While some people are heading outside in snorkeling masks as makeshift protection, a group of scuba divers is using their social distancing time to help people and the oceans. They're making face masks from plastic water bottles recovered from the oceans, as CNN reported.
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The depths of the oceans are heating up more slowly than the surface and the air, but that will undergo a dramatic shift in the second half of the century, according to a new study. Researchers expect the rate of climate change in the deep parts of the oceans could accelerate to seven times their current rate after 2050, as The Guardian reported.
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The deep, open ocean may seem like an inhospitable environment, but many species like human-sized Humboldt squids are well-adapted to the harsh conditions. 1,500 feet below the ocean's surface, these voracious predators could be having complex conversations by glowing and changing patterns on their skin that researchers are just beginning to decipher.
The population of a marine parasite that sometimes worms its way into sushi has increased by 283 times in the last nearly 40 years, a University of Washington (UW)-led study has found.
The Danish building block toy LEGO has sprouted an empire of amusement park like stores, movies, and reality TV competitions premised on building complicated characters, vehicles and settings from inter-locking pieces of plastic. Unfortunately, all that plastic will be with us for a long, long time, according to a new study published in the journal Environmental Pollution.
By Rachael Meyer, Basten Gokkon
It had rained all morning across Jakarta on the first Tuesday in February. The rivers in the Indonesian capital quickly filled up, carrying all kinds of debris toward the Java Sea. In one of the city's largest waterways, a Dutch-made device was trapping some of the trash to prevent it from washing out into the ocean.
Competing Designs?<p>The river-cleaning project is part of The Ocean Cleanup's overall goal to reduce the amount of trash in the ocean. CEO Boyan Slat founded the organization in 2013 to create an open-ocean device that would remove all plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in five years. After many iterations and much media attention and criticism from scientists, a 160-meter (525-foot) test design <a href="https://news.mongabay.com/2019/10/the-ocean-cleanup-successfully-collects-ocean-plastic-aims-to-scale-design/" target="_blank">collected and retained ocean plastic for the first time</a> in October last year.</p><p>Over the course of the project, many scientists encouraged the organization to focus its efforts on rivers, where they said a cleanup device would be more effective. TOC took heed in 2015, when it began developing the Interceptor.</p><p>The Interceptor is powered by solar panels atop its white exterior shell. Each device's unique number is painted on one of its long sleek sides, facing to the banks of the river. At water level, a long waste barrier protrudes upstream, allowing the force of the current to push trash toward the device's mouth. There, a conveyor belt lifts debris out of the water and deposits it onto a platform inside the device that shuttles trash to one of six dumpsters. Once the containers are full, a local team takes them to shore to be emptied.</p><p>The latest Interceptor design can extract 50,000 kilograms (110,000 pounds) of plastic per day — double that under "optimal conditions" — and can hold 50 cubic meters (1,770 cubic feet) of garbage, according to TOC's website. The prototype in Jakarta has about one-fourth to one-fifth that capacity, and holds the trash in small crates instead of dumpsters. As a result, it needs to be maintained and emptied more frequently.</p>
Getting the Public Involved in Trash<p>For both organizations, finding a solution to river pollution goes beyond the cleanup devices.</p><p>"They're providing an opportunity to educate the public and inspire people to become part of the solution," Kellett said of the three devices his company deployed in Baltimore, which have spurred countless local environmental activities and educational programs.</p><p>According to Worp, several school groups have visited the Interceptor prototype in Jakarta. Community engagement is important to The Ocean Cleanup because it ultimately relies on local organizations to operate and maintain the devices.</p><p>Some scientists are skeptical about TOC's goal of targeting so many rivers in vastly different parts of the world. Andrew Gray, a hydrologist at the University of California, Riverside, studies small mountainous watersheds that expel a large amount of sediment to the ocean during strong storms. These storms can be destructive to any man-made device, he said.</p><p>"[These storms] that are probably discharging most of the plastics, are the kinds of events that you're not going to have a trash boom up because the hydrodynamics are far too aggressive," he said.</p><p>Gray also said the Interceptor would need to be incredibly versatile to accommodate a variety of river sizes.</p><p>Win Cowger, a graduate student in Gray's lab, pointed out the unpredictability of natural systems.</p><p>"Whenever you apply one solution — one device — to a broad range of ecosystems and a broad range of circumstances, it tends to have some implications that you might not have expected," he said.</p>
