Environmental Monitoring 2018
Bacteria Levels Rise
After Hurricane Flooding
Hurricane Harvey brought more than 50 in. of rain and extreme flooding to the city of Houston in 2017. Floodwaters harbor bacteria that can cause disease. Now, researchers have surveyed the microbes in Houston floodwaters. They reported their results in Environmental Science & Technology Letters.
The researchers found that E. coli levels in two of Houston’s major bayous were significantly elevated in the immediate aftermath of Harvey but gradually decreased over two months after the storm to pre-storm levels. Similarly, antibiotic-resistance gene levels were highest three days after the storm.
The highest levels of fecal bacteria, human pathogens and antibiotic-resistance genes occurred in homes with stagnant floodwater inside.
The study indicates that residents and relief workers should exercise caution to prevent coming into contact with harmful microbes in the aftermath of extreme floods, especially in stagnant indoor waters.
Belgium Gets Systems
To Assess Algae Levels
The Flanders Environment Agency (VMM) has taken delivery of CTG ALGAE-Wader Pro systems to assist in assessing algae levels of the water environments in Belgium.
The systems supplied to VMM are configured for measurements of Chl-a, phycocyanin and phycoerythrin and come with a handheld unit that provides graphical and digital real-time data to the operator, with red, amber, green thresholding, and logs the data for post-mission extraction.
The three channels provided by the CTG TriLux fluorometer within the system will also help inform on the group type of the algae present.
APT Recorders for THEMO
A new Mediterranean observatory is using Soundnine’s inductive telemetry and temperature/pressure recorders. THEMO (Texas A&M – University of Haifa Eastern Mediterranean Observatory) comprises a shallow mooring (125 m) on the continental shelf near the edge of the Levant Basin, 25 km from Haifa, and a deep mooring (1,500 m) located 50 km from Haifa.
Soundnine’s Enduro APT recorders (acceleration, pressure, temperature) with inductive telemetry are clamped to the jacketed wire rope mooring line at 11 depths between 5 and 85 m. They communicate through the wire rope with a Soundnine Ulti-modem connected to the buoy controller.
The two moorings have real-time RF communication with a shore station linked to the University of Haifa.
AZFP to Examine Onset of
Hypoxia Using Cyanobacteria
Urban freshwater environments are often exposed to nutrient loading via groundwater movement and fertilizer runoff that can cause algal blooms and widespread fluctuations in oxygen levels.
Through an ongoing monitoring program, Rob Bowen of Diversified Scientific Solutions has been conducting surveys of dissolved oxygen, pH, oxidation-reduction potential, temperature, nitrogen and phosphorous at Swan Lake, in Victoria, BC, Canada.
An ASL Environmental Sciences’ acoustic zooplankton fish profiler (AZFP) was deployed late summer to collect data.
Because Aphanizomenon flos-aquae are relatively large acoustic targets, it is hopeful that this new application of the AZFP will provide valuable insights into the dynamics of this freshwater system.
Coastal Erosion in Arctic
Intensifies Global Warming
The loss of Arctic permafrost deposits by coastal erosion could amplify climate warming via the greenhouse effect. A study using sediment samples from the Sea of Okhotsk in eastern Russia revealed the loss of Arctic permafrost at the end of the last glacial period led to repeated sudden increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration.
Researchers from the Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) together with colleagues from Copenhagen and Zurich have found evidence of this phenomenon for the Arctic permafrost regions showing that several thousand years ago large quantities of carbon dioxide were released from Arctic permafrost due to a rapid rise of sea level.
Today, the Arctic’s permafrost coast is eroding severely because the region is warming rapidly. In some places, the coast is receding at a rate of 20 m per year.
Coastal erosion is a key process that must be included in climate models.
Climate Patterns Affect
Greenland Ice Sheet Melt
Scientists know that warming global climate is melting the Greenland Ice Sheet, the second largest ice sheet in the world. A new study from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution shows the melting rate might temporarily increase or decrease via two climate patterns: the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) and the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO).
The study found that when the NAO stays in its negative phase (meaning air pressure is high over Greenland) it can trigger extreme ice melt in Greenland during the summer season.
Likewise, the AMO, which alters sea surface temperatures in the North Atlantic, can cause major melting events when it is in its warm phase, raising the temperature of the region as a whole.
If global climate change continues at its current rate, the Greenland Ice Sheet may melt entirely. Depending on how the AMO and NAO interact, excess melting could happen two decades earlier than expected or two decades later this century. This melting will affect climate predictions and resource management.
