Morris Hylton III, director of the Historic Preservation Program at the University of Florida, is using 3-D scanning and computer modeling to illustrate what may happen to the state’s historic buildings as sea levels rise. Photo: Morris Hylton III / University of Florida

By Dale White and Dinah Voyles Pulver
7 January 2018

GAINESVILLE, Florida (The Gainesville Sun) – What do St. Augustine's Castillo de San Marcos and Egmont Key near Tampa have in common? They are two of thousands of Florida's heritage sites that are vulnerable to rising seas. "Jupiter Lighthouse, Fort Zachary Taylor in Key West, Fort Jefferson and Fort Pickens in Pensacola — all of these places are threatened," said Clay Henderson, executive director of Stetson University's Institute for Water and Environmental Resilience.

The Castillo de San Marcos withstood two sieges in 330 years and changed hands five times, but its latest invader — the rising Atlantic Ocean — threatens to erode the historic St. Augustine fortress.

The coquina shell walls of the oldest masonry fort in the United States once absorbed cannonballs but will be susceptible to the buffetings of the sea.

On the other side of the state, Egmont Key was named one of the state's 11 most endangered places this year by the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation because rising seas threaten to submerge the island. Just outside Tampa Bay in the Gulf of Mexico, the island holds sacred significance for the Seminole Tribe of Florida, as well as the ruins of another Spanish-American era fort, but its elevation is just six feet.

"It's the first project that we've placed on our annual endangered list because it's endangered by sea level rise," said Clay Henderson, who was president of the trust when the key was added to the list earlier this year.

Like the St. Augustine fort and Egmont Key, thousands of Florida's heritage sites are vulnerable to rising seas, said Henderson, executive director of Stetson University's Institute for Water and Environmental Resilience. "Jupiter Lighthouse, Fort Zachary Taylor in Key West, Fort Jefferson and Fort Pickens in Pensacola — all of these places are threatened."

"When you look at St. Augustine, the oldest city in existence in our country, and it's flooded twice in the last year, these are real threats," he said. "They're no longer academic and off in the future. They're in real time." […]

Federal scientists say seas in parts of Florida have risen at a rate of about a third of an inch a year over the past decade. Mid-range forecasts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration indicate seas could rise anywhere from 13 to 39 inches in Florida by 2070 and as much as 72 inches by 2100.

Native American burial mounds, antebellum mansions, cemeteries, cracker-era cabins, and even examples of more contemporary but unique-to-Florida architecture could be submerged if they are not somehow salvaged.

Not everything will be saved, said Lorrie Muldowney, a trust board member and former head of Sarasota County's Historical Resources Department. "We're not going to move everything. We'll have to make choices." [more]

Coastal waters threaten Florida's historic resources

A mother turtle nests on a pile of trash on Greta Beach, Christmas Island. Photo: PTS Our Island

By Aleksandra Pajda
4 January 2018

(One Green Planet) – On Greta Beach, Christmas Island, a staggering sight was caught by an environmental scholar and shared by PTS Our Island. A mother turtle who returned to her place of birth to lay eggs found herself amongst a sea of garbage. Surrounded by the plastic trash and other items discarded by the human visitors of the beach, the animal had no chance of making a nest and laying eggs the way it should naturally happen for the species. Instead, she had to leave her eggs on a trash heap.

Once the baby turtles hatched, they were welcomed by the exact same landscape and had to struggle desperately to make it out to the ocean. These animals deserve better.

It is estimated that around 270,000 tons of plastic are now floating on the surface of the ocean. This overwhelming amount of pollution currently threatens 700 different marine species with extinction – and that number will only continue to grow over the years unless we ALL act!

To find out how to help the planet by cutting down on plastic, check out One Green Planet’s #CrushPlastic campaign!

