Saturday, January 18, 2020

Sailing solo to the Lofoten

Singlehanded sailing along the coast of Norway, from the Lysefjord to the Lofoten,
aboard Pandorak II. 

Links :

Friday, January 17, 2020

Canada (CHS) layer update in the GeoGarage platform

24 nautical raster charts updated & 1 new chart added

Google AI model outperforms traditional methods of weather prediction

Weather patterns
Top: Image showing the location of clouds as measured by geosynchronous satellites.
Bottom: Radar image showing the location of rain as measured by Doppler radar stations.
(Credit: NOAA, NWS, NSSL

From NeoWin by Ather Fawaz

A couple of weeks back, Google AI used a machine learning model to improve the screening of breast cancer.
Now, the firm has used a convolutional neural network (CNN) in nowcasting precipitation.

In the paper titled "Machine Learning for Precipitation Nowcasting from Radar Images", researchers at Google AI have employed a CNN to give a short-term prediction for precipitation.
And the results seem promising, and according to Google, outperform traditional methods:

This precipitation nowcasting, which focuses on 0-6 hour forecasts, can generate forecasts that have a 1km resolution with a total latency of just 5-10 minutes, including data collection delays, outperforming traditional models, even at these early stages of development.

Unlike traditional methods, which incorporate a priori knowledge of how the atmosphere works, the researchers used what they are calling a 'physics-free' approach that interprets the problem of weather prediction as solely an image-to-image translation problem.
As such, the trained CNN⁠ by the team⁠—a U-Net⁠—only approximates atmospheric physics from the training examples provided to it.

For training the U-Net, multispectral satellite images were used.
Data collected over the continental US from the year 2017 to 2019 was used for the initial training.
Specifically, the data was split into chunks of four weeks where the last week was used as the evaluation dataset while the rest of the weeks were used for the training dataset.

In comparison to traditional, venerable nowcasting methods, which include High Resolution Rapid Refresh (HRRR) numerical forecast, an optical flow (OF) algorithm, and the persistence model, Google AI's model outperformed all three.

Using precision and recall graphs, the quality of nowcasting was shown to be better on the U-Net model.

A visualization of predictions made over the course of roughly one day.
Left: The 1-hour HRRR prediction made at the top of each hour, the limit to how often HRRR provides predictions.
Center: The ground truth, i.e., what we are trying to predict.
Right: The predictions made by our model. Our predictions are every 2 minutes (displayed here every 15 minutes) at roughly 10 times the spatial resolution made by HRRR. Notice that we capture the general motion and general shape of the storm

As can be seen, the quality of our neural network forecast outperforms all three of these models (since the blue line is above all of the other model’s results).
It is important to note, however, that the HRRR model begins to outperform our current results when the prediction horizon reaches roughly 5 to 6 hours.

Precision and recall (PR) curves comparing our results (solid blue line) with: optical flow (OF), the persistence model, and the HRRR 1-hour prediction.
As we do not have direct access to their classifiers, we cannot provide a full PR curve for their results.
Left: Predictions for light rain.
Right: Predictions for moderate rain.

Moreover, the model provides instantaneous predictions.
This is an added advantage because the traditional methods like HRRR harbor a computational latency of 1-3 hours.
This allows the machine learning model to work on fresh data.
Having said that, the numerical model used in HRRR has not entirely been superseded by it.

In contrast, the numerical model used in HRRR can make better long term predictions, in part because it uses a full 3D physical model — cloud formation is harder to observe from 2D images, and so it is harder for ML methods to learn convective processes.

Google envisions that it might be fruitful to combine the two methods, HRRR and the machine learning model for having accurate and quick short-term as well as long-term forecasts.
According to the firm, they are also looking at applying ML directly to 3D observations in the future.

Links :

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Ocean temperatures hit record high as rate of heating accelerates

The heat in the world’s oceans reached a new record level in 2019, showing “irrefutable and accelerating” heating of the planet.
Photograph: Modis/Terra/Nasa

From The Guardian by Damian Carrington

Oceans are clearest measure of climate crisis as they absorb 90% of heat trapped by greenhouse gases

The heat in the world’s oceans reached a new record level in 2019, showing “irrefutable and accelerating” heating of the planet.

Earth's global surface temperatures in 2019 ranked second-warmest since 1880, according to independent analyses by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Global temperatures in 2019 were 2 degrees Fahrenheit (1.1 degrees Celsius) warmer than the late 19th century, according to scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York.
2019's temperatures were second only to those of 2016 and continued the planet's long-term warming trend: the five warmest years on the instrumental record have been the five last years.
see NASA

The world’s oceans are the clearest measure of the climate emergency because they absorb more than 90% of the heat trapped by the greenhouse gases emitted by fossil fuel burning, forest destruction and other human activities.

The new analysis shows the past five years are the top five warmest years recorded in the ocean and the past 10 years are also the top 10 years on record.
The amount of heat being added to the oceans is equivalent to every person on the planet running 100 microwave ovens all day and all night.

Hotter oceans lead to more severe storms and disrupt the water cycle, meaning more floods, droughts and wildfires, as well as an inexorable rise in sea level.
Higher temperatures are also harming life in the seas, with the number of marine heatwaves increasing sharply.

The most common measure of global heating is the average surface air temperature, as this is where people live.
But natural climate phenomena such as El Niño events mean this can be quite variable from year to year.

“The oceans are really what tells you how fast the Earth is warming,” said Prof John Abraham at the University of St Thomas, in Minnesota, US, and one of the team behind the new analysis.
“Using the oceans, we see a continued, uninterrupted and accelerating warming rate of planet Earth.
This is dire news.”
“We found that 2019 was not only the warmest year on record, it displayed the largest single-year increase of the entire decade, a sobering reminder that human-caused heating of our planet continues unabated,” said Prof Michael Mann, at Penn State University, US, and another team member.

Oceans are getting hotter due to global heating

The analysis, published in the journal Advances In Atmospheric Sciences, uses ocean data from every available source.
Most data is from the 3,800 free-drifting Argo floats dispersed across the oceans, but also from torpedo-like bathythermographs dropped from ships in the past.

The results show heat increasing at an accelerating rate as greenhouse gases accumulate in the atmosphere.
The rate from 1987 to 2019 is four and a half times faster than that from 1955 to 1986.
The vast majority of oceans regions are showing an increase in thermal energy.

This energy drives bigger storms and more extreme weather, said Abraham: “When the world and the oceans heat up, it changes the way rain falls and evaporates.
There’s a general rule of thumb that drier areas are going to become drier and wetter areas are going to become wetter, and rainfall will happen in bigger downbursts.”

Hotter oceans also expand and melt ice, causing sea levels to rise.
The past 10 years also show the highest sea level measured in records dating back to 1900.
Scientists expect about one metre of sea level rise by the end of the century, enough to displace 150 million people worldwide.

