The quake struck offshore at 10:12 p.m. local time and was located around 500 miles southwest of Anchorage and around 60 miles southeast of Perryville, Alaska, CBS News reported.
"This is a very significant earthquake in size," Alaska Earthquake Center seismologist Michael West told the Anchorage Daily News.
M 7.8 earthquake strikes 105 km SSE of Perryville, Alaska. Tsunami warning canceled. https://t.co/bUwKvi65Lg Le… https://t.co/DlORAa8a2I— USGS (@USGS)1595413807.0
The earthquake initially triggered a tsunami warning for South Alaska, the Alaska Peninsula and the Aleutian Islands, CBS News reported.
"Based on the preliminary earthquake parameters... hazardous tsunami waves are possible for coasts located within 300 kilometers of the earthquake epicenter," the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said, according to CBS News.
The warning prompted evacuations in towns and cities including Kodiak, Sand Point, Unalaska and Homer, the Anchorage Daily News reported.
"We were in a (city) council meeting and started feeling it rocking, and by the time I got home from the council meeting then the warnings were going and had to turn back around," Unalaska City Manager Erin Reinders told the Anchorage Daily News.
Meanwhile, in Kodiak, residents sheltered in Kodiak High School and the local Catholic school while also trying to protect themselves from the coronavirus.
"We've got a high school full of people. I've been passing out masks since the first siren sounded," Kodiak School District superintendent Larry LeDoux told the Anchorage Daily News. "Everything's as calm as can be. We've got probably 300, 400 people all wearing masks."
Tsunami warning in kodiak AK https://t.co/pBio9lnWDF— Tyler 🏳️🌈 (@Tyler 🏳️🌈)1595399877.0
The warnings were canceled by 12:30 a.m. Wednesday. However, a tsunami measuring 0.8 feet was reported in the city of Sand Point, according to CBS.
Because of its size and characteristics, Tuesday's quake had the potential to be devastating.
For one thing, it was shallow, measuring six miles, or 10 kilometers, deep, CNN reported.
"Anything below 70 kilometers is considered a shallow quake," CNN meteorologist Allison Chinchar explained. "That's important, because shallow earthquakes often cause the most damage, compared to the ones that are deeper, regardless of the strength."
Shallow quakes are also more likely to produce tsunamis, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
West told the Anchorage Daily News that Tuesday's earthquake was more or less the same type as the Great Alaska Earthquake of 1964.
That earthquake was the strongest ever recorded in North America, with a magnitude of 9.2, CBS explained. The quake and following tsunami killed more than 250 people.
"These are the style of earthquakes which can be very tsunami-producing," West told the Anchorage Daily News.
The fact that Tuesday's quake occurred offshore reduced shaking, West said. Officials did not think the shaking caused any damage.
"No reports of any damage," Kodiak Police Sgt. Mike Sorter told The Associated Press early Wednesday morning, as USA TODAY reported. "No injuries were reported. Everything is nominal."
CNN also reported that more than 20 aftershocks have followed into early Wednesday, ranging in magnitude from 2.8 to 6.1.
Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that CNN reported the depth of the quake at six miles. CNN has corrected this number to 17 miles. The article has been corrected to reflect this change.
- 7.9 Earthquake in Alaska Triggers West Coast Tsunami Warning ... ›
- Nearly 1,400 Aftershocks Rattle Alaska After 7.0 Earthquake ... ›
- Alaska Faces Major Tsunami Threat, Scientists Warn - EcoWatch ›
By Andrea Germanos
Environmental campaigners stressed the need for the incoming Biden White House to put in place permanent protections for Alaska's Bristol Bay after the Trump administration on Wednesday denied a permit for the proposed Pebble Mine that threatened "lasting harm to this phenomenally productive ecosystem" and death to the area's Indigenous culture.
Bristol Bay forever, Pebble mine never. #NoPebbleMine #SaveBristolBay https://t.co/CBQ9zuy8A5— Save Bristol Bay (@Save Bristol Bay)1606328156.0
In its record of decision on the long-fought industrial gold and copper mining project, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers cited "Section 404 of the Clean Water Act and Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act," the Anchorage Daily News reported.
"USACE determined that the applicant's plan for the discharge of fill material does not comply with Clean Water Act guidelines and concluded that the proposed project is contrary to the public interest."
The decision was hailed by a chorus of conservation groups. "Sometimes a project is so bad, so indefensible, that the politics fall to the wayside and we get the right decision," said SalmonState executive director Tim Bristol. "That is what happened today."
"The Pebble Mine was always the wrong mine in the wrong place," said Adam Kolton, executive director of Alaska Wilderness League. "The fact that President Trump resurrected and promoted it prior to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ultimately denying the permit isn't worth dwelling on," he said, referring to the president's intervention in the matter.
"What matters today," Kolton continued, "is that the world's most productive salmon fisheries are safer and the tribes, fishermen, and communities that depend on a healthy Bristol Bay can breathe a sigh of relief."
World Wildlife Fund previously released a video explaining "why the proposed mine doesn't stand up to a fact check." The group described Bristol Bay as "the lifeblood that sustains every species calling the region home," including harbor seals, hundreds of bird species, and brown bear. The watershed is also critically important to tribes and the salmon upon which they've relied for millennium. Bristol Bay also hosts the planet's most productive salmon fishery.
With such impacts at stake, Marc Fink, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, called the rejection "a huge victory for wild salmon, the Iliamna, lake seal, and other imperiled wildlife that call this spectacular place home."
The administration's rejection follows the September release of secret recordings between Tom Collier, CEO of Pebble Limited Partnership, and Ronald Thiessen, president and CEO of Northern Dynasty Minerals, which owns Pebble, that revealed the goal was not a 20-year project the 20-year operation publicly promised by the developers, but instead to create a project of "unstoppable" growth with a timeline of possibly 200 years. The executives instead were looking at "unstoppable" growth and a timeline of possibly 200 years.
The recordings elicited concern from the House Transportation Committee chair Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) and Chair of the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment Grace F. Napolitano (D-Calif.), who wrote last week to Pebble Limited Partnership and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
"From the private discussions revealed by the 'Pebble Tapes,' it seems as though Pebble was dealing with two sets of facts," wrote DeFazio and Napolitano,"one to lure potential investors to the Pebble project and one to alleviate fears of Alaskan Natives, the U.S. Congress, and federal agencies of potential adverse environmental impacts from the mine."
In his statement on Wednesday, Kolton added, "The credit for this victory belongs not to any politician but to Alaskans and Bristol Bay's Indigenous peoples, as well as to hunters, anglers, and wildlife enthusiasts from all across the country who spoke out in opposition to this dangerous and ill-conceived project. We can be thankful that their voices were heard, that science counted, and that people prevailed over short-term profiteering."
Bonnie Gestring, Northwest Program director at Earthworks, accused Pebble of having "tried every trick in the book to push this project through, but the crystal clear science prevailed."
President-elect Joe Biden, for his part, has promised to reject the Pebble Mine.
Gestring urged the incoming administration to "take the next step and use the Clean Water Act to place permanent limits on mining in Bristol Bay to protect the salmon fishery and the communities that depend on it."
Her demand was echoed by Joel Reynolds, senior attorney with the Nature Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
"The next step is for the Environmental Protection Agency to use section 404c of the Clean Water Act to permanently protect this national treasure from large scale mining for all time," said Reynolds.
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
- Pebble Mine Threatens One of the Last Great Salmon Rivers ... ›
- The Pebble Mine Is Too Toxic Even for the Trump Administration ... ›
- Trump Admin Reverses Obama-Era Restrictions on Pebble Mine ... ›
Krill oil has gained a lot of popularity recently as a superior alternative to fish oil. Basically, the claim goes, anything fish oil can do, krill oil does better. Read on to learn what makes krill oil supplements better than fish oil supplements, why you should consider these vitamin supplements, and which brands we recommend.
