By Kirk Moore on MARCH 12, 2020 An autonomous undersea glider deployed in December 2019 is helping to map cod spawning habitat around offshore wind energy areas off southern New England. NMFS photo.
A three-year study of cod and other commercial fish species is underway around New England offshore wind energy sites, part of a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration effort to better understand how proposed turbine arrays will affect the environment and fisheries.
With universities and other partners, the agency’s National Marine Fisheries Service in December deployed a Slocum electric glider, a type of autonomous underwater vehicle that has proven highly successful in long-term oceanographic studies.
The glider’s instrument payload includes a hydrophone to detect the sounds of whales and of fish spawning, and an acoustic telemetry receiver to pick up signals from fish that have been captured and released with acoustic tags to track their movements.
Now surveying the area around Cox’s Ledge, the glider is covering an area that includes wind developer Ørsted’s planned South Fork wind energy area south of Rhode Island and east of Montauk, N.Y.The survey is covering an area that includes the proposed South Fork Wind Farm south of Rhode Island. BOEM image.
Running on battery power, undersea gliders use a system of water ballast and pumps to slowly climb and dive in the water column, their wings generating lift and forward motion. With their long range and endurance, gliders can survey large areas for weeks at a time, occasionally surfacing to send collected data to vessels or shore by satellite uplink.
For this phase of the study, the acoustic data “will identify location and seasonal occurrence of hotspots for key commercial and federally listed fish species,” according to NOAA.
There is little specific information on Atlantic cod spawning in southern New England waters, according to project lead Sofie Van Parijs, who heads the Passive Acoustics Research Group at the Northeast Fisheries Science Center laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass.
Elsewhere, cod have been are known to form large, dense spawning aggregations in predictable locations relatively close to shore. That can make them vulnerable to disturbances that might affect spawning success, according to NMFS.
“Biological sampling will determine the population’s onset of spawning and track growth, maturity, age structure, and other life history parameters,” Van Parijs said. “This information will help inform the starting date for our glider surveys each year. We will tentatively conduct these surveys from December through March this year and for longer periods in the subsequent two years.”
Even before the agencies came to an impasse over the environmental assessment, fisheries scientists had been warning there needs to be more baseline information about fish populations around proposed wind power sites before construction.
Now BOEM is funding the acoustic surveys. Data for a larger study by the offshore energy planners, including potential cumulative impacts of Vineyard Wind and other projects, is scheduled to start being assembled by mid-June, with a final report scheduled for December 2020.The glider uses water ballast and wings to slowly ‘fly’ underwater over long ranges carrying its instrument package. Christopher McGuire/Nature Conservancy photo.
Ørsted is using the glider detection of endangered whales to guide plans for monitoring and mitigation requirements in the South Fork project, where the company hopes begin construction as early as 2021. Similar mapping will be used for planning the company’s other projects off the East Coast, including Ocean Wind array off southern New Jersey.
For the fisheries aspect of the study, researchers will tag up to 100 spawning cod with acoustic transmitters so the glider can identify spawning area. Other sensors carried on the glider collect detailed environmental data, to help scientists better understand the temperature preferences and habitat use of spawning cod in the region.
A new near real-time telemetry system is operating detect whales and fish, and the public can see data and photos as they come in from the project on a new public web page.
The project team includes experts from the NOAA Fisheries Northeast Fisheries Science Center; Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution; Massachusetts Department of Marine Fisheries; The Nature Conservancy; University of Massachusetts Dartmouth School for Marine Science & Technology; the NMFS Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office; and Rutgers University.
There is already evidence of a real estate slump in the United States. A housing recession is predicted for 2020. The average price of luxury home sales is falling, as is the number of sales. Long Island specifically is suffering as sales decrease and homes lose value. This is rather astonishing given that the rest of the economy is still on steroids.
What are the reasons? The following have all been suggested.
First, baby boomers from New York are downsizing and moving to lower-tax states. Second, millennials seem to have a distaste for buying second homes and would rather rent. Third, bonuses on Wall Street fell 17 percent in 2018 compared with 2017.
Fourth, the tax changes brought on by Donald Trump: a cap of $10,000 on the amount of state and local taxes (SALT), including property taxes, that can be deducted from federal income tax. For an expensive home with property taxes of $50,000 per year, this means that $40,000 can no longer be deducted.
