The Big Blue Elephant in the Room, A Medium Corporation Dr. Sylvia A. Earle & John Bridgelan, 26 Nov 16
Although the recent UN General Assembly meetings in New York City included the largest gathering of world leaders ever to address climate change, the largest factor in our climate cycle was missing from the discussions — the ocean.
Disregard for the ocean as the primary driver of climate and weather might be forgiven 50 years ago, but now we know: the living ocean governs planetary chemistry; regulates temperature; generates most of the oxygen in the sea and atmosphere; powers the water, carbon, and nitrogen cycles; and holds 97 percent of Earth’s water and 97 percent of the biosphere. Quite simply, no ocean, no life. No blue, no green. If not for the ocean, there would be no climate to discuss or anyone around to debate the issues……
Whatever the rationale, it is not rational that Earth’s dominant feature is not sufficiently addressed in important policy discussions about energy, the environment, economy, health, and security. It is especially perplexing that the ocean is getting short shrift in the current climate policy discussions.
Much attention is given to the impact of burning of fossil fuels on accelerated warming, inundated shorelines, and adaptation strategies for where and how people will live in the future. Far less note is being accorded to the changes in ocean chemistry as excess carbon dioxide absorbed by the ocean is increasing the acidity of the water. This is why it is so important to have Years of Living Dangerously helping to document the climate change impacts in our oceans and sharing it with the public. In Episode 5, Joshua Jackson travels to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef to look at the devastating impacts of ocean warming on the world’s largest reef system, and he explores the predicted impact of ocean acidification. In the Philippines, he looks at the impact of climate change in a place where hundreds of millions of people rely on healthy reefs for food, income and protection from storms……..https://medium.com/@yearsoflivingdangerously/the-big-blue-elephant-in-the-room-29d1a0c5f423#.p6e58alfv
US Military Plans to Dump 20,000 Tons of Heavy Metals and Explosives Into the Oceans Tuesday, 15 November 2016 By Dahr Jamail, Truthout | Report The US Navy has been conducting war-game exercises in US waters for decades, and in the process, it has left behind tons of bombs, heavy metals, missiles, sonar buoys, high explosives and depleted uranium munitions that are extremely harmful to both humans and marine life.
Truthout recently reported that the Navy has admitted to releasing chemicals into the oceans that are known to injure infants’ brains, as well as having left large amounts of depleted uranium in US coastal waters. Now, the Navy’s own documents reveal that it also plans to use 20,000 tons of heavy metals, plastics and other highly toxic compounds over the next two decades in the oceans where it conducts its war games.
According to the Navy’s 2015 Northwest Training and Testing environmental impact statement (EIS), in the thousands of warfare “testing and training events” it conducts each year, 200,000 “stressors” from the use of missiles, torpedoes, guns and other explosive firings in US waters happen biennially. These “stressors,” along with drones, vessels, aircraft, shells, batteries, electronic components and anti-corrosion compounds that coat external metal surfaces are the vehicles by which the Navy will be introducing heavy metals and highly toxic compounds into the environment.
Just some of the dangerous compounds the Navy will be injecting into the environment during their exercises are: ammonium perchlorate, picric acid, nitrobenzene, lithium from sonobuoy batteries, lead, manganese, phosphorus, sulfur, copper, nickel, tungsten, chromium, molybdenum, vanadium, trinitrotoluene (TNT), RDX [Royal Demolition eXplosive] and HMX [High Melting eXplosive], among many others.
“None of these belong in the ocean’s food web, upon which we all depend,” Karen Sullivan, a retired endangered species biologist who cofounded West Coast Action Alliance, which acts as a watchdog of Naval activities in the Pacific Northwest, told Truthout. “Nor will the Navy be willing to clean it up, or even contribute to medical tests for people whose health may suffer.”……http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/38374-us-military-plans-to-dump-20-000-tons-of-heavy-metals-and-explosives-into-the-oceans
A Horrifying New Study Found that the Ocean is on its Way to Suffocating by 2030, The Inertia, Alexander Haro MAY 2, 2016 It seems that every week, a new study comes out showing just how much damage we’re doing to our planet. This last one’s a doozy, though: according to Matthew Long, an oceanographer at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, if we continue along the road we’re on, the ocean could begin to suffocate in about 15 years. Actually.
