A new report from Duke University and NC State estimates economic losses associated with the decline of submerged aquatic vegetation in the Albemarle-Pamlico estuary could total $8.6 million in 10 years.
To help protect the 250 square miles that comprise the Peconic watershed, the Peconic Estuary Partnership recently unveiled its 2020 Comprehensive Conservation and Management plan, which will serve as its roadmap for the next decade.
A record $18 million in federal grant money is heading to Chesapeake Bay watershed groups and local governments this year under a 20-year-old program that helps finance restoration projects in the estuary's drainage basin.
By the year 2090, the estuary and mangroves that divide Tamarindo from Playa Grande will be flooded under at least another meter (about 3 feet) of water.
Scientists will determine the impact on the animals that live in Florida's largest estuary.
Scientists have long overlooked beavers in the intertidal zone. Now they're counting on the freshwater rodents to restore Washington's coastal ecosystems.
Salt marshes along the entire West Coast could disappear by 2110, according to a new study.
Opinion | CONTRIBUTING OP-ED WRITER
Trump’s Sellout of American Heritage
Timothy Egan OCT. 13, 2017
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An aerial view of a landscape in the Bristol Bay watershed. Credit Paul Colangelo
The last runs of heavenly wild salmon are trickling in this month, the buttery coho with flesh the color of fall foliage. After that, we’ll have to settle for mostly farmed and frozen fish until next spring — no substitute for the real deal.
We can count on this seasonal miracle, healthy fish returning to their birthplaces and then on to the dinner table, so long as the fragile balance of nature remains intact. But with a president who is going after clean air, clean water and the world’s most valuable wild salmon fishery, the fate of creation and all the myriad wonders within it is at stake.
I use “creation” as an appeal to creationists to look at what your president is doing to Eden, or what’s left of it. I also want to appeal to economic nationalists. For the U.S.A. has the greatest home for sockeye salmon on the planet in Alaska’s Bristol Bay. The Trump administration is putting it at risk in order to aid a foreign mining conglomerate.
This American carnage is led by a man whose job is to protect the natural world within our borders, the E.P.A. administrator, Scott Pruitt. As you may have heard, he has sealed himself off from the public with a $25,000 phone security system and an 18-member security detail. It took a court order to pry loose some of the details of his meetings. No surprise, he holds daily lap-dog sessions with the companies he is supposed to regulate.
Pruitt is the swamp, the only wetland the Trump administration wants to protect. He serves the oil, chemical and mining interests that propped him up when he was attorney general of Oklahoma. He now runs the oil, chemical and mining protection agency out of Washington, with our money. You would never guess that this toady in a suit works for us.
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The environment, the American West and politics.
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Biologist in a warming land 4 minutes ago
I am a scientist. Words like “diabolical,” “maniacal,” “loathsome,” are foreign to my vocabulary. Yet, the actions of the repugnant man in...
Newt Baker 4 minutes ago
"I use “creation” as an appeal to creationists to look at what your president is doing to Eden, or what’s left of it."There is no point in...
james jordan 20 minutes ago
Tim,You write the truth. The Trump administration keeps bragging about all of the good they have done in 9 months. Their idea of making the...
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Look around. The catastrophic wildfires that are sweeping through iconic landscapes in Northern California and carpet-bombing entire neighborhoods are a glimpse into an early future in the West. Hurricanes, rolling in one after the other, are swamping cities. Every month brings a new high temperature record.
Until this year, the American response was in tune with the rest of the world — to try to do something to fix this overheated globe of ours.
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In announcing this week that President Trump intends to spite all the other nations and gut President Barack Obama’s signature effort to curb greenhouse gas emissions, Pruitt framed the move as the end of the “war on coal.” Now comes the war on the planet and public health.
Amid the hourly calamities of a White House that is forced to treat its chief occupant like a toddler, it’s easy to forget that Trump is doing real damage to things that all of us share.
So, that’s politics, right? To the victor go the spoils. He’s simply rolling back onerous regulations, as promised, and sticking it to the global elites on climate change. Well, no.
Your party affiliation will not protect you from the chemicals sprayed on strawberries — shown to cause brain damage to children — which Trump will allow to remain in the food chain. Living in a red state will not keep warming oceans from rising ever higher when the latest 500-year storm hits your region. Being a Trump supporter does not protect your favorite stream from the toxic discharge of a power plant into a public waterway.
All of the above are potential consequences of more than 50 environmental rules that Trump has tried to kill since he took office.
National monuments — not the Confederate kind that Trump wants to preserve, but special places protected in somewhat the same way as national parks — are also in his sights. These are unique landscapes set aside for their cultural, historical or scenic splendor. Trump could shrink 10 of them — another sellout of American heritage.