Rainy Days in Jakarta<p>Early this year, Jakarta experienced one of its worst flooding disasters in recent years. Torrential rain, with a record-breaking intensity, showered Greater Jakarta for almost 16 hours through New Year's Eve and into New Year's Day. Most of the city's rivers flooded their surroundings. The Interceptor was found damaged after its waste barrier broke loose.</p><p>The water volume in the Cengkareng drain increased significantly, but never overflowed its banks, according to Muhammad Khusen, the leader of a waste-collecting worker group in the subdistrict where the Interceptor is located. He said it was the river's strong current that damaged the device's waste barrier, but TOC engineers were able to repair it the following day.</p><p>When Mongabay visited the device a few weeks later, in February, the rains were constant, albeit less intense than at the start of the year. While the Interceptor was undamaged, waste had piled up on the barrier and clogged up the device's opening.</p><p>Workers were using long poles to try to break up the clog, which included a lot of large organic material like branches, bamboo and banana tree trunks, and feed the debris bit by bit into the Interceptor.</p><p>A team of three workers has been assigned to collect the trash and maintain the device every day, Khusen said. But on the day of Mongabay's visit, he had to call in reinforcements. As many as 10 workers were on hand throughout the afternoon to help clean up the collected debris after an earlier attempt failed to get much done. When the workers went home at 3 p.m., only about 20 percent of the trapped debris had been taken out.</p>
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As the Pacific Ocean becomes more acidic, Dungeness crabs, which live in coastal areas, are seeing their shells eaten away, according to a new study commissioned by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
By Tara Lohan
Part of Joellen Russell's job is to help illuminate the deep darkness — to shine a light on what's happening beneath the surface of the ocean. And it's one of the most important jobs in the world right now.
1. Yes, It’s Definitely Getting Warmer<p>There's no doubt among scientists that the ocean is heating and we're driving it.</p><p>The latest confirmation is the <a href="https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007/s00376-020-9283-7.pdf" target="_blank">study by Cheng and colleagues, published this month</a> in Advances in Atmospheric Sciences, which bluntly stated, "Ocean heating is irrefutable and a key measure of the Earth's energy imbalance."</p><p>The study found ocean waters in 2019 were the warmest in recorded history. And that follows a pattern: The past decade has also seen the warmest 10 years of ocean temperatures, and the last five years have been the five warmest on record.</p><p>"Every year the ocean waters get warmer, and the reason is because of the heat-trapping gases that humans have emitted into the atmosphere," says <a href="https://www.stthomas.edu/engineering/faculty/john-p-abraham.html" target="_blank">John Abraham</a>, one of the study's coauthors and a professor in mechanical engineering at the University of St. Thomas. "It's concerning for sure."</p>
2. The Southern Ocean Has Been Hit Worst<p>Much of this warming occurs between the surface and a depth of 6,500 feet. It's happening pretty consistently across the globe, but some areas have experienced higher rates of warming. One of those is the Southern Ocean, which has acted as a giant sink, absorbing 43 percent of our oceanic CO2 emissions and 75 percent of the heat, <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41561-019-0516-2" target="_blank">scientists have concluded</a>.</p><p>That's because the ocean basin functions like an air conditioner for the planet, says Russell. Strong winds pull up cold water from deep below, and then the cold surface water takes up some heat from the air. When the winds slow, the water sinks, more cold water rises, and the process repeats.</p><p>"The sinking water isn't warm, per se, just a bit warmer than it was when the wind pulled it up," she says. "In this way the Southern Ocean can sequester a lot of heat well below the surface."</p><p>For that reason what happens in the Southern Ocean is globally important. And it makes new findings all the more concerning.</p><p>Normal upwelling of waters from deep in the Southern Ocean has traditionally brought nutrients to the surface, where they then get moved by the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, the world's strongest ocean current, to feed <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/marine-life">marine life</a> in other areas. But <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41561-019-0502-8" target="_blank">new research</a> from Russell and colleagues found that this process will be disrupted as warm waters cause the Southern Ocean's ice sheets to melt even faster. This will change the historical upwelling and could trap nutrients instead of pushing them out.</p><p>That, she says, will "begin to starve the global ocean of nutrients."</p>