The study was published a few days ago in Global Biogeochemical Cycles, which is not The National Enquirer and is a publication entirely based on science. Long’s not some quack, either. He’s a dyed-in-the-wool scientist with a Ph.D. in Oceanography from Stanford University, an M.S. in Environmental Engineering (Hydrology) from Tufts University, and a B.S in Environmental Engineering. That is a man who likes facts.
According to Ocean Scientists for Informed Policy, “ocean deoxygenation refers to the loss of oxygen from the oceans due to climate change.” It’s not up for debate, either: it is a cold and hard fact that both climate change and ocean deoxygenation are happening, and no amount of climate change deniers stamping their feet will change it.
“Long-term ocean monitoring shows that oxygen concentrations in the ocean have declined during the 20th century, and the new IPCC 5th Assessment Report (AR5 WG1) predicts that they will decrease by 3-6% during the 21st century in response to surface warming,” the website explains. “While 3-6% doesn’t seem like much, this decrease will be felt acutely in hypoxic and suboxic areas, where oxygen is already limiting. […] To put this in context, a highly optimistic emissions scenario of atmospheric CO2 levels of 550 ppm by 2100 would lead to a 1.2°C warming of the upper ocean. Therefore, these declines in oxygen are changes we should be prepared to see.”
While it seems obvious that an ocean deprived of oxygen is a bad thing, let’s break it down real quick: Almost everything in the ocean depends on the oxygen in the water to survive. Of course, there are a few things that don’t–whales, dolphins, turtles, and other creatures that surface to breathe–but for the most part, everything takes oxygen from the water. If those things die, that’s a pretty massive big ball rolling towards everything else being dead.
So how does climate change affect the ocean? Well, the ocean is warming up, and a warm ocean doesn’t take in as much oxygen from the atmosphere, for starters. There’s the whole sea level rising issue, which is just way too big to go into here. But possibly the most concerning part of the whole thing has to do with phytoplankton, which are one of the smallest, most prolific, and really fucking important creatures on earth. If you believe National Geographic, “fish, whales, dolphins, crabs, seabirds, and just about everything else that makes a living in or off of the oceans owe their existence to phytoplankton, one-celled plants that live at the ocean surface. Phytoplankton are at the base of what scientists refer to as oceanic biological productivity, the ability of a water body to support life such as plants, fish, and wildlife.”
Warmer water doesn’t mix well with colder water. As the surface warms, the phytoplankton that float around up there most of the time don’t get down deep as often, and those little guys are responsible for about half of the oxygen in the ocean……….
According to the predictive study, vast portions of the Pacific–Hawaii and the western edge of the Americas included–will be seriously deprived of oxygen somewhere between 2030 and 2040, which would most likely mean massive die-offs of very important creatures.
Although Long’s study is far more telling than any other before it, it’s not really anything all that new. Back in 2010, Scripps Institution of Oceanography warned about the dangers of something called “oxygen minimum zones”, which are exactly what they sound like: large portions of the ocean, usually very deep, that don’t have enough oxygen to really sustain much life. “A major concern is that these so-called oxygen minimum zones (OMZs) will expand in the future as the upper ocean warms and becomes more stratified,” wrote Scripps scientist Ralph Keeling.
What does it all come down to? Well, more and more, it seems we’re already too far gone. Every day, we’re passing tipping points. Long, who seems a little frustrated that no one in charge is listening to him or anyone else that has been screaming about a host of environmental issues, made his point very clear. “This inexorable force of human-induced warming will clearly result in widespread ocean deoxygenation in the future,” he said.
And like it or not, our lust for carbon is causing it. “This latest study adds one more item to the list of insults we are inflicting on the oceans through our continued burning of fossil fuels,” said Michael Mann, a climate scientist at Penn State University. “Ocean life and marine ecosystems must now simultaneously contend with the triple threat of warming waters, increased acidity, and now, we’re learning, lower oxygen levels. Any one of these challenges alone would be daunting. “We have yet another reason to be gravely concerned about the health of our oceans, and yet another reason to prioritize the rapid decarbonization of our economy.” http://www.theinertia.com/environment/a-horrifying-new-study-found-that-the-ocean-is-on-its-way-to-suffocating-by-2030/
Five years ago, the largest single release of human-made radioactive discharge to the marine environment resulted from an accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan. Approximately 80 percent of the fallout happened over the Pacific Ocean. A new study explores the environmental consequences in the marine environment of the accident. It outlines the status of current research about the impact of the fallout on plant and animal life and what remains to be done as the radioactivity continues to spread.
