Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Red tide could become the norm


Red tide could become the norm
Story Created: Feb 11, 2013 at 11:35 PM America/New_York

SANIBEL, FL--If you have been to the beach recently, chances are you've seen or felt the recent effects of Red Tide. Scientists say 2012 was a year with nearly non-stop cases and now wildlife experts and biologists are saying the problem is getting much worse.
This weekend, high concentrations of Red Tide were reported near Lighthouse Beach and last week extreme levels around Sanibel were reported.
A trip to the beach should be relaxing unless it's plagued with red tide.
"Irritation inside my chest, just itchy," said tourist Jane Messmer.
The dead fish, potent smell and respiratory irritation is proving to be a common thing across southwest Florida. Biologist Richard Bartleson blames increasing amounts of nutrients making their way in to the gulf which feeds the red tide blooms.
"In the past it might, the normal red tide might start in November and last a few months," said biologist RichardBartleson.
But recently, Bartleson says we have been affected by Red Tide on and off now for five straight months and each red tide bloom is lasting longer than usual.
With the growing population and infrastructure, more water runoff containing nutrients is washing to the gulf.
"The more nutrients you have, the longer the blooms can last and thats right, more normal now," said Bartleson.
A problem putting a damper on many of the daily activities for the thousands of tourists who flock to our area.
"We rented a boat for 8 hours and we came back after 6 because what we planned to do we couldn't do because of the dead fish," said Messmer.
The wildlife is also dramatically affected. In 2012, the Clinic for Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW) in Sanibel says they saw 439 animals like birds and sea turtles who where poisoned by red tide and that's 168 more than 2011.
"For us it is starting to become an overwhelming problem for us to where sometimes I don't have enough money and enough staff," said Dr. Heather Barron with CROW
Animal doctors are also seeing a wider variety of birds and wildlife that are being affected and scientists say its getting harder to find out what we can do prevent more red tide,in part,  because of the lack of funding.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Lake Winnipeg 'wins' Threatened Lake of the Year award


Lake Winnipeg has made an inauspicious list after being declared "Threatened Lake of the Year, 2013" by the Global Nature Fund.
Not a great surprise, according to environmental activists.
"Scientists have been warning us about Lake Winnipeg’s future as far back as 1969," said Vicki Burns, Outreach Coordinator for the Lake Winnipeg Foundation (LWF). "They warned that we needed to decrease the nutrients that are causing the toxic blue-green algae blooms back then. Yet, despite these warnings the action to clean up the lake has been very slow. However, the embarrassment that goes with a global recognition of such dubious distinction, is actually galvanizing the LWF and our important partners. We are more determined than ever to save our lake."
However, Burns noted that the quality of the lake can be "stymied, and ultimately, reversed." Burns cited Lake Constance, bordered by Switzerland, Austria and Germany, which the LWF said was considered even more polluted than Lake Winnipeg and has now been cleaned up so well that it provides drinking water to surrounding communities.
According to Burns, the LWF is currently leading development of an action plan that will focus on science and is engaging and collaborating with key stakeholders in the Lake Winnipeg situation.
"Perhaps more than we recognize, Lake Winnipeg has a strong global connection because of its home in Canada’s vast prairie region known as the World’s Breadbasket," added Alex Salki, chair of the LWF Science Advisory Council. "In our quest to feed the world, we are nevertheless fueling Lake Winnipeg eutrophication by removing the nutrient buffering capacity of wetlands, altering natural stream courses, and reducing habitat biodiversity. And of course, we are all aware of the urban and municipal impacts on the lake as well.
Udo Gattenjohner, of the Global Nature Fund, said while Lake Winnipeg is one of the largest lakes in the world, it’s "dramatic environmental problems" are less well known. Gattenjohner said "recent changes in Canadian polities seem to be eroding the protection, particularly of vulnerable water ecosystems – and it is disappointing because this does not really fit with our image of Canada."