Mother Turtle Forced to Nest on a Pile of Trash Highlights the Issue With Disposable Plastics

Low and declining oxygen levels in the open ocean and coastal waters affect processes ranging from biogeochemistry to food security. This global map indicates coastal sites where anthropogenic nutrients have exacerbated or caused O2 declines to <2 mg liter−1 (<63 μmol liter−1) (red dots), as well as ocean oxygen-minimum zones at 300 m of depth (blue shaded regions). Map created from data provided by R. Diaz, updated by members of the GO2NE network, and downloaded from the World Ocean Atlas 2009. Graphic: Breitburg, et al., 2018 / Science

4 January 2018 (SERC) – In the past 50 years, the amount of water in the open ocean with zero oxygen has gone up more than fourfold. In coastal water bodies, including estuaries and seas, low-oxygen sites have increased more than 10-fold since 1950. Scientists expect oxygen to continue dropping even outside these zones as Earth warms. To halt the decline, the world needs to rein in both climate change and nutrient pollution, an international team of scientists asserted in a new paper published 4 January 2018 in Science.

“Oxygen is fundamental to life in the oceans,” said Denise Breitburg, lead author and marine ecologist with the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center. “The decline in ocean oxygen ranks among the most serious effects of human activities on the Earth’s environment.”

The study came from a team of scientists from GO2NE (Global Ocean Oxygen Network), a new working group created in 2016 by the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission. The review paper is the first to take such a sweeping look at the causes, consequences and solutions to low oxygen worldwide, in both the open ocean and coastal waters. The article highlights the biggest dangers to the ocean and society, and what it will take to keep Earth’s waters healthy and productive.

The Stakes

“Approximately half of the oxygen on Earth comes from the ocean,” said Vladimir Ryabinin, executive secretary of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission that formed the GO2NE group. “However, combined effects of nutrient loading and climate change are greatly increasing the number and size of ‘dead zones’ in the open ocean and coastal waters, where oxygen is too low to support most marine life.”

In areas traditionally called “dead zones,” like those in Chesapeake Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, oxygen plummets to levels so low many animals suffocate and die. As fish avoid these zones, their habitats shrink and they become more vulnerable to predators or fishing. But the problem goes far beyond “dead zones,” the authors point out. Even smaller oxygen declines can stunt growth in animals, hinder reproduction and lead to disease or even death. Low oxygen also can trigger the release of dangerous chemicals such as nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas up to 300 times more powerful than carbon dioxide, and toxic hydrogen sulfide. While some animals can thrive in dead zones, overall biodiversity falls.

Climate change is the key culprit in the open ocean. Warming surface waters make it harder for oxygen to reach the ocean interior. Furthermore, as the ocean as a whole gets warmer, it holds less oxygen. In coastal waters, excess nutrient pollution from land creates algal blooms, which drain oxygen as they die and decompose. In an unfortunate twist, animals also need more oxygen in warmer waters, even as it is disappearing.

People’s livelihoods are also on the line, the scientists reported, especially in developing nations. Smaller, artisanal fisheries may be unable to relocate when low oxygen destroys their harvests or forces fish to move elsewhere. In the Philippines, fish kills in a single town’s aquaculture pens cost more than $10 million. Coral reefs, a key tourism attraction in many countries, also can waste away without enough oxygen.

“It’s a tremendous loss to all the support services that rely on recreation and tourism, hotels and restaurants and taxi drivers and everything else,” said Lisa Levin, a co-author and marine biologist with the University of California, San Diego. “The reverberations of unhealthy ecosystems in the ocean can be extensive.”

Some popular fisheries could benefit, at least in the short term. Nutrient pollution can stimulate production of food for fish. In addition, when fish are forced to crowd to escape low oxygen, they can become easier to catch. But in the long run, this could result in overfishing and damage to the economy.

Winning the War: A Three-Pronged Approach

To keep low oxygen in check, the scientists said the world needs to take on the issue from three angles:

  • Address the causes: nutrient pollution and climate change. While neither issue is simple or easy, the steps needed to win can benefit people as well as the environment. Better septic systems and sanitation can protect human health and keep pollution out of the water. Cutting fossil fuel emissions not only cuts greenhouse gases and fights climate change, but also slashes dangerous air pollutants like mercury.
  • Protect vulnerable marine life. With some low oxygen unavoidable, it is crucial to protect at-risk fisheries from further stress. According to the GO2NE team, this could mean creating marine protected areas or no-catch zones in areas animals use to escape low oxygen, or switching to fish that are not as threatened by falling oxygen levels.
  • Improve low-oxygen tracking worldwide. Scientists have a decent grasp of how much oxygen the ocean could lose in the future, but they do not know exactly where those low-oxygen zones will be. Enhanced monitoring, especially in developing countries, and numerical models will help pinpoint which places are most at risk and determine the most effective solutions.

