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Oceans face ‘triple threat’ of extreme heat, oxygen loss and acidification

Third of world’s ocean surface particularly vulnerable to threats driven by burning fossil fuel and deforestation, new research finds

The world’s oceans are facing a “triple threat” of extreme heating, a loss of oxygen and acidification, with extreme conditions becoming far more intense in recent decades and placing enormous stress upon the planet’s panoply of marine life, new research has found.

About a fifth of the world’s ocean surface is particularly vulnerable to the three threats hitting at once, spurred by human activity such as the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation, the study found. In the top 300 meters of affected ocean, these compound events now last three times longer and are six times more intense than they were in the early 1960s, the research states.

Dr Alex Hearn and his colleagues in a boat in fading light tagging a shark in the Galápagos marine reserve.
‘Where do sharks hang out?’: the race to find safe spaces for the Galápagos’ ocean-going predators
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The study’s lead author warned that the world’s oceans were already being pushed into an extreme new state because of the climate crisis. “The impacts of this have already been seen and felt,” said Joel Wong, a researcher at ETH Zurich, who cited the well-known example of the heat “blob” that has caused the die-off of marine life in the Pacific Ocean. “Intense extreme events like these are likely to happen again in the future and will disrupt marine ecosystems and fisheries around the world,” he added.

The research, published in AGU Advances, analyzed occurrences of extreme heat, deoxygenation and acidification and found that such extreme events can last for as long as 30 days, with the tropics and the north Pacific particularly affected by the compounding threats.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Panama prepares to evacuate first island in face of rising sea levels

Panama prepares to evacuate first island in face of rising sea levels


GARDI SUGDUB, Panama (AP) — On a tiny island off Panama’s Caribbean coast, about 300 families are packing their belongings in preparation for a dramatic change. Generations of Gunas who have grown up on Gardi Sugdub in a life dedicated to the sea and tourism will trade that next week for the mainland’s solid ground.

They go voluntarily — sort of.

The Gunas of Gardi Sugdub are the first of 63 communities along Panama’s Caribbean and Pacific coasts that government officials and scientists expect to be forced to relocate by rising sea levels in the coming decades.

A Guna Indigenous woman covers her head due to light rain on Gardi Sugdub Island, part of the San Blas archipelago off Panama's Caribbean coast, Saturday, May 25, 2024. Due to rising sea levels, about 300 Guna Indigenous families will relocate to new homes, built by the government, on the mainland. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)
A Guna Indigenous woman covers her head due to light rain on Gardi Sugdub Island, part of the San Blas archipelago off Panama’s Caribbean coast, Saturday, May 25, 2024. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)

On a recent day, the island’s Indigenous residents rowed or sputtered off with outboard motors to fish. Children, some in uniforms and others in the colorful local textiles called “molas,” chattered as they hustled through the warren of narrow dirt streets on their way to school.

“We’re a little sad, because we’re going to leave behind the homes we’ve known all our lives, the relationship with the sea, where we fish, where we bathe and where the tourists come, but the sea is sinking the island little by little,” said Nadín Morales, 24, who prepared to move with her mother, uncle and boyfriend.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…


The world dumps 2,000 truckloads of plastic into the ocean each day. Here’s where a lot of it ends up

A local fisherman performs maintenance on his boat while surrounded by trash washed up on Loji Beach in West Java, Indonesia.

The western coast of Java in Indonesia is popular with surfers for its world-famous breaks. There’s a majestic underwater world to explore, too. But it’s impossible to surf or snorkel without running into plastic water bottles, single-use cups and food wrappers.

The garbage sometimes forms islands in the sea, and much of it washes ashore, accumulating as mountains on the beach.

The world produces around 400 million metric tons of plastic waste each year. Every day, 2,000 truckloads of it is dumped into the ocean, rivers and lakes.

Despite global efforts to give plastic products longer lives, only 9% of them are actually recycled. Most plastic waste goes into landfills or is shipped to places like Indonesia and other Southeast Asian nations, many of which are already drowning in their own plastic pollution.

Clearing beaches of litter in Indonesia is no small task. The country is the world’s second-biggest producer of plastic waste. As the world’s longest archipelago — stretching over the same distance as London to New York — Indonesia has a vast coastline and three times the amount of sea surface area than land, making fishing an industry that 12 million people rely on.

Without adequate state services to keep the beaches clear of litter, fishing communities are on the front lines of the clean-up.

Loji Beach, on the Indonesian island of Java, is one of the most contaminated in the country.

Marsinah collects plastic on Loji Beach to try and sell it to informal recycling centers.

