Space Station Gets Unprecedented Views of Earth Coasts

View of the Hyperspectral Imager for Coastal Oceans (HICO) and Remote Atmospheric and Ionospheric Detection System (RAIDS) Experiment Payload (HREP) installed on the Japanese Experiment Module of the International Space Station. Image source: NASA.


Advanced technology aboard the International Space Station is now providing unprecedented views of the planet’s coastlines.

Knowing what activity is occurring along Earth’s coasts is key for planning and carrying out humanitarian relief and military actions, as well as monitoring for pollution, coral reef health and other environmental concerns. However, the millions of square miles that make up the coasts of oceans are complicated in nature, consisting of dissolved matter and suspended detritus that obscure water and sea bottom types that can vary quickly over just dozens of yards.

Now the Hyperspectral Imager for the Coastal Ocean (HICO), installed on the International Space Station in 2009, is providing unprecedented new views of coastlines around the world…

Read Original Article, OurAmazingPlanet

Salt Mapper For Climate Forecasts, NASA

Map of global differences, on average, between evaporation and precipitation, the main elements of the global water cycle. Eighty-six percent of global evaporation is from the ocean surface, and 78 percent of global precipitation falls back over the ocean. Changes in these patterns affect the salinity of the ocean surface. Scientists plan to use Aquarius salinity data to incorporate these processes into computer models used to improve predictions of future climate. Image credit: Committee on Earth Observation Satellites

By Alan Buis, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, NASA

Salt is essential to human life. Most people may not know, however, that salt, in a form nearly the same as the simple table variety, is just as essential to Earth’s ocean, serving as a critical driver of key ocean processes. While ancient Greek soothsayers believed they could foretell the future by reading the patterns in sprinkled salt, today’s scientists have learned that they can indeed harness this invaluable mineral to foresee the future, of Earth’s climate.

The oracles of modern climate science are the computer models used to forecast climate change. These models, which rely on a myriad of data from many sources, are effective in predicting many climate variables, such as global temperatures. Yet data for some pieces of the climate puzzle have been scarce, including the concentration of dissolved sea salt at the surface of the world’s ocean, commonly called ocean surface salinity, subjecting the models to varying margins of error. This salinity is a key indicator of how Earth’s freshwater moves between the ocean, land and atmosphere.

Enter Aquarius, a new NASA salinity-measurement instrument slated for launch in June 2011 aboard the Satélite de Aplicaciones Científicas (SAC)-D spacecraft built by Argentina’s Comisión Nacional de Actividades Espaciales (CONAE). Aquarius’ high-tech, salt-seeking sensors will make comprehensive measurements of ocean surface salinity with the precision needed to help researchers better determine how Earth’s ocean interacts with the atmosphere to influence climate.

Improving Climate Forecasts

“We ultimately want to predict climate change and have greater confidence in our predictions. Climate models are the only effective means we have to do so,” said Aquarius Principal Investigator Gary Lagerloef, a scientist at the Seattle-based independent laboratory Earth & Space Research. “But, a climate model’s forecast skill is only as good as its ability to accurately represent modern-day observations.”

Density-driven ocean circulation, according to Lagerloef, is controlled as much by salinity as by ocean temperature. Sea salt makes up only 3.5 percent of the world’s ocean, but its relatively small presence reaps huge consequences.

Salinity influences the very motion of the ocean and the temperature of seawater, because the concentration of sea salt in the ocean’s surface mixed layer, the portion of the ocean that is actively exchanging water and heat with Earth’s atmosphere, is a critical driver of these ocean processes. It’s the missing variable in understanding the link between the water cycle and ocean circulation. Specifically, it’s an essential metric to modeling precipitation and evaporation.

Accurate ocean surface salinity data are a necessary component to understanding what will happen in the future, but can also open a window to Earth’s climate past. When researchers want to create a climate record that spans previous decades, which helps them identify trends, it’s necessary to collect and integrate data from the last two to three decades to develop a consistent analysis.

“Aquarius, and successor missions based on it, will give us, over time, critical data that will be used by models that study how Earth’s ocean and atmosphere interact, to see trends in climate,” said Lagerloef. “The advances this mission will enable make this an exciting time in climate research.”

Anyone who’s splashed at the beach knows that ocean water is salty. Yet measuring this simple compound in seawater has been a scientific challenge for well over a century.

