Topic: Oceans


Why U.S. East Coast Should <br />Stay Off-Limits to Oil Drilling

Opinion

Why U.S. East Coast Should
Stay Off-Limits to Oil Drilling

by carl safina
It’s not just the potential for a catastrophic spill that makes President Obama’s proposal to open Atlantic Ocean waters to oil exploration such a bad idea. What’s worse is the cumulative impact on coastal ecosystems that an active oil industry would bring.
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Interview

Why Ocean Health Is Better
And Worse Than You Think

by fen montaigne
The good news is the world’s oceans have not experienced the extinctions that have occurred on land. But as ecologist Douglas McCauley explains in a Yale Environment 360 interview, marine life now face numerous threats even more serious than overfishing.
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As Extreme Weather Increases, <br />A Push for Advanced Forecasts

Analysis

As Extreme Weather Increases,
A Push for Advanced Forecasts

by cheryl katz
With a warmer atmosphere expected to spur an increase in major storms, floods, and other wild weather events, scientists and meteorologists worldwide are harnessing advanced computing power to devise more accurate, medium-range forecasts that could save lives and property.
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How Technology Is Protecting <br />World’s Richest Marine Reserve

Report

How Technology Is Protecting
World’s Richest Marine Reserve

by christopher pala
After years of fitful starts, the Pacific island nation of Kiribati this month banned all commercial fishing inside its huge marine reserve. New satellite transponder technology is now helping ensure that the ban succeeds in keeping out the big fishing fleets.
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For Vulnerable Barrier Islands, <br />A Rush to Rebuild on U.S. Coast

Report

For Vulnerable Barrier Islands,
A Rush to Rebuild on U.S. Coast

by rona kobell
Despite warnings from scientists, new construction continues on U.S. barrier islands that have been devastated by storms. The flood protection projects that accompany this development can have harmful consequences for coastal ecosystems being buffeted by climate change.
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After Steep Decline, Signs of <br />Hope for World’s Sea Turtles

Report

After Steep Decline, Signs of
Hope for World’s Sea Turtles

by ted williams
Nearly all sea turtle species have been classified as endangered, with precipitous declines in many populations in recent decades. But new protections, particularly in the U.S. and Central America, are demonstrating that dramatic recovery for these remarkable reptiles is possible.
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Fast-Warming Gulf of Maine<br />Offers Hint of Future for Oceans

Report

Fast-Warming Gulf of Maine
Offers Hint of Future for Oceans

by rebecca kessler
The waters off the coast of New England are warming more rapidly than almost any other ocean region on earth. Scientists are now studying the resulting ecosystem changes, and their findings could provide a glimpse of the future for many of the world’s coastal communities.
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Fostering Community Strategies For Saving the World's Oceans

Interview

Fostering Community Strategies For Saving the World's Oceans

by crystal gammon
To conservationist Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, getting coastal communities involved in plans to protect their waters is critical for protecting the planet's oceans. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, she talks about her work in one Caribbean island and how it shows how such a strategy can get results.
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Photo Essay

Cashes Ledge: New England's Underwater Laboratory

A little over 70 miles off the coast of New England, an unusual undersea mountain range, known as Cashes Ledge, rises from the seabed. The area teems with kelp forests, sea sponges, and a wide variety of fish and mollusks — much of it captured by ocean photographer Brian Skerry during dives made earlier this year
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How Norway and Russia Made <br />A Cod Fishery Live and Thrive

Report

How Norway and Russia Made
A Cod Fishery Live and Thrive

by john waldman
The prime cod fishing grounds of North America have been depleted or wiped out by overfishing and poor management. But in Arctic waters, Norway and Russia are working cooperatively to sustain a highly productive — and profitable — cod fishery.
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Scientists Look for Causes of <br />Baffling Die-Off of Sea Stars

Report

Scientists Look for Causes of
Baffling Die-Off of Sea Stars

by eric wagner
Sea stars on both coasts of North America are dying en masse from a disease that kills them in a matter of days. Researchers are looking at various pathogens that may be behind what is known as sea star wasting syndrome, but they suspect that a key contributing factor is warming ocean waters.
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Interview

Where Will Earth Head
After Its ‘Climate Departure’?

by diane toomey
Will the planet reach a point where its climate is significantly different from what has existed throughout human history, and if so, when? In an interview with Yale Environment 360, biogeographer Camilo Mora talks about recent research on this disquieting issue and what it means for the coming decades.
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Interview

Examining How Marine Life
Might Adapt to Acidified Oceans

by elizabeth grossman
In an interview with Yale Environment 360, marine biologist Gretchen Hofmann discusses how well mollusks and other shell-building organisms might evolve to live in increasingly corrosive ocean conditions caused by soaring CO2 emissions.
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Unsustainable Seafood: A New <br />Crackdown on Illegal Fishing

Report

Unsustainable Seafood: A New
Crackdown on Illegal Fishing

by richard conniff
A recent study shows that a surprisingly large amount of the seafood sold in U.S. markets is caught illegally. In a series of actions over the last few months, governments and international regulators have started taking aim at stopping this illicit trade in contraband fish.
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Scientists Focus on Polar Waters <br />As Threat of Acidification Grows

Report

Scientists Focus on Polar Waters
As Threat of Acidification Grows

by jo chandler
A sophisticated and challenging experiment in Antarctica is the latest effort to study ocean acidification in the polar regions, where frigid waters are expected to feel most acutely the ecological impacts of acidic conditions not seen in millions of years.
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Greenpeace’s Kumi Naidoo on <br />Russia and the Climate Struggle

Interview

Greenpeace’s Kumi Naidoo on
Russia and the Climate Struggle

by diane toomey
In a Yale Environment 360 interview, the outspoken executive director of Greenpeace discusses why his organization’s activists braved imprisonment in Russia to stop Arctic oil drilling and what needs to be done to make a sharp turn away from fossil fuels and toward a green energy economy.
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Documenting the Swift Change <br />Wrought by Global Warming

Photo Essay

Documenting the Swift Change
Wrought by Global Warming

by peter essick
Photographer Peter Essick has traveled the world documenting the causes and consequences of climate change. In a Yale Environment 360 photo essay, we present a gallery of images Essick took while on assignment in Antarctica, Greenland, and other far-flung locales.
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A North Atlantic Mystery: <br />Case of the Missing Whales

