Arctic Ice Melt Is Off The Charts (Almost Literally)

There’s nothing like a good graphic to help emphasize that we live in abnormal times. Sure, this is still more disaster porn. But it is justified. The key point in this latest NOAA report (apart from the mounting evidence that climate change is happening fast, and that entire eco-systems will have trouble adapting) is that Arctic ice melt presages Greenland ice melt. And it is the Greenland ice that, if and when melted, will raise sea levels by about, um….25 feet.

Killing (And Maiming) Dophins

PHOTO COURTESY INSTITUTE FOR MARINE MAMMAL STUDIESA dolphin was found dead by IMMS on the shores of Ship Island with a mutilated jaw.
All photos via Sun Herald. 

Sometimes you just have to wonder at how sick and twisted the human psyche can get.

Case in point: Dead and mutilated dolphins are turning up on the Gulf coast, some shot and some with parts cut off.

Here’s a report from the Sun-Herald:

Somebody is maiming and killing dolphins.

On Friday, a team from the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport found a dolphin on Ship Island with its lower jaw missing.

Last weekend, IMMS responded to a dead dolphin found along the Ocean Springs/Gautier coastline with a 9mm bullet wound. “It went through the abdomen, into the kidneys and killed it,” said Moby Solangi, IMMS executive director.

In Louisiana, a dolphin was found with its tail cut off.

“Animals don’t eat each other’s tails off,” Solangi said.

“We think there’s someone or some group on a rampage,” he said. “They not only kill them but also mutilate them.”

IMMS investigated the first dolphin shooting earlier this year and incidents have increased in the past few months. In Alabama, someone stabbed and killed a dolphin with a screwdriver, according to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration press release. In September, a dolphin was found on Elmer’s Island, La., with a bullet in its lung. Others have been mutilated with knife-like lesions.

Turns out that this has been going on for a while now, this year. I can’t pretend to understand what motivates anyone to do such things, any more than I can pretend to understand so much of the violence humans inflict on each other and the rest of the world.

COURTESY INSTITUTE FOR MARINE MAMMAL STUDIESA dolphin found off the shore of Belle Fontaine Beach in Jackson County on Nov. 9 died from a gunshot wound to the abdomen.

But I hope they catch someone and prosecute to the full extent, which could include a fine of up to $100,000 and a year in jail. One important point made by NOAA about this dolphin killing spree is that feeding wild dolphins–which happens all too often–encourages dolphins to approach boats, which either makes them more vulnerable to maniacs with guns, or can led to conflict with fishermen if the dolphins go after their catch.

More pictures, if you can stand it, in this Sun Herald gallery.


Aquariums Split Over Wild Beluga Import

This is a very interesting, and potentially important, development: two major players in the aquarium world are opposing the proposed Georgia Aquarium import of wild Russian belugas.

Over the past decades, marine parks and aquariums have mostly stayed united on issues related to the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the display of whales and dolphins. For the National Aquarium and Sea Life Centres to take a different view of the Georgia Aquarium’s plan to import wild belugas and distribute many of them on breeding loans to SeaWorld, Shedd Aquarium, and Mystic Aquarium is a big deal. And it’s an encouraging sign that some aquariums–given what we now know about the intelligence, awareness and sociability of small whales and dolphins–see the possibility of a different model for education and display than the model that has dominated the industry since its inception.

Here is the National Aquarium letter to NMFS, outlining its opposition. One thing that really catches my eye is the National Aquarium’s statement that it wants to review the Marine Mammal Protection Act along with other institutions and outline a new model for display that reflects all that we have learned about marine mammals since the MMPA was put in place in 1972. That is desperately needed, I think:

Here is the Sea Life Centres letter:

And here is a press release from Whale And Dolphin Conservation applauding the position of the National Aquarium and Sea Life Centres:

The stand that the National Aquarium and Sea Life Centres are taking will no doubt cause some heartburn in the industry. But any reform of the MMPA and how marine mammals are treated and displayed around the world is much likelier to make progress with some industry support. So kudos to these two organizations for taking a big and brave step forward.

Warmer And Warmer

To complete today’s infographic trifecta, below is a graphic representation of land and ocean temperatures for Sept. 2012. All that red is enough to make tie it for the warmest September ever, according to NOAA.

Here’s the backstory, courtesy of Weather Underground’s Dr. Jeff Masters:

September 2012 was tied with 2005 as the globe’s warmest September on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Climatic Data Center (NCDC). Global temperature records begin in 1880. NASA rated September 2012 the 4th warmest September on record. September 2012 global land temperatures were the 3rd warmest on record, and global ocean temperatures were the 2nd warmest on record. September 2012 was the 331st consecutive month with global temperatures warmer than the 20th century average. The last time Earth had a below-average September global temperature was in 1976, and the last below-average month of any kind was February 1985. Global satellite-measured temperatures in September 2012 for the lowest 8 km of the atmosphere were 5th or 3rd warmest in the 34-year record, according to Remote Sensing Systems and the University of Alabama Huntsville (UAH). Wunderground’s weather historian, Christopher C. Burt, has a comprehensive post on the notable weather events of September 2012 in his September 2012 Global Weather Extremes Summary.

It seems that government agencies can’t agree on everything. But I think it is safe to conclude they are all saying September was pretty darn warm. And what really jumps out at me are the two sentences I boldfaced.

It’s insane that we are having a debate about whether warming is really occurring instead of what we should be doing about it (ahem–carbon tax). That is an epic failure of leadership, and the triumph of self-interested denialism. History will not be kind to this willful ignorance.

(Click image for full size).

“You Can’t Handle The Truth!”

Or should it be “We can’t handle the truth!”

This is all you need to know about the level of denial in our political culture regarding climate change: a new NOAA office to consolidate climate info has been shot down:

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration wanted to reshuffle its offices to establish a National Climate Service akin to the agency’s National Weather Service. It asked for no new funding to do so.

But in a political climate where talk of the earthly kind of climate can be radioactive, the answer in last week’s budget deal was “no.” Congress barred NOAA from launching what the agency bills as a “one-stop shop” for climate information.

Demand for such data is skyrocketing, NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco told Congress earlier this year. Farmers are wondering when to plant. Urban planners want to know whether groundwater will stop flowing under subdivisions. Insurance companies need climate data to help them set rates.

But the climate service, first floated under President George W. Bush, became predictably politicized.

It would be nice if the story were more explicit about who politicized the idea, and killed it. But whatever.

Anyhow, of course there’s only one way to fittingly honor this willful denial:

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