Until now, researchers had taken ocean salinity measurements from aboard ships, buoys and aircraft, but they’d done so using a wide range of methods across assorted sampling areas and over inconsistent times from one season to another. Because of the sparse and intermittent nature of these salinity observations, researchers have not been able to fine-tune models to obtain a true global picture of how ocean surface salinity is influencing the ocean. Aquarius promises to resolve these deficiencies, seeing changes in ocean surface salinity consistently across space and time and mapping the entire ice-free ocean every seven days for at least three years.

The Age of Aquarius

Research modelers like William Large, an oceanographer at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., will use Aquarius’ ocean surface salinity data, along with precipitation and temperature observations, to round out the data needed to refine the numerical climate models he and his colleagues have developed.

“This mission is sure to mark a new era for end users like us,” explained Large. “Aquarius puts us on the road to implementing a long-term, three-step plan that could improve our climate models. The first step will be to use Aquarius data to identify if there is a problem with our models, what deficiencies exist, for example, in parts of the world where observations are sparse.

“Second, the data will help us determine the source of these problems,” Large added. “Salinity helps us understand density, and density, after all, makes ocean waters sink and float, and circulate around Earth.

“Third, Aquarius will help us solve the puzzle of what’s going on in the ocean itself, the ocean processes,” he added. “We’ll pair an ocean observation experiment with the satellite mission to explore the mixing and convection, how things like salinity are stirred in the ocean, to better determine what processes might be actually changing climate. Measuring salinity at the ocean surface will deliver a pioneering baseline of observations for changes seen by the next generation of missions in the coming decades.”

“We’ve done all of the advance work leading up to the launch of Aquarius, so the proof will be in the actual data,” said Lagerloef. “Our intent is to put the data out immediately as soon as the satellite begins transmitting. Before the end of the first year, we’ll be interpreting exactly what the data are telling us and how they will benefit climate modeling.”

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Rising sea levels endangering Australia’s World Heritage-listed Kakadu wetlands

Kakadu is one of the very few places listed as a World Heritage Area for both its cultural and natural values. It is a place of exceptional beauty and is considered one of the most biologically diverse places on the Australian continent. The Timor and Arafura Seas are bordering Kakadu Park’s northern shores. Photo source: ©© Matt Francey

Australia’s Kakadu wetlands ‘under climate threat’


“Rising sea levels linked to global warming will endanger Australia’s World Heritage-listed Kakadu wetlands, according to a government report released Thursday as part of the campaign for a carbon tax.
The study found Kakadu was “one of Australia’s natural ecosystems most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change”, with higher oceans a “serious risk” to its ecosystem.

Monsoon rainforests, mangroves and woodlands would suffer and unique turtle, fish, crab, crocodile and bird species would decline, said the report…”

Read AFP Article

Ranger 3 open pit, Northern Territory, Australia. Uranium mine: Photo source: Geomartin /Wikimedia

By Claire Le Guern,

As changes in climate -accelerated by increased carbon emissions and greenhouses gas- are greatly endangering coastal ecosystems mainly due to sea level rise and its direct impacts, the Kakadu national park’s area has been afflicted and environmentally altered by yet, an other man-induced environmental devastation: uranium mining.

Of the world’s proven estimated uranium reserves (5,469,000 tonnes), 23% (valued at more than $300 billion), are held in Australia, which is the third greatest uranium exporter behind Canada and Kazakhstan.(Wikipedia)

Besides the very activity itself, reported safety breaches, unplanned natural occurences, unconformity of mineral deposits, and radiologically contaminated process water, have been tainting the story of the “protected” area. Indeed, Kakadu National Park, located in the Northern Territory of Australia, possesses within its boundaries a number of large uranium deposits. The uranium is legally owned by the Australian Government, and is sold internationally.

“Australia’s Greens Party wants the Ranger uranium mine located in the country’s Kakadu National Park closed permanently, saying the mine poses a significant threat to the world heritage listed site.” ( ABC News, Australia)

Technically the site of the Ranger mine and the adjacent Jabiluka area are not per se part of Kakadu National Park, but are completely surrounded by it, as they were specifically excluded when the park was established from 1981. Wikipedia

However, polluted water is leaking into Kakadu from uranium mine. The World heritage-listed Kakadu National Park is leaking 100,000 litres of contaminated water into the ground beneath the park every day, a Government appointed scientist has revealed. This is equivalent to three petrol tankers, of contaminant leaking from the mine’s tailings dam into rock fissures beneath Kakadu.The Age News, Australia

Consequently, the uranium mine, operated by Energy Resources of Australia Ltd, has been closed since January as heavy rains threatened a spillage of toxins from a water storage facility.

