The ban of heating oil #6 has been effective in reducing air pollution.
Observations from research aircraft show that the Southern Ocean absorbs much more carbon from the atmosphere than it releases, confirming it is a very strong carbon sink and an important buffer for some of the effects of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new NASA-supported study.
Recent research had raised uncertainty about just how much atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) these icy waters absorb. Those studies relied on measurements of ocean acidity – which increases when ocean water absorbs CO2 – taken by instruments that float in the ocean.
The new study, published in Science, used aircraft observations of CO2 to show that the Southern Ocean is a stronger carbon sink than previously thought, playing a significant role in lessening some of the impacts of greenhouse gases. Aircraft observations were collected over nearly a decade from 2009 to 2018 during three field experiments, including from NASA’s Atmospheric Tomography Mission (ATom) in 2016.
“Airborne measurements show a drawdown of carbon dioxide in the lower atmosphere over the Southern Ocean surface in summer, indicating carbon uptake by the ocean,” explained Matthew Long, lead author and a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado.
They found that the Southern Ocean absorbs significantly more CO2 in the Southern Hemisphere summer than it releases in the winter, making it a strong carbon sink. Data from the airborne campaigns also showed a larger amount of carbon absorbed by the Southern Ocean and smaller amount released than previous estimates using ocean acidity data. The findings highlight the importance of aircraft-based observations to understand carbon cycling.
The Ocean as a CO2 Sponge
When human emissions of CO2 enter the atmosphere, some of that gas is absorbed by the ocean. Cold water from the deep ocean rises to the surface through a process called upwelling. Once at the surface, that colder water absorbs CO2 in the atmosphere – often with the help of photosynthesizing organisms called phytoplankton – before sinking again.
Measurements of CO2 and other ocean properties suggest that 40% of the human-produced CO2 in the ocean, worldwide, was originally absorbed from the atmosphere into the Southern Ocean, making it one of the most important carbon sinks on our planet. But measuring the flux, or exchange, of CO2 where the air meets the sea has been challenging.
In this study, the team used airborne measurements from three field experiments: ATom, HIPPO and ORCAS. Collectively, these projects captured a critical piece of information: the vertical gradient of CO2 in the atmosphere. For example, during the ORCAS campaign in early 2016, scientists saw a drop in CO2 concentrations as the plane descended and high turbulence near the ocean surface, suggesting an exchange of gases like CO2 between the air and ocean.
Taking measurements of CO2 over the course of several field experiments flying above the Southern Ocean gave the scientists a series of snapshots of the vertical change in CO2 (called profiles) over time and throughout the seasonal carbon cycle. These profiles, along with a suite of several atmospheric computer models, helped the team estimate the flux of how much CO2 was being absorbed and released by the Southern Ocean throughout the year.
For more information about NASA’s Airborne Science programs, visit: https://airbornescience.nasa.gov/
Oregon police are seeking assistance in the poisoning of eight wolves in the state since February.
“We are furious and appalled. These poisonings are a significant blow to wolf recovery in Oregon,” Defenders of Wildlife senior northwest representative Sristi Kamal said in a press release from the conservation groups emailed to EcoWatch. “Such a targeted attack against these incredible creatures is unacceptable and we hope our reward will help bring the criminals who did this to justice.”
The Oregon State Police offered a timeline of the killings on Wednesday:
- February 9: After one dead wolf was reported to state police, troopers found all five members of the Catherine Pack dead, along with a deceased magpie. The wolves were found southeast of Mount Harris in Union County.
- March 11: Another dead female wolf from the Keating Pack was found in roughly the same location after her collar let off a mortality signal. A dead skunk and magpie were also found nearby.
- April: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lab reports confirmed that all of the dead animals had been poisoned. Another dead male wolf from the Five Points Pack was found in Union County.
- July: A young female wolf from the Clark Creek Pack was also found dead.
The last two wolves were poisoned with different substances, and lab results indicated the death of the last female wolf might be related to the first six poisonings.
“Oregon State Police Fish and Wildlife Troopers have continued in their investigation in the intervening months but have exhausted leads in the case,” the police wrote. They are therefore asking the public for help.