In Alaska, he is going against the will of the people to target Bristol Bay. Half the world’s wild sockeye come from this magical place, a bounty that supports 14,000 jobs. Alaskans are a cantankerous bunch who can’t agree on much of anything. Yet they voted by an overwhelming margin in 2014 to protect Bristol Bay from a gold and copper mine that could generate 10 billion tons of toxic waste.
And unlike big food producers in the heartland, the Bristol Bay salmon industry is not propped up by subsidies, chemicals or compromised politicians. The fish need only clean water and healthy oceans. That’s why the E.P.A. had earlier concluded that the proposed Pebble mine could have a “catastrophic” impact on the bay.
Trump’s men are rolling over for the gold mine. Just hours after Pruitt met with the mine’s corporate leadership, Trump reversed E.P.A. protection, as CNN reported this week. If you’re surprised that wild salmon would be sacrificed for precious metal, remember that one of Trump’s few passions is for gold-plated bathroom fixtures.
If you were to round up all of the menhaden swimming along the Atlantic coast and somehow put them on a scale, they’d weigh in at about 1.2 million metric tons.
To visualize that, imagine 220,000 Asian elephants stampeding along the coast — about five times more than exist in the world. For menhaden, though, that equates to tens of billions of tiny fish. This fall, fishery managers will tackle the question of whether that’s enough.
An update on the status of Atlantic menhaden released in August found the population robust. The current biomass, combining their number and weight, is the greatest that scientists have estimated in the last four years — and more than was seen anytime from 1992 through 2007.
Menhaden are not overfished, the report concluded — fewer than 200,000 metric tons were caught last year.
But critics, including some scientists and many conservation groups, say those figures only tell part of the story. Menhaden should not be looked at in isolation, they say, but as part of the broader marine ecosystem, where the small, oily fish is an important food for other fish, whales, sea birds and a host of other species.
“We’re probably not going to damage the menhaden stock all that much by continued heavy fishing. It seems to be in reasonably good shape,” said Ed Houde, a fisheries scientist with the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. “But what happens to the rest of the ecosystem? That’s the question mark.”
In November, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, a panel of state fishery managers that regulates catches of migratory fish along the coast, will grapple with whether it should continue to manage menhaden as a single species — or begin considering its value to the ecosystem as well.
The debate over menhaden comes amid rising concern over all forage fish, those small species that provide a critical link in the aquatic food chain by converting plankton into food for larger predator fish, birds and mammals. Historically, forage species have received less attention — and protection from overfishing — than the larger predators, such as striped bass.
The 2014 Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement reflects that concern, calling for state and federal agencies to determine whether there are enough forage fish in the Bay to feed the growing populations of fish, osprey — even whales and dolphins — populating the estuary.
But the ASMFC experience with menhaden shows just how difficult the issue can be.
Conservationists and scientists have been urging the commission to consider the food value of menhaden for more than a decade. That’s when recreational anglers complained about “skinny” striped bass in the Chesapeake. They blamed the situation on too many menhaden being caught in fisheries, particularly Omega Protein’s large “reduction” fishery based in Reedville, VA, which processes the fish into animal feed and nutritional supplements.
Omega accounts for about three-quarters of the coastwide menhaden catch. The remainder is divided among smaller, but growing, operations that catch the fish primarily for use as bait.
Studies never established a link between menhaden abundance and striped bass health, but the heightened concern about the food role of menhaden, both in the Bay and along the coast, led the ASMFC to pledge that it would eventually take the ecosystem role of the fish into account.
Progress has been slow, but in recent years the commission established an ecological workgroup to collect data and build a computer model that can help fishery managers, for the first time, estimate not just safe harvest levels, but also how many menhaden should be left to feed hungry predators — and, alternatively, whether other forage species are available for predators.
“We’re not just looking at menhaden alone in a vacuum,” said Shanna Madsen, who coordinates the workgroup for the commission. She said the work could eventually be applied to other species as well. “Folks are all kind of trying to figure out how to really understand the trade-offs in all of our fisheries,” Madsen said. “What’s best for that fish species?’ ‘What’s best for our stakeholders?’ ‘What’s best for the other species that are in the water depending on those fish?’ ”
The workgroup’s recommendations are expected in 2019, and could be translated into management actions the next year.
But this fall, the commission is updating its menhaden management plan, which sets acceptable harvest guidelines, or “reference points.” In response to years of vocal concerns about menhaden, the commission — for the first time — is considering whether to adopt an “ecological reference point,” as opposed to a traditional one that simply looks at the health of a single stock.
The ASMFC has been taking comments on options that range from continuing to manage menhaden as a single species; awaiting recommendations from its ecological workgroup; or adopting one of several ecological reference points adapted from studies that offer general guidelines about how many forage fish should be left uncaught — guidelines that would likely result in lower menhaden catches.
