into obscurity, the shrimp cocktail rose to replace it, thanks to a Japanese scientist named Motosaku Fujinaga and the kuruma prawn.
Kurumas were favored in a preparation known as “dancing shrimp,” a dish that involved the consumption of a wiggling wild shrimp dipped in sake.
Dr. Fujinaga figured out how to domesticate this pricey animal.
His graduate students then fanned out across Asia and tamed other varieties of shrimp.

Today shrimp, mostly farmed in Asia, is the most consumed seafood in the United States: Americans eat nearly as much of it as the next two most popular seafoods (canned tuna and salmon) combined. Notably, the amount of shrimp we now eat is equivalent to our per capita oyster consumption a century ago.

And the Asian aquaculture juggernaut didn’t stop with shrimp.
In fact, shrimp was a doorway into another seafood swap, which leads to the next course.

Fish Sticks: Atlantic for Pacific 

Most seafood eaters know the sad story of the Atlantic cod.
The ill effects of the postwar buildup of industrialized American fishing are epitomized by that fish’s overexploitation: Gorton’s fish sticks and McDonald’s Filets-o-Fish all once rode on the backs of billions of cod.
The codfish populations of North America plummeted and have yet to return.

Just as the North Atlantic was falling as a fish-stick producer, the Pacific rose.
Beginning in the 1990s two new white fish started coming to us from Asia: tilapia, which grows incredibly fast, and the Vietnamese Pangasius catfish, which grows even faster (and can breathe air if its ponds grow too crowded).
These two are now America’s fourth- and sixth-most-consumed seafoods, respectively, according to the National Fisheries Institute.

Alongside them, a fishery arose for an indigenous wild American Pacific fish called the Alaskan, or walleye, pollock.
In just a few decades, pollock harvests went from negligible to billions of pounds a year.
Pollock is now the fish in McDonald’s Filet-o-Fish and the crab in the “fake crab” that Larry David discussed mid-coitus on “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”
In fact, there is so much pollock that we can’t seem to use it all: Every year more than 600 million pounds is frozen into giant blocks and sent to the churning fish processing plants of Asia, Germany and the Netherlands.

Sending all this wild fish abroad and then importing farmed fish to replace it is enough to make you want to take a stiff drink and go to bed.
But when you wake up and reach for your bagel, surprise!
The fish swap will get you again.

Lox: Wild for Farmed

There was a time when “nova lox” was exactly that: wild Atlantic salmon (laks in Norwegian) caught off Nova Scotia or elsewhere in the North Atlantic.
But most wild Atlantic salmon populations have been fished to commercial extinction, and today a majority of our lox comes from selectively bred farmed salmon, with Chile our largest supplier.

This is curious, given that salmon are not native to the Southern Hemisphere.
But after Norwegian aquaculture companies took them there in the ’80s, they became so numerous as to be considered an invasive species.

The prevalence of imported farmed salmon on our bagels is doubly curious because the United States possesses all the wild salmon it could possibly need.
Five species of Pacific salmon return to Alaskan rivers every year, generating several hundred million pounds of fish flesh every year.

Where does it all go?
Again, abroad.
Increasingly to Asia.
Alaska, by far our biggest fish-producing state, exports around three-quarters of its salmon.

To make things triply strange, a portion of that salmon, after heading across the Pacific, returns to us: Because foreign labor is so cheap, many Alaskan salmon are caught in American waters, frozen, defrosted in Asia, filleted and boned, refrozen and sent back to us.
Pollock also make this Asian round trip, as do squid — and who knows what else?