Plastic bottle labels are accumulated in a recycling center in Bangkok, Thailand.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Tire Dust Makes Up the Majority of Ocean Microplastics, Study Finds

Tire Dust Makes Up the Majority of Ocean Microplastics, Study Finds

Researchers say tire emissions pose a threat to global health, and EVs could make the problem worse.

When contemplating the emissions from road vehicles, our first thought is often about the various gases coming out of the tailpipe. However, new research shows that we should be more concerned with the harmful particles that are shed from tires and brakes.

Scientists have a good understanding of engine emissions, which typically consist of unburnt fuel, oxides of carbon and nitrogen, and particulate matter related to combustion. However, new research shared by Yale Environment 360 indicates that there may be a whole host of toxic chemicals being shed from tires and brakes that have been largely ignored until now. Even worse, these emissions may be so significant that they actually exceed those from a typical car’s exhaust output.

A research paper published in 2020 highlighted the impact of tire pollution by examining the plight of coho salmon in West Coast streams. Scientists eventually identified a chemical called 6PPD, typically used in tire manufacturing to slow cracking and degradation. When exposed to ozone in the atmosphere, the chemical transforms into multiple other species, including 6PPD-quinone—which was found to be highly toxic to multiple fish, including coho salmon. The same chemical has since been detected in human urine, though any potential health impacts remain unknown.

The discovery of 6PPD-q and its impact has brought new scrutiny to the pollution generated by particles shedding from tires and brakes. In particular, tire rubber is made up of over 400 different chemical compounds, many of which are known to have negative effects on human health.

…click on the above link to read the rest…

Hottest ocean temperatures in history recorded last year

Ocean heating driven by human-caused climate crisis, scientists say, in sixth consecutive year record has been broken

An oil platform stands offshore as cargo shipping container ships wait in the Pacific Ocean to enter the port of Los Angeles.
An oil platform stands offshore as cargo shipping container ships wait in the Pacific Ocean to enter the port of Los Angeles. Photograph: Patrick T Fallon/AFP/Getty Images

The world’s oceans have been set to simmer, and the heat is being cranked up. Last year saw the hottest ocean temperatures in recorded history, the sixth consecutive year that this record has been broken, according to new research.

The heating up of our oceans is being primarily driven by the human-caused climate crisis, scientists say, and represents a starkly simple indicator of global heating. While the atmosphere’s temperature is also trending sharply upwards, individual years are less likely to be record-breakers compared with the warming of the oceans.

A firefighter sprays water as a house burns in the Dixie fire in the Indian Falls area of Plumas County, California.
Climate crisis: last seven years the hottest on record, 2021 data shows
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Last year saw a heat record for the top 2,000 meters of all oceans around the world, despite an ongoing La Niña event, a periodic climatic feature that cools waters in the Pacific. The 2021 record tops a stretch of modern record-keeping that goes back to 1955. The second hottest year for oceans was 2020, while the third hottest was 2019.

“The ocean heat content is relentlessly increasing, globally, and this is a primary indicator of human-induced climate change,” said Kevin Trenberth, a climate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado and co-author of the research, published in Advances in Atmospheric Sciences.

Warmer ocean waters are helping supercharge storms, hurricanes and extreme rainfall, the paper states, which is escalating the risks of severe flooding. Heated ocean water expands and eats away at the vast Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, which are collectively shedding around 1tn tons of ice a year, with both of these processes fueling sea level rise.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Oceans Break Heat Record for Third Year in a Row

Oceans Break Heat Record for Third Year in a Row

2021 broke the record from 2020 by about 14 zettajoules, or 20 times the world’s annual energy consumption

Oceans Break Heat Record for Third Year in a Row
An Arvor float is deployed from the RV Pourquoi Pas to capture ocean temperature data. The oceans are absorbing more heat as climate change advances. Credit: Argo Program

The world’s oceans reached their hottest levels on record in 2021. It’s the third year in a row it’s happened, and it’s driven almost entirely by human-caused climate change, scientists announced yesterday.

The findings are presented in a paper published in the journal Advances in Atmospheric Sciences. As excess heat accumulates in the atmosphere, caused by continued greenhouse gas emissions, the oceans soak some of it in.

The study analyzes data from scientific sensors attached to floats scattered throughout the oceans, from the balmy Mediterranean to the icy waters surrounding Antarctica. It relies primarily on two international datasets—one maintained by the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the other operated by NOAA.

The study finds that the amount of heat in the oceans last year broke the previous 2020 record by around 14 zettajoules. That’s equivalent to at least 20 times the entire world’s annual energy consumption.

It’s an ongoing pattern. All five of the world’s hottest ocean levels have occurred in the last five years. The record-breaker in 2017 is still a bit higher than 2018. But each of the last three years, from 2019 to 2021, have all broken the previous record.

