Archive for September, 2007

Ocean pipes could help the Earth to cure itself

James E. Lovelock & Chris G. Rapley

We propose a way to stimulate the Earth’s capacity to cure itself, as an emergency treatment for the pathology of global warming.

Measurements of the climate system show that the Earth is fast becoming a hotter planet than anything yet experienced by humans. Processes that would normally regulate climate are being driven to amplify warming. Such feedbacks, as well as the inertia of the Earth system — and that of our response — make it doubtful that any of the well-intentioned technical or social schemes for carbon dieting will restore the status quo. What is needed is a fundamental cure.

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Pollutants found to be making sea more acidic

Hawaii’s tradewinds blow away much of the pollution caused by sulfur and nitrogen released into the atmosphere from human activities, says a University of Hawaii scientist.

That’s good news for Honolulu, but how about for the ocean?

The magnitude of nitrogen and sulfur-bearing acids falling into coastal waters is not really known, says Fred Mackenzie, professor emeritus of sedimentary and global geochemistry.

“We get a little smog downtown from combustion activities and see it at times, particularly when we get Kona winds, but most of the stuff really blows out to sea, past the coastal region,” he said.
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US set to violate its standards on CO2 emissions

The US may violate its own standards on water quality by refusing to limit emissions of carbon dioxide, suggests a new study modelling ocean acidification.

“About one-third of the CO2 from fossil-fuel burning is absorbed by the world’s oceans,” explains Ken Caldeira at Stanford University in California, US, who led the study.

The CO2 lowers the pH of the ocean’s surface, a phenomenon known as ocean acidification. This is predicted to have dramatic consequences on marine life by dissolving the shells of tiny organisms and corals.
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Acid Rain Hurting Marine Organisms

U.S. researchers say acid rain’s impact on the world’s oceans is greatest along the coastlines.

The report, published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, said ocean acidification hampers the ability of marine organisms to harness calcium carbonate for making hard outer shells or exoskeletons, which provide essential food and habitat to other organisms.

Ocean acidification occurs when chemical compounds such as carbon dioxide, sulfur or nitrogen mix with seawater, a process which lowers the pH and reduces the storage of carbon.
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Study looks at acid rainfall in the ocean

A U.S. study shows that while acid rainfall plays a minor role in ocean acidity, the impact is much greater in the shallower waters of the coastal ocean.

Ocean acidification occurs when chemical compounds such as carbon dioxide, sulfur or nitrogen are produced by power plants and agricultural activities mix with seawater — a process that lowers water pH values and thereby reduces carbon storage.

“Acid rain isn’t just a problem of the land. It’s also affecting the ocean,” said Scott Doney, lead author of the study and a senior scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. “That effect is most pronounced near the coasts, which are already some of the most heavily affected and vulnerable parts of the ocean due to pollution, over-fishing and climate change.”

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Acid Rain Has Disproportionate Impact on Near-shore Ocean Waters

The release of sulfur and nitrogen into the atmosphere by power plants and agricultural activities–commonly referred to as acid rain–plays a minor role in making the ocean more acidic on a global scale, but the impact is greatly amplified in the shallower waters of the coastal oceans, according to new research.

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CO2 emissions could violate EPA ocean-quality standards within decades

Stanford, CA. In a commentary in the September 25, 2007, issue of the Geophysical Research Letters (GRL), a large team of scientists state that human-induced carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions will alter ocean chemistry to the point where it will violate U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Quality Criteria [1976] by mid-century if emissions are not dramatically curtailed now. This is the first recognition that atmospheric CO2 emissions will cause ocean waters to violate EPA water quality criteria.
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Ocean Acidification: The Sleeper Environmental Issue of Our Time

Some friends of mine are working on a new film about an alarming dimension of the global carbon-emission problem that’s received scant attention. Accomplished documentary filmmaker Barbara Ettinger (her previous works include Two Square Miles and Martha and Ethel) and her husband and partner Sven Huseby are traveling the globe speaking to leading scientists studying acidification of our oceans, which threatens to change life — both on land and sea as we know it.

Ocean acidification has been called the sleeper environmental issue of our time. We can smell — and often see — the havoc that emissions from smokestacks and car exhausts wreak on our air. But we fail to consider the huge amounts of carbon absorbed by our seas, even though they cover 70% of the planet. Carbon increases the water’s pH, leading to decreases in calcium carbonate, crucial for creating bones in fish, shells on crustaceans and coral reefs.
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Giving clams an edge

Millions of juvenile clams are dying each year before they are large enough to be harvested by commercial diggers.

A marine science professor from Peaks Island believes he may have found a way to dramatically increase their likelihood of survival, and in the process, potentially increase the number of clams that can be harvested commercially here in Maine and around the world.

Mark Green, a marine science professor at Saint Joseph`s College in Standish, has demonstrated in field experiments that spreading crushed clamshells over marine sediment provides a buffer against acidic soil conditions, which he believes have been dissolving the shells of young clams.

Industry officials and clammers have long believed that it was predators, not acidic sediment levels, that were killing off massive amounts of baby clams. But Green`s research indicates that is likely not the case.

“Anything that can stop the (die-off) process could give clams an edge,“ said Don Card, a state marine biologist based in Bath who is familiar with Green`s research. “It has great potential.“

Last year, Green, who teaches at Saint Joseph`s College, received a $419,000 National Science Foundation grant to study why so many juvenile softshell and hardshell clams die before reaching maturity.

In laboratory experiments, Green had seen that clams dissolve in acidic mud. But Green and his assistant, Shannon Reilly, needed to test their theories in the field. Green chose West Bath.
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Air quality affects oceans

News regarding climate change has largely fo cused on the increasing carbon dioxide content in the atmosphere and the effects of that increase on the land. Yet as the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increases, the impact on the ocean environment is greater than it is on land. Carbon dioxide is absorbed by the ocean, where it reacts with other chemicals present in the water, thus mak ing the water more acidic. This process is known as ocean acidification.

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