When you dig into the fish-trade data, things get murkier.
In its 2012 summary of the international fish trade, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration noted, somewhat bizarrely, that its definition of exports “may include merchandise of both domestic and foreign origin.”
So, for example, when fish sticks are cut from blocks of imported “white fish” in an American facility and exported to a foreign country, they are classified as American domestic production.
Meanwhile some of our imports, as with an unknowable portion of our salmon, are taken from American waters, reprocessed elsewhere and brought back home.
Do these percentages cancel themselves out?
We don’t know.
And that’s my point.
Globalization, that unseen force that supposedly eliminates inefficiencies through the magic of trade, has radically disconnected us from our seafood supply.
Of course, there is a place for the farming of shrimp, just as there is a place for the farming of oysters.
There is a need for efficient aquacultured species like tilapia and Pangasius, just as there is a need to curb the overfishing of Atlantic cod.
There is even a place for farmed Atlantic salmon, particularly if it can be raised so it doesn’t affect wild salmon.

But when trade so completely severs us from our coastal ecosystems, what motivation have we to preserve them?
I’d argue that with so much farmed salmon coming into the country, we turn a blind eye to projects like the proposed Pebble Mine in Alaska, which would process 10 billion tons of ore from a site next to the spawning grounds of the largest wild sockeye salmon run on earth.

I’d maintain that farmed shrimp inure us to the fact that the principal rearing ground of Gulf shrimp, the Mississippi River Delta, is slipping into the sea at a rate of a football field an hour.
I’d venture that if we didn’t import so much farmed seafood we might develop a viable, sustainable aquaculture sector of our own.
Currently the United States languishes in 15th place in aquaculture, behind microscopic economies like Egypt and Myanmar.
And I’d suggest that all this fish swapping contributes to an often fraudulent seafood marketplace, where nearly half of the oceanic products sold may be mislabeled.

We can have no more intimate relationship with our environment than to eat from it.
During the last century that intimacy has been lost, and with it our pathway to one of the most healthful American foods.
It is our obligation to reclaim this intimacy.
This requires us not just to eat local seafood; it requires the establishment of a working relationship with our marine environment.
It means, in short, making seafood not only central to personal health, but critical to the larger health of the nation.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Man to live on melting iceberg for one year to urge climate change action

Man to live on melting iceberg for one year to urge climate change action

From Treehugger by Kimberley Mok

Crazy publicity stunt or stroke of daring genius?
We're not sure, but it got our attention.
The man pictured above is Alex Bellini, a professional adventurer and motivational speaker who plans to live alone on a melting iceberg off the coast of Greenland for one year, to emphasize the urgent need for climate change action.

This bold one-man campaign comes at a time when a chorus of scientists, organizations and policymakers continue to warn about the accelerating loss of Arctic ice.
Thus, extreme circumstances seem to call for extreme measures, but for this former finance student from northern Italy who has already run 23,000 kilometres (14,291 miles) of marathons, rowed solo across the Mediterranean, Atlantic, and Pacific oceans, this new project seems even more extreme.

Starting in spring of 2015, Bellini plans to find a suitable iceberg in the northwest region of Greenland, where he will remain for up to a year as it slowly melts.
Provisioned with with 300 kilograms (661 pounds) of dried food, Bellini will shelter in a survival capsule, the Kevlar-reinforced kind used for ocean oil rigs, until it becomes too risky -- at which point he will take to the sea in the capsule, floating adrift until he is rescued.

The project will also serve science: the UK-based explorer plans to observe the changes to our planetary climate, firsthand.
Bellini's technical equipment will be powered by a rowing contraption that will convert his muscular energy into electricity.

He says on Motherboard:
My objective is reporting and investigating, by means of scientific methods, the entire lifetime of an iceberg.
I want to prove how the pace of ice-melting has dramatically accelerated over the last decades.
We’ll also play the symbolic card: the adventure of a man floating adrift on an iceberg will come to represent the condition of the whole humankind going adrift on an endangered planet. 

Though Bellini earnestly seeks to draw attention to the seriousness of climate change, some have expressed awed disbelief at the adventurer's proposed plan.