That closure had been extended until late July. However, continuing exploitation is undeniably on the agenda.

Energy Resources of Australia Ltd (ASX: ERA) is a public company based in Australia. It is a subsidiary of the, British mining giant Rio Tinto Group, which owns 68.4% of the company. ERA is the world’s third-largest uranium producer, through the Ranger Uranium Mine in the Northern Territory.

Kakadu National Park. Aboriginal Painting, Ubirr Rock. Photo Travelnt / Wikimedia

Kakadu National Park is located within the Alligator Rivers Region of the Northern Territory of Australia. It covers an area of 19,804 km2 (7,646 sq mi), extending nearly 200 kilometres from north to south and over 100 kilometres from east to west.

Besides encompassing breathtaking natural wonders, exceptional natural beauty and unique biodiversity, Kakadu is one of very few places World Heritage listed for both its cultural and its natural values. The area has been inhabited by indigenous Aboriginal tribes. Yet, once again, the mining industry has demonstrated its environmental destructive effects and consequent undeniable process off desacration of natural and cultural sites.

Ubirr is located in the East Alligator region of Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory of Australia, 40 km from Jabiru, and is famous for its rock art. It consists of a group of rock outcrops on the edge of the Nadab floodplain where there are several natural shelters that have a collection of Aboriginal rock paintings, some of which are many thousands of years old.

The rock faces at Ubirr have been continuously painted and repainted since 40,000 BCE. Wikipedia

Climate Change Strategy, Official Report, Kakadu National Park

Read More about The Uranium mining controversy

Papua New Guinea Mine Waste Dumping: The Ramu Case, in Coastal Care

Being Part Of The Solution: Marine Debris Tracker

marine debris
Fishing net and other debris were found on a beach Hawaii. Photo source: NOAA Marine Debris Program


Summer is around the corner and millions of people worldwide will be heading to beaches and waterways for sun and fun. Will they find clean beaches and clear waterways?

With bottles, cans, abandoned or lost fishing gear and other marine debris washing up on our shores each year, the University of Georgia and NOAA have teamed up to create a new, innovative cell phone reporting mechanism to combat the marine debris problem. This high-tech tool, or app, tracks where marine debris is accumulating and gives anyone with a “smart phone” an opportunity to be a part of the solution.

The easy-to-use Marine Debris Tracker app can be downloaded free for use on iPhones and Android phones. The simple tool allows users to report the type of debris and its location through GPS features pre-installed on a cell phone. The data reported are posted at for viewing and downloading. The app also encourages users to recycle or properly dispose of the trash they find.

Jenna Jambeck, assistant professor for the Faculty of Engineering at UGA and one of the app’s developers, says the app is one way the initiative is trying to reach people and raise awareness of marine debris.

“If you are noticing marine debris, you are also much less likely to litter,” says Jambeck. “While this app collects data, one of its primary goals is to educate the public about marine debris and its harmful impacts.”

Marine debris can kill or injure wildlife when animals ingest it or become entangled in it. The debris can also have an economic impact on the tourism industry and other coastal businesses by affecting the beauty and cleanliness of beaches and waterways.

Jambeck and co-developer Kyle Johnsen, her colleague from the Faculty of Engineering at UGA, hope that the Marine Debris Tracker tool will help city officials make decisions about how to handle marine trash, from supplying extra trash cans to providing opportunities to recycle or dispose of abandoned or lost fishing line and other gear.

The new smart phone app was made possible through SEA-MDI, a new regional partnership between the NOAA Marine Debris Program and a consortium of organizations in Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina. The initiative aims to create collaborative regional strategies that address marine debris prevention, reduction and mitigation.

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C40 Large Cities Climate Summit

brazil brian hodges
Coastal Brazil. Photograph by: ©Brian Hodges

By Claire Le Guern

Six years ago, representatives of 18 leading world cities, met in London to address global warming and climate change.The representatives understood the urgent need for action and cooperation on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and pledged to work together towards achieving that goal, through a range of energy efficiency and clean energy programs, as well as developping creative solutions, in response to the great challenges imposed by climate change.

