Posts Tagged National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Mar 17 2015

West Coast waters shifting to lower-productivity regime, new NOAA report finds

State of the California Current report highlights record-warm conditions and effect on fisheries

NOAA Fisheries/Alaska Fisheries Science Center


88424_webMany sea lion pups in California’s Channel Islands are underweight and are washing up on beaches starving are dead. Biologists suspect unusually warm ocean conditions are reducing marine productivity, causing female sea lions to struggle to find sufficient food to nurse the pups. For further details

Large-scale climate patterns that affect the Pacific Ocean indicate that waters off the West Coast have shifted toward warmer, less productive conditions that may affect marine species from seabirds to salmon, according to the 2015 State of the California Current Report delivered to the Pacific Fishery Management Council.

The report by NOAA Fisheries’ Northwest Fisheries Science Center and Southwest Fisheries Science Center assesses productivity in the California Current from Washington south to California. The report examines environmental, biological and socio-economic indicators including commercial fisheries and community health.

“We are seeing unprecedented changes in the environment,” Toby Garfield, Director of the Environmental Research Division at the SWFSC, told the Council when presenting the report, citing unusually high coastal water and air temperatures over the last year. Climate and ecological indicators are “pointing toward lower primary productivity” off California, Oregon and Washington, he said.

That could translate into less food for salmon and other marine species, added Chris Harvey of the Northwest Fisheries Science Center. High mortality of sea lion pups in Southern California and seabirds on the Oregon and Washington coasts in recent months may be early signs of the shift.

Among the highlights of the new State of the California Current Report:

• Record-high sea surface temperatures combined with shifts in the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, North Pacific Gyre Oscillation and weaker upwelling of deep, cold waters indicate declining productivity in the California Current.
• After several productive years the biomass of tiny energy-rich organisms called copepods, which support the base of the West Coast food chain and provide important food for salmon, has declined significantly.
• California sea lion pups and seabirds called Cassin’s auklets found dying and emaciated in large numbers in recent months may reflect the transition to less productive marine conditions.
• Although commercial fishery landings have remained high in recent years, the fishing fleet has become more specialized in terms of targeting specific fisheries. That may expose the vessels to more fluctuations of catch and revenue if those fisheries decline.

“This year’s report is very useful,” said Council Chair Dorothy Lowman. “We’re looking forward to working with the science centers to find ways to integrate this information into management.”

Scientists produced the report as part of NOAA’s Integrated Ecosystem Assessment Program, which tracks conditions across coastal ecosystems to provide insight into environmental and human trends and support decisions on fisheries and other activities. The California Current Ecosystem is one of seven U.S. ecosystems monitored by the program.

“We’re seeing some major environmental shifts taking place that could affect the ecosystem for years to come,” said John Stein, Director of the Northwest Fisheries Science Center. “We need to understand and consider their implications across the ecosystem, which includes communities and people.”

In recent years the California Current Ecosystem enjoyed highly productive conditions, with strong upwelling of deep waters from the north flush with energy-rich copepods that supported high salmon returns and high densities of juvenile rockfish, sanddabs and market squid. In 2014 waters off Southern California and in the Gulf of Alaska turned unusually warm, and these so-called warm “blobs” have since grown and merged to encompass most of the West Coast.

The coastal warming includes an influx of warmer southern and offshore waters with leaner subtropical copepods that contain far less energy and are often associated with low productivity and weaker salmon returns. Overall the warm conditions off the West Coast are as strong as anything in the historical record. The tropical El Niño recently declared by NOAA could extend the warm conditions and reduced productivity if it persists or intensifies through 2015.

“We are in some ways entering a situation we haven’t seen before,” said Cisco Werner, Director of the Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla, Calif. “That makes it all the more important to look at how these conditions affect the entire ecosystem because different components and different species may be affected differently.”

For example, warmer conditions in the past often coincided with increases in sardines and warmer-water fish such as tuna and marlin and drops in anchovy and market squid. Salmon also fare poorly during warm conditions. Cooler conditions in contrast have often driven increases in anchovies, rockfish and squid. Anchovy and sardines have both remained at low levels in recent years, the report notes.