3. A Lot of Changes Are Happening<p>As bad as that sounds…there's a lot more.</p><p>One of the most obvious results of ocean warming is higher sea levels. That's caused in part because water expands as it warms.</p><p>But there's also the effect on sea ice. The warmer the water gets, the more ice melts — as is happening in Antarctica. Not surprisingly <a href="https://climate.nasa.gov/news/2680/new-study-finds-sea-level-rise-accelerating/" target="_blank">rates of global sea-level rise are accelerating</a>. This means more property damage, storm surges, and waves lapping at the heels of our coastal communities.</p><p>Warmer waters also mean more supercharged storms. An increase in heat drives up evaporation and adds extra moisture to the atmosphere, causing heavy rains, more flooding and more extreme weather events.</p><img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjYzNjk2Mi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTU5Mzg2MDM5OH0.skQ5D7UmXOPyA_fXRxr60B5zrFHgftLcq6ztKDvGZuc/img.jpg?width=980" id="e338b" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="03961faaf4043365957badd47c4abfd2" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
The aftermath of Cyclone Idai, one of the deadliest storms in history, in Mozambique, March 2019. Denis Onyodi / IFRC / DRK / Climate Centre / CC BY-NC 2.0
4. Marine Heat Waves Are Getting Worse<p>While temperatures are rising across the world's oceans, some areas are also seeing dangerous short-term spikes known as <a href="http://www.marineheatwaves.org/all-about-mhws.html" target="_blank">marine heatwaves</a>.</p><p>Scientists anticipate that these heatwaves, which can be fatal to a <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/world/climate-environment/climate-change-tasmania/" target="_blank">long list of sea creatures</a>, will continue to get more severe and more frequent as the ocean warms. By the end of the century, conditions in some areas may be akin to a permanent heatwave.</p><p>That's likely to be bad news for everything from seaweed to birds to mammals, and it could result in fundamental changes for food webs and the animals and coastal economies that depend on those resources.</p><p>"Collectively, and over time, an increase in the exposure of marine ecosystems to extreme temperatures may lead to irreversible loss of species or foundation habitats, such as seagrass, coral reefs and kelp forests," a <a href="https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fmars.2019.00734/full?utm_source=ad&utm_medium=tw&utm_campaign=ba_sci_fmars" target="_blank">December 2019 study</a> in<em> Frontiers in Marine Science</em> found.</p><p>And these changes likely aren't far off. These marine heatwaves "will emerge as forceful agents of disturbance to marine ecosystems in the near-future," the researchers wrote.</p><p>We're already seeing what that would look like.</p><p>Marine heatwaves off Australia have spurred oyster die-offs and losses to the abalone fishery, and one event in 2016 caught the world's attention when it caused <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-018-04660-w" target="_blank">severe bleaching of the biodiverse Great Barrier Reef</a>, triggering mass coral deaths.</p><img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjYzNjk2Ny9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwODU4NTI3OH0.nn6BGq9q8yOZAxYZKGnYtrmWETVdBEoeOZ_thH1pEm0/img.jpg?width=980" id="62e5a" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="4df8b69188d6484a2932664481c2b6f5" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
An aerial view of widespread coral bleaching in the northern Great Barrier Reef, 2016. Terry Hughes / ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies / CC BY-ND 2.0
5. What We Don’t Know<p>Scientists have enough information now to tell us that we need to quickly change course. But there's still a lot to learn about how warming temperatures will affect myriad species in the sea, not to mention weather patterns and coastal economies.</p><p>One current line of research is to better understand how ocean warming affects weather.</p><p>"We know that a warmer ocean means more water evaporates into the atmosphere," says Abraham. "Consequently, it makes the weather more severe because humidity drives storms. We would like to quantify this. So how much worse is weather now and how bad will it be?"</p><p>Some of that information will come from existing systems.</p>
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