Could China build the world’s smallest nuclear power plant and send it to the South China Sea?
Nuclear plant under development could fit into a shipping container and make a small island economically viable, CNBC, Stephen Chen, 11 Oct 16 SCMP A top mainland research institute is developing the world’s smallest nuclear power plant, which could fit inside a shipping container and might be installed on an island in the disputed South China Sea within five years.
Researchers are carrying out intensive work on the unit – dubbed the hedianbao, or “portable nuclear battery pack”.
Although the small, lead-cooled reactor could be placed inside a shipping container measuring about 6.1 metres long and 2.6 metres high, it would be able to generate 10 megawatts of heat, which, if converted into electricity, would be enough to power some 50,000 households……The research is partially funded by the People’s Liberation Army.
Researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Nuclear Energy Safety Technology, a national research institute in Hefei, Anhui province, say they hope to be able to ship the first unit within five years.
“Part of our funding came from the military, but we hope – and it’s our ultimate goal – that the technology will eventually benefit civilian users,” Professor Huang Qunying,a nuclear scientist involved in the research, said.
The Chinese researchers admit their technology is similar to a compact lead-cooled thermal reactor that was used by the navy of the former Soviet Union in its nuclear submarines in the 1970s.
However, China would probably be the first nation to use such military technology on land.
While these “baby” reactors would able to generate large quantities of electricity and desalinate huge supplies of seawater for use as fresh water, they have also attracted serious environmental concerns.
If any one of them were to suffer a catastrophic problem, the radioactive waste would affect not only the countries nearby, but also spread around the world via the region’s strong sea currents…….
The lead-cooled reactor is part of China’s efforts to develop new-generation reactors for its rapidly expanding nuclear energy sector. Other technological approaches, such as molten salt reactors and high-temperature gas-cooled reactors, are also under rapid development thanks to generous government funding.
China also has been considering building small floating nuclear power plants using conventional technology to generate electricity for the South China Sea islands.
A marine environment researcher at the Ocean University of China, in Qingdao, Shandong province, has warned that the inevitable discharge of hot, radioactive water from a nuclear plant into the ocean might alter the ecological system of an entire region around an island.
“Many fish and marine creatures will not be able to deal with the dramatic change of environment caused by massive desalination and the rise of sea temperatures caused by a nuclear reactor,” said the researcher, who declined to be named.
“If a nuclear disaster happened in the South China Sea, it would not have an immediate effect on people living on the mainland owing to it being a great distance away,” the researcher said.
“But the radioactive waste would enter the bodies of fish and other marine creatures and likely end up on our dining tables. Sea currents could also carry the waste to distant shores,” she said.
Before putting any nuclear power plant on a remote South China Sea island, the Chinese government should consider not only its political, military or economic benefits, but also carry out comprehensive scientific evaluations on its potential environmental impact, the researcher said. http://www.cnbc.com/2016/10/11/could-china-build-the-worlds-smallest-nuclear-power-plant-and-send-it-to-the-south-china-sea.html
Washington Should Stop Militarizing the Pacific OCT. 9, 2016 WASHINGTON — Americans often assume that Chinese military aggression is increasing the likelihood of a clash between China and the United States. But many policy makers in Washington ignore that Beijing has good reason to be troubled by the United States’ military footprint in its neighborhood. President Obama’s “pivot” to Asia — which includes doubling down on Washington’s already-robust military presence in the region — further stokes the potential for conflict between China and the United States.
Soaring ocean temperature is ‘greatest hidden challenge of our generation’
IUCN report warns that ‘truly staggering’ rate of warming is changing the behaviour of marine species, reducing fishing zones and spreading disease, Guardian, Oliver Milman. 6 Sept 16, The soaring temperature of the oceans is the “greatest hidden challenge of our generation” that is altering the make-up of marine species, shrinking fishing areas and starting to spread disease to humans, according to the most comprehensive analysis yet of ocean warming.
The oceans have already sucked up an enormous amount of heat due to escalating greenhouse gas emissions, affecting marine species from microbes to whales, according to an International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) reportinvolving the work of 80 scientists from a dozen countries.
The profound changes underway in the oceans are starting to impact people, the report states. “Due to a domino effect, key human sectors are at threat, especially fisheries, aquaculture, coastal risk management, health and coastal tourism.”…..