“This is a problem we can solve,” Breitburg said. “Halting climate change requires a global effort, but even local actions can help with nutrient-driven oxygen decline.” As proof Breitburg points to the ongoing recovery of Chesapeake Bay, where nitrogen pollution has dropped 24 percent since its peak thanks to better sewage treatment, better farming practices and successful laws like the Clean Air Act. While some low-oxygen zones persist, the area of the Chesapeake with zero oxygen has almost disappeared. “Tackling climate change may seem more daunting,” she added, “but doing it is critical for stemming the decline of oxygen in our oceans, and for nearly every aspect of life on our planet.”

Images are available after publication at the Smithsonian Newsdesk (http://newdesk.si.edu), and the abstract is available at http://science.sciencemag.org/content/359/6371/eaam7240. For a copy of the full paper, images or to speak with the authors, contact Kristen Minogue at (314) 605-4315 or minoguek@si.edu, or John Gibbons at (202) 633-5187 or gibbonsjp@si.edu.

Contact

Kristen Minogue

(443) 482-2325

minoguek@si.edu

The Ocean Is Losing Its Breath. Here's the Global Scope.


BACKGROUND

Oxygen concentrations in both the open ocean and coastal waters have been declining since at least the middle of the 20th century. This oxygen loss, or deoxygenation, is one of the most important changes occurring in an ocean increasingly modified by human activities that have raised temperatures, CO2 levels, and nutrient inputs and have altered the abundances and distributions of marine species. Oxygen is fundamental to biological and biogeochemical processes in the ocean. Its decline can cause major changes in ocean productivity, biodiversity, and biogeochemical cycles. Analyses of direct measurements at sites around the world indicate that oxygen-minimum zones in the open ocean have expanded by several million square kilometers and that hundreds of coastal sites now have oxygen concentrations low enough to limit the distribution and abundance of animal populations and alter the cycling of important nutrients.

ADVANCES

In the open ocean, global warming, which is primarily caused by increased greenhouse gas emissions, is considered the primary cause of ongoing deoxygenation. Numerical models project further oxygen declines during the 21st century, even with ambitious emission reductions. Rising global temperatures decrease oxygen solubility in water, increase the rate of oxygen consumption via respiration, and are predicted to reduce the introduction of oxygen from the atmosphere and surface waters into the ocean interior by increasing stratification and weakening ocean overturning circulation.

In estuaries and other coastal systems strongly influenced by their watershed, oxygen declines have been caused by increased loadings of nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) and organic matter, primarily from agriculture; sewage; and the combustion of fossil fuels. In many regions, further increases in nitrogen discharges to coastal waters are projected as human populations and agricultural production rise. Climate change exacerbates oxygen decline in coastal systems through similar mechanisms as those in the open ocean, as well as by increasing nutrient delivery from watersheds that will experience increased precipitation.

Expansion of low-oxygen zones can increase production of N2O, a potent greenhouse gas; reduce eukaryote biodiversity; alter the structure of food webs; and negatively affect food security and livelihoods. Both acidification and increasing temperature are mechanistically linked with the process of deoxygenation and combine with low-oxygen conditions to affect biogeochemical, physiological, and ecological processes. However, an important paradox to consider in predicting large-scale effects of future deoxygenation is that high levels of productivity in nutrient-enriched coastal systems and upwelling areas associated with oxygen-minimum zones also support some of the world’s most prolific fisheries.

