Undersea gases could superheat the planet

Carbon reservoirs on ocean floor caused global warming before — and could do it again

Date:
February 13, 2019
Source:
University of Southern California
Summary:
Geologic carbon and hydrate reservoirs in the ocean pose a climate threat beyond humanmade greenhouse gases.
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A deep-sea reservoir near Taiwan spews carbon dioxide when its slurry-like hydrate cap ruptures.
Credit: National Academy of Sciences

The world’s oceans could harbor an unpleasant surprise for global warming, based on new research that shows how naturally occurring carbon gases trapped in reservoirs atop the seafloor escaped to superheat the planet in prehistory.

Scientists say events that began on the ocean bottom thousands of years ago so disrupted the Earth’s atmosphere that it melted away the ice age. Those new findings challenge a long-standing paradigm that ocean water alone regulated carbon dioxide in the atmosphere during glacial cycles. Instead, the study shows geologic processes can dramatically upset the carbon cycle and cause global change.

For today’s world, the findings could portend an ominous development. The undersea carbon reservoirs released greenhouse gas to the atmosphere as oceans warmed, the study shows, and today the ocean is heating up again due to humanmade global warming.

If undersea carbon reservoirs are upset again, they would emit a huge new source of greenhouse gases, exacerbating climate change. Temperature increases in the ocean are on pace to reach that tipping point by the end of the century. For example, a big carbon reservoir beneath the western Pacific near Taiwan is already within a few degrees Celsius of destabilizing.

Moreover, the phenomenon is a threat unaccounted for in climate model projections. Undersea carbon dioxide reservoirs are relatively recent discoveries and their characteristics and history are only beginning to be understood.

Those findings come from a new research paper produced by an international team of Earth scientists led by USC and published in January in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

“We’re using the past as a way to anticipate the future,” said Lowell Stott, professor of Earth sciences at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and lead author of the study. “We know there are vast reservoirs of carbon gas at the bottom of the oceans. We know when they were disrupted during the Pleistocene it warmed the planet.

“We have to know if these carbon reservoirs could be destabilized again. It’s a wild card for which we need to account,” Stott said.

At issue are expanses of carbon dioxide and methane accumulating underwater and scattered across the seafloor. They form as volcanic activity releases heat and gases that can congeal into liquid and solid hydrates, which are compounds stuck together in an icy slurry that encapsulates the reservoirs.

These undersea carbon reservoirs largely stay put unless perturbed, but the new study shows the natural reservoirs are vulnerable in a warming ocean and provides proof the Earth’s climate has been affected by rapid release of geologic carbon.

The scientists say it occurred in the distant past when the Earth was much warmer, and it’s happened more recently — about 17,000 years ago at the end of the Pleistocene epoch when glaciers advanced and receded, which is the focus on the new study. Warming was evident due to changes in atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations, based on ice cores, marine and continental records.

But how did that happen? What forced such dramatic change in the first place? Scientists have been searching for that answer for 40 years, with focus on oceans because they’re a giant carbon sink and play a central role in carbon dioxide variations.

They soon realized that processes that regulate carbon to the ocean operated too slowly to account for the surge in atmospheric greenhouse gases that led to warming that ended the ice age. So, scientists around the world began examining the role of Earth’s hydrothermal systems and their impact on deep-ocean carbon to see how it affected the atmosphere.

The new study by scientists at USC, the Australian National University and Lund University in Sweden, focused on the Eastern Equatorial Pacific (EEP) hundreds of miles off the coast of Ecuador. The EEP is a primary conduit through which the ocean releases carbon to the atmosphere.

The scientists report evidence of deep-sea hydrothermal systems releasing greenhouse gases to the ocean and atmosphere at the end of the last ice age, just as the oceans were beginning to warm. They measured increased deposition of hydrothermal metals in ancient marine sediments. They correlated glaciation intervals with variations in atmospheric carbon dioxide with differences in marine microorganism ages. They found a four-fold increase in zinc in protozoa (foraminifera) shells, a telltale sign of widespread hydrothermal activity.

Taken together, the new data show that there were major releases of naturally occurring carbon from the EEP, which contributed to dramatic change in Earth’s temperature as the ice age was ending, the study says.

Elsewhere around the world, more and more deep-ocean carbon reservoirs are being discovered. They mostly occur near hydrothermal vents, of which scores have been identified so far, especially in the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans. They occur where the Earth’s crust spreads or collides, creating ideal conditions for the formation of deep-sea carbon dioxide reservoirs. Only about one-third of the ocean’s volcanic regions have been surveyed.

One such reservoir of undersea carbon dioxide, seen in the accompanying video, was discovered about 4,000 feet deep off the coast of Taiwan. Similar discoveries of carbon gas reservoirs have been made off the coast of Okinawa, in the Aegean Sea, in the Gulf of California and off the west coast of Canada.

“The grand challenge is we don’t have estimates of the size of these or which ones are particularly vulnerable to destabilization,” Stott said. “It’s something that needs to be determined.”

In many cases, the carbon reservoirs are bottled up by their hydrate caps. But those covers are sensitive to temperature changes. As oceans warm, the caps can melt, a development the paper warns would lead to a double wallop for climate change — a new source of geologic carbon in addition to the humanmade greenhouse gases.

Oceans absorb nearly all the excess energy from the Earth’s atmosphere, and as a result they have been warming rapidly in recent decades. Over the past quarter-century, Earth’s oceans have retained 60 percent more heat each year than scientists previously had thought, other studies have shown. Throughout the marine water column, ocean heat has increased for the last 50 years. The federal government’s Climate Science Special Report projected a global increase in average sea surface temperatures of up to 5 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century, given current emissions rates. Temperature gains of that magnitude throughout the ocean could eventually destabilize the geologic hydrate reservoirs, Stott said.

“The last time it happened, climate change was so great it caused the end of the ice age. Once that geologic process begins, we can’t turn it off,” Stott said.

Moreover, other similar events have happened in the distant past, helping shape the Earth’s environment over and over again. In earlier research, Stott discovered a large, carbon anomaly that occurred 55 million years ago. It disrupted the ocean’s chemistry, causing extensive dissolution of marine carbonates and the extinction of many marine organisms. The ocean changes were accompanied by a rapid rise in global temperatures, an event called the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maxima (PETM), a period lasting less than 20,000 years during which so much carbon was released to the atmosphere that Earth’s temperatures surged to about 8 degrees Celsius hotter than today.

“Until quite recently, we had no idea these events occurred. The PETM event is a good analog for what can happen when undersea carbon escapes through the water column to the atmosphere. And now we know the PETM event was not a unique event, that this has happened more recently,” Stott said.

The study comes with some caveats. Much of the ocean floor is unexplored, so scientists don’t know the full extent of the carbon dioxide reservoirs. There is no inventory of greenhouse gases from these geologic sources. And ocean warming is not uniform, making it difficult to predict when and where the undersea carbon reservoirs will be affected. It would take much more study to answer those questions.

Nonetheless, the study makes clear the undersea carbon reservoirs are vulnerable to ocean warming.

“Geologic carbon reservoirs such as these are not explicitly included in current marine carbon budgets” used to model the impacts of climate change, the study says. Yet, “even if only a small percentage of the unsampled hydrothermal systems contain separate gas or liquid carbon dioxide phases, it could change the global marine carbon budget substantially.”

