Tag Archives: Coastal Issues

El Hierro Submarine Eruption

The Atlantic turned lime green as lava and gas billow from an underwater volcano off the coast of Hierro island, the smallest and farthest south and west of the Canary Islands.


Off the coast of El Hierro, in the southwest reaches of the Canary Islands, Earth has been spewing gas and rock into the ocean. The island off the Atlantic coast of North Africa—built mostly from a shield volcano—has been rocked by thousands of tremors and earthquakes since July 2011, and an underwater volcanic eruption started in mid-October.

The eruption is the first in the island chain in nearly 40 years.

On October 23, 2011, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured this natural-color view of El Hierro and the North Atlantic Ocean surrounding it. A milky green plume in the water stretches 25-30 kilometers at its widest and perhaps 100 kilometers long, from a large mass near the coast to thin tendrils as it spread outs to the southwest. The plume is likely a mix of volcanic gases and a blend of crushed pumice and seafloor rock.

Tremors were reported for the past several months from seismic stations on El Hierro, particularly in the northwest of the island. Then on October 12, 2011, the strength of the tremors significantly decreased while foaming, rock-strewn plumes appeared in the sea to the south of the island. The underwater plume of volcanic debris has persisted for nearly two weeks and has been mixed and dispersed by ocean surface currents. The eruption is occurring in water that is tens to a few hundred meters deep.

Geologist and blogger Erik Klimetti offered this analysis: “It looks like the main fissure might be 2-3 kilometers in length and is close to on strike with the rift axis for the main El Hierro edifice. Ramon Ortiz, coordinator of a government scientific team, said that if/when the eruption reaches shallower water, we should expect to see the surface water start to steam, followed by explosions of steam and magma and finally the emergence of an island.”


Original Article

Pictures: Undersea Volcano Erupts, Stains Seas, National Geographic

Seven Billion And Counting

only tree
“The only tree”. Skallingen peninsula on the Danish west coast. This is the only tree in the dune landscape on the peninsula which formed only after a storm in the 17th Century. Caption and Photo source: ©© Dans le Grand Bleu

Excerpts; By BBC News

How is the changing global population affecting people’s daily lives? With the UN set to announce that there are now seven billion people on the planet, BBC News reporters spoke to seven people from around the world to hear their stories.

WATCH a BBC Video Documentary

Ancient Art Supplies Found In South African Cave

blombos cave


Researchers in South Africa have discovered what may have been the world’s earliest artist’s studio.

A 100,000-year-old workshop used to mix and store the reddish pigment ochre has been discovered in Blombos Cave on the rugged southern coast near Cape Town.

At the same site, scientists have found some of the earliest sharp stone tools, as well as evidence of fishing…

artifact blombos cave
Bifacial points, engraved ochre and bone tools from the c. 75 -80,000 year old M1 & M2 phases at Blombos cave. Photo source: ©© Chenshilwood / en.wikipedia

Read Full Article, LiveScience

A 100,000-Year-Old Ochre-Processing Workshop at Blombos Cave, South Africa; Journal Science

What Created Earth’s Oceans? Comet Offers New Clue

yellow starfish
Starfish onshore. Photo source: ©© Midlander1231


New evidence supports the theory that comets delivered a significant portion of Earth’s oceans, which scientists believe formed about 8 million years after the planet itself.

For the first time, astronomers have found water on a comet that’s a chemical match for water on Earth, a new study says. The discovery backs up theories that water-rich comets helped fill ancient Earth’s oceans.

Planet-formation models indicate that early Earth was much too hot to sustain liquid water on its surface, making the origin of Earth’s oceans a mystery…

Read Full Article, National Geographic

NASA, Comet Hartley 2 Mission

Ancient Cave Paintings in Peril Again, Scientists Say

altamira cave paintings
Cuevas de Altamira, Rocky Polychrome Hall in Altamira Cave. Photo source: © MNCN-CSIS, Spain / LiveScience


At least 14,000 years ago, artists took to Altamira cave in Northern coastal Spain, with charcoal and red pigments, painting bison, deer and their own handprints on the rock walls and ceiling.