The scale of warming in the ocean, which covers around 70% of the planet, is “truly staggering”, the report states. The upper few metres of ocean have warmed by around 0.13C a decade since the start of the 20th century, with a 1-4C increase in global ocean warming by the end of this century.
The ocean has absorbed more than 90% of the extra heat created by human activity. If the same amount of heat that has been buried in the upper 2km of the ocean had gone into the atmosphere, the surface of the Earth would have warmed by a devastating 36C, rather than 1C, over the past century.
At some point, the report says, warming waters could unlock billions of tonnes of frozen methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, from the seabed and cook the surface of the planet. This could occur even if emissions are drastically cut, due to the lag time between emitting greenhouse gases and their visible consequences.
Warming is already causing fish, seabirds, sea turtles, jellyfish and other species to change their behaviour and habitat, it says. Species are fleeing to the cooler poles, away from the equator, at a rate that is up to five times faster than the shifts seen by species on land.
Even in the north Atlantic, fish will move northwards by nearly 30km per decade until 2050 in search of suitable temperatures, with shifts already documented for pilchard, anchovy, mackerel and herring.
The warming is having its greatest impact upon the building blocks of life in the seas, such as phytoplankton, zooplankton and krill. Changes in abundance and reproduction are, in turn, feeding their way up the food chain, with some fish pushed out of their preferred range and others diminished by invasive arrivals.
With more than 550 types of marine fishes and invertebrates already considered threatened, ocean warming will exacerbate the declines of some species, the report also found…….
Ocean acidification, where rising carbon dioxide absorption increases the acidity of the water, is making it harder for animals such as crabs, shrimps and clams to form their calcium carbonate shells.
The IUCN report recommends expanding protected areas of the ocean and, above all, reduce the amount of heat-trapping gases pumped into the atmosphere.
“The only way to preserve the rich diversity of marine life, and to safeguard the protection and resources the ocean provides us with, is to cut greenhouse gas emissions rapidly and substantially,” said Inger Andersen, director general of the IUCN.https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/sep/05/soaring-ocean-temperature-is-greatest-hidden-challenge-of-our-generation
Whales, seals and penguins could be hurting as this tiny creature–fundamental to the food web–declines, Scientific American By Andrea Thompson, Climate Central on August 29, 2016
They may be small, but krill—tiny, shrimp-like creatures—play a big role in the Antarctic food chain. As climate change warms the Southern Ocean and alters sea ice patterns, though, the area of Antarctic water suitable for krill to hatch and grow could drop precipitously, a new study finds.
Most Antarctic krill are found in an area from the Weddell Sea to the waters around the Antarctic Peninsula, the finger of land that juts up toward South America. They serve as an important source of food for various species of whales, seals and penguins. While those animals find other food sources during lean years, it is unclear if those alternate sources are sustainable long-term.
Over the past 40 years, populations of adult Antarctic krill have declined by 70 to 80 percent in those areas, though researchers debate whether that drop is due to the effects of climate change, a rebound in whale populations after the end of commercial whaling or some combination of those pressures.
Because of its key role in the regional food chain, scientists are concerned about the impacts that future climate change may have on the krill population and the larger Antarctic ecosystem.
In the new study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, Andrea Piñones and Alexey Fedorov examined how expected changes in ocean temperatures and sea ice coverage might affect krill during their earliest life stages when they are most vulnerable to environmental conditions.
Krill has a complex, regimented life cycle that requires a delicate balance of conditions. …..
While warmer ocean temperatures help the krill hatch faster, declines in sea ice area, delayed sea ice formation, and a drop in phytoplankton populations meant that overall, the habitat suitable for young krill could decline by up to 80 percent, they found………http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/krill-are-disappearing-from-antarctic-waters/
Carteret climate refugees seek home A grassroots group in Bougainville is scrambling to relocate the Carteret Islanders before rising sea levels swallow their land forever. ABC News 7 Aug 16 By Lauren Beldi for Pacific Beat At only 1.5 metres above sea level at their highest point, the Carteret Islands are some of the first to succumb to the rising ocean tides.
The grassroots Tulele Peisa group, which means “sailing the waves on our own” in the local Halia language, is hoping to relocate more than half of the population by 2020. They have secured land for new homes on the main island of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, to the east of mainland Papua New Guinea.Tulele Peisa formed in late 2006 after the Council of Elders on the islands decided to establish their own relocation program. The group’s chief executive, Ursula Rakova, says the encroaching tides on the islands have a major impact on people’s health. “We’re beginning to get more requests for people wanting to move because of the situation and the dire need for food,” she says.
