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Environmental Monitoring

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December 2011 Issue

Runoff-Emissions Combo Poses Acidity Threat to Marine Life
Increasing acidification in coastal waters could compromise the ability of oysters and other marine creatures to form and keep their shells, according to a study led by University of Georgia researchers.

Their findings, published in Nature Geoscience in November, found the combined effects of fertilizer runoff into the northern Gulf of Mexico and burning fossil fuels both result in higher CO2 levels, resulting in an unexpected increase in the ocean acidity.

"Before, scientists only worried about low oxygen in waters along the coast," said Wei-Jun Cai, a professor at the university. "Our paper basically says not only do we need to worry about low oxygen, we also need to worry about acidification."

If the acidity of coastal waters continues to increase, Cai and his co-workers predict that by the end of the century these creatures won't be able to form shells. Although their research focused on Gulf of Mexico coastal waters, they extended their findings globally by making the same measurements on the Yangtze River, where they found similar results.

To minimize future damage to the coastal ocean, the scientists recommend that farmers better manage fertilizer use and societies limit fossil fuel use. Their future research will explore seasonal patterns of acidification and its influence on the coastal ecosystem. For more information, visit www.nature.com.

'Will it Crush?' Camera Housing Implodes, Damaging Equipment
A YouTube-inspired science outreach video effort literally imploded when a glass pressure sphere failed at a depth of 3,800 meters, damaging nearby sensors and a CTD.

By piggybacking on a cluster of instruments being lowered in the Samoan Passage, scientists with the University of Washington's Applied Physics Laboratory had hoped to film objects such as gummy bears and styrofoam cups taken to extreme depths to see if they would be crushed. Professor Matthew Alford, who led the expedition, said they received about a dozen suggestions of items to crush. The outreach project was inspired by the viral "Will it Blend?" Web videos, where a manufacturer took e-mail suggestions of what to put in a blender.

The scientists assembled the Crush Cam—a GoPro camera housed in a 6,000-meter-rated glass pressure sphere—to film the efforts. At 3,800 meters' depth, however, the glass sphere failed, triggering an implosion in a nearby sphere. Alford said it likely failed because it had been cycled a few times to full depth.

"These spheres do develop imperfections after a number of trips to the depth and can implode," Alford wrote in an e-mail to Sea Technology. "We knew this was a possibility, but with hindsight we underestimated the damage it could do to the sensitive instruments nearby."

The expedition, which ran from October 24 to November 5, was investigating deepwater waves in the Samoan Passage.

Despite the setback, Alford is planning to obtain funds to develop a camera and lighting system with pressure cases that would not pose a risk to other instruments.

"It would require little more than a proper stainless or titanium pressure case with a clear Lexan endcap—one for the camera and one for the light," Alford said in the e-mail. For more information, visit www.apl.washington.edu.

NASA Launches NPP Earth-Observing Satellite
NASA's newest Earth-observing satellite, the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System Preparatory Project, or NPP, successfully launched into its sun-synchronous polar orbit 824 kilometers above Earth in November.

NPP carries five science instruments, including four state-of-the-art sensors, which NASA said will provide data to help scientists understand the dynamics of long-term climate patterns and help meteorologists improve short-term weather forecasts. The mission will extend more than 30 key long-term data sets NASA has been tracking, including measurements of the ozone layer, land cover and ice cover.

NPP serves as a bridge mission between NASA's Earth Observing System (EOS) of satellites and the next-generation Joint Polar Satellite System.

Scientists will use NPP data to extend and improve upon EOS data records. NASA said these EOS satellites have provided critical insights into the dynamics of the entire Earth system, including clouds, oceans, vegetation, ice, solid Earth and atmosphere. NPP will allow scientists to extend the continuous satellite record needed to detect and quantify global environmental changes. For more information, visit www.nasa.gov.

Project Will Monitor Noise of Wave Energy Collection Devices
IBM and the Sustainable Energy Authority Ireland are working together to understand and minimize the environmental impact of converting wave energy into electricity. The project, announced in October, is the first to utilize real-time streaming analytics for monitoring the underwater noise generated by wave energy conversion devices.

The collaboration said it is working to accelerate methods and technologies that enable environmental impact assessment of these devices to ensure an environmentally friendly, sustainable approach to wave energy collection. The system will consist of sensing platforms, a communications infrastructure and advanced stream analytics that utilize cloud computing.

The first test site, located in Ireland's Galway Bay, has been part of the SmartBay collaboration involving IBM Research and the Marine Institute Ireland to monitor wave conditions, acoustics, marine life and pollution levels in and around the bay. Development of a full-scale, grid-connected test site on the west coast of Ireland near Belmullet is now underway.

When fully operational, the system will produce one of the largest continuous collections of underwater acoustic data ever captured. The collaboration said data will be made available to researchers and regulatory agencies to advance knowledge of natural and man-made underwater sound, and help develop standards and reporting, benefitting marine environmental agencies as well as industries including renewable energy, shipping and offshore oil and gas. For more information, visit www.ibm.com.


2012:  JAN | FEB | MARCH | APRIL | MAY | JUNE | JULY | AUG | SEPT | OCT | NOV | DEC
2011:  JAN | FEB | MARCH | APRIL | MAY | JUNE | JULY | AUG | SEPT | OCT | NOV | DEC

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