What is Krill Oil?
Krill oil is made from a tiny, shrimp-like crustaceans that live in the ocean and usually serve as whale food. In fact, krill means "whale food" in Norwegian. These tiny organisms actually play an extremely important role in the food chains of marine ecosystems. The krill used to make krill oil are usually found in the waters around Antarctica.
Just like the fish oils found in supplements, krill oil is rich in omega 3 fatty acids that contain EPA and DHA, two compounds that are proven to have a number of health benefits.
But what makes krill oil better than fish oil?
It's believed that krill oil is better absorbed in the body than fish oil. Both derive most of their benefits through the EPA and DHA that are contained in their fatty acid stores. However, for the same dose, krill oil will result in more fatty acids in the blood than fish oil. A potential explanation for this is that while fish oil's fatty acids come as triglycerides, krill oil's come as phospholipids which are more easily processed by the body.
Additionally, krill oil contains astaxanthin which is an antioxidant that has anti-inflammatory properties that might have an enhanced positive effect on heart health. Studies have shown that krill oil is more effective than fish oil at lowering blood pressure and lowering bad cholesterol.
Our Picks for the Best Krill Oil Supplements
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. You can learn more about our review methodology here. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
- Best Overall - Vital Plan Krill Oil Plus
- Best for Cognitive Health - Onnit Krill Oil
- Best for Heart Health - NOW Neptune Krill Oil
- Best for Joint Health - Viva Naturals Antarctic Krill Oil
- Strongest - Sports Research Antarctic Krill Oil
How We Chose the Best Krill Oil Supplements
Here are the factors that we considered when comparing the best krill oil brands to create our list of recommended supplements.
Omega-3 Content - We looked to see the amount of omega-3 fatty acids contained in each krill oil softgel or capsule.
Astaxanthin Content - The best krill oil pills contain this naturally-occurring antioxidant.
Third-Party Lab Testing - For any nutritional supplement, we choose brands that guarantee the quality of their product through independent lab testing.
Krill Source - We also compared these supplements for the source of their krill oil, and only recommend brands that use sustainably-harvested krill.
The 5 Best Krill Oil Supplements
Best Overall: Vital Plan Krill Oil Plus
- Omega-3s - 330 mg per 3 softgels
- Astaxanthin - 150 mcg per 3 softgels
- Krill Source - Antarctica
Why buy: We love Vital Plan Krill Oil Plus because it contains omega-3 fatty acids, astaxanthin, and choline to help promote brain, cardiovascular, and joint health, and because it is made with sustainably-harvested Antarctic krill. In fact, Vital Plan uses Superba krill oil, which is certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and is 100% traceable.
Best for Cognitive Health: Onnit Krill Oil
- Omega-3s - 240 mg per 2 softgels
- Astaxanthin - 200 mcg per 2 softgels
- Krill Source - Antarctica
Why buy: Onnit Krill Oil makes it easy to supplement your diet with the essential nutrients found in krill with just two softgels per day. The DHA and EPA fatty acids, plus astaxanthin, contained in these supplements can help support better cognitive, heart, and joint health. Plus, they source their krill from a Friend of the Sea certified supplier.
Best for Heart Health: NOW Neptune Krill Oil
- Omega-3s - 250 mg per 2 softgels
- Astaxanthin - 360 mcg per 2 softgels
- Source - Antarctica
Why buy: NOW Neptune Krill Oil supplements use 100% Neptune krill oil, a patented oil derived from Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba). Two softgels contain 250 mg of omega-3 fatty acids and 360 mcg of astaxanthin that can promote better cardiovascular and joint health. We like NOW Neptune Krill Oil because they also get their krill oil from a Friend of the Sea certified source.
Best for Joint Health: Viva Naturals Antarctic Krill Oil
- Omega-3s - 330 mg per 2 capsules
- Astaxanthin - 1.6 mg per 2 capsules
- Source - Antarctica
Why buy: Viva Naturals uses a trademarked Caplique capsulation to avoid any krill oil odor or potential fishy burps. WIth 90 mg of DHA and 165 mg of EPA per 2 capsule serving, this supplement will definitely give you your money's worth, as they pack more DHA and EPA than your average supplement. We like that these capsules contain a higher concentration of the antioxidant astaxanthin, and are designed to eliminate any fishy aftertaste.
Strongest: Sports Research Antarctic Krill Oil
- Omega-3s - 240 mg per softgel
- Astaxanthin - 500 mcg per softgel
- Source - Antarctica
Why buy: IKOS certified and made with their proprietary Superba krill oil formula, Sports Research Antarctic Krill Oil is an excellent choice if you're looking to enjoy the benefits that quality omega-3 fatty acids can provide. Every softgel capsule contains 1000 mg of krill oil, making it the strongest krill oil supplement on our list. We like that their krill oil is also certified as sustainably sourced by the MSC.
The Research on Krill Oil Supplements
Research has long demonstrated the health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids commonly found in foods like fish, nuts, and certain grains like flax seed. Since krill oil naturally contains higher levels of these beneficial nutrients, it has also been found to provide a number of health benefits.
Numerous studies have linked the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish and krill oil to cardiovascular health, finding that those who ingest higher levels of these nutrients are at lower risk for coronary heart disease, potentially lower risk of stroke, and have lower cholesterol levels. Another study found that krill oil supplements offer a safe alternative to fish oil for those seeking cardiovascular benefits in a smaller and more convenient form.
Krill oil supplementation has also been found to help reduce the symptoms of knee and joint pain.
Additionally, researches found that rats given krill oil supplements showed improved cognitive function and benefited from anti-depressant-like effects. However, more research on its effect for human brain development and function is needed.
How to Choose the Right Krill Oil Supplement
When shopping for a krill oil supplement, there are important pieces of information that you should always look for. Here are some tips on how to compare brands and how to read labels.
What to Look For
For any supplement, always check to see if it has undergone third-party lab testing for quality and safety. This is especially important for any fish or krill oil to make sure that it does not contain any harmful compounds like mercury.
Look for the amount of krill oil contained in each capsule and each serving (as these will sometimes differ). You should choose supplements that offer between 200 mg and 350 mg of omega-3 fatty acids per serving for the best results.
Make it a priority to learn where the brand sources its supply of krill oil. We recommend brands that use sustainably-harvested Antarctic krill oil because the process of harvesting is more tightly regulated by various groups.
This is good advice for all nutritional supplements, but be sure the krill oil you choose does not contain any unwanted or unnecessary ingredients. All of our recommendations contain just the krill oil and the capsule it comes in.
How to Read Labels
When you are comparing krill oil supplements, here are some key things to look for on any label:
- Supplement Facts - This is where you can find information on the amount of krill oil in each capsule, how many capsules make up one serving, and a breakdown of how many omega-3 fatty acids and other nutrients are contained in the supplement.
- Other Ingredients - Listed at the bottom of the supplement facts table, this list will tell you what the capsule itself is made of and if there are any additional ingredients present.
- Certifications - Check the label for important certifications and seals of approvals that can tell you if a krill oil is IKOS-certified, third-party lab tested, or sustainably harvest.
How to Use Krill Oil Supplements
Krill oil supplements typically come in capsules that you swallow with water. For most brands, 2 to 3 capsules make up a single serving, and you can take a serving either once or twice per day. Some brands recommend their supplements be taken with food to aid in their digestion and absorption.