Anyone with information about the case can contact the Oregon State Police (OSP) TIP Hotline by calling 1-800-452-7888 or *OSP (677) or emailing TIP@state.or.us. Callers are asked to reference the case number #SP21-033033.
The news comes at a vulnerable time for U.S. wolves, which lost their endangered species protections at the start of 2021. This has led to the return of wolf hunting in several states, and the killing of nearly a third of all wolves in Wisconsin in February.
In Oregon, wolves were taken off the state endangered species list in 2015, but shooting wolves is not currently legal in the state except to defend human life or sometimes livestock, The New York Times reported. Wolf Conservation Center executive director Maggie Howell said that the Oregon poisonings were “unusual” and could be related to the wolves’ delisting on both the state and federal levels.
“Peer-reviewed research shows that poaching worsens when legal protections for wolves are relaxed,” she told The New York Times.
There were 173 wolves counted in Oregon last winter, a 9.5 percent increase over the year before, but still far less than their historic range in the state. State biologists will have to wait until the 2021-2022 winter count is completed to assess how the poisonings impacted the state population.
The conservation groups behind the reward are the Center for Biological Diversity, Cascadia Wildlands, Defenders of Wildlife, The Humane Society of the United States, Northeast Oregon Ecosystems, Oregon Wild, Predator Defense and WildEarth Guardians.
All of them called for greater respect and protections for wolves.
“It is tragic that we are losing so many wolves in Oregon, as wolves continue to be lethally targeted both here and nationally,” Lizzy Pennock of WildEarth Guardians said in the press release. “The loss of these wolves, in addition to extensive lethal removals at the hands of the Department this year, is a stark reminder of the need to enhance proactive nonlethal measures in wolf management to foster coexistence.”
Working on a vid right now about the complexity of the energy transition, which we are seeing play out right in front of us this fall. Europe is in the grips of energy anxiety as the Covid Recovery has taken energy providers by surprise and left the continent, in particular the UK and a few […]
After long debate, officials in Florida have decided to test feeding wild manatees near Cape Canaveral. The move is unprecedented, as feeding wildlife is considered illegal.
But with hundreds of manatees dying of starvation in 2021, wildlife conservationists are desperate to save these creatures.
For weeks, state officials have been considering whether or not to create a pilot program to feed the animals. An official pilot program is set to be revealed this week, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has given approval for a limited feeding trial.
The pilot program will launch near the Florida Power & Light plant in Cape Canaveral. In the winter, manatees tend to swim in the Indian River Lagoon to keep warm, as warm water is discharged from the plant into these nearby waters. Officials will feed the manatees a variety of greens, including cabbage and lettuce. The plan is to use a controlled method for feeding, such as a conveyor belt, to limit human interactions. Officials stress that this trial is not a green light for people to start tossing food into the water for manatees, an act that remains illegal.
In 2021 alone, over 1,000 manatees have died, many of whom died of starvation caused by pollution. This number is more than double that of 2020, when 498 manatees died. Over the past 11 years, seagrasses in the Indian River Lagoon have decreased by about 58%, leaving manatees with less to eat.
“It’s the entire ecosystem that is affected by this and will be affected for a decade to come,” said Patrick Rose, executive director of Save The Manatee Club. “This is a necessary stopgap measure. It is a problem created by man and man is going to have to solve it.”
Seagrasses provide essential food for manatees, and they are a known carbon sink. Seagrass is responsible for up to 10% of the ocean’s carbon storage capacity and can capture carbon about 35 times faster than tropical rainforests. But human pollution, like agricultural runoff and sewage, creates breeding grounds for harmful blue-green algae in waters. This algae then blocks sunlight from reaching the seagrasses, leaving manatees without food and killing off an important carbon sink.
“Literally, saving manatees is part of saving the ecosystem. If we can get this taken care of, manatees will flourish. If we don’t, they won’t,” Rose said. “We are in the most critical position.”
Manatees are currently considered threatened after being downgraded from endangered status in 2017. Several officials and environmental advocates continue to campaign for these animals to be relisted as endangered, especially as the death count continues to increase.
A landmark report looks at potential human interventions to boost how much planet-warming carbon dioxide the sea can suck up.
The balance of power is shifting from companies to workers, but it has a way to go yet.