Environmental Policy

Sea level rise may be underestimated by models
July 16, 2013 07:25 AM - Roger Greenway, ENN

Think sea levels will rise only a bit in response to an increase in global temperature of one degree? Think again! A new study estimates that global sea levels will rise about 2.3 meters, or more than seven feet, over the next several thousand years for every degree (Celsius) the planet warms. This international study is one of the first to combine analyses of four major contributors to potential sea level rise into a collective estimate, and compare it with evidence of past sea-level responses to global temperature changes. Results of the study, funded primarily by the National Science Foundation and the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, are being published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Study finds Loggerhead turtles depend on broader range of habitat than previously thought
July 15, 2013 04:51 PM - Editor, ENN

A new US Geological Survey study suggests that the threatened loggerhead sea turtle may require broader habitat protection during the nesting season. "This is the first study to locate and quantify in-water habitat use by female loggerheads in the Northern Gulf of Mexico subpopulation during their reproductive periods," said lead author Kristen Hart, a USGS research ecologist. "Our tracking results show they depend on a much broader range of habitat during this critical part of their lives than was previously thought to be required."

Satellite monitoring of ice sheets
July 15, 2013 06:02 AM - Roger Greenway, ENN

Data from satellites have been used a lot recently to monitor the loss of ice from ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland. Having these data is relatively recent, however. It would be better if the data existed for a longer period so more accurate predictions of future rates of ice loss or accretion could be made. The length of the satellite record for the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets is currently too short to tell if the recently reported speed-up of ice loss will be sustained in the future or if it results from natural processes, according to a new study led by Dr Bert Wouters from the University of Bristol. The findings, published in Nature Geoscience, underscore the need for continuous satellite monitoring of the ice sheets to better identify and predict melting and the corresponding sea-level rise.

The Penobscot River will flow to the sea once more!
July 14, 2013 07:29 AM - Editor, Justmeans

On Monday, July 22, contractors will begin to remove the Veazie Dam from Maine’s Penobscot River, reconnecting the river with the Gulf of Maine for the first time in nearly two centuries. The 830-foot long, buttress-style Veazie Dam spans the Penobscot River at a maximum height of approximately 30 feet, with an impoundment stretching 3.8 miles. Breaching the Veazie Dam—the dam closest to the sea— marks a monumental step in the Penobscot River Restoration Project, among the largest river restoration projects in our nation’s history. Combined with Great Works Dam removal in 2012 and additional fish passage improvements at dams in the upper watershed, the Veazie Dam removal is a key component of the historic effort to greatly improve access to 1000 miles of spawning, rearing, and nursery habitat for endangered Atlantic salmon, American shad and river herring, and benefits the entire suite of native sea-run fish. Once removed, endangered shortnose sturgeon, threatened Atlantic sturgeon, striped bass, rainbow smelt and tomcod will be able to access 100% of their historic habitat.

Global Population Keeps on Increasing
July 13, 2013 07:47 AM - Population Matters from Portland Press Herald

The African population could increase fourfold by 2100, making poverty and hunger issues more severe. In advance of World Population Day, United Nations demographers have once again revised official projections — upward. This meticulous band of number crunchers doesn’t mean to be alarmist, but its statistics can be startling: ” Nigeria, the West African nation slightly larger than Texas, is on track to surpass the United States as the world’s third-most populous country by 2050. The size of its population may rival that of China by the end of the century, unless something dramatic happens.

Discovering Lake Vostok: Antarctica's Largest Subglacial Lake
July 12, 2013 07:46 AM - Allison Winter, ENN

Looking for a trip to the lake this summer? Thinking about Lake Powell, Lake George, or maybe Lake Tahoe? What about Lake Vostok? Heard of it? Maybe. But you're probably not going to plan your next vacation here - this sugblacial lake lies 4000 meters below the ice in East Antarctica! Confirmed in 1993 by satellite-based laser altimetry, this lake is not only the largest subglacial lake on the continent, but this body of water has been isolated underground with limited nutrients and complete darkness and has become an interesting topic for researchers and scientists worldwide. So here's the million-dollar question: is there life in Lake Vostok? First, it is important to note that scientists have only been able to gain access to the lake in the past year when a team of Russian scientists finally reached the surface of the lake after decades of drilling- a tedious and formidable engineering task. It will take the team about a year to analyze those samples collected earlier this yea, however, hints that there may be previously unidentified species of bacteria in the lake have leaked.