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Kasatochi Volcano - Ocean Fertilization - 2008


Several researchers have proposed that we could “engineer” our environment to offset the rising concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. One proposal is to “fertilize” the ocean to make blooms of phytoplankton,plant-like, microscopic organisms that are the “primary producers” of the seas. Phytoplankton use sunlight and nutrients to grow and then become food for other marine life; along the way, they absorb carbon dioxide. The geoengineers propose that by putting enough iron in the right places—the mineral is often in short supply in the open ocean—phytoplankton will bloom wildly and soak up a lot of CO2.
Nature is very good at making prodigious blooms of phytoplankton. But as a recent “natural” experiment showed, the absorption of carbon dioxide is not always so prodigious.
On August 7, 2008, a stratovolcano in the Aleutian Islands began erupting just as a storm system was passing overhead. Over several days, the explosive eruption at Kasatochi Volcano sent ash and sulfur dioxide about 11,000 meters (35,000 feet) into the air and thousands of kilometers downwind. That iron-enriched ash spread out across a vast area of the North Pacific Ocean.
“Usually ash from volcanic eruptions is swept in one narrow direction by the wind,” said chemical oceanographer Roberta Hamme of the University of Victoria. “However, the ash from Kasatochi was caught in this forming storm system, which swirled over the ocean, depositing volcanic ash over an unusually large area.”
Downwind from Kasatochi, the concentration of chlorophyll in the ocean increased by 150 percent. Hamme and other scientists saw satellite observations of both the ash plume and of the jump in chlorophyll—the sign of a phytoplankton bloom. Instruments on oceanographic buoys and gliders also captured elements of the event, as did scientists who were cruising through the area on a Fisheries and Oceans Canada ship. Hamme and the team connected the dots and concluded that the eruption led directly to a vast bloom of phytoplankton.
The image at the top of the page shows the concentration of aerosol particles as they were dispersed in the atmosphere southeast of the Aleutian Islands in August 2008. Aerosols are airborne particles such as sea salt, dust, air pollution and, in this case, volcanic ash. The measurements were made by the Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) on NASA’s Aura satellite.
The second map depicts the increase in chlorophyll in the ocean in the month after the eruption at Kasatochi. Chlorophyll is the pigment in plants and phytoplankton that harnesses energy from the Sun for food, and the abundance of chlorophyll (in milligrams per cubic meter) is a proxy for the abundance of plankton. The map does not show total concentrations; instead it shows how much chlorophyll rose above (green) or below (brown) the norm for August in that region. The data were acquired by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s <Aqua satellite.
The data plot (third image) shows the total concentration of chlorophyll within the white inset box marked in the second map, including the significant increase in 2008.
In the aftermath of the eruption and bloom, Hamme and colleagues looked for the carbon impact of the event. Estimating the amount of carbon dioxide in the water before, during, and after the event, they found that the phytoplankton pulled about 0.01 Petagrams (1015 grams) of carbon out of the atmosphere. For scale, the burning of fossil fuels releases about 6.5 Pg of carbon annually, and about 2 Pg are absorbed naturally by the ocean.
“Despite the huge area of iron addition and the optimal time of year when there was plenty of sunlight, the impact of this August 2008 event was quite small in terms of carbon absorption,” Hamme added. “This tells us that iron fertilization would have to be performed on a truly gigantic scale to have an impact on our climate.”
  1. References

  2. Alaska Volcano Observatory (n.d.) Kasatochi Introduction. Accessed January 23, 2013.
  3. Global Volcanism Program (n.d.) Kasatochi. Accessed January 23, 2013.
  4. Hamme, R. C., et al. (2010) Volcanic ash fuels anomalous plankton bloom in subarctic northeast Pacific.
  5. Geophysical Research Letters, 37, L19604.
  6. NASA Earth Observatory (2008) Natural Hazards: Aleutian Islands' Kasatochi Volcano Erupts.
  7. Oceanus (2007, November 13) Fertilizing the Ocean with Iron. Accessed January 23, 2013.
  8. Science Now (2010, October 6) How Volcanoes Feed Plankton. Accessed January 23, 2013.
NASA Earth Observatory images by Jesse Allen, use OMI aerosol data provided by the Aura science team, MODIS chlorophyll anomaly data from the Ocean Color team, and chlorophyll data from NASA Earth Observations (NEO) courtesy of Kevin Ward. Caption by Michael Carlowicz.