Dan Smale, at the Marine Biological Association in the UK, and not part of the analysis team, said the methods used are state of the art and the data is the best available.
“For me, the take-home message is that the heat content of the upper layers of the global ocean, particularly to 300 metre depth, is rapidly increasing, and will continue to increase as the oceans suck up more heat from the atmosphere,” he said.
“The upper layers of the ocean are vital for marine biodiversity, as they support some of the most productive and rich ecosystems on Earth, and warming of this magnitude will dramatically impact on marine life,” Smale said.

The new analysis assesses the heat in the top 2,000m of the ocean, as that is where most of the data is collected.
It is also where the vast majority of the heat accumulates and where most marine life lives.

The analysis method was developed by researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing and uses statistical methods to interpolate heat levels in the few places where there was no data, such as under the Arctic ice cap.
An independent analysis of the same data by the US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration shows that same increasing heat trend.

Reliable ocean heat measurements stretch back to the middle of the 20th century.
But Abraham said: “Even before that, we know the oceans were not hotter.”
“The data we have is irrefutable, but we still have hope because humans can still take action,” he said.
“We just haven’t taken meaningful action yet.”

Links :

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

'I'll die with no regrets': risking their lives in Mediterranean

People are told to board the boats in the middle of the night. "You can't see anything. It's dark and scary. But you know you'll die in Libya if you don’t leave," Saruna, 17, said.
"You call home before you leave. You don't know if you'll survive at sea. You just pray to God and go."

From AlJazeera by Faras Ghani

Aboard the Ocean Viking in the Mediterranean Sea - Since 2016, almost 12,000 refugees and migrants have drowned in the Mediterranean while trying to reach Europe.

Libya acts as a major gateway for African refugees and migrants.

There are currently more than 636,000 refugees and migrants in Libya, mostly from neighbouring countries and sub-Saharan Africa, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

These people are often fleeing poverty, conflict, forced labour and other threats to their lives and wellbeing.

Many suffer abuse and extortion en route and their arrival in Libya rarely marks the end of the dangers they face.

"You see this," Karim, a rescued migrant, told Al Jazeera while pointing to his shoulder.

"This is where a Libyan stabbed me when I asked for money for the work I did for him.”
He then pointed to his right leg.
"This is where I was shot while waiting for work in Tripoli. There is complete lawlessness there. Everyone has guns and knives. There are no rights for black people, even someone who has been stabbed or shot."

Florent, from Cameroon, was another migrant rescued from an overcrowded rubber boat in distress in the Mediterranean after he managed to escape Libya.
"If I die right now, I'll die with no regrets. I've managed to escape Libya. It was hell. Nothing less than hell," he said.

Names have been changed to protect identity*

"In life when you've lost everything, you're not scared of anything any more," said Saou, sharing his reasons for getting on a boat for a journey that could have well been his last.
In addition to the deaths, almost 9,000 people were intercepted by the Libyan coastguard and returned to detention centres last year.
More than 110,000 migrants and refugees arrived in Europe by sea last year but 1,283 of those who left North Africa died in the Mediterranean after managing to flee Libya.
"It seems there's complete disregard for human life and people dying on the Mediterranean," said Nicholas Romaniuk, a search and rescue coordinator on board the rescue vessel Ocean Viking.
The UN has warned "there will be a sea of blood" without the intervention of rescue NGOs in the Mediterranean.
Since it began its operations in August 2019, the Ocean Viking has managed to rescue more than 1,100 people.
But in the past, ships have been accused of trafficking people into Europe and some rescuers faced up to 20 years' imprisonment in Italy after they were accused by officials of assisting traffickers and aiding illegal immigration.
Relieved migrants and refugees shared stories of abuse and extortion in Libya, where some people Al Jazeera spoke to spent almost five years.
Medics reported seeing cases of electrocution, wounds by knives and machetes, gunshot wounds and people beaten with rubber and metal pipes.
"You don't see the waves. You just see a boat. And that's your chance to get your freedom again, far away from Libya," said Saou, from the Central African Republic.
The IOM estimates that 10 percent of the migrants present in Libya are women.
"Migrants smuggled into Libya reported severe human rights violations and risks that included rape and amounted to deaths during these journeys," the organisation told Al Jazeera.
Kelly, 32, boarded a flimsy rubber boat to flee Libya while she was eight months pregnant with twins.
"I didn't want to get into the water. It was too risky. I thought the journey wouldn't finish and I'd die," she said after being rescued in November.
There are almost 45,000 child migrants currently in Libya, more than a quarter of whom are unaccompanied.
Some adult migrants are forced to leave their children behind when leaving their country of origin.
Some female migrants are raped during their journeys and give birth en route to Libya or once they arrive there.
Being rescued by an NGO vessel takes these people closer to their dream of reaching Europe.
While the journey is not complete and asylum in Europe is not guaranteed, they say that after being rescued, they feel the safest they have felt since leaving home.
"If the Libyans [coastguards] come on board right now, I will smash my head into the wall, slit my throat and jump into the water. That will be so much better than going back to Libya," Florent, from Cameroon, said.
"Being able to sleep without fear of being woken up by gunshots or being kidnapped for ransom time and again is a blessing," one of the rescued migrants said.
Others said it was a huge relief to get warm meals, to be able to clean themselves and have people to talk to.
"I started to cry when the rescuers told us they weren't from Libya. I couldn't believe that I was going to be rescued and not going to die in the sea."
Despite their traumatic experiences and arduous journeys on land and sea, the refugees and migrants remained hopeful of their pain transforming to joy once they reach the "safety of Europe" and are able to provide for their families back home.
"My father is dead, my mother is dead. It's just me and my wife and I left Nigeria because I didn't have anyone or anything left anymore," said Sondy, 37.
For the rescuers, especially those who have seen a rescue situation change from stable to deadly in a matter of seconds, the job is not easy.
Rough seas, testing conditions, and the urgency and unpredictability of the situation make it difficult.
"We are rescuing people because they have a right to be rescued," said Dragos, a rescuer from Romania.
"If you find a horse or a cow in the water, you will rescue them because they are not supposed to be there."
Leaving on a boat, most of the refugees and migrants do not know how far it is to Italy from Libya.
Some are told by the human smugglers that it is only a small river they have to cross, the smugglers pointing to lights on offshore oil rigs - just over 100km (62 miles) away - and saying that is their destination.
Here, rescued people talk about the countries in Europe they heard about and how the distance to Europe seems very small but the journey very long.
"When I was a firefighter or rescue soldier, nobody questioned my mandate. Now that I'm still saving lives, the work is questioned and even criminalised. I'm just a f****** rescuer trying to save lives," said Tanguy.
Rescuers talked about their constant high levels of stress and their fear that a rubber boat may fall apart in front of their eyes.
"We deal with some very traumatic experiences at sea. And that leaves a mark," said Nicholas Romaniuk, a search-and-rescue coordinator.
Rescued female migrants told tales of physical and sexual abuse that began even as they were setting out from their home countries.
On their way to Libya, many were tortured and raped.
After arriving in Libya, they found physical and sexual violence everywhere: on the streets and during their forced work as cleaners.
Some women said their genitals had been burned.
As the rescued people prepare to disembark in Europe, they realise stern tests await them in front of immigration officials and that their journey is not over.
More than 5,000 migrants were forcibly repatriated by Italy in 2019.
For those who are returned, the violence, torture and extortion they endured on their journey was for nothing. 

