As the earth warms and climate change becomes more prevalent, the ocean absorbs the heat. With the rise in greenhouse gases comes the warming of land due to hotter temperatures. This heat becomes stored by the ocean. According to a recent study authored by John Abraham, a professor of thermal sciences at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, “The pace of warming has increased about 500 percent since the late 1980s.”
Dillon Amaya, a research scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Physical Sciences Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado, said that temperatures have risen as much as 9 degrees F. Amaya said, “It’s been very extreme — some of the hottest temperatures we’ve seen on record — and they’ve hung around for several months.”
The warming of ocean waters can lead to rising water levels and large impacts on marine life like a population rise in invasive species and other effects on marine ecosystems.
Rebecca Helm, an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina, hypothesized that gyres consolidate plastic and living organisms similarly. Gyres are global circular currents powered by wind that can act as a whirlpool, which creates garbage patches in the ocean. Helm published the study on April 28, finding her hypothesis accurate after following French swimmer Benoit Lecomte over the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
Supporting evidence was also found through additional experiments in the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch lies in the Pacific Ocean and is the world’s largest ocean garbage patch. Researchers that followed Lecomte through the patch found, in some parts of the garbage, there was almost the same number of neuston, or surface-dwelling organisms, and pieces of plastic in the patch. The finding demonstrated the accuracy of Helm’s original hypothesis.
Although fascinating, Helm said her study could potentially complicate plastic cleanup measures as conservationists attempt to get rid of the 269,000 tons of plastic floating in the ocean. Today, plastic waste make up 80% of sea pollution and kills more than 100,000 marine mammals and a million seabirds every year. Plastic in the ocean harms all sea life including small fish as well as large whales because they mistake the waste for food or get tangled in pieces of plastic. Despite the home that neuston have found, Laurent Lebreton, an oceanographer with the Ocean Cleanup Foundation, told The New York Times that individuals around the world must take into account the large-scale and harmful effects of plastic in the ocean.
Nearly everything in the world will be affected by climate change. New research proves that more every day. People, animals, land and water are all hurting and on the track to hurt more if climate change continues at its current pace.
A study by an international group of researchers shows that interaction between communities of plankton – microorganisms in the ocean– will be affected by climate change in different ways depending on location. Although the effects will be different, they will all be harmful.
Computer simulations suggested that plankton communities at the poles will be badly damaged by the rise in temperature, while in temperate zones they will suffer from a reduced flow of nutrients and in the tropics from increased salinity. Both effects will lead to harm in the plankton community. Since plankton is a microscopic organism in the ocean, it can be hard to see how this is important. However, plankton supply most of the planet’s oxygen. Their harm is everyone’s harm, especially the ocean’s.
The findings, published in the journal Science Advances, resulted from mathematical modeling based on the largest-ever inventory of marine plankton making it extremely trustworthy and important. Although this study started in 2009, results have been published more recently.
Sea ice thickness is found by measuring the height of the ice above the water, but this measurement can be thrown off by snow. In order to adjust for this, scientists have been using a map of snow depth in the Arctic that was made decades ago and does not consider climate change.
In research published by The Cryosphere, scientists and researchers used a new computer model designed to estimate snow depth as it varies year to year, instead of the old map. They found that sea ice in key coastal regions was thinning at a rate that was 70 to 100 percent faster than had previously been thought.
Robbie Mallett, the PhD student in Earth Science at the University of London who led the study said, “The thickness of sea ice is a sensitive indicator of the health of the Arctic. It is important as thicker ice acts as an insulating blanket, stopping the ocean from warming up the atmosphere in winter, and protecting the ocean from the sunshine in summer. Thinner ice is also less likely to survive during the Arctic summer melt.”
Mallett also mentioned that one of the reasons why it is thinning quicker than they had thought is because snow is forming later and later in the year.
Co-Author and Professor, Julienne Stroeve, said that there are still uncertainties in their model, but this is a closer look at accuracy than what was previously had.
Another group of researchers at the University of Colorado looked at ice thinning as well with their new research model. They found that ice was thinning 70 to 110 percent faster, similar to the research group mentioned earlier.
Seattle is making a move to reduce single use plastics, by banning straws and any single use plastic utensils from restaurants and all other dining venues. Straws that are reusable or can be composted are still allowed, but the ordinance has a strong preference towards not providing any straws.
The city of Seattle has made many other steps towards their mitigating impact on the surrounding ecosystem, including its efforts to help the salmon population. The Salmon in the Schools program allowed schoolchildren to hatch salmon and release them into, providing important environmental education to school children as well as helping to bolster the salmon populations numbers.