NOAA researchers will continue tracking how species respond to the shifting temperatures and conditions.

Salmon face the potential “double jeopardy” of low snowpack in the Northwest and rivers and streams shrunk by drought in California, plus reduced ocean productivity when juvenile salmon enter the ocean this year looking for food, Harvey said. However the impacts on salmon may not become apparent until a few years from now when the fish that enter the ocean this year would be expected to be caught in fisheries or return to the Columbia and other rivers as adults.


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Mar 7 2015 Replaces Reality, Regulation and History with Hyperbole

Original post: | © 2015 National Fisheries Institute | Published with permission.


A story this week on about the state of the seafood industry is packed with sensationalism and hyperbole, yet absent much of the real science, facts and figures that drive actual sustainability.

To begin, U.S. fisheries are among the world’s best managed and most sustainable. Though not referenced by name a single time in this article, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, regulates U.S. seafood with headquarters in Washington D.C., five regional offices, six science centers and more than 20 laboratories around the country and U.S. territories.

Author John Roach, however, perpetuates doom and gloom throughout this piece, asserting “voids” left by cod, halibut and salmon that need to be filled by other fish. We’re guessing Mr. Roach isn’t aware that salmon shattered modern-day records in 2014, returning to the Columbia River Basin in the highest numbers since fish counting began at Bonneville Dam more than 75 years ago. Could you tell us again about that void?

Mr. Roach also intones a narrative of sustainability disaster for popular predators like tuna but forgot to mention groups like the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF), a coalition created through a partnership between WWF, the world’s leading conservation organization, and canned tuna companies from across the globe to insure the long-term conservation and sustainable use of tuna stocks. In an article that claims the sky is falling for species like tuna it’s odd that ISSF gets nary a nod or even a mention.

Switching gears, Mr. Roach goes on to blame giant trawlers “armed” with technology and massive nets as part of the reason we’re “running low” on fish. As in any industry, technology gets better by the day, creating more efficient ways to do business. However, new technology is by no means exempt from standing national and global fishery regulations, such as catch-limits, by-catch laws, compliance, and so forth. To suggest that enhanced technology or “bigger or faster” boats are causing our fish supplies to dwindle ignores the impact of technology on sustainability and even regulatory oversight. There are pros and cons to every catch-method and there is no one-size-fits all solution to sustainability challenges but to blame technology without recognizing its contribution to solutions is folly.

Hyperbolic rhetoric about sustainability continues to be discounted by legitimate fisheries experts in the scientific community. In fact, one “report” forecasting empty oceans by 2048 was challenged by a number of independent researchers who described the study that promoted the statistics as, “flawed and full of errors.” Including Ray Hilborn, a professor of aquatic and fishery sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle whose research into the study lead him to say, “this particular prediction has zero credibility within the scientific community.” After Hilborn’ s analysis the author of the original study himself explained that his research was not in fact predicting worldwide fish stock collapse at all but merely examining trends. Articles like this track along precisely with the discounted, overblown storyline that gave birth to the empty oceans by 2048 nonsense.

Whether you’re a “natural optimist” or not, there is no question that seafood harvested from U.S. fisheries is inherently sustainable as a result of NOAA’s fishery management process and global fisheries management is far from the wild west scenario bandied about.  Things aren’t perfect and there’s work to be done but the “game” is not “almost over” and those who suggest it is, willfully propagate that narrative not because it’s accurate but because bad news sells.

Feb 19 2015

Scientists: Warm waters, scarce prey likely cause of California sea lion strandings

The Press


California sea lions swim at the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, Tuesday, February 3, 2015. (Crista Jeremiason / The Press Democrat)

An intensifying spate of sea lion strandings on the California coast is likely caused by a shift in winds that has warmed coastal waters, making prey scarce for sea lion mothers and interfering with their ability to feed their pups, federal scientists said Wednesday.

The announcement marked the clearest answer yet to what might be affecting the sea lions, hundreds of which have come ashore malnourished and severely underweight in recent months.

With more than 940 animals, mostly pups, already admitted to rehabilitative care over the past several weeks, the state’s marine mammal centers are nearing capacity and running through resources, said Justin Viezbicke, California Stranding Network Coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association.