OUTLOOK

Major advances have been made toward understanding patterns, drivers, and consequences of ocean deoxygenation, but there is a need to improve predictions at large spatial and temporal scales important to ecosystem services provided by the ocean. Improved numerical models of oceanographic processes that control oxygen depletion and the large-scale influence of altered biogeochemical cycles are needed to better predict the magnitude and spatial patterns of deoxygenation in the open ocean, as well as feedbacks to climate. Developing and verifying the next generation of these models will require increased in situ observations and improved mechanistic understanding on a variety of scales. Models useful for managing nutrient loads can simulate oxygen loss in coastal waters with some skill, but their ability to project future oxygen loss is often hampered by insufficient data and climate model projections on drivers at appropriate temporal and spatial scales. Predicting deoxygenation-induced changes in ecosystem services and human welfare requires scaling effects that are measured on individual organisms to populations, food webs, and fisheries stocks; considering combined effects of deoxygenation and other ocean stressors; and placing an increased research emphasis on developing nations. Reducing the impacts of other stressors may provide some protection to species negatively affected by low-oxygen conditions. Ultimately, though, limiting deoxygenation and its negative effects will necessitate a substantial global decrease in greenhouse gas emissions, as well as reductions in nutrient discharges to coastal waters.

Declining oxygen in the global ocean and coastal waters

Firefighters search for trapped people in Montecito, California on 9 January 2018, after mud and debris destroyed buildings following heavy rains. Photo: Mike Eliason

By Max Golembo and Matt Gutman
9 January 2018

(ABC News) – At least six people are dead in California from weather-related incidents, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office said today. The southern part of the state has been drenched with severe rain just weeks after several fires tore through the area.

Flash flooding, debris flow and mudslides are punishing the communities hit hard by the Thomas and La Tuna fires.

Because hundreds of thousands of acres were charred in the fires, the influx of water has nowhere to go.

In the affluent community of Montecito, some homes have been ripped from their foundations as a result of the torrential conditions.

Local fire officials reported rescuing several people in the area, including a mother and her daughter who were caked in mud.

The Claffey family in Carpinteria was forced to evacuate its home last month. After moving back in, family members were told to evacuate again because of the rain.

"If our house was flooded it would be devastating. Absolutely devastating," Maureen Claffey told ABC News.

The record rains started coming down on Monday, soaking northern cities like San Francisco and Sacramento. First responders put on skies to help the stranded since many roads and thruways have become raging rivers.

A 14-year-old girl was "trapped for hours" in mud-soaked rubble on Hot Springs Road and then pulled to safety in a triumphant moment. […]

So far, rainfall totals Tuesday morning and early afternoon range from 2 to 4 inches in Ventura, Los Angeles and Santa Barbara counties. [more]

6 dead after flooding and mudslides force thousands to flee in California

Village chief Diplo Anacle stands in the doorway of an old prison, once one of dozens of stately seafront buildings erected by French colonialists on this sliver of sand between the Atlantic ocean and a giant lagoon. Today, the structure in the centuries-old village of Lahou-Kpanda is all that remains from that time. Photo: Samuel Ouedraogo / Al Jazeera

By Brietta Hague
8 January 2018

Lahou-Kpanda, Ivory Coast (Al Jazeera) – Diplo Anacle stands in the doorway of an old prison, once one of dozens of stately seafront buildings erected by French colonialists on this sliver of sand between the Atlantic ocean and a giant lagoon.

Today, the structure in the centuries-old village of Lahou-Kpanda is all that remains from that time.

"This is the last building that exists, but it will not be preserved," said Anacle, the 65-year-old village chief.

"There is no government funding for preservation. We will lose it and that hurts us, but there is nothing we can do," he told Al Jazeera.

Rising tides and more frequent, devastating storms are slowly destroying what is left of Lahou-Kpanda, the offshoot of what was once a major colonial town near the mouth of the Bandama River, the longest river in Ivory Coast.

Ocean inches closer

Then known as Grand Lahou, the town was first set up as a slave-trading post, but by the mid-19th century, it had become a thriving commercial centre. The French built grand homes along the beach and tourists later started coming here for the surf and nearby Assagny National Park.

But coastal erosion began taking its toll in the 1970s, and much of the population was settled 30km away in a newly built town by the same name. Two decades later, huge storms destroyed many of the old town's beachfront homes.

Today, the old Grand Lahou is largely abandoned. But 7,000 people still live in Lahou-Kpanda, the last habitable village.