Links :

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Aeolus: Weather forecasts start using space laser data

Profiling the world's winds
Aeolus winds now in daily weather forecasts 
image : ESA/ATG medialab

From BBC by Jonathan Amos 

Europe's novel wind-measuring satellite, Aeolus, has reached a key milestone in its mission.

The space laser's data is now being used in operational weather forecasts.

Aeolus monitors the wind by firing an ultraviolet beam down into the atmosphere and catching the light's reflection as it scatters off molecules and particles carried along in the air.

The European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts says the information is now robust enough for routine use.

The Reading, UK-based organisation is ingesting the data into its numerical models that look from one to several days ahead.

Principle of wind measurement by the Aeolus space mission.
ESA credit.

Forecast improvements are most apparent for the tropics and the Southern Hemisphere.

Meteorologists are constantly trying to increase their skill level; they want to see a certain performance being achieved further and further into the future.

And on one important measure - the eight-day look-ahead - the ECMWF says the Aeolus data enables conditions in the Southern Hemisphere to be forecast with the same level of accuracy an additional 3.7 hours into the future.

"This is just one experimental instrument but it suggests that if you had many more of them in space you would have an even greater impact," the centre's Dr Michael Rennie commented.
"Aeolus shows us there is a lot of promise from this type of direct wind measurement," he told BBC News.

Learn how Earth’s wind is generated and why we need to measure it.
Discover how ESA’s Aeolus satellite will use laser technology to measure these invisible streams of air to help understand our climate and to improve our weather forecasts.
credit ESA

The UK Met Office is likely to start ingesting Aeolus data routinely into its forecast models from the Summer. Meteo France and DWD (Germany) are expected to follow too.
The Americans have also been running simulations to assess the benefits, and the Japanese are about to start.
The Chinese have investigated the quality of the data through comparison with other satellite wind observations.

The European Space Agency's Aeolus satellite is regarded as a breakthrough concept.
Wind measurements have traditionally been very patchy.
You can get data from anemometers, weather balloons and aeroplanes - and even from satellites that infer air movements from the way clouds track across the sky or from how rough the sea surface appears at different locations.

But these are all limited indications that tell us what is happening in particular places or at particular heights.
Aeolus on the other hand gathers its wind data across the entire Earth, from the ground to the stratosphere (30km) above thick clouds.

The Aeolus satellite was assembled from European components in the UK factory of Airbus

How to measure the wind from space
  • Aeolus fires an ultraviolet laser through the atmosphere and measures the return signal using a large telescope
  • The light beam gets scattered back off air molecules and small particles moving in the wind at different altitudes
  • Meteorologists will adjust their numerical models to match the information gathered by the satellite, improving accuracy
  • The biggest impacts are expected in medium-range forecasts - those that look at weather conditions a few days hence
  • Aeolus is only a demonstration mission but it should blaze the trail for future operational weather satellites that use lasers
It's been a challenge getting the technology to work.
For a long time, Europe's engineers struggled to find a design for the UV laser instrument that would work in space.
And when the satellite finally launched to orbit in 2018, it did so 19 years after first approval.

So to see Aeolus working - and working well - is an enormous fillip to all the teams involved in the project's development.

It was, however, built as a one-off research mission and if the forecast benefits are to be maintained, Europe will have to consider a follow-on.

Those discussions have already started.
At a meeting in Seville, Spain, in November, research ministers from the nations that make up the European Space Agency agreed to fund feasibility studies.

It's been suggested that two or three lasers might be flown in a constellation.
"Some of Esa's member states support starting preparatory activities for a potential follow-on mission," said Aeolus mission scientist, Dr Anne Grete Straume.
"Of course, we'd need to improve it and for the next generation there are a number of things we could make even better, such as the stability of the laser instrument. At the moment it looks good but for the future it would have to be absolutely solid," she told BBC News.

Links :

Monday, January 13, 2020

West Mexico (BLP), a new layer in the GeoGarage platform

135 nautical raster charts added for the Sea of Cortez and Baja California
in the GeoGagage platform

Old maps of China shed light on modern border disputes and how it sees the world today at Hong Kong exhibition

People looking at the Huang-Ming Yitong Da Tu (Unified Atlas of the August Ming) at the Hong Kong Maritime Museum, part of an exhibition called “The World on Paper: From Square to Sphericity”. Photo: Antony Dickson

From South China Morning Post by Stuart Heaver
  • A show of 80 historic maps and charts reveal China’s view of itself over the centuries and give clues on why the country now conducts business as it does
  • The exhibition at the Hong Kong Maritime Museum also shows that the West’s view of China was long distorted
Towering at a height of four metres, the Huang-Ming Yitong Da Tu, a magnificent old map of China, was hand-copied from an original produced by Japanese monks in Nagasaki in 1771.

The map, whose title translates as the Unified Atlas of the August Ming, is one of 80 historic maps and nautical charts on display at the Hong Kong Maritime Museum as part of an exhibition called “The World on Paper: From Square to Sphericity”.

“Maps both reflect history and are a record of history,” says collector Tam Kwong-lim, who helped curate the exhibition.

Running until February 24, the exhibition not only follows the evolution of Chinese navigation and cartography, but reveals how China saw itself in the world and how the rest of the world perceived China.

Tam Kwong-lim at the exhibition at the Hong Kong Maritime Museum.
Photo: James Wendlinger

Tam bought his first old map of China in a second-hand bookshop in Tokyo while working in the city as a shipping executive in the 1970s.
He has since been an avid collector and is now recognised as an authority on antique maps and charts, which, he points out, still influence modern geopolitical and territorial disputes.
He points to a 1951 Japanese chart showing the South China Sea that is clearly marked in red ink as “China”.
Another Japanese chart, produced in 1943 and including the Philippines, shows a thick boundary line drawn around the
hotly disputed Spratly Islands, excluding them from control of the Philippines, which was occupied by the Japanese at the time.

Museum director Richard Wesley says the old maps help shed light on how the modern Chinese state goes about its business.
“China is now recognised as a global economic superpower, but to better understand the Chinese approach to international trade and diplomacy, it can be helpful to examine how they saw the world and how they mapped it,” he says.

A Japanese map produced in 1951 at the exhibition which shows the South China Sea as clearly belonging to China.
Photo: Antony Dickson

Although China had been producing maps since the Han dynasty (206BC-AD220), there was no attempt to accurately chart its national boundaries or undertake scientific surveys of its territory, Tam says.
It didn’t need to.

Traditional Chinese thinking was greatly influenced by the concept of a “canopy heaven” represented by a spherical heaven and flat Earth.
Everything inside China was ruled over by the emperor.
Everything outside that empire was the world of barbarians and hardly worth bothering about.

Even as trade routes to the Arabian Peninsula developed in the Song dynasty (960-1279), this self-centric view of China at the centre of the heavenly universe remained firmly in place.
Early maps of China had more of a municipal function, showing settlements, roads and geographical features, often with great artistic flourish.

