Sunday, March 05, 2006

Peculiar Story Of Dolphins Fleeing Florida Coastal Waters

By Elaine Meinel Supkis

I look for odd stories like this one. Last year we witnessed a number of strange water events when all the sea creatures would suddenly migrate out of deadly water territory. This is always a bad sign. Just this winter, we see bottom feeding fish in North Carolina rush to the shore because the water was unihabitable lower down.

From Ecoenquirer:
Marine researchers who have been observing the same pod of dolphins off Florida's eastern coast for three years have now, for the first time, photographed the dolphins swimming directly northward.

"These bottlenose dolphins, possibly the smartest creatures on Earth, were observed swimming directly northward", said Prof. Bonita Krillman. "Given the recently observed warming of the tropical oceans, we theorize that this pod is heading poleward in search of cooler waters".

Underwater listening devices, used to pick up the normal playful squeals of the fun-loving dolphins, recorded squeals with a noticably different timbre, the researchers reported. "They sounded more terrified than playful", claimed Crystal Dearing, a graduate student working toward a degree in Anthropogenic Environmental Disasters at Scripps Institute of Oceanography. "They sounded distressed and fearful".
The article goes on to suggest hyper warm waters caused the flight. Thre are no water temperature measurements within the article. But what struck me was the story is similar to quite a few other stories this last year all of which features sea animals very suddenly stopping normal foraging behavior and just taking off as fast as possible.

The "dead zones" were a serious problem last August, the Gulf in particular. That body of water rapidly becomes a hot tub and resembles more and more the way the ocean was at the beginning of the great Permian extinction.
It's not clear why the various kinds of sea turtles are washing ashore.

"It may or may not be associated with red tide," said Cianciolo. "They tend to show symptoms of what's called a red tide intoxication, but you have to take a lot of samples and they must go through testing to actually determine that."

Dive instructor Michael Miller took underwater video to try to figure out the mystery.

"Right now, anywhere we go from shore to 20 miles offshore, from Sarasota to Tarpon Springs, we can't find a single creature alive on the bottom right now," said Miller.

Miller says he's never seen such death and devastation under water in his 20 years of diving.
Here is yet another, earlier posting about die-offs.
The marine and land and air worlds seem embroiled in changes due to global warming. So many odd things in just a few days!

Just the other day, I wrote about the dead sea on the coast of Florida. Nothing, absolutely nothing above the single cell creatures, is alive there. Now there is more news from that area. From the Sun Herald:
A bizarre freeway of fish swimming by the thousands along the shore of Englewood Beach Thursday morning left crowds of beach-goers agog and marine biologists bewildered.

"I've lived her for 10 years, and I've never seen anything like this. It's incredible," said Bob Ricci of Englewood.

Beach-goers reported that a wide variety of sea creatures came swimming south in a narrow band close to the beach at mid-morning.
It is a lot scarier than mere warm water. These mass diasporas are a warning sign. Humans can avoid thinking about or doing things about the messes we are making because we live in energy bubbles.

Each summer, the ozone alert areas have grown. I remember in my youth, one had to do to the LA valleys to find unbreathable air or visit Pittsburgh when it was an industrial giant. The pollution was mostly local. Over my lifetime, the number of powerplants and cars have multiplied hugely and it is quite noticable. Each summer, now, we get ozone alerts that cover the entire eastern half of the continent!

I stagger around my forest, watching the trees literally struggle to filter the carbon dioxide. Most humans here simply shut themselves off from the bad air they are creating. Their cool, pleasant environments let them laugh at the hazy brown muck outside. As this process accelerates global warming the need to use more energy to create bigger bubbles makes things worse and worse.

I have noticed the sea life alarms are starting at a ridiculously early time this year, it isn't even springtime yet! I expect many stories of suffering wildlife fleeing this summer.

Then there are the arctic lifeforms. From Reuters:

The Antarctic ice sheet shrank significantly during the past three years, according to the findings of a NASA study released on Thursday.

Using data from the NASA/German Aerospace Center Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE), scientists concluded that Antarctica's ice sheet decreased by about 152 cubic kilometers annually from April 2002 to August 2005.

The estimated loss was enough to raise global sea level about 1.2 millimeters (0.04724 inch) during the study period or about 13 percent of the overall observed sea level rise for the same period, according to the study conducted by researchers at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

That is about how much water the United States consumes in three months and represents a change of about 0.4 millimeter (0.01575 inch) per year to global sea level rise, the study concluded.
Like watching the water flow into the hull of the Titanic. The meltoff of the Antarctic and Greenland land masses won't be slow and steady but rather, as it reaches a tipping state, sudden.

We already know the glacial melt that started our latest interglacial was extremely swift. The coastlines changed very rapidly and rainfall patterns shifted swiftly, too, human ability to migrate mitigated the difficulties of dealing with these rapid changes but this is certainly not true today.

We are as vulnerable as the polar bears, in this regard, for the greater mass of humanity has chosen to live on the edge of the sea or on flat places easily flooded by rising oceans.

We know that vast floods relandscaped the Pacific Northwest when the glaciers melted rapidly forming huge lakes that suddenly gave way. If we think this won't happen in Antarctica we are nuts. Already we know there are lakes of ancient water under the glaciers there. This could rapidly become a problem if they grow and grow.

Meanwhile, Africa is going dry. From the BBC:
Africa could be faced with 25% less water by the end of the century because of global warming, scientists have warned in a new report.

The research, published in the journal Science, shows geographical factors will amplify changes in rainfall patterns resulting from climate change.

Semi-arid areas such as southern Africa would be the most vulnerable.
Africa has no body of water like the Great Lakes. And even here, we have increasing problems in the desert communities where many people are moving in. The Colorado river is a mere stream by the time it reaches Mexico. As the Rockies heat up, there is less and less year round snow to feed the streams feeding into the Colorado River, for example.

In Africa, it is even worse. The larger, none-rift zone lakes are rapidly drying up like Lake Chad, for example. The Indian Ocean on the east side of Africa is becoming nearly as hot as the Gulf of Mexico. Between overfishing and die-offs, life forms are suffering more and more.

Many years ago when the UN decided to drill lots of wells in Africa, I was against this because it would cause overgrazing. I knew what would happen next because this was happening back then, in America. The government made water available and then cattle ranchers would then beef up their herds to infinity and destroy the land causing desertfication. The spread of cholla cacti is a vicious reminder of what happens next. Namely, inedible, thorny, harsh plants colonize the former grasslands.

In Africa, all the tribes wanted as many livestock as possible because this represents wealth and power so they overwhelmed all the wells which went dry, anyway. Around the wellheads, deserts bloomed as animals stripped the landscape of all plant life.

The desire to preserve elephants in parks had the same effect. Elephants are like my ox team; they can uproot or pull down fairly big trees, they can strip the bark or tear off the tree's branches to eat the leaves. Elephants are very destructive if they are confined. Like us humans.

The balance of nature means no species should be allowed to dominate.

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