Report

A North Atlantic Mystery:
Case of the Missing Whales

by rebecca kessler
Endangered North Atlantic right whales are disappearing from customary feeding grounds off the U.S. and Canadian coasts and appearing in large numbers in other locations, leaving scientists to wonder if shifts in climate may be behind the changes.
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Using Ocean Robots to Unlock <br />Mysteries of CO2 and the Seas

Interview

Using Ocean Robots to Unlock
Mysteries of CO2 and the Seas

by todd woody
Marine phytoplankton are vital in absorbing ever-increasing amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere. In a Yale Environment 360 interview, researcher Tracy Villareal explains how he is using remotely operated robots to better understand how this process mitigates climate change.
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A Year After Sandy, The Wrong <br />Policy on Rebuilding the Coast

Opinion

A Year After Sandy, The Wrong
Policy on Rebuilding the Coast

by rob young
One year after Hurricane Sandy devastated parts of the U.S. East Coast, the government is spending billions to replenish beaches that will only be swallowed again by rising seas and future storms. It’s time to develop coastal policies that take into account new climate realities.
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Rising Waters: How Fast and <br />How Far Will Sea Levels Rise?

Analysis

Rising Waters: How Fast and
How Far Will Sea Levels Rise?

by nicola jones
Although the latest U.N. climate report significantly increases its projections for sea level rise this century, some scientists warn even those estimates are overly conservative. But one thing is certain: Predicting sea level rise far into the future is a very tricky task.
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In Japan, Captive Breeding <br />May Help Save the Wild Eel

Report

In Japan, Captive Breeding
May Help Save the Wild Eel

by winifred bird
As eel populations plummet worldwide, Japanese scientists are racing to solve a major challenge for aquaculture — how to replicate the life cycle of eels in captivity and commercially produce a fish that is a prized delicacy on Asian dinner tables.
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Leaving Our Descendants<br /> A Whopping Rise in Sea Levels

Interview

Leaving Our Descendants
A Whopping Rise in Sea Levels

by fen montaigne
German scientist Anders Levermann and his colleagues have released research that warns of major sea level increases far into the future. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, he raises important questions about how much we really care about the world we will leave to those who come after us.
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In Mekong Delta, Rice Boom<br /> Has Steep Environmental Cost

Report

In Mekong Delta, Rice Boom
Has Steep Environmental Cost

by mike ives
Vietnam has become one of the world’s leading rice producers, thanks to the construction of an elaborate network of dikes and irrigation canals. But these extensive infrastructure projects in the storied Mekong Delta have come at a high ecological price.
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New Initiatives to Clean Up<br /> The Global Aquarium Trade

Report

New Initiatives to Clean Up
The Global Aquarium Trade

by rebecca kessler
An estimated 30 million fish and other creatures are caught annually to supply the home aquarium market, taking a toll on some reef ecosystems. Now conservationists are working to improve the industry by ending destructive practices and encouraging aquaculture.
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No Refuge: Tons of Trash Covers<br /> The Remote Shores of Alaska

Opinion

No Refuge: Tons of Trash Covers
The Remote Shores of Alaska

by carl safina
A marine biologist traveled to southwestern Alaska in search of ocean trash that had washed up along a magnificent coast rich in fish, birds, and other wildlife. He and his colleagues found plenty of trash – as much as a ton of garbage per mile on some beaches.
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An Economic Boom in Turkey<br /> Takes a Toll on Marine Life

Report

An Economic Boom in Turkey
Takes a Toll on Marine Life

by sulmaan khan
The development-at-any-cost policies of Turkish Prime Minister Recip Tayyip Erdogan — a key factor behind the protests and clashes in Istanbul’s Taksim Square — are also playing a role in the steady decline of the nation’s porpoises, dolphins, and other marine life.
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As Extreme Weather Increases,<br /> Bangladesh Braces for the Worst

Opinion

As Extreme Weather Increases,
Bangladesh Braces for the Worst

by brian fagan
Scientists are predicting that warming conditions will bring more frequent and more intense extreme weather events. Their warnings hit home in densely populated Bangladesh, which historically has been hit by devastating sea surges and cyclones.
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China’s New Arctic Presence<br /> Signals Future Development

Report

China’s New Arctic Presence
Signals Future Development

by ed struzik
China’s recent admission to the Arctic Council under observer status reflects a new reality: the world’s economic powers now regard development of natural resources and commerce in an increasingly ice-free Arctic as a top priority.
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In Post-Tsunami Japan, A Push<br /> To Rebuild Coast in Concrete

Report

In Post-Tsunami Japan, A Push
To Rebuild Coast in Concrete

by winifred bird
In the wake of the 2011 tsunami, the Japanese government is forgoing an opportunity to sustainably protect its coastline and is instead building towering concrete seawalls and other defenses that environmentalists say will inflict serious damage on coastal ecosystems.
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A Key Experiment to Probe the<br /> Future of Our Acidifying Oceans

Report

A Key Experiment to Probe the
Future of Our Acidifying Oceans

by peter friederici
In a Swedish fjord, European researchers are conducting an ambitious experiment aimed at better understanding how ocean acidification will affect marine life. Ultimately, these scientists hope to determine which species might win and which might lose in a more acidic ocean.
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As Final U.S. Decision Nears,<br /> A Lively Debate on GM Salmon

Opinion

As Final U.S. Decision Nears,
A Lively Debate on GM Salmon

In an online debate for Yale Environment 360, Elliot Entis, whose company has created a genetically modified salmon that may soon be for sale in the U.S., discusses the environmental and health impacts of this controversial technology with author Paul Greenberg, a critic of GM fish.
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A Leading Marine Biologist<br /> Works to Create a ‘Wired Ocean’

Interview

A Leading Marine Biologist
Works to Create a ‘Wired Ocean’

by ben goldfarb
Stanford University scientist Barbara Block heads a program that has placed satellite tags on thousands of sharks, bluefin tuna, and other marine predators to better understand their life cycles. Now, using data available on mobile devices, she hopes to enlist public support for protecting these threatened creatures.
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Will Reform Finally End The<br /> Plunder of Europe’s Fisheries?