Many sea lions won’t be saved.

Yet NOAA scientists said the situation is less alarming than would appear and doesn’t look to be tied to a disease or new malady. Instead, it likely reflects the sea lion’s acute sensitivity to a change in ocean circulation patterns. The altered winds have bathed the coast in warm water — 2 to 5 degrees warmer than usual — and made foraging for redistributed fish species more of a challenge.

“It’s unlikely to have any really critical drop in the total population,” said Sharon Melin, a wildlife biologist with NOAA’s National Marine Mammal Laboratory at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center in Seattle.

There remain many unknowns, however, including how bad the situation will get before it starts getting better. Experts said they do not expect the situation to turn around for at least a few months.

Sea lions serve as an indicator species, Melin said, and are sometimes among the first and most visible marine creatures to reflect something amiss in the ocean environment. Their recent plight is one in a series of die-offs and stranding events beginning in 2009 on the heels of a rapid ocean warming. The population of their core prey has been somewhat diminished over the same time period, she said, so scientists will be looking for longer term implications.

January strandings were more than five times the historic average and more than twice the rate observed in 2013, when NOAA declared an Unusual Mortality Event, or UME. More than 1,100 sea lion strandings were recorded that year.

This year has not been declared a UME yet, though observations so far suggest it may be an even worse year, with data collected from sea lion rookeries in the Channel Islands during September and February showing that pups born last summer were already severely underweight, and in many cases, continued to lose weight over the winter, Melin said.

Most turning up on the coastline now are around 8 months old and should still be with their mothers, but appear to have weaned early, leaving the Southern California colonies in search of food, she said. Many are starving, too young to have developed the necessary skills to survive.

Scientists believe the root problem is the inability of their mothers to find sufficient food to nourish their young, most likely because the large area of warm water off the coast has driven fish and other marine life to other areas.

Yet satellite tags on some of the female sea lions who bore pups last year indicate they are staying within their usual foraging grounds, suggesting they may be having to dive deeper and work harder to feed, and thus are leaving their pups for longer periods, Melin said.

Pups left long enough will be so hungry they go off on their own to seek food, she said.

If so, this year’s event is similar to 2013, in which unavailability of prey was determined at least partly responsible. Though sea lions are opportunistic feeders, their core diet includes species rich in fatty acids like Pacific sardines, northern anchovies, rockfish, Pacific hake and market squid, some or all of which may be in short supply, Melin said.

Many pups coming ashore have secondary infections, like pneumonia, but testing on those that have not survived has not revealed evidence of an infectious disease outbreak or harmful algae blooms, which also are potential risks, scientists said.

Nate Mantua, a NOAA climatologist, said a period of strong southerly winds and weak northerly winds has spread warm water north and depressed the upwelling of cold water from deep ocean levels toward the surface.

He said the shift reflects the vagaries of weather — not more permanent climate change.

The warmer off-shore currents have coincided with a variety of shifting marine populations, causing some species to turn up in areas that are not part of their traditional habitats, Mantua said.

“There’s just a whole suite of different animals — some are really good swimmers and some are really weak swimmers — that have changed their distribution,” he said.

Sea lions, which are protected under the 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act, generally have thrived in recent decades but had a rough time of it since 2009. It may be that the population has reached the carrying capacity of the coast, meaning that the current problems finding sufficient food are nature’s way of restoring balance, Melin said.

Most sea lions are born in June and are totally dependent on their mothers for the first six months of their lives, experts say. They generally remain with their mothers until about 11 months of age, when they are weaned.

Where some pup strandings occur every year, it’s usually around May and June, when pups are just beginning to forage on their own, with varying degrees of success, scientists said.

This year’s strandings began months earlier, in December and January, and have accelerated in recent weeks, resulting in reports like one out of San Francisco, where last week a pup strayed onto Skyline Boulevard, about 1,000 feet and up a hill from the water. Another report this week described an emaciated young sea lion wandering into a Marina del Rey apartment complex.

Though most of the strandings have occurred in Southern California and, to a lesser degree, on the Central Coast, the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, the world’s largest, has been at the forefront of providing care.