Said Stott: “Discoveries of accumulations of liquid, hydrate and gaseous carbon dioxide in the ocean has not been accounted for because we didn’t know these reservoirs existed until recently, and we didn’t know they affected global change in a significant ways.

“This study shows that we’ve been missing a critical component of the marine carbon budget. It shows these geologic reservoirs can release large amounts of carbon from the oceans. Our paper makes the case that this process has happened before and it could happen again.”

The study authors are Lowell Stott of USC, Kathleen M. Harazin of the Australian National University and Nadine B. Quintana Krupinski of Lund University, Sweden. U.S. funding for the study comes from a National Science Foundation Marine Geology and Geophysics Grant (1558990).

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Oceans warming even faster than thought

A new analysis has found that Earth’s oceans are heating up 40% faster than a United Nations panel estimated 5 years ago.

Ship on the water with a buoy in the foreground.

Since the mid-2000s, a fleet of nearly 4,000 floating robots have been drifting throughout Earth’s oceans, every few days diving to a depth of about 1.25 miles (2,000 meters) and measuring the ocean’s temperature, pH, salinity and other bits of information as they rise back up. This ocean-monitoring battalion is called Argo.

New research finds that ocean warming is accelerating more rapidly than previously thought. The new analysis, published January 9, 2019, in the peer-reviewed journal Science, found that Earth’s oceans are heating up an average of 40 percent faster than a United Nations panel estimated five years ago.

Zeke Hausfather is an environmental economist at University of California Berkeley and co-author of the paper. Hausfather said in a statement:

If you want to see where global warming is happening, look in our oceans. Ocean heating is a very important indicator of climate change, and we have robust evidence that it is warming more rapidly than we thought.

Ocean heating is a critical marker of climate change because an estimated 93 percent of the excess solar energytrapped by greenhouse gases accumulates in the world’s oceans. And, unlike surface temperatures, ocean temperatures are not affected by year-to-year variations caused by climate events like El Nino or volcanic eruptions. Hausfather said:

While 2018 will be the fourth warmest year on record on the surface, it will most certainly be the warmest year on record in the oceans, as were 2017 and 2016 before that. The global warming signal is a lot easier to detect if it is changing in the oceans than on the surface.

Expanse of shallow water with dark land on the horizon and blue sky.

Trends in ocean heat content match those predicted by leading climate change models. Overall ocean warming is accelerating. Image via ScienceDaily/Michele Hogan.

The new analysis looked at four studies published between 2014 and 2017. Three of the studies calculated ocean heat content back to 1970 and before, using new methods to correct for calibration errors and biases in the data. The fourth takes a completely different approach, using the fact that a warming ocean releases oxygen to the atmosphere to calculate ocean warming from changes in atmospheric oxygen concentrations, while accounting for other factors, like burning fossil fuels, that also change atmospheric oxygen levels. Hausfather said:

Scientists are continually working to improve how to interpret and analyze what was a fairly imperfect and limited set of data prior to the early 2000s. These four new records that have been published in recent years seem to fix a lot of problems that were plaguing the old records, and now they seem to agree quite well with what the climate models have produced.

Oceans are warming dramatically faster, new study warns

A new study finds the world’s oceans are warming significantly faster than previously thought. The analysis, published Thursday in the journal Science, raises the stakes for curbing climate change.

Since 1970, the ocean has warmed 40 percent more than previous estimates, according to climate scientist Zeke Hausfather, one of the authors of the study.

The study examined four new or updated Ocean Heat Content records — a fancy term for measuring how warm the ocean is, taking into account deeper water, not just surface temperatures — and finds the ocean warming is significantly higher than estimated in the last comprehensive report by the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2013.

Ninety-three percent of the excess heat trapped in the Earth’s system by human-caused greenhouse gas emissions is stored in the oceans. If it weren’t for this ocean buffer absorbing so much heat, our atmosphere would be roasting us by now.

According to Kevin Trenberth, a senior scientist from the National Center for Atmospheric Research and co-author of the study, the increase in ocean heat content observed since 1992 is about 2,000 times the total electricity generation by U.S. utility companies in the past decade.

That heat build-up has a debilitating impact on many aspects of ocean life. Coral reefs are a good example.

Coral is very sensitive to increases in water temperature. When the water is too warm the corals bleach, turning white. A 2016 study estimates that 98 percent of coral reefs worldwide will experience bleaching-level stress each year by 2050.

Bleaching can eventually lead to death of the reef community, turning them into Ghost Reefs. Since 25 percent of all life in the ocean depends on coral reefs, this loss has a ripple effect on the ecosystem.

Warmer water also holds less carbon dioxide, meaning more heat-trapping gas escapes back into the atmosphere, creating a self-reinforcing feedback loop of perpetuated warming.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, literally. Warm water hastens the rate of glaciers melting, and expands the water column, and together the two phenomena raise sea levels. By 2100 the IPCC estimates sea levels may rise 2 to 3 feet, and some studies say more. The destabilizing effects of this on society are incalculable.

The most dramatic effect of warmer water is the impact we already feel most directly: extreme weather. A warmer ocean means stronger hurricanes and heavier flooding events.

For example, it’s estimated that rainfall from Hurricane Harvey was 15 percent to 38 percent greater because of climate change. As the ocean and air warms, extreme flooding events will increase.

Embedded video

NASA Precipitation

@NASARain

Last Friday 8/25 the GPM satellite measured heavy rainfall in Hurricane as it moved towards the Texas coast https://pmm.nasa.gov/extreme-weather/gpms-radar-measures-intense-rain-hurricane-harvey 

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A well-cited study by highly respected NOAA climate modeler Tom Knutson shows that by late this century the number of Category 4 and Category 5 hurricanes may increase by 42 percent in the Atlantic Basin and over 300 percent in the Eastern Pacific. This is due to warmer water which acts as high-octane fuel to power storms. Stronger storms mean exponentially more damage.