Analysis

Will Reform Finally End The
Plunder of Europe’s Fisheries?

by christian schwägerl
Maria Damanaki, Europe’s crusading fisheries minister, is making major headway in changing a cozy, “old boys” network that over-subsidized the European fishing industry and brought about the severe overfishing of the continent’s marine bounty.
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To Control Floods, The Dutch<br /> Turn to Nature for Inspiration

Report

To Control Floods, The Dutch
Turn to Nature for Inspiration

by cheryl katz
The Netherlands’ system of dikes and sea gates has long been the best in the world. But as the country confronts the challenges of climate change, it is increasingly relying on techniques that mimic natural systems and harness nature’s power to hold back the sea.
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Proposed Energy Exploration<br /> Sparks Worry on Ocean Canyons

Report

Proposed Energy Exploration
Sparks Worry on Ocean Canyons

by paul greenberg
The Atlantic Canyons off the Northeastern U.S. plunge as deep as 15,000 feet and harbor diverse and fragile marine ecosystems. Now, the Obama administration’s plans to consider offshore oil and gas exploration in the canyons is troubling conservationists.
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Hurricane Sandy Relief Bill<br /> Fails to Face Coastal Realities

Opinion

Hurricane Sandy Relief Bill
Fails to Face Coastal Realities

by rob young
As part of the sorely-needed aid package to help victims of Hurricane Sandy, Congress is also considering spending billions on ill-advised and environmentally damaging beach and coastal rebuilding projects that ignore the looming threats of rising seas and intensifying storms.
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What’s Damaging Marshes on<br /> U.S. Coast and Why It Matters

Interview

What’s Damaging Marshes on
U.S. Coast and Why It Matters

by kevin dennehy
A nine-year study led by researcher Linda Deegan points to the damage that human-caused nutrients inflict on salt marshes along the U.S. East Coast. In a Yale Environment 360 interview, she describes what these findings mean for an ecosystem that provides critical services, from nourishing marine life to buffering the coast from storms like Sandy.
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Too Big to Flood? Megacities<br /> Face Future of Major Storm Risk

Report

Too Big to Flood? Megacities
Face Future of Major Storm Risk

by bruce stutz
As economic activity and populations continue to expand in coastal urban areas, particularly in Asia, hundreds of trillions of dollars of infrastructure, industrial and office buildings, and homes are increasingly at risk from intensifying storms and rising sea levels.
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How Fishing Gear is Killing<br /> Whales in the North Atlantic

Report

How Fishing Gear is Killing
Whales in the North Atlantic

by rebecca kessler
Researchers have been documenting the deadly threat that fishing lines and ropes pose to large whales that become entangled in them. Now, new studies are pointing to another disturbing fact: the ensnared whales endure enormous pain and prolonged suffering.
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Easing The Collateral Damage<br /> That Fisheries Inflict on Seabirds

Report

Easing The Collateral Damage
That Fisheries Inflict on Seabirds

by jeremy hance
Two recent studies highlight the harm that industrial fisheries are doing to the world’s seabirds, either by overharvesting the birds’ favorite prey or by drowning birds hooked on longlines. But tighter regulations and innovative technologies are starting to significantly reduce seabird “bycatch,” slashing it by 90 percent in some regions.
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Shrimp Farms’ Tainted Legacy<br /> Is Target of Certification Drive

Report

Shrimp Farms’ Tainted Legacy
Is Target of Certification Drive

by marc gunther
As shrimp aquaculture has boomed globally to keep pace with surging demand, the environmental toll on mangroves and other coastal ecosystems has been severe. Now, conservation groups and some shrimp farmers are creating a certification scheme designed to clean up the industry and reward sustainable producers.
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Will Fish-Loving Japan <br />Embrace Sustainable Seafood?

Report

Will Fish-Loving Japan
Embrace Sustainable Seafood?

by winifred bird
In fish-crazed Japan, where eating seafood is a vital part of the nation's culture, conservation groups are working with companies to persuade more Japanese to eat certified, sustainably caught seafood. It's an uphill struggle, but one that could have significant impact on the world's fisheries.
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The Vital Chain: Connecting<br /> The Ecosystems of Land and Sea

Analysis

The Vital Chain: Connecting
The Ecosystems of Land and Sea

by carl zimmer
A new study from a Pacific atoll reveals the links between native trees, bird guano, and the giant manta rays that live off the coast. In unraveling this intricate web, the researchers point to the often little-understood interconnectedness between terrestrial and marine ecosystems.
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Melting Sea Ice Could Lead<br /> To Pressure on Arctic Fishery

Report

Melting Sea Ice Could Lead
To Pressure on Arctic Fishery

by ed struzik
With melting sea ice opening up previously inaccessible parts of the Arctic Ocean, the fishing industry sees a potential bonanza. But some scientists and government officials have begun calling for a moratorium on fishing in the region until the true state of the Arctic fishery is assessed.
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In Fight to Save Coral Reefs,<br /> Finding Strategies that Work

Interview

In Fight to Save Coral Reefs,
Finding Strategies that Work

by kevin dennehy
In four decades as a marine biologist, Nancy Knowlton has played a key role in documenting the biodiversity of coral reefs and the threats they increasingly face. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, she assesses the state of the world’s corals and highlights conservation projects that offer hope of saving these irreplaceable ecosystems.
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Mysteries of Killer Whales<br /> Uncovered in the Antarctic

Dispatch

Mysteries of Killer Whales
Uncovered in the Antarctic

by fen montaigne
Two of the world’s leading experts on the world’s top marine predator are now in Antarctica, tagging and photographing a creature whose remarkably cooperative hunting behavior and transmission of knowledge across generations may be rivaled only by humans.
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Northwest Oyster Die-offs Show<br /> Ocean Acidification Has Arrived

Report

Northwest Oyster Die-offs Show
Ocean Acidification Has Arrived

by elizabeth grossman
The acidification of the world’s oceans from an excess of CO2 has already begun, as evidenced recently by the widespread mortality of oyster larvae in the Pacific Northwest. Scientists say this is just a harbinger of things to come if greenhouse gas emissions continue to soar.
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A World Centered on Sea Ice<br /> Is Changing Swiftly at the Poles

