At least in the North Pacific, dead zones have come and gone periodically over the past 1.2 million years, and this knowledge might help scientists understand when they will be likely to return.
"The system is primed for this type of event happening," corresponding author and University of California Santa Cruz (UCSC) ocean sciences professor Ana Christina Ravelo said in a press release. "We need to know how extensive they were, and we need to rethink how these events are triggered, because we now know that it doesn't take a huge perturbation. This study sets the stage for a lot of follow-up work."
Oceanic oxygen depletion, also referred to as hypoxia, is immediately triggered by blooms of phytoplankton. As the algae sink and decompose, they deprive the water of oxygen. However, the underlying causes of these blooms are less clear.
Until Wednesday's study, the most widely-known dead zone in the geologic history of the North Pacific was the one that occurred after the last Ice Age, when the melting of glaciers flooded the ocean with fresh water. However, the researchers were able to discover evidence for earlier North Pacific dead zones for the first time.
To do this, they drilled a sediment core from the sea bed of the Bering Sea and analyzed it, as Science Alert explained. They looked for "laminated" layers in the sediment, meaning evidence that sediment had been deposited without any living creatures. Using this technique, they found evidence of 27 different dead zones over the past 1.2 million years, suggesting these events were relatively common during the Pleistocene. These events lasted anywhere from less than a thousand years to nearly 40 millenia. Because the sediment core the researchers studied was sourced from the Bering Sea, they do not know how much ocean the dead zones covered.
What they do know is that these events do not need a massive trigger, such as the sudden influx of fresh water at the end of the Ice Age.
"It doesn't take a huge perturbation like melting ice sheets for this to happen," Ravelo said. "These abrupt hypoxic events are actually common in the geologic record, and they are not typically associated with deglaciation. They almost always happen during the warm interglacial periods, like the one we're in now."
This is concerning, because two of the factors that seem to trigger dead zones historically are warmer waters and higher sea levels, both factors that will be increased by the climate crisis. Another factor historically was the presence of iron, which encourages algae and can enter the ocean due to changes in circulation and higher sea levels. Today, warmer ocean temperatures have already been linked to increased dead zones, as has nutrient pollution from agricultural runoff, which feeds algae.
"It is essential to understand whether climate change is pushing the oceans toward a 'tipping point' for abrupt and severe hypoxia that would destroy ecosystems, food sources, and economies," study leader and UCSC graduate student Karla Knudson said in the press release.
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By Hannah Thomasy
From 2014 to 2016, the Gulf of Alaska experienced the worst marine heat wave of the decade. From single-celled organisms to top predators, practically no level of the ecosystem was left unscathed. During the Pacific marine heat wave, tens of thousands of dead seabirds washed up on beaches, unusually low numbers of humpback whales arrived in their summer habitats, and toxic algal blooms spread along the West Coast of North America.
Now, a new study in Scientific Reports casts doubt on whether Gulf ecosystems will be able to return to their pre–heat wave conditions. This study—a collaborative effort between researchers at NOAA and several other government and research organizations—combined dozens of data sets to build a detailed picture of how many heat wave–induced changes have persisted. Thanks in part to long-term monitoring efforts by Gulf Watch Alaska, a program established in 2012 to assess the ongoing effects from the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, scientists were able to compare pre–heat wave and present conditions in several different sections of the ecosystem.
"We were able to show these impacts—from the intertidal out to the pelagic [open ocean] ecosystem, and from algae and phytoplankton on up to whales and commercial fisheries, and a lot of different species in between," said Robert Suryan, a NOAA marine biologist and lead author of the study.
Shannon Atkinson, a professor in the College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences at the University of Alaska Fairbanks who was not involved in this study, said it's very important that we understand the changes taking place in the Gulf of Alaska. "The ecological significance is huge," she said. "We've seen such dramatic changes in the Far North…it really has made Alaska like a ground zero for climate change."
In addition to impacts on the animals that make their homes in the Gulf of Alaska, changes in the Gulf ecosystem could have major implications for the livelihoods of many Alaskans as well. This region supports subsistence fisheries, commercial fisheries, and a major tourism industry.
For some animals, the heat wave was devastating. Most metrics showed a decline in sea stars, herring, and Pacific cod; their populations today generally remain lower than pre–heat wave measures. Numbers of sea lion pups trended downward, and some areas had fewer nesting seabirds like common murres and kittiwakes.
But, Suryan pointed out, as some species suffered, others thrived. For example, researchers saw a major decrease in the amount of brown algae in the intertidal zone. That's bad news for species like herring, which lay their eggs on the algae. But as algae cover decreased, "that opened up space" for other organisms in the intertidal zone, explained Suryan. "In tidal communities, there's a lot of competition for space, so there was an increase in barnacles and mussels.… So that's a benefit to communities that rely more on those particular species."
Similarly, there have been positive and negative effects on different fisheries in the region. Although the Pacific cod fishery has suffered in the years during and since the heat wave, Suryan said that juvenile sablefish have been surviving and growing at greater rates than usual, so sablefish fisheries will likely do well in the coming years.
As ecosystems change, we as humans need to change how we interact with and manage them, researchers said. "With these types of studies, we're hopeful that we can really benefit the management of natural resources," said Suryan. "[We're] thinking about the communities in the region and the industries in the region—how can we help inform their adaptation to this change?"
An Uncertain Future
This study is just the beginning. Suryan looks forward to more focused research on the mechanisms by which these changes are occurring. Why do some species do better than others? Even within the same species, why do some age groups thrive while others decline? By understanding such mechanisms, he said, we will be better able to predict how the changing climate will affect the future of these important ecosystems.