https://www.cbsnews.com/embed/video/?v=1.275a5a9714128da8b682ce28833b88f36e18f6a6#zVZtb9w2DP4rhoFtX045yy9n%2B4CiaNd1DVq0wdKsw3rFQZbosxrbMiQ7l1uR%2Fz7S9l2y7kOHdSjWoGeZIinxIfnQn3wx9KarxcFfl6J2sPBvtALjrz%2F5uofG%2Bev3n%2Fz%2B0IG%2F9m%2BM8he%2BVrhUabwqg7RgZRpzFmfZiuVRmTIVx1FSJqtVHgao23S3v0B5ThZGPHsD%2BlVVl%2B5Xd%2FW02m2vzq9e%2Fvb2fPvm6jlUHyftUfX2VfLitQx%2FP3%2FxJkWxq4cdSvfCNmCZkSBax3QrLQgHzGp3zUzJ9uB6Jo3A32qwVkvRgkPrXvc1Xf7FSejp1usr8N6hhfcjWTz2zvsfnCc8coY25VDXR7t347HedKx3PHbU9Ez5wIn3l2PxaVp8q99%2BnZ9eN7gjms5f8ySKk5xnAf1b%2BGqwotempY34%2FvWVKKDG84JwHcXooJ7eWwwJc9eIHbrF5DoCuur7zq03y81SFq6FveNnuNB4Xq%2FlmTTNZlkNxWapN0u7WYYBzzbLAP%2FTE%2BJSFVkIjBdQsFiVGcshTVmaFUUpuEhDxTfLvhqaohW63ixXcXAbrQK0DFegAPiKh1GiJIQA8SqOc1WCirnM6QyeMSf6xoxpHbN6QoUdBimFY3wVZTHnbPZ79rHbYbjVN4%2BLh1lwm4YYGE9LkYooUMCTNMlUInNR8FWmlBI5j7KvCOxu4XcWbjTsryxll2LrhqLGcG50fWhvp6iUtiD7zTIrZcRTHipIeQSBjGKZJDIuJARRtOIxav6DBsYjrFnleMJet8rsz5qOKmomCLyD6BDBG4Sj1DX0xjmE47Ezg5XwSHdCMddjlTe63X3fib569F34vAGlBT27W%2Fwl6PER0M%2B44lHA0yjMI57Hq3GHZ9sRsO3fAdtOgG0nwNJtV5kWzppoyI63DP%2F31xzGdN4X7H6%2FP5uLdkrpGAfK%2FwX7bZZE1%2B686YzrwZ4YHglfy5HhqVnSkhdhWMQsSqjqOUQsk5CxIE5VWvCkyEO4Z2G8G%2Bsr7VhjbIuIUTUPVuH8wN7TYIWVFc6S96TokaI3KxInfibyTrYfsL6h084opEqOh2FwxGw%2Bp5Nh10DbTxtDh33g3CkWUddPpETJ09rI6xPPuSsH9nIonLS6AHVSd51pnbFHvQpunzyDUgx1T5S5wD9%2FlD69l0b5Ik4WSe7ffcARBb0Y6bNHtoXdgdYoqwwhKboOWuXf3Z3QGpPHzA1YnLCsM91QC0usPg3UGilpguY4bajR0bW8JjFlyP3UiqKmCHo7ULwWKayGJwOeaWlavveTXBWQBpyJKEbGSsOYFbEomYJAxJCrDJLA%2F%2FCZ6WvRABl%2FhLL0CsqbgrrWD%2FTGUZyv0iRHEmLYAcDQW8LyTCYsFkggMgkS4EQJs8nFUDxDWNAOOyZHG8ZDLwjWQbzm4b3acSTOs1BY8Ki8qSKUFQ2RNKb14JWCynbhYTN4rh%2FUgdRa98DRBKM0bY8Fsp2luK%2BQKuVxW4G7xpIfe%2BEZ3NDtcN3hJJwVqNm29LVDxYbPF5qa5b3fg6wIEJJdIq%2BOw3aSTsLZHguSykrfYBxQ%2BHODjfiFPC%2BynMeM5gE1V8hyxUMWIJ4lZCIIiuBoMKXk6H%2FAAp7906cESorrSzyT3EZRhB8AtW40Fmh8guNypLSpSQk0QqqwolUXtehLY5vxSjO7bCmA7T029DrfYNYYcWzMzoqu0vIlHNxYMKZ4PrQTGAt6%2B5EawVgiAJwSA3YGLZG7ugGzd2FNqaWGVh6loj1c6j8oSzvsFqB2wFT8bM3QjRpDSx4Q9h5ErYeG2qAjL%2FWDu9FtURtaSifuKmqc0zfX1ZdIlVab5UymWH9srj%2F2sP7YVH8MlZlEsDFONpYhG8twZNdxTlwYvA7iMacLGmKcqcK%2B3U3otDl%2F%2F6HXkcC%2BGMTXzai7uz8B

Because the oceans are so large and less variable than the atmosphere, it makes ocean heat content a much better gauge for the pace of global warming.

Trenberth says, “The warmer ocean is the memory of the past climate change and the ocean heat content is breaking records every year.”

Unlike the surface temperature record which can vary dramatically from year to year, the Ocean Heat Content record acts a bank and steadily accumulates heat. So, if the Earth is trapping excess heat, the Ocean Heat Content record will tick upward, with no ambiguity.

And that is where this study lays to rest a misconception about whether there was a global warming “hiatus” between 1998 and 2013. If you look at a short-term snippet of the surface temperature record, one could conclude that warming was negligible during that 15-year period. Those skeptical of climate change often refer to this to poke holes in the evidence.

But in this new analysis, the authors of the study say, “Although climate model results have been criticized during debates about a ‘hiatus’ or ‘slowdown’ of global mean surface temperature, it is increasingly clear that the pause in surface warming was at least in part due to the redistribution of heat within the climate system.”

In other words, the oceans were just hiding the heat and now new tools have enabled scientists to find it.

Zeke Hausfather@hausfath

The broader point I was trying to make is that unlike in the case of surface temperature, ocean heat content has increased fairly smoothly, with no decadal-scale slowdowns or “hiatuses”. You can see this clearly in the Cheng et al data, for example:

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The improvement in the four new datasets examined in this study is due partially to new analysis methods and partly due to the development of a vast network of ocean sensors called Argo. It’s a global array of nearly 4,000 temperature and salinity profiling floats measuring temperatures as deep as 2,000 meters down.

The study also lays to rest a long-standing discrepancy in the climate science community, namely the question of why climate models over-project ocean heating. According to this new study, it turns out they don’t.

The new measure of actual ocean heat matches almost perfectly the average projection from the best coupled ocean-atmosphere models (CMIP5). By this metric, the climate models are performing very well. It gives climate scientists and the public greater reason for confidence in future projections.

This study is a reminder that the state of our oceans is the best bellwether of our changing climate. And the evidence shows our current climate is changing much faster than at any time in human history.

Ocean Warming Is Accelerating Faster Than Thought, New Research Finds

 

Rising ocean temperatures can bleach corals, like these off of Papua New Guinea.CreditJurgen Freund/NPL/Minden Pictures
Image
Rising ocean temperatures can bleach corals, like these off of Papua New Guinea.CreditCreditJurgen Freund/NPL/Minden Pictures

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Scientists say the world’s oceans are warming far more quickly than previously thought, a finding with dire implications for climate change because almost all the excess heat absorbed by the planet ends up stored in their waters.

A new analysis, published Thursday in the journal Science, found that the oceans are heating up 40 percent faster on average than a United Nations panel estimated five years ago. The researchers also concluded that ocean temperatures have broken records for several straight years.

“2018 is going to be the warmest year on record for the Earth’s oceans,” said Zeke Hausfather, an energy systems analyst at the independent climate research group Berkeley Earth and an author of the study. “As 2017 was the warmest year, and 2016 was the warmest year.”

As the planet has warmed, the oceans have provided a critical buffer. They have slowed the effects of climate change by absorbing 93 percent of the heat trapped by the greenhouse gases humans pump into the atmosphere.

“If the ocean wasn’t absorbing as much heat, the surface of the land would heat up much faster than it is right now,” said Malin L. Pinsky, an associate professor in the department of ecology, evolution and natural resources at Rutgers University. “In fact, the ocean is saving us from massive warming right now.”

But the surging water temperatures are already killing off marine ecosystems, raising sea levels and making hurricanes more destructive.

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As the oceans continue to heat up, those effects will become more catastrophic, scientists say. Rainier, more powerful storms like Hurricane Harvey in 2017 and Hurricane Florence in 2018 will become more common, and coastlines around the world will flood more frequently. Coral reefs, whose fish populations are sources of food for hundreds of millions of people, will come under increasing stress; a fifth of all corals have already died in the past three years.