When asked if he was "crazy," the self-professed "explorer of human nature" replies to Adventure Journal that it is also about pushing the boundaries of human possibilities:
Well, I want to be honest with you: yes, probably I’m a bit crazy, but is it not equally crazy someone who lives a life constantly dreaming of something different?
Is it not equally crazy someone who procrastinates, someone who, fearing to be or look imperfect, refrains from dancing, acting, singing, wooing a girl?
Is it not equally crazy someone who postpones his happiness to future events that might never occur?
Maybe I’m crazy because I chose sacrifice, remoteness, and solitude or because I decided to live the life I love, but as you can see nobody is straight.

It may seem crazy, but this seems like another much needed nudge to the collective human psyche to adapt and change for the better; in a way, we'll all be floating adrift with Alex.

Links :

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Ship loses more than 500 containers in heavy seas

Mary Maersk leaves Algeciras
from Maersk Line

On July 21, 2014, the MV Mary Maersk departed Algeciras, Spain
with a world record 17,603 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU),
the most TEU’s ever loaded onto a single vessel.

From CNN by Tim Lister

On any day, between 5 million and 6 million containers are on the high seas, carrying everything from potato chips to refrigerators.
But not all of them make it to their destination, as the crew of the Svendborg Maersk have just found out.

Their Danish-flagged ship was in the Bay of Biscay last week as hurricane-force winds battered the Atlantic coast of Europe.
Amid waves of 30 feet and winds of 60 knots, the Svendborg began losing containers off northern France. After the ship arrived in the Spanish port of Malaga this week, Maersk discovered that about 520 containers were unaccounted for. Stacks of others had collapsed.
It's the biggest recorded loss of containers overboard in a single incident.

The Svendborg Maersk was struck by high wind and waves off the coast of France after it left the Bay of Biscay. By the time it had reached the Spanish port of Malaga, more than 500 containers were unaccounted for.

As repairs are made to the Svendborg in Malaga, Palle Laursen, Maersk's vice president of operations, says the company is examining its procedures "to avoid similar incidents in the future." The company told CNN that the extreme weather had an unexpectedly forceful impact on the ship's movements.
It said 85% of the lost containers were empty and others included such dry goods as frozen meat.
None contained dangerous goods.
Maersk is now contacting customers to tell them that their shipments are at the bottom of the ocean.

The Svendborg, which was on its way from Rotterdam in the Netherlands to Colombo in Sri Lanka via the Suez Canal, warned French maritime authorities that vessels should look out for floating containers, but most sank quickly in the mountainous seas.
Thirteen have now been recovered, according to French officials.

The ship started losing containers off the coast of northern France,where it was struck by 30-foot waves and winds of 60 knots.

The French environmental group Robin des Bois said Friday it would sue Maersk for failing to disclose the full extent of the loss when it occurred, putting the lives of others in danger, causing pollution and abandoning waste at sea.
The group claimed the containers were a lasting danger to fishing vessels and the environment.

French maritime authorities were alerted by Maersk that vessels should look out for floating containers, but most sank quickly in the rough seas. Thirteen have been recovered, according to French officials.

Most containers won't float for long, especially in heavy seas.
But one that is refrigerated may be buoyed by its insulation, and the use of polystyrene as packaging for goods also aids flotation.
New Zealand marine insurer Vero Marine says a 20-foot container can float for up to two months, and a 40-foot container might float more than three times as long.

Cargo spills and shipping hazards

These rogue containers can pose a danger to shipping and pollute the environment.
In 2006, thousands of bags of Doritos chips washed up on the beaches of North Carolina's Outer Banks -- much to the delight of local gulls -- after the container carrying them split apart in the Atlantic.

More famously, in 1992, a container broke apart off the coast of Alaska, and 29,000 plastic ducks and frogs escaped.
They've been washing up as far away as Scotland and Japan ever since.

There is no requirement on shipping lines to report container losses to the International Maritime Organization or other international body, so no one seems to know how many containers are lost at sea every year.