In addition to measuring the number of animals in the population, Atkinson said that measuring things like reproductive rates and biomarkers of stress can also be valuable indicators of how well a group of animals is faring in a changing environment.
Unfortunately, climate change may not be the only threat these animals face. Atkinson said it's important to determine how animals will respond to cumulative stressors (including climate change, disease, and pollution) to predict how well populations will survive in the coming years.
This story originally appeared in Eos and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.
The sprawling size and sunny days of Texas make it one of the top states for solar energy. If you live in the Lone Star State and are interested in switching to a solar energy system, you may be wondering: What's the average solar panel cost in Texas?
In this article, we'll discuss the cost of solar panels in Texas, what factors affect pricing, Texas' solar incentives and more. Of course, the only way to know for sure how much you would pay to install a solar panel system on your roof is to receive a free, no-obligation quote from a top solar company near you. You can get started by filling out the quick form below.
How Much Do Solar Panels Cost in Texas?
Thanks to the growing investment in renewable energy technology statewide, homeowners now enjoy a below-average cost of solar in Texas. Based on market research and data from top brands, we've found the average cost of solar panels in Texas to be $2.69 per watt. This means a 5-kW system would cost around $9,953 after the federal solar tax credit. This is especially valuable when you take into account the unpredictable Texas energy rates.
Here's how that average calculates into the cost of the most common sizes of home solar panel systems:
|Size of Solar Panel System||Texas Solar Panel Cost||Cost After Federal Tax Credit|
Though this data reflects the statewide averages, you'll need to contact a solar installer near you to get an accurate quote for your home. Savvy customers will get free quotes from multiple companies and compare them to the state averages to make sure they receive the best value possible. Bear in mind that the biggest providers of solar won't always have the best prices.
What Determines the Cost of Solar Panels in Texas?
The main factor determining the cost of solar panel installations in Texas is the homeowner's energy needs. No two homes are the same, and installation costs will look far different for a home needing a basic 5kW system and a home needing 10kW with backup power capabilities. The solar financing and installation company a homeowner chooses will also affect a customer's overall solar costs in Texas. Here's how each factor comes into play:
Similar to phones, cars and other technology, solar products and system costs vary greatly based on their quality, scale and included features. Some customers may be satisfied with a modest array of affordable solar panels and inverters, while others may opt for a system with premium panels, full-home backup power and cutting-edge energy monitoring technology.
The overall cost of solar depends significantly on how a customer chooses to finance their system. The three most common solar financing options include paying in cash, taking out a solar loan and solar leasing.
- The most economical way to purchase solar, an upfront cash purchase provides the best long-term return on investment and the lowest overall cost.
- Customers can choose to take out a solar loan to purchase the system outright and make monthly payments to repay the loan. The typical payback period for a solar loan averages around 10 years. Systems purchased with a loan are still eligible for the federal solar tax credit.
- Signing a solar lease or power purchase agreement (PPA) allows a solar customer to rent solar panels from a company or third party. Though requiring the least amount of money upfront, solar leases provide the least amount of overall value. Also, solar leases aren't eligible for the federal tax credit, as the homeowner doesn't actually own the system.
Solar Installation Company
Texas has seen some of the strongest solar energy market growth over the last few years, and the SEIA reports that there are now nearly 600 solar companies based in Texas, and each is looking to expand its market share.
Price ranges can differ significantly based on the installer. Larger solar providers like Sunrun offer the advantage of solar leases and quick installations. Local providers, on the other hand, provide more personalization and competitive prices to undercut the biggest national companies.
Because of this, it's wise to get quotes from a few local and national installers and compare rates — because of the stiff competition between companies, you could end up saving several thousand dollars.
Texas Solar Incentives
For the most part, Texas taxes are administered by local governments. As a result, the state doesn't offer a large number of statewide solar-related policies, and incentives will depend more on the locality in which you live.
However, all homeowners in the state remain eligible for the federal solar tax credit, and there are some statewide local property tax exemptions for both photovoltaic solar and wind-powered renewable energy systems. Let's walk through how to find what incentives are available to you.
Federal Solar Tax Credit
All Texans can claim the federal solar investment tax credit, or ITC, for PV solar panels and energy storage systems. By claiming the ITC on your tax returns, the policy allows you to deduct 26% of the total cost of the solar system from the taxes you owe the federal government.
The tax credit is available to both residential and commercial system owners who have installed solar panels at any point since 2006. The credit is worth 26% through the end of 2022 and will drop to 22% in 2023. It is set to expire at the end of 2023 unless congress extends it.
Net Metering Policies in Texas
Net metering programs allow customers to sell unused solar energy back to their local utility company in exchange for credits that can be cashed in when panels aren't producing energy. Due to the energy bill savings, this incentive can greatly reduce the solar investment payback period.
As is true with most of Texas' solar rebates and incentives, there is not one net metering program that is offered throughout the entire state. Rather, your eligibility will depend on the policy of your local utility company or municipality. Most utilities in the state have a net metering policy, including American Electric Power (AEP), CPS Energy, Green Mountain Energy, El Paso Electric, TXU Energy in Dallas and more.
The rate at which your local utility will compensate for this excess energy will depend on your local policy, so we encourage you to look into the policy offered by your utility company.
Local Solar Rebates in Texas
In addition to identifying your local net metering program, look into any local rebates available to you. Homeowners who live in the top cities for solar in Texas, like Austin, San Marcos or Sunset Valley might have more luck than customers in other areas. The Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency has a full list of local rebates, solar loan programs and more.
FAQ: Solar Panel Cost Texas
Is it worth going solar in Texas?
