Dissolved oxygen level in world oceans declining

A new analysis of decades of data on oceans across the globe has revealed that the amount of dissolved oxygen contained in the water – an important measure of ocean health – has been declining for more than 20 years.

Researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology looked at a historic dataset of ocean information stretching back more than 50 years and searched for long term trends and patterns. They found that oxygen levels started dropping in the 1980s as ocean temperatures began to climb.

“The oxygen in oceans has dynamic properties, and its concentration can change with natural climate variability,” said Taka Ito, an associate professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences who led the research. “The important aspect of our result is that the rate of global oxygen loss appears to be exceeding the level of nature’s random variability.”

The study, which was published April in Geophysical Research Letters, was sponsored by the National Science Foundation and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The team included researchers from the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the University of Washington-Seattle, and Hokkaido University in Japan.

Falling oxygen levels in water have the potential to impact the habitat of marine organisms worldwide and in recent years led to more frequent “hypoxic events” that killed or displaced populations of fish, crabs and many other organisms.

Researchers have for years anticipated that rising water temperatures would affect the amount of oxygen in the oceans, since warmer water is capable of holding less dissolved gas than colder water. But the data showed that ocean oxygen was falling more rapidly than the corresponding rise in water temperature.

“The trend of oxygen falling is about two to three times faster than what we predicted from the decrease of solubility associated with the ocean warming,” Ito said. “This is most likely due to the changes in ocean circulation and mixing associated with the heating of the near-surface waters and melting of polar ice.”

The majority of the oxygen in the ocean is absorbed from the atmosphere at the surface or created by photosynthesizing phytoplankton. Ocean currents then mix that more highly oxygenated water with subsurface water. But rising ocean water temperatures near the surface have made it more buoyant and harder for the warmer surface waters to mix downward with the cooler subsurface waters. Melting polar ice has added more freshwater to the ocean surface – another factor that hampers the natural mixing and leads to increased ocean stratification.

“After the mid-2000s, this trend became apparent, consistent and statistically significant — beyond the envelope of year-to-year fluctuations,” Ito said. “The trends are particularly strong in the tropics, eastern margins of each basin and the subpolar North Pacific.”

In an earlier study, Ito and other researchers explored why oxygen depletion was more pronounced in tropical waters in the Pacific Ocean. They found that air pollution drifting from East Asia out over the world’s largest ocean contributed to oxygen levels falling in tropical waters thousands of miles away.

Once ocean currents carried the iron and nitrogen pollution to the tropics, photosynthesizing phytoplankton went into overdrive consuming the excess nutrients. But rather than increasing oxygen, the net result of the chain reaction was the depletion oxygen in subsurface water.

That, too, is likely a contributing factor in waters across the globe, Ito said.

— source rh.gatech.edu

Nuclear Plants Forced to Cut Output Due to Warm Weather

Sweden’s top nuclear power generators have been forced to cut output because of exceptionally warm weather in Scandinavia, and their output could be reduced for over a week, their operators said on Wednesday. Oskarshamn, part of Germany’s E.ON and Forsmark, operated by Swedish utility Vattenfall have both cut output because warm sea water temperatures are limiting their ability to cool down. For each degree above 23 decrees Celsius in the cooling water, each unit has to decrease power by 3 percent. If sea temperatures reach 26 degrees, block 3 has to be shut, while at 28 degrees, the other two have to be closed as well, a Vattenfall spokesman said. Sea temperatures are currently around 22-23 degrees, according to the Swedish weather service.

— source scientificamerican.com 2014

A crucial crack in an Antarctic ice sheet grew 11 miles in only 6 days

The widening rift in the Larsen C ice shelf in West Antarctica has reached a (relative, for ice) fever pitch in the past few months, stretching for more than 110 miles and gaping more than 1,000 feet across. In just the last couple of days, the crack grew another 11 miles and took a sharp right turn toward the sea. It now ends a mere eight miles from totally breaking through, according to observations from ice-monitoring mission Project Midas. Floating ice shelves like Larsen C hold back the flow of ice sheets and glaciers into the sea, meaning the entire West Antarctic Ice Sheet is about to get more unstable.

— source grist.org

The oil industry knew that even before we landed on the moon

The year before we landed Neil Armstrong on the moon, the largest oil industry trade group was aware of the consequences burning fossil fuels had on the climate. And yet, even today, public belief in climate change is still rising and falling with changes in the weather.

The D.C.-based Center for International Environmental Law this week dug up an old report commissioned by the American Petroleum Institute in 1968. The warning about carbon dioxide might sound familiar:

“If CO2 levels continue to rise at present rates, it is likely that noticeable increases in temperature could occur … “Changes in temperature on the world-wide scale could cause major changes in the earth’s atmosphere over the next several hundred years including change in the polar ice caps.”