“The maps were drawn like Chinese paintings, depicting rivers and mountains – what was important was the distribution of cities and centres of population density, because they had more of an administrative purpose than a navigational purpose,” Tam says.

A map by Englishman historian and cartographer John Speed, published in 1676, at the exhibition, which includes depictions of indigenous people from major countries in the region.
Photo: Antony Dickson

Close-up of John Speed’s map, which shows a tall, white-bearded gentleman wearing a red monk’s robe and a large brown wide-brimmed cowboy hat described as a “Chinean” – revealing the paucity of information about China in the late 17th century.

The exception was maritime charts, which were needed to guide Chinese junks safely between ports.
One exhibition highlight is a beautiful nautical chart thought to represent the sixth voyage of the Chinese fleet of imperial treasure junks, commanded by Zheng He.
The Muslim admiral led seven diplomatic expeditions from China’s eastern city of Nanjing to the coast of east Africa between 1405 and 1433.
Though the chart depicts islands, harbours, navigational hazards and sailing routes, it was actually compiled some 200 years after Zheng He’s famous voyages were completed.

The expeditions described in the chart represented a high point in terms of official Chinese engagement with the barbarian world, though Tam notes that Zheng was not the first to sail between China and the Persian Gulf and eastern Africa.
Numerous sailors and merchants had been doing this since the eighth century – possibly earlier.

While Chinese junk captains traditionally hugged the coast, it was their Arab counterparts who held the key to celestial navigation – using the stars and planets to determine position and heading.
It is likely that Zheng employed experienced Arab mariners as pilots and that much of the information on the chart was derived from Arab sources.

Zheng is often cited as the historical symbol of the Maritime Silk Road, which is the inspiration for Chinese President Xi Jinping’s “belt and road” trade and diplomatic initiative.
However, the ancient chart suggests that China could not have navigated very far along the Maritime Silk Road without Islamic knowledge and technology.

It was the arrival of Western technology and knowledge introduced by European missionaries that persuaded the Qing dynasty (1644-1912) to undertake large-scale, detailed surveys of its recently expanded Chinese territory.

In 1708, the 47th year of the Kangxi reign, a team of Jesuit missionaries and scholars were recruited to undertake a comprehensive and highly ambitious cartographic survey of China and the surrounding region.
The map, which is called Huang Yu Quan Lan Tu (Kangxi Imperial Atlas of China), took more than 10 years to complete and covered all Chinese territory plus Tibet and the Korean peninsula.

According to Professor Mario Cams at the University of Macau, at the time this map was produced the Qing empire was almost at the height of its territorial reach.
It had conquered much of the vast Mongolian steppes and parts of Taiwan.
Qing China was sending armies into Tibet and towards the deserts in the far west – today’s Xinjiang region – and laying the foundations for the territory of the modern People’s Republic of China.

People walking past the “Complete Map of the Unified Great Qing” at the Hong Kong Maritime Museum.
Photo: Antony Dickson

The 41 sheets of the copperplate atlas together constitute one large map of continental East Asia, from Lake Baikal (north) to Sakhalin (northeast) and Taiwan (east), and from Hainan Island (south) to Kashgar (west).
It has sometimes been called the “Jesuit map of China”, but Cams says that title underestimates the contribution of Chinese officials and scholars.

This enormous atlas of Qing China, printed in several versions, resulted in the largest mapping project of the early modern world and is unique in a number of ways, Cams says.
First, it was largely based on field surveys conducted by mixed teams of Qing officials and European missionaries.
Second, it is probably the most important example of early modern state-sponsored cartography.
Third, it is a product of the creative integration of two different cartographic practices, European and East Asian.

Globes on display at the exhibition.
Photo: James Wendlinger

It was not until 1899 that China produced its first modern map without Western help and referenced to latitude and longitude with a conical projection, according to Tam, but the central meridian remained in Beijing.
Called the Daqing Huangyu Quan Tu (Imperial Atlas of China), the map is remarkable because the external land boundaries are deliberately left ambiguous, Tam says.

“So many Western powers wanted a slice of China [by this time] that they could not define their own boundaries because, diplomatically, China could not afford to upset any third-party power,” says Tam, standing by the 1909 edition of the map on display at the exhibition, which still has the purchase price of 1.20 Chinese dollars displayed in the bottom corner.

In less than a century, China had regressed from an empire under heaven, so self-confident that it did not feel the need to define its boundaries, to a nation that could not afford to define them for fear of upsetting aggressive foreign powers.
Tam says this was part of the process of the “100 years of humiliation” that still informs contemporary foreign policy in Beijing.
“I think it must influence modern Chinese diplomacy,” Tam says, adding that it may be one reason Beijing is still so sensitive about issues of sovereignty.

Maps, charts and globes on display at the Hong Kong Maritime Museum.
Photo: James Wendlinger

The first Chinese map with a complete border was not completed until 1905, as part of the self-strengthening movement to modernise and industrialise China to compete with Western hegemony.
Tam describes it as China’s “joining point with modernity”.

It is also apparent that while China needed Western and Islamic technology to inform its traditional view of the world, the Western view of China was distorted and inaccurate until relatively recently.

China is featured in Abraham Ortelius’ Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, published in 1570 and thought to be the first true modern atlas.
Many places in China are marked on this map, but the landscape is shown as a rectangle and some coastlines are wrongly drawn.

Meanwhile, a map of Asia by English historian and cartographer John Speed published in 1676 includes depictions of indigenous people from major countries in the region.
A tall, white-bearded gentleman wearing a red monk’s robe and a large brown wide-brimmed cowboy hat is described as a “Chinean” and reveals the paucity of information about China in the late 17th century.

“Maps and charts offer a new dimension and angle on Chinese history,” Tam says.

Links :

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Flashback in maritime history – the Afrique passenger ship sinking with 575 fatalities, one century ago

The Afrique was a passenger ship of the French shipping company Compagnie des Chargeurs Réunis, which from 1908 to 1920, traded between French territories of French West Africa, French Equatorial Africa, and Post of Bordeaux in the French colonies.

Afrique shipwreck localization with the GeoGarage platform (SHOM nautical chart)

On her way in heavy seas, the Afrique sprung a leak, presumably from hitting a submerged object.

On the 11th, while 65 miles west from Royan, her engine room got flooded and the boilers extinguished.
She asked for a tow, but not one vessel was able to reach her.
On January 12, 1920, the generators in engine room failed during a storm off the French coast.
The steamers, were then unable to maneuver and was thrown against a reef.
At 23h00, the Afrique hit the Rochebonne Lightvessel and subsequently sank at 3:00, May 12th, of the 609 passengers and crew of whom 15 missionaries and 190 senegalese gunners, only 34 survived.