The storm surges not only wash away houses, but also vegetable gardens, which are critical for the islanders’ survival.
With no cash economy on the Carterets, the only source of food is what people are able to grow for themselves……
Tulele Peisa has also provided thousands of mangrove seedlings to prevent the erosion of the coastline, and helped to build raised garden beds. But this will only stave off the inevitable for so long.
“Those are adaptation strategies, they aren’t really long-term solutions to containing the islands, because we know the islands are going, but we are looking at supporting our families,” Ms Rakova says.
She says the islanders want to maintain their independent way of living but that the international community should provide more support.
“The islanders on the Carterets are victims of what other people have caused and the international community needs to aid and support the work that we are doing,” she says.
“We have found our way forward [and] we would like to share the way forward with other people, but we need this process to be funded financially so that we can continue to sustain ourselves.” http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-08-07/carteret-climate-refugees-new-home/7693950?section=environment
Fukushima and the oceans: What do we know, five years on?, Science Daily June 30, 2016
- Goldschmidt Conference
- A major international review of the state of the oceans five years after the Fukushima disaster shows that radiation levels are decreasing rapidly except in the harbor area close to the nuclear plant itself where ongoing releases remain a concern. At the same time, the review’s lead author expresses concern at the lack of ongoing support to continue the radiation assessment, which he says is vital to understand how the risks are changing.
- These are the conclusions of a major 5 year review, with multi-international authors who are all working together as part of a Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research (SCOR) Working Group. The report is being presented at the Goldschmidt geochemistry conference in Japan. The review paper is also published in Annual Review of Marine Science*. The main points made by the report are:…….
Nuclear Plant Closure Will Benefit California Marine Species NRDC.org June 23, 2016 Elizabeth Murdock “…….Closing the Diablo Canyon nuclear facility would finally end decades of harm to marine life in the region where the plant operates. The plant’s intake pipes draw in more than 2.5 billion gallons of water per day, or 2.8 million acre-feet annually. This large and continuous seawater withdrawal is estimated to kill roughly 1.5 billion fish in early life stages each year, as creatures are sucked into the cooling systems or become impinged against the screens on the open-water pipes. The cooling water is also discharged back into the ocean water at a warmer temperature, which can cause additional harm to fish and other marine life in the area.
Moreover, Diablo Canyon’s open-ocean intake is located less than one mile from the Point Buchon State Marine Reserve and the adjacent Point Buchon State Marine Conservation Area, which together protect an ecologically diverse seascape and provide a home to more than 700 species of invertebrates, as well as 120 fish species, marine plants, seabirds, and marine mammals. This “MPA (marine protected area) cluster” is important in its own right, as well as being an important part of an ecologically connected network that runs along the coast of California. While Diablo Canyon’s intake is not directly within the MPA cluster, the area of source water being drawn into the plant likely overlaps with the MPA boundaries and has the potential to withdraw marine life out of the protected area. NRDC was a leader in the effort to design and secure California’s landmark system of marine protected areas, and we remain deeply committed to ensuring the integrity of the network the marine species and habitats it shelters.
Other power plants in California that use “once-through-cooling” (OTC) technology have similar impacts on the ocean, although Diablo Canyon and the recently closed San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station near San Diego have been responsible for the largest ocean water withdrawals in the state. The Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant is now the largest of the remaining once-through-cooling facilities, accounting for nearly 80 percent of all OTC ocean withdrawals in California.
Because of the significant impacts of OTC, NRDC has played a central role in advocating that California phase out the destructive practice altogether. Most notably, we have been deeply involved in the drafting, passage, and implementation of the State Water Board’s 2010 Once-Through-Cooling (OTC) Policy, which seeks to reduce the extreme impacts of power plant OTC systems on marine life and habitats. The policy directs plants to reduce their ocean intake flow rates by roughly 93 percent. For the Diablo Canyon facility to come into compliance, PG&E would have had to build close-cycle cooling towers by the end of 2024, which would have cost billions. But under the Joint Proposal, once PG&E begins decommissioning the Diablo Canyon facility, it will reduce its water intake rates—and thus its impacts on marine life—even more than it would be required to do under the OTC Policy. And ultimately, upon complete shutdown, it will cease its ocean water intakes and the associated impacts altogether.