FAU, NASA to Monitor
Algae in Lake Okeechobee
A massive, toxic algae bloom occurred in Lake Okeechobee in 2016 in the St. Lucie Estuary. Scientists with Florida Atlantic University’s (FAU) Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute (HBOI) are partnering with NASA to learn more about algae levels in the lake through the deployment of a SeaPRISM, one of NASA’s water quality monitoring instruments.
SeaPRISMs are above-water radiometers that look at the color of water and use algorithms to determine chlorophyll, turbidity and cyanobacteria levels.
The device will take hourly readings and send the information via cell signal to NASA, which will validate and publish the data online.
Ecosystems, Food Webs Study
On January 9, 2018, a Teledyne Webb Slocum Glider with an integrated ASL acoustic zooplankton fish profiler (AZFP) with three frequencies (38, 125 and 200 kHz) was deployed for three weeks in the Terra Nova Bay (Ross Sea, Antarctica) to obtain mesoscale and submesoscale measurements of oceanographic processes and simultaneous biological distributions and abundance.
From the data, the researchers will examine the interactions between multiple trophic levels (phytoplankton, zooplankton and fish) and their relationships to the physical hydrographic driving forces such as sea ice and currents.
The AZFP can differentiate key species, such as copepods, crystal krill and Antarctic silverfish. The glider was also instrumented with a CTD, a WET Labs BB2FL ECO puck to measure phytoplankton biomass and an Aandera Optode dissolved oxygen sensor. The hydrographic data are available through RUCOOL (Rutgers University Center for Ocean Observing Leadership) and THREDDS (Thematic Real-time Environmental Data Distribution Services). This project will pave the way for cost-effective, automated examination of food webs and ecosystems in regions all over the global ocean, serving a wide range of users.
Tracking Temp, pH Changes
In Gulf of Maine
The Gulf of Maine is a productive, complex and semi-enclosed “sea within a sea.” Changes in temperature and pH threaten many of the Gulf’s resources. Schoodic Institute and the U.S. National Park Service are working together to understand these changes and their impacts in Acadia National Park. They have deployed a Sea-Bird SeapHOx pH sensor to collect continuous data just off one of the park’s islands, near one of the major currents in the Gulf of Maine.
The SeapHOx provides data to help investigate changes in biodiversity and abundance of intertidal and marine organisms along Acadia National Park’s iconic rocky coast, as well as elsewhere in the Gulf.
Extreme Sea Levels Predicted
To Rise Along Coasts
A new study predicts future global warming will lead to an increase in extreme sea levels, with consequent flood risks to coastal infrastructure and human populations.
Extreme sea levels occur through a combination of high tides and extreme weather events, which can generate storm surges and high-wind waves. These phenomena are exacerbated by progressive rises in mean sea level and predicted increases in tropical cyclone activity.
For the first time, researchers have taken account of all these processes to assess future risk of extreme sea levels to the year 2100.
The National Oceanography Centre was part of the international research team from Italy, Greece, the Netherlands and the U.K. that found that extreme sea level events that occur on average once every 100 years at the present day would occur almost annually along most global coastlines by the end of the century. The research team also calculated that the impacts of extreme sea level were significantly reduced in scenarios where CO2 emissions were mitigated compared to a business-as-usual scenario, largely due to reduced thermal expansion of the oceans and lower rates of glacier and ice sheet melting.
The new results will help coastal planners in areas such as coastal defense upgrades.
Buoys to Monitor Turbidity
For Dredging Project
Ocean Scientific International Ltd. (OSIL) has provided Dragados UK with a turbidity monitoring solution to report on the dredging activities of the Aberdeen Harbour Expansion Project. OSIL supplied two 1.9-m buoy platforms, equipped with standalone turbidity sensors, and was on site for installation. The buoys are set up to trigger an alarm if a buoy reports a rise in readings above the predetermined threshold and will provide continuous sediment monitoring during dredging operations.
The turbidity monitoring will run in conjunction with other planned mitigation strategies to monitor and protect the marine fauna in the area.
WERA Ocean Radar Systems
Aid Tsunami Warnings
In May 2017, a mini-tsunami hit the Dutch coast with a flood wave more than 2-m high. About 50 km southwest of Zandvoort, there are two WERA ocean radar systems installed at Monster and Ouddorp to measure currents around the entrance of the Port of Rotterdam, providing coverage up to 70 km offshore. After reprocessing the WERA raw measurements, current signatures generated by the approaching tsunami-like wave can be seen clearly more than 40 min. before the wave flooded the coast near Zandvoort. The mini-tsunami had an effect similar to a full tsunami.
Verifavia Now Offers
Verifavia has expanded its offering to include global verification services for the Clean Shipping Index (CSI).