The disaster is one of the largest disasters in French history, but would be consumed in the shadow of the First World War and presidential elections the same year.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Lunar Eclipse 2020 guide: when, where & how to see them

A penumbral lunar eclipse over Macedonia on Sept. 16, 2016.
(Image: © Stojan Stojanovski)

From Space by Doris Elin Urrutia

Four lunar eclipses will appear across Earth's skies in 2020.
They will all be penumbral eclipses, which means the face of the moon will appear to turn a darker silver color for a few hours.
Weather permitting, people across most locations on our planet will catch at least one of the lunar eclipses falling on Jan. 10-11, June 5-6, July 4-5 and Nov. 29-30.

There's always a place on Earth where the sun don't shine.
In the space above the planet's night side is Earth's cone-shaped shadow.
It's impossible to see most of the time, but when the moon passes through part of the shadow, its existence becomes apparent.

In this video we'll learn how lunar eclipse occurs.
What is full moon eclipse, partial moon eclipse and penumbral eclipse.
We will also see why lunar eclipse doesn't happen every month.

There are two parts to Earth's shadow, creating three possibilities for a lunar eclipse.
Earth's atmosphere bends sunlight, so the planet doesn't cast a jet-black shadow.
So, if the whole moon passes through the innermost part of Earth's shadow, we see a copper-colored lunar face.
This is known as a total lunar eclipse, or a "blood moon."

In 2020, we'll observe four penumbral lunar eclipses.
This is when the moon only passes through Earth's penumbra, the outer part of the planet's cone-shaped shadow.
If the moon clipped even a part of the inner shadow, called the umbra, these events would be called partial lunar eclipses.

Penumbral Lunar Eclipse 10–11 January 2020

Penumbral lunar eclipse on Jan. 10-11

The first lunar eclipse on Jan. 10-11 will be best viewed from Africa, Europe, Asia and Western Australia, according to NASA.
The moon will undergo its deepest entry into Earth's penumbral shadow when these continents experience nighttime.
The eclipse begins at 12:07 p.m. EST (1707 GMT) and will last for 4 hours, 4 minutes and 34 seconds.
To find out whether you will be able to see this eclipse from your location, check out this interactive map from

A visibility map for the penumbral lunar eclipse of Jan. 10, 2020.
(Image credit: Fred Espenak/NASA)

In Johannesburg, South Africa, the penumbral lunar eclipse starts at 7:07 p.m. local time on Friday, Jan. 10.
The moon will be close to the horizon, according to
The maximum eclipse occurs a couple hours later, at 9:10 p.m.; then at 11:12 p.m., the eclipse ends.
There may be storms that night, so viewing conditions aren't ideal for eclipse observations.

In Jakarta, Indonesia, the penumbral lunar eclipse begins in the early hours of Saturday, Jan. 11.
The event begins at 12:07 a.m. local time, reaches maximum eclipse at 2:10 a.m. and ends at 4:12 a.m. — but like Johannesburg, cloudy conditions may obstruct the view.

Places like Kolkata, India, and Paris will have better weather for the penumbral eclipse.
Kolkata's penumbral eclipse begins at 10:37 p.m. local time, reaches its maximum the next day at 12:40 a.m. and wraps up at 2:42 a.m.
At 6:07 p.m. local time on Jan. 10, the eclipse will begin in Paris.
At 8:10 p.m. it reaches maximum and at 10:12 p.m. the eclipse ends.

This diagram from astronomer Fred Espenak illustrates the moon's path through the outer part of Earth's shadow on Jan. 10-11, 2020.
The red dot is Earth's umbra, which the moon will not pass through during any of the 2020 lunar eclipses.
(Image credit: Fred Espenak/NASA)

If you can't watch the eclipse in person, the Slooh observatory will stream live views of the eclipse online beginning at 2:30 p.m. EST (1930 GMT), and you can watch it live here on, courtesy of Slooh.
The Virtual Telescope Projectwill also offer a live webcast of the eclipse as seen from Rome, beginning at 12 p.m. EST (1700 GMT).

Penumbral lunar eclipse on June 5-6

A visibility map for the penumbral lunar eclipse of June 5-6, 2020.
(Image credit: Fred Espenak/NASA)

The next lunar eclipse, on June 5-6, will be visible to more areas in the Southern Hemisphere.
Africa, Australia and Central and Southern Asia will get to view this lunar eclipse in its entirety, and the east coast of South America will witness the end of the eclipse at moonrise.
During this event, the moon will dip just about half of its face into Earth's penumbral shadow, beginning at 1:45 p.m. EST (1845 GMT).
This eclipse will last for 3 hours, 18 minutes and 13 seconds, according to NASA.

This diagram from astronomer Fred Espenak shows the moon's path through the other part of Earth's shadow on June 5-6, 2020.
(Image credit: Fred Espenak/NASA)

From Sydney, Australia, the eclipse can be viewed in the predawn hours of Saturday, June 6.
The event begins there at 3:45 a.m. local time, reaches maximum eclipse at 5:24 a.m. and wraps up at 7:04 a.m., which will be just 5 minutes after moonset.

The opposite will happen over the skies of Lagos, Nigeria.
The inhabitants of the city will be just starting their evening when Sydney is ending its night.
The lunar eclipse over Lagos will become visible when the moon rises at 6:53 p.m. local time, but it will have actually started 8 minutes before.
The penumbral lunar eclipse will reach its maximum at 8:24 p.m., and the eclipse ends at 10:04 p.m.

Penumbral lunar eclipse on July 4-5

A visibility map for the penumbral lunar eclipse of July 4-5, 2020.
(Image credit: Fred Espenak/NASA)

North and South America get the best view of the July 4-5 lunar eclipse.
People in the westernmost parts of Africa and Europe will also view the event.

New York City will end U.S. Independence Day (July 4) with the penumbral lunar eclipse.
Starting at 11:07 p.m. local time, the moon will begin to slide into Earth's outer shadow.
At eclipse maximum (12:29 a.m. on Sunday, July 5), no more than half of the moon's face will take on a darker shade.
About an hour and a half after maximum, at 1:52 a.m., the event ends.
The entire eclipse will last 2 hours and 45 minutes.

This diagram from astronomer Fred Espenak shows the moon's path through the outer part of Earth's shadow on July 4-5, 2020.
(Image credit: Fred Espenak/NASA)

In Lisbon, Portugal, the moon first makes contact with Earth's shadow at 4:07 a.m. local time on Sunday, July 5.
The early morning event reaches its maximum at 5:29 a.m. and wraps up at 6:52 a.m., which is 34 minutes after the moon sets below the Portuguese horizon.
Viewing conditions are likely to be clear at that time of year.

Penumbral lunar eclipse on Nov. 29-30

A visibility map for the penumbral lunar eclipse of Nov. 29-30, 2020.
(Image credit: Fred Espenak/NASA)

The final lunar eclipse of 2020 will appear over North and South America, the Pacific Ocean and its neighboring regions on Nov. 29-30.
This last lunar eclipse will also be the longest of the year, lasting 4 hours, 20 minutes and 59 seconds. In New York City, the eclipse begins on Nov. 30 at 2:32 a.m. EST (0732 GMT) and ends at 6:53 a.m. EST (1153 GMT), with maximum eclipse occurring at 4:42 a.m. EST (0942 GMT).

