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Glacier in Antarctica

Scientists Worried About Rapid Melting Of ‘Doomsday’ Glacier In Antarctica

Climate scientists have always regarded Thwaites glacier in Antarctica as a key factor in terms of climate change and global sea-level risings. The glacier itself is seen as one of the most vulnerable to be impacted by climate change, as its collapse would raise global sea levels by more than half a meter on its own. Its melting would also cause a chain reaction for other major bodies of water in Antarctica, potentially causing sea levels to rise by three meters!

Coastal cities across the globe would be severely impacted if this were to occur, and it’s one of the reasons the glacier has the nickname “Doomsday glacier.” This year, scientists noticed there was warm water near an integral part of the glacier that has never been there before. This warm water has already caused parts of the glacier to deteriorate.

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Thwaites glacier is 76,000 square miles, about the size of England. Ice has already melted from the glacier into the Amundsen Sea and caused 4% of global sea-levels to rise. As the world continues to warm, scientists are worried for the future of this glacier and its impact on the rest of the planet. Paul Cutler is a program director for Antarctic glaciology at America’s National Science Foundation, and he recently spoke with the media about the severity of this glacier melting.  

“The big question is how quickly it becomes unstable. It seems to be teetering at the edge. It is a keystone for the other glaciers around it in Antarctica if you remove it, other ice will start draining into the ocean.” 

Antarctica contains 90% of the world’s ice, most of which remains out of the water and on the continent’s land. The average thickness of ice in Antarctica is 1.6 miles deep, but it can reach depths of up to three miles. 

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The current sea level on Earth is almost 8 inches above what it was before the industrial revolution. The main cause in this rise is an increase in global sea temperatures brought on by intense sun exposure. The sun exposure is brought on due to a depletion in the Earth’s ozone layer, which is meant to protect all of us from intense UV radiation. For nearly 2,000 years before the industrial revolution, global sea levels remained almost completely static. 

Burning fossil fuels has only increased as society has become more modernized, and that burning has only further depleted the ozone layer in Earth’s atmosphere. Additionally, increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere act as heat traps for the sun. These warmer temperatures obviously cause major ice sheets and glaciers to melt, as they’re not only experiencing a rise in sea temperatures, but air temperatures as well. 

The annual rate in which our global sea-levels rise has doubled since 1990. As time has gone on, the rate at which these glaciers melt has only become more unpredictable, making it difficult for scientists to understand how to better preserve them. However, this more recent melting of Thwaites was specifically brought on by a massive heat wave in the Arctic; which is on the other side of the planet. 

Both the Antarctic and Arctic regions should be our number one priority, as they’re the coldest locations in the world, however, they’re both warming at rates faster than the rest of the world as well. Global warming has already caused such massive natural destruction within the past year alone, it’s time that our world leaders understand we’re currently battling a whole other pandemic in terms of our planets temperatures.

Beached Whale

Beached Sperm Whale Has Over 200 Pounds Of Plastic In Its Stomach

Plastic in our planet’s oceans is one of the leading environmental issues that’s killing the Earth today. Mounds of garbage fill the natural aquatic world’s that make up a majority of our planet’s ecosystems, thus affecting the ecosystems of any other part of the world that requires a clean body of water to run. Plastics shed off micro-plastic particles that spread into all aspects of life and leave uncertain damage to all living and nonliving things in our world, but they don’t even need those tiny particles to cause serious damage. A small Scottish Island has become all too familiar with these kind of effects this week when a deceased young sperm whale washed to shore, the cause of death? It might have had something to do with the hundreds of pounds of plastic in its stomach. 

Residents around Seilebost beach on the Isle of Harris in the Outer Hebrides discovered the young male carcass Thursday, according to CNN. According to Dan Parry, the administrator of a Luskentyre beach Facebook page which has a goal of keeping the local beaches completely litter free, the animal had a ball of plastic debris in it’s stomach weighing close to 220 pounds. This discovery was made by the Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme (SMASS). This organization specifically works on collecting data regarding stranded marine life animals around the Scotland area. They performed the autopsy and made the discovery of the ball of plastic debris in the sperm whales stomach. 

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“Among the debris, which seemingly came from both the land and fishing sector, were sections of net, plastic cups and tubing. [SMASS] could not find evidence that the waste had blocked the creature’s intestines, but it said the amount of debris could have played a part in its live stranding. This amount of plastic in the stomach is nonetheless horrific, must have compromised digestion, and serves to demonstrate, yet again, the hazards that marine litter and lost or discarded fishing gear can cause to marine life,” according to the Facebook Posts. 

The whale weighed close to 26 tons, making it impossible to move, so the autopsy was performed on the beach where the body already was. Afterwards, members of the coast guard and the council of the Western Isles all gathered to help bury the whales body on the beach. The burial was meant to keep the young whale close to the world it unfortunately never got the chance to fully explore, but at least it would lay there for the rest of eternity. 