Analysis

A World Centered on Sea Ice
Is Changing Swiftly at the Poles

by fen montaigne
For eons, the polar marine food chain has been closely linked to the seasonal formation and retreat of sea ice. Now, as that ice rapidly melts in the Arctic and along the Antarctic Peninsula, this intricate web of life is undergoing major shifts, benefiting some creatures and putting others at risk.
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New Model for Aquaculture<br /> Takes Hold Far from the Sea

Interview

New Model for Aquaculture
Takes Hold Far from the Sea

With ever-greater quantities of seafood coming from aquaculture operations, some companies are working on ways to reduce the environmental impact of fish farming. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Josh Goldman of Australis Aquaculture talks about his highly praised closed-containment fish farm in Massachusetts.
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The Unfulfilled Promise of the<br /> World’s Marine Protected Areas

Analysis

The Unfulfilled Promise of the
World’s Marine Protected Areas

by bruce barcott
Biologists and conservationists maintain that establishing marine reserves — areas where fishing is off-limits or severely restricted — offers the best hope for recovery for our overstressed oceans. So why is such a small area of the world's oceans protected?
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As Arctic Sea Ice Retreats,<br /> Storms Take Toll on the Land

Report

As Arctic Sea Ice Retreats,
Storms Take Toll on the Land

by ed struzik
For millennia, the blanket of ice covering the Arctic Ocean protected the shore from damaging storms. But as that ice buffer disappears, increasingly powerful storm surges are eroding the coastline and sending walls of seawater inland, devastating Arctic ecosystems that support abundant wildlife.
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One Year Later: Assessing the<br /> Lasting Impact of the Gulf Spill

Opinion

One Year Later: Assessing the
Lasting Impact of the Gulf Spill

by carl safina
On the anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon explosion, the worst fears about the long-term damage from the oil spill have not been realized. But the big challenge is more fundamental: repairing the harm from the dams, levees, and canals that are devastating the Mississippi Delta and the Louisiana coast.
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After the Great Quake,<br /> Living with Earth’s Uncertainty

Essay

After the Great Quake,
Living with Earth’s Uncertainty

by verlyn klinkenborg
The Japanese earthquake and tsunami remind us that we exist in geologic time and in a world where catastrophic events beyond our predicting may occur. These events — and the growing specter of climate change — show how precariously we exist on the surface of a volatile planet.
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Tracking the Destructive Power<br /> Of the Pacific Ocean’s Tsunamis

Interview

Tracking the Destructive Power
Of the Pacific Ocean’s Tsunamis

The devastating tsunami in northeastern Japan is only one of many that have battered Japan over the eons. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, tsunami and earthquake expert Lori Dengler describes the historic and paleological record of tsunamis across the Pacific, and what it may mean in the future for Japan and the western United States.
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Deep-Sea Mining is Coming:<br /> Assessing the Potential Impacts

Interview

Deep-Sea Mining is Coming:
Assessing the Potential Impacts

by erica westly
Numerous companies are moving ahead rapidly with plans to mine copper, gold, and other minerals near hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor. But in an interview with Yale Environment 360, marine biologist Cindy Lee Van Dover warns that without environmental safeguards the unique ecosystems of deep-sea vents could be severely damaged.
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How Fisheries Can Gain From<br /> The Lessons of Sustainable Food

Opinion

How Fisheries Can Gain From
The Lessons of Sustainable Food

by john waldman
As agriculture and energy production have made strides toward becoming more sustainable, the world’s fisheries have lagged behind. But restoring our beleaguered oceans to health will require an emphasis on diversification and conservation — and a more sensible mix of fishing practices.
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In Novel Approach to Fisheries, <br />Fishermen Manage the Catch

Report

In Novel Approach to Fisheries,
Fishermen Manage the Catch

by bruce barcott
An increasingly productive way of restoring fisheries is based on the counter-intuitive concept of allowing fishermen to take charge of their own catch. But the success of this growing movement depends heavily on a strong leader who will look out not only for the fishermen, but for the resource itself.
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Massive Outbreak of Jellyfish<br /> Could Spell Trouble for Fisheries

Report

Massive Outbreak of Jellyfish
Could Spell Trouble for Fisheries

by richard stone
The world’s oceans have been experiencing enormous blooms of jellyfish, apparently caused by overfishing, declining water quality, and rising sea temperatures. Now, scientists are trying to determine if these outbreaks could represent a “new normal” in which jellyfish increasingly supplant fish.
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Is the End in Sight for<br /> The World’s Coral Reefs?

Analysis

Is the End in Sight for
The World’s Coral Reefs?

by j.e.n. veron
It is a difficult idea to fathom. But the science is clear: Unless we change the way we live, the Earth's coral reefs will be utterly destroyed within our children's lifetimes.
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Hatch-22: The Problem with<br /> The Pacific Salmon Resurgence

Report

Hatch-22: The Problem with
The Pacific Salmon Resurgence

by bruce barcott
The number of salmon in the Pacific Ocean is twice what it was 50 years ago. But there is a downside to this bounty, as growing numbers of hatchery-produced salmon are flooding the Pacific and making it hard for threatened wild salmon species to find enough food to survive.
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Exploring the Links Between<br /> Hurricanes and Ocean Warming

Interview

Exploring the Links Between
Hurricanes and Ocean Warming

One of the more contentious issues facing climate scientists is whether rising ocean temperatures will cause more frequent and powerful hurricanes. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Kerry Emanuel, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, says that amid the uncertainty, one thing seems likely: an increase in the most potent — and destructive — storms.
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A Steady, Steep Decline for<br /> The Lowly, Uncharismatic Eel

Report

A Steady, Steep Decline for
The Lowly, Uncharismatic Eel

by james prosek
The freshwater eel, which spawns in the middle of the ocean, was once abundant in much of the world. But the proliferation of dams, coastal development, and overfishing have drastically reduced eel populations, with few defenders coming to the aid of these fascinating — though still not fully understood — creatures.
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The Legacy of the Gulf Spill:<br /> What to Expect for the Future?