People in the tropics, who rely heavily on fish for protein, could be hard hit, said Kathryn Matthews, deputy chief scientist for the conservation group Oceana. “The actual ability of the warm oceans to produce food is much lower, so that means they’re going to be more quickly approaching food insecurity,” she said.

Because they play such a critical role in global warming, oceans are one of the most important areas of research for climate scientists. Average ocean temperatures are also a consistent way to track the effects of greenhouse gas emissions because they are not influenced much by short-term weather patterns, Mr. Hausfather said.

“Oceans are really the best thermometer we have for changes in the Earth,” he said.

But, historically, understanding ocean temperatures has been difficult. An authoritative United Nations report, issued in 2014 by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, presented five different estimates of ocean heat, but they all showed less warming than the levels projected by computer climate models — suggesting that either the ocean heat measurements or the climate models were inaccurate.

[The I.P.C.C. also issued a report last year that described a climate crisis as soon as 2040.]

Since the early 2000s, scientists have measured ocean heat using a network of drifting floats called Argo, named after Jason’s ship in Greek mythology. The floats measure the temperature and saltiness of the upper 6,500 feet of the ocean and upload the data via satellites.

An ocean sensor deployed by the French research ship Pourquoi Pas? as part of the Argo project.CreditOlivier Dugornay/IFremer/Argo Program
Image
An ocean sensor deployed by the French research ship Pourquoi Pas? as part of the Argo project.CreditOlivier Dugornay/IFremer/Argo Program

But before Argo, researchers relied on temperature sensors that ships lowered into the ocean with copper wire. The wire transferred data from the sensor to the ship for recording until the wire broke and the sensor drifted away.

That method was subject to uncertainties, particularly around the accuracy of the depth at which the measurement was taken. Those uncertainties hamper today’s scientists as they stitch together 20th-century temperature data into a global historical record.

In the new analysis, Mr. Hausfather and his colleagues assessed three recent studies that better accounted for the older instrument biases. The results converged at an estimate of ocean warming that was higher than that of the 2014 United Nations report and more in line with the climate models.

The waters closest to the surface have heated up the most, and that warming has accelerated over the past two decades, according to data from the lead author of the new study, Lijing Cheng of the Institute of Atmospheric Physics in Beijing.

As the oceans heat up, sea levels rise because warmer water takes up more space than colder water. In fact, most of the sea level rise observed to date is because of this warming effect, not melting ice caps.

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Absent global action to reduce carbon emissions, the authors said, the warming alone would cause sea levels to rise by about a foot by 2100, and the ice caps would contribute more. That could exacerbate damages from severe coastal flooding and storm surge.

The effects of the warming on marine life could also have broad repercussions, Dr. Pinsky said. “As the ocean heats up, it’s driving fish into new places, and we’re already seeing that that’s driving conflict between countries,” he said. “It’s spilling over far beyond just fish, it’s turned into trade wars. It’s turned into diplomatic disputes. It’s led to a breakdown in international relations in some cases.”

A fourth study reviewed by the researchers strengthened their conclusions. That study used a novel method to estimate ocean temperatures indirectly, and it also found that the world’s oceans were heating faster than the authors of the 2014 study did.

The study initially contained an error that caused its authors to revise their estimates downward. But as it turned out, the downward revision brought the study’s estimates much closer to the new consensus.

“The correction made it agree a lot better with the other new observational records,” Mr. Hausfather said. “Previously it showed significantly more warming than anyone, and that was potentially worrisome because it meant our observational estimates might be problematic. Now their best estimate is pretty much dead-on with the other three recent studies.”

The scientists who published the four studies were not trying to make their results align, Mr. Hausfather said. “The groups who were working on ocean heat observations, they’re not climate modelers,” he said. “They’re not particularly concerned with whether or not their observations agree or disagree with climate models.”

A dead coral reef in waters off Indonesia.CreditEthan Daniels/Stocktrek Images, via Science Source
Image

A dead coral reef in waters off Indonesia.CreditEthan Daniels/Stocktrek Images, via Science Source

Laure Zanna, an associate professor of climate physics at the University of Oxford who was not involved in the study, said the new research was “a very nice summary of what we know of the ocean and how far the new estimates have come together.”

Dr. Zanna published a study this week that used existing data to estimate ocean temperatures dating back to 1871. The goal was to figure out places where sea level rise might happen even faster than expected because of the way ocean currents redistribute heat, allowing regions that are especially at risk to better plan for those changes.

[Here’s more on how the oceans are absorbing most of the planet’s excess heat.]

“We are warming the planet but the ocean is not warming evenly, so different places warm more than others,” Dr. Zanna said. “And so the first consequence will be that sea level will be different in different places depending on the warming.”

Though the new findings provide a grim forecast for the future of the oceans, Mr. Hausfather said that efforts to mitigate global warming, including the 2015 Paris climate agreement, would help. “I think there’s some reason for confidence that we’ll avoid the worst-case outcomes,” he said, “even if we’re not on track for the outcomes we want.”

For more news on climate and the environment, follow @NYTClimate on Twitter.

Kendra Pierre-Louis is a reporter on the climate team. Before joining The Times in 2017, she covered science and the environment for Popular Science. @kendrawrites

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Ocean Temperatures Rising Faster, as Are Fears. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

World’s smallest porpoise ‘at the edge of extinction’ as illegal gillnets take toll

Now only 60 of Mexico’s vaquita marina left despite the navy enforcing a ban on the fishing net, latest study shows

There are just 60 vaquita marina left in the wild, according the the latest estimate.
 There are just 60 vaquita marina left in the wild, according the the latest estimate. Photograph: Ho New/Reuters

Environmentalists warned on Friday that Mexico’s vaquita marina, the world’s smallest porpoise, was close to extinction as the government reported that only 60 were now left.

The population has dramatically dropped despite the arrival of navy reinforcements in the upper Gulf of California in April 2015 to enforce a ban on fishing gillnets blamed for the vaquita’s death.

The porpoise’s population had already fallen to fewer than 100 in 2014, down from 200 in 2012, according to the International Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita (CIRVA), a global group of scientists.

Mexico’s environment ministry said in a statement a joint study with CIRVA between September and December estimated the latest population at “around 60”.

“The vaquita is at the edge of extinction,” the World Wildlife Fund said in a statement, warning that 20% more have probably died in nets since January.

The vaquita’s fate has been linked to another critically endangered sea creature, the totoaba, a fish that has been illegally caught for its swim bladder, which is dried and sold on the black market in China.

Poachers use illegal gillnets to catch the totoaba and the vaquita, a shy 1.5-metre-long (5ft) cetacean with dark rings around the eyes, is believed to be the victim of bycatch.

President Enrique Peña Nieto imposed a two-year ban on gillnets in April 2015 and increased the vaquita protection area tenfold to 13,000 square kilometres (5,000 square miles).

He deployed a navy patrol ship with a helipad, a dozen high-speed boats and two planes to enforce the prohibition.

Environment minister Rafael Pacchiano said three vaquitas had been found dead and that protective measures needed to be reinforced, but federal authorities are convinced the vaquita can still be saved.

He urged the local population to report illegal activities.