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This isn’t the first time Europe in general has faced a beached whale epidemic due to plastic ingestion. Back in May, Sicily discovered one out of five different whale carcass’ that had washed to shore within a five month span. All the causes of death were due to plastic ingestion. Scientists often suggest that whales ingest plastic bags more than anything, because they often look exactly like squid, a common prey for certain whale species. 

“Debris in our oceans is everyone’s problem – the fishing industry need to do better, but equally, we all need to do more. Watching this today, makes me despair for the environment, totally falling apart around us,” said Parry, who added on Facebook that he himself goes and cleans the local beaches of litter and plastic every single day.

Parry isn’t incorrect in his call onto the fishing industry to change their ways, as a majority of litter in our ocean’s is stranded materials from industrial fishing boats. However, there is also a major call to action for everyone on the planet to reduce their toxic single use plastic product use, and recycle, to prevent further unnecessary marine life death.

 

Ocean

$63 Billion Committed To Help Save Our Planet’s Oceans

The sixth annual “Our Ocean Conference” took place on October 23rd and 24th in Oslo, Norway. The website states that the purpose of this annual conference is to “bring together leaders from governments, businesses, civil society and research institutions to share their experiences, identify solutions and commit to action for a clean, healthy and productive ocean.” This year, international governments made 370 monetary commitments to improving marine health and oceanic improvements; the commitments totaled $63 billion. 

At the conference last year $10 billion was committed amongst the world’s groups, however, this years increase shows a sense of greater urgency. Last years commitment has helped create protections for one third of the world’s ocean’s, so leaders are hoping this large increase in commitment will help speed up the process of protecting the many ecosystems that make up our oceans. Speakers at the event put a heavy focus on the importance of remembering the goals set out every year, and maintain them while also improving upon them as time progresses and environmental conditions worsen. 

“As someone who grew up by the ocean and lives in a country that derives two-thirds of its revenue from the ocean, I know that we cannot choose between ocean protection and ocean productivity. We need to achieve both. We have to recognize the connection between ocean health and ocean wealth: we need ocean resources, but the oceans can only be productive if they are healthy,” said Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg

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One of the main focuses behind these financial commitments has always been a reduction in global overfishing. The fishing industry is responsible for a huge percentage of ocean pollution, and is causing fish populations to drop at an extremely fast rate. When certain fish populations decrease it means that integral members of certain ecosystems are no longer there, killing off other species of marine life within those systems. However, at this point the damage has been done, the focus can’t now be maintaining what we have left, but how to rebuild what was lost. “We need to rebuild ocean abundance — simply conserving what’s left isn’t enough. We need a new solutions pathway,” said Alexandra Cousteau, a senior adviser for international marine environmental NGO Oceana.

According to Manuel Barange, director of fisheries and aquaculture policy and resources for the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), in an interview with Mongabay Magazine, we really need to focus on the importance of considering and supporting the 10 percent of the world’s population that relies on fishing for their livelihoods. “Check your privileges — it’s easy to dismiss food systems when your life and livelihood does not depend on them, most of the people in this room are not part of that 10 percent.”

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In addition, government forces plan on using the funding to greater support the crackdown on unregulated and illegal fishing industries. These industries bring in around 26 million fish every year, creating another huge percentage of marine life taken from the oceans annually. New technologies that involve fishing vessel tracking software, fish migration tracking, and ocean scanning devices are being more heavily used and distributed throughout the globe, according to Mongabay. Additionally, there’s a new call to increase the amount of Marine Protected Areas (MPA’s) in the world. MPA’s are natural bodies of water on Earth that are protected from any sort of fishing, polluting, etc. The new initiative calls to have 30% of the planet’s oceans protected as MPA’s by 2030. 

Plastic pollution is also an obvious and growing concern in regard to ocean pollution. Every year over 8 million tons of plastic is dumped in the ocean. These plastics also emit microplastics into the waters that are spread and ingested by all marine life, and therefore ingested by anything/anyone who eats that marine life. So the conference came up with some solutions to help support anti-plastic efforts. 

“Norway, Sweden and Grenada committed to establishing and supporting a global, legally binding treaty to combat marine plastic pollution by 2023. Other countries and companies made individual commitments: Peru announced a ban on polystyrene, and the Alliance to End Plastic Waste, comprised of 42 largely multinational companies, committed to investing $1.5 billion over the next five years to research toward reducing plastic production and developing better recycling techniques and cleanup efforts.”

These decisions are major for the health of our planet, however, the group is under constant scrutiny, because even with these new expensive plans, many people have a “too little too late” sort of attitude. Massive damage has already been done to our oceans ecosystems, much of it irreversible. So while these efforts and commitments of billions of dollars is appreciated and will most likely help, we have to constantly be wondering if it’s enough.