“Menhaden is such an important fish, [ecological reference points are] something people have really wanted to see ASMFC move toward,” said Chris Moore, senior regional ecosystem scientist with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.“It has been somewhat of a glacial pace getting there, but hopefully we can get it implemented quickly.”
Moore hopes that the commission’s action could improve the situation in the Chesapeake. Even as menhaden numbers have rebounded along the coast, surveys find continued poor reproduction in the Bay. About 70 percent of the menhaden stock stemmed from the Bay a few decades ago, while only 30 percent originate there now.
But some question the rush for action when the ASMFC’s own ecological workgroup is expected to wrap up its work, which more specifically addresses the menhaden situation, in two years.
“It’s going to be done in a couple of years,” said Ben Landry, spokesperson for Omega Protein. “These would be interim reference points at best.”
Industry representatives, and some managers, want to avoid a potential repeat of what they describe as the “whipsaw” changes in menhaden management and catch limits of recent years.
Harvests were slashed and the first coastwide catch limits imposed by the commission in December 2013 after a stock assessment showed menhaden were overfished. But when a new assessment was completed two years later, using new information and updated computer models, it found the stock to be in good shape, with no evidence of overfishing. That prompted the relaxation of the harvest limits.
Indeed, most agree that the fish has have generally been increasing along the East Coast, particularly in northern areas. People can now take whale-watching excursions in New York Harbor, where the mammals are feeding on abundant menhaden.
“It’s amazing the number of whales,” said Ellen Pikitch, executive director of the Institute for Ocean Conservation Science at Stony Brook University in New York. She said that “gigantic schools” of menhaden are now common around New York and New England, a situation she attributed at least in part to the catch restrictions imposed at the end of 2013.
Nonetheless, Pikitch thinks menhaden harvests should be cut further. She was a lead author of a 2012 report funded by the Lenfest Ocean Program that analyzed information about forage fish from around the world, combined it with computer modeling, and concluded that more protective management was warranted for forage species in general because of their ecosystem role.
One of the options being considered by the ASMFC — and preferred by many conservation groups — was drawn from the Lenfest report’s recommendations. If that option is adopted, menhaden still would not be considered overfished today, but current catch levels would be higher than recommended, likely spurring new harvest cuts.
“A species can look great under a single species approach, but it could be in really bad shape when you look at it in an ecosystem context,” Pikitch said.
But others question whether general guidelines for large ecosystems, like those in the Lenfest report, should be used to manage an individual species like menhaden.
While many tout menhaden as “the most important fish in the sea,” it is hardly the only forage species for predators. Anchovies, herrings and a variety of other small fish are available, as well as worms and other invertebrates.
Abundances of those species often vary widely from year to year because of weather and other factors unrelated to fishing. In addition, what predators eat often changes with age and size; it even changes based on where they live.
Rather than using generalized recommendations, the authors of a paper earlier this year in the journal Fisheries Research said harvest policies should be tailored to specific species and ecosystems.
Ray Hilborn, a marine biologist at the University of Washington and the lead author of the paper, said that with menhaden, the fishery usually harvests fish that are 2 years or older, while striped bass and many other predators generally consume smaller fish. “The abundance of the small menhaden is absolutely not affected by fishing, and yet that’s the dominant menhaden consumed by striped bass,” Hilborn said. If the goal of reduced fishing is to leave more for striped bass, he said, the restrictions are likely to have little impact.
Hilborn’s view is echoed by the ASMFC’s own ecological workgroup, which said in a memo to managers earlier this year that the ecosystem models used in the Lenfest report don’t take the age and size of fish into account and therefore “can overestimate the effect [that] fishing on forage fish [has] on predators.” Instead, it said, “ecosystem models should be built specific to the system of interest.”
Pikitch — and conservation advocates — say they don’t disagree that the more specific menhaden approach being developed by the commission’s workgroup would be preferable. But, they say, more generalized approaches like the one recommended by the Lenfest task force are useful as a stopgap measure, especially if the timetable for the commission’s new models falls behind schedule.
“We’re not saying use it forever. We’re saying take a step in the right direction,” Pikitch said. “When the ASMSC’s new models are ready, they can and should replace these interim approaches that we’ve recommended.”
Much of the sense of urgency — or lack thereof — stems from a difference in how “precautionary” fishery managers should be in the face of uncertainty.
Pikitch, citing the adage “a stitch in time saves nine,” said rapid action on menhaden is warranted to protect other species. While menhaden may be more abundant, so are some of their predators — like the whales in New York Harbor. Predators such as whales, dolphins and sharks are long-lived and produce few offspring, she noted.