It is now responding to up to 15 ailing sea lions daily, and has more than 130 sea lions in rehab at its Marin Headlands facility, spokeswoman Sarah van Schagen said.

About 550 total are in the care of a half-dozen marine mammal centers up and down the coast.

Though the Sausalito center still has room, the growing number of strandings is making it harder and more time-consuming for rescue personnel to respond to reports. Mantua pleaded with the public to be patient with those doing their best to tend to the animals that can be saved.

Anyone who sees a stranded sea lion should report it by calling the Marine Mammal Center’s 24-hour rescue hotline at 415-289-SEAL (7325) and then leave the animal alone, avoiding human or pet contact that may contribute to its stress.

Mantua encouraged anyone interested in aiding the cause to donate time, supplies and money to facilities like the Marine Mammal Center.

View original article: The Press

Feb 19 2015

California sea lion crisis: Warmer seas may be to blame

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times

Nearly 1,000 abandoned California sea lions have washed ashore this year in what rehabilitation centers say is a growing crisis for the animals.

Emaciated and dehydrated sea lions, mostly pups about 8 months old, have been admitted in record numbers to facilities up and down the California coast.

As of now, there are 550 sea lions at facilities statewide, according to NOAA Fisheries, which addressed the crisis Wednesday morning during a conference call with media.

It’s the third straight year for record numbers of sea lion strandings in the state.


Earlier this month, researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Mammal Laboratory visited sea lion rookeries on the Channel Islands, where most of America’s sea lions breed.

They measured and weighed pups and found them to be considerably underweight. Their average growth rate also was alarmingly low.

“It’s the lowest growth rate we’ve ever observed,” said Sharon Melin, NOAA Wildlife biologist with the National Marine Mammal Laboratory.

The pups’ weight was similar to what was seen in 2013, the year of an “unusual mortality event” for sea lions, and during the 1998 El Niño, which was another difficult year for the mammal.

A UME is characterized by an unexpected number of strandings and significant die-off of a marine mammal population.

Although scientists are still awaiting data from research done on the islands, NOAA Fisheries says warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures along the California coast in fall 2014 may be a factor.


The warmer water could have affected the sea lions’ prey resources. Female sea lions may be having to expend more effort and time to get food, so pups are abandoned.

According to multiple California marine mammal centers, they are seeing a much larger number of sea lions in the first two months of 2015 than in 2013.

“The sea lion pups arriving at the Marine Mammal Center may look like barely more than skin and bones, but these are the lucky ones” because they receive treatment, said Shawn Johnson, director of veterinary science at the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, Calif.

Read te original story: Los Angeles Times

Oct 2 2014

Is Ocean Acidification Affecting Squid?

A key animal in the marine food web may be vulnerable

Click below to begin video — or view the original video here. Produced by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

Sep 15 2014

Unusual North Pacific warmth jostles marine food chain

September 2014 | Contributed by Michael Milstein


Scientists across NOAA Fisheries are watching a persistent expanse of exceptionally warm water spanning the Gulf of Alaska that could send reverberations through the marine food web. The warm expanse appeared about a year ago and the longer it lingers, the greater potential it has to affect ocean life from jellyfish to salmon, researchers say.

“Right now it’s super warm all the way across the Pacific to Japan,” said Bill Peterson, an oceanographer with NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Newport, Ore., who has linked certain ocean indicators to salmon returns. “For a scientist it’s a very interesting time because when you see something like this that’s totally new you have opportunities to learn things you were never expecting.”

Not since records began has the region of the North Pacific Ocean been so warm for so long. The warm expanse has been characterized by sea surface temperatures as much as three degrees C (about 5.4 degrees F) higher than average, lasting for months, and appears on large- scale temperature maps as a red-orange mass of warm water many hundreds of miles across. Nick Bond of the Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean at the University of Washington earlier this summer nicknamed it “the blob.”

Indeed, there are three warm zones, said Nate Mantua, leader of the landscape ecology team at the Southwest Fisheries Science Center: The big blob dominating the Gulf of Alaska, a more recent expanse of exceptionally warm water in the Bering Sea and one that emerged off Southern California earlier this year. One exception to the warmth is a narrow strip of cold water along the Pacific Northwest Coast fed by upwelling from the deep ocean.

