AltaSea: Trending – February 13, 2019

A monthly round-up of news and trends important to the AltaSea community.


The World’s Bluest Oceans Are Going to Get Bluer — but That’s Not a Good Thing (Travel + Leisure)

In the future, climate change will cause the blues of the ocean to look bluer and the greens to look greener, according to researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. And no, that is not a good thing.

To understand how this will happen, you first need to understand why the ocean is blue in the first place. As the Weather Channel explained, the water gains its color thanks to microorganisms called phytoplankton. Those organisms contain chlorophyll, which is a pigment that absorbs the blue part of the light spectrum and reflects the green part of the light spectrum.

That means if water has more phytoplankton it will come off as more green. Parts of the ocean without these organisms look bluer.

Gone In a Generation (The Washington Post)

The continental United States is 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than it was a century ago. Seas at the coasts are nine inches higher. The damage is mounting from these fundamental changes, and Americans are living it. These are their stories.

Scientists find new evidence of life beneath Antarctic ice (Axios)

A research team drilling thousands of feet under the Antarctic Ice Sheet has found new evidence of microbial life there — life forms not known to exist elsewhere.

It’s only the second subglacial lake in Antarctica to be explored, in an area as vast as twice the area of the continental U.S. That means scientists have to draw a lot of conclusions from drilling two holes — but it’s the only way to learn about what kind of life exists in the mysterious world of subglacial lakes and rivers deep beneath the ice.

There’s a Tiny Plastic Enemy Threatening the Planet’s Oceans (Bloomberg)

Environmentalists have identified another threat to the planet. It’s called a nurdle.

Nurdles are tiny pellets of plastic resin no bigger than a pencil eraser that manufacturers transform into packaging, plastic straws, water bottles and other typical targets of environmental action.

But the nurdles themselves are also a problem. Billions of them are lost from production and supply chains every year, spilling or washing into waterways. A U.K. environmental consultancy estimated last year that preproduction plastic pellets are the second-largest source of micro-plastic pollution in water, after micro-fragments from vehicle tires.


A Grant Plan To Clean The Great Pacific Garbage Patch (The New Yorker)

In May, 2017, a twenty-two-year-old Dutch entrepreneur named Boyan Slat unveiled a contraption that he believed would rid the oceans of plastic. In a former factory in Utrecht, a crowd of twelve hundred people stood before a raised stage. The setting was futuristic and hip. A round screen set in the stage floor displayed 3-D images of Earth; behind Slat, another screen charted the rapid accumulation of plastic in the Pacific Ocean since the nineteen-fifties. 

Deep-sea mining could find rare elements for smartphones — but will it destroy rare species? (The Verge)

In September of 2017, The Japan Times reported that Japan had successfully mined zinc, gold, and other minerals from a deep-water seabed off the coast of Okinawa. It turned heads in the mining industry, and though the operation was just an initial trial, it pointed the way toward what could become a massive deep-ocean mining industry. And that is sparking renewed concerns among scientists about how this new gold rush will affect the unique creatures living off these ore deposits.

Aquaculture in a time of climate change (Santa Cruz Sentinel)

The unexpected consequences of climate change are often, well, unexpected. Researchers at the Moss Landing Marine Labs Aquaculture Facility are working with the shellfish industry to make sure that “out of stock” signs at our favorite oyster bars won’t be one of those consequences. 

Excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere leads to changes in our weather patterns but also lead to increases in the carbon dioxide within our oceans. The excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere dissolves into sea water, increasing the oceans acidity (lowering its pH) which then poses problems for marine life that lives within a naturally narrow range of ocean acidity. Decreases in the local ocean pH have already been causing real impacts, including impacts to shellfish industries.


Youth Initiatives on Microplastics (LA Maritime Institute)

TopSail Youth Crew members from the LA Maritime Institute microplastic research team presented their findings taken on board our tall ships to the National Association of Biology Teachers national conference in San Diego. With additional support from AltaSea, 5Gyres, and Algalita, the students are now hosting international video conferences with other groups in Honduras, China and Japan to promote two international Youth Conferences.

The long memory of the Pacific Ocean (Science Daily)

The ocean has a long memory. When the water in today’s deep Pacific Ocean last saw sunlight, Charlemagne was the Holy Roman Emperor, the Song Dynasty ruled China and Oxford University had just held its very first class. During that time, between the 9th and 12th centuries, the earth’s climate was generally warmer before the cold of the Little Ice Age settled in around the 16th century. Now ocean surface temperatures are back on the rise but the question is, do the deepest parts of the ocean know that?

Researchers from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and Harvard University have found that the deep Pacific Ocean lags a few centuries behind in terms of temperature and is still adjusting to the entry into the Little Ice Age. Whereas most of the ocean is responding to modern warming, the deep Pacific may be cooling.

9 Ocean Conservation Groups You Don’t Know about…but Should (Scientific America)

It can be easy to focus on the bad news when we think about the ocean: climate change, overfishing, pollution, loss of coastal habitats, biodiversity loss. All that is real, and cause for concern and concerted action. Still, there is also cause to celebrate: there are incredible community-based organizations working to address those challenges and foster new leadership for conservation.

Often the big, international environmental groups get most of the press, the credit and the financial support. Their work is very important, but there are also so many unsung heroes. Further, with sea level rise and stronger storms resulting from climate change, vulnerable coastal communities are working to build by-us for-us solutions and mobilize a new generation of conservationists.


CO2: What to do? (AltaSea)

Saturday, Febuary 23 at 10:00am

Join us for an AltaSea Open House featuring:

Branwen Williams, Ph.D. – Excess human-derived carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is changing global temperatures and dissolving into our oceans, changing seawater chemistry. Dr. Williams’ work generates records of our past ocean and climate variability through the exo skeletons of marine plants and animals. She uses these records to help learn how human burning of fossil fuels is impacting our environment. Dr. Williams is an Associate Professor of Environmental Sciences in the W.M. Keck Science Department at the Claremont Colleges.

Henry Elkus – Henry Elkus is Founder and CEO of Helena. Helena develops and leads projects that address societal problems. It works alongside a small group of leaders, called Helena members, who range from Nobel Laureate scientists to CIA Directors and Fortune 500 Executives. Past Helena projects include “Factory in the Sky”, an effort supporting the construction of the world’s first carbon-capture factory, and “The Shield Project,” which led to the passage of comprehensive legislation to protect the electrical grid.

Attendance is free and open to the public. For more information, please visit here.

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