The 40 major cities, whose mayors are currently attending the fourth C40 Summit in Sao Paulo, including New York, Jakarta, Mexico City, Berlin, Barcelona, Rio de Janeiro and Paris, are responsible for 12 percent of global greenhouse emissions.

The current chair of the C40 is Mayor Michael R Bloomberg of New York City.

“For the first time in history, cities are home to more than half of the world’s population, and together account for more than 80% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions,” Mayor Bloomerg declared.

Yesterday, the group annouced that a financing agreement with the World Bank to help the world’s major cities better adapt to climate change, has been reached.

US President Bill Clinton, whose foundation works with the C40 group, praised the agreement, as he said that one of the biggest problems with going green was financing.

Learn More About The C40

The Sao Paulo Summit, C40 Fourth Conference

Japan Underestimated Tsunami Hazard For Nuclear Sites, UN Experts Find

The damaged Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station as seen during a sea-water sampling boat journey, 7 November 2013. Captions and Photo source: ©© IAEA Imagebank


Experts from the United Nations atomic energy agency said, June 1st, that Japan had underestimated potential tsunami hazards to its nuclear power plants before the March earthquake and tsunami that damaged the Fukushima Daiichi facility.

The team of international nuclear safety experts, from 12 countries, said in a preliminary assessment of the safety issues that “the tsunami hazard for several sites was underestimated,” according to a press statement of the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)…

Read Full Article, UN News Centre

EPA Begins Monitoring Summer Monitoring to Protect Area Beaches, Coastal Waters

Dune restauration. Photograph: © SAF — Coastal Care

Excerpt; by John Senn, EPA

With the beginning of the beach season, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is again undertaking a beach and harbor protection program to safeguard beaches and bays in New Jersey and New York and protect the health of the people who enjoy them.

EPA’s program includes helicopter surveillance for floating debris, water quality sampling and grants to support state beach protection programs. The summer monitoring program kicked off on Saturday, May 28 with helicopter flights searching for floating debris in the New York/New Jersey Harbor.

“EPA is on the job every summer sampling water quality to make sure that beachgoers can enjoy the water without worry,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck. “Our efforts also ensure that floating debris is found and removed from the water before it can make its way onto a beach where it could affect people’s health and damage wildlife.”

Working together with other federal, state and local agencies, EPA’s program operates seven days a week. This comprehensive, science-based beach and coastal water program has many components, including shellfish bed water quality monitoring, and grants to states to help with their beach monitoring and public notification programs. As they do every summer, EPA scientists will fly over the New York/New Jersey Harbor in a helicopter, searching for floating debris. The helicopter will also be used to collect water samples near shellfish beds and along the New Jersey coast for phytoplankton analysis, and take samples for bacteriological analysis around Long Island to support New Jersey’s and New York’s shellfish protection program…

Read Original Article

More Information, EPA

Chilled Offering, Tallows Beach Cape Byron, Australia; By Johnny Abegg

Chilled Offering

Chilled Offering

By © Johnny Abegg

Chilled Offering is a photo I took for a community mailout I do here in Byron Bay called Common Ground. It was a cool and moody morning on the eve of Autumn, on the 23rd of February, just before 7am. The clouds where moving swiftly from South to North, with a still Southerly wind blowing at Tallows Beach, on the southern side of Cape Byron.

…a certain magic of aloneness, intwined with the roar of an untamed ocean.
— Johnny

There was nobody on the beach, in which lives a certain magic of aloneness, intwined with the roar of an untamed ocean. As the clouds shift with every moving moment, I was lucky enough to capture this image of the sea, with a Nikon D7000 and a 35mm/1.8 lens.

To me this photo represents the dark times our oceans are having with our need to exploit it’s very beauty, food and resources, yet this darkness is overshadowed by rays of light, a metaphor to us that we can also be it’s saviour, and walk forth a patron of the sea.

South West National Park, Tasmania; By Johnny Abegg

South West Marine Debris Cleanup

By Johnny Abegg

Have you ever dreamed of a place as a child that you always wanted visit?

I was lucky enough to visit South West National Park in Tasmania, chartering the South and West coast by boat for the annual South West Marine Debris Cleanup. Growing up in Tasmania from the age of 4 to 15, this is that place of wonder for me. A childhood dream realised.

Sipping on a warm cup of coffee in my comfortable abode in Byron Bay, I got the last moment call up from Patagonia to have a slot on the trip. I couldn’t believe it. Suddenly I was touching down in Hobart to familiar sights and surrounds, that only a childhood could breed.