“They don’t have the capacity to rebound quickly,” Pikitch said. “If they collapse because their food supply has collapsed, then the consequences can be much more damaging overall.”
A soon-to-be published paper by Andre Buchheister, of Humbolt State University, used a more detailed ecosystem modeling approach that focused specifically on the role of menhaden and found a particularly tight connection between their abundance and striped bass abundance. It also found a connection between menhaden abundance and sharks, marine mammals and fish-eating birds.
“It suggests that you would want to be pretty careful about how you fish menhaden,” said Houde, who was a co-author of the paper and a participant in the Lenfest task force.
On the other hand, Peter Himchak, a senior fisheries scientist with Omega, said data from the ASMFC’s technical committee that oversees menhaden shows that current fishing levels are already leaving large numbers of menhaden uncaught and that catches could be increased to 318,000 metric tons without posing a significant risk to the stock. “When you’re only fishing at 200,000 metric tons, I think you are at a very precautionary level,” he said.
Hilborn added that being precautionary means more than just looking at the ecosystem. Fishery managers also need to be precautionary about protecting jobs and food supplies, he said.
“If you think the most important things in the world are predators, then precautionary would always mean harvesting less,” Hilborn said. “But if you recognize that we’re trying to do two things — produce food and protect the environment — then precautionary doesn’t necessarily mean fishing less.”
If fisheries are overly protective, he argued, demand will be met through imports — in some cases from areas where environmental impacts will be greater. “There’s a real cost to this precaution.”
The ASMFC is getting ready for an impassioned debate. In an unusual move, it has set aside two full days to deal with the issue when it meets near Baltimore on Nov. 13–14.
About Karl Blankenship
Karl Blankenship is editor of the Bay Journal and executive director of Chesapeake Media Service. He has served as editor of the Bay Journal since its inception in 1991. Send Karl an e-mail.
For the 180th time, Sheldon Whitehouse took to the Senate floor this month to warn of the perils of climate change, blasting the fossil fuel industry, corporate greed and the failure of market capitalism to address global warming.
Each week for years, largely without fail, the junior senator from Rhode Island waxes philosphical about ocean acidification, atmospheric temperature rise, devastated coastal communities, increases in storms, fires and floods. And every week, he urges Congress and the American people to act before it is too late.
But is anyone listening?
"I don't know," the Democrat recently told E&E; News during a sit-down in his office. "After all that effort, I certainly hope and pray it had an impact."
Whitehouse has gained a reputation as a lefty progressive with anti-capitalist undertones who rages against greedy corporate interests and the Koch brothers.
But he said he sees market capitalism as the most effective way to address global warming, much more so than increased regulation, a common Democratic battle cry. And the climate hawk is working to find common ground with those who once appeared to be his enemies.
In the wake of unprecedented extreme weather events such as Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose and Maria, the subject of climate change is back in the spotlight. And the administration's move to kill the Clean Power Plan gives lawmakers more room to act.
In a change from years past, more Republicans are joining Whitehouse and beginning to call for action. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said last month he would work with Whitehouse on a bipartisan carbon fee bill.
"I'm a Republican. I believe that the greenhouse gas effect is real, that CO2 emissions generated by man is creating our greenhouse gas effect that traps heat and the planet is warming," Graham said during a press conference (Greenwire, Sept. 20).
Even though many activists on the left want caps on emissions, Whitehouse says a carbon fee is much more efficient. "You get much more climate bang for your effort buck," he said.
And while he is not shy to criticize the GOP for what he considers inaction on the global warming issue, he is equally willing to call out fellow Democrats, as well.
"Remember Will Rogers? The 1930s-era comedian who said, 'I'm not a member of any organized political party, I'm a Democrat,'" he said. "No, we've done an absolutely crap job of fighting this fight. We allowed it to become polar bears versus jobs, which is ridiculous on both sides."
There are more jobs in green energy and renewables now than in the fossil fuel industry, he said. "And it's not polar bears that are suffering, it's beaches and fishermen and farmers right here in the United States."
'Capitalism is the solution'
At issue, Whitehouse said, is not capitalism as an economic system, but rather what he sees as a perversion of that system.
"I think market capitalism is the solution to the problem," he said. "The difficulty here is that market capitalism has been twisted by the fossil fuel industry, and they have completely polluted and captured our politics so that the natural course of things has been interfered with."
The "natural course" refers to an inevitable market collapse that often accompanies innovation. Whitehouse said when the economy shifts, for example, from horses to internal combustion engines, there is a "quite precipitous and quite painful" fallout, but it is usually contained within the affected industries.
"In this case, we spin this out too far; while we're waiting for that natural eventual precipitous market collapse [of the fossil fuel industry] to take place, we're also doing all this other damage that will then come back to haunt us, and for which there will be considerable blame," he said.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) on the Senate floor. C-SPAN
Critics believe the very nature of capitalism works against environmental protection. In her award-winning book "This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate," author Naomi Klein argues capitalism necessitates ongoing economic growth.