Report

The Legacy of the Gulf Spill:
What to Expect for the Future?

by john mcquaid
The Gulf of Mexico’s capacity to recover from previous environmental assaults — especially the 1979 Ixtoc explosion — provides encouragement about the prospects for its post-Deepwater future. But scientists remain worried about the BP spill's long-term effects on the health of the Gulf and its sea life.
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A Looming Oxygen Crisis and<br /> Its Impact on World’s Oceans

Analysis

A Looming Oxygen Crisis and
Its Impact on World’s Oceans

by carl zimmer
As warming intensifies, scientists warn, the oxygen content of oceans across the planet could be more and more diminished, with serious consequences for the future of fish and other sea life.
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High Above the Earth,<br /> Satellites Track Melting Ice

Report

High Above the Earth,
Satellites Track Melting Ice

by michael d. lemonick
The surest sign of a warming Earth is the steady melting of its ice zones, from disappearing sea ice in the Arctic to shrinking glaciers worldwide. Now, scientists are using increasingly sophisticated satellite technology to measure the extent, thickness, and height of ice, assembling an essential picture of a planet in transition.
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As the Far North Melts,<br /> Calls Grow for Arctic Treaty

Analysis

As the Far North Melts,
Calls Grow for Arctic Treaty

by ed struzik
The massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is a warning, conservationists say, of what could happen in the Arctic as melting sea ice opens the Arctic Ocean to oil and gas drilling. Many experts argue that the time has come to adopt an Arctic Treaty similar to the one that has safeguarded Antarctica for half a century.
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The Oil Spill’s Growing Toll<br /> On Sea Life in the Gulf of Mexico

Interview

The Oil Spill’s Growing Toll
On Sea Life in the Gulf of Mexico

by david biello
A prominent marine biologist says the impacts of the oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico will persist for years, no matter when the flow finally stops. What’s more, scientist Thomas Shirley says that most of the damage remains out of sight below the surface, as creatures succumb to the toxic effects of the rapidly spreading tide of oil.
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Under Pressure to Block Oil,<br /> A Rush To Dubious Projects

Opinion

Under Pressure to Block Oil,
A Rush To Dubious Projects

by rob young
In response to the widening disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, government officials have approved a plan to intercept the oil by building a 45-mile sand berm. But scientists fear the project is a costly boondoggle that will inflict further environmental damage and do little to keep oil off the coast.
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The Microbe Factor and <br />Its Role in Our Climate Future

Analysis

The Microbe Factor and
Its Role in Our Climate Future

by carl zimmer
Within the planet’s oceans and soils are trillions of bacteria that store and release far more carbon dioxide than all of the Earth’s trees and plants. Now, scientists are attempting to understand how the world’s bacteria will influence — and be influenced by — a warming climate.
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Anatomy of the BP Oil Spill:<br /> An Accident Waiting to Happen

Analysis

Anatomy of the BP Oil Spill:
An Accident Waiting to Happen

by john mcquaid
The oil slick spreading across the Gulf of Mexico has shattered the notion that offshore drilling had become safe. A close look at the accident shows that lax federal oversight, complacency by BP and the other companies involved, and the complexities of drilling a mile deep all combined to create the perfect environmental storm.
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After Two Decades of Delay,<br /> A Chance to Save Bluefin Tuna

Opinion

After Two Decades of Delay,
A Chance to Save Bluefin Tuna

by carl safina
The obscenely profitable market for bluefin tuna in Japan has led to years of overfishing and left the world’s bluefin population badly depleted. A ban on the bluefin trade, if adopted at international talks this month, would go a long way toward giving this magnificent fish a chance to recover.
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An Ominous Warning on the<br />  Effects of Ocean Acidification

Analysis

An Ominous Warning on the
Effects of Ocean Acidification

by carl zimmer
A new study says the seas are acidifying ten times faster today than 55 million years ago when a mass extinction of marine species occurred. And, the study concludes, current changes in ocean chemistry due to the burning of fossil fuels may portend a new wave of die-offs.
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How High Will Seas Rise?<br /> Get Ready for Seven Feet

Opinion

How High Will Seas Rise?
Get Ready for Seven Feet

by rob young and orrin pilkey
As governments, businesses, and homeowners plan for the future, they should assume that the world’s oceans will rise by at least two meters — roughly seven feet — this century. But far too few agencies or individuals are preparing for the inevitable increase in sea level that will take place as polar ice sheets melt.
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In Search of New Waters,<br /> Fish Farming Moves Offshore

Report

In Search of New Waters,
Fish Farming Moves Offshore

by john mcquaid
As wild fish stocks continue to dwindle, aquaculture is becoming an increasingly important source of protein worldwide. Now, a growing number of entrepreneurs are raising fish in large pens in the open ocean, hoping to avoid the many environmental problems of coastal fish farms.
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The Nitrogen Fix:<br /> Breaking a Costly Addiction

Analysis

The Nitrogen Fix:
Breaking a Costly Addiction

by fred pearce
Over the last century, the intensive use of chemical fertilizers has saturated the Earth’s soils and waters with nitrogen. Now scientists are warning that we must move quickly to revolutionize agricultural systems and greatly reduce the amount of nitrogen we put into the planet's ecosystems.
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A Total Ban on Whaling?<br /> New Studies May Hold the Key

Opinion

A Total Ban on Whaling?
New Studies May Hold the Key

by fred pearce
As the International Whaling Commission debates whether to ban all whaling or to expand the limited hunts now underway, recent research has convinced some scientists that the world’s largest mammal should never be hunted again.
READ MORE

NOAA’s New Chief on Restoring<br /> Science to U.S. Climate Policy

Interview

NOAA’s New Chief on Restoring
Science to U.S. Climate Policy

by elizabeth kolbert
Marine biologist Jane Lubchenco now heads one of the U.S. government’s key agencies researching climate change — the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Lubchenco discusses the central role her agency is playing in understanding the twin threats of global warming and ocean acidification.
READ MORE

Twenty Years Later, Impacts<br />  of the Exxon Valdez Linger

Report

Twenty Years Later, Impacts
of the Exxon Valdez Linger

by doug struck
Two decades after the Exxon Valdez spilled 11 million gallons of crude oil into Alaska’s waters, the Prince William Sound, its fishermen, and its wildlife have still not fully recovered.
READ MORE

Opinion

A Call for Tougher Standards
on Mercury Levels in Fish

by jane hightower
In response to industry pressure, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has failed to set adequate restrictions on mercury levels in fish. Now the Obama administration must move forcefully to tighten those standards and warn the public which fish are less safe to eat.
READ MORE