The situation does not match recognized patterns in ocean conditions such as El Niño Southern Oscillation or Pacific Decadal Oscillation, which are known to affect marine food webs. “It’s a strange and mixed bag out there,” Mantua said.

One possibility is that the PDO, a long-lived El Niño-like pattern, is shifting from an extended cold period dating to the late 1990s to a warm phase, said Toby Garfield, director of the Environmental Research Division at the Southwest Fisheries Science Center. Mantua said the PDO may have tipped into a warm state as early as January of this year.

But both scientists noted that the observed warm temperatures are higher and cover more of the northern Pacific than the PDO typically affects. For all but the Gulf of Alaska, the warm waters appear to lie in a relatively shallow layer near the surface. The cold near-shore conditions in the Pacific Northwest also don’t match the typical PDO pattern.

Warm ocean temperatures favor some species but not others. For instance, sardines and albacore tuna often thrive in warmer conditions. Pacific Coast salmon and steelhead rely on cold-water nutrients, which they may have found recently in the narrow margin of cold water along the Northwest coast. But if the warmth continues or expands Pacific Northwest salmon and steelhead could suffer in coming years.

“If the warming persists for the whole summer and fall, some of the critters that do well in a colder, more productive ocean could suffer reduced growth, poor reproductive success and population declines,” Mantua said. “This has happened to marine mammals, sea birds and Pacific salmon in the past. At the same time, species that do well in warmer conditions may experience increased growth, survival and abundance.”

Peterson recently advised the Northwest Power and Conservation Council that juvenile salmon and steelhead migrating from the Columbia River to the ocean this year and next may experience poor survival.

“The signs for salmon aren’t good based on our experience in the past,” Peterson said, “but we won’t really see the signal from this until those fish return in a few years.” The warm expanse in the Gulf of Alaska is a kind of climatic “hangover” from the same persistent atmospheric ridge of high pressure believed to have contributed to California’s extreme drought, Bond and Mantua said. The ridge suppressed storms and winds that commonly stir and cool the sea surface.

Other factors created the patch of warm water hugging the Central California Coast south to Baja California. A low-pressure trough between California and Hawaii weakened the winds that typically drive upwelling of deep, cold water along the California Coast. Without those winds waters off Southern California’s beaches have stayed unusually warm.

NOAA surveys off California in July found jellyfish called “sea nettles” and ocean sunfish, which the warmer waters likely carried closer to shore, Mantua said. Anglers have reported excellent fishing for warm water species including yellowfin tuna, yellowtail and dorado, also known as mahi-mahi.

Research surveys in the Gulf of Alaska this summer came across species such as pomfret, ocean sunfish, blue shark and thresher shark often associated with warmer water, said Joe Orsi of the Alaska Fisheries Science Center Auke Bay Laboratories in Juneau. He said temperatures in the upper 20 meters of water up to 65 kilometers offshore were 0.8 degrees C (about 1.4 degrees F) above normal in both June and July.

The potential arrival of El Niño later this year would likely reinforce the warming and its effects on marine ecosystems, Bond said. NOAA’s National Weather Service estimates a 65 percent chance El Niño will emerge in fall or early winter.

Mantua noted that fall in California generally brings even weaker winds and weaker upwelling, making it likely that the warm waters off Central California will persist and even expand northward regardless of a tropical El Niño.

mapUnusually warm temperatures dominate three areas of the North Pacific: the Bering Sea, Gulf of Alaska and an area off Southern California. The darker the red, the further above average the sea surface temperature. NOAA researchers are tracking the temperatures and their implications for marine life.

MolaNOAA research surveys in the Gulf of Alaska this summer turned up ocean sunfish, also known as mola, which are often associated with warmer waters.

ThresherSharkThresher sharks were among the species associated with warmer waters that turned up in research surveys in the Gulf of Alaska this summer.

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Sep 4 2014


Michael Maher working at the NOAA Northwest Fisheries Science Center Mukilteo field station with Mobile Ocean Acidification Treatment Systems (MOATS). Credit: NOAA NWFSC

Carbon dioxide scrubbers like those that clean the air in space stations.