Safety & Side Effects
While krill oil supplements are generally considered safe for most adults, it is extremely important to note that you should not take krill oil if you are allergic to shellfish. The potential side effects for krill oil are considered mild and similar to fish oils, including:
- Upset stomach
- Fishy taste
By Tim Lydon
You're right if you think you've been hearing a lot about container ships lately. One off the coast of Sri Lanka that was carrying 25 tons of nitric acid and other cargo suffered an explosion after containers caught fire on May 20 and burned for more than a week, littering the beaches with plastic pollution. And in March all eyes were on the Suez Canal, where a 1,300-foot-long container ship turned sideways and gummed up international trade with a six-day-long traffic jam. Maybe you've also had your shoes, bike or other online purchases delayed because of backed-up ports near Los Angeles.
But less attention surrounded a spate of container-ship accidents in the Pacific Ocean this past winter. It included one of the worst shipping accidents on record, which occurred near midnight on Nov. 30 as towering waves buffeted the ONE Apus, a 1,200-foot cargo ship delivering thousands of containers full of goods from China to Los Angeles. In remote waters 1,600 miles northwest of Hawai'i, the container stack lashed to the ship's deck collapsed, tossing more than 1,800 containers into the sea.
Some of those containers carried dangerous goods, including batteries, fireworks and liquid ethanol.
"This is a massive spill," says oceanographer Curt Ebbesmeyer, who has tracked marine debris from container spills for over 30 years. The ONE Apus lost more containers in a single night than the shipping industry reports are lost worldwide in an entire year.
More photos from the ONE APUS, set 4 https://t.co/DAbmXln0hA— Maritime Cyprus Intl news forum (@Maritime Cyprus Intl news forum)1607433139.0
It was also only one of at least six spills since October that dumped more than 3,000 cargo containers into the Pacific Ocean along shipping routes between Asia and the United States. They include the loss of 100 containers from the ONE Aquila on Oct. 30 and 750 containers from the Maersk Essen on Jan. 16. Both ships encountered rough weather while delivering goods to the United States.
Experts say these types of spills, which tend to fly under the public's radar, put containers into the sea that pose potential hazards to the health of the ocean and put everything from mariners to wildlife at risk.
"They're like time capsules of everything we buy and sell, sitting in the deep sea," says Andrew DeVogelaere, NOAA research coordinator at the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary in California. Those lost containers may harm wildlife and ocean health, he says, by crushing aquatic habitats or introducing new seabed features that change biological communities or even aid the spread of invasive species. They can also release hazardous cargo such as the 6,000 pounds of sulfuric acid that went into the sea when the Maersk Shanghai lost containers off of the North Carolina coast in 2018.
Despite that potential for danger, no one is tracking the lost containers in the Pacific and opinions vary about where they will come to rest. Many are likely on the ocean floor, but an unknown number may have ruptured and disgorged their contents, which typically include many thousands of consumer items made of plastic. They could float for years in the ocean or wash ashore in Alaska, Hawai'i or other locations.
To date, the only debris known to come ashore from this winter's accidents are giant waterlogged sacks of chia seeds, which hit Oregon beaches in December following the loss of six containers from a ship near the California coast. Federal biologists were still cleaning smelly globs of the seeds from threatened snowy plover nesting habitat in April.
The accidents come at a time when the container shipping industry we all rely on is under unprecedented strain. In April the National Retail Federation reported a 10th consecutive month of record-high imports from Asia to the U.S. West Coast, driven by skyrocketing online shopping tied to the pandemic.
It's led to backed-up ports, delayed deliveries, and shortages of empty containers, conditions that are forecast to continue. But in a trick of the pandemic tied to both U.S. shopping patterns and Chinese factory schedules, it also put more cargo ships on the water during fall and winter, the stormiest time of year in the Pacific.
Some experts say the changes may represent a new normal for trans-Pacific container shipping. If that's true, more spills may lie ahead — prompting calls for greater transparency and accountability from shippers.
Decades of Debris
"I'm considered persona non grata by the shipping industry," Ebbesmeyer says when asked if he knew anything about what was aboard the ONE Apus or where it might be headed. "They blackballed me years ago. They didn't like me shining a light in a dark place."
That dark place is the inside of a shipping container. Back in the 1990s Ebbesmeyer began applying his oceanography skills to tracking debris from what seemed like an ever-increasing number of container accidents. One year it was 28,000 rubber bath toys shaped like ducks, beavers, turtles and frogs that spilled from a single container lost in the North Pacific. Another year it was 61,000 Nike sneakers from a handful of containers, also in the Pacific.
With a friend at the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, he calculated how far the flotsam would travel. Over close to a decade, beachcombers around the world confirmed their predictions with reports of debris from Texas to Australia to the United Kingdom.
"As an oceanographer, I want to know how the ocean works," Ebbesmeyer says. Following the debris helped him understand ocean currents and the destination of the marine debris that even by the 1990s was on the rise. But as Ebbesmeyer's work gained notoriety, he says the industry went mum. And what little light had been shed inside shipping containers flickered out.
But the accidents didn't stop. In 1997 a single container lost from a ship in near England spilled 5 million Lego pieces, which still wash ashore today.
There were 8,100 of these Lego links or 'axles with eyes' in the shipping container that fell off the Tokio Express… https://t.co/xytVGgUokE— Lego Lost At Sea (@Lego Lost At Sea)1620630653.0
In the early 2000s, it was computer monitors landing on beaches from California to Alaska. Ebbesmeyer says the shippers seldom disclosed how many items were lost, and he suspects the same silence will surround the ONE Apus and other recent spills.
"If they'd share what's in the containers," he says, "we might predict where the debris will land and possibly organize a response." Spilled goods travel the waters differently depending on their weight and materials; if the scientists know those details, they can anticipate where the products will eventually land. By tracking this trash, oceanographers could learn more about where currents and winds carry other debris, too. And, says Ebbesmeyer, it might compel shippers to help pay for cleanup, an expense coastal residents and agencies usually absorb today.
But shippers seem as tight-lipped as ever. Beyond reporting the presence of certain hazardous materials, they have not released details about the 3,000 missing containers.
Who's Minding the Ship?
According to the industry trade group the World Shipping Council, 6,000 container ships traverse the oceans every day, moving 226 million containers annually. The ships sail a dizzying array of routes among more than 200 ports and are registered in countries around the world. But because they spend much of their time on the high seas outside any one nation's jurisdiction, governance is a mix of regulations and voluntary best practices that don't require tracking or recovering debris from lost containers. That only happens when losses occur in nearshore waters where the United States or another country claims jurisdiction.
The Panama-flagged Ever Given causes disruptions in the Suez Canal in March. National Ocean Service Image Gallery
"We usually read about it in the news," says Catherine Berg, scientific support coordinator at NOAA's Emergency Response Division in Alaska. Berg says no formal mechanism is in place for reporting high-seas shipping container accidents like the ONE Apus to the U.S. government. And no funding exists for NOAA scientists to track the debris, although they occasionally perform informal modeling.
Officers with the U.S. Coast Guard Joint Rescue Coordination Center in Honolulu, Hawai'i, tell a similar story. They say shippers report container spills as a courtesy but that the agency lacks authority or funding to investigate, unless containers directly threaten U.S. shores. Instead, following the ONE Apus spill, the Coast Guard issued a notice to mariners about the hazard of floating containers, which some sailors call "steel icebergs" for their deceptively low profile on the water. The notice expired after a couple of weeks, with the assumption containers had sunk, ruptured or dispersed.
On the open seas, the shipping trade is primarily governed by the International Maritime Organization and other United Nations groups. Among their primary tools is the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) treaty, originally signed in 1914. It was last amended in 2016 with new rules on weighing of containers, intended to lessen spills.