California’s iconic ocean habitats and their marine species are of immense ecological, economic, and cultural value, within California and beyond. For three decades, the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant has had a significant impact on the marine life in the region of the plant and the once-pristine bay where it is located. Removing this impact to California’s treasured marine wildlife and coastal habitats—and replacing it with clean energy—is something all Californians can celebrate. https://www.nrdc.org/experts/elizabeth-murdock/nuclear-plant-closure-will-benefit-california-marine-species
More than 167,000 hectares of coastland – about 0.6% of the country’s total area – are projected to go underwater in the Philippines, especially in low-lying island communities. …
The Philippines government has been forced to take this into consideration. The Department of Environment and National Resources has its own climate change office, which has set up various programs to educate communities in high-risk areas. …
But soon, adaptation on a local level won’t be enough. Policy makers need to convince governments to curb their emissions on a global level. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/06/160606101406.htm
Element from Fukushima plant reaches island cattle; But research finds levels are nothing to be alarmed about http://hawaiitribune-herald.com/news/local-news/element-fukushima-plant-reaches-island-cattle-research-finds-levels-are-nothing-be June 10, 2016 By MAX DIBLE West Hawaii Today KAILUA-KONA — It took only one week for radionuclides to infiltrate the atmosphere above the Hawaiian Islands after they were released from damaged reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant following the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami March 11, 2011.
By early April of that year, researchers from the University of Hawaii at Manoa began collecting ocean water and sediments to provide a baseline for cesium levels. Cesium is an alkaline earth element and a beta radiation emitter, meaning as it decays it emits electrons that can damage cell structures within the human body.
Establishing a baseline was critical, as data from government-monitored cesium tests from the 1960s through the early 1980s were the most recent available. That monitoring was administered to measure the effects of nuclear weapons testing by the United States in the Pacific following World War II.
Tests by the UH-Manoa research team continued every month through 2011 and were administered every three to six months in subsequent years. They were expanded to include tests on algae, lichen, coconuts, fish and mushrooms. An update on the research was posted on the university’s news website last Friday.
“The conclusion is pretty much that all is safe,” said Henrietta Dulai, associate professor in the Marine and Environmental Geology Division of the UH-Manoa Department of Geology and Geophysics. Dulai oversaw a small research team that included graduate students Hannah Azouz and Trista McKenzie. “Tests are still ongoing, but we do not expect any significant levels at all.”
Ocean currents that might have carried radioactive materials from Japan to Hawaiian shores never made direct contact with the near-shore environment of the Hawaiian Islands, and so ocean water and sediment samples collected by the researchers off Oahu never showed a spike in cesium levels.
However, Dulai said elevated levels were found in ocean water farther north around the Midway Islands and have been detected off the West Coast of the United States and Canada, reaching as far north as Alaska.
While the immediate surrounding oceans were spared, the Hawaiian Islands didn’t escape the disaster totally unscathed.
“The Department of Health monitored precipitation and the atmosphere and also milk,” Dulai said. “They found positive (cesium) hits in all of these.”
Dulai and her team were curious as to why they found nothing in their samples despite the state DOH detecting elevated cesium levels in the atmosphere. The team began collecting samples on precipitation gradients on Oahu and Hawaii Island, where it did locate elevated cesium levels.
A correlation was established between areas of higher rainfall and higher cesium levels in the soil. At higher elevations, more rainfall occurred and more cesium was absorbed by the soil. This is what led to elevated cesium levels detected in milk from grazing cattle.
It turned out that the topography of the islands captured the clouds and to a large extent spared the oceans from excess radioactivity, as cesium deposits from rainfall tended to accumulate on land. While this news might sound concerning, Dulai said residents of the Hawaiian Islands need not be alarmed.
“The natural radioactivity in the soil is orders of magnitude higher than this added cesium level,” Dulai explained. “The added cesium is a tiny fraction of what is there naturally or what was deposited during the nuclear weapons testing.”
Contamination in seafood and mushrooms also was found to be “orders of magnitude below” any health limits set by the FDA. Fish were a primary concern because they migrate, so while they wouldn’t have picked up extra cesium in Hawaiian waters, they might have been contaminated in waters from where they migrated.
Dulai and her team’s research will continue, as will monitoring done by the DOH, according to its website. The website states surveys since May 2011 conducting shoreline surveillance “remain consistent with normal background levels.”