Precision monitors and instruments.

Industrial parts used in wastewater treatment.

Michael Maher’s job was to assemble the pieces into one of the most sophisticated ocean acidification simulation systems yet developed. Ocean acidification is the decrease in ocean pH due to its absorption of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere – carbon dioxide forms an acid when it dissolves in water.

“You have tools available – they may not be designed for this purpose but you can try to make them all work together,” said Maher, a research biologist at NOAA Fisheries’ Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle. “There wasn’t a blueprint or a kit you could order because nobody had really been trying to do this kind of thing before.”

The system that Maher and the ocean acidification research team built in the Science Center’s parking lot has provided new insight into the impacts of future ocean conditions on marine species. Researchers used it to examine what happens to small marine snails from Puget Sound when exposed to both current ocean conditions and the acidified conditions expected in the future. The research is described in a new paper in the online journal PLOS ONE reporting that current West Coast ocean waters are acidified enough to dissolve the shells of the snails, called pteropods.

The finding is not a surprise: Another NOAA-led team reported in April that shells of pteropods in near-shore habitat on the West Coast show signs of dissolution due to acidified waters. What is important about the new research is that it measured the extent of shell damage at escalating carbon dioxide concentrations, each translating to a different degree of acidification, in a controlled laboratory environment said Shallin Busch, a NOAA research ecologist.

The findings are a first step toward using the pteropod species examined in the study as a living barometer or indicator of ocean acidification along the West Coast.

“Our findings are a piece of the puzzle,” said Busch, the lead author of the new paper. “Now we know, yes, pteropods from the North Pacific are sensitive to ocean acidification. Now that we have confirmed their sensitivity, we need to look more closely at how pteropods are responding to current ocean conditions and what may happen in the future as carbon dioxide increases.”

Pteropods provide important nutrition for whales, seabirds and fish such as herring, salmon and mackerel, so changes in their populations could rattle through the marine food chain. Carbon emissions during the industrial era have lowered the average global ocean pH from 8.2 to 8.1, turning oceans slightly more acidic. West Coast waters are naturally acidified compared to other parts of the ocean so they may affect marine life such as pteropods sooner than acidifying waters elsewhere in the world.

The research also demonstrated the capacity of the NWFSC’s ocean acidification system to hold marine life at different carbon dioxide concentrations for extended periods. The system can control temperatures, oxygen levels and light for even more precise management of conditions during experiments.

“They are all dependent on each other – if you change the temperature, the pH will change,” Maher said. The system that carefully manages all the variables is “ a combination of machines and precisions instruments.”

The comprehensive controls allow researchers to isolate acidification as the cause of the shell damage, ruling out other factors that might otherwise be at play in a natural environment.

“There are not a lot of cases where we can definitively say, ‘This change is the result of acidification,’” said research ecologist Paul McElhany, Busch’s colleague at NWFSC. “It’s very hard to disentangle unless you know that’s the only thing changing. Experiments like this provide evidence about the effects of acidification alone.”

Busch said each member of the research team – Maher, McElhany and NOAA Hollings Scholar Patricia Thibodeau – brought individual skills to the research. The team has also developed a smaller and transportable version called a Mobile Ocean Acidification Treatment System, or MOATS that could be carried in the field or aboard research ships.

Thibodeau joined the research team for the summer of 2012 after her junior year at Bowdoin College in Maine. One of her initial tasks was to collect pteropods from Puget Sound by boat at night to stock the experimental system. Pteropods ascend in the water column at night to feed. The vertical movement naturally exposes them to varying carbon dioxide concentrations, which the ocean acidification system can simulate.

Later Thibodeau helped examine the shells of pteropods exposed to different concentrations of carbon dioxide. As with most science experiments where objectivity is paramount, she did not know which ones had been exposed to which concentrations when she rated the extent of damage to each shell.

“Sometimes biology can be so unpredictable, but this had such a clear outcome and relationship, it was very interesting to be a part of,” said Thibodeau, who just began work on her PhD at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. “There is definitely a human component to the issue because so many of us eat oysters and clams and other species affected by ocean acidification. So what we know and what we do really makes a difference.”

