The recent U.S. presidential election loomed large last week at the world’s largest annual gathering of Earth and space scientists, the American Geophysical Union’s (AGU) Fall Meeting in San Francisco, Calif. When Eos asked some of the more than 20,000 scientists at the meeting what they thought the election’s outcome means for the Earth and space sciences, we heard a wide range of responses, from dismissal of the election’s importance to deep concern.
A remote and largely pristine stretch of ocean off Antarctica received international protection on Friday, becoming the world’s largest marine reserve as a broad coalition of countries came together to protect 598,000 square miles of water.
On April 20, 2010, the Gulf of Mexico and the lives and livelihoods of those dependent on it changed after an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig sent oil gushing from the sea floor for 87 days. Efforts are still being made to understand how the 3.1 million barrels of oil and 1.8 million gallons of chemical dispersant (used to break the oil into smaller droplets) have and will affect life in the Gulf of Mexico – both aquatic and human – and the ecosystem itself. At a congressional briefing sponsored by retiring Representative Sam Farr (CA-20), experts came together to discuss the state of understanding of the effects of the spill and direction for the future.
Imagine Naval Station Norfolk, the largest naval base in the world, complete with fourteen piers and eleven aircraft hangars, submerged by seawater. That scenario is not far from reality — Norfolk is located in the Hampton Roads, Virginia area, which has seen the highest rates of sea level rise along the eastern coast of the U.S. Its vulnerable location and vital importance to the nation made the area an ideal pilot project, born out of President Obama’s 2013 executive order for the U.S. to prepare for the impacts of climate change. The two-year Hampton Roads Sea Level Rise Preparedness and Resilience Intergovernmental Pilot Project (IPP) was launched in 2014 and headed by Old Dominion University.
Have you ever wondered what the formation of a galaxy far, far away has to do with climatic changes on Earth? If you answered “no,” rest assured that you’re not the only one. But the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD) focuses on the interconnectedness of science and examines how discoveries in one discipline affect other areas of study.
If you’ve ever spent a quiet afternoon fishing on a lake or kayaking past the greenery of a salt marsh, you’ve likely encountered programs and projects that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) oversees. FWS protects and manages our nation’s numerous fish and wildlife resources and uses conservation practices to give everyone in our nation the opportunity to enjoy those resources. FWS first introduced their Mitigation Policy in 1981, which was comprised of “recommendations on mitigating the adverse impacts of land and water developments on fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats.” The need for revisions to the decades-old policy stems from climate change, new conservation science, and the increasing loss of habitats for many organisms protected by the FWS. The draft policy was available for public comment from March to May 2016, and since then, the agency has been making revisions to their policy. A hearing on September 22 by the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Fisheries, Water, and Wildlife reviewed the proposed changes.
In school, most students learn to measure acidity or pH with a litmus test. Unfortunately, monitoring the acidity of the ocean is not as simple as dunking a small piece of paper in liquid and waiting for the color to change, and the impacts of acidity changes to marine life are more complex than a simple change in color. Atmospheric carbon dioxide is absorbed by the ocean, which makes it difficult for marine calcifiers (a group comprised of many different organisms, such as molluscs, crustaceans, and corals) to make their own shells and skeletons. Ocean acidification doesn’t just harm these creatures. It threatens our nation’s economic stability, from our $7.3 billion seafood industry to our $101.1 billion recreation and tourism sector. But it doesn’t stop there – it also affects our homeland security.
For residents of Maryland and Virginia, the Chesapeake Bay is a hallmark of family vacations, weekend getaways, adventures in crabbing or clamming, or even part of their backyard. The bay is the largest estuary in the U.S., with a watershed spanning over 64,000 miles into which 150 rivers and streams flow. In the expanse of the bay’s watershed, agriculture reigns dominant with over 80,000 farms bringing in billions of dollars in sales every year. However, the agriculture industry can have a profound impact on the estuary by releasing runoff, sediments, and nutrients into water.
Students in Alaska take a field trip to a local salmon stream. An artificial reef is built off the coast of Florida. A duck hunter cleans his gear in Wisconsin. A lifeguard in Delaware explains rip currents to a family on their beach vacation. Even though these differing coastal activities take place over the entire continental U.S., they all have the National Sea Grant College Program (Sea Grant), in common. Sea Grant is comprised of a network of 33 programs along the nation’s coasts that support “research, education, outreach, and extension activities that provide communities with the tools to increase their resiliency capacities.” Sea Grant and the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation held a briefing on the necessity of economic resiliency in coastal communities in the U.S. and featured three speakers who attested to the importance of resiliency and of Sea Grant’s support.
When you hear the words ‘climate change,’ images of the proverbial greenhouse, global thermometer, or clouds of air pollution may come to mind, but they may not be accompanied by thoughts of various federal agencies. However, the actions of the federal government can have widespread effects on a host of environmental issues. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969 was signed into law to hold federal agencies accountable for those effects by requiring them to assess the environmental impacts their actions may have before they are carried out and to consider alternative options.