However, 78 feet might not be the of the actual peak size of the wave. The buoys used to measure the wave do not record measurements constantly, so the wave could have reached an even higher maximum height than recorded.
The previous record for the largest wave in the Southern Hemisphere happened in 2012 and occurred near Tasmania, at height of 72 feet. The largest wave ever recorded was in 1995, and was measured at 84 feet in the Atlantic Ocean.
The Earth Day Network points out that April 22nd has been a day for civic engagement and political activism since 1970, when millions of Americans marched to call attention to the environmental degradation that had been caused by more than a century of unchecked industrial development. With carbon dioxide levels at their highest level in 650,000 years, there is a strong case to live as though every day is Earth Day. Officials from the Earth Day Network have several suggestions for how to do so. From using nontoxic cleaning products to changing vehicle air filters regularly to reading documents online rather than printing them, small changes made by many people can make a big difference.
Individuals interested in learning more about plastic pollution and how to reduce the amount of plastic they consume can also join the End Plastic Pollution campaign. Participants can calculate their own plastic consumption and create a Personal Plastic Plan to reduce consumption and keep track of progress online.
U.S. shoppers spent $5 billion in 24 hours on Friday, making Black Friday 2017 a record haul for retailers. Whether it’s purchased online or in stores, the new Hatchimal or the Nintendo Switch, environmental activists warn that consumers should think twice about the impact these goods have on the environment.
Greenpeace, an independent global campaigning organization, reported that electronic goods alone are expected to generate 50 million tons of waste in 2017. Electronic goods like smart phones and laptops make up the quickest growing waste stream worldwide, less than 16 percent of which is expected to be recycled this year. About one-third of e-waste that is recycled is sent overseas to countries like Kenya and Pakistan to be taken apart by workers that are not protected from the toxic materials that can be found inside electronic gadgets.
Friends of the Earth environmental activist Julian Kirby asked of holiday shoppers, “If you don’t need it or want it then don’t give them your money. If you are going to take advantage of what’s purported to be lower prices then don’t rush into it, think about whether it’s the most sustainable and ethical product and whether you might be able to get a second hand version that’s able to do just as good a job.”
This week’s On The Radio segment discusses a recent study that found sea levels are rising at a significantly faster rate than in the past.
Transcript: Scientists, in a new study, have found that the Earth’s oceans are rising nearly three times as quickly as they were throughout most of the 20th century.
This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.
This new finding is one of the strongest indications yet that a much-feared trend of not just sea level rise, but its acceleration, is now underway.
Their paper, published in May’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, isn’t the first to find that the rate of rising seas is itself increasing — but it finds a bigger rate of increase than in past studies.
The new paper concludes that before 1990, oceans were rising at about almost a half an inch per decade. From 1993 through 2012, though, it finds they rose by almost one and a quarter inches per decade.
To learn more about the study, visit iowaenvironmentalfocus.org.
From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Betsy Stone.
The spring semester has come to a close and most UI professors have retreated to their campus labs to catch up on research. Dr. David Peate, on the other hand, is spending his summer days floating on the South China Sea.
This is no pleasure cruise, however. The professor of Earth and Environmental sciences is working 12-hour days to advance scientific understanding of how continents separate and oceans are formed. Peate embarked on the 9-week expedition funded by the International Ocean Discovery Program with 125 other scientists and crew members from around the world, he explained in an interview with Iowa Now.
In the interview, Peate explained that when continents drift apart, the uppermost layer of the Earth’s crust is stretched so much that parts of a deeper layer called the mantle can ooze up into the crust. Sometimes the mantle is so hot that it rises up as lava and forms continental boundaries like those seen in eastern Greenland and northern Europe, he explained. Other times, the mantle rises at cooler temperatures and no lava is formed. The expedition’s primary mission is to understand the difference between these two types of continental rifts.
The continental rift in the South China sea is “different than other well-studied rifted margins. For one, it is not covered by thick piles of lava flows, unlike most other examples of continental rifting, which spawned lava flows,” he said.
The researchers’ ship is equipped with a three mile long steel tube that drills into the ocean floor to collect cores. “That is equivalent to the distance between the Old Capitol and Iowa City West High School,” Peate explained to Iowa Now. Once pulled up, cores are separated into five-foot lengths and prepared for geologists to study. Peate is mostly interested in volcanic rock. Some of the cores will return to Iowa with him. He said, “I will collaborate with other international scientists from the expedition to make detailed chemical investigations of all the volcanic rocks that we find.” Peate continued, “Combining results from the different drilled sites will allow us to build a picture of how the volcanic activity changed through time as the rifting event happened.”
Peate’s other areas of research include the formation and transport of magma in Iceland and the driving forces behind large magma eruptions. His compete interview with Iowa Now can be found here.