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.
We now have a 2017 event, which is not quite as bad as 2016, but certainly worse than the first two events that we studied [in 1998 and 2002]. That is significant because it postpones any hope of recovery. The current bleaching occupies a different geographical footprint from last year, which is bad news because it means between last year and this year a much greater extent of the Great Barrier Reef has now been damaged. In 2017, the hot water was in the middle of the Great Barrier Reef, the central section; last year it was in the north.
Arctic sea ice has been rapidly declining since satellites first started tracking it in 1979, and according to NASA, roughly 13.3 percent of the ice disappears every decade. Models have projected that manmade global warming would heat the Arctic faster than it would heat more temperate regions, and observation has borne that out. The Arctic is warming at least twice as fast as the rest of the globe, and the first two months of this year both had the lowest levels of sea ice on historical record.
“To lose coral reefs is to fundamentally undermine the health of a very large proportion of the human race,” said Ruth Gates, director of the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology
The amphipods were contaminated with PCBs — polychlorinated biphenyls — toxic chemicals used for decades in industry, as well as other industrial pollutants known as persistent organic pollutants.
“Every sample we had,” Jamieson says, “had contaminants in it at very high or extraordinarily high levels.”
Farther south, the Bering Sea has emerged as a hot spot for warming-water studies — almost literally. Sea-surface temperatures in the Bering reached 14 degrees Celsius last summer (57 degrees Fahrenheit) and were generally 3 degrees Celsius (5 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than normal, scientists reported.
“… plastic debris is often contaminated with toxic chemicals. Plastics can absorb and concentrate toxic pollutants present at trace levels in seawater, and some of the chemical additives mixed in during the manufacturing process can be toxic as well. When marine organisms ingest chemical-laden plastic pieces, some of the pollutants may be released within the gut of the animal and absorbed into body tissue. Although it is uncertain how much of these harmful chemicals enter marine animals due to ingestion of plastic debris in the ocean, laboratory experiments suggest there may be reason for concern.”