The Altamira cave paintings were discovered in 1879, and is located near the town of Santillana del Mar in Cantabria, Spain, 30 km west of the port city of Santander, an historical region of Cantabria situated on the north coast of Spain.

The special relevance of Altamira Cave, comes from the fact that it was the first cave in which prehistoric cave paintings were discovered. When the discovery was first made public, it led to a bitter public controversy between experts which continued into the early 20th century, as many of them did not believe prehistoric man had the intellectual capacity to produce any kind of artistic expression. The acknowledgement of the authenticity of the paintings, which finally came in 1902, changed forever the perception of prehistoric human beings. Wikipedia

The cave with its paintings has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, and have attracted huge numbers of visitors, 175,000 in 1973, the busiest year on record.

“The caves are inscribed as masterpieces of creative genius and as the humanity’s earliest accomplished art. They are also inscribed as exceptional testimonies to a cultural tradition and as outstanding illustrations of a significant stage in human history.” Unesco

However, this prehistoric art gallery was closed to the public in 2002 after photosynthetic bacteria and fungi were found to be consuming pigments at alarming rates, but plans to reopen the caves could restart the damaging processes and have scientists raising the alarm…

santander northern coast spain
The port city of Santander is the capital of the autonomous community and historical region of Cantabria situated on the north coast of Spain. Photo source: ©© Alvarolg

Read Full Article, LiveScience

Ocean-Island Landslide At Tenerife: Onshore Record And Long-Term Effects

tenerife east coast
Tenerife, East Coast. Tenerife is the largest and most populous island of the seven Canary Islands. Photo source: ©© Potomo

Excerpts; By University of Leicester

Volcanologists from the University of Leicester have uncovered one of the world’s best-preserved accessible onshore remains of a monstrous landslide that followed a huge volcanic eruption on the Canarian island of Tenerife.The southeast slopes of Tenerife collapsed into the sea.

Tsunamis generated from such events may travel to devastate coastlines thousands of miles away.

Read Full Article, Science Daily

NASA Leads Study of Unprecedented Arctic Ozone Loss

Left: Ozone in Earth’s stratosphere at an altitude of approximately 12 miles (20 kilometers) in mid-March 2011, near the peak of the 2011 Arctic ozone loss. Red colors represent high levels of ozone, while purple and grey colors (over the north polar region) represent very small ozone amounts. Right: chlorine monoxide – the primary agent of chemical ozone destruction in the cold polar lower stratosphere – for the same day and altitude. Light blue and green colors represent small amounts of chlorine monoxide, while dark blue and black colors represent very large chlorine monoxide amounts. The white line marks the area within which the chemical ozone destruction took place. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

By Jet Propulsion Laboratory / NASA

A NASA-led study has documented an unprecedented depletion of Earth’s protective ozone layer above the Arctic last winter and spring caused by an unusually prolonged period of extremely low temperatures in the stratosphere.

The study, published online Sunday, Oct. 2, in the journal Nature, finds the amount of ozone destroyed in the Arctic in 2011 was comparable to that seen in some years in the Antarctic, where an ozone “hole” has formed each spring since the mid-1980s. The stratospheric ozone layer, extending from about 10 to 20 miles (15 to 35 kilometers) above the surface, protects life on Earth from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays.

The Antarctic ozone hole forms when extremely cold conditions, common in the winter Antarctic stratosphere, trigger reactions that convert atmospheric chlorine from human-produced chemicals into forms that destroy ozone. The same ozone-loss processes occur each winter in the Arctic. However, the generally warmer stratospheric conditions there limit the area affected and the time frame during which the chemical reactions occur, resulting in far less ozone loss in most years in the Arctic than in the Antarctic.