In 2014 the IMO also endorsed an updated code of practice for cargo ships, which addresses packing, stacking and lashing of containers. Although shippers frequently blame losses on rough weather, as happened in each of last winter's Pacific Ocean accidents, investigation often reveals underlying problems in lashing and other practices that occur before a ship even leaves port. That happened in May 2020 when the APL England lost 43 containers near Australia, forcing popular Sydney beaches to close as authorities cleaned a debris field of appliance parts, plastic boxes and face masks.
The updated code of practice is only voluntary and does not include provisions for tracking lost containers or revealing their contents. But continued cargo accidents may be forcing a change.
In 2019, when the MSC Zoe lost 280 containers in heavy weather between Portugal and Germany, volunteers and Dutch troops spent months cleaning Wadden Islands' shores of toys, furniture and smashed televisions. Following the accident, which investigators also blamed on poor lashing, the Council of the European Union submitted a draft proposal for a new IMO rule requiring better reporting of containers lost at sea. If passed, and depending on the rule's terms, it could one day address Ebbesmeyer's decades-long concerns over shipper transparency.
Also following the MSC Zoe, the Dutch government commissioned a review of shipping practices and technologies that could aid in tracking containers, including equipping them with satellite tags. Echoing Ebbesmeyer's experiences, the report said it is "hard to track down" what lies within lost containers and that improvement would require industry cooperation and investment.
Industry support may be gaining. The World Shipping Council, which has supported past amendments to SOLAS, is a cosponsor of the proposed new rule, according to the organization's spokesperson Anna Larsson.
"We really support all and any fact-based measures to improve safety," Larsson said in an email.
Although springtime's calmer weather has replaced the winter storms that battered cargo ships, it's likely whatever debris from recent spills that has not sunk to the bottom of the Pacific is still floating out there somewhere. But with so little known about the containers and their contents, it's unclear where the debris is headed.
"Just because you don't see it doesn't mean it's on the seafloor," says Ebbesmeyer.
He gives the example of a container full of plastic telephones in the likeness of the comic-strip cat Garfield that spilled from a ship along the European coast in the 1980s. For decades, cables and shards of orange plastic mysteriously washed ashore from the phones. The mangled container that once held them was finally discovered in 2019, wedged deep in a French sea cave that's underwater much of the year.
Thousands of other containers must lie on sea bottoms along the world's shipping routes, says NOAA's DeVogelaere.
In what is possibly the only study of its kind, DeVogelaere keeps his eye on a shipping container lying in 4,000 feet of water at the Monterey Bay sanctuary. It was one of 24 that toppled from a Taiwanese cargo ship in 2004 and was serendipitously discovered by one of NOAA's remotely operated vehicles conducting unrelated research. Since 2011, DeVogelaere has monitored ecological change around the container, noting colonization by species not typically found in the immediate area. This year his team will investigate whether the container's anti-corrosive paints, which can be toxic, may also have an ecological effect.
"We're impacting an environment that we haven't even begun to understand," he says of the seafloor.
DeVogelaere's container, which has so far remained latched shut, holds more than 1,100 steel-belted radial tires. He knows this only because it happened to land in a nearshore federal sanctuary, putting it under U.S. jurisdiction. Through a lengthy legal process, NOAA won a $3.25 million settlement from the shipper.
Such settlements take time but can occur when containers spill in nearshore waters. For instance, when the Hanjin Seattle lost 35 empty containers near Canada's west coast in 2016, officials won a modest settlement to help pay for removal of foam insulation that littered wildlife habitat along miles of national park and First Nations beaches.
After the Svendborg Maersk lost 517 containers in the Bay of Biscay in 2014, French officials ordered the company to map sunken containers to identify commercial fishing hazards. And a settlement following the 2011 wreck of the MV Rena in New Zealand, which also caused an oil spill, included cleanup of tiny plastic beads that still wash ashore today.
Those beads, like the Legos, computer monitors and Garfield phones, hint at the unknown contribution of container spills to marine plastic pollution, which is increasingly understood to harm birds, whales, fish and other animals through both ingestion and entanglement.
Although the World Shipping Council tracks cargo accidents, which it says lose an average of 1,382 containers annually, no one knows their true ecological impact.
But Ebbesmeyer remains concerned. He likens each spill to dumping a big box store into the ocean.
"That plastic never goes away," he says. "It drifts around in the water or flies overhead in the stomachs of seabirds. It haunts you over time."
Tim Lydon writes from Alaska on public-lands and conservation issues. He has worked on public lands for much of the past three decades, both as a guide and for land-management agencies, and is a founding member of the Prince William Sound Stewardship Foundation. His writing has most recently appeared in The Revelator, Yes Magazine, Hakai Magazine, The Hill, High Country News, and elsewhere.
Reposted with permission from The Revelator.
By Jennie Gosché
In late 2019, before the world was completely upended by the COVID-19 pandemic, I was presented a last-minute chance to photograph polar bears outside one of the northernmost villages in the United States — Kaktovik, Alaska. It was an opportunity I couldn't refuse, and as the COVID-19 pandemic now stretches into summer 2020, I'm grateful I accepted.
Polar bears adorn the sign leading into Kaktovik. Jennie Gosché
Kaktovik is an Inupiat native village of around 250 people on the coast of the Arctic Ocean, located on barrier islands at the edge of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. My first trip there took place in September 2016, and I traveled with the purpose to photograph the threatened Southern Beaufort Sea polar bear population. The coastal region of the Arctic Refuge in fall is a special place to photograph these magnificent animals, as they congregate on dirt and sand spits of land waiting for the winter ice of the Beaufort Sea to make its way to the Alaska shore.
During the late summer and early fall, Inupiat boat owners from Kaktovik guide "tourist" photographers out to view polar bears from a safe distance in the placid lagoon adjacent to the raging waves of the Beaufort Sea. I joined one such group of photographers led by Hugh Rose, a professional photographer and geologist who lives in Fairbanks, and we took a short charter flight from Deadhorse to Kaktovik, landing in a morning snowstorm. But by afternoon, the sun was out and we had three and a half days of sunshine that combined with the ice and snow to create great conditions in which to photograph polar bears.
The welcome sign at the Waldo Arms Hotel. Jeff Stamer / www.firefallphotography.com
We were out in the lagoon twice a day, breaking only for lunch at our hotel, the modest but welcoming Waldo Arms Hotel owned by Walt "Waldo" Audi and Merlyn Trainer — one of only two options for places to stay in Kaktovik when visiting. The boat guides are skilled, and they have to be, because knowledge and awareness of depths in the lagoon is critical to prevent a boat from getting stuck in shallow water.
Polar bear viewing is done by boat for the safety of both people and polar bears. Jennie Gosché
This trip we were in a boat with a heated cabin, a perk since we were there later in the season. Our boat driver, however, told us that at that very same time the previous year, the lagoon was completely frozen over. He shared this as we floated on the lagoon in open water, though ice was visible in places and we occasionally heard pieces rubbing against the hull of the metal boat.
With rapidly rising temperatures, increases in wildfires, thawing permafrost, receding glaciers, eroding coastlines and disappearing sea ice, Alaska and the Arctic are on the front lines of climate change. It has hit Alaska's rural communities and Alaska Native villages especially hard, including villages like Kaktovik. Warming waters and the disappearing Arctic ice cap are also impacting ocean life, from plankton to polar bears to whales. And the decline in sea ice is making it increasingly unsafe for humans and wildlife to travel across it to hunt marine mammals like seals, walrus and bowhead whales.
