Warming Oceans

Why Are Gray Whales Dying Off?

Some scientists believe there may be too many whales for the population to sustain itself. Others say this explanation of “overcapacity” and “natural causes” overlooks the gantlet of hazards that grays now face — including ecosystem alteration, ship strikes, entanglement in fishing gear, plastics pollution, disease, ocean acidification and loss of kelp forests.

Crab Industry at Odds with Warming Waters

But as rising ocean temperatures threaten to make fishery closures routine, it will be even harder to count on crab for holiday meals—or livelihoods. Over the past decade, warming sea waters have produced harmful algal blooms that contaminate crab meat with domoic acid, a neurotoxin that can cause seizures, memory loss and other serious symptoms and has been blamed for poisoning and stranding scores of sea lions in California every year. State officials delayed three out of the last six crab seasons to protect public health after an unprecedented multiyear marine heat wave, dubbed “the blob,” hit the north Pacific Ocean in 2013.

The Dangerous Heating of the Southern Ocean

“The Southern Ocean is one of the most important yet least explored and understood regions of the planet when it comes to determining how global warming may affect the future of humanity, thanks to its capacity to absorb huge quantities of heat and carbon dioxide, and melt swaths of the Antarctic ice sheet.”

We’re in Hot Water with Warming Oceans

More than 90% of the heat trapped by carbon emissions is absorbed by the oceans, making their warmth an undeniable signal of the accelerating crisis. The researchers found the five hottest years in the oceans had occurred since 2015, and that the rate of heating since 1986 was eight times higher than that from 1960-85.

The “Sea Monster” That Won’t Go Away–NEP20b, AKA The Blob of Warm Ocean Water

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.

Marine Heatwaves to Grow in Intensity

“We know marine heatwaves are on the rise globally, but policymakers, fisheries experts, aquaculture industries and ecologists need to know how this will play out at regional levels, especially in terms of where they will occur and how much hotter they will be,” said lead author from the ARC Center of Excellence for Climate Extremes Dr. Hakase Hayashida.