The phenomenon of a patch of abnormally warm water off the west coast of North America gained notoriety in 2014, when the first such “Blob” was spotted and given that name, after the horror movie creature that devoured everything in its path. That first Blob lasted years, from 2013 to 2016. It has been blamed for slicing some forage fish populations in half; starving seabirds; triggering a collapse in cod; shifting tuna as far north as Alaska; pushing whales into the path of crab fishing lines and ships; and allowing exotics, including glowing tropical sea pickles, to arrive in northern waters.
Besides the natural attraction of seabirds, sea mammals, and other sea life, this wedge of California State Parks and MBNMS in old San Simeon, where native people thrived long before the arrival of Portuguese whalers and George Hearst, is where 17,000 visitors in 2016 discovered how special this corner of the world is.
In the Florida Keys, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Maui, coral reef degradation has caused sea floor depths to increase as sand and other sea floor materials have eroded over the past few decades, the USGS study found. In the waters around Maui, the sea floor losses amounted to 81 million cubic meters of sand, rock and other material – about what it would take to fill up the Empire State Building 81 times, the researchers calculated.
The uptake of fossil fuel carbon dioxide (CO2) by the ocean increases seawater acidity and causes a decline in carbonate ion concentrations. This process, termed ocean acidification, makes it energetically more costly for calcifying organisms to form their calcareous shells… Read More ›
In the vast and chaotic climate systems that govern our atmosphere and oceans, making sense of how one change — diminished sea ice — affects places or people thousands of miles away is a task of such extraordinary complexity that it strains even the most sophisticated supercomputers.
Veteran diver Steve Lackey, an instructor at Sub-Surface Progression Dive Shop in Fort Bragg, said, “I try not to be an alarmist, but it is pretty unprecedented, in my opinion.”
This time of year, he’s accustomed to seeing small sprouts of kelp begin to appear on the ocean floor, a harbinger of the spring and summer growing season. This year, there are none, he said.
“I don’t remember quite this clean, this kind of scoured rock, with hungry invertebrates,” he said.
“Communities around the country are increasingly vulnerable to ocean acidification and long-term environmental changes,” said Richard Spinrad, chief scientist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and former OSU vice president for research. “It is crucial that we comprehend how ocean chemistry is changing in different places…”
Tropical coral reefs cover less than 1% of the ocean, but they are home and nursery to 25% of all marine species; billions of fish, mollusks and other creatures rely on reefs for their food and shelter. Their wonder and beauty generates needed tourism dollars for many poor nations, and they act as natural barriers providing storm surge protection for many millions of coastal residents.
“Overall, we found there’s a decrease in species diversity and abundance irrespective of what ecosystem we are looking at. These are broad scale impacts, made worse when you combine the effect of warming with acidification.