In the coastal city of Lima, Peru, the moon will make first contact with Earth's penumbral shadow at 2:32 a.m. local time on Monday (Nov. 30). Most of the moon's face will enter the shadow, and the eclipse will reach its maximum a couple hours later at 4:42 a.m.
If viewing conditions are good (history indicates the day will probably be cloudy), spectators can enjoy the lunar eclipse for another hour, until the moon sets at 5:40 a.m.
 The lunar eclipse wraps up at 6:53 a.m. local time.

This diagram from astronomer Fred Espenak shows the moon's path through the outer part of Earth's shadow on Nov. 29-30, 2020.
(Image credit: Fred Espenak/NASA)

On the flip side, viewers across the Pacific and the Philippines will see a lunar eclipse already in progress when the moon rises above the horizon.
At 3:32 p.m. local time in Manila on Monday, Nov. 30, the lunar eclipse begins.
This is before moonrise; folks will first view the event at 5:23 p.m., and it reaches its maximum at 5:42 p.m.
The eclipse wraps up at 7:53 p.m.

In Auckland, New Zealand, the penumbral eclipse starts at 8:32 p.m. local time on Nov. 30, reaches maximum at 10:42 p.m. and ends the next day (Tuesday, Dec. 1) at 12:53 a.m.
This day has been cloudy 80% of the time over the last two decades, according to

Links :

Thursday, January 9, 2020

This startup is creating underwater robots to map the ocean

A tag team of deep-sea underwater robots sounds a whole lot like the setup for a Hollywood blockbuster.
In fact, it’s the mission statement of a new startup with the appropriately cinematic name Terradepth.
The company is building autonomous submersible robots to help map parts of the ocean that are typically difficult to monitor.

From Fossbytes by

Exploring the depth of the mighty ocean has been a hard task for the human race.
While there are technologies that can tell us what’s beneath the surface of the water, much of the earth’s ocean still remains a mystery.
So, attempts are continuously being made to come up with something more efficient and capable. Terradepth, a startup founded by two US ex-Navy SEALs, is moving along similar lines, trying to create autonomous robots that can dive in the deep waters and map the ocean.

Based out of Austin, Texas, Terradepth’s goal is to make its fleet of underwater robots called AxV (Autonomous Hybrid Vehicles) map the ocean and collect data — all while keeping the costs down and reducing the need for human interaction.
That’s something current methods have struggled to achieve.
The startup will demo its ambitious robots in an open-water environment in the summer of 2020.
To fuel their project, it has received a funding of $8 million from the storage giant Seagate Technology.

Terradepth AxV: What it’s like?

In terms of looks and feel, the Terradepth AxV is a tube-shaped vessel loaded with all the tech to collect ocean data, talk to other AxV units, and communicate with its Operations Center in Austin, Texas, via satellite.
Speaking of the specifications, the Terradepth AxV is 9.2 meters long with a diameter of 1050mm and weighs 3700 kgs. To give you an idea, it’s heavier than the 2019 Ford F350 XLT pickup that weighs around 3300 Kgs.

The Terradepth data collection vehicle is referred to as an AxV due to its autonomous surface and subsurface capabilities. Our vehicle system can consist of two (or more) identical vehicles: one operating semi-submerged and the other operating at depth.
It comes with a 1kW rechargeable battery system that gives a range of 1000 nautical miles per deployment.
Right now, the Terradepth AxV can dive down up to 1000 meters, but in the future, the autonomous robot vessel will be able to reach 3000 meters of depth.
Moreover, the robot vessel also offers an at-sea of up to 30 days.
On the software side, Terradepth’s custom-made vehicle software uses advanced machine learning and big data concepts for onboard analysis, data transmission, and to maintain the efficiency of data collection and processing.
It will be able to offer robust support for third-party processing software and instruments connected to the AxV.
In the future when its AxV fleet comes into full flow, Terradepth’s ultimate plan is to offer a data-as-a-service option for others to get access to the ocean data.

“Our highly intelligent unmanned ocean vehicle completely removes the need for humans at sea,” the company notes on its website.
“The Terradepth AxV is deep-ocean rated, highly modular, and powers a large payload of sensors.”
The company’s mini-subs will reportedly boast an at-sea duration of 30 days, with an onboard recharging system capable of propelling them through the waves with a range of 1,000 nautical miles per deployment.
The Terradepth AxV sub is 9.2 meters in length, and tips the scale at 3,700 kilos.
(Although, of course, weight works a little bit differently underwater.)
They will initially be able to reach depths of 1,000 meters, although plans are afoot to extend this to 3,000 meters, meaning that they’ll be able to journey to the bottom of many parts of the ocean.
For context, the deepest point in the ocean, the Challenger Deep, is approximately 11,000 meters down.
“During at-sea operations, the topside AxV provides sea surface data collection, communications and navigation assistance, while the submerged AxV conducts its submerged mission,” the company notes.
“The two AxVs can then switch roles once the submerged vehicle’s energy is expended to a predetermined level. Once surfaced, the vehicle employs a hybrid system of rechargeable lithium batteries and an air-dependent power plant capable of operating high-power, high-logistics instrument payloads.”
Underwater, the plan is for the robots to be able to able to gather data using multispectral imaging and other surveillance methods.
This will be useful for both monitoring and forecasting services.
Eventually, the goal is to be able to roll out entire networked fleets of autonomous robots.
At present, Terradepth is planning on demonstrating its tech in an open-water environment in summer 2020.
Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, too.

Links :

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Eighteen things we’ve learned about the oceans in the last decade

The remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Deep Discoverer exploring the Mariana Trench at a depth of 6,000 meters in 2016. (NOAA)

From Smithsonian by Danielle Hall & Emily Frost

In the past 10 years, the world’s oceans have faced new challenges, revealed new wonders, and provided a roadmap for future conservation

As the end of the decade approaches, marine scientists and conservationists are reflecting on what we have learned about the seas, and what the next decade may hold for the world’s watery realms.
So the Smithsonian’s Ocean Portal team has combed through years of studies, discoveries and expeditions to bring you some of ocean science’s most notable moments of the last ten years.

With the threats of climate change and ocean acidification, it can be easy to dwell on the bad and the ugly, and this past decade had its fair share of depressing news.
But despite the doom and gloom, the ocean still manages to delight with the unexpected, and ocean conservation efforts have progressed, too.
Here are the decade’s most significant events and research findings associated with the world’s oceans.

Polluted Seas

Straws are not the only things that make their way to the ocean as trash, and a variety of pollutants can impact ocean species and ecosystems.

Engulfing Oil

The decade began with tragedy on the ocean.
On April 20, 2010 the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, killing 11 people and spewing over 130 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.
The oil leaked 5,000 feet below the surface of the ocean and moved quickly to the ocean floor, its surface, and the beaches and marshes of the Gulf coast.