Long, sunny days and below-average solar installation costs make Texas one of the best states in the U.S. for generating energy with solar panels. The ample sunshine provides more than enough energy for most families, serving up huge benefits to homes in Texas equipped with solar panels.
How much does it cost to install solar panels in Texas?
As of 2021, the average cost of solar panels in Texas is $2.69 per watt. This means a 5-kW system would cost around $9,953 after the federal solar tax credit. This is slightly below the national average due to the resource availability in Texas, current energy costs and the state's available sunlight. The best way to assess how much solar would cost you is to consult local providers near you for a free estimate.
Do solar panels increase home value in Texas?
Solar panels increase home value everywhere, but mostly in areas with generous net metering policies and solar rebates. As such, the proportion at which solar panels increase home value in Texas corresponds with the areas with the most solar-friendly policies.
How much do solar panels cost for a 2,500 sq foot house?
Though knowing the size of a house is helpful in determining how many solar panels could fit on its roof, the energy use of the house is the more important factor in determining solar panel cost in Texas. The higher your energy use, the greater your solar needs will be.
Karsten Neumeister is a writer and renewable energy specialist with a background in writing and the humanities. Before joining EcoWatch, Karsten worked in the energy sector of New Orleans, focusing on renewable energy policy and technology. A lover of music and the outdoors, Karsten might be found rock climbing, canoeing or writing songs when away from the workplace.
Coastal Antarctica has seen has a curious phenomenon over the last few years. The green snow that hugs parts of its shores has started to spread farther inland. And it's all caused by the climate crisis.
A new study published in the journal Nature Communications on Wednesday found that the green glow in the snow is actually caused by a microscopic algae blooming on the surface of the snow, according to CBS News.
The researchers from the University of Cambridge in the UK and the British Antarctic Survey say the algae will spread as the planet heats up because warming temperatures are creating more of the slushy conditions that the algae need in order to thrive, according to The Guardian.
Where the algae are at their most dense, their bright green shine alters the appearance of the snow and is actually visible from space. The scientists also say that as the algae spreads, it will invite in other species that will feast on it as a potent source of nutrition, as The Guardian reported.
To conduct the study, the researchers looked at satellite data gathered between 2017 and 2019 and combined it with on-the-ground measurements over two summers in Antarctica. That process allowed the scientists to map the microscopic algae as they bloomed across the snow of the Antarctic Peninsula, according to CNN. The data was gleaned from images collected by the European Space Agency satellites with measurements from Antarctica's Ryder Bay, Adelaide Island, the Fildes Peninsula and King George Island.
What is reported is actually a conservative estimate since the data only included green algae. The satellite is only capable of picking up green, which means the data ignored the red and orange algae that accompany it.
"We now have a baseline of where the algal blooms are and we can see whether the blooms will start increasing as the models suggest in the future," said Matt Davey of the University of Cambridge's Department of Plant Sciences to Reuters.
Even though mosses and lichens are the dominant plant species in Antarctica, the new mapping identified 1,679 separate algal blooms that are a key component in the continent's ability to capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, as Reuters reported.
"The algal blooms in Antarctica are equivalent to about the amount of carbon that's being omitted by 875,000 average UK petrol car journeys," Davey said to Reuters. "That seems a lot but in terms of the global carbon budget, it's insignificant. It does take up carbon from the atmosphere but it won't make any serious dent in the amount of carbon dioxide being put in the atmosphere at the moment."
The green snow appears along the Antarctic coast, which are "warmer" areas. There, the average temperatures reach just above freezing in the summer.
The researchers found that the distribution of green snow algae is strongly influenced by marine birds and mammals, because their excrement serves as an effective fertilizer. Over 60 percent of blooms were found near penguin colonies, and others were found near birds' nesting sites, according to CBS News.
"This is a significant advance in our understanding of land-based life on Antarctica, and how it might change in the coming years as the climate warms," said Davey in a press release.
In order to flourish, the algae need a ready supply of water, which they should have an ample amount of as the planet heats up and snow on the Antarctica Peninsula melts.
"As Antarctica warms, we predict the overall mass of snow algae will increase, as the spread to higher ground will significantly outweigh the loss of small island patches of algae," said co-lead author Dr. Andrew Gray, of the University of Cambridge and the University of Edinburgh, as CBS News reported.
And the algae will help more snow melt.
"It's very dark — a green snow algal bloom will reflect about 45 percent of light hitting it whereas fresh snow will reflect about 80 percent of the light hitting it, so it will increase the rate of snow melt in a localized area," said Gray to CNN.
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Beachgoers in California are enjoying a dazzling display of crashing bioluminescent waves in Southern California. The waves light up at night as they crash and froth in the shallow water, The Guardian reported.
Surfers riding on the lit up waves described it as a once in a lifetime experience, and one said she felt like she had superpowers when she touched the electric blue water, according to KABC in Los Angeles.
An algal bloom of phytoplankton in the water causes the remarkable display. The phenomenon occurs every few years along the coast of southern California, though locals say this year's sea sparkle is especially vibrant, possibly related to historic rains that soaked the region and generated algal bloom, as The Guardian reported.
"I've been surfing for 20 years now, and I've never seen anything like it," said Dale Huntington, a 37-year-old pastor at a church in San Diego. Huntington woke up at 3 a.m. after beaches reopened to surf the iridescent waves, according to The Guardian.
"My favorite part was paddling out – it was almost like there was a glow stick around your hand," said Huntington to The Guardian. "My board left a bioluminescent wake. There were a few of us out there and we were giggling, grown men shouting 'this is so cool' and splashing around like kids in the bathtub."