Fifth, as mentioned by some real estate professionals: chronic flooding, which threatens the values of houses here. According to Aidan Gardiner writing for The Real Deal, a website focusing on New York real estate news: “Chronic flooding threatens to sink the value of Hamptons homes. Hamptons homes are very likely to lose value given that they’ll face chronic flooding as climate changes and sea levels rise over the coming years, according to Bloomberg. Behind only central California, the area has the second-highest level of its property tax revenue at risk among U.S. municipalities with a high likelihood of chronic flooding in the next 12 years. Climate change is expected to bring constant floods that would tank property values, erode infrastructure, and sink tax revenue, all of which will make it harder to fund projects to battle the rising seas.”
You can check for yourself on ss2.climatecentral.org, where you can find a “risk zone map for surging seas.” See the figure appended below. You can input anything from “unchecked pollution” to “extreme carbon cuts,” depending on how you predict future policies will rein in carbon emissions.
I assumed unchecked carbon emissions along the lines of our present-day emissions, and I asked for maps of a 10-foot water level rise. The program produces maps with dark blue shaded areas that will be underwater. Here are some of the highlights for the not so distant future (2050 to 2100).
Montauk will become an island, the Napeague stretch will be underwater, and much of downtown Montauk will be too, including Route 27. Flooding of Route 27 across Napeague will start with just a three-foot rise in sea water levels, shutting down access to Montauk.
Homes all around Accabonac Harbor will be flooded. Gerard Drive and Louse Point will be submerged. Maidstone Park, Sammy’s Beach, and Cedar Point will be gone. Barcelona Point and the Sag Harbor Golf Course will become an island.
Beach homes in Amagansett, homes along Two Mile Hollow Beach, homes around Hook Pond, Georgica Pond, and Wainscott Pond will all be underwater. Indeed, a few homes on Beach Lane in Wainscott will be submerged. That is where the cable from the South Fork Wind Farm is proposed to come ashore and where some of its opponents own property.
Much of Sag Harbor Village will be underwater, and North Haven will be a real island.
Up and down Long Island, the homes close to the South Shore will be underwater, and Fire Island will no longer exist.
The North Shore, too, will be flooded, and Greenport will be on an island.
Kennedy International Airport will be underwater.
It is not just someone else’s problem. Loss of value of high-end homes means loss of significant local business and loss of jobs, and it spills over, resulting in loss of the value of your own property regardless of whether it is in particular danger of flooding.
Showtime’s “The Affair” recently wrapped up its final season, and part of it was set in mid-21st-century Montauk, with warming temperatures and rising seas. The show forecasts what life will look like in 34 short years, including mass transit that routinely short-circuits because of flooding, coastal communities plunged into near-total darkness, and shoreline towns without basic municipal services.
We had better support clean energy (including offshore wind) and work to decrease our carbon footprint. It is urgent.
David Posnett is a member of the Steering Committee of Win With Wind.
By Sarah Kaplan Jan. 1, 2020 at 3:45 p.m. EST. The Washington Post: Science
At the start of the previous decade, Kallan Benson was 5 years old, her favorite story was “The Secret Garden,” and Earth was in the midst of its warmest year on record. Benson had heard about climate change (her mother is an environmental scientist), but she didn’t know world leaders had just signed an agreement calling it “one of the greatest challenges of our time.” She cared about Earth, but she trusted adults to protect it.
She doesn’t feel that way anymore.
By the final year of the decade, the planet had surpassed its 2010 temperature record five times. Hurricanes devastated New Jersey and Puerto Rico, and floods damaged the Midwest and Bangladesh. Southern Africa was gripped by a deadly drought. Australia and the Amazon are ablaze. Global emissions are expected to hit an all-time high this year, and humanity is on track to cross the threshold for tolerable warming within a generation.AD
The 2010s were a “decade of disappointment,” said Benson, now 15 and a national coordinator for the youth climate organization Fridays for Future. If the world is to stave off further disasters, the next decade must be one of unprecedented climate action, she said.
“This decade that we’re going into now will be the most important of our lives,” Benson said. “We’re kind of running out of options. And we’re running out of time.”
Ten years ago, the United Nations released its first “emissions gap” report detailing the disparity between commitments made by nations to reduce greenhouse gases and what is needed to meet global temperature targets. It estimated that countries should be curbing emissions about 3 percent per year.