The Through Transport Club, which insures 15 of the top 20 container lines, has put the loss at fewer than 2,000 containers a year.
But other industry sources say the number may be as high as 10,000.
That would still represent far less than 1% of the containers traversing the world's oceans.
Maersk, one of the world's largest lines, says that its highest annual loss in the last decade was 59 containers.
But the hazard is still real enough.
In recent years, several small vessels have reported damage after hitting semi-submerged containers. During his solo voyage around the world, American sailor Paul Lutus wrote that "one night in the Indian Ocean, I hit a waterlogged shipping container that was too low in the water to show up on radar."
His 31-foot boat was damaged but stayed afloat.

Lost at Sea: The Increasing Threat from Containers and Containerships

Container weight an issue

Shipping analysts say that one issue affecting the stability of container stacks is that the steel boxes -- 20 to 40 feet long -- are not accurately weighed.
They say some shippers frequently understate the weight of their containers to reduce freight charges.
Not knowing how much your cargo weighs can introduce all sorts of problems in terms of the stress a vessel must endure at sea.

Three years ago, a proposal was put to the International Maritime Organization for containers to be weighed before being loaded.
But nothing has been agreed, and many shipping associations object to such a proposal as expensive and time-consuming.

Even so, one current investigation may focus more attention on the loading of containers.
Last June, the 90,000-ton MOL Comfort literally snapped in half 200 miles off the coast of Yemen.
The ship, built in Japan, was only 5 years old.
Both sections of the Comfort, as well as 4,500 containers, went to the ocean floor.
One factor being investigated is whether uneven loading of containers contributed to intolerable stresses on the hull.

MSC Napoli

It would not be the first such disaster.
Seven years ago, the 62,000-ton MSC Napoli suffered catastrophic hull failure and ran aground off the English coast.
A report by the UK Marine Accident Investigation Board concluded that inaccurate information about container weights could have been critical, given that cargo ships often sail close to their maximum permissible "bending moments," which measure the external stress on a vessel.

The investigation recommended that "if the stresses acting on container ships are to be accurately controlled, it is essential that containers are weighed before embarkation" and criticized the industry's "overriding desire" to maintain schedules and keep port time to a minimum.
The cost of salvage and cargo came to nearly $200 million.

An interim report into the sinking of the MOL Comfort by the Japanese Transport Ministry -- published in December -- also called for the weight of containers to be verified before loading to reduce uncertainty about ships' bending moments.

But a definitive answer to the Comfort's demise may never be known, as much of the evidence lies deep under the Indian Ocean's waves.

Monday, August 25, 2014

A small island takes a big step on ocean conservation

Presentation on the Blue Halo initiative given in July at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography
by Stephanie Roach, who worked with the Waitt Institute on the project over the past year

From NYTimes by Andrew C. Revkin

Marine life in the Caribbean has been badly hurt in recent decades by everything from an introduced pathogen that killed off reef-grooming sea urchins to more familiar insults like overfishing and impacts of tourism and coastal development.
Some small island states are now trying to restore once-rich ecosystems while sustaining their economies.
A case in point is Barbuda, population 1,600 or so, where the governing council on Aug. 12 passed a suite of regulations restricting activities on a third of the island’s waters.
The regulations and reef “zoning,” in essence, came about after months of discussions involving fishing communities, marine biologists and other interested parties, facilitated by the Waitt Institute, a nonprofit conservation organization.

 Barbuda with the Marine GeoGarage

Of course, it’ll take time to see if the ambitious marine zoning plan works as intended.
Local fishermen are seeking help finding new sources of income, according to the Antigua Observer.
But the process, which took nearly two years of study and meetings, provides a promising template not only for other island communities but also for any region where environmental restoration efforts have to mesh with local economic concerns.
The best way to avoid resistance is to involve affected communities from the start.
The initiative brings to mind the Cheonggyecheon stream restoration project in the heart of Seoul that I wrote about in 2009.
The mayor’s team held hundreds of meetings with merchants and residents to work out issues and explain benefits.