To investigate the 2011 Arctic ozone loss, scientists from 19 institutions in nine countries (United States, Germany, The Netherlands, Canada, Russia, Finland, Denmark, Japan and Spain) analyzed a comprehensive set of measurements. These included daily global observations of trace gases and clouds from NASA’s Aura and CALIPSO spacecraft; ozone measured by instrumented balloons; meteorological data and atmospheric models. The scientists found that at some altitudes, the cold period in the Arctic lasted more than 30 days longer in 2011 than in any previously studied Arctic winter, leading to the unprecedented ozone loss. Further studies are needed to determine what factors caused the cold period to last so long.

“Day-to-day temperatures in the 2010-11 Arctic winter did not reach lower values than in previous cold Arctic winters,” said lead author Gloria Manney of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., and the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology in Socorro. “The difference from previous winters is that temperatures were low enough to produce ozone-destroying forms of chlorine for a much longer time. This implies that if winter Arctic stratospheric temperatures drop just slightly in the future, for example as a result of climate change, then severe Arctic ozone loss may occur more frequently.”

The 2011 Arctic ozone loss occurred over an area considerably smaller than that of the Antarctic ozone holes. This is because the Arctic polar vortex, a persistent large-scale cyclone within which the ozone loss takes place, was about 40 percent smaller than a typical Antarctic vortex. While smaller and shorter-lived than its Antarctic counterpart, the Arctic polar vortex is more mobile, often moving over densely populated northern regions. Decreases in overhead ozone lead to increases in surface ultraviolet radiation, which are known to have adverse effects on humans and other life forms.

Although the total amount of Arctic ozone measured was much more than twice that typically seen in an Antarctic spring, the amount destroyed was comparable to that in some previous Antarctic ozone holes. This is because ozone levels at the beginning of Arctic winter are typically much greater than those at the beginning of Antarctic winter.

Manney said that without the 1989 Montreal Protocol, an international treaty limiting production of ozone-depleting substances, chlorine levels already would be so high that an Arctic ozone hole would form every spring. The long atmospheric lifetimes of ozone-depleting chemicals already in the atmosphere mean that Antarctic ozone holes, and the possibility of future severe Arctic ozone loss, will continue for decades.

“Our ability to quantify polar ozone loss and associated processes will be reduced in the future when NASA’s Aura and CALIPSO spacecraft, whose trace gas and cloud measurements were central to this study, reach the end of their operational lifetimes,” Manney said. “It is imperative that this capability be maintained if we are to reliably predict future ozone loss in a changing climate.”

Original Article, NASA

$102 Million in Wetlands, Barrier Island Restoration Awards for Louisiana

Grand Bayou, land loss. Photo source: ©© eustatic

By The Department Of Commerce

Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank announced $102 million for three Louisiana projects in the Barataria and Terrebone basins, to restore deteriorated wetlands and barrier island habitats along the state’s coast. These awards are funded by the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act (CWPPRA) program. U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La., Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority Director Garret Graves and Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Project Director Bobby Guichet also participated in the announcement.

Great Lakes Dredge & Dock and Weeks Marine have been contracted to restore beach, dune and marsh on Pelican Island in Plaquemines Parish, and West Belle Pass barrier headland in Lafourche Parish, respectively. The state of Louisiana will receive the third award to rebuild marsh and construct an 11,000-foot long protective ridge in the Bayou Dupont area in Jefferson Parish. The three projects will employ local citizens and generate further economic benefits for local businesses and coastal communities.

“Restoring wetlands and barrier islands and the habitat they support provides immediate local jobs and makes a long-term investment in the health of our fisheries and the resilience of our coastline,” Acting Secretary Blank said. “This restoration will pay dividends for those whose lives and livelihoods depend on sustainable Gulf fisheries and for all Americans who enjoy Gulf seafood.”

“If one block of New York City disappeared every hour the nation would be outraged. Well, Louisiana loses a football field of wetlands every hour, which is crippling to the state and the Nation. It affects our seafood supply, gas and oil reserves, and storm protection. Reversing this trend is a critical national priority, which is why it’s my fight,” Rep. Cedric Richmond said. “This is also why these grant announcements are so critical. I am pleased that Acting Secretary Blank and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration within the Department of Commerce recognize the importance of New Orleans area coastal restoration efforts.”