The mouth of the Bandama River is moving closer, however, threatening to wash away what is left.

"If we release the figures, people will be scared," said Tagwa Eric Cavale, a marine and coastal scientist who heads the government's national programme for coastal environment management.

Warming waters have led to an increase in storm surges, and the ocean is swallowing one to two metres of land each year, Cavale said.

"If we do nothing for this village, it may disappear."

Fight over resources

As land diminishes, the fight for scarce resources is also intensifying.

Prominent local families own parcels of land west of the village and access to the crops has become a violent point of contention for many villagers.

Al Jazeera witnessed an angry group of youth hurling insults at Anacle, the chief, whom they accused of giving preferential treatment in land allocation to members of his family. Anacle was beaten by the youth and taken to Abidjan, the Ivory Coast's largest city, with head injuries.

Another resident, Beugre Besnard, 90, said neighbours are turning on each other.

"The sea is destroying everything," he told Al Jazeera. [more]

'It may disappear': Ocean threatens Ivory Coast village

Leonor Figueroa, 82, center, a survivor of Hurricane Maria, is surrounded by her daughters after arriving at the Orlando airport from Puerto Rico in September 2017. Photo: Joel Achenbach / The Washington Post

By Ed O'Keefe
8 January 2018

(The Washington Post) – A massive influx of Puerto Rico residents displaced by recent hurricanes is transforming communities in Florida and other states, and a conservative group is moving quickly to woo them ahead of the midterm elections.

The Libre Institute, an offshoot of the Libre Initiative, a group backed by the billionaire Koch brothers, is launching new outreach programs this week in the Orlando area designed to provide English-language courses and civics lessons to thousands of Puerto Ricans living at least temporarily in Central Florida as the island continues rebuilding after deadly hurricanes Irma and Maria last fall.

Full power has not yet been restored on the island, and Florida officials say more than 300,000 people have at least passed through the Sunshine State from Puerto Rico in pursuit of new opportunities or temporary shelter. Thousands of young island residents have been enrolled in Florida schools while their parents seek work and housing.

Residents of Puerto Rico are U.S. citizens who can participate in presidential primaries but cannot cast a vote for president — unless they move to the mainland and register to vote. With hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans leaving the island, they are poised to transform several communities in Florida and bolster fledgling island communities in Georgia, North Carolina and Texas while adding to their already large numbers in New Jersey, New York and parts of New England. The ongoing churn has the potential to transform the political dynamic ahead of November’s midterms, especially in down-ballot races, in which even a few hundred new voters could make a difference.

The Libre Institute’s “Welcome to Florida” classes will launch this week at the group’s offices in the Orlando area, part of an initial $100,000 commitment by the group that is set to grow in the coming weeks as the program expands to centers in Miami and Tampa, two other parts of the state attracting Puerto Ricans. […]

Democrats and progressive organizations have sounded the alarm about Libre’s work in the past, accusing the group of skirting nonprofit laws by handing out ideological material; collecting names, email addresses and phone numbers; and basically doing the early legwork that Republicans should otherwise be doing to win over new voters.

Doing anything to track down and even indirectly woo potential Latino Republican voters could be critical next year in Florida, which faces an open gubernatorial race, a competitive reelection fight for Sen. Bill Nelson (D) and a handful of congressional races that could tip the balance of power in the House of Representatives. [more]

As influx of Puerto Ricans continues, Koch-backed group starts seeking them out in Florida

The Thomas fire left behind vast swaths of charred landscape. On 7 January 2018, authorities ordered evacuations below burn areas in anticipation of a strong winter storm. Photo: Hal Wells / Los Angeles Times

By Alene Tchekmedyian
7 January 2018

(Los Angeles Times) – head of a strong winter storm that could trigger flash flooding and mudslides, authorities have ordered evacuations of Santa Barbara County neighborhoods that sit below areas recently burned by wildfires.

Residents who live in the following areas were told to evacuate by noon Monday: north of Highway 192, east of Cold Springs Road, and west of Highway 150/the county line, as well as along Tecolote Canyon, Eagle Canyon, Dos Pueblos Canyon, Gato Canyon and in the Whittier fire burn areas near Goleta.