The ever-growing consumption model requires never-ending resource extraction, she says, thereby exacerbating global warming through continued carbon emissions. Klein, and others on the left, are pushing for a new economic model.
This idea runs counter to Whitehouse's position. He argues market capitalism is not inherently problematic, but rather has been "torqued and polluted and ruined" by the fossil fuel industry.
More specifically, the industry "enjoys" an annual subsidy in the United States of more than a half-trillion dollars a year, according to the International Monetary Fund, he said.
"In theory, under market capitalism, those negative externalities in the amount of $700 billion a year ought to be baked into the price of the product," he said.
In economic theory, a negative externality is the cost that is suffered by a third party as the result of a market transaction.
"The markets work, but when you have negative externalities not in the price, that's an economic failure, an economic dislocation," Whitehouse said. "But because it's so to the benefit of the fossil fuel industry, they've stepped over into the political side and have just beat the hell out of everybody in order to protect that massive subsidy."
Whitehouse said that usually, on the political side, lawmakers would recognize the $700 billion as a negative externality, but Republicans — he thinks — have become indebted to industry donors.
"You can't smoke in airplanes any longer because now we know what secondhand smoke does to children sitting next to you in the airplane," he said. "They won't let us do the equivalent of that for climate change because they make too much money off of the status quo."
For Whitehouse, the fight for climate action is not only a fight for the preservation of the planet, but also for what he sees as core American values.
'Baked into me'
The child of a prominent diplomatic family, Whitehouse said he spent time in places such as Laos and Turkey growing up, and watching his kin make sacrifices for high ideals had an effect.
"I spent my life as the son and grandson of Foreign Service officers, and we were not on the champagne and cocktails diplomatic circuit," he said. "We were in poverty-ridden countries, and we were in countries at war, and what I grew up around were Americans who put themselves and their families in harm's way because they believed in something."
It was evident to him from an early age that something about America was important enough for family and friends to subject their loved ones to malaria, dirty drinking water or poor living conditions.
"They do it because something matters. So that got baked into me pretty hard," he said.
"And if we have let this temple of democracy that men and women fought and bled and died to create and preserve get corrupted by one special interest in a way that will harm the lives of people all around the world and bring the democracy that we cherish into disrepute, shame on us."
Whitehouse first became passionate about climate change through his wife, a marine biologist who shared her findings concerning sea-level rise and ocean acidification in their home-state Narragansett Bay.
"The bay in which my wife did her research on winter flounder has risen nearly 4 degrees medium underwater temperature, and the flounder that she used to study are virtually gone," he said.
When Whitehouse arrived on the Hill in 2007, lawmakers were taking climate change seriously and working to draft a solution, he said. From 2007 to 2009, there were "bipartisan bills coming out of all sorts of places," he said. In 2008, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) ran for president on a climate change platform Whitehouse considered "great."
"And I thought, OK, this is a scientific problem, but government is working on this, we're doing our job," he said. "Then comes 2010, Citizens United decision. Requested and forecasted by the fossil fuel industry from the five Republicans on the Supreme Court and boom, like sprinters at the starting gun, they were off."
Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission is the 2010 landmark Supreme Court case, which lifted restrictions on how much money large corporations can invest in political campaigns.
Since 2010, there has not been a Republican co-sponsor, with Graham as a potential exception, of serious carbon emissions reduction legislation, Whitehouse said.
"The fossil fuel industry took that huge political weaponry that they were given by the five Republicans on the Supreme Court in Citizens United and they turned it on the Republican Party and they crushed dissent, and they made [climate] look like a partisan issue, which it is not," he said.
'Science got me scared'
When a carbon cap-and-trade bill passed the House in 2009 but failed to gain traction in the Democrat-controlled Senate, Whitehouse was furious and began taking on the Senate floor to vent his frustrations with Congress' lack of action.
"The science got me scared, watching the corruption of the government that I love happen in front of my eyes got me mad," he said.
"So at that point, I thought, well, somebody has got to say something, just to let people know that the lights have not gone out here. The only way to do that around here with people as busy as they are is to put yourself on a schedule and tell your office every week, no excuses, no exceptions, I'm going to the floor."
And despite the yearslong quest, Whitehouse is convinced the climate change fight can be won. "I wouldn't rule out a carbon fee," he said. A confluence of action has given him hope.
In addition to Graham's announcement, large oil and gas players have said they support a carbon fee.
"Although they're lying, Exxon, Shell, Chevron, all the big oil companies, pretend to support carbon fee," he said. "So there's significance in their pretense, if they know they've got to at least pretend."