The initiative has been running for over a decade, facilitated by Environmental Scientist Matt Dell from Hobart. The cleanup aligns itself with Patagonia‘s ethos of giving back to our planet, donating 1% of profits (grossing $40 million to date) to grassroots initiatives such as the South West Marine Debris Cleanup. Through Dell’s passion for the Tasmanian natural environment, a love for the South West (a World Heritage area), and with the support of companies like Patagonia, the trip is a very important endeavour in highlighting the facts, that even in the most remote and isolated areas of the planet, our influence is felt.

A group of 23 volunteers was orchestrated this year to aid Dell in the week-long cleanup (the biggest contingent in the cleanups history). Thousands of pieces of rubbish (some bigger than others) wash up onto these isolated shores with no access to the public. Chartering a group of fishing vessels, we were able to enter these wanderlust areas, doing our bit by collecting the debris, hauling them onto our boats, sorting the rubbish by night into categories, and getting to breath and taste the remote wonder of Tasmania’s main jewel in it’s crown.

As an added bonus, we also got the chance to surf!

The might of the Roaring Forties is a constant influence on Tasmania, a world owned by Mother Nature. Radio is the only means of communication with daily forecasts of 3-4 metre seas bombarding portions of our trip, with fluctuating weather and wind, and the adjusting sea-legs for those in new territory. The empty white sand beaches and new footprints governed, we were explorers to a foreign shore. The serenity was shadowed by jagged ranges of mountainous teeth in our peripherals. The ying/yang beauty was unfortunately desaturated by all the colours of the rainbow in plastic, bottles, rope, bait straps, fishing nets, beer cans and so much more.

Over the days, which turned into a week, the grand total of rubbish collected off six beaches was 18357 items, totalling around 3.5 tonnes. This is the biggest recorded haul in the Cleanup’s history. In material terms 93% of the rubbish was plastic comprised mainly of rope, bottles and miscellaneous plastic pieces, and 4.5% was metal mainly as aluminium cans. Small pieces of plastic, caps and lids continue to be found in increased numbers, and these along with small pieces of rope and bait box straps accounted for over 70% of the rubbish items collected.

The lesson…To respect what we have, to find ways to sustain, and let places like this flourish and be wild, unmarked by mans lack of accountability.
— Johnny

This humbling figure came down to the team recovering 11,317 items in just five hours off a 1.5 kilometre length of coastline. A series of rocky coves were home to kelp riddled foreshores of cross thatched nature and garbage. An eyesore as far as the eye could see. The prognosis was no better in the opposite direction, where sharp rocks and cobblestones where home to an ambush of florescent, we had found Tasmania’s ‘Garbage Patch’. There is still more to obtain next year.

This year the team finally recovered ‘temples de rope’ – three huge rope balls weighing between 200-400 kg each that Dell had observed over the last few years. There awe and size took at times 10-12 people to move the monsters, and hours of deliberation and digging. The rope was finally hauled aboard by a Hiab, lifting them from the water, and leaving the beaches beautiful.

The more unusual items found on the shore this year included a fridge, a bodyboard, a cold full can of beer and an assortment of toys including a still inflated party balloon. Once again there was rubbish from all corners of the globe including numerous Japanese, Chinese and Korean oil and food containers, fishing buoys and trawl nets.

A selection of the rubbish was displayed at Salamanca Market on the 7th of May 2011.

The trip was a dream come true for me. The South West National Park is like stepping into another world. A place where you can breath the freshest air, marvel at the wild country, and know that you as a human being are a part of Mother Nature.

This is the lesson. To respect what we have, to find ways to sustain, and let places like this flourish and be wild, unmarked by mans lack of accountability.

South West Marine Debris Cleanup: Video By Johnny Abegg

Filmed and Edited by Johnny Abegg
Music by Any Noise

The South West Marine Debris Cleanup is an annual trip orchestrated by Environmental Scientist Matt Dell to the remote wilderness of Tasmania, where tonnes of rubbish can be found on the beaches of this pristine and isolated environment.

This is his story.

Thanks to Patagonia for their ongoing support of environmental issues.

For more about the cleanup, or to make a donation visit: marinedebris.blogspot

The mission of the Santa Aguila Foundation is to raise awareness of and mobilize people against the ongoing decimation of coastlines around the world.

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