But that hasn’t happened, said Surabi Menon, vice president for global intelligence at the ClimateWorks Foundation and a steering committee member for the U.N.’s emissions gap reports.AD
“We’ve left ourselves with a very narrow window to take the kind of action that needs to be taken,” she said.
The 2015 Paris climate accord — the first-ever global agreement to limit warming to “well below 2 degrees Celsius” — was important, Menon said. But the promises made at that meeting fell short. According to the latest emissions gap report, temperatures can be expected to rise 3.2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels by the end of the century, unless the world’s top emitters increase their Paris commitments.
Right now, most aren’t on track to meet even their most modest targets. The world is already about 1 degree Celsius warmer than it was before humans started burning fossil fuels. Global annual emissions have increased 4 percent since the Paris agreement was signed. And the average concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere — a number that ultimately determines our fate, in the words of Phil DeCola, who chairs the science team for a World Meteorological Organization greenhouse gas initiative — is the highest in human history.
Meanwhile, improved scientific models found that even 2 degrees of warming — once thought to be a reasonable target — could be practically intolerable in parts of the world. To get on track to achieve a less disastrous 1.5-degree temperature rise, a landmark U.N. report found that nations must nearly halve emissions by 2030.
The United Nations’ 1.5-degree analysis provoked widespread alarm after it was published in 2018. Politicians referred to the report at rallies; teenagers quoted it during school walkouts.AD
“If we don’t do something by then,” 14-year-old climate activist Alexandria Villaseñor said in February, referring to 2030, “it will be the end of my world.”
But climate scientists caution against treating 2030 as a deadline and 1.5 degrees as a threshold for extinction.
“Climate change is not a cliff. It’s not a pass-fail course,” Georgia Tech researcher Kim Cobb said. “If we meet the 1.5 target, there may still be tons of ugly surprises. And if we don’t meet it, it’s not that everybody’s going to die.”
According to Cobb, the report is better understood as a road map for navigating the perilous path to sustainability.
“Our decisions over the next 10 years will affect the magnitude of climate change for centuries to come,” she said. “I don’t think it can get more sobering than that.”
The first and most important step will be reducing fossil fuel consumption, experts say. According to the latest emissions gap analysis, the past 10 years of inaction have more than doubled the rate at which emissions must fall; to meet the 1.5-degree goal, emissions must be cut by 7.6 percent each year.AD
Such action would require “unprecedented” transformation of society the report acknowledged.
But many of the solutions needed — both economic and technological — already exist. The report called on the global community to replace coal power with renewable energy, decarbonize transportation and manufacturing, and help developing nations build green infrastructure to meet their growing power needs.
Ending subsidies for fossil fuels could reduce global emissions 10 percent by 2030, the U.N. has found. And eliminating “short-lived” greenhouse gases — including methane, black carbon and fluorinated gases, which linger in the atmosphere less than carbon dioxide but trap more heat — over the next 20 years could help Earth avoid between 0.3 and 0.8 degrees of warming by 2050, research suggests.
Menon draws hope from progress that has been made on the ground in the past decade, even as global leaders fell short. Global renewable energy capacity has quadrupled since 2010, largely because of improved technology and falling costs, she noted. People increasingly see climate change as a threat; a Washington Post poll this year found that 76 percent of American adults view the issue as a “major problem” or a “crisis.” This year’s global climate strikes, led by teenagers such as Benson and Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, were among the largest environmental protests in history.
“We know what we have to do,” Menon said. “And we know there are pathways, there are policies, and there are people willing to do it.”
The rate at which greenhouse gases are removed from the atmosphere must also increase, said Tufts University climate scientist William Moomaw, a contributor to the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Natural systems currently absorb more than half the carbon people produce, and a 2018 study found that conservation, restoration and improved land management practices could reduce the United States’ net emissions by as much as 21 percent. But cutting down forests, dredging wetlands and polluting the coasts reduce that capacity.AD
“If we don’t actually reverse the rise of carbon dioxide, so that we are lowering the concentrations in the atmosphere, it’s just going to go on getting worse and worse,” Moomaw said.