A voluntary evacuation warning was issued for all areas south of Highway 192 to the ocean and east of Hot Springs Road/Olive Mill Road to Highway 150/county line, Santa Barbara County officials said.

“People in these areas should stay alert to changing conditions and be prepared to leave immediately at your own discretion if the situation worsens,” the county said in a statement.

Almost 4 inches of rain is expected in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties — where the massive Thomas fire has scorched more than 281,000 acres — from Monday evening through Tuesday morning. Authorities warned of the potential for heavy rain, strong winds and “extremely dangerous” flash flooding and debris flows.

The nearly extinguished wildfire, which erupted Dec. 4, is the largest fire on record in California. Residents who live in areas burned by the Whittier, Sherpa and Rey fires are also affected by the evacuations.

Evacuations ordered below Santa Barbara burn zones as area braces for rainstorm

View of damage caused the day before by Hurricane Maria in Roseau, Dominica, on 20 September 2017. Photo: AFP

By Peter Richards
30 December 2017

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC) – In 2017, the Caribbean felt the full brunt of climate change with a warning that current trends indicate that there will be no respite.

Within a two-week period, Hurricanes Irma and Maria brought home the reality of the impact of climate change as they churned their way across the Lesser Antilles destroying everything in their paths. Hurricane Harvey had in August set the stage for what was to come; with devastation in Houston, Texas, amounting to nearly US$200billion.

“The unprecedented nature of this climatic event highlights the unusual nature of weather patterns that continue to affect nations across the globe,” the Caribbean Community (Caricom) Secretary General Irwin LaRocque said in a message to United States President Donald Trump, as Harvey made landfall in the United States after whipping up strong winds and heavy rains in the Caribbean.

It took less than a month for his statement to bear fruit. Hurricanes Irma and Maria, two Category 5 storms left so many Caribbean islands devastated in September that the Caricom Chairman and Grenada's Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell said “there can be no question that for us in the Caribbean, climate change is an existential threat”.

The islands dealt the hardest blow were Barbuda where the entire population had to be evacuated to the larger island of Antigua, Dominica where at least 30 people were killed, Anguilla, The Bahamas, the Turks and Caicos Islands, The British Virgin Islands and St Kitts-Nevis.

“The task of rebuilding is beyond us,” LaRocque noted as Caribbean countries put the cost of the damage at billions of dollars.

“With physical and emotional difficulty, I have left my bleeding nation to be with you here today, because these are the moments for which the United Nations exists,” Dominica's Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit told the 72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) as he pleaded for international assistance to rebuild his battered country.

“We dug graves today in Dominica! We buried loved ones yesterday; and I am sure that as I return home tomorrow, we shall discover additional fatalities, as a consequence of this encounter. Our homes are flattened, our buildings roofless, our water pipes smashed, and road infrastructure destroyed.

“Our hospital is without power, and schools have disappeared beneath the rubble. Our crops are uprooted. Where there was green, there is now only dust and dirt. The desolation is beyond imagination,” an emotional Skerrit said, noting that Caribbean countries do not produce greenhouse gases or sulphate aerosols, nor do they pollute or overfish the oceans.

“We have made no contribution to global warming that can move the needle. But yet, we are among the main victims – on the frontline,” he added. [more]

Caribbean wobbles under the impact of climate change

A temperature gauge records the direct heat at the Sydney Cricket Ground as 57.5C (135.5F), 7 January 2018. Photo: Getty Images

7 January 2018 (BBC) – The Australian city of Sydney has experienced its hottest weather in 79 years with temperatures in the region hitting as high as 47.3C (117F).

In Penrith, west of Sydney, residents sweltered as the town bore the brunt of the heat on Sunday.

Severe fire warnings were issued for the greater Sydney area and total fire bans were put in place across the city.

Sunday's temperatures fell short of the scorching heat to hit the area in 1939, when the mercury reached 47.8C.

The sweltering temperatures reached in Penrith were confirmed by the Bureau of Meteorology. [more]

Sydney swelters on hottest day since 1939 as mercury hits 47.3C

 

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