Coastal erosion is causing permafrost to thaw and break off, here along the Arctic coastal plain in the Teshekpuk Lake Special Area of the National Petroleum Reserve - Alaska. Brandt Meixell, U.S.Geological Survey
The Inupiat are primarily subsistence hunters and whalers, harvesting whales each summer (in addition to caribou and other wildlife), the meat from which is shared by the entire village. It is a staple of their diet and has been for thousands of years, but as temperatures warm, the lack of ice combined with changes in whale migration patterns and timing could make hunting progressively more difficult.
The Inupiat share their whale meat with the polar bears, something they have done for many years. This gesture provides much needed food for polar bears, especially as they spend longer periods of time on land due to the receding sea ice. When I visited Kaktovik in 2016, my most memorable photo is of a cub on top of whale bones, shaking what looks like animal skin in its mouth.
Bears have learned to scavenge whale carcasses left over from successful whaling hunts. Jennie Gosché
As I returned to the village in late 2019, however, they had moved the bone pile away from the lagoon to an area off-limits to tourists. I was told the bone pile now only stays on land for a short time, and then the bones are pushed into the ocean. Eventually, this change could affect the overall health of the Southern Beaufort Sea polar bears, as many of them increasingly den on land in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and utilize the shared whale meat for sustenance during the summer and early fall before they enter their maternal birthing dens in November.
Which brings me back to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, as wild a place as any other on Earth but one also under threat of oil and gas development. While in Kaktovik I learned that there is not a consensus in the village on the question of allowing oil drilling in the Arctic Refuge. Climate change and impacts to wildlife are serious concerns, so much so that more than 60 village residents signed a petition in 2017 opposing drilling on the Arctic Refuge coastal plain.
Oil production facilities dominate the region around Prudhoe Bay, to the West of the Arctic Refuge. Florian Schulz / www.florianschulz.org
Helping to prevent development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge — a place that supports the greatest variety of plant and animal life in the entire circumpolar north — is very important to me, not least of all because the U.S. government has admitted it simply doesn't have enough information about the impacts of oil and gas development on the coastal plain to protect its wildlife and other values. Oil drilling will compound the devastating climate impacts already being felt by villages in the region, increasing carbon emissions, worsening climate pollution and further harming front line communities.
Especially now, in the midst of an uncertain present and looking forward to an uncertain future, we need to press pause on Arctic Refuge development. Instead of recklessly rushing ahead, more research over extended periods of time is needed so that we can fully understand the potential impact oil drilling will have on local villages, our climate and wildlife like the majestic polar bear.
A mother nurses her cubs. Jennie Gosché
Jennie Gosché has traveled to the Arctic seven times to photograph polar bears. Having visited the five countries where polar bears are found (Denmark (Greenland), Norway, Russia, the United States and Canada), Kaktovik, Alaska, has become her favorite place to photograph them. Jennie's photography has been exhibited in Washington, D.C., Minneapolis and Maryland. She is a member of Alaska Wilderness League.
By Sharon Buccino
This week, Secretary Haaland chose a visit to Bears Ears National Monument as her first trip as Interior Secretary. She is spending three days in Bluff, Utah, a small town just outside the monument, listening to representatives of the five tribes who first proposed its designation to President Obama in 2015. This is the same town where former Secretary Sally Jewell spent several hours at a public hearing in July 2016 before recommending the monument's designation to President Obama.
For the first time, a Native American is in charge of shaping federal policy on public lands and waters. Secretary Haaland knows with every fiber of her body the value of the 1.35 million acres of lands originally designated as Bears Ears National Monument—not simply for their beauty and tranquility, but for their cultural significance and sacred power.
Haaland felt the pain of President Trump's destruction of the monument that Obama had created—the 85 percent loss of lands previously protected and the dismissal of the inter-tribal Bears Ears Commission created to help manage the monument. Alongside the Navajo Nation and other tribes, NRDC and other environmental groups challenged Trump's revocation in court. The cases are now on hold pending the Biden administration's action.
In Trump's repeated attacks on our monuments, he also illegally rolled back protections for the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts National Marine Monument. The Antiquities Act has preserved some of America's greatest treasures. Pursuant to the Act's authority, President Biden should act now to deliver the protection the three monuments Trump acted to destroy both onshore and off.
Some Utah politicians are calling for Congressional action on Bears Ears. The problem is that they have been talking about this for years and have done nothing to protect these lands. President Obama only acted after Congress failed to. In the meantime, looters, mining companies and fossil fuel promoters are taking advantage of the land instead.
Every day, the land Trump carved out of Bears Ears National Monument is getting used. We need action now to restore what has been lost. Relying on the evidence the tribes presented to Obama, President Biden should issue a proclamation restoring Bears Ears to its former glory. In the meantime, Secretary Haaland should look to the five tribes—the Hopi Tribe, the Navajo Nation, the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, the Pueblo of Zuni, and the Ute Indian Tribe—who originally proposed designation of Bears Ears as a national monument to help manage these lands in a way that honors their sacred power, as well as their cultural and ecological significance.
Sharon Buccino's current work focuses on energy policy and government transparency. She actively litigates in federal court and advocates before federal agencies and Congress. She has worked to implement effective environmental review and public participation for proposed pipelines, as well as oil and gas drilling. She also led NRDC's successful litigation under the Freedom of Information Act to force disclosure of the Cheney Energy Task Force papers. Prior to joining NRDC, Buccino practiced environmental and administrative law with a private firm in Washington, D.C. and worked for the Alaska Supreme Court. She holds a bachelor's degree from Yale University and a JD from Stanford Law School. Originally from central Florida, Buccino has spent over 25 years in NRDC's Washington, D.C., office.
By Jake Johnson
A federal appeals court on Tuesday dealt the final blow to former President Donald Trump's attempt to open nearly 130 million acres of territory in the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans to oil and gas drilling.
Though the Trump administration appealed the ruling, President Joe Biden revoked his predecessor's 2017 order shortly after taking office, rendering the court case moot. On Tuesday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed to dismiss the Trump administration's appeal.
"Because the terms of the challenged Executive Order are no longer in effect, the relevant areas of the [Outer Continental Shelf] in the Chukchi Sea, Beaufort Sea, and Atlantic Ocean will be withdrawn from exploration and development activities," the court said in its order.
Erik Grafe of Earthjustice, which represented a coalition of advocacy groups that challenged Trump's order, said in a statement that "we welcome today's decision and its confirmation of President Obama's legacy of ocean and climate protection."
"As the Biden administration considers its next steps, it should build on these foundations, end fossil fuel leasing on public lands and waters, and embrace a clean energy future that does not come at the expense of wildlife and our natural heritage," Grafe continued. "One obvious place for immediate action is America's Arctic, including the Arctic Refuge and the Western Arctic, which the previous administration sought to relegate to oil development in a series of last-minute decisions that violate bedrock environmental laws."
VICTORY: 9th Circuit ends fight over President Trump's illegal attempt to open up 128 million acres of Atlantic & A… https://t.co/TvYVt2F1jO— Earthjustice (@Earthjustice)1618347073.0
In January, Biden ordered a temporary pause on new oil and gas leasing on federal lands and waters, a decision environmentalists hailed as a positive step that should be made permanent.
"We call on President Biden to keep his promise: a full and complete ban on fracking and fossil fuel extraction on public lands. Full stop," Food & Water Watch policy director Mitch Jones said at the time. "The climate crisis requires it and he promised it."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
- Biden Urged to Ban ANWR Drilling After Court Approves Leases ... ›
- Court Rejects Trump's Arctic Drilling Proposal in 'Huge Victory for ... ›
- Coast Guard Makes Dire Warning About Drilling in the Arctic ... ›
- Will Oil Companies Drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge ... ›
Google's New Timelapse Shows 37 Years of Climate Change Anywhere on Earth, Including Your Neighborhood
Google Earth's latest feature allows you to watch the climate change in four dimensions.