That’s on top of a decades-long pattern of warming. Every decade since 1958 has been warmer than the previous decade. And the rate of warming has sped up significantly since the 1980s.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Weather 2022: New anomalies are growing in the Atmosphere and the Oceans, that will change the weather patterns as we head deeper into the year

Weather 2022: New anomalies are growing in the Atmosphere and the Oceans, that will change the weather patterns as we head deeper into the year

Major changes are coming in 2022 across the atmosphere and the oceans, creating different weather patterns into the second half of the year, and especially in the cold season later in the year. The changes will start slowly, but the main shift will start to occur during the 2022 warm season.

But what exactly is changing this year, and what weather patterns resulted from such changes in the past?

We will go on a weather journey through 2022, starting with a seasonal weather pattern forecast for late winter and early parts of the Spring. From there we will go into the atmosphere and the oceans, to observe what is changing already, and what is yet to come. You will see how and why these global changes occur, and what is going to be different in 2022, compared to the last few years.


We are starting off with the current weather conditions, brought on from the 2021 cold season. Winter is still ongoing and driven largely by a cold ENSO phase.

ENSO is short for “El Niño Southern Oscillation”. This is a large oceanic region in the tropical Pacific, that is regularly changing between warm and cold phases. It has a major impact on the tropical convection patterns (storms), pressure patterns, and thus on the interaction between the ocean and the atmosphere.

We can observe large-scale pressure changes in the tropics as ENSO shifts between warm and cold phases. With some delay, these changes directly affect the circulation over the rest of the world.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Future of the Oceans: The two Souls of the Club of Rome

The Future of the Oceans: The two Souls of the Club of Rome

I was very happy when I finally managed to find a copy of the old report to the Club of Rome, “The Future of the Oceans” by Elizabeth Mann Borgese. A book published in 1986, one of a long series of reports that the Club commissioned to various scientists and researchers. And the only one, so far, that dealt with marine resources. Not so easy to find: I finally managed to dig out a used copy from an obscure bookstore in Michigan. But, eventually, it arrived here.


Of course, my interest in that old book was generated by having written a report on marine resources myself, The Empty Sea, together with my coworker Ilaria Perissi (you see her with our book in the photo.) So, how do these two books compare, at 35 years of distance from each other?I must say that I was surprised. Our book can be defined as a little catastrophistic: just the title should tell you what I mean. The one by Elizabeth Mann Borgese, instead, is completely different in tone, approach, and contents: you could define it as cornucopian. The first part of the book is dedicated to describing the abundance of the resources that the oceans contain, the second and third part are dedicated to how the international community was going to develop a “common heritage economics,” and about treaties, regulations, and laws needed to manage the exploitation of these riches for the good of all humankind.

Leaving aside for a moment the question of who is right and who is wrong, you may be just as surprised as I was to discover that the Club of Rome could sponsor two books that took such a different approach on the same subject…

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

New research on forests and oceans suggest projections of future warming may be too conservative, with serious consequences

New research on forests and oceans suggest projections of future warming may be too conservative, with serious consequences

How much will the world warm with ongoing fossil-fuel carbon emissions? It’s a big question that preoccupies policymakers and activists, with important discussions about when the world will hit two degrees, are we really on a path to four degrees of warming with current Paris commitments, and so on.

And the answer is that the world is likely to warm more than current projections, if two recently published pieces of research on the terrestrial and ocean carbon sinks are any guide.

Warming projections and carbon sinks. Future warming projections come from complex climate models, which combine historic data, current observations, equations that encompass current understandings of the bio-geo-physical processes, and some assumptions about processes where direct observation or modelling is more difficult.

About 30% of the carbon dioxide (CO2) that humans are pouring into the atmosphere mixes with the top layer of the ocean (making the water more acidic and posing a growing acidification threat to ocean life), about 30% is absorbed by the terrestrial biosphere (trees and plants), and about 40% stays in the air, heating the planet.

Assumptions about those processes in the future fundamentally affect projections of future warming. If these ocean and terrestrial carbon stores (or “carbon sinks”) become less efficient, then a greater proportion of human emissions will stay in the air, and warming will be faster than currently projected for a given level of emissions.

So the models make assumptions about these carbon stores:

  1. For the terrestrial carbon sink, it has been observed that with more CO2, plants grow faster because there is more CO2 “food” for them to absorb.  This is known as the “fertilisation effect”, and while there are highly divergent sink trajectories from Earth system models, the models “nevertheless agree on continued futures increases in sink strength due to the CO2 fertilisation effect.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Triple Crisis in the Anthropocene Ocean.