Last week, Patrick Coyne captured footage of a pod of dolphins in the bioluminescent waves. Newport Coastal Adventure uploaded the video to its Facebook page, according to KABC. The company said its captain took Coyne out to look for dolphins Wednesday and encountered the amazing interaction with the glowing dolphins just after sunset.
The phytoplankton organisms responsible for the light show are known scientifically as Lingulodinium polyedra. They collect on the water's surface, giving the surface a reddish-brown tint, known as a red tide. At night, the algae put on a light show and are particularly noticeable in turbulent waters, according to The Guardian.
The tiny creatures turn bright blue in "predator avoidance behavior," according to bioluminescence expert Michael Latz, a scientist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, as Patch reported.
The bioluminescent algae have drawn crowds to beaches. One San Diegan, who lives in a coastal neighborhood, implored local officials to restrict access to the beach while shelter-in-place orders are still in effect, complaining that the red tide has drawn large crowds like the "Fourth of July on steroids," as The Guardian reported.
ABC-San Diego news affiliate KGTV offered guidelines for enjoying the light show, which included observing public health orders, not staying in one spot, and being mindful of the terrain so you avoid dangerous bluffs and rocks.
It is safe to swim in the water, though night swimming is inherently risky. The Orange County Register reported that the red tide algae do not produce yessotoxin, a compound that acts as a neurotoxin, which happens in areas of the Mediterranean and the Gulf of Mexico.
Red tides stretch from Baja California up the coast to Los Angeles. They have been noticed since the early 1900s and can last from a few days to a couple of months. Scripps Institution of Oceanography scientists say the glows are most lively at least two hours after sunset, according to The Guardian.
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Mangroves are magic. Planting more of them could help restore the health of the planet's lands, seas and climate.
Why? It turns out, these incredible trees are doing us a lot of favors to keep many of our habitats (including human ones) healthier and safe.
"Mangroves are often under-appreciated, with most people not realizing their true value to the overall health of our communities and our entire planet," said Tod Hardin, COO of Plastic Oceans International. In partnership with Plastic Oceans International, EcoWatch wants to highlight how mangroves protect our planet and how we can help them through restoration and replanting efforts.
Mangroves are shrubs or small trees that grow along coastlines and in brackish water, or water that is part salt and part fresh. In fact, these trees have adapted to grow in low-oxygen soil, where saltwater intrudes several times a day and where slow-moving water introduces fine sediment and particulates, NOAA reported.
Because they live where land and sea connect, one of their most important ecosystem functions is to protect the former and serve as a frontline defense for people and property along the coasts. There are many species of mangrove, and the most famous are characterized by their tall, skinny, stilt-like roots, called prop roots. These roots grow in a "tangle" that actually helps the trees withstand the daily rise and fall of tides. These structures also "cause sediments to settle out of the water," falling at or near the roots, NOAA reported. The roots "build up the muddy bottom" near the base of the trees, which actually stabilizes the coastline by reducing erosion from storm surges, currents, waves and tides, the government body noted.
In fact, protecting mangroves can prevent an estimated $50 billion in annual damages to the U.S. economy from hurricanes, tropical storms, winds, and flooding. The same report estimated that worldwide, mangroves reduce risk to more than 15 million people and prevent more than $65 billion in property damages each year.
Mangroves also serve to protect marine habitats from harmful nutrients and runoff that can harm seagrass, coral reefs and fisheries. The roots help filter water coming off from the land, including pollutants, heavy metals, pesticides and agricultural runoff, another NOAA report found. Mangroves therefore maintain water quality and clarity. They also control nutrient distribution to seagrass beds and coral reefs. Without natural filters like mangroves, dangerous conditions like red tide and sargassum and algal blooms can proliferate.
Mangrove restoration efforts around the world plant saplings into coastal waters to revive damaged shorelines. Tiffany Duong / Ocean Rebels
Thirdly, mangroves bolster animal and fish populations. The intricate root systems provide critical nursery habitats for many marine creatures, allowing them to forage and grow while remaining protected from predators. The leaves, or the nutrient-rich layer of decay they form amongst the roots, serve as the "foundation of the coastal food web," Smithsonian Ocean reported. Everything from baby sharks to lobsters and shrimp live in or near the roots before migrating to the reef, the oceanographic institution said. On land endangered birds, bats, fireflies and even royal Bengal tigers rely on mangroves for food and survival.
Finally, and critically, mangroves serve as a major "blue carbon sink", meaning they are excellent at absorbing and storing carbon from the atmosphere, Smithsonian Ocean reported. Like all trees, they sequester carbon as they grow and turn it into their leaves, roots and branches. However, because mangroves live at the coastline, when they die, the carbon stored in their pieces falls to the seafloor and becomes buried in the soil. Trapped here, it doesn't reenter the atmosphere if it remains undisturbed.
Hardin estimated this CO2 depository to hold up to four times what rainforests can, making their survival critical to the planet's survival against the climate crisis.
So, what's happening to the world's mangroves?
According to the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), less than 50 percent of the world's mangrove forests remained intact at the end of the 20th century, and half of those were in poor condition. The museum called mangrove forests "among the most threatened habitats in the world," and called losses "rampant" across the globe.
AMNH identified the main threats to mangroves as shrimp farming, tourism, agriculture, coastal development and the charcoal and lumber industries. Shrimp farming in Southeast Asia, in particular, has motivated the clear-cutting of thousands of acres of wetland to be replaced with artificial ponds teeming with disease, chemicals and way too many shrimp. This cash crop devastates the coastal habitat and leaves it unable to support natural community fishing and farming within just two to five years. Because the shrimp and profits are exported to westernized countries, many of these communities are then unable to survive and are forced to abandon their homes, AMNH noted.