The new feature, called Timelapse, is the biggest update to Google Earth since 2017. It is also, as far as its developers know, the largest video taken of Earth on Earth. The feature compiles 24 million satellite photos taken between 1984 and 2020 to show how human activity has transformed the planet over the past 37 years.
"Visual evidence can cut to the core of the debate in a way that words cannot and communicate complex issues to everyone," Google Earth Director Rebecca Moore wrote in a blog post Thursday.
Moore herself has been directly impacted by the climate crisis. She was one of many Californians evacuated because of wildfires last year. However, the new feature allows people to witness more remote changes, such as the melting of ice caps.
"With Timelapse in Google Earth, we have a clearer picture of our changing planet right at our fingertips — one that shows not just problems but also solutions, as well as mesmerizingly beautiful natural phenomena that unfold over decades," she wrote.
Some climate impacts that viewers can witness include the melting of 12 miles of Alaska's Columbia Glacier between 1984 and 2020, Fortune reported. They can also watch the disintegration of the Pine Island Glacier in Antarctica. The changes are not limited to the impacts of global warming, however.
Moore said the developers had identified five themes, and Google Earth offers a guided tour for each of them. They are:
- Forest change, such as deforestation in Bolivia for soybean farming
- Urban growth, such as the quintupling of Las Vegas sprawl
- Warming temperatures, such as melting glaciers and ice sheets
- Sources of energy, such as the impacts of coal mining on Wyoming's landscape
- Fragile beauty, such as the flow of Bolivia's Mamoré River
However, the feature also allows you to see smaller-scale change. You can enter any location into the search bar, including your local neighborhood, CNN explained. The feature does not offer the detail of Street View, Gizmodo noted. It is intended to show large changes over time, rather than smaller details like the construction of a road or home.
The images for Timelapse were made possible through collaboration with NASA, the U.S. Geological Survey's Landsat satellites and the European Union's Copernicus program and Sentinel satellites. Carnegie Mellon University's CREATE Lab helped develop the technology.
To use Timelapse, you can either visit g.co/Timelapse directly or click on the Ship's Wheel icon in Google Earth, then select Timelapse. Moore said the feature would be updated annually with new images of Earth's alterations.
"We hope that this perspective of the planet will ground debates, encourage discovery and shift perspectives about some of our most pressing global issues," she wrote.
- Scientists Use Google Earth and Crowdsourcing to Map Uncharted ... ›
- Google Doodle Celebrates Earth Day by Highlighting Six Unique ... ›
- 5 Fascinating Google Earth Time-Lapse Images Show 32 Years of ... ›
The bill, SB467, would have prohibited fracking and other controversial forms of oil extraction. It would also have banned oil and gas production within 2,500 feet of a home, school, hospital or other residential facility. The bill originally set the fracking ban for 2027, but amended it to 2035, The AP reported.
"Obviously I'm very disappointed," State Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), one of the bill's two introducers, told the Los Angeles Times. "California really has not done what it needs to do in terms of addressing the oil problem. We have communities that are suffering right now, and the Legislature has repeatedly failed to act."
The bill was introduced after California Gov. Gavin Newsom said he would sign a fracking ban if it passed the legislature, though his administration has continued to issue permits in the meantime, Forbes reported. Newsom has also spoken in favor of a buffer zone between oil and gas extraction and places where people live and learn, according to the Los Angeles Times. The latter is a major environmental justice issue, as fossil fuel production is more likely to be located near Black and Latinx communities.
Urban lawmakers who want California to lead on the climate crisis supported the bill, while inland lawmakers in oil-rich areas concerned about jobs opposed it. The oil and gas industry and trade unions also opposed the bill.
This opposition meant the bill failed to get the five votes it needed to move beyond the Senate's Natural Resources and Water Committee. Only four senators approved it, while Democrat Sen. Susan Eggman of Stockton joined two Republicans to oppose it, and two other Democrats abstained.
Eggman argued that the bill would have forced California to rely on oil extracted in other states.
"We're still going to use it, but we're going to use it from places that produce it less safely," Eggman told The AP. She also said that she supported the transition away from fossil fuels, but thought the bill jumped the gun. "I don't think we're quite there yet, and this bill assumes that we are," she added.
Historically, California has been a major U.S. oil producer. Its output peaked in 1986 at 1.1 million barrels a day, just below Texas and Alaska, according to Forbes. However, production has declined since then making it the seventh-most oil-producing state.
Still, California's fossil fuel industry is at odds with state attempts to position itself as a climate leader.
"There is a large stain on California's climate record, and that is oil," Wiener said Tuesday, according to The AP.
Wiener and Democrat co-introducer Sen. Monique Limón from Santa Barbara vowed to keep fighting.
"While we saw this effort defeated today, this issue isn't going away," they wrote in a joint statement. "We'll continue to fight for aggressive climate action, against harmful drilling, and for the health of our communities."
- What the Industry Doesn't Want You to Know About Fracking ... ›
- Final EPA Study Confirms Fracking Contaminates Drinking Water ... ›
- Pennsylvania Fracking Water Contamination Much Higher Than ... ›
By Dana Nuccitelli
California, along with much of the rest of the western United States, is once again mired in drought. In fact, California has experienced significant drought conditions in 13 of the 22 years (60%) since the turn of the century.
A 2020 study in the journal Science concluded that 2000 through 2018 was the second-driest 19-year period in the U.S. Southwest in at least the past 1,200 years, and a 2014 paper in Geophysical Research Letters found that 2012 through 2014 was the driest three-year period in California over that same timeframe.
Nearly the entire state is currently in the 'severe' drought category or worse, and three-quarters is experiencing 'extreme' to 'exceptional' drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
The consequences of drought in California are felt well outside the state's borders. California is effectively America's garden – it produces two-thirds of all fruits and nuts grown in the U.S. The state's agricultural industry generates $50 billion each year, which is more than the entire gross domestic products of Vermont and Wyoming, and as large as the economy of Alaska or Montana. California produces nearly all of the almonds, artichokes, avocados, broccoli, carrots, celery, kiwi, figs, garlic, grapes, raisins, raspberries, strawberries, honeydew melons, nectarines, olives, pistachios, plums, tangerines, mandarins, and walnuts grown in the U.S. About 80% of all almonds in the world are grown in California: The state's almonds alone generate $6 billion annually. But nut trees are water-intensive (though notably less so than the alfalfa and pastureland grown for animal agriculture), and unlike seasonal crops, they cannot be fallowed in a dry year. Given the lack of water in 2021, some farmers have been forced to resort to tearing out valuable almond trees and instead planting less thirsty crops.
About 80% of the state's developed water use goes to the agriculture industry, so anyone who enjoys eating fruits and nuts should be concerned that climate change is increasing the odds of megadroughts permanently drying California.
Changing Climate Is Supercharging Southwestern Droughts
According to the 2020 study in Science cited earlier, human-caused climate change made southwestern drought conditions between 2000 and 2018 about 46% more intense than they would have been naturally, "pushing an otherwise moderate drought onto a trajectory comparable to the worst [U.S. southwest] megadroughts since 800 CE," the heyday of the Mayan civilization.
It's not just California; 96% of the western U.S. is currently experiencing drought conditions, including the entire states of Oregon, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico. The drought conditions led Utah Governor Spencer Cox recently to urge the state's residents of all faiths to hold a "weekend of prayer" for rain.
Different Kinds of Drought
There are several different kinds of drought, all worsened by human activity. Dwindling soil moisture is known as "agricultural drought," and is exacerbated by the increased evaporation and transfer of moisture from land to the atmosphere that comes about in a warming climate.