Regulators Are Pushing<br /> Bluefin Tuna to the Brink

Opinion

Regulators Are Pushing
Bluefin Tuna to the Brink

by carl safina
The international commission charged with protecting the giant bluefin tuna is once again failing to do its job. Its recent decision to ignore scientists’ recommendations for reducing catch limits may spell doom for this magnificent – and endangered – fish.
READ MORE

A Corporate Approach to <br />Rescuing the World’s Fisheries

Report

A Corporate Approach to
Rescuing the World’s Fisheries

by nicholas day
The commitment by Wal-Mart, McDonald’s, and other major companies to buy only sustainably-caught seafood is an encouraging sign in an otherwise bleak global fisheries picture. After decades of government inaction and ineffective consumer campaigns, corporate pressure may finally be starting to turn the tide on reckless overfishing.
READ MORE

Alaska’s Pebble Mine:<br /> Fish Versus Gold

Report

Alaska’s Pebble Mine:
Fish Versus Gold

by bill sherwonit
With the support of Gov. Sarah Palin, mining interests have defeated an Alaska ballot measure that could have blocked a huge proposed mining project. Now, plans are moving forward to exploit the massive gold and copper deposit at Bristol Bay, home of one of the world’s greatest salmon runs.
READ MORE

The Arctic Resource Rush is On

Report

The Arctic Resource Rush is On

by ed struzik
As the Arctic's sea ice melts, energy and mining companies are moving into previously inaccessible regions to tap the abundant riches that lie beneath the permafrost and the ocean floor. The potential environmental impacts are troubling.
READ MORE

Analysis

Carbon’s Burden on the World’s Oceans

by carl safina and marah j. hardt
The burgeoning amount of carbon dioxide in oceans is affecting a lot more than coral reefs. It is also damaging marine life and, most ominously, threatening the future survival of marine populations.
READ MORE

e360 digest

RELATED e360 DIGEST ITEMS


04 Mar 2015: Hurricanes Help Spread
Invasive Marine Species, Researchers Find

Hurricanes can accelerate the spread of invasive marine species — in particular the lionfish, a hardy invader that
lionfish

An adult lionfish
can overrun ecosystems and devastate native biodiversity — according to research published in the journal Global Change Biology. Researchers found that hurricanes, by forcing changes in strong ocean currents, have helped lionfish spread from the Florida Straits to the Bahamas since 1992, increasing the spread of the species by 45 percent and their population size by 15 percent. Normally the currents pose a barrier to the transport of lionfish eggs and larvae, the researchers say, but as a hurricane passes, the current shifts and carries lionfish larvae and eggs from Florida to the Bahamas. Scientists say climate change may increase the frequency or intensity of future storms, which could further accelerate the spread of marine invasives.
PERMALINK

 

02 Mar 2015: Emperor Penguins Had Few
Refuges During Last Ice Age, Study Finds

The Ross Sea and certain other Antarctic waters likely served as refuges for the three emperor penguin populations that
emperor penguins

Emperor penguins
survived during the last ice age, when large amounts of ice made much of the rest of Antarctica uninhabitable, according to a new study published in the journal Global Change Biology. The findings suggest that extreme climatic conditions on the continent during the past 30,000 years created an evolutionary "bottleneck" that is evident in the genetic material of modern-day emperor penguins, a species known for its ability to thrive in icy habitats. But during the last ice age, the Antarctic likely had twice as much sea ice, the researchers say, leaving only a few locations for the penguins to breed — distances from the open ocean (where the penguins feed) to the stable sea ice (where they breed) were too great. The three populations that did manage to survive may have done so by breeding near areas of ocean that are kept free of sea ice by wind and currents, the researchers suggest.
PERMALINK

 

23 Feb 2015: Large-scale Pumping Can
Return Oxygen To Deep Waters, Study Finds

A team of Danish and Swedish scientists reports that they have restored oxygen to the waters
wind plant locations in Texas

Deploying instruments in Byfjord, Sweden.
of a deep fjord that had suffered from a long-term lack of oxygen. The researchers used large pumps to mix oxygen-rich surface water into the deeper parts of the fjord's water column — which had long been anoxic due to its depth and geological setting — and after only two months higher oxygen concentrations became detectable in the bottom waters. "In the later phase of the experiment the entire water column began to look healthy," the researchers said, noting that bacterial species that live in well-oxygenated waters had begun to appear. Low oxygen levels make waters uninhabitable to most forms of life, and anoxic waters often harbor only a few types of bacteria, some of which produce significant levels of greenhouse gases.
PERMALINK

 

19 Feb 2015: New York City Set for Major
Sea Level Rise By 2050, Report Concludes

The waters surrounding New York City are on track to rise 11 to 21 inches by the 2050s, according to an analysis based on

Enlarge
New York sea level rise

Future NYC flood zones
NASA climate change models. The city's average temperature, which has increased by 3.4 degrees F since 1900, is set to rise another 5 degrees F by the 2050s, the report says, and annual precipitation is also likely to rise significantly over that period. New York City has already seen sea levels rise by over 1 foot since 1900 — nearly twice the average global rate, according to the report, which was published by the New York City Panel on Climate Change. Mayor Bill de Blasio said the report highlights the urgency of mitigating climate change and adapting to its risks, and he announced a commitment to cut the city's emissions by 80 percent by 2050.
PERMALINK

 

Interview: Why Ocean Health Is
Better, and Worse, Than You Think

In a recent groundbreaking study in Science, a group of marine experts — including lead author Douglas
Douglas McCauley
Douglas McCauley
McCauley — delivered a sobering message: The world’s oceans are on the verge of major change that could cause irreparable damage to marine life. While ocean ecosystems are still largely intact, the marine world is facing unprecedented disturbances, including ocean acidification and habitat destruction from deep-sea mining, oil and gas drilling, development, and aquaculture. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, McCauley discusses the parallels of the loss of wildlife on land and at sea and explains why creating marine reserves and establishing international ocean zoning regulations would help blunt the damage from a looming “marine industrial revolution.”
Read the interview.
PERMALINK

 

16 Feb 2015: Space-Based Measurments Can
Track Global Ocean Acidity, Researchers Say

An international team of scientists has developed new methods for studying the acidity of the oceans from space,