BP (formerly British Petroleum), along with the rig operator, Transocean, have paid upwards of 60 billion U.S. dollars in settlements, claims and other funds, including 1 billion to fund two ongoingresearch programs.
The result has been an unprecedented amount of research on the impacts of the spill on species, ecosystems, the economy and human health.
Researchers have found that some speciesand ecosystems still see effects from the spill ten years later, while others were fairly resilient.
As more areas of ocean are opened to drilling, this information will be incredibly valuable for resource managers and disaster responders.

Drowning in Plastic

Oil isn’t the only thing polluting the ocean.
The “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” (first described in 1988) made headlines early this decade as research expeditions gathered information about the abnormally high concentration of trash swirling in the North Pacific Gyre.
The patch is not actually a “giant island” of garbage, but rather conglomerations of thousands of pieces of small, sometimes even microscopic, pieces of plastic and other trash.

Large pieces of marine debris—ranging from motorcycles to boats to barges—also traveled across the Pacific to the West Coast of the United States after a 9.0 earthquake and tsunami struck Japan in 2011.
Pieces of debris from the disaster have brought along invasive species, which are still making their way across the ocean in 2019.
Efforts abound to clear the ocean of trash—both the controversial Ocean Cleanup Project and Mr.
Trash Wheel
got their start in the past ten years.
Plastic bag and straw banshave also exploded around the world with the realization that stopping trash from reaching the ocean starts at the source.

In Hot Water

This decade has been the hottest ever recorded, and the ocean bears the brunt of the increased heat.
Impacts range from algal blooms to dead coral and beyond.

The Blob & and Beyond

“The Blob” may conjure images of a monster fit for a sci-fi horror flick, but in the ocean it’s a different kind of horror.
In 2014, water temperatures from Alaska to California skyrocketed to over 5 degrees Fahrenheit beyond the annual average.
Scientists dubbed this large pocket of hot water “the blob,” and in 2019 a similar temperature spike announced its return (though the recent blob of hot water seems to be fading).
The first heat wave caused intense algal blooms that shut down crab and clam fisheries, killed malnourished sea lion and seal pups, diverted whale feeding into busy and dangerous shipping routes, and devastated many Pacific fisheries.

Ocean heat waves from 2014 to 2017—driven by the combination rising ocean temperatures due to climate change and a strong El Nino—also led to mass coral bleaching.
This phenomenon occurs when corals expel their symbiotic algae and the corals turn bone white.
Though the bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef received extensive media coverage, reefs across the globe were affected with about 75 percent of coral reefs experiencing some level of bleaching between 2014 and 2017, and 30 percent of those corals dying.
The Northern Line Islands in the South Pacific lost over 98 percent of their corals to bleaching, and the Hawaiian Islands experienced the worst bleaching ever recorded.

Raging Storms and Melting Ice

Hot water does more than kill corals (and other marine organisms).
It also results in more intense storms.
In 2012 Hurricane Sandy caused $70 billion worth of damage, the costliest storm ever in the United States—until Hurricanes Harvey and Maria came along in 2017.
Like Harvey over Houston, Hurricane Dorian stalled over the Bahamas, subjecting Grand Bahama island to over 24 hours of high-intensity winds in 2019.
These deadly and damaging hurricanes will continue to pummel coastlines and islands as temperatures rise.
Most communities and governments are simply not prepared.

Farther north, the Inupqiat of Alaska have over 100 names for various types of sea ice, and all of its forms are melting due to human-caused warming.
The Arctic sea ice extent—the measure of how much the Arctic Ocean is covered by ice—has been tracked since 1978 by satellite.
The sea ice expands and shrinks with the seasons, but the seasonal minimum and maximum have both declined, and in the past decade we’ve experienced record lows.
The lowest amount of sea ice was in 2012, and not far behind were 2007, 2016 and 2019.
Not only is this ecosystem important to native people who live in these regions and the ecosystems that thrive there, but the entire globe relies on the regular forming and reforming of ice in the north.

Deep Dives

While the oceans are in dire straits, this decade also had stories of discovery and exploration where, as always, the deep seas played a starring role.

Deeper Than Ever Before

Designing a submersible that can dive nearly seven miles (35,787 ft) beneath the ocean’s surface is like sending an astronaut to the moon.
In 2012, filmmaker James Cameron did just that.
In the custom-built Deepsea Challenger, Cameron descended to the bottom of the Mariana Trench, the second crewed dive to the deepest point of the sea and the first solo dive.
Protected by a nine-and-a-half-inch-thick glass window and a hull reinforced by special foam, Cameron’s sub withstood a crushing pressure of about 16,00 pounds per square inch—more than 1,000 times the pressure experienced at sea level.
This one dive was part of a larger expedition that discovered amazing biodiversity in the deep sea, including gigantic sea bugs that grow to almost a foot long.
Cameron’s record was beaten this year by American explorer, Victor Vescovo, who managed two trips to the depths of the Marianna Trench in just one year.

In 2018 a new deep ocean zone was described.
Dubbed the rariphotic zone, it ranges from 130 meters to at least 309 meters (427 to 1,014 feet).
Meaning “scarce light,” researchers must rely on submersibles and remotely operated vehicles to explore the region.

Ancient Sharks

The deep sea is full of slowly growing and old creatures, and this decade saw another aging record broken.
In 2016 we learned that the Greenland shark is the oldest vertebrate (an animal with a backbone) on the planet, reaching an unimaginable age of about 400 years old.
The old shark far surpasses the next oldest vertebrate, the bowhead whale, which only lives to 211 years.
Scientists aged the shark using radioactive molecules embedded within the animal’s eyes, taking advantage of the fact that unlike most bodily structures, the crystal structure of the eye lens remains intact from the moment of its creation in the womb.
The largest shark studied, a 16-foot behemoth, was estimated at 392 years old.

Early Microbes

The deep sea is also home to some microbes that long ago were key players in the origin of complex life.
These organisms are similar to bacteria but actually distantly related.
Called archaea, the microbes may be the ancestral link between complex and single-celled life.
In 2015, scientists discovered an interesting archaea in the muck surrounding a deep-sea hydrothermal vent system named Loki’s Castle.
Now named Lokiarchaea, after the mischievous Norse god, this microbe shares about 100 genes for cellular functions with complex life.

Soon after the discovery of Lokiarchaea, similar microbes with complex cell functions began cropping up.
Together they form the Asgard archaea, and their emergence has sparked a contentious debate among microbiologists.
Currently, all life is divided into either bacteria, archaea, or eukaryote (complex life), but the discovery of the Asgard archaea suggests that archaea and eukaryotes could be lumped into one group.
It also means that an ancient Asgardian ancestor potentially gave rise to all complex life—everything from orangutans to bread mold.

Hidden Reefs

At the mouth of the Amazon River, a massive deep-sea coral reef sits below a plume of mud and silt.
The size of West Virginia, this reef is likely six times the size initially estimated when it was first surveyed in 2016.
Even scientists were shocked by its existence and amazed by the breadth of diversity found living on and among the corals.