With the world hopefully taking note of how important mangroves are for land, sea and climate, the focus is turning towards education and restoration efforts.
Tourism can flourish if and when these habitats remain healthy. Responsible tourism is necessary, AMNH and Hardin noted. Individually, we must be sure to prevent pollution, lawn runoff and plastics from entering our waterways and coastal habitats. This is step one, according to Hardin.
Mangrove root systems create intricate, interconnected and strong buffers that intertwine to protect shorelines and provide critical marine habitats. Tiffany Duong / Ocean Rebels
He said, "Without question, we must continue efforts to conserve and restore mangrove ecosystems worldwide, including the most basic process of simply keeping them clear of plastic pollution and other waste products."
Planting new mangroves helps to re-establish the shoreline stabilization and buffering that coastal communities rely on. New growth also supports the rich biodiversity along the water's edge that then feeds a healthy economy. Regulations can help limit clearcutting for agriculture and aquaculture, and increased funding for critical restoration projects are necessary.
The tree is a symbol of the interconnectedness of land and sea, a primary takeaway of the Trees & Seas Festival. As part of the international event, Plastic Oceans International and its local partners in Ventanilla, Mexico planted over 45,000 mangroves. They also toured the Los Petenes Biosphere Reserve to learn first hand of the vast importance they play in the communities of the Campeche state of Mexico.
Before the start, Hardin told EcoWatch, "Very few flora can claim to be as important to the overall health of our planet as mangroves are ー thus making them the perfect model for demonstrating the interrelationship between trees and seas... between land and water of any kind."
In solidarity with Plastic Ocean's International Trees & Seas festival, EcoWatch writer Tiffany Duong restored red mangroves to the Florida Keys. Ian Wilson-Navarro
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The toxic algae blooms that have killed dogs in Texas, North Carolina and Georgia have been detected in three New York City parks. Parents and pet owners are being warned to keep their kids and dogs away from the infected water, which can be fatal when dogs lap it up, swallow it while swimming, or lick it off their own fur, as the New York Times reported.
Two of the city's most popular parks, Central Park and Prospect Park in Brooklyn have water coated in an algae bloom laced in the harmful and sometimes deadly cyanobacteria, as the New York Post reported.
The blooms are not technically algae, but cyanobacteria — aquatic and photosynthetic bacteria
The New York Department of Environmental Conservation, which routinely tests the waters in New York City's parks, found dangerously high levels of toxins in the Harlem Meer at the north end of Central Park, the Turtle Pond next to the Great Lawn in Central Park, the pond in Prospect Park and the pond in Morning Side Park, as the New York Times reported.
"When enjoying fresh water features in city parks, it is important to try to avoid contact with any algae and keep pets on leashes and do not allow them to enter or drink from lakes and ponds unless in areas specifically designated for such activities," a spokeswoman with NYC Parks said in a statement sent to Fox News.
"Many factors influence algae blooms, including high nutrients, stagnant water, high temperatures, and low oxygen," she continued.
Urban areas are particularly susceptible since a variety of nutrients found on nearby roads, sidewalks and sewage pipes, pour into the lakes and ponds. Plus, the waters are shallow, which allows nutrients to mix easily, according to the New York Times.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation website publishes a map of locations where a harmful algal bloom (HAB) has been detected. However, it warns that the map may be incomplete as HABs often develop and spread quickly, particularly in August and September. "HABs may be present in all or parts of a waterbody. Avoid recreating in discolored water, or water that has visible scums," the website warns.
Cyanobacteria releases toxins that can cause skin rashes, gastrointestinal distress and neurological problems. The toxins can also trigger liver damage and respiratory paralysis in animals, as the New York Times reported.
The New York Post tracked down dog walkers near the algae-covered Harlem Meer.
"That water is horrible –there is a ton of junk inside there plus the algae," said Eric Quick, 30, as he walked his two dogs.
"There are a bunch of fish and turtles that die on a regular basis, so you don't know what's in there. You see a lot of floating turtles. It's pretty awful," said Sunday Humphrey, 53, who doesn't allow her pitbull-rottweiler mix near the water.
The Parks Department has put up yellow signs near the Harlem Meer and in Prospect Park warning park goers about the Harmful Algal Bloom, saying not to fish in the water, not to drink the water, not to let animals or children near the water, and to rinse any skin exposed to the cyanobacteria.
"I just had my dog on a walk right near the water," said Marcin Nasuro, 24, who was with his poodle in Prospect Park, as the New York Times reported. "I wouldn't come near the lake if I knew it was toxic. A dog's like a kid. It's like a part of your family."
This year toxic algae blooms have decimated businesses near popular summer spots. Every beach in Mississippi was closed earlier this summer and New Jersey's largest and most popular lake has been closed since June because of toxic algae, as Ecowatch reported.
Scientists attribute the spike in HABs to the climate crisis, which has increased the intensity of rainstorms.
"There is a relationship between a changing climate and increased intensity of storms," said Marit Larson, the chief of natural resources in New York City's Department of Parks and Recreation, to the New York Times.
Dogs Are Dying From Toxic Algae in Lakes and Ponds #ClimateFacts via @EcoWatch https://t.co/bNHYqPJ9Yj— The YEARS Project (@The YEARS Project)1565955603.0
The 56,000-year-old Lonar Crater Sanctuary Lake in the state of Maharashtra transformed from its usual blue-green to a reddish pink over the last few days, The Times of India reported Thursday. The lake, around 500 kilometers (approximately 311 miles) from Mumbai, is popular with tourists and scientists, and its transformation has sparked research and discussion.