There is building support for a carbon fee in the business community, he said. In fact, more than 1,200 business across the globe, including U.S. companies like General Motors Co., are voluntarily assigning a dollar value to carbon dioxide to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (Greenwire, Sept. 12).
And lastly, Whitehouse cited President Trump himself, who in 2009 signed onto a full-page ad in The New York Times saying climate change science is irrefutable and the consequences will be catastrophic and irreversible (E&E; News PM, Oct. 2).
"So is it a long shot? Yes, but those are all pretty interesting pieces that could come together as this thing develops," Whitehouse said.
"Ultimately, we win. We just hope that we don't win too late."
Twitter: @AriannaSkibell Email: email@example.com
VietNamNet Bridge - In 2016, the consequences of climate change in Vietnam were evident with 10 typhoons and seven tropical depressions in the East Sea (internationally known as the South China Sea), more than the average of many years ago. Of these, four storms and two tropical depressions directly affected the mainland.
In 2016, Vietnam also experienced 24 cold spells. During the cold spell in January 1, 2016, 40 sites were reported with snow – a phenomenon that had not occurred in hundreds of years in many places. The cold spell on January 21st recorded the lowest temperature for 40 years, causing widespread snowfall and frost in the northern mountainous region.
Typhoons, downpours, droughts, and saline intrusion were complex, contrary to all rules, difficult to forecast. In 2016, 22 large downpours across the country devastated many homes and fields.
Particularly, from October to December 2016, heavy rains caused severe floods in the central region. Five serious floods, seven flash floods and landslides were reported in the North. The flash floods and landslides caused by typhoons No. 2 and No. 3 caused serious damage in the northern mountainous provinces of Lao Cai and Yen Bai.
The 2016 also recorded 16 floods on the rivers in the Central Region and the Central Highlands. Serious, widespread floods were prolonged, causing severe flooding in Central Vietnam.
Material damage was also great, especially in the fields of agriculture, industry, infrastructure, health and the environment.
In 2016, the irregularities of the weather were increasingly severe, occurring throughout the country. Specifically, in the dry season of 2016, many places in the South and the Central Region suffered from drought due to the drop in rainfall by 30-40% and the small water flow of rivers, leading to saline intrusion coming one month earlier in the estuary areas of rivers in the central region and especially in the Mekong Delta, where the salty water entered 80-100 km deep into the mainland. In these areas, farmers were disturbed by salinity, and lack of fresh water for daily life and production.
In the central region, the rainy season and the floods came late but they occurred repeatedly and lasted longer than usual during the last months of the year, causing huge damage to property and people. In the North, the first cold spell came early compared to previous years, but people did not feel the cold air of winter as the cold spells alternated with hot days.
In the dry season, the South as well as Ho Chi Minh City saw out-of-season downpours. The number of rainy days and the total rainfall in the dry season also exceeded the average of the same period of many years ago. Out-of-season rain caused damage to the winter-spring crop as well as fruit trees.
According to weather experts, there were many causes, particularly climate change, that changed some natural rules. Meteorological experts said the weather was in the neutral period and tended to move to El Nino (often associated with drought), so the rainy season in the South arrived earlier than it had many years ago.
It is undeniable that the weather in Vietnam in recent years has become increasingly abnormal. Droughts, floods, landslides, and storms have seriously affected the economy, which depends on agricultural production.
In particular, Vietnam is considered one of the countries heavily affected by climate change due to its long coastline. If the sea level rises by 1 meter, 40% of the area of the Mekong Delta and 10% of the Red River Delta will be inundated, which will directly affect 20-30 million people.
For Ho Chi Minh City alone, it is forecast to be one of the top 10 cities in the world most threatened by climate change. The strongest impact on the city is temperature, rainfall and tides. Flood in urban areas, sea water intrusion deep into the mainland, rising sea levels affecting production and clean water supply, infrastructure and people's life.
Climate change is the most serious challenge to sustainable development of all countries in the world, from developed to poor countries. Without effective response to climate change, socio-economic development will suffer, and sustainable development will face difficulty, or even fail.
To cope with climate change, since 2015 Vietnam has had 61 urgent projects with total budget of VND19,000 billion. Priority projects in the medium term were approved by the National Assembly and the Government, totaling about VND15,000 billion, focusing on the construction of a system of freshwater reservoirs; development and protection of protective forests, watershed forests, and mangroves; investment in environmental monitoring systems, and hydro-meteorological forecasting systems; and moving people out of dangerous areas.
In the long run, to develop a low-carbon green economy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions as Vietnam committed in the Paris Agreement, the country needs huge investment. Therefore, we need to quickly study and promulgate appropriate policies and measures to promote the participation of the private sector, in order to increase investment in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change, then gradually transforming the economy that now depends largely on non-renewable fuels to renewable energy, improving energy efficiency.