Then in 2018 scientists were shocked once more.
During a deep-sea submersible dive off the coast of South Carolina, researchers stumbled upon another massive coral reef half a mile below the ocean’s surface.
This discovery upended previous notions of where a coral reef could exist.
Most reefs form near the coast, but the Carolina reef was found 160 miles from the nearest shore.
Now scientists are anxious to continue the search for deep-sea reefs across the globe.
With the recent ramp up in offshore dredging, the need to find these hidden oases before they are destroyed is greater than ever before.

Mystery Deaths

Another impact of warming water is an increase in ocean disease.
Several mysterious illnesses this decade impacted ecosystems, and we also learned more about the event that killed 96 percent of ocean life over 250 million years ago.

Going Viral

Humans aren’t the only animals that carry disease.
Ocean diseases are a growing threat to several species, and ecosystems have become less resilient due to warming waters, pollution and other stressors.

In 2013 a mysterious disease swept through sea star populations on the U.S. Pacific Coast, devastating the animals which essentially disintegrated before scientists’ eyes.
Dubbed sea star wasting syndrome, the disease did not discriminate by species, and the most heavily affected species, the sunflower star, was almost completely wiped out from the west coast of the U.S.
Although a virus was identified as the cause for some of the mortality, the broader scope of the scourge seems likely to have been caused by a confluence of events and conditions that made the disease particularly deadly.

Another mysterious disease began to impact coral reefs off the coast of Florida in 2014.
Today, over 20 coral species are known to be susceptible to the infection, and the disease has spread south and across the Caribbean.
Some corals are able to resist the illness, leading scientists to search for a way to help fend off the disease.
Antibiotics and probiotics are key players, but using them in the open ocean is tricky business.

The Great Dying

The deaths we have documented over the past decade, as bad as they were, were nothing compared to what happened over 250 million years ago during the Permian period, when about 96 percent of ocean creatures died in an event known as the “Great Dying.” It was the largest extinction event in Earth’s history, even eclipsing the impact event that killed off the dinosaurs.
The cause was once heavily debated, but in 2018 we learned that the likely culprit of the die-off was a major increase in global temperatures due to volcanic activity.
As the planet warmed, the ocean began to lose oxygen.
Essentially, ocean life suffocated.
As our present-day Earth continues to warm, this study serves as a cautionary tale for what life in our oceans may look like one day, as the ocean has already lost 2 percent of its oxygen in the last 50 years.

Fun With Cephalopods & Whales

Whale watches and other eco-tourism opportunities abound, but we still have much to learn about these amazing (and often elusive) creatures.

Glimpses of Giant Squid

Tales of a terrorizing kraken are considered far-fetched today, but seafarers of the past who believed in the tentacled beast were likely inspired by a real but elusive deep-sea creature.
For over 2,000 years, the giant squid was only known by floating carcasses and the sucker scars it left behind on sperm whales.
This decade, the squid was finally seen in its natural habitat for the first time.

To catch the giant squid in action, scientists used Crittercams, remotely operated vehicles, and even dove in submersibles.
Nothing seemed to do the trick.
Then in 2012 Japanese scientists tried coaxing out a squid with luminescent lures that mimicked the pulsing lights of jellyfish, a method that led to the million-dollar shot.
Fast forward to 2019 and another squid was filmed off the coast of Louisiana by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The emergence of its eight probing arms from the dark is both eerie and beautiful—a reminder that the ocean still has many wonders waiting to be revealed.

Octopus Gardens

Octopuses are famously cryptic and solitary beings, so it was quite the shock when scientists came across an expanse of around 1,000 octopus moms tending their broods together on the sea floor.
Now dubbed “octopus gardens,” a nod to the Beatles song, these octo-mom gatherings are likely taking advantage of the volcanic activity in the area.
In 2018, deep-sea explorers found not one but two of these gardens, countering initial doubts that it was a case of octopus confusion.

Diving Whales

Whales often grab our attention—their massive size, wailing songs, and nurturing social behavior are relatable yet mysterious.
We’ve managed to learn a lot more about these animals in the past ten years, including how they made the transition from land to sea, when they became the behemoths we know today, and why they aren’t even bigger.
Some of the huge mammals are also deep divers, and just this month scientists calculated that blue whales' hearts beat only twice per minute when they are diving.


Ocean science is not all discouraging, and to highlight the success stories of the seas, 2014 saw the creation of a hashtag to highlight successful marine conservation efforts.​.

Upping Ocean Protections

Today, more ocean is protected than at any other time in history.
Somewhere between 5 and 7.5 percent of the ocean is protected with a wide variety of management levels.
While this may not sound like much, it equates to over 27 million square kilometers, 14 million of which were added since 2010.
In the last decade substantial, new or expanded protected areas were established in Hawaii, the Cook Islands and the Pitcairn Islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, among many other places.
The UN goal is to protect ten percent of the ocean by 2020.

More protected areas are needed on busy coastlines and to preserve a wide variety of habitats.
Enforcement is also crucial to see positive impacts, which include benefits to fisheries and nearby fishers, increased ecosystem resilience and greater marine biodiversity.

Reptile Recovery

Turtles have it tough.
The leading cause of sea turtle deaths in the last 50 years has been commercial fisheries bycatch—hundreds of thousands snared in fishing gear every year.
But the implementation of turtle excluder devices in U.S.
shrimp fisheries in the 1980s may finally be making an impact.
In 2019, loggerhead sea turtles laid a record number of nests along the southeast coast of the United States.
And in Hawaii, a record number of green sea turtles were recorded swimming around the island.
Marine plastic is now a major threat to sea turtles, but this one collaborative action likely made a major difference, offering hope for the conservation of these marine reptiles.

Aiding the Revival of Corals

The increasing stresses induced by climate change and human development are taking their toll on coral reefs around the world, but an army of scientists are determined to develop new ways to save the critical ecosystems.
In Florida, researchers found that if coral are broken into tiny pieces and then spread in close proximity, the individual pieces grow quicker than the larger mature coral and eventually fuse together.
The large, fused coral is then better able to weather stressors due to its size.

Smithsonian scientists were also able to revive coral larvae that were flash frozen, a method that will enable the preservation of endangered corals.
This new technique uses lasers, gold particles, and antifreeze to thwart ice crystal formation when the larvae are warmed.
As ocean temperatures rise, scientists hope preserving coral will give them more time to adapt to the changing world.

An Ocean of Energy

In the future, will we turn to the ocean to power our lives? It’s possible.
In 2017 a 30 megawatt wind farm—the first operational offshore wind farm in the United States—was connected to the mainland grid from off the coast of Rhode Island.
The world’s largest offshore wind farm began operations in 2019 in the North Sea, and more energy can be found amidst the waves.
In fact, the Department of Energy funded 25 million dollars in research for marine energy devices.

Ten More Years of Ocean Science

At the National Museum of Natural History, curators and researchers celebrated the tenth anniversary of the Sant Ocean Hall and the amazing ocean science happening across the Smithsonian.
The United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development will begin in 2021 to support ocean health with science-informed policy and action.
And in 2020, the Smithsonian is celebrating a year of Earth Optimism to share stories of conservation success and inspire hope with events in Washington, D.C.
and around the world.

Links :