"Sudden change in colour of water is strange. It might be because of microbial activities or could even be human interference. Research should be conducted before making any comments," Harish Malpani, who leads the microbiology department at RLT College of Science, Akola, told The Times of India.
From Green to Pink; Lonar Crater Lake has changed its colour. #LonarLake #LonarCrater #SaltWaterLake… https://t.co/4N558t8tXu— Maharashtra Tourism (@Maharashtra Tourism)1591800883.0
The lake was formed around 56,000 years ago when a meteor struck the basalt rock of the Deccan Plateau. It is the world's largest basaltic impact crater and the third largest crater of any kind formed less than a million years ago, according to The Weather Channel India.
The lake also has unique salt and alkaline properties that could be behind the color change, Times of India explained. These factors encourage the growth of a kind of bacteria called Halobacteriaceae, which produce a red pigment that converts sunlight into energy.
While the lake has turned reddish before, this year's transformation is especially dramatic.
"It's looking particularly red this year because this year the water's salinity has increased," local geologist Gajanan Kharat explained in a video posted on Maharashtra Tourism's Twitter feed, as CNN reported. "The amount of water in the lake has reduced and the lake has become shallower, so the salinity has gone up and caused some internal changes."
Here is a video by Mr.Gajanan Kharat, Geologist, explaining to us why the colour of #LonarCrater Lake has changed.… https://t.co/qMhQ4Q4QSd— Maharashtra Tourism (@Maharashtra Tourism)1591865820.0
Kharat also said the lake had gotten warmer, leading to an algae bloom.
"This algae turns reddish in warmer temperatures and hence the lake turned pink overnight," Kharat said further, according to AFP.
The exact cause of the color change will be determined by water samples sent in for testing by the state's forest department.
Another possibility is that lockdown measures implemented to control the spread of the new coronavirus, which returned blue skies and clean air to highly polluted Indian cities, could also be behind the lake's color change.
"There wasn't much human activity due to lockdown which could also have accelerated the change," Maharashtra's Babasaheb Ambedkar University Geography Department head Madan Suryavashi told AFP. "But we will only know the exact causes once our scientific analysis is complete in a few days."
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Less than a week after the official start of summer, New Jersey's largest lake was shut down by state officials due to a harmful algae bloom. Now, well into the heart of summer, Lake Hopatcong remains closed. And, several other lakes that have seen their waters turn green due to a rise in cyanobacteria have also been shut down, including Budd Lake and parts of Greenwood Lake.
Summer economies have been shattered by New Jersey's Department of Environmental Protection warnings about the blue-green algae. Lakeside rentals, swimming instructors, sailing teachers, boat rental operators, mini-golf clerks, ice cream vendors and many others who depend on a seasonal income have seen their bottom line decimated by the beach closures, according to the New York Times.
In fact, Lake Hopatcong, which is usually buzzing with activity, is so empty that a black bear recently took a swim across it, as News12 NJ tweeted.
The warning for Greenwood Lake was issued in mid-July, but triggered the cancellation of the lake's annual powerboat race during the last weekend in August.
"Although you would think our boat racers would not directly be affected, there is still potential for exposure to our competitors and emergency crews," the American Powerboat Association said in an official statement, as reported by Northjersey.com. "This bacteria is reported to potentially cause skin rashes, sickness or worse and our insurance is not prepared to take on the added liability."
Cyanobacteria, DEP officials warn, produce toxins that can cause skin irritation, stomach cramps, vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, fever, sore throat, headache, muscle and joint pain, blisters of the mouth and liver damage, as the Morristown Daily Record reported.
This summer has seen an unusually intense wave of algae blooms that have shutdown lakes in the Pacific Northwest and every beach on the Mississippi Gulf coast. Scientists say the climate crisis is probably a factor in the increase of cyanobacteria, which can grow in dense clusters and produce toxic substances. An increase in the frequency and intensity of rainstorms has pushed fertilizer runoff into waterways. Add to that hot, sunny days and the conditions are set for a harmful algae bloom, which are appearing more frequently and earlier in the season, according to the New York Times.
"With climate change, we've got more precipitation, we've got sea-level rise and all this aging infrastructure," said Chris Sturm, managing director for policy and water at New Jersey Future, a group pushing for better-planned development, as the New York Times reported.
Without swift political action and cooperation from all the towns around Lake Hopatcong, the lake may very well see more summers ruined by harmful algae blooms. The counties around Lake Hopatcong have older sewer and drainage systems that have worn down and been overwhelmed by increasingly intense storms. Pollution streams into the lake from diffuse sources — a couple of towns around the lake have sewers, while another started a sewer project but was not able to finish it. A fourth town only has septic systems, which have to be pumped out every three years, according to the New York Times.
By Sonya Angelica Diehn
Dams are often touted as environmentally friendly. Although they do represent a renewable source of energy, a closer look reveals that they are far from green. DW lays out the biggest environmental problems of mega-dams.
1. Dams Alter Ecosystems
Water is life — and since dams block water, that impacts life downstream, both for ecosystems and people. In the case of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), which is being built in Ethiopia and is set to be Africa's largest source of hydroelectric power, Egypt is concerned it will receive less water for things like agriculture.
Downstream ecosystems rely not only on water, but also on sediment, both of which are held back by big dams. As solid materials build up in a manmade reservoir, downstream land becomes less fertile and riverbeds can become deeper or even erode away. Emilio Moran, a professor of geography and environment at Michigan State University in the US, described sediment loss of 30 to 40% as a result of large dams.
"Rivers carry sediment that feeds the fish, it feeds the entire vegetation along the river. So, when you stop sediment flowing freely down the streams, you have a dead river."
And ecosystems may have adapted to natural flooding, which dams take away.
