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Environmental Monitoring


August 2013 Issue

Ocean Observatories Initiative to Deploy Equipment in Alaska
For two weeks, a team from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution will cruise the Gulf of Alaska to deploy 57 instruments, including a global hybrid profiler mooring, mesoscale flanking moorings and global gliders. The team will depart from Seattle, Washington, on the RV Melville.

These instruments are part of the Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI) program, which focuses on mooring located in undersampled, high-latitude sites, such as Alaska’s Station Papa. At the location, the mooring array will have a subsurface global hybrid profiler mooring with a piercing profiler operating at about 150 meters and two wire following profilers, operating at 310 to 2,170 meters and 2,195 to 4,060 meters.

The subsurface mesoscale flanking moorings will form a triangle approximately 40 kilometers on each side. The upper flotation and sensors of the flanking moorings are at about 30 meters depth, with instruments at depths along the mooring line.

Within the array and surrounding area, gliders are equipped with acoustic modems to relay data to the shore via satellite telemetry. The gliders will carry sensor suites that are capable of altering sampling rates during a mission.

The OOI program will also deploy the Endurance Array and Pioneer Array at Station Papa this fall.

EU to Mandate Record of CO2 Emissions for Ships
Beginning in 2018, large ships, those more than 5,000 tons, entering European Union (EU) ports will be required to keep a record of annual CO2 emissions per a proposal from the European Commission, reported Reuters.

The monitoring system is intended to encourage ship owners to lessen emissions, as well as heighten awareness of the amount of CO2 released by the industry. Energy-efficiency data would also be collected from ship owners.

There is a lengthy approval process before the proposed system would become law. The proposal needs to be agreed upon by EU member states and the European Parliament.

Benefits of the program would be a possible 2 percent reduction of CO2 emissions, as well as cheaper costs for ship operators.

The demand for shipping transportation is expected to increase, possibly doubling by 2050, raising concerns about the industry’s environmental impact.

The International Maritime Organization has started talks on global regulations for shipping emissions. The shipping industry is responsible for 3 percent of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide and 4 percent of emissions in the EU.

Satellite Mission Ends After Nearly 12 Years
For 11-and-a-half years, Jason-I circled the Earth helping to improve weather predictions. With the failing of its transmitter, the satellite was decommissioned last week, reported the Associated Press.

Expected to last only three to five years, Jason-I managed to complete more than 53,500 trips around the planet.

During its lifetime, the satellite recorded wind speed and wave height, as well as accurately determining a sea level rise of about 1.6 inches. Jason-I has helped scientists improve models and monitor the oceans.

Though no longer in use, Jason-I will continue to circle the Earth, possibly for the next 1,000 years, until it falls from orbit.

Jason-II started operating in 2008, and Jason-III is planned to launch in 2015.

Dead Zone Impacts Chesapeake Bay Fish
A 10-year study of Chesapeake Bay fish by researchers at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science provided evidence on a bay-wide scale that low-oxygen dead zones are impacting the distribution and abundance of demersal fish—those that live and feed near the bay bottom. The affected species—which include Atlantic croaker, white perch, spot, striped bass and summer flounder—are a part of the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem and support commercial and recreational fisheries.

Low-oxygen conditions—what scientists call hypoxia—form when excessive loads of nitrogen from fertilizers, sewage and other sources feed algal blooms in coastal waters.

When these algae die and sink, they provide a rich food source for bacteria, which in the act of decomposition take up dissolved oxygen from nearby waters.

The fish’s response was interesting because it occurred at levels more than the 2 milligrams per liter that scientists formally use to define hypoxia. Normal coastal waters contain 7 to 8 milligrams of oxygen per liter.

Previous research suggested that oxygen-poor waters could stress fish through increased respiration and elevated metabolism, and also by affecting their prey.

Western Europe Could Experience More Hurricanes
Hurricanes are a rare occurrence for Western Europe. But as the planet’s temperature rises, this region could experience its share of storms, according to a study published in Geophysical Research Letters.

The coasts of Western European are occasionally hit with hurricane-force storms, which are caused by the north-south atmospheric temperature gradient and typically occur in winter.

The western tropical Atlantic is the source of most hurricanes, as the temperature of the water’s surface rises to the degree needed to form cyclones.

Though the eastern part of the tropical Atlantic currently does not reach these temperatures, a high-resolution global climate model demonstrated that as sea surface temperatures rise, the area where cyclones have the potential to form will increase. This could create the opportunity for storms to form on a path that would make Western Europe susceptible to extreme weather.

Though the storms will hit the coast as hybrid storms, they will have extreme force. Over the next century, the frequency of storms occurring August through October could increase four times what Western Europe currently experiences, according to the study’s simulations.


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