Global Warming Is ‘Fundamentally’ Changing The Structure of Oceans

Climate change has wrought major changes to ocean stability faster than previously thought, according to a study published recently, raising alarms over its role as a global thermostat and the marine life it supports. The research published in the journal Nature looked at 50 years of data and followed the way in which surface waterdecouples” from the deeper oceanClimate change has disrupted ocean mixing, a process that helps store away most of the world’s excess heat and a significant proportion of CO2.

Water on the surface is warmer – and therefore less dense – than the water below, a contrast that is intensified by climate changeGlobal warming is also causing massive amounts of fresh water to flush into the seas from melting ice sheets and glaciers, lowering the salinity of the upper layer and further reducing its density. This increasing contrast between the density of the ocean layers makes mixing harder, so oxygen, heat and carbon are all less able to penetrate to the deep seas.

Similar to a layer of water on top of oil, the surface waters in contact with the atmosphere mix less efficiently with the underlying ocean,” said lead author Jean-Baptiste Sallee of Sorbonne University and France’s CNRS national scientific research center. He said while scientists were aware that this process was under way, “we here show that this change has occurred at a rate much quicker than previously thought: more than six times quicker.

Source: https://www.sciencealert.com/

Massive MicroPlastic Pollution: Synthetic Clothing And Washing Machines Guilty

Researchers reported a startling discovery: In 11 national parks and protected areas in the western US, 1,000 metric tons of microfibers and microplastic particles fall from the sky each year, equivalent to over 120 million plastic water bottles—and that’s in just 6 percent of the country’s land area. Last month, another group described how the ocean is burping up microplastics, which then blow onshore via sea breezes. And last year, still more scientists reported that 7 trillion microplastic particles flow into the San Francisco Bay annually.

Scientists have known about microplastic pollution (technically, bits less than 5 millimeters long) for decades, but the almost unbelievable pervasiveness of the stuff in the environment has really become clear in just the last few years. Its ubiquity has coincided with the rise of fast fashion—cheap synthetic clothes that during each wash shed perhaps 100,000 microfibers, which then flow out to rivers and oceans through wastewater. (Consider that 70 years ago, the textile and clothing industries used 2 million tons of synthetic materials; that figure had skyrocketed to almost 50 million tons by 2010.) Everywhere scientists look, these microfibers turn up; they’re blowing into the Arctic and to the tops of (formerly) pristine mountaintops. In that study of US protected areas, 70 percent of the synthetic particles researchers trapped in their samples were microfibers.

There’s simply no putting the plastic back in the bottle; once it’s out in the environment, it just breaks into smaller and smaller bits, infiltrating ever more nooks and crannies. But a growing number of environmentalists and scientists want to hold those responsible for microfiber pollution—largely the fashion industry and makers of washing machines—to account, and to stem the flow of tiny plastics into Earth’s systems.

Nearly 13,000 tons of microfibers may be entering the marine environment just from Europe’s countries alone,” says Nicholas Mallos, senior director of the Ocean Conservancy’s Trash Free Seas program. “Scaled globally, other estimates say maybe 250,000 tons of plastics via microfibers are entering our waterways and oceans. So those are not insignificant numbers, even though we’re talking about a very, very small vector of pollution.”

Source: https://www.wired.com/

Bionic Jellyfish

It may sound more like science fiction than science fact, but researchers have created bionic jellyfish by embedding microelectronics into these ubiquitous marine invertebrates with hopes to deploy them to monitor and explore the world’s oceans.

A small prosthetic enabled the jellyfish to swim three times faster and more efficiently without causing any apparent stress to the animals, which have no brain, central nervous system or pain receptors, the researchers said.

The next steps will be to test ways to control where the jellyfish go and develop tiny sensors that could perform long-term measurements of ocean conditions such as temperature, salinity, acidity, oxygen levels, nutrients and microbial communities. They even envision installing miniscule cameras.

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It’s very sci-fi futuristic,” said Stanford University bioengineer Nicole Xu, co-author of the research published this week in the journal Science Advances. “We could send these bionic jellyfish to different areas of the ocean to monitor signs of climate change or observe natural phenomena.

An initial goal will be deep dives because measurements at great depths are a major gap in our understanding of the oceans, added California Institute of Technology mechanical engineering professor John Dabiri, the study’s other co-author.

Basically, we’d release the bionic jellyfish at the surface, have it swim down to increasing depths, and see just how far we can get it to go down into the ocean and still make it back to the surface with data,” Dabiri added.

Source: https://www.caltech.edu/
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https://www.reuters.com/

Cut emissions to avert catastrophic sea-level rise

Scientists behind a landmark study of the links between oceans, glaciers, ice caps and the climate delivered a stark warning to the world: slash emissions or watch cities vanish under rising seas, rivers run dry and marine life collapse. Days after millions of young people demanded an end to the fossil-fuel era in protests around the globe, a new report by a U.N.-backed panel of experts found that radical action may yet avert some of the worst possible outcomes of global warming. But the study was clear that allowing carbon emissions to continue rising would upset the balance of the geophysical systems governing oceans and the frozen regions of the Earth so profoundly that nobody would escape untouched.

We are in a race between two factors, one is the capacity of humans and ecosystems to adapt, the other is the speed of impact of climate change. This report…indicates we may be losing in this race. We need to take immediate and drastic action to cut emissions right now,” IPCC Chair Hoesung Lee said at the presentation of the report in Monaco.

Finalised in a marathon 27-hour session of talks in Monaco between authors and representatives of governments, the report was the culmination of two years’ efforts by the U.N.-backed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Compiled by more than 100 authors who crunched 7,000 academic papers, the study documents the implications of warm, fast-melting ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica and shrinking glaciers for more than 1.3 billion people living in low-lying or high-mountain regions.