Mega-dams also often have a large footprint on land upstream. Aside from displacing human communities, flooding to create a reservoir also kills plants, and leaves animals to drown or find new homes. Reservoirs can also further fragment valuable habitat and cut off migratory corridors.
2. Dams Reduce Biodiversity and Cause Extinction
Aquatic species, particularly fish, are vulnerable to the impacts of dams. Moran says the Itaipu Dam, which was constructed on the border between Paraguay and Brazil in the 1970s and 1980s, resulted in a 70 percent loss of biodiversity.
"On the Tucuruí Dam that was built in the 80s in the Amazon," he added, "there was a 60% drop in productivity of fish."
Many fish species rely on the ability to move about freely in a river, be it to seek food or return to where they were born. Migratory species are badly affected by the presence of dams. In 2016, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) reported a 99% drop in catches of sturgeon and paddlefish — both of which are migratory — over a period of three decades. Overfishing and river alteration were cited as major threats to the species' survival.
A 2018 study predicted that fish stocks on Asia's Mekong River could drop by 40% as a result of dam projects – with consequences not only for biodiversity, but for the people whose lives and livelihoods depend on those fish.
The stakes for biodiversity are particularly high for animals threatened with extinction. And not only for aquatic species. The Tapanuli orangutan — the Earth's rarest ape, with only 500 individuals left — could finally be pushed to the brink if a planned hydroelectric project in Sumatra, Indonesia, is completed. Dams can literally snuff out species.
3. Dams Contribute to Climate Change (and Are Affected by It)
As reservoirs fill, upstream forests are flooded, eliminating their function as carbon sinks. As the drowned vegetation decomposes, decaying plants in manmade reservoirs release methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. That makes reservoirs sources of emissions — particularly those in tropical forests, where there is dense growth. It's estimated that greenhouse gas emissions from dams amount to about a billion tons annually, making it a significant global source.
And as the climate changes, more frequent and prolonged drought means dams will capture less water, resulting in lower electricity production. Countries dependent on hydropower will be especially vulnerable as temperatures keep rising.
Moran described a vicious circle, for example in Brazil, which gets 60 to 70% of its energy from hydropower: "If you wipe out half the rainforest, there will a loss of half the rainfall. And then there won't be enough water to provide the amount of power from those dams," he explained.
4. Dams Reduce Water Quality
Manmade reservoirs trap fertilizers that run into the water from surrounding land. In addition, in some developing countries, sewage flows directly into the reservoirs. This kind of pollution can result in algae blooms that suck the oxygen out of the water, making it acidic and potentially harmful to people and animals.
Still water in large manmade lakes is warm at the top and cold at the bottom, which can also affect water quality. While warm water promotes the growth of harmful algae, the cold water that is often released through turbines from the bottom of a reservoir may contain damagingly high mineral concentrations.
In some cases, water in manmade reservoirs is of such bad quality that it is not even fit to drink.
5. Dams Waste Water
Since more surface area of the water gets exposed to the sun, reservoirs result in much more evaporation than the natural flow of the river before that dam existed. It's estimated at least 7% of the total amount of freshwater needed for human activities evaporates from the world's reservoirs every year.
This effect is made worse in hot regions, Moran pointed out. "Certainly if you had a reservoir in a tropical area with high temperatures, there is going to be a lot of evaporation," he said. And big reservoirs "are, of course, evaporating constantly."
Reservoirs are also a haven for invasive plant species, and weed-covered reservoir banks can lead to evapotranspiration — or the transfer of water from the land to the atmosphere through evaporation from soil and transpiration from plants. Such evapotranspiration amounts to six times more than the evaporation from the water's surface. And there is even evidence that dams increase water use and promote water waste by creating a false sense of water security.
In the face of dwindling global freshwater resources, some question whether dams should be reconsidered.
So What Are the Alternatives?
The evidence is damning. But if mega-dams have so many harmful environmental effects, what are the alternatives? Although some green groups point to small hydropower as being more ecologically sound, Moran is skeptical. "A dam is a dam - it's blocking the fish, it's blocking the sediment."
He pointed to the need to consider not just how to maximize energy production, but also maintain ecological productivity. One option he cited is the use of in-stream turbines.
And many environment advocates agree that other renewable energies such as solar and wind can provide clean electricity at a far lower environmental cost.
Reposted with permission from Deutsche Welle.
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If you're looking to cool off in the waters of Mississippi's Gulf Coast, think again.
A toxic algal bloom has made the waters dangerous to humans and their pets. The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality has shut down swimming at all of its beaches due to a blue-green harmful algal bloom, according to CNN.
Toxic algae are dangerous to touch and poisonous when swallowed. It can cause rashes, stomach cramps, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting, the state agency warned.
While the sand on the beaches is still open, the state's DEQ said beachgoers should avoid water contact or consumption of anything from the waters "until further notice," as CNN reported. The agency also advised anyone exposed to the water to wash with soap and water and to not eat fish or any other seafood taken from affected areas.
The blooms are not technically algae, but cyanobacteria — aquatic and photosynthetic bacteria. Many things, including changes in water temperature and fertilizer run-off, can trigger its bloom. Once the conditions are right for the cyanobacteria to spawn rapidly, they produce harmful toxins, as The Week reported.
"I had a feeling it was going this way. Water always flows west to east," Pascagoula resident Bill Kenan told Biloxi ABC affiliate WLOX. "It just keeps going and going and going. I don't know if it's ever going to get better. I hope it does."