At the event, Blank also outlined help the American Jobs Act would provide Louisiana – putting people to work and boosting businesses. The plan would provide a significant new tax cut for small businesses, make major reforms to unemployment insurance to help get more Americans back on the job, and it would put more money in the pockets of Americans by reducing payroll taxes paid by workers.

For Louisiana, the Jobs Act would mean:

80,000 firms receiving a payroll tax cut;
6,400 jobs supported for highway and transit modernization projects;
6,300 educators and first responders who get to stay on the job;
Help for 42,000 long-term unemployed workers; and,
A $1,400 tax cut for the typical Louisiana household.

The Jobs Act would complement the coastal restoration work funded by the awards announced by Blank today.

Currently, Louisiana accounts for nearly 71 percent of U.S. fisheries landings by weight from the Gulf of Mexico. Many species of finfish, shrimp, and crab depend on the wetlands of the Barataria Basin for habitat during their life cycles.

But with one of the highest rates of wetlands loss in the world, the Louisiana coastline has deteriorated extensively over the last 80 years, losing more than 420 square miles of wetlands to open water in the Barataria Basin alone.

These losses are largely the result of long-term, man-made changes, including the construction of levees, which have cut off the natural flow of nourishing sediments.

Although the area sustained damage as a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, the three projects in Bayou Dupont, Pelican Island and West Belle Pass were designed prior to the spill and are intended to address long-standing issues rather than the direct repercussions of the spill.

Restoring the wetlands and barrier islands will also increase protection for Louisiana’s people and property, as well as one of America’s richest fisheries. By absorbing hurricane storm surge, rebuilt wetland and barrier island areas will help protect Orleans and Jefferson parishes, two of the top-five most densely populated counties in the Gulf coastal zone.

These three projects continue NOAA’s long-term investment in the Louisiana coastline through the CWPPRA program. Enacted in 1990, CWPPRA has designed and funded 151 coastal restoration or protection projects benefiting more than 110,000 acres in Louisiana.

Most recently, NOAA has been working to rebuild the Barataria Basin barrier island chain, constructing two barrier islands, Chaland Headlands and Pass la Mer to Grand Bayou Pass, in addition to Pelican Island.

Original Press release

Atlas of Shorleine Changes In Louisiana, 1853-1989, USGS

Chile Reels in Salmon Farming

Fish farm, Chile. Photo source: ©© Sam Beebe

By the Wildlife Conservation Society

Chile is the second largest producer of salmon in the world. But these fish don’t occur there naturally. Instead, the salmon swim within enclosed nets, often tightly packed together. Kept off the country’s coastline, fish farms like these can pollute local ecosystems, displace native fish species, introduce diseases, and affect artisanal fisheries.

Over the last decade, the number of salmon farms has skyrocketed. But in Patagonia, Chile has begun taking steps to protect some of its wild waters from the farmed fish. WCS is commending the Chilean government for keeping the salmon industry out of Tierra del Fuego and reducing the practice in the Antarctica and Magellanes provinces.

“Chile has taken the right step in protecting invaluable coastal resources off Tierra del Fuego and nearby areas,” said Barbara Saavedra, Director of WCS’s Chile Programs. “These regions are home to rich concentrations of wildlife whose needs are only beginning to be understood.”

At the southern tip of South America, albatross, penguins, southern elephant seals, and many other species come to breed along the coasts. Since 2009, WCS has been studying Chile’s marine ecosystems and advising government officials on coastal zone planning.

Unfortunately, salmon farming still threatens other areas within Patagonia. WCS is working with partner organizations to assess alternative salmon farming techniques that might reduce the farms’ impact on these environments. In addition to identifying coastal areas for future protection, WCS conservationists are examining how salmon farming might affect the region’s burgeoning ecotourism industry.

Original Article, Wildlife Conservation Society

Impacts Of Intensive Salmon Farming On Coastal Ecosystems