This wouldn’t be the last time Big Oil heard this finding. Exxon, in particular, conducted research confirming fossil fuels’ role in global warming as far back as the 1970s. But, as InsideClimateNews investigations have shown, the industry orchestrated a lobbying and misinformation campaign beginning in the 1980s to cast doubt about the research’s conclusions.

The fossil fuel industry was aware of climate change well before the death of Elvis Presley (1977), before the end of the Vietnam War (1975), and way, way before the invention of the internet (1983). The public and politicians, however, are still catching up.

— source grist.org By Melissa Cronin

Mushrooms contribute to global warming

fungi in Alaska begin to adapt to high temperatures, speeding up their metabolism, growing and reproducing at a faster pace. Global warming is increasing with each day that passes and the poles begin to thaw. fungi (mold), also contribute to the production of greenhouse gases. fungi are responsible for destroying the organic matter such as leaves that fall from the trees, and feed nutrients to plants. Fungi breathe as humans; they inhale oxygen and exhale CO2. Because in Alaska most of the time it’s cold, fungi are asleep and do not contribute to global warming, but with high temperatures (10-30 °C), the organisms wake up and generate CO2.

— source sciencedaily.com

Who is the biggest climate change villain?

Here is an exclusive the Guardian has held back from its readers for 26 years. It is finally published on its pages today.

In 1991 the Shell oil company produced a half-hour film, Climate of Concern, for showing in schools and universities, that set out the dangers of climate change, apparently with unnerving accuracy. The Guardian calls the film “prescient”.

The paper makes the point that Shell knew from scientists precisely what havoc our addiction to oil would wreak on the planet. Despite its own warnings, Shell carried on extracting oil regardless.

But the Guardian misses the real story, probably because the villain of the piece is less Shell and the major oil companies than it is the Guardian and other liberal media.

The giveaway is provided in this line in the article:

The serious warning was “endorsed by a uniquely broad consensus of scientists in their report to the United Nations at the end of 1990”, the film noted.

Shell did not rely on its own private team of climate scientists hidden away in an underground bunker that it alone could tap for information. Planet-destroying climate change was public knowledge at the time the film was made, which was presumably why Shell made the film publicly available.

A “broad consensus of scientists” were warning us of the dangers. So why were most of us so misinformed, so unconcerned about the precipice we were hurtling towards? Who was failing to amplify the fears of scientists – and, for that matter, continues to fail to warn of the true gravity of the problem?

After all, there is nothing surprising in the fact that Shell, an oil corporation, makes profits from oil. Nor from the fact that it continued to do so even after it knew oil consumption would burn up the planet. Corporations are required to make profits for their shareholders. Corporate “ethics” are, and have always been, window-dressing to allay the consciences of liberal audiences.

The real issue is why the warnings scientists were making more than a quarter of a century ago were not being echoed by the supposed watchdogs of power: liberal media like the Guardian.

The paper should have run this story back in 1991. It should not have been left to Shell to warn of the dangers of climate change. The Guardian and the liberal media should have been doing so. The data that was published by the UN at that time was just as available to the newspaper as it was Shell. The Guardian should have been shouting this from the rooftops.

And here we get to the crunch. The Guardian ignored climate change because it too is a corporation. It needs advertising to prosper, just like Shells needs cars and planes. And the corporations that make cars and that fly planes are big advertisers in papers like the Guardian.

Serious and sustained warnings about climate change back in the early 1990s might have given us time to make the dramatic changes to our economies needed to wean us off our oil addiction. It might have put pressure on companies like Shell to reform their ways, to invest in other, safer technologies.

But the Guardian was nowhere to be seen. It carried on taking money from the car manufacturers and the airline industries, restricting its environmental coverage to plead with readers to use more efficient lightbulbs.

If you think the Guardian failed us then, but is now taking its environmental responsibilities more seriously, you have missed the point of this post. Nothing has changed.

Back in the early 1990s , the Guardian chose to overlook the climate change story. Today, when the evidence cannot be ignored, it and all the other liberal media underplay the story. Survey after survey shows record-breaking temperature shifts, at an accelerating rate that even most scientists failed to predict.

There is a lesson here. The radical climate scientists, the ones whose forecasts have been most accurate and have risked professional marginalisation and possible career damage to explain what is really going on, should be the ones who are now championed by liberal media like the Guardian. But they continue to languish largely unheard because their message grates with advertisers and would damage corporate profits.

As long as we rely on corporate media like the Guardian for our information about the world, our world doesn’t stand a chance.

— source jonathan-cook.net