Triple Crisis in the Anthropocene Ocean.

Part Three: The Heat of 3.6 Billion Atom Bombs

Continuing Ian Angus’s examination of the ‘deadly trio’ of CO2-driven assaults on ocean life. Part three: ocean warming and permanent heatwaves

“Triple Crisis” has been published in three parts

“The world’s oceans (especially the upper 2000 m) in 2019 were the warmest in recorded human history…. The past five years are the top five warmest years in the ocean historically with modern instruments, and the past ten years are also the top ten years on record.”[1]

Until the 1970s, the constant flow of energy that Earth receives from the sun was offset by heat reflected back into space, so the planet’s overall energy level did not change very much over time. The amount of incoming solar energy has not changed, but rising concentrations of greenhouse gases are trapping ever more of the reflected heat, preventing it from leaving the atmosphere. Climate scientists call this Earth’s Energy Imbalance.

The excess energy is not distributed evenly through the Earth System. Although global warming is usually expressed as increased air temperatures, the ocean is actually much better at storing heat than the atmosphere — one degree of ocean warming stores over 1000 times as much heat energy as one degree of atmosphere warming — so it isn’t surprising that the ocean has taken up most of the excess solar energy. Just seven percent warms the air and land and melts snow and ice — 93 percent is absorbed by the ocean.[2]

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Dead Zones: Industrial Agriculture versus Ocean Life

Dead Zones: Industrial Agriculture versus Ocean Life

Worldwide, there are now over a thousand coastal areas where fish can’t breathe. The nitrogen that makes crops grow is also destroying offshore ecosystems.

“Let us not, however, flatter ourselves overmuch on account of our human victories over nature. For each such victory nature takes its revenge on us. Each victory, it is true, in the first place brings about the results we expected, but in the second and third places it has quite different, unforeseen effects which only too often cancel the first.” —Frederick Engels 

Talk about bad timing. This year’s Shelfwide Hypoxia Cruise, the annual scientific expedition that measures oxygen-depleted waters off the Louisiana coast, started on July 25, just after Hurricane Hanna raged through the area. High winds and waves continued through the cruise, thoroughly mixing the water column: high-oxygen surface waters were forced deep, and low-oxygen bottom waters were pushed off the continental shelf.

As a result, the official area of year’s dead zone is 5,048 square kilometers, the third-smallest since surveys began in 1985. Future charts and graphs will require a footnote, explaining that weather conditions produced a misleading result.

Northern Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone after Hurricane Hanna, July 2020.[1]

If the survey had been done a week earlier, or a couple of weeks later, the low-oxygen area would likely have been three or four times as large, because the conditions that deplete oxygen on the continental shelf haven’t changed.

#  #  #

In the summer of 1972, an environmental assessment study for a proposed oil facility off the coast of Louisiana found something unexpected — an area below the surface, where the water contained little or no oxygen. In waters that had long supported a large and profitable fishing industry, there were areas where fish couldn’t breathe.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Ocean floor mining: What could possibly go wrong?

Ocean floor mining: What could possibly go wrong?

A recent article on undersea mining in The Atlantic brought back a detailed childhood memory. When I was in fifth grade, my class put on a sort of mini science fair and performance art program for parents. My project focused on the prospect of mining the oceans. I drew a large mural-like color illustration showing a submarine stationed just above the seabed where it hoovered up minerals with large hoses. 

The submarine had wide pipes running from it to the surface where a ship received the nodules of ore gathered by the hoses. During my presentation the classroom was dark, and my mural was illuminated using three small articulating lamps turned on and off by a classmate as I went through the distinct phases of the mining operations in a room meant to mimic the dark and foreboding deep.

It turns out these many years later that my cursory research into ocean mining as a fifth-grader yielded a roughly accurate portrayal of what is about to happen in the oceans starting early in the coming decade. The world’s nations may conclude a treaty governing undersea mining through the auspices of the United Nations as early as next year. Once that is concluded, large scale mining of ocean bottoms is expected to begin.

One method—already in use in coastal waters controlled by individual countries—will be to suck up nodules of ore lying on the seabed with huge vacuums and filter out the sediment that comes with it. This method will move quickly to the deep ocean once the treaty is approved resulting in huge, dense clouds of particles suspended underwater for possibly hundreds of miles from underwater mining sites. Scientists are worried that both the vacuuming and the plumes will destroy entire ecosystems about which we know little.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Empty Sea: What Future for the Blue Economy? A New Book by Ugo Bardi and Ilaria Perissi

The Empty Sea: What Future for the Blue Economy? A New Book by Ugo Bardi and Ilaria Perissi

Proposed cover by Viola, Ilaria’s daughter, 4 years old. 
For this Monday post, I can only put together a very short text. We (myself and Ilaria) have been very busy with the last retouched of the manuscript for our new book that we hope to be able to ship to the publisher (“Editori Riuniti”) maybe tomorrow. It should be available for purchase before Christmas.