The Mexican government agreed to compensate local fishermen in a $30m-a-year program to give up gillnet fishing while they look for safer alternative nets.

But navy sailors said during a tour of their mission in April that they were catching gillnets every day – three to 10 times the length of a football field, often ensnaring totoabas, dolphins, turtles and sea lions.

The environment ministry said 600 nets were seized in the past year, while 77 people were detained.

Officials say fishermen sell the totoaba’s swim bladders to smugglers who store them in border towns before sending them to the US or shipping them directly to Asia in suitcases or through parcel services.

Each bladder fetches about $1,500-$1,800 in Mexico, rising to $5,000 in the US and $10,000 to $20,000 apiece in Asia, according to US authorities.

Consumed in soup, maw is believed to cure a host of ailments, from arthritis to discomfort in pregnancy, and plump up skin due to its high collagen content.

WWF urged the governments of Mexico, the US and China to take urgent measures and coordinate to stop the smuggling to totoaba bladders.

“In the end, if the vaquita goes extinct, the three countries will share the responsibility,” the environmentalist group said.

The group said Mexico should ban all fishing in the vaquita habitat, compensate fishermen and deploy a newly created environmental police to the region.

“At WWF we are convinced that it is still possible to save the vaquita, but this is clearly its last chance,” said WWF’s Mexico director, Omar Vidal.

Bungled attempt to clean up ocean rubbish using floating dragnet cancelled after device broke apart at sea

https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/8130113/ocean-cleanup-project-pacific-plastic-waste-failed/

The 2,000-foot-long barrier had aimed to collect half of the Pacific rubbish patch between California and Hawaii which covers an area three times the size of France, in five years

A BOTCHED multi-million pound effort to clean up ocean pollution has been halted after sweeping up no plastic waste.

A 60ft part of the £31million floating device broke away from the Pacific Ocean cleanup, which was sent to corral a swirling island of rubbish between California and Hawaii.

<img class="lazyautosizes lazyloaded" src="data:;base64,” sizes=”620px” srcset=”https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000456925972.jpg?w=960 180w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000456925972.jpg?w=960 360w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000456925972.jpg?w=960 540w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000456925972.jpg?w=960 720w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000456925972.jpg?w=960 900w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000456925972.jpg?w=960 1080w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000456925972.jpg?w=960 1296w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000456925972.jpg?w=960 1512w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000456925972.jpg?w=960 1728w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000456925972.jpg?w=960 1944w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000456925972.jpg?w=960 2160w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000456925972.jpg?w=960 2376w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000456925972.jpg?w=960 2592w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000456925972.jpg?w=960 2808w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000456925972.jpg?w=960 3024w” alt=” A ship tows The Ocean Cleanup’s first buoyant trash-collecting device toward the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco en route to the Pacific Ocean in September” data-credit=”AP:Associated Press” data-sizes=”auto” data-img=”https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000456925972.jpg?strip=all&w=960″ data-srcset=”https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000456925972.jpg?w=960 180w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000456925972.jpg?w=960 360w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000456925972.jpg?w=960 540w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000456925972.jpg?w=960 720w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000456925972.jpg?w=960 900w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000456925972.jpg?w=960 1080w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000456925972.jpg?w=960 1296w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000456925972.jpg?w=960 1512w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000456925972.jpg?w=960 1728w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000456925972.jpg?w=960 1944w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000456925972.jpg?w=960 2160w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000456925972.jpg?w=960 2376w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000456925972.jpg?w=960 2592w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000456925972.jpg?w=960 2808w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000456925972.jpg?w=960 3024w” />

AP:ASSOCIATED PRESS
6
A ship tows The Ocean Cleanup’s first buoyant trash-collecting device toward the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco en route to the Pacific Ocean in September

The crucial component of the 2,000ft barrier in the ocean came apart two months into the project.

And that came after the device had already failed to hold the plastic debris it caught — accidentally spilling trash back into the sea.

The ambitious project had hoped to collect half of the Pacific rubbish patch, which covers an area three times the size of France, in five years.

Now the failed structure will have to be towed back to the United States.

<img class="lazyautosizes lazyloaded" src="data:;base64,” sizes=”620px” srcset=”https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000432075457.jpg?w=960 180w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000432075457.jpg?w=960 360w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000432075457.jpg?w=960 540w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000432075457.jpg?w=960 720w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000432075457.jpg?w=960 900w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000432075457.jpg?w=960 1080w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000432075457.jpg?w=960 1296w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000432075457.jpg?w=960 1512w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000432075457.jpg?w=960 1728w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000432075457.jpg?w=960 1944w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000432075457.jpg?w=960 2160w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000432075457.jpg?w=960 2376w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000432075457.jpg?w=960 2592w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000432075457.jpg?w=960 2808w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000432075457.jpg?w=960 3024w” alt=” The trash collection project was deployed to corral plastic litter floating between California and Hawaii in an attempt to clean up the world’s largest floating rubbish patch” data-credit=”EPA” data-sizes=”auto” data-img=”https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000432075457.jpg?strip=all&w=960″ data-srcset=”https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000432075457.jpg?w=960 180w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000432075457.jpg?w=960 360w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000432075457.jpg?w=960 540w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000432075457.jpg?w=960 720w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000432075457.jpg?w=960 900w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000432075457.jpg?w=960 1080w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000432075457.jpg?w=960 1296w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000432075457.jpg?w=960 1512w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000432075457.jpg?w=960 1728w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000432075457.jpg?w=960 1944w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000432075457.jpg?w=960 2160w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000432075457.jpg?w=960 2376w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000432075457.jpg?w=960 2592w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000432075457.jpg?w=960 2808w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000432075457.jpg?w=960 3024w” />

EPA
6
The trash collection project was deployed to corral plastic litter floating between California and Hawaii in an attempt to clean up the world’s largest floating rubbish patch
<img class="lazyautosizes lazyloaded" src="data:;base64,” sizes=”620px” srcset=”https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/NINTCHDBPICT000430047413.jpg?w=960 180w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/NINTCHDBPICT000430047413.jpg?w=960 360w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/NINTCHDBPICT000430047413.jpg?w=960 540w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/NINTCHDBPICT000430047413.jpg?w=960 720w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/NINTCHDBPICT000430047413.jpg?w=960 900w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/NINTCHDBPICT000430047413.jpg?w=960 1080w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/NINTCHDBPICT000430047413.jpg?w=960 1296w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/NINTCHDBPICT000430047413.jpg?w=960 1512w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/NINTCHDBPICT000430047413.jpg?w=960 1728w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/NINTCHDBPICT000430047413.jpg?w=960 1944w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/NINTCHDBPICT000430047413.jpg?w=960 2160w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/NINTCHDBPICT000430047413.jpg?w=960 2376w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/NINTCHDBPICT000430047413.jpg?w=960 2592w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/NINTCHDBPICT000430047413.jpg?w=960 2808w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/NINTCHDBPICT000430047413.jpg?w=960 3024w” alt=” The 80,000 tonne floating plastic patch is the size of France and it is in between Hawaii and California” data-credit=”The Ocean Cleanup” data-sizes=”auto” data-img=”https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/NINTCHDBPICT000430047413.jpg?strip=all&w=960″ data-srcset=”https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/NINTCHDBPICT000430047413.jpg?w=960 180w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/NINTCHDBPICT000430047413.jpg?w=960 360w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/NINTCHDBPICT000430047413.jpg?w=960 540w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/NINTCHDBPICT000430047413.jpg?w=960 720w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/NINTCHDBPICT000430047413.jpg?w=960 900w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/NINTCHDBPICT000430047413.jpg?w=960 1080w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/NINTCHDBPICT000430047413.jpg?w=960 1296w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/NINTCHDBPICT000430047413.jpg?w=960 1512w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/NINTCHDBPICT000430047413.jpg?w=960 1728w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/NINTCHDBPICT000430047413.jpg?w=960 1944w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/NINTCHDBPICT000430047413.jpg?w=960 2160w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/NINTCHDBPICT000430047413.jpg?w=960 2376w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/NINTCHDBPICT000430047413.jpg?w=960 2592w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/NINTCHDBPICT000430047413.jpg?w=960 2808w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/NINTCHDBPICT000430047413.jpg?w=960 3024w” />