Formally established in 2011, CSI is an independent rating system of the environmental performance of ships and shipping companies. CSI seeks to deliver market incentives for clean shipping, with a view to encouraging shipping practices that are sustainable and environmentally responsible.
The CSI verification service is an extension of Verifavia’s portfolio of services for the shipping sector, which includes EU MRV (monitoring, reporting and verification), IMO DCS (data collection system), and CCWG (Clean Cargo Working Group) verification.
Shipowners whose ships obtain full CSI verification can benefit from lower port fees at participating ports, including the Port of Vancouver and the Port of Prince Rupert. In January 2018, the Swedish Maritime Administration introduced differentiated fairway tax fees for vessels that are more environmentally friendly than their counterparts, solely based on the CSI rating. Vessels with a verified performance of three or more CSI stars will benefit from reduced fairway dues.
Alaska Data Portal
The Alaska Ocean Observing System (AOOS) has updated Ocean Data Explorer, http://portal.aoos.org/alaska-statewide, a data portal connecting the world to diverse data sets from across Alaska, including the Arctic, Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska—the state’s three largest marine ecosystems.
Packaged in an interactive interface, Ocean Data Explorer organizes and presents data for applications ranging from tracking bird migration to identifying potential assets for future research. The Real-Time Sensor Map provides eyes on live conditions in scientifically and economically critical parts of the state.Updates include: data comparison and charting functions; featured data views; advanced charting features, including climatologies and anomalies; station and source level metadata pages; and shareable custom data views.
The updated Ocean Data Explorer is currently in beta testing. Users can submit feedback on the site to help improve the portal features and tools.
Shows Fast Arctic Change
Scientists have found surprising evidence of rapid climate change in the Arctic: In the middle of the Arctic Ocean near the North Pole, they discovered that the levels of radium-228 have almost doubled over the last decade. This indicates that large-scale changes are happening along the coast—because the source of the radium is the land and shallow continental shelves surrounding the ocean. These coastal changes could also be delivering more nutrients, carbon and other chemicals into the Arctic Ocean and lead to dramatic impacts on Arctic food webs and animal populations.
The research team, led by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, suspects that melting sea ice has left more open water near the coast for winds to create waves. The wave action reaches down to the shallow shelves and stirs up sediments, releasing radium that is carried to the surface and into the open ocean. The same mechanism would likely also mobilize and deliver more nutrients, carbon and other chemicals into the Arctic Ocean, fueling the growth of plankton at the bottom of the food chain, which could affect fish and marine mammals and change the Arctic ecosystem.
With Teledyne Sonars
The Teledyne SeaBat T50 and T20 multibeam echosounders are the key component to the Yun Zhou Tech M80B unmanned surface vessel. Yun Zhou Tech designs and manufacturers a range of USVs, and the M80B was designed for the installation and deployment of the T50 and T20 sonars.
The M80B, fully equipped with a SeaBat T50-P, was recently deployed in Antarctica from the Chinese polar RV Xue Long (“Snow Dragon”). The T50 surveyed 5 sq. km in the waters of Antarctica.
Water Quality Degrades
A team including Smithsonian marine biologists just released 25 years of data on the health of Caribbean coasts from the Caribbean Coastal Marine Productivity Program (CARICOMP). The data revealed that water quality decreased at 42 percent of the monitoring stations across the basin. However, significant increases in water temperature, expected in the case of global warming, were not detected across sites.
“We’re seeing important changes in local conditions, like decreases in visibility associated with declining water quality and the increasing presence of people, but we’re not picking up global-scale changes, like climate warming,” said Iliana Chollett, post-doctoral fellow at the Smithsonian Marine Conservation Program in Fort Pierce, Florida.
The team gathered CARICOMP data from 29 sites in Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, Bonaire, Colombia, Costa Rica, Florida, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Puerto Rico, Saba and Venezuela and organized it into a single data set. Despite attempts to locate monitoring sites in places not affected by human activities, the stations are picking up signals of human influence throughout the Caribbean basin.
“One positive implication of this report is people are capable of dealing with local change by regulating pollution and runoff,” said Rachel Collin, director of the Bocas del Toro Research Station at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. “If people get their act together very soon, there is still hope of reversing some of these changes.”
Sea Level Fingerprints Indicate Climate Changes
Researchers have reported the first observation of sea level “fingerprints,” tell-tale differences in sea level rise around the world in response to changes in continental water and ice sheet mass, the American Geophysical Union reported.
Scientists have a solid understanding of the physics of sea level fingerprints but have never had a direct detection of the phenomenon until now.
As ice sheets and glaciers undergo climate-related melting, they alter Earth’s gravity field, which causes nonuniform sea level change.