A lack of rain and snow is called "meteorological drought." A 2018 study in Nature Climate Change used climate models to predict that California's precipitation patterns will shift in a hotter world, with more rain falling in the winter but less in spring and fall months, lengthening the state's dry season. This prediction was borne out in a 2021 study published in Geophysical Research Letters, with researchers finding that "the precipitation season has become shorter and sharper in California" since the 1960s.
"Snow drought" also plays a key role in California, 30% of whose water supply originates from the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada mountains. As temperatures rise, more precipitation falls as rain and less as snow, and the snowpack melts more quickly in the late spring and early summer. A 2018 study in Geophysical Research Letters estimated that global warming has already shrunk the Sierra Nevada snowpack by about 20% and increased early-season runoff by 30%, and that each additional degree Celsius of warming will shrink the snowpack by about another 20%.
Snow drought in California can then lead to "hydrological drought," when water levels fall in rivers, lakes, and streams. In June 2021, California's reservoir water levels were about 40% below the historical average, and the snowpack was completely gone more than a month earlier than normal.
Extensive Drought Damages Felt Widely
In addition to its adverse impact on California agriculture, drought results in damaged forests, worse wildfires, reduced hydroelectricity generation, stressed fish populations, and depleted groundwater aquifers. According to the Fourth National Climate Assessment Report, the combination of worsening droughts and expanding bark beetle populations due to warming winters killed 7% of the western U.S. forest area over the past four decades.
The hotter and drier conditions during most of the year, combined with the dead trees, have created more fuel for wildfires, which the report concluded have burned twice as much area in the southwestern states over the past three decades as would have burned in the absence of human-caused climate change. The smoke from those wildfires is dangerously unhealthy to breathe, and in the record-shattering 2020 fire season, the wildfire smoke spread all the way to the U.S. east coast.
That same report found also that the severe drought between 2011 and 2015 reduced hydroelectricity generation in California by two-thirds. The water level in Lake Mead, the reservoir formed by Hoover Dam near Las Vegas, has fallen by 130 feet to its lowest level since its creation in 1936, and the reservoir has lost 60% of its water volume since 2000. As the National Assessment Report concluded, "The reduction of Lake Mead increases the risk of water shortages across much of the Southwest and reduces energy generation at the Hoover Dam hydroelectric plant."
The lack of surface water also threatens salmon and other fish species in California rivers. And it forces farmers to pump more water from groundwater aquifers, which leads to land subsidence that also stresses infrastructure.
As water resources experts at the Pacific Institute wrote earlier this month, there are steps that southwestern states can take to mitigate drought impacts, "including changes in the efficiency of urban and agricultural water uses, the expansion of non-traditional water sources like stormwater and recycled water, and voluntary changes in behavior." Curbing greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels is of course the most important measure to lessen the threat of megadroughts in the future and their impacts on one of America's key food-producing states.
Reposted with permission from Yale Climate Connections.
This is a sharp about-face for the U.S. government, after the Obama-administration cited environmental concerns and the threat to the spawning ground of the region's prized sockeye salmon when it put the brakes on the project in 2012, and again when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) expressed concerns about the salmon in 2014.
This new move represents the latest salvo in the Trump administration's thorough and systematic dismantling of environmental efforts and regulations from the previous administration. When it comes to the Pebble Mine, as The Washington Post reported, a final environmental analysis issued Friday by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers found that the mine — which targets a deposit of gold, copper and other minerals worth up to $500 billion — "would not be expected to have a measurable effect on fish numbers" in the Bristol Bay watershed, which supports the world's largest sockeye salmon fishery.
Opponents of Pebble Mine criticized the review process as rushed, flawed, and favorable to the mine developer, as the Anchorage Daily News reported.
In a joint statement, Alannah Hurley with United Tribes of Bristol Bay, Norm Van Vactor with Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp., Ralph Andersen with Bristol Bay Native Association and Katherine Carscallen with Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay said the final review "completely fails to adequately assess the impacts of Pebble on Bristol Bay's waters, salmon, and people," according to the Anchorage Daily News.
The mine will be located in two watersheds that feed fish-spawning rivers. Opponents say traces of heavy metals and other contaminants left from the mining operation pose risks if they leach into groundwater or if dams holding back the tailings fail in an earthquake, as The New York Times reported.
Opposition to the mine has been widespread, both in the region and statewide, for nearly two decades, with concerns about environmental damage and the potential harm to the area's salmon, which are the main traditional subsistence food for many of the Native Alaskans in the region and the crux of both sport-fishing and commercial fishing in the area, according to The New York Times.
The open-pit mine calls for a large dammed area to trap the tailings from mining operations that would be toxic to the fish. It also calls for the 80 new miles of road to carry the concentrated tailings away to Cook Inlet. Additionally, the mining company wants to build a 165-mile natural gas pipeline for a generating plant to power the operation.
According to the Corps, the operations would permanently destroy more than 2,200 acres of wetlands and waters, and 105 miles of streams. The EPA indicated earlier this year that it would not block the project at this point, as The Washington Post reported.
Opponents have argued that the environmental impact statement was not rigorous enough, as they highlighted hazardous risks, including the potential for a tailings dam failure that could contaminate waterways used by spawning fish and harm the Bristol Bay fishery, which employs about 15,000 people. They also note that Alaska is the most seismically active state in the nation, and critics said the Corps had not taken sufficient account of the risk of earthquakes or volcanic activity, and that its analysis of the dam designs was inadequate, particularly since a few of the dams would be hundreds of feet high, as The New York Times reported.
Taryn Kiekow Heimer, who leads the the Natural Resources Defense Council's effort to stop the project, told The Washington Post that the administration's push to greenlight a massive project that is opposed by neighboring Indigenous communities amounts to environmental injustice.
"It's especially embarrassing for the government and appalling given the current social context we are in," she said of the accelerated approval process. "It's just another example of the entrenched and systemic racism that this government is showing to people of color and indigenous people in particular."
The Pebble Mine, like logging in Alaska' Tongass forest, the Keystone XL pipeline, and the Dakota Access pipeline, is a gift to industry that the Trump administration has tried to fast track. All those projects could be reversed if a Democratic administration takes office in January, according to The Washington Post.
- Pebble Mine Threatens One of the Last Great Salmon Rivers ... ›
- EPA Likely to Approve Mine That Threatens Alaska's Largest ... ›
- Trump Pushed for Mining Project That Could Destroy Alaska Salmon ... ›
- Pebble Mine Denied Permit in Victory for Tribes and Planet ›
By Stuart Braun
The melting of the polar ice caps has often been portrayed as a tsunami-inducing Armageddon in popular culture. In the 2004 disaster movie The Day After Tomorrow, the warming Gulf Stream and North Atlantic currents cause rapid polar melting. The result is a massive wall of ocean water that swamps New York City and beyond, killing millions in the process. And like the recent polar vortex in the Northern Hemisphere, freezing air then rushes in from the poles to spark another ice age.
The premise is obviously ridiculous. Or is it? Rapid glacial retreat in Alaska in 2015 did in fact trigger a huge landslide and a mega tsunami that was nearly 650 feet high when it hit shore. Few knew or cared because it luckily happened at the end of the Earth where no one was living.
Many of us might believe we won't be directly impacted by the breakup of trillions of tons of ice due to global heating. We figure that unless we live on a small island in the Pacific, or have a house on the beach, it's not our problem.
Or Is It?
While it's true that the glaciers, ice caps and ice sheets covering 10% of the Earth's land mass are mostly in the middle of nowhere, their rapid breakup has a cascading effect.
Consider how all the extra fresh water in the ocean is diluting salt levels. And how that messes with the balance of the Gulf Stream, one of the world's most important ocean currents. The result is climate extremes, especially tropical storms and hurricanes in places like the Gulf of Mexico, but also more frequent floods and droughts on both sides of the Atlantic. It's gonna suck for a lot of people.