In the bleak report released this August, the United Nations forecast the consequences of inaction on land. Warming beyond 1.5 degrees will lead to high risk of drought, wildfires, destructive hurricanes and outbreaks of agricultural pests, scientists said. Increased atmospheric carbon dioxide levels could lower the nutritional quality of crops and raise grain prices. Millions will be at risk of losing their homes, livelihoods and lives to natural disasters, and countries will be destabilized by mass migrations.
Many parts of the world are already experiencing this extreme change; a Washington Post analysis this year found roughly 10 percent of the globe has surpassed 2 degrees of warming since the preindustrial era.AD
“The stakes are high. The climate impacts are severe. And people almost everywhere in the world are experiencing that and waking up,” Menon said. “That gives me hope.”
It’s when she considers the political decisions needed to fight warming that she feels pessimistic.
At the recent COP 25 climate talks in Madrid, the world’s leading emitters, including the United States and China, failed to increase their commitments to cut emissions. Officials deferred until next year the task of establishing a global carbon trading system.
“It felt like betrayal,” said Benson, the 15-year-old activist, who lives in Annapolis. “But for me, it means that I have to keep doing what I’m doing. Keep soldiering on.”
On a chilly Friday in December, shivering through her weekly climate strike at the Capitol, the teenager tried to imagine what the next 10 years might look like. But the normal life milestones — dates and dances, college, a job — were hard to picture. Until the global climate outlook changes, Benson can’t envision doing anything but activism.AD
It all depends on what happens to the planet. And that depends on what people decide to do.
Finally, Benson sighed. “I really can’t predict the future,” she said. “There’s so many ways this decade could go.”
Correction: An initial version of this article misstated Phil DeCola’s title. He is science team chair for the Integrated Global Greenhouse Gas Information System, an initiative of the World Meteorological Organization’s Global Atmosphere Watch program.
On my daily beach walk I came across this dead animal (about 1 week ago, on the Lion Head beach close to the entrance to Hog Creek, in Springs, East Hampton):
Based on the pictures I took, it’s now been identified as Kemp’s Ridley Turtle. This is a critically endangered species. In fact it is the most endangered sea turtle species!
Obviously we would all like to know why this rare animal showed up on our beach, and what might have caused its death.
Adult turtles which reach sexual maturity at the age of 7-15 years, measure about 27″ in length. This specimen measured about approx. 15″ and was therefore a juvenile.
Kemp’s Ridley can be found along the Atlantic coast as far north as New Jersey. Mature adults migrate back to their nesting beach in Mexico every year: female Kemp’s Ridley turtles come together all at once in what is known as an arribada, which means “arrival” in Spanish. Nearly 95 percent of Kemp’s Ridley nesting worldwide occurs in Tamaulipas, Mexico. Nesting is usually between May and July, and females will lay up to three clutches of 100 eggs that must incubate for 50-60 days.
Hatchlings spend up to 10 years in the open ocean as juveniles. Kemp’s Ridley turtles occupy “neritic” zones, which contain muddy or sandy bottoms where their preferred prey is plentiful. Even in the ocean, the Kemp’s Ridley turtles rarely swim in waters deeper than about 160 feet.
Kemp’s Ridley turtles face many threats to their survival including incidental capture in fishing gear, or bycatch, egg collection by predators and climate change.
What was the cause of death for our turtle? Kemp’s Ridley turtles do not tolerate cold water below 8 degrees Celsius. East Hampton waters are currently about 10 degrees Celsius. So it seems that the turtle was too far north for its comfort zone. Note that it’s left front flipper seems to be missing or seriously mangled. This suggests that the turtle may have been injured, perhaps by fishing trawlers. Incidental take by shrimp trawlers in the gulf of Mexico is a recognized hazard for this species.
Finally, there is the possibility that ocean acidification from climate change has altered the food chain for this species as noted by OCEANA. Kemp’s Ridley turtle feeds on mollusks, crustaceans, jellyfish, fish, algae, seaweed, and sea urchins. But juveniles (such as our specimen) feed on crabs and on bay scallops.
It’s interesting that bay scallops in the Peconic bay have recently suffered a die-off discussed elsewhere on this blog and possibly related to ocean acidification.
Bottom line: you don’t have to look far to witness a species in trouble!
I note that this species likes waters with high salinity (over 30 PSU), see above. The following map shows that our waters around Long Island have much lower average salinity (less than 25 PSU). Thus both the low temperature and the low salinity represent a hostile environment for Kemp’s Ridley Turtles.