Enlarge
ocean acidification map

Global ocean alkalinity measured from space.
according to research published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology. Currently, scientists must rely on measurements taken from research vessels and sampling equipment deployed in oceans to determine acidity — which rises as the oceans absorb CO2 from the atmosphere — but this approach is expensive and geographically limited. The new techniques use satellite-mounted thermal cameras to measure ocean temperature and microwave sensors to measure salinity. Together these measurements can be used to assess ocean acidification more quickly and over much larger areas than has been possible before.
PERMALINK

 

As Arctic Ocean Ice Vanishes,
Questions About Future Fishing

With the steady retreat of sea ice in the Arctic Ocean opening up vast areas of this long-frozen marine basin, a key resource

A Russian fishing vessel trawls the Arctic Ocean.
issue is now emerging: the future of fisheries, especially in central Arctic waters. What species are migrating into the region as sea ice disappears? And could the heart of the Arctic Ocean sustain a commercial fishery in the coming decades? These issues were central to a discussion at a recent conference on the fisheries of the central Arctic Ocean. With more southerly fish species migrating into warmer and increasingly ice-free regions of the Arctic Ocean, officials from the U.S. and Canada say it’s important to negotiate an international agreement on fishing before allowing fisheries to open.
Read the article.
PERMALINK

 

06 Feb 2015: Maine’s Iconic Lobsters
Face Threats From Ocean Acidification

Maine’s lobster fishery, worth $1.7 billion to the state and a vital source of employment, could be

A Maine lobster
threatened by acidifying ocean waters and rising sea temperatures, according to a new report. The report, issued by a state commission, called increasingly acidic ocean waters — caused by the absorption of CO2 from the atmosphere — an “urgent matter” that needs to be addressed by state and local governments and the fishing infustry. Facing the prospect that increasing acidity could interfere with the ability of lobsters to make their shells, the commission set forth a handful of goals, including a stepped-up research effort on the acidification of the coast’s waters and its impact on crustaceans. Maine lawmakers have already introduced legislation for limits on industrial and agricultural runoff, which contribute to coastal water acidification.
PERMALINK

 

15 Jan 2015: Underwater Kelp Forests Mapped
In New Citizen Science Project

Kelp forests grow along roughly 25 percent of the world’s coastlines and provide valuable habitat and nutrients for many types of aquatic life. Now, research by the “Floating Forests” project is shedding light on how these underwater kelp forests are affected by climate change. The project is using NASA satellite data to observe changes in kelp forests over a period of more than four decades. The catch: No accurate way to automate the process exists, so the researchers rely on an international team of nearly 3,500 citizen scientists to mark the bright green kelp forests, which contrast with the deep blues of the ocean in the images.
Read more.
PERMALINK

 

14 Jan 2015: Offshore Wind More Profitable
Than Drilling on U.S. East Coast, Report Says

Offshore wind would produce twice the number of jobs and twice the amount of energy as offshore drilling

Offshore wind turbines in the Irish Sea
near the U.S. East Coast, according to a new report from the advocacy group Oceana. The report contends that recent claims by the oil and gas industry about the economic potential of offshore drilling in the region are exaggerated because many of those oil and gas reserves are not economically viable to drill. Plans to build the nation's first offshore wind farm off Cape Cod have repeatedly failed to move forward. But Oceana calculates that over the course of 20 years, offshore wind in the Atlantic could produce nearly twice as much energy as all of the economically recoverable oil and gas. Offshore wind installations also would likely create an additional 91,000 jobs — twice as many as offshore drilling would create, Oceana says.
PERMALINK

 

29 Dec 2014: The Arctic Is Absorbing
More and More Sunlight, NASA Images Show

The Arctic has been absorbing significantly more sunlight since the year 2000, according to NASA satellite data,

Enlarge

Changes in absorption of sunlight in the Arctic
a trend that mirrors the steady decrease in Arctic sea ice during that same period. These maps show changes in the amount of solar radiation absorbed over the Arctic from 2000 to 2014, as well as changes in sea ice cover during the same period. As sea ice cover declines and more dark ocean is exposed to the sun's rays, that decreases the reflectivity, or albedo, of the ocean's surface, meaning more heat is absorbed. Shades of red depict areas absorbing more sunlight and areas with less ice cover. The Arctic's rate of absorption has increased by 5 percent every June, July, and August since 2000. No other region on the planet has shown significant changes in albedo during that time, researchers say.
PERMALINK

 

19 Dec 2014: 'Nuisance Flooding' Will Affect
Most of U.S. Coastline by 2050, Report Finds

By 2050, most U.S. coastal areas are likely to be threatened by 30 or more days of flooding each year due sea level

Enlarge

Nuisance flooding projections for U.S. cities
rise, according to a new report the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The researchers looked at the frequency of so-called "nuisance flooding," which occurs when the water level reaches one to two feet above local high tide, and found that several cities along the East Coast are already seeing more than 30 days of nuisance flooding each year. Additional major cities — including Baltimore, Atlantic City, Philadelphia, and San Francisco — will reach or exceed that benchmark by 2030, the report says. Although nuisance flooding is not typically catastrophic or dangerous, it is often costly. The report drives home the point, researchers say, that such floods will become commonplace far earlier than 2100, which is generally cited as the date when sea level rise is likely to become damaging.
PERMALINK

 

17 Dec 2014: Obama Protects Alaska's
Bristol Bay From Oil and Gas Development

President Obama yesterday announced protections for Bristol Bay, Alaska, one

A grizzly bear catches a salmon in Bristol Bay.
of the most productive fishing grounds in the nation, from future oil and gas development. The president's action is expected to benefit commercial fishermen and Native Alaskans and boost conservation efforts in the region, which is roughly the size of Florida. Noting that Bristol Bay is the world's largest sockeye salmon fishery and the source of 40 percent of U.S. wild-caught seafood — a catch worth $2 billion annually — Obama vowed to ensure long-term safeguards for the bay. The region has been under protection intermittently since 1989, when the Exxon Valdez spill prompted a federal moratorium on offshore drilling. "It is a natural wonder, and it’s something that’s just too precious to be putting out to the highest bidder," Obama said in a video message. The federal government is still considering whether to allow development of what would be North America's largest open-pit mine in the bay's watershed.
PERMALINK