The department also continues to monitor air, precipitation and drinking water using the Environmental Protection Agency’s RadNet system.
Email Max Dible at email@example.com.
Bikini Atoll radiation levels remain alarmingly high https://www.sciencenews.org/article/bikini-atoll-radiation-levels-remain-alarmingly-high New measurements made decades after Pacific island used to test nuclear bombs BY THOMAS SUMNER , JUNE 6, 2016
Radiation from the 23 nuclear tests conducted near Bikini Atoll in the 1940s and ’50s has lingered far longer than previously predicted.
Radioactive material such as cesium-137 currently produces, on average, 184 miLLIREMS OF RADIATION PER YEAR ON BIKINI ATOLL. AND SOME PARTS OF THE ISLAND HIT 639 MILLIREMS PER YEAR, RESEARCHERS REPORT ONLINE THE WEEK OF JUNE 6 IN THE PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES. THOSE MEASUREMENTS, MADE LAST YEAR, SURPASS THE 100 MILLIREMS PER YEAR SAFETY STANDARD SET BY THE UNITED STATES AND THE REPUBLIC OF THE MARSHALL ISLANDS, WHICH CONTROLS THE ISLAND.
Scientists had predicted that, by now, radiation levels would have dropped to 16 to 24 millirems per year. But those estimates came from extrapolating from measurements made in the 1970s. The mismatch probably stems from incorrect assumptions about how rapidly radioactive material washes off the island, proposes study coauthor Emlyn Hughes, a physicist at Columbia University.
Whether the higher radiation levels pose a serious health risk to caretakers who live on the island for part of the year depends on how long they stay on the island and whether the local fruit they eat is safe, Hughes says.
China to send nuclear-armed submarines into Pacific amid tensions with US
Beijing risks stoking new arms race with move although military says expansion of the US missile defence has left it with no choice, Guardian, Julian Borger , 26 May 16 [ video, excellent graphics] The Chinese military is poised to send submarines armed with nuclear missiles into the Pacific Ocean for the first time, arguing that new US weapons systems have so undermined Beijing’s existing deterrent force that it has been left with no alternative.
Chinese military officials are not commenting on the timing of a maiden patrol, but insist the move is inevitable.
They point to plans unveiled in March to station the US Thaad anti-ballistic system in South Korea, and the development of hypersonic glide missiles potentially capable of hitting China less than an hour after launch, as huge threats to the effectiveness of its land-based deterrent force.
A recent Pentagon report to Congress predicted that “China will probably conduct its first nuclear deterrence patrol sometime in 2016”, though top US officers have made such predictions before…….
Last Tuesday, a US spy plane and two Chinese fighter jets came close to colliding 50 miles of Hainan island, where China’s four Jin-Class ballistic missile submarines are based. A fifth is under construction.
The two countries’ navies have also come uncomfortably close around disputed islands in the same region, and the chance of a clash will be heightened by cat-and-mouse submarine operations, according to Wu Riqiang, an associate professor at the School of International Studies at the Renmin University in Beijing.
“Because China’s SSBNs [nuclear missile submarines] are in the South China Sea, the US navy will try to send spy ships in there and get close to the SSBNs. China’s navy hates that and will try to push them away,” Wu said.
The primary reason Chinese military officials give for the move towards a sea-based deterrent is the expansion of US missile defence, which Moscow also claims is disturbing the global strategic balance and potentially stoking a new arms race.
The decision to deploy Thaad anti-ballistic interceptors in South Korea was taken after North Korea’s fourth nuclear test, and the stated mission of the truck-launched interceptors is to shield the south from missile attack.
But Beijing says the Thaad system’s range extends across much of China and contributes to the undermining of its nuclear deterrent. It has warned Seoul that relations between the two countries could be “destroyed in an instant” if the Thaad deployment goes ahead……
Under Xi’s assertive leadership, China seems determined that the Chinese nuclear deterrent will take finally to the ocean, and it has already taken thestep of putting multiple warheads on its missiles. Those steps are mostly in response to US measures, which in turn were triggered by unrelated actions by the North Koreans.
The law of unintended consequences is in danger of taking the upper hand. “The two sides may thus be stumbling blindly into severe crisis instability and growing competition by China with respect to strategic forces,” Lewis argues. “A competition between unevenly matched forces is inherently unstable.”http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/may/26/china-send-nuclear-armed-submarines-into-pacific-us