NOAA Hollings Scholar, Patricia Thibodeau collects seawater from Puget Sound for chemistry measurement. Credit: NOAA NWFSC

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Jul 31 2014

Climate data from air, land, sea and ice in 2013 reflect trends of a warming planet

Increases in temperature, sea level and CO2 observed; Southern Hemisphere warmth and Super Typhoon Haiyan among year’s most notable events

July 17, 2014

State of the Climate.

State of the Climate report.

In 2013, the vast majority of worldwide climate indicators—greenhouse gases, sea levels, global temperatures, etc.—continued to reflect trends of a warmer planet, according to the indicators assessed in the State of the Climate in 2013 report, released online today by the American Meteorological Society.

Scientists from NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C., served as the lead editors of the report, which was compiled by 425 scientists from 57 countries around the world (highlights, visuals, full report). It provides a detailed update on global climate indicators, notable weather events, and other data collected by environmental monitoring stations and instruments on air, land, sea, and ice.

“These findings reinforce what scientists for decades have observed: that our planet is becoming a warmer place,” said NOAA Administrator Kathryn Sullivan, Ph.D. “This report provides the foundational information we need to develop tools and services for communities, business, and nations to prepare for, and build resilience to, the impacts of climate change.”

The report uses dozens of climate indicators to track patterns, changes, and trends of the global climate system, including greenhouse gases; temperatures throughout the atmosphere, ocean, and land; cloud cover; sea level; ocean salinity; sea ice extent; and snow cover. These indicators often reflect many thousands of measurements from multiple independent datasets. The report also details cases of unusual and extreme regional events, such as Super Typhoon Haiyan, which devastated portions of Southeast Asia in November 2013.


  • Greenhouse gases continued to climb: Major greenhouse gas concentrations, including carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and nitrous oxide, continued to rise during 2013, once again reaching historic high values. Atmospheric CO2 concentrations increased by 2.8 ppm in 2013, reaching a global average of 395.3 ppm for the year. At the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii, the daily concentration of CO2 exceeded 400 ppm on May 9 for the first time since measurements began at the site in 1958. This milestone follows observational sites in the Arctic that observed this CO2 threshold of 400 ppm in spring 2012.
  • Warm temperature trends continued near the Earth’s surface: Four major independent datasets show 2013 was among the warmest years on record, ranking between second and sixth depending upon the dataset used. In the Southern Hemisphere, Australia observed its warmest year on record, while Argentina had its second warmest and New Zealand its third warmest.
  • Sea surface temperatures increased: Four independent datasets indicate that the globally averaged sea surface temperature for 2013 was among the 10 warmest on record. El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO)-neutral conditions in the eastern central Pacific Ocean and a negative Pacific decadal oscillation pattern in the North Pacific had the largest impacts on the global sea surface temperature during the year. The North Pacific was record warm for 2013.
  • Sea level continued to rise: Global mean sea level continued to rise during 2013, on pace with a trend of 3.2 ± 0.4 mm per year over the past two decades.
  • The Arctic continued to warm; sea ice extent remained low: The Arctic observed its seventh warmest year since records began in the early 20th century. Record high temperatures were measured at 20-meter depth at permafrost stations in Alaska. Arctic sea ice extent was the sixth lowest since satellite observations began in 1979. All seven lowest sea ice extents on record have occurred in the past seven years.
  • Antarctic sea ice extent reached record high for second year in a row; South Pole station set record high temperature: The Antarctic maximum sea ice extent reached a record high of 7.56 million square miles on October 1. This is 0.7 percent higher than the previous record high extent of 7.51 million square miles that occurred in 2012 and 8.6 percent higher than the record low maximum sea ice extent of 6.96 million square miles that occurred in 1986. Near the end of the year, the South Pole had its highest annual temperature since records began in 1957.
  • Tropical cyclones near average overall / Historic Super Typhoon: The number of tropical cyclones during 2013 was slightly above average, with a total of 94 storms, in comparison to the 1981-2010 average of 89. The North Atlantic Basin had its quietest season since 1994. However, in the Western North Pacific Basin, Super Typhoon Haiyan – the deadliest cyclone of 2013 – had the highest wind speed ever assigned to a tropical cyclone, with one-minute sustained winds estimated to be 196 miles per hour.

