Sunday, February 17, 2008

Dead Zones



Apologies for my long absence.

First, an interesting interview at Alternet with Maude Barlow on the future of water.

Second, of special interest for inhabitants of the American Southwest, the frightening developments at and forecasts for Lake Mead:
Lake Mead, the vast reservoir for the Colorado River water that sustains the fast-growing cities of Phoenix and Las Vegas, could lose water faster than previously thought and run dry within 13 years, according to a new study by scientists at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

The lake, located in Nevada and Arizona, has a 50 percent chance of becoming unusable by 2021, the scientists say, if the demand for water remains unchanged and if human-induced climate change follows climate scientists’ moderate forecasts, resulting in a reduction in average river flows.

Demand for Colorado River water already slightly exceeds the average annual supply when high levels of evaporation are taken into account, the researchers, Tim P. Barnett and David W. Pierce, point out. Despite an abundant snowfall in Colorado this year, scientists project that snowpacks and their runoffs will continue to dwindle. If they do, the system for delivering water across the Southwest would become increasingly unstable.

“We were really sort of stunned,” Professor Barnett said in an interview. “We didn’t expect such a big problem basically right on our front doorstep. We thought there’d be more time.”
NYT [hat tip to Tonic Blotter]

Third, vast dead zones in the Pacific, off the coast of Washington:
Where scientists previously found a sea bottom abounding with life, two years ago they discovered the rotting carcasses of crabs, starfish and sea worms, swooshing from side to side in the current. Most fish had fled -- and those that didn't or couldn't joined the deathfest on the sea floor.

Extraordinarily low oxygen levels were to blame -- swept up from the deep ocean into normally productive waters just off the Pacific Northwest coast by uncharacteristically strong winds.

On Thursday scientists announced they had documented that low oxygen levels that killed the sea life in 2006 were the lowest in a half-century -- and that for the first time, parts of the ocean off our coast were measured with zero oxygen in the water; 2007 looked only a bit better.

Strong winds and low oxygen levels have persisted for eight summers now, leading scientists to conclude that the ocean may be "poised for significant reorganization"-- their way of saying an ecosystem gone awry.

It looks like the Pacific has reached a "tipping point," a threshold where low-oxygen levels are becoming the rule, researchers said. And while scientists can't prove it's caused by a changing climate, that's consistent with what is predicted by computer projections built to anticipate global warming.
Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Finally, a murder mystery. Someone or something is killing sea lions on the Galapagos:
Ecuadorean officials are investigating the slaughter of 53 sea lions from the Galapagos Islands nature reserve, which were found with their heads caved in.
The dead animals included 13 pups, 25 youngsters, nine males and six females.

Galapagos National Park official Victor Carrion told AFP news agency that each was killed by "a strong blow from someone", though the motive is unknown.

They had not been injured in any other way, he said, discounting the notion they had been killed for their parts.
BBC.