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Environmental Monitoring


June 2013 Issue

Oil Pollution Threat From Shipwrecks
NOAA presented to the U.S. Coast Guard a report that found that 36 sunken vessels scattered across the U.S. seafloor could pose an oil pollution threat to the nation’s coastal marine resources. Of those vessels, 17 were recommended for further assessment and potential removal of both fuel oil and oil cargo.

The sunken vessels are a legacy of more than a century of U.S. commerce and warfare. They include a barge lost in rough seas in 1936, two motor-powered ships that sank in separate collisions in 1947 and 1952, and a tanker that exploded and sank in 1984. The remaining sites are 13 merchant marine ships lost during World War II, primarily along the Atlantic seaboard and Gulf of Mexico.

The report, part of NOAA’s Remediation of Underwater Legacy Environmental Threats project, identifies the location and nature of potential sources of oil pollution from sunken vessels. Knowing where these vessels are helps oil response planning efforts and may help in the investigation of reported mystery spills—sightings of oil where a source is not immediately known or suspected.

Environmental Science to Inform Ocean Energy Management
Researchers from the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and an independent committee of scientists who advise the Department of the Interior on its offshore energy environmental research program concluded three days of meetings after reviewing plans for future studies on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf (OCS).

BOEM’s environmental studies program covers the U.S. Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, Pacific and Alaska OCS areas.

Highlights of the meeting included updates from scientists from BOEM’s Pacific, Alaska and Gulf of Mexico regional offices and from the Office of Renewable Energy Programs. Breakout sessions held during the three-day meeting covered ecology and biology, physical sciences, social sciences, interdisciplinary science and emerging issues. Participants also delved into how to harness information sciences and data management systems to provide a more robust vision of the state of the oceans and the global environment.

Nautical Chart for Bering Strait
NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey has released a new nautical chart for the Arctic, which will help mariners navigate the Bering Strait. Chart 16190 (Bering Strait North) incorporates precise depth measurements acquired recently by the NOAA ship Fairweather hydrographic surveys.

Coast Survey is also releasing a new edition of Chart 16220 (St Lawrence Island to Bering Strait).

Charts 16190 and 16220 include recent hydrographic information in U.S. waters between Cape Prince of Wales and the immediate waters surrounding Little Diomede Island, Alaska. They also include recent NOAA shoreline surveys of the Diomede Islands and Cape Prince of Wales, Alaska.

Chart 16190 provides 1:100,000 scale coverage, including a 1:40,000 scale inset of Little Diomede Island. Chart 16220 provides 1:315,350 scale coverage. Prior to these charts, the best available information was from Chart 16005, at a scale of 1:700,000. At that scale, every charted depth was separated by about 2 nautical miles.

Cooling Ocean Temperature Could Buy Time For Coral Reefs
Limiting the amount of warming experienced by the world’s oceans in the future could buy some time for tropical coral reefs, said researchers from the University of Bristol.

The study, published in Geophysical Research Letters, used computer models to investigate how shallow-water tropical coral reef habitats may respond to climate change over the coming decades.

Restricting greenhouse warming to 3 watts per square meter (equivalent to just 50 to 100 parts per million carbon dioxide, or approximately half the increase since the Industrial Revolution) is needed in order to avoid large-scale reductions in reef habitat that could occur in the future.

The researchers modeled whether artificial means of limiting global temperatures, known as solar radiation geoengineering, could help. Results suggested that if geoengineering could be successfully deployed, then the decline of suitable habitats for tropical coral reefs could be slowed.

Metric To Measure Hurricane Destructive Potential
Researchers at Florida State University have developed a new metric to measure seasonal Atlantic tropical cyclone activity that focuses on the size of storms, in addition to their duration and intensity. This measure may prove important when considering a hurricane’s potential for death and destruction.

The new metric, called Track Integrated Kinetic Energy (TIKE), builds on the concept of Integrated Kinetic Energy (IKE) developed in 2007 to more accurately measure the destructive potential of a storm. IKE involves using kinetic energy scales with the surface stress that forces storm surge and waves, as well as the horizontal wind loads specified by the American Society of Civil Engineers. TIKE expands the concept by accumulating IKE over the lifespan of a tropical cyclone and over all named tropical cyclones in the hurricane season.

Eco Marine Power, Aims Sign MoU
Eco Marine Power (EMP) based in Fukuoka, Japan, has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Aims Global Engineering of Kuala Terengganu, Malaysia, to market and develop renewable energy solutions for shipping.

Initially, the companies will focus on a project to complete the detailed design of the Medaka ecocommuter ferry, with the aim to start marketing the solar-electric urban passenger ferry across the Asia-Pacific region later this year.

The Medaka ecocommuter ferry will incorporate technologies like hybrid marine propulsion, a data management system, lithium-ion storage modules and a solar array with flexible solar panels.

EMP and Aims will also cooperate on a project to incorporate a renewable energy solution onto an existing offshore support vessel.


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