State of the Climate in 2013 is the 24th edition in a peer-reviewed series published annually as a special supplement to the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. The journal makes the full report openly available online.

“State of the Climate is vital to documenting the world’s climate,” said Dr. Keith Seitter, AMS Executive Director. “AMS members in all parts of the world contribute to this NOAA-led effort to give the public a detailed scientific snapshot of what’s happening in our world and builds on prior reports we’ve published.”

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join us on FacebookTwitter, Instagram and our other social media channels.

Jun 10 2014

NOAA vessel to conduct research with Scripps, UCSD


Jun 06, 2014 | SDNEWS.COM

Fisheries survey vessel Reuben Lasker, the newest member of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) research fleet, was commissioned May 2 in San Diego, tasked with conducting research cruises in the California Current, the ocean region where Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UCSD, and NOAA operate the California Cooperative Oceanic Fisheries Investigations program.

“NOAA will once again be prominent in San Diego Bay,” said U.S. 53rd District Rep. Susan Davis, who helped secure American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding for the construction of the $75-million Lasker. “The ship brings an important legacy to our research mission and to the blue economy.”

The vessel, which will dock at the 10th Avenue Terminal, will be the first NOAA ship home-ported in San Diego since David Starr Jordan was retired in 2009 after having logged 1.5 million miles in its 44-year tenure.

The Lasker’s duties will routinely conduct research cruises in the California Current for the state fisheries investigations program with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Since 1949, the fisheries program has conducted regular cruises with the goal of managing living resources in an ocean region that supports a $250 million fishery.

The 208-foot vessel is named for the late Reuben Lasker, NOAA coastal fisheries division director, who served as an adjunct professor at Scripps. Lasker is noted in fisheries management for his advances in understanding the transition period of commercially important fish species from juveniles to adults.

San Diego Port Commissioner Bob Nelson noted that the ship brings 24 jobs and an estimated $27 million to the local economy.

The ship’s first cruise will center on a July cetacean and ecosystem survey. It will employ perhaps its most distinctive feature, an ability to operate so quietly that the vessel will be able to make close-range observations of marine life without disturbing animal behavior or compromising extremely sensitive acoustic equipment.


In related news:

As the probability of an El Niño winter increases, Scripps Institution of Oceanography researchers are following the climate phenomenon as it develops off Southern California and finding that local readings closely hew to El Niño monitoring taking place at the equator.

El Niño is a phenomenon characterized by warmer sea surface water in the equatorial Eastern Pacific Ocean. It is often associated with greater rainfall on much of the U.S. West Coast and frequently enhances the encroachment of storm surges by raising regional sea levels for several months at a time. An El Niño is defined by a seasonal sea surface temperature anomaly in the eastern-central equatorial Pacific greater than 0.9 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than historical average temperature. The opposite phenomenon, La Niña, is defined as a seasonal sea surface temperature colder than the historical average.

The researchers’ data are distributed by the Southern California Coastal Ocean Observing System (SCCOOS), a region of the U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System. SCCOOS uses the data to make model forecasts in support of U.S. national security.


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May 14 2014

Scientists Warn of Rising Oceans From Polar Melt


MAY 12, 2014

A large section of the mighty West Antarctica ice sheet has begun falling apart and its continued melting now appears to be unstoppable, two groups of scientists reported on Monday. If the findings hold up, they suggest that the melting could destabilize neighboring parts of the ice sheet and a rise in sea level of 10 feet or more may be unavoidable in coming centuries.

Global warming caused by the human-driven release of greenhouse gases has helped to destabilize the ice sheet, though other factors may also be involved, the scientists said.

The rise of the sea is likely to continue to be relatively slow for the rest of the 21st century, the scientists added, but in the more distant future it may accelerate markedly, potentially throwing society into crisis.

“This is really happening,” Thomas P. Wagner, who runs NASA’s programs on polar ice and helped oversee some of the research, said in an interview. “There’s nothing to stop it now. But you are still limited by…”


Read the entire article online here.