In Ho Chi Minh City, many policies and measures to cope with climate change and integrated in many areas such as planning, energy, transportation, construction, waste management, water management, and agriculture have been issued. Specifically, Ho Chi Minh City has been involved in the C40 (the organization of leaders of cities in the world that are committed to climate change mitigation and adaptation) and has taken part in activities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Ho Chi Minh City is currently working with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of Vietnam and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to study and design legal institutions, and create a legal corridor to, step by step, implement the Paris Agreement 2015.
The city has also cooperated with Osaka (Japan) in a program to develop low-carbon cities and with the city of Rotterdam (the Netherlands) in the program "HCM City develops towards the sea to adapt to climate change".
According to the latest information, Ho Chi Minh City will be built into the first smart city of Vietnam, becoming a place that gives special attention to protect the environment for all people.
Natural calamities in 2016:
- Total economic loss is estimated at about VND39,726 billion
- 264 dead and missing people; 5,431 houses were collapsed or swept away; 364,997 houses were flooded and damaged; 828,661 hectares of paddy and crops were damaged
- Landslides occurred on hundreds of kilometers of roads and traffic works, with millions of cubic meters of rock and soil swept away; 115km of dykes and embankments, 938km of canals, 122km of riverbank and coast affected ...
(Source: Central Steering Committee for Disaster Prevention and Control)
In June, federal scientists predicted a bigger-than-average oxygen-deprived dead zone in the Chesapeake Bay this summer, and it turns out they were right.
Researchers with the Virginia Institute of Marine Science who study bay hypoxia announced Monday that the total amount of dead zones this summer was the worst since 2014, and a 10 percent increase over last year.
This, despite a drop in the overall duration and maximum extent of dead zones compared with 2016.
“The time period from beginning to the end was just a little shorter than usual,” said VIMS marine biologist Marjorie Friedrichs in a phone call Monday. “But the peaks — when it was bad, it was really bad.”
VIMS, based in Gloucester Point, has used a real-time, three-dimensional forecast model since 2014 to gauge various hypoxia metrics in the bay, including volume and duration, the average summer volume and the cumulative or total amount in a given year, generated by adding up each day’s hypoxic volume.
Tallying up the daily volume, researchers estimated there were 919 cubic kilometers of hypoxia during 2017. This is larger than the 833 cubic kilometers in 2016, 757 cubic kilometers in 2015 and 918 cubic kilometers in 2014.
Hypoxia occurs when large amounts of nitrogen — mostly from farm fertilizers — is swept into the vast watershed, typically by rain events, and ends up in the bay.
There, it fuels explosive growths of algal blooms in the Chesapeake and its major tributaries. As the blooms decay, they suck up oxygen from the water column and create dead zones that are lethal to blue crabs, striped bass and other marine life.
The concentration of dissolved oxygen in ocean water is typically between 7 and 8 milligrams per liter, said VIMS. Anything below 4 milligrams will begin to affect marine organisms.
Waters with less than 0.2 milligrams are called anoxic and can’t support most forms of life; those with no measurable dissolved oxygen are hypoxic.
In June, NOAA warned that heavy rains in the northern part of the watershed from January to May spelled trouble for the bay this summer, sweeping even more nitrogen than usual into the waterways that feed the estuary.
Much of that nitrogen came from the Susquehanna, the bay’s biggest tributary and a notoriously polluted river running through New York, Pennsylvania and Maryland before it hits the Chesapeake.
Robert Magnien, director of NOAA’s Center for Sponsored Coastal Research, said at the time that “great strides” have been made to reduce nutrient pollution in the watershed — but not enough.
“More work needs to be done to address nonpoint nutrient pollution from farms and other developed lands to make the bay cleaner for its communities and economic interests,” Magnien said.
According to VIMS, the early spring loads were but one factor in this year’s dead zone activity.
Also in play were relatively strong winds in the first half of May, which delayed the onset of hypoxia compared to previous years. In June, hypoxia increased “very rapidly” and peaked unusually high at mid-month.
Windy periods kicked up in late June through August, dropping the overall amount of hypoxia from earlier peaks created in part by record-breaking temperatures of 100-plus degrees in mid-summer.
VIMS operates its baywide forecast model with Anchor QEA, a Seattle-based scientific and engineering consulting firm where managing scientist Aaron Bever is a VIMS graduate.
Their report comes on the heels of a report from Maryland released last month that found that, at least for a portion of Maryland’s mainstem of the bay, dissolved oxygen levels were better than average for late August.
But the Maryland Department of Natural Resources cautioned that its results were incomplete due to bad weather conditions, which precluded assessing the bay south of the Potomac River to the Virginia state line.