 

04 Dec 2014: Arabian Sea Whales Are Earth's
Most Isolated and Endangered Population

Humpback whales inhabiting the Arabian Sea are the most genetically distinct humpback whales and may be

View Gallery

© Tobias Friedrich
An Arabian Sea humpback
the most isolated population on earth, researchers report. With fewer than 100 estimated individuals, they are "definitely the most endangered" population of humpbacks, said Wildlife Conservation Society researcher Howard Rosenbaum. The Arabian humpbacks' known range is limited to waters near Yemen, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Iran, Pakistan, and India, and possibly the Maldives and Sri Lanka, researchers say. Genetic data suggest they have remained separate from other humpback whale populations for 70,000 years — extremely unusual in a species famed for annual migrations of 9,000 kilometers or more. The genetic separation is likely reinforced by their breeding schedule, researchers say. While Arabian humpbacks breed on a northern hemisphere schedule, their closest neighbors breed on a southern schedule.
PERMALINK

 

20 Nov 2014: Real-Time Ocean Acidification
Data Now Available for U.S. Pacific Coast

Researchers, coastal managers, and shellfish farmers along the U.S. Pacific coast can now get real-time ocean

Enlarge

Web portal for ocean acidification data
acidification data through an online tool developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The data — which includes measurements of pH, carbon dioxide concentrations, salinity, and water temperatures at various sites — should help organizations and businesses make decisions about managing coastal resources and craft adaptation strategies, NOAA researchers say. The tool will feature data from five shellfish hatchery sites along the Pacific coast along with readings from NOAA’s ocean acidification monitoring sites. Ocean acidification is driven primarily by absorption of atmospheric CO2 by ocean waters, which changes seawater chemistry in a way that makes it difficult for many marine organisms to form their shells.
PERMALINK

 

19 Nov 2014: Global Maritime Shipping
Traffic Has Grown by 300 Percent Since 1992

Maritime traffic has increased four-fold over the past 20 years, causing more water, air, and noise pollution in

Maritime shipping traffic has increased rapidly.
the world's oceans and seas, according to a new study quantifying global shipping traffic. Traffic went up in every ocean during the 20 years of the study, except off the coast of Somalia, where piracy has almost completely halted commercial shipping since 2006. In the Indian Ocean, where the world’s busiest shipping lanes are located, ship traffic grew by more than 300 percent over the 20-year period, according to the report published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. Burgeoning ship traffic has increased the amount air pollution, particularly above the Sri Lanka-Sumatra-China shipping lane, where researchers recorded a 50-percent increase in nitrogen dioxide, a common air pollutant, over the 20-year period. Shipping is also a major source of noise pollution, which can be harmful to marine mammals, the authors note.
PERMALINK

 

13 Nov 2014: Global Maps Detail Seasonal and Geographic Trends in Ocean Acidification

A team of scientists has published the most comprehensive analysis yet of how acidity levels vary across the world’s oceans. Drawing on four decades of

Enlarge

Taro Takahashi
Ocean acidification map
measurements, researchers from Columbia University and the University of Colorado mapped changes in ocean acidity by season and location, as well as how acidity levels affect the stability of shell-building minerals. The maps reveal that the northern Indian Ocean is at least 10 percent more acidic than the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, possibly due to its unique geography, the researchers say. The maps also show that ocean acidity fluctuates most in the colder waters off Siberia, Alaska, Antarctica, and the Pacific Northwest, due to cycles of deep-water upwelling and massive plankton blooms. The oceans have taken up a quarter of the carbon dioxide humans have put in the atmosphere over the last two hundred years, and acid levels at the surface have increased by 30 percent since the beginning of the industrial era, researchers say.
PERMALINK

 

Interview: Saving World’s Oceans Begins With Coastal Communities

Aggressively curbing overfishing, pollution, and development is something coastal communities
“Ayana
Ayana Johnson
can do immediately to protect their ocean resources — and with dramatic results — says marine biologist Ayana Elizabeth Johnson. As the executive director of the Waitt Institute, an ocean conservation organization, Johnson recently put that approach to the test on the Caribbean island of Barbuda. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, she discusses how she helped Barbuda craft rules to protect its ocean resources and why she favors community-driven conservation efforts over more top-down approaches.
Read the interview.
PERMALINK

 

13 Oct 2014: Climate Change To Make Many
Fish Species Extinct in Tropics, Study Says

Climate change is likely to drive fish and marine invertebrates toward the poles and cause extinctions

Enlarge

Local extinction hotspots
near the tropics, according to researchers at the University of British Columbia. Under the conservative climate change scenario of one degree Celsius of warming by 2100, the 802 species modeled in the study are predicted to move away from their current habitats by as much as 9 miles, or 15 kilometers, every decade — a rate similar to what scientists have observed over the past few decades. Under the worst-case scenario of three degrees of warming, the researchers predict marine species will move toward the poles at a rate of 26 kilometers per decade. Under that scenario, an average of 6.5 species per 0.5 degrees of latitude would become locally extinct closest to the equator. The shifts will be caused by the species' reactions to warming waters, changing ocean chemistry, and ecosystem structure near the tropics, as well as new habitats opening up nearer the poles, researchers say.
PERMALINK

 

08 Oct 2014: Floods Will Be Chronic Problem
For East Coast Cities by 2030, Study Says

By 2030, residents of Washington, D.C., and Annapolis, Maryland, could be experiencing more than 150 tidal floods every year — up

Enlarge

Tidal flood frequency
from an average of just 50 today — according to a recent study of sea level rise and coastal flood risk along the U.S. East Coast by the Union of Concerned Scientists. In another 15 years, that number could jump to 400 floods annually, the study says. A home purchased in some of the more flood-prone parts of those two cities could see daily flooding before a 30-year mortgage was paid off, according to the study. The increased frequency will be driven by sea level rise, researchers say, which exacerbates the effects of so-called “nuisance flooding” linked to tidal cycles, rainfall, and storm surges. Other cities on the Atlantic coast will also see increased flood frequency, including Miami and Atlantic City, New Jersey, which can expect an average of 240 flood days per year by 2045.
PERMALINK

 

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