The waters of the Pacific off the California coast are transparently clear. Problem is: Clear water is a sign that the ocean is turning into desert (Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA).
From Alaska to Central America, and beyond, sea life has been devastated over the past three years like never before. . . scientists refer to the lethal ocean warming over the past few years as “the Warm Blob.”
After all, global warming hits the ocean much, much harder than land. Up to 90% of anthropogenic (human-caused) global warming is absorbed by the ocean, which is fortuitous for humans.
“Upper ocean heat content has increased significantly over the past two decades” (Source: Climate Change: Ocean Heat Content, NOAA, Climate.gov, July 14, 2015). More than 3,000 Argo floats strategically positioned worldwide measure ocean temps every 10 days.
Scientists classify the Warm Blob phenomenon as “multi-year ocean heat waves,” with temperatures 7° F above normal and up to 10°F above normal in extreme cases. How would humans handle temperatures, on average, 7° to 10°F above normal? There’d be mass migrations from Florida to Alaska, for sure. As it happens, sea animals do not do well. They die in unbelievably massive numbers; all across the ocean… the animal die-offs are unprecedented. Scientists are stunned!
After years of horrendous worldwide sea animal die-offs, 2016 was a banner year. Is this out of the ordinary? Sadly, the answer is: Yes.
The numbers are simply staggering, not just in the Pacific, but around the world, e.g., the following is but a partial list during only one month (December 2016): Tens of thousands of dead starfish beached in Netherlands; 6,000 dead fish in Maryland waterway; 10 tons of dead fish in Brazilian river; tens of thousands of dead fish wash up on Cornwall, England beach; schools of dead herring in Nova Scotia; 100 tons of fish suddenly dead in Indonesia; massive fish deaths ‘state of calamity’ in Philippines; thousands of dead crayfish float down river in New Zealand; masses of dead starfish, crabs, and fish wash ashore in Nova Scotia, and there are more and more….
In fact, entire articles are written about specific areas of massive die offs, for example: “Why Are Chilean Beaches Covered With Dead Animals?” Smithsonian.com, May 4, 2016. Chilean health officials had to resort to heavy machinery to remove 10,000 dead rotting squid from coastlines earlier in the 2016 year. Over 300 whale carcasses hit the beaches and 8,000 tons of sardines and 12% of the annual salmon catch… all found dead on beaches, to name only a few! You’ve gotta wonder why?
According to Nate Mantua, research scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center in Santa Cruz, California: “One of the things that is clear is there’s a lot of variation from year to year along the Pacific Coast, and some of that is tied into natural patterns, like El Niño,’ Mantua said. ‘But what we saw in 2014, ‘15 and the first part of ‘16 was warmer than anything we’ve seen in our historical records, going back about 100 years” (Mary Callahan, Year in Review: Ocean Changes Upend North Coast Fisheries, The Press Democrat, Dec. 25, 2016).
Photo: NASA/Kathryn Hansen
. . . Morosely, too-warm ocean water serves as breeding ground for the infamous deadly “red tide,” a bloom of single-celled organism that thrives in warmer waters, producing a neurotoxin called domoic acid, resulting in enormous numbers of sea lion fatalities and massive destruction of Dungeness crab fisheries and all kinds of other trouble.
Too-warm water also contributes to the collapse of bull kelp forests, which are the ocean’s equivalent of the tropical rain forest; meanwhile, purple urchins thrive and multiply in explosive fashion in the poisonous environment, devouring remaining plant life. Thereby, out-competing hapless red abalone, the shellfish that people love.
Collapsing food chains are evident up and down the Pacific Coast earmarked by large die offs of Cassin Auklets, a tiny seabird, as well as massive numbers of Common Murres. The sea lions and fur seals suffer from starvation and domoic acid poisoning. In early 2013 scientists declared the sea lion die-off an “unusual mortality event.”
Nursing sea lion mothers are unable to find enough forage like sardines and anchovies.
. . . Bottom line, the ecosystem is under fierce attack, and it is real, very real indeed with too much global warming, too much ag runoff, too much heavy-duty massive overfishing, likely too much nuclear radiation, and deadly acidification caused by excessive CO2 concentrations (already damaging pteropods at the base of the marine food chain) as the ocean absorbs anthropogenic CO2 emissions from fossil fuels, similar to the upper atmospheric conundrum where 400+ ppm of CO2 (anything over 350 ppm leads to serious planetary trouble over time) is already heating up the planet as the ocean absorbs 90% of that heat.
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GLOBAL WARMING CLOBBERS OCEAN LIFE
by ROBERT HUNZIKER
JANUARY 16, 2017
Featured image photo credit: NASA/Kathryn Hansen