 A map of protected marine zones that are being established around the Caribbean island of Barbuda
 Credit Waitt Institute

Here’s a piece describing Barbuda’s “Blue Halo” initiative, written by Arthur Nibbs, the chairman of the Barbuda Council and minister of fisheries of Antigua and Barbuda, and Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, a marine biologist and the Waitt Institute executive director (and National Geographic blogger):

How to Use the Ocean Without Using it Up

By Minister Arthur Nibbs and Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, Ph.D.

Small islands face big ocean problems, but the solutions can be simple.
Set some areas aside, protect key species, and prevent habitat damage.
This will benefit the economy, help ensure food security, and allow the ocean to be used sustainably, profitably, and enjoyably, for this and future generations.

A year-and-a half ago, the Barbuda Council and the Waitt Institute forged a partnership to envision a sustainable ocean future for the island of Barbuda and launch the Barbuda Blue Halo Initiative.
Put simply, we collaborated to design a plan to use the ocean without using it up.

This month, the Barbuda Council signed into law a sweeping set of new ocean management regulations that zone the coastal waters, strengthen fisheries management, and establish a network of marine sanctuaries.
Barbuda may be a small island, but we hope the big commitment represented by these new policies will set an inspiring example for the region.

The new regulations create five marine sanctuaries, collectively protecting 33% (139 square kilometers) of the coastal area, and initiate a two-year hiatus on fishing in Codrington Lagoon to enable fish populations to rebuild and habitats to recover.
Catching parrotfish and sea urchins has been completely prohibited, as those herbivores are critical to keeping algae levels on reefs low so coral can thrive.
Barbuda is the first Caribbean island to put either of these important, strong measures in place.

Of course, if the community didn’t support this, it wouldn’t work.
Therefore, to ensure the new policies reflect stakeholders’ concerns and priorities, there were six rounds of community consultations.
The final zoning map is the fourth iteration – the boundaries have changed dramatically since the Council’s initial draft.
The prohibition of using nets on the reefs was included at the request of local fishers concerned with reef damage.
Though there will never be 100% agreement, this has been a consensus-seeking process and the Council aimed to balance current and future needs to use ocean resources.

Why were these measures necessary?
First, Caribbean-wide, communities are seeing declines in the health of coastal ecosystems and fish populations. Barbuda is no exception.
On average, Barbuda’s reefs are 79% covered in algae, with less than 14% living coral.
This is not good for fishing or tourism; fish need habitats and tourists want to see vibrant abundance.

Second, fishers now have to go further and into deeper water to make a good catch.
This is expensive in fuel and it is dangerous.
The regulations aim to rebuild coastal fisheries and ensure fishers have a livelihood that will last in perpetuity.
Some people will say that these policies are meant to hurt fishers, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
The sanctuaries were created to replenish the surrounding fishing areas.

Third, Barbuda is highly endangered by climate change and sea level rise.
The coral reefs and mangroves buffer the island from the impacts of storms, so by protecting the reefs and mangroves, they will in turn protect the island.
Healthier reefs will also be more resilient to impacts like warming sea temperature that can’t be prevented locally.

Last, but certainly not least, dwindling coastal resources threaten local culture.
The people of Barbuda have a strong connection to the sea – fish fries, camping on the beaches, kids growing up learning to fish with their parents and grandparents.
In order to preserve this way of life, ocean ecosystems must be protected.

Over the next several years, the Barbuda Council and Waitt Institute will continue to work closely as these regulations are implemented.
The Institute will help to set up a long-term scientific monitoring program, train local staff in marine ecology and field research techniques, design enforcement approaches, provide needed equipment, and work with the schools to develop an ocean education curriculum.

Unfortunately, Barbuda is not unique in facing these challenges – degraded coral reefs, depleted fisheries, and climate change impacts are nearly ubiquitous globally.
So putting strong ocean policies in place is merely the first step, and we hope that more and more nations will take this step alongside Barbuda.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Diamond of the desert : the best POV barrel we’ve ever seen

In this arid African Desert, 1/5 of all the diamonds in the world exist.
They were so common at one point that the locals could walk across the dunes on a full moon and spot them shimmering from a far.
We went to this rumored place and found a diamond of our own.