THE OCEAN CLEANUP
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The 80,000 tonne floating plastic patch is the size of France and it is in between Hawaii and California
<img class="lazyautosizes lazyloaded" src="data:;base64,” sizes=”620px” srcset=”https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/af-map-garbage-patch.jpg?w=960 180w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/af-map-garbage-patch.jpg?w=960 360w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/af-map-garbage-patch.jpg?w=960 540w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/af-map-garbage-patch.jpg?w=960 720w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/af-map-garbage-patch.jpg?w=960 900w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/af-map-garbage-patch.jpg?w=960 1080w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/af-map-garbage-patch.jpg?w=960 1296w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/af-map-garbage-patch.jpg?w=960 1512w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/af-map-garbage-patch.jpg?w=960 1728w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/af-map-garbage-patch.jpg?w=960 1944w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/af-map-garbage-patch.jpg?w=960 2160w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/af-map-garbage-patch.jpg?w=960 2376w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/af-map-garbage-patch.jpg?w=960 2592w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/af-map-garbage-patch.jpg?w=960 2808w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/af-map-garbage-patch.jpg?w=960 3024w” alt=” The current size of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, with the worse parts highlighted” data-credit=”The Sun” data-sizes=”auto” data-img=”https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/af-map-garbage-patch.jpg?strip=all&w=750″ data-srcset=”https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/af-map-garbage-patch.jpg?w=960 180w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/af-map-garbage-patch.jpg?w=960 360w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/af-map-garbage-patch.jpg?w=960 540w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/af-map-garbage-patch.jpg?w=960 720w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/af-map-garbage-patch.jpg?w=960 900w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/af-map-garbage-patch.jpg?w=960 1080w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/af-map-garbage-patch.jpg?w=960 1296w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/af-map-garbage-patch.jpg?w=960 1512w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/af-map-garbage-patch.jpg?w=960 1728w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/af-map-garbage-patch.jpg?w=960 1944w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/af-map-garbage-patch.jpg?w=960 2160w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/af-map-garbage-patch.jpg?w=960 2376w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/af-map-garbage-patch.jpg?w=960 2592w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/af-map-garbage-patch.jpg?w=960 2808w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/af-map-garbage-patch.jpg?w=960 3024w” />

THE SUN
6
The current size of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, with the worse parts highlighted

Boyan Slat, 24, the Dutch entrepreneur behind the Ocean Cleanup group, admitted the project had failed.

He told NBC.com: “Of course there is slight disappointment, because we hoped to stay out there a bit longer to do more experiments and to….solve the [plastic] retention issue.

“But there is no talk whatsoever about discouragement.

“This is an entirely new category of machine that is out there in extremely challenging conditions.”

<img class="lazyautosizes lazyloaded" src="data:;base64,” sizes=”620px” srcset=”https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000456925973.jpg?w=960 180w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000456925973.jpg?w=960 360w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000456925973.jpg?w=960 540w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000456925973.jpg?w=960 720w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000456925973.jpg?w=960 900w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000456925973.jpg?w=960 1080w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000456925973.jpg?w=960 1296w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000456925973.jpg?w=960 1512w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000456925973.jpg?w=960 1728w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000456925973.jpg?w=960 1944w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000456925973.jpg?w=960 2160w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000456925973.jpg?w=960 2376w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000456925973.jpg?w=960 2592w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000456925973.jpg?w=960 2808w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000456925973.jpg?w=960 3024w” alt=” Dutch innovator Boyan Slat still hopes the idea will work” data-credit=”AP:Associated Press” data-sizes=”auto” data-img=”https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000456925973.jpg?strip=all&w=960″ data-srcset=”https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000456925973.jpg?w=960 180w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000456925973.jpg?w=960 360w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000456925973.jpg?w=960 540w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000456925973.jpg?w=960 720w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000456925973.jpg?w=960 900w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000456925973.jpg?w=960 1080w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000456925973.jpg?w=960 1296w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000456925973.jpg?w=960 1512w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000456925973.jpg?w=960 1728w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000456925973.jpg?w=960 1944w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000456925973.jpg?w=960 2160w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000456925973.jpg?w=960 2376w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000456925973.jpg?w=960 2592w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000456925973.jpg?w=960 2808w, https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NINTCHDBPICT000456925973.jpg?w=960 3024w” />

AP:ASSOCIATED PRESS
6
Dutch innovator Boyan Slat still hopes the idea will work
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6

A ship towed the 2,000-foot-long barrier in September from San Francisco to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch an island of trash twice the size of Texas. It has been in place since the end of October.

The plastic barrier with a tapered 10-foot-deep screen was intended to act like a coastline.

It was hoped it would have trapped some of the 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic that scientists estimate are swirling in the patch while allowing marine life to safely swim beneath it.

Climate change causing plunge in number of available oysters, farmers say

Many French producers fear warming temperatures may force oyster farms to move north
Many French producers fear warming temperatures may force oyster farms to move north CREDIT:  ROB GILHOOLY

Oysters are a must on French dinner tables during the festive season, but shellfish farmers say climate change has caused production to plummet by up to 30 per cent.

Many French producers fear warming temperatures may force oyster farms to move north in search of cooler weather, possibly outside France.

Oyster production depends on cold winters when the shellfish “can rest and mature,” according to Yoann Thomas of the French Research Institute for Development.

Philippe Le Gal, head of the French shellfish producers’ association, said: “The warmer climate is beginning to have an impact. Oyster farmers are seeing volumes down by 20 to 30 per cent for 2018.”

Mr Le Gal told the AFP news agency that just a 10-gram decrease in the weight of each oyster brings down the price. France’s 4,500 oyster farmers sold about 100,000 tons in 2017 at an average price of £4,500 per ton.

Warmer sea temperatures also favour the spread of viruses that attack oysters. Over the past decade, up to three-quarters of young oysters have been lost to disease in some years, according to Fabrice Pernet of the Ifremer marine research institute. He warned that fish moving north to escape rising sea temperatures could bring new diseases to French oyster beds.

Another French festive delicacy, foie gras, has also suffered a decline in recent years as outbreaks of bird flu have forced massive culls of ducks and geese. But farmers say production has returned to normal after two lean years.

Daniel Coirier, head of a shellfish association in south-western France, said most French oyster farmers in his region are reluctant to migrate north.

“Even if they’re not as big, our oysters are still magnificent,” he said.