Huge Marine Preservation Area Being Considered for Antarctica
July 12, 2013 06:24 AM - Richard Harris, NPR

The area of ocean set aside as a nature preserve could double or triple in the coming days, depending on the outcome of a meeting in Germany. Representatives from 24 countries and the European Union are considering setting aside large portions of ocean around Antarctica as a protected area. And the deal may hinge on preserving some fishing rights. There are two proposals on the table: One would set aside huge parts of the Southern Ocean around East Antarctica; the other would focus on the Ross Sea, south of New Zealand. "The total size of the marine protected area we are proposing is roughly 3 1/2 times the size of Texas," says Ambassador Mike Moore, the former prime minister of New Zealand, who was talking up the joint U.S.-New Zealand proposal in Washington this spring. "So to misquote the vice president of the United States, 'this is a big deal.' "

Smooth Dogfish need protection too!
July 11, 2013 06:46 AM - WCS

It may have happened to you. You're out for a sail and you spot a fin in the water. Someone begins his best impression of the familiar pulsating cello line as another person jokes, "We gotta get a bigger boat," and talk turns to the film whose release one weekend 38 years ago forever changed our nation's relationship to sharks. Now, after studying sharks and their conservation for more than two decades, I assert that these fascinating predators suffer from an identity crisis: Sharks are greatly maligned for their fierce reputation yet, in reality, are among the most vulnerable animals on the planet. Nearly four decades after the release of Jaws, it remains difficult to convince the average beach-goer and even some of my friends and relatives that sharks in fact have much more to fear from us than we do from them. Yet it is true. Overfishing of sharks and their close relatives skates and rays across the globe has in recent decades led to sharp declines in shark numbers. Some species have been reduced by more than 80 percent. Much of that reduction is tied to the international trade in shark fins. The fins of as many as 70 million sharks end up in the coveted Asian delicacy shark fin soup each year. At the same time, some of the most heavily fished sharks and closely related skates and rays are prized primarily for their meat.

How can glaciers calving make so much noise?
July 11, 2013 06:36 AM - Roger Greenway, ENN

Icebergs in situ make little noise, right? What about when the calve? There is growing concern about how much noise humans generate in marine environments through shipping, oil exploration and other developments, but a new study has found that naturally occurring phenomena could potentially affect some ocean dwellers. Nowhere is this concern greater than in the polar regions, where the effects of global warming often first manifest themselves. The breakup of ice sheets and the calving and grounding of icebergs can create enormous sound energy, scientists say. Now a new study has found that the mere drifting of an iceberg from near Antarctica to warmer ocean waters produces startling levels of noise. Results of the study are being published this month in Oceanography. A team led by Oregon State University researchers used an array of hydrophones to track the sound produced by an iceberg through its life cycle, from its origin in the Weddell Sea to its eventual demise in the open ocean. The goal of the project was to measure baseline levels of this kind of naturally occurring sound in the ocean, so it can be compared to anthropogenic noises.

The Sea could provide much of Scotland's power!
July 10, 2013 06:02 AM - Roger Greenway, ENN

What is one of the greenest ways to generate lots of electricity? What if we could harness the immense energy in ocean currents? Tidal power has been developing rapidly as a viable means of generating electricity. Scotland is nearly surrounded by ocean and strong currents are common. A new study, led by Oxford University researchers, provides the first reliable estimate of the maximum energy that could be generated from Pentland Firth. The 1.9GW figure is considerably lower than some early estimates as it takes into account factors such as how many tidal turbines it would be feasible to build, how a series of turbines would interact with each other, and averages out variations caused by the fortnightly and seasonal cycle of the tides. Tidal turbines stretched across Pentland Firth, which separates the Orkney Islands from mainland Scotland, could generate up to 1.9 gigawatts (GW) of power — equivalent to almost half of Scotland's electricity needs.

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