Thursday, June 10, 2010

Awed by Size, Density of Undersea Oil Plume in Gulf - Vast underwater concentrations of oil sprawling for miles in the Gulf of Mexico from the damaged, crude-belching BP PLC well are UNPRECEDENTED IN 'HUMAN HISTORY" "human history" and threaten to wreak havoc on marine life, a team of scientists said Tuesday, a finding confirmed for the first time by federal officials. Researchers traced an underwater oil plum 15 miles wide, 3
miles long and about 600 feet thick. The plume's core is 1,100 to 1,300 meters below the surface. "It's an infusion of oil and gas unlike anything else that has ever been seen anywhere, certainly in human history."
Bacteria are breaking down the oil's hydrocarbons in a massive, microorganism feeding frenzy that has sent oxygen levels plunging close to what is considered "dead zone" conditions, at which most marine life are smothered for a lack of dissolved oxygen. The team also measured extremely high levels of methane, which is spewing from the gushing BP well at up to 10,000 times background levels in Gulf waters. Less clear to researchers are what role the unprecedented deployment of oil-dispersing chemicals are having on the undersea gathering of oil. "The primary producers - the base of the food web in the ocean - is going to be altered. There's no doubt about that. We have no idea what dispersants are going to do to microorganisms. We know they are toxic to many larvae. It's impossible to know what the impacts are going to be." A full understanding and the full impact to the Gulf's fishery may be years away."
Asked to react to BP officials earlier assertions that the Gulf of Mexico was a large enough body of water to absorb the impact of an oil spill under way - "The solution to pollution is not dilution. It's an excuse, and it's arm-waving, and it takes away from the important things that we should be thinking about."

**Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in awhile you could miss it.**
Ferris Bueller

This morning -

Yesterday -
6/9/10 -

No current tropical cyclones.


"Missing" heat - Current observational tools cannot account for roughly half of the heat that is believed to have built up on Earth in recent years. A central mystery of climate change: Whereas satellite instruments indicate that greenhouse gases are continuing to trap more solar energy (heat), scientists since 2003 have been unable to determine where much of that heat is going. Either the satellite observations are incorrect, or, more likely, large amounts of heat are penetrating to regions that are not adequately measured, such as the deepest parts of the oceans. Compounding the problem, Earth's surface temperatures have largely leveled off in recent years. Yet melting glaciers and Arctic sea ice, along with rising sea levels, indicate that heat is continuing to have profound effects on the planet.
As greenhouse gases accumulate in the atmosphere, satellite instruments show a growing imbalance between energy entering the atmosphere from the sun and energy leaving from Earth's surface. This imbalance is the source of long-term global warming. Satellite measurements indicate that the amount of greenhouse-trapped solar energy has risen over recent years while the increase in heat measured in the top 3,000 feet of the ocean has stalled. The oceans absorb about 90 percent of the solar energy that is trapped by greenhouse gases. Until 2003, the measured heat increase was consistent with computer model expectations. But since then, a new set of ocean monitors has shown a steady decrease in the rate of oceanic heating, even as the satellite-measured imbalance between incoming and outgoing energy continues to grow. About half the total amount of heat is now unaccounted for.
Some of the missing heat appears to be going into the observed melting of ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica, as well as Arctic sea ice. Much of the missing heat may be in the ocean. Some heat increase can be detected between depths of 3,000 and 6,500 feet (about 1,000 to 2,000 meters), but more heat may be deeper still beyond the reach of ocean sensors. Last year's rapid onset of El NiƱo, the periodic event in which upper ocean waters across much of the tropical Pacific Ocean become significantly warmer, may be one way in which the solar energy has reappeared.
"Global warming at its heart is driven by an imbalance of energy: more solar energy is entering the atmosphere than leaving it. Our concern is that we aren't able to entirely monitor or understand the imbalance. This reveals a glaring hole in our ability to observe the build-up of heat in our climate system." "The heat will come back to haunt us sooner or later. The reprieve we've had from warming temperatures in the last few years will not continue. It is critical to track the build-up of energy in our climate system so we can understand what is happening and predict our future climate." Any geoengineering plan to artificially alter the world's climate to counter global warming could have inadvertent consequences, which may be difficult to analyze unless scientists can track heat around the globe. Improved analysis of energy in the atmosphere and oceans can help researchers better understand and possibly even anticipate unusual weather patterns, such as the cold outbreaks across much of the United States, Europe, and Asia over the past winter.