Deep Seagrass Bed Could Stall Climate Change, If Climate Change Doesn’t Kill It First

Researchers studied the carbon storage of deep-water seagrasses living at Lizard Island, Australia.

Education Images/UIG via Getty Images

Amid a sea of dire climate change news, researchers say they’ve found a rare bright spot.

A meadow of seagrass among Australia’s Great Barrier Reef — estimated to be twice the size of New Jersey — is soaking up and storing carbon that would otherwise contribute to global warming.

Scientists call this carbon-removal powerhouse a “blue carbon sink.” The term refers to an ocean or coastal ecosystem — including seagrasses, salt marshes and mangrove forests — that captures carbon compounds from the atmosphere, effectively removing carbon dioxide, a known greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change.

“These coastal Blue Carbon ecosystems can sequester or remove carbon from the atmosphere about four times the rate of terrestrial forests on land, and they store about 10 times more carbon in the system itself compared to forest on land,” says Jennifer Howard, director of marine climate change at Conservation International, in an interview with NPR’s Michel Martin.

new study published in Biology Letters suggests that these deep-water seagrass meadows play a more central role in the carbon cycle than previously thought. Authors Peter Macreadie of Deakin University in Australia, and Paul York and Michael Rasheed, both from James Cook University, compared carbon stocks from deep-water, mid-water and shallow-water seagrass living at Lizard Island in the Great Barrier Reef. The researchers found that the seagrass in deeper regions contained similar carbon levels as seagrass in shallower waters.

Previously, data has been very sparse on deep-water seagrass as Blue Carbon sinks. They’re hard to get to, buried deep beneath water and invisible even from satellite.

“You usually have to throw somebody in the water with a scuba mask to go actually find them,” Howard says. “And because of that we just don’t know how many of these large patches of sea grasses there actually are out there.”

Howard says her organization has mapped nearly 109,000 square miles, “but that’s probably less than half of what’s actually out there.”

What’s more, that number only reflects the more detectable, shallower seagrasses. As for the deeper-water seagrasses analyzed in the study, the Australian researchers figured that if the deep-water seagrass stores a comparable amount of carbon as other deep-water meadows in the region, the area around the Great Barrier Reef may be sequestering tens of millions of tons of carbon.

Worldwide, Howard says, “We think that there’s probably about several billion tons of carbon locked away in these seagrass meadows” — ecosystems, she says, that exist on every continent except Antarctica.

These new findings are valuable to policymakers working to curb climate change, according to Howard. But the value of these ecosystems, she says, disappears if they’re not protected.

“When you destroy those ecosystems, all that carbon can be re-released back into the atmosphere. So, through poor land use management or through degradation, the significant carbon sink can actually become a global carbon source.”

Seagrasses are vanishing globally at a rate of 1.5 percent per year, Reuters reports, a decline that’s comparable to coral reefs and tropical rainforests. Scientists point to coastal development as the culprit behind water pollution that perpetuates erosion. And, while seagrasses can mitigate climate change, climate change can also destroy the grasses.

“When you have pollutants and too much sediment running down the river, it blocks out the light, it buries the seagrass and they start to die,” Howard says.

She says the solution to alleviating seagrass loss has to be “land-based.”

“You’re going to have to address the pollution component first. Remove the threat, and then planting [seagrass] could be a very viable option to increase carbon stock.”


NPR’s Chad Campbell and Martha Wexler produced and edited this story for broadcast.

Fishermen Sue Big Oil For Its Role In Climate Change

Dungeness crab like these, caught off the coast of Alaska, have been affected by the neurotoxin domoic acid because of algae blooms in recent years, which makes them unsafe to eat.

Michael Melford/Getty Images

While oil companies built seawalls and elevated their oil rigs to protect critical production infrastructure from the rising sea level, they concealed from the public the knowledge that burning fossil fuels could have catastrophic impacts on the biosphere.

That’s what citizens and local governments across the United States are asserting in lawsuits against oil, gas, and coal companies. Plaintiffs in the cases have alleged that fossil fuel producers knowingly subjected the entire planet and future generations to the dire consequences of their actions.

On Nov. 14, fishermen in California and Oregon joined the legal fray by filing suitagainst 30 companies, mainly oil producers. The Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, the plaintiff, contends that the fossil fuel industry is at direct fault and must be held accountable for recent warming-related damages to the West Coast’s prized Dungeness crab fishery, which catches millions of the tender-fleshed crustacean most years, and coastal chefs turn the critters into classics like Crab Louie and Crab Cioppino.

The fishermen’s lawsuit appears to be the first time food producers have sued the fossil fuel industry for allegedly harming the environment.

A recent history of heatwaves

Since 2014, the northeast Pacific Ocean has experienced several dramatic marine heatwaves. The higher temperatures have caused blooms of toxic algae that, by producing the neurotoxin domoic acid, can make Dungeness crab and other shellfishunsafe to eat. In the fall of 2015, state officials in California and Oregon delayed the opening of crab season by several months, until testing finally showed domoic acid levels had dipped back to safe levels. Several similar closures have occurred since, including this year.

Noah Oppenheim, the executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, says the 2015-2016 crab fishing closure resulted in direct financial losses that caused some boats in the fleet of about 1,000 to leave the fishery. Subsequent closures, also caused by domoic acid concerns, have further strained the industry, which in California and Oregon is worth about $445 million, Oppenheim says.

The lawsuit, filed in California’s Superior Court, San Francisco county, chronicles the fossil fuel industry’s alleged role in obfuscating the likely global effects of climate change and demands compensation from companies including Chevron, ExxonMobil, BP and Shell Oil.

“All these impacts we’re dealing with have nothing to do with abundance of the stock or overfishing,” Oppenheim says. “They’re driven by ocean warming and these blooms of toxin-producing algae.”

Dungeness crab fishermen in California have been allocated about $15 million, according to Oppenheim, of a $200 million federal disaster relief package, approved earlier this year to help fishermen in the fallout of several fishery disasters, including salmon run failures in northern California. Oppenheim says crab fishermen “appreciate the help” from taxpayers but that the general public should not be on the hook for damages resulting from warming oceans.

“The financial harm should be covered by those perpetrating it,” he says.

Sources within the oil industry would not discuss the lawsuit. Exxon’s corporate media relations manager Scott J. Silvestri emailed The Salt a statement:

“Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a global issue and requires global participation and actions,” he wrote. “Lawsuits like this – filed by trial attorneys against an industry that provides products we all rely upon to power the economy and enable our domestic life – simply do not do that.”

Sean Comey, the senior advisor of policy, government and public affairs with Chevron Corporation, says in an email that the crabbers’ lawsuit “is without merit and counterproductive to real solutions to climate change.” He says fossil fuel production “has been lawful and encouraged by governments” and is “vital to the global economy.”

Sabrina Fang, a spokesperson with the American Petroleum Institute, said her organization could not comment on the pending litigation.

Local governments pursue legal action

The crabbers’ lawsuit comes amidst a string of court actions by cities against the oil industry. In July, the mayor and city council of Baltimore filed suit against 26 companies, alleging they knew but hid from the public the dangers of fossil fuels. The lawsuit claims the “Defendants’ Actions Prevented the Development of Alternatives That Would Have Eased the Transition to a Less Fossil Fuel Dependent Economy.” Similar suits have come from the state of Rhode Island and several communities in California, including the City of Santa Cruz and Marin County.