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By Lynda V. Mapes
Seattle Times environment reporter
Scientists have been hauling survey nets through the ocean off the coasts of Washington and Oregon for 20 years. But this is the first time some have come up empty.
“We were really worrying if there was something wrong with our equipment,” said David Huff, estuarine and ocean ecology program manager in the fish ecology division at NOAA Fisheries. “We have never hauled that net through the water looking for salmon or forage fish and not gotten a single salmon. Three times we pulled that net up, and there was not a thing in it. We looked at each other, like, ‘this is really different than anything we have ever seen.’
“It was alarming.”
Moving from Newport, Oregon, to the northern tip of Washington, anywhere from 25 to 40 nautical miles offshore last spring and summer, the survey team began catching fish — but not the ones usually in those waters. Instead, warm-water fish, such as mackerel — a predator of young salmon — and Pacific pompano and pyrozomes — normally associated with tropical seas — turned up in droves. Both deplete the plankton that salmon need to survive.
In a report on their trawl survey, the scientists logged some of the lowest numbers of yearling Snake River spring chinook recorded since the survey began in 1998. Coho numbers were just as depressed.
“Every year is different. But this year popped out as being really different,” said Brian Burke, a research fisheries biologist based at the NW Fisheries Science Center in Montlake. “Not just a bunch of normal metrics that point to a bad ocean year, but the presence of these things we have never seen before, really big changes in the ecosystem. Something really big has shifted here.”
It’s not a short-term problem.
Low survival of juvenile salmon also portends a paltry return of adult salmon in two years and longer into the future — bad news for animals that depend on salmon for their own sustenance. Especially southern- resident killer whales, already at a 30-year low in their population, following the recent death of an emaciated calf.
While its body was not recovered, so the cause of the calf’s death cannot be certain, starvation makes the orcas’ other challenges, from vessel noise to toxic pollution to disease, harder to fight off.
This year’s bizarre survey results all started with The Blob, as it came to be known: an enormous mass of unusually warm water off most of the West Coast that beginning in 2013 wreaked havoc with species survival and food abundance in the ocean.
Now the blob is gone, but some of the animals that came north with it, vastly expanding their range, are still here.
The survey demonstrates the value of direct sampling, and long-term data sets. Satellite imagery shows a return to normal water temperatures by now along the West Coast. It was only by getting out with their nets and pulling trawl samples — and having a long-term data set against which to compare results — that scientists realized the disruption that is still very much underway.
The interrelated nature of the ecosystem means those disruptions have far-reaching effects.
Pacific pompano and jack mackerel used to be scarce off the Northwest Coast. But their abundant presence now has indirect and direct effects on salmon.
Researchers also found plankton with less of the fatty nutrients that young salmon need, starving the food chain from its first link. Chlorophyll, the indicator of plankton that stoke the higher levels of life in the sea, also is at its lowest levels recorded in 20 years.
Tiny marine crustaceans called copepods that spell fat city for salmon have also been at depressed populations since 2014. The jelly- fish community is upside down, too, with a complete shift underway from predominantly Pacific sea nettle, to the much smaller water jelly.
Critical forage fish that support a wide range of species — including herring, anchovies and smelt — also are scarce.
That could force predators that usually would feed on them to eat salmon instead. Birds that gather just north of the Columbia River mouth, such as common murre and sooty shearwater, may have turned to yearling salmon to fill their bellies, with their usual fare of forage fish so depleted. That, in turn, could have substantially increased mortality for juvenile salmon just as they reached the ocean.
That would explain why researchers sampling salmon populations in the estuary didn’t find the same stark and troubling scarcity the ocean researchers did, Burke noted.
And why what fish the ocean researchers did catch in their trawl nets looked well. “We did not see skinny fish,” Burke said.
While the research is still being finalized, it signals likely lean times ahead for salmon fishers, human and non. That’s bad news for southern-resident killer whales, which just won’t switch to other prey, even when their preferred food — chinook salmon — are scarce. Their diet is culturally embedded in teachings reinforced in intergenerational family clans. The result is that orcas, so far, are starving rather than switching to seals and the other marine mammals that orca whales elsewhere devour.
Huff said the purpose of a memo the research team wrote to managers about their survey results was intended to provide an early warning of how poor and just plain strange conditions in the ocean off Washington and Oregon’s coasts are.
The findings also underscore the powerful role the ocean plays in salmon survival, as well as the importance of creating and maintaining good freshwater habitat, to help salmon deal with the vagaries of the sea.
It’s not clear what will happen next. “It takes some time to find that out,” Huff said. “Sometimes things don’t recover right away. If at all. Only time will tell.”
Lynda V. Mapes: 206-464-2515 or email@example.com
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