To put this meltdown in context, the rate of ice sheet retreat has increased nearly 60% since the 1990s. That's a 28 trillion ton net loss of ice between 1994 and 2017. Antarctica's epic ice sheet, the world's largest, and the world's mountain glaciers have suffered half of this loss.
OK, That Sounds Like a Lot — But So What?
Again, it's the domino effect that's worrying. With temperatures rising twice as fast in the Arctic — the world's air conditioner — than anywhere else on the planet, the heat is not just melting ice. It's also weakening atmospheric air currents known as the jet stream. In other words, more bad news for the weather.
The polar vortexes that have been freezing Europe and North America in recent years are related to a weakened polar jet stream — a scenario that triggered the sudden ice age in The Day After Tomorrow.
The cold might be welcome as the planet heats up, but here's the thing: Arctic regions are heating up, too. Which means the ice that's supposed to be reflecting the sun's energy away from Earth isn't as much anymore, leaving the sea to absorb this heat.
No surprise then that in 2018 the winter ice sheet in the Bering Sea bordering Alaska was at its lowest levels in over 5,000 years.
Fish, sea bird, seal and polar bear habitats are also disappearing with the ice. Indigenous communities in the Arctic who once hunted in a thriving frozen ecosystem are being upended — their houses are also falling in the sea as the lack of ice causes the coast to erode.
Sure, it's an underpopulated part of the world. But consider also the rapid thaw of permafrost on the Siberian tundra. One of the world's biggest carbon sinks, the tundra is now releasing greenhouse gases like methane that were long trapped below the frost.
Some scientists have predicted that by century's end, 40% of permafrost regions will have disappeared, meaning they will no longer retain, but will also release carbon dioxide — and we're talking more than is already in the atmosphere right now. As global heating is turbocharged, bye bye to more ice.
Which leads us to the elephant in the room: rising sea levels.
How Bad Could Rising Sea Levels Get?
So let's start with the worst-case scenario — and remember the culprit here would be ice sheets and glaciers on land.
If the fast-retreating Antarctic ice sheet, the world's largest, completely melted, the world's oceans would rise by about 60 meters (about 200 feet). That would be Armageddon and London, Venice, Mumbai and New York would become aquariums.
Don't panic, though, this won't happen any time soon. But if emissions aren't sufficiently scaled back to mitigate climate change, some researchers reckon oceans will definitely rise by at least 2 meters by the end of the century. That's still enough to swamp the several hundred million people living below 5 meters above sea level. Another 350 million or so living higher up would have to relocate to escape regular coastal flooding.
Can't People Just Move?
Maybe, but that wouldn't be the end of it. The world's mountain glaciers, which number roughly 200,000, are melting much faster than they can accumulate these days. Problem is, though they only cover less than 0.5% of the Earth's landmass, these "water towers" provide fresh water to about a quarter of the world's population.
Glaciers also feed the rivers that irrigate the crops which hundreds of millions of people across Asia, South America and Europe depend on for their survival. So without them, many people will suffer from both thirst and hunger. Scientists say water tower retreat has put almost 2 billion people at risk of water scarcity.
Right now, cities like Santiago in Chile are watching a big part of their drinking water supply literally dry up as glaciers in the nearby Andes retreat. Meanwhile, the European Alps that supply so much fresh water across the region have shrunk by about half since 1900 and will be almost ice free by century's end if nothing more is done to curb warming.
OK, Is There Anything That We Can Do?
Like global heating in general, the best way to mitigate the meltdown is to stop polluting the atmosphere with global warming-inducing carbon.
Of course, the process can't be reversed overnight. Even if people across the world stopped using fossil fuels tomorrow, one-third of the world's remaining glaciers would still disappear.
So to save some amount of precious polar and glacial ice, we need to avoid the temperature rise of over 3 degrees Celsius (5.4 Fahrenheit) that the UN says is inevitable if governments don't step up climate targets. If the world can decarbonize by 2050, it might be possible to preserve around one-third of the current glacial mass by century's end. That would take both government action and a radical commitment to reduce our individual carbon footprint.
The future remains uncertain. But it's likely that if melting isn't slowed real soon, disaster movie scenarios might not look so ridiculous to future generations.
Reposted with permission from Deutsche Welle.
For bears and the people that love them, it's the most wonderful time of the year.
Katmai National Park and Preserve in Alaska wrapped up its annual Fat Bear Week competition Tuesday, in which online fans vote for the coastal brown bear that has had the most success bulking up ahead of winter hibernation.
"The votes are in! You've crowned the Earl of Avoirdupois, bear 747, the 2020 Fat Bear Week Champion," the park announced on Twitter.
Match 11: Lardaceous Leviathan Levels Chunky Challenger The votes are in! You’ve crowned the Earl of Avoirdupois,… https://t.co/4SlXOpVBcH— Katmai National Park (@Katmai National Park)1602036000.0
This is the first time bear 747 has won the competition, though he was last year's runner-up, The Washington Post reported. He was first identified in 2004, according to his bio on the competition website. At the time, he was still a growing bear who could not compete for the choice fishing areas along the national park's Brooks Falls. He has significantly beefed up since then, and is now so big that no other bear dare challenge him for prime riverfront real estate. In fall 2019, park workers estimated that 747 weighed more than 1,400 pounds, and they think he likely weighs as much or more this year.
"Many staff who've worked at Katmai for many years say that  is the biggest bear they have ever seen," Katmai media ranger Naomi Boak told The Washington Post. "It's pure coincidence that he has the same name as a jumbo jet, but he is the size of a jumbo jet."
To earn his crown, 747 faced off against runner-up Chunk, or bear 32.
Today’s the day we will crown 2020’s Fat Bear Week Champion. Where 747’s sedulous quest for salmon secured him a st… https://t.co/tBnlt5eyCS— Katmai National Park (@Katmai National Park)1602000969.0
Chunk was estimated to be more than 1,100 pounds in 2019, but he has become something of a gentle giant.
"In recent years he's shown a tendency to wait patiently to scavenge leftover salmon and even play with other bears," his bio reads. "These are two uncommon behaviors for a dominant bear to display. Due to his size and strength, 32 Chunk is poised to take advantage of opportunities not available to most other bears. Yet, it is only by observing his full range of behaviors that we can get a true sense of his individuality."
Fat Bear Week started in 2014 in order to honor the bears of Katmai National Park in their efforts to fatten up for winter. During hibernation, a bear loses a third of its body mass, the competition website explains, so the summer and fall feasting serves a vital purpose.
At Katmai National Park, the bears' preferred food is sockeye salmon. These fish have about 4,500 calories each, and the bears can eat more than two dozen per day, USA TODAY reported. The bears of Katmai are especially lucky, because the park has one of the biggest sockeye salmon runs in the world, the park said. And this year, the salmon run broke records, Reuters reported.
Katmai National Park has the world's densest concentration of brown bears. The bears like to feast along Brooks River, where people from all over the world can watch them on a webcam.
Since its debut, Fat Bear Week has become increasingly popular. A record 187,000 people voted in 2019, while more than 550,000 voted this year, The Washington Post reported.
"What a curative healing pleasure it is to, one, be able to laugh, and, two, be connected to nature by understanding the achievements of these individual bears," Boak told the Post. "I think such a cheerful release. And, quite frankly, how often does one get to celebrate fatness?"
- Wild Bears 'Having a Party' in Coronavirus-Closed Yosemite ... ›
- Trump Rollback Allows Hunters to Kill Bears and Wolves in Their Dens ›
- Meet the Winner of Katmai National Park's Fat Bear Week 2019 ... ›