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said that the climate crisis and increases in nutrient levels of bodies of water due to fertilizer run-off are potentially causing harmful algal blooms to occur more often and in areas not previously affected, ABC News reported. Warmer waters with a marked increase in surface temperature or a change in sea currents are particularly susceptible to the bloom. A harmful algal bloom can look like foam, scum or mats on the surface of water and can be different colors, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
This bloom was triggered in part by the opening of the Bonnet Carre spillway in Louisiana, which introduced an excessive amount of freshwater to the coastline, according to the Jackson Clarion-Ledger.
The spillway was opened to offset a rising Mississippi River that experienced massive swelling after an especially wet winter that caused flooding in along the river's coastlines.
The spillway is expected to close mid-July after the river's waters recede. Experts believe its closure will prompt the algae bloom to dissipate. "Once they close the structure, conditions will start to change pretty quickly," said John Lopez, of Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, a conservation organization that monitors water conditions throughout the Gulf Coast region, as reported by CBS New Orleans.
That prognosis will offer little relief to residents and tourists along the Mississippi Gulf Coast where temperatures will hover in the mid-90s all week.
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By Grace Francese
Outbreaks of potentially toxic algae are fouling lakes, rivers and other bodies of water across the U.S. Nationally, news reports of algae outbreaks have been on the rise since 2010.
What's worse, some algae blooms produce dangerous toxins called microcystins. The Environmental Working Group just released a report showing that microcystins have been found in lakes across the U.S. – even when there's no visible toxic algae outbreak.
Here's what you should know about kids' and pets' safety around potentially dangerous water and what you can do to prevent the growth of algae blooms.
What are algae blooms?
These smelly blooms aren't actually algae at all, but photosynthetic microorganisms called cyanobacteria.
Runoff from farm fields is often polluted with phosphorous and other chemicals in manure and commercial fertilizers. When this polluted runoff gets into lakes, it feeds the growth of cyanobacteria, especially in warm weather. Increasingly heavy rains and flooding, exacerbated by the climate crisis, make the problem worse.
What are microcystins?
Many algae blooms are gross, forming a foul-smelling slime on a lake's surface, but not hazardous. But for reasons no one yet understands, some produce poisonous chemicals called cyanotoxins, including the group known as microcystins.
What are the health risks?
Microcystin-producing cyanobacteria are a hazard to anyone, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says children are especially vulnerable, since they're most likely to ingest water while swimming. Exposure can cause coughing, nausea, weakness, cramping and headaches, as well as long-term health effects such as liver failure.
Contact with skin, drinking contaminated tap water or eating contaminated fish can also cause health problems. Even breathing in microcystins can be harmful, and recent studies have shown that the toxins can become airborne, drifting a mile or more from the site of the outbreak.
How can I recognize and avoid algae blooms?
The best approach is to check with your city, county or state health departments, which may issue warnings. You can also use EWG's mapto see whether authorities have found microcystins in a particular lake in the past few years.
If you can't find information about a specific lake, get to know the warning signs. Look out for dead fish or animals in or near the water, and slime that looks like blue, blue-green, bright green or dark green spilled paint.
Only experts who test the water can determine definitively whether an algae bloom is toxic. So if you come across what looks like an algae outbreak, stay away – even if you're not sure it's toxic. Don't swim in it, and do your best to avoid breathing the air around it. Contact your health department and alert local news media.
What should I do if I think my child has been exposed to a toxic algae outbreak?
If you think your child has come into contact with toxic algae, or shows flu-like symptoms after playing in or near it, rinse them off with water. Make sure they also drink plenty of water. Seek medical attention as soon as possible.
How can we prevent algae blooms?
Farming practices like vegetative buffers along streams and rivers help minimize runoff, but these practices won't be widely implemented without regulations that require farmers to apply them.
Ideally, states would test lakes and other bodies of water for microcystins and other cyanotoxins and warn the public when there's danger. But EWG's new report found that only 20 states test regularly for microcystins and make the data public, and often only after a delay.
The Environmental Protection Agency should regulate these toxins to protect our tap water supplies. More than two-thirds of all Americans get their drinking water from utilities that rely at least in part on lakes, rivers or other surface water. Yet the EPA doesn't regulate the level of microcystins and other cyanotoxins in drinking water.
By Anne Schechinger
Over the Fourth of July holiday, many of us love to beat the heat in a favorite lake, pond or river. But this year, vacationers from coast to coast will have to look out for a potentially record-breaking number of algae blooms.
So far this year there have been news stories about 107 algae outbreaks, compared to just 63 this time last year. That's a 70 percent increase. EWG's interactive map tracks news reports of blue-green algae blooms across the country since 2010, and this year is on track to have the most so far.
Recreating in or near water stricken by an algae bloom can lead to serious health consequences. Short-term exposure — whether through skin contact or ingestion — to the toxins sometimes produced by algae outbreaks has been linked to sore throat, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and liver damage.
These outbreaks don't just affect peoples' health, they also hurt their wallets. Algae keeps people away from businesses near affected lakes, such as marinas and restaurants.
Lake Hopatcong, in New Jersey, is currently suffering the biggest bloom ever recorded in the state. Hopatcong Mayor Mike Francis says it could have devastating impacts on the health of residents and his town's economy.
In many cases, algae outbreaks are preventable. Reducing the amount of chemicals that run off farm fields can greatly reduce the number and severity of blooms in agricultural areas.
Lake Macbride, in Iowa, is an example of a lake surrounded by farmland that has algae bloom and E. coli problems. Mandated agricultural conservation practices could go a long way toward cleaning up water bodies like Lake Macbride.
If you plan a lake outing this holiday, it's vital to know what to look for to figure out whether a toxic blue-green algae bloom is present in the water. Before your next trip to a lake, check out our new video to find out.