Federal judges have dismissed some of these lawsuits. One filed jointly by the cities of San Francisco and Oakland, and another from New York City, were tossed out on the grounds that such matters should be handled in venues other than the courts, such as by Congress or the executive branch.

But some climate activists are convinced that the tide will turn. Richard Wiles, executive director of the Center for Climate Integrity, is not involved in the crabbers’ lawsuit but believes a flood of lawsuits like theirs could soon inundate the fossil fuel industry. He says “establishing a firm, highly defensible, essentially incontrovertible link between global warming and the damages that the plaintiff, or industry in question, has suffered” is the key to winning a lawsuit of this nature, and he says he believes the crabbers’ case — and the science supporting it — “appears very strong.”

“This case could signal the beginning of a wave of suits from industries and businesses that have been harmed by climate change,” he says.

Information uncovered by reporters recently suggests that oil, gas and coal interests knew for decades that they were essentially facilitating the alteration of the Earth to build their own industries. As outlined in a recent New Yorker article by Bill McKibben, these companies promoted public relations schemes to misinform the public, discouraged the development of alternative energy sources, and even advertised the notion that more CO2 in the atmosphere could promote plant growth and global crop yields.

Widespread concern about the future of food

The concerns about what climate change means for food are not limited to those of a handful of environmentalists. Hundreds of independent scientists have produced reports outlining the magnitude of damages that global warming and ocean acidification will likely cause. In October, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a grim 791-page report warning of drastic changes to the planet if average temperatures increase by just 1.5 degrees Celsius from preindustrial levels.

Earlier this month, a U.S. federal report outlined the economic impacts the nation will likely experience as a result of unruly weather, changing climate and sea level rise. “[Y]ields from major U.S. commodity crops are expected to decline as a consequence of higher temperatures,” the authors wrote. They cited research showing that California’s Central Valley could be too balmy by 2100 to reliably produce walnuts, which require cold temperatures in the winter to properly set fruit.

On the East Coast, the authors of the federal report predicted “declines of species that support some of the most valuable and iconic fisheries in the Northeast, including Atlantic cod, Atlantic sea scallops, and American lobster.”

These documents, along with ongoing court proceedings, help establish evidence that could lead to legal victories against the oil industry, even if the pending lawsuits are discarded, says Scott Edwards, the co-director on climate and energy with the group Food and Water Watch.

“The federal report shows climate change’s potential impacts on crops and food systems, so it’s likely that other food industries will sue,” he says.

In fact, there is evidence fossil fuel interests are growing uneasy about the onslaught of lawsuits and the science supporting them. In October, just days after the IPCC’s damning report, ExxonMobil announced a plan to lobby for a carbon tax. It was about the last thing one would expect of an oil producer. But the pledge came with a catch: that the company be granted immunity from all lawsuits seeking damages for climate change impacts, according to an article by Vox.

“Instead of working to reduce the use and combustion of fossil fuel products … and ease the transition to a lower carbon economy, Defendants concealed the dangers, sought to undermine public support for greenhouse gas regulation, and engaged in massive campaigns to promote the ever-increasing use of their products at ever greater volumes,” the crab fishermen’s lawsuit states. This, the complaint charges, is driving ocean warming.

The crabbers’ lawsuit calls the domoic acid outbreaks that have harmed the fishery “a direct and proximate result of” the defendants’ actions.

To adapt to a warming ocean with higher concentrations of domoic acid in the food web, the crab industry may need to employ costly measures. Ideas on the table, Oppenheim says, include domoic acid testing kits that could identify tainted crabs as soon as they’re caught, and onshore holding tanks where clean recirculated water would rapidly cleanse suspect crabs. Whatever the West Coast’s crab fishermen do to adapt to the changing oceans, Oppenheim says, the world’s oil barons should foot the bill.

Oppenheim says the impacts now hitting the West Coast crab fishery will probably only magnify as the planet continues warming: “It’s highly likely this is going to become a recurring problem, part of a new ocean regime — the new normal.”

Climate correction: when scientists get it wrong

November 23, 2018 by Patrick Galey
Oceans cover more than two thirds of the planet's surface and play a vital role in sustaining life on Earth
Oceans cover more than two thirds of the planet’s surface and play a vital role in sustaining life on Earth

https://phys.org/news/2018-11-climate-scientists-wrong.html

On November 1, AFP joined news outlets around the world in covering the release of a major academic paper warning that our oceans were warming dramatically quicker than previously thought.

The study was undertaken by some of the world’s most pre-eminent climate , using state-of-the-art modelling systems reviewed by their peers, and appeared in one of the most prestigious academic journals.

There was just one problem: it was wrong.

Published in Nature, the paper by researchers from the University of California San Diego and Princeton found that temperatures had warmed 60 percent more than current estimates.

They concluded, with no small sense of alarm, that even the most ambitious emissions cuts laid out in the global plan to prevent climate disaster would need to be slashed again by another 25 percent.

Soon after publication, an independent climate scientist—one who has repeatedly voiced scepticism of the consensus that  is causing —spotted an error in the Nature paper’s maths.

“After correction, the… results do not suggest a larger increase in ocean heat content than previously thought,” Nicolas Lewis wrote on his Climate Science blog.

“Just a few hours of analysis and calculations was sufficient to uncover apparently serious (but surely inadvertent)  in the underlying calculations.

“It is very important that the media outlets that unquestioningly trumpeted the paper’s findings now correct the record too. But perhaps that is too much to hope for,” he added.

With the rectified calculation, the authors quickly realised they had made a mistake.

The new results had a far larger range of possibilities in ocean temperature increases—between 10 and 70 percent: still warmer, but rendering the study vague even for the sometimes unknowable science of climate modelling.

“We quickly realised that our calculations incorrectly treated systematic errors in the O2 measurements as if they were random errors in the error propagation,” author Ralph Keeling wrote on climatehome.org.

“We really muffed the error margins,” he told the San Diego Tribune.

‘Climate hoax’

The correction prompted some climate deniers to wheel out the conspiracy theory that manmade global warming is made up.

Some Twitter users suggested the study was funded by the Democrats, that human-induced planetary warming was invented by former presidential hopeful Al Gore so he could buy a house, and that decades of evidence-based research into the phenomenon constituted “pseudoscience”.

But scientists rallied round the authors, pointing out that the process surrounding the Nature paper’s publication and correction was, really, how scientific research is supposed to work.

“Science is a human endeavour and it’s therefore imperfect. What’s important is that  are scrutinised and replicated by others so that we can assess what is robust and what isn’t,” Gavin A. Schmidt, director at the Goddard Institute for Space Sciences at NASA, told AFP.

“Current climate change has been looked at by thousands of scientists (and other interested people) and our understanding of it is pretty solid,” he said.

AFP has since corrected its coverage of the study so its updated findings are on the record for future stories on warming oceans.

Peter Frumhoff, chief climate scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said the ocean study correction was “a beautiful thing”.

“The rapid, transparent acknowledgement and correction of inadvertent errors in scientific papers… is at the heart of what separates science from dogma,” he told AFP.

“It underscores our confidence in the robustness of consensus scientific findings, based on thousands of independent studies, regarding human-caused  change.”

Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2018-11-climate-scientists-wrong.html#jCp