The team calculated sea level fingerprints using time-variable gravity data collected by the twin satellites of NASA’s Gravity Recovery & Climate Experiment between April 2002 and October 2014. During that time, the global mean sea level grew by about 1.8 mm per year, with 43 percent of the increased water mass coming from Greenland, 16 percent from Antarctica and 30 percent from mountain glaciers. The scientists verified their calculations of sea level fingerprints associated with these mass variations via ocean-bottom pressure readings from stations in the tropics.
With improved understanding through GRACE data and other techniques, scientists can now take any point on the global ocean and determine how much the sea level there will rise as a result of glacier ice melt.
ALAMO Tracks Irma Effects For Better Hurricane Prediction
As Hurricane Irma approached U.S. shores in September, researchers sponsored by the U.S. Office of Naval Research (ONR) used air-dropped autonomous sensors to compile real-time ocean observations to help forecasters predict the strength of future tropical storms. This marks the first time the sensors—called ALAMO (Air-Launched Autonomous Micro Observer) sensors—were used in hurricane prediction research. While standard computerized prediction models rely on atmospheric data like air temperature, humidity, altitude and wind speed and direction, the ALAMO sensors measure oceanographic phenomena beneath the sea surface. Hurricane Irma is one of the strongest storms ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean. Such storms are notoriously difficult to predict, presenting a volatile meteorological cocktail that can change direction, speed and strength quickly and unexpectedly.
The sensor data will be used to improve the Navy’s Coupled Ocean/Atmosphere Mesoscale Prediction System-Tropical Cyclone—COAMPS-TC, which uses complex algorithms to predict hurricane intensity by processing real-time and historical meteorological data, fed by information from satellites.
Buoys with Acoustic Recorders Support German Offshore Wind
A species of porpoise endemic to the German coast is very sensitive to sound waves. In order to avoid disturbing its natural habitat, German legislation imposes a maximum sound level that must not be exceeded, especially by offshore wind farms.
Since 2014, RTsys has been providing buoys equipped with acoustic recorders, which analyze data in real time. These buoys are based on underwater acoustic recommendations and standards. RTsys is now recognized and authorized by German authorities. Offshore wind farm personnel can use these buoys to manage construction work, enabling them to make quick and reliable decisions.
ONC WERA Radar Shows Value As Early-Warning System
Installation of Ocean Networks Canada’s (ONC) WERA high-frequency oceanographic radar near Tofino on the west coast of Vancouver Island was completed March 2015 by ASL Environmental Sciences Inc. of Victoria, British Columbia; Northern Radar Inc. of St. John’s, Newfoundland; and Helzel Messtechnik GmbH of Germany. The primary goals of the radar, which provides oceanographic data and tsunami monitoring in near real time under all weather conditions, are to detect tsunamis generated off the west coast of Vancouver Island and, in the future, provide valuable warning time.
On October 14, 2016 at 05:45 UTC the ocean radar system sent out a tsunami alert after it detected and identified the distinctive signatures of a changing surface velocity potentially associated with a tsunami. There was, however, no seismic activity at that time to trigger an earthquake-generated tsunami.
Although there was no tectonic activity, the system did record an event with an unusual wave propagation current that coincided with the passage of an atmospheric cold front. Weather conditions around October 14 were characterized by strong winds and a stormy sea state caused by the remnants of Typhoon Songda 2016, a tropical disturbance formed west–southwest of Hawaii that crossed the Pacific Ocean and struck the Pacific Northwest region of the U.S. and Canada as a powerful extratropical cyclone. The abrupt changes in atmospheric pressure generated a meteorological tsunami.
Analysis of data from the tide gauge in Tofino showed a sea level disturbance with a maximum height of 80 cm nearshore. The radar was able to detect signatures of the event 20 minutes before the waves reached Bamfield and 1 hour in advance for Tofino.
The radar data from the British Columbia coast demonstrates the high sensitivity, reliability and potential of WERA for hazardous event detection and its value for early-warning systems.
Network of Monitoring Buoys For Kiel Canal Project
OSIL has supplied a network of seven 1.9-m data buoys to DHI in Denmark in support of a long-term monitoring project in Kiel, Germany. The sturdy buoy systems each incorporate two Sea-Bird Scientific WET Labs multiparameter water quality sensors; one mounted at the surface within the robust central buoy structure to prevent damage to the instrument and the other on a mooring frame that is suspended 2 m above the seabed and accommodates a Nortek AWAC on a gimbal to monitor currents and waves. The exclusive mooring design includes a data swivel to ensure that the subsea instruments can continually report data without the risk of cable entanglements in the dynamic environment.
The buoys have a substantial power consumption rate owing to the high sampling frequency and real-time data transmitted almost continuously, as required by the client.