We spent a lot of time on this book, and I can tell you that we like it a lot. We hope that the readers will like it, too. I am sorry that this first version is only in Italian, but we are planning a version in English to appear as soon as possible. In the meantime, let me pass to you a text that should appear on the back cover, translated into English. 

What you will learn from this book

  • How humans have been gradually discovering the sea and its resources from the time of our remote ancestors
  • What is the “fisherman’s curse,” why fishermen have always been poor, and they still are!
  • Why humans tend to destroy the resources that make them live: how overexploitation has destroyed many fish stocks and is still destroying them
  • How pollution is affecting the sea: from the great plastic gyre to the rising sea levels
  • Why aquaculture may not be the magic solution to feed the world and what we can expect from the future of fisheries.
  • Can we really extract minerals and energy from the sea? It may be much more difficult than the way it is sometimes described. 
  • What are the limits to resources of the sea and what can we realistic expect for the future?

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Living in the Concretaceous Period

Scientists long ago determined that Earth had entered the Anthropocene period, based on a determination that humans were altering fundamental planetary parameters such as biodiversity and the chemistry of the atmosphere and oceans to the degree that it warranted an entirely new geological designation. Following another millennium of observation and analysis, skilled observers now tend to divide the Anthropocene into brief but distinct phases, including the Concretaceous, the Hellocene, and the current Depletozoic—which began centuries ago and appears likely to persist until the next awful thing happens.

While biologists have long agreed that humans are the dominant lifeform of the Anthropocene, some geologists now argue that, during the pivotal Concretaceous phase, it was the automobile that served as the true apex species. It was for the sake of automobiles that concrete—the signature rock stratum of the Concretaceous—was laid down over millions of square kilometers of landscape. The automobile served as a kind of exoskeleton for Concretaceous humans, as well as a status symbol, and it was for the powering of automobiles that millions of years’ worth of ancient sunlight, stored in the form of petroleum, was wrenched from the ground and combusted—thus altering the climate and triggering the swarm of events that led to the second phase of the Anthropocene, the Hellocene.

This latter observation has led some historians to explore the evolution of the automobile, from the primitive Stutzes and Locomobiles that rolled the primordial roads of the early Concreteaceous, all the way to the sleek Teslas and other electric cars that began to proliferate just as the swiftly intensifying events of the brief Hellocene brought the Concretaceous to a hot, chaotic end.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Three Climatic Monsters with Asteroid Impact

Three Climatic Monsters with Asteroid Impact

Continuing from Part 1: Monster #2 Greenhouse Gases (“GHG”) alter ecosystems.

The biggest impact of anthropogenic GHG hits the oceans. There is no doubt about the importance of the oceans as a great sink, 2/3rds of the planet. After all, the oceans have saved humanity’s butt ever since industrialization started emitting CO2 over 200 years ago.

Sorrowfully, CO2 with consequent global warming, when excessive, literally kills the oceans. As it happens, the oceans absorb 30-40% of CO2 and 80-90% of planetary heat. Otherwise, one can only imagine the awesomely horrendous, gruesome, horrid consequences, but maybe not, as human imagination has trouble focusing on total annihilation. It never seems a reality.

However, a new carbon sink theory claims the oceans have maxed-out, thus unable to absorb additional CO2 after taking up approximately 130B tons of CO2 over the past century (all-time approximately 38,000 gigatons of CO2, which is 16xs terrestrial CO2).

Further to the point, it is believed the oceans could reverse course and start emitting CO2, a “reverse sink,” at some juncture. The implications are daunting, putting it oh so mildly.

Also, dreadfully, ocean chemistry is changing because of excessive CO2, more acidic, thus imperiling the life cycle of pteropods, tiny pea-like free-swimming snails at the base of the food chain that multiply by the billions, maybe trillions, serving as a source of sustenance for everything from krill to large whales. Analyses of pteropods in the Southern Ocean revealed failure to fully develop protective outer shells (acidification at work), which inhibits maturation and reproduction. It goes without saying, after enough time, it could evolve into a major ecosystem collapse.

Not only is the marine food chain at risk, excessive warming kills coral, for example, one-half of the Great Barrier Reef, one of Nature’s Seven Wonders of the World, died in 2016-17 from extreme heat. Scientists around the world were, and still are, totally freaked-out.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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