The report projects that sea levels could rise by one meter (3.3 feet) by 2100 — ten times the rate in the 20th century — if emissions keep climbing. The rise could exceed five meters by 2300. In the Himalayas, glaciers feeding ten rivers, including the Ganges and Yangtze, could shrink dramatically if emissions do not fall, hitting water supplies across a swathe of Asia. Thawing permafrost in places like Alaska and Siberia could release vast quantities of greenhouse gases, potentially unleashing feedback loops driving faster warming.

Plastic Waste Desintegrates Into Nanoparticles

There is a considerable risk that plastic waste in the environment releases nano-sized particles known as nanoplastics, according to a new study from Lund University in Sweden. The researchers studied what happened when takeaway coffee cup lids, for example, were subjected to mechanical breakdown, in an effort to mimic the degradation that happens to plastic in the ocean.The majority of all marine debris is plastic. Calculations have shown that ten per cent of all plastic produced globally ends up in the sea. This plastic waste is subjected to both chemical and mechanical degradation. The sun’s UV rays contribute to the degradation, as do waves, which cause plastic waste to grind against stones on the water’s edge, against the sea floor or against other debris.

Is there a risk that this plastic waste disintegrates to the extent that nanoplastics are released? The research community is divided on whether the degradation process stops at slightly larger plastic fragmentsmicroplastics – or actually continues and creates even smaller particles. The researchers behind the study have now investigated this issue by subjecting plastic material to mechanical degradation under experimental conditions.

We have been able to show that the mechanical effect on the plastic causes the disintegration of plastic down to nano-sized plastic fragments,” says Tommy Cedervall, chemistry researcher at Lund University.

The emphasis of a number of other recent studies from the research community has been on microplastics and their increased distribution among organisms. There are now intense attempts to also identify nanoplastics in the environment. Last year, in an earlier study from Lund University, researchers showed that nano-sized plastic particles can enter the brains of fish and that this causes brain damage which probably disturbs fish behaviour.

It’s important to begin mapping what happens to disintegrated plastic in nature, concludes Tommy Cedervall.

Source: https://www.lunduniversity.lu.se/

Chinese ‘Death Star’ For Submarines

China is developing a satellite with a powerful laser for anti-submarine warfare that researchers hope will be able to pinpoint a target as far as 500 metres below the surface. It is the latest addition to the country’s expanding deep-sea surveillance programme, and aside from targeting submarines – most operate at a depth of less than 500 metres – it could also be used to collect data on the world’s oceansProject Guanlan, meaning “watching the big waves”, was officially launched in May at the Pilot National Laboratory for Marine Science and Technology in Qingdao, Shandong. It aims to strengthen China’s surveillance activities in the world’s oceans, according to the laboratory’s website.

Scientists are working on the satellite’s design at the laboratory, but its key components are being developed by more than 20 research institutes and universities across the country. Song Xiaoquan, a researcher involved in the project, said if the team can develop the satellite as planned, it will make the upper layer of the seamore or less transparent”. “It will change almost everything,” Song said.

While light dims 1,000 times faster in water than in the air, and the sun can penetrate no more than 200 metres below the ocean surface, a powerful artificial laser beam can be 1 billion times brighter than the sun. But this project is ambitious – naval researchers have tried for more than half a century to develop a laser spotlight for hunting submarines using technology known as light detection and ranging (lidar). In theory, it works like this – when a laser beam hits a submarine, some pulses bounce back. They are then picked up by sensors and analysed by computer to determine the target’s location, speed and three-dimensional shape.

But in real life, lidar technology can be affected by the device’s power limitations, as well as cloud, fog, murky water – and even marine life such as fish and whales. Added to that, the laser beam deflects and scatters as it travels from one body of water to another, making it more of a challenge to get a precise calculation. Experiments carried out by the United States and former Soviet Union achieved maximum detection depths of less than 100 metres, according to openly available information. That range has been extended in recent years by the US in research funded by Nasa and the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

Source: https://www.scmp.com/

‘WasteShark’, The Aquadrone That Cleans The Ocean Waste

A swarm of autonomous robots that can swim across bodies of water to collect garbage might be the key to saving the oceans. A few years ago, RanMarine Technology, a company from the Netherlands, has introduced WasteShark, an aquadrone that works like a smart vacuum cleaner (essentially, a Roomba for the seas) to gather wastes that end up in waterways before they accumulate into a great big patch in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

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The operational cost of the vehicle… will be almost nothing. You are basically using compressed air. You are not paying for fuel and also you do not need cooling,” said Mahmoud Yasser, a student who helped design it. The team is now looking to raise funding to expand the project and mass produce the vehicles. They believe they can eventually get the vehicles to top 100 kilometers an hour and run for 100 kilometers before needing to come up for air.

Every year, about 1.4 billion pounds of trash end up in the ocean. Plastics, styrofoam, and other nonbiodegradable materials get dumped into the waters, eaten by fishes and birds or collect into what has become the Great Pacific Garbage Patch — a gyre of debris between California and Hawaii bigger than AlaskaTrash in seas and oceans have become a huge problem, but the WasteShark might be able to help.

RanMarine said that its aquadrones are inspired by whale sharks, “nature’s most efficient harvesters of marine biomass.” The company claims that the vessels can collect up to 200 liters of waste before it needs to be emptied and swim across the water for 16 hours. The WasteShark are autonomous as it can intelligently wade through water and collect trash using sensors. It is equipped with a GPS to track its movements.

Source: https://www.techtimes.com/