Blue Marble - November 2009

Fish Change Address as Ocean Warms

| Mon Nov. 2, 2009 7:29 PM EST

For that 9 percent of Americans who keep flip-flopping on the veracity of global warming, here's yet another reason to flop to the "aye" column for good.

According to a new NOAA study about half of 36 fish stocks in the Northwest Atlantic have been shifting northward over the last four decades. Some stocks have nearly disappeared from US waters entirely. Southern Species like the Atlantic croaker are becoming common in New England waters.

The shifting stocks include important commercial species, like Atlantic cod, haddock, yellowtail flounder, winter flounder, spiny dogfish, and Atlantic herring. They also include species less important to us but important in the overall scheme of the ocean, like blackbelly rosefish.

The key findings from the paper in Marine Ecology Progress Series:

  • In the last 40 years many familiar species have been shifting to cooler water to the north where ocean waters are cooler.
  • Other stocks have remained in the same geographic area but migrated to deeper and cooler waters.
  • Ten of 36 examined stocks have had significant range expansion.
  • Twelve have had significant range contraction.
  • Seventeen of the 36 stocks now occupy increasingly greater depths, following their preferred temperature ranges.
  • Three stocks now occupy increasingly shallower waters, following their preferred temperature range.

The researchers analyzed the data in the context of long-term processes (the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation and the North Atlantic Oscillation) dating back to 1850, as well in the context of fishing pressures over time. Ocean temperatures have increased since the 1960s (see graph) and the authors found clear evidence of significant changes in species distribution in 24 of the 36 stocks consistent with that warming.

Also of interest: The 36 species were chosen because they have been caught in high numbers in the annual spring bottom trawl survey, and because they represent a wide range of taxonomic groups, and because they're part of the world’s longest time-series of standardized fishery populations.

In other words, these are solid data giving a solid picture of the effects of warming temperatures on our liquid world. Though I suppose some people are going to be gasping for breath in the bottom of the lifeboat before they believe that.

BTW, the Pew report on the wobbling American attitudes towards climate change is exhaustively parsed and deblogstructed by Tobin Harshaw at the New York Times Opinionator. It's a fascinating look at the sinew of opinion rubbing up against the T-bones of fact.

 

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Why We Need a "Local Energy" movement

| Mon Nov. 2, 2009 5:07 PM EST

When author Michael Pollan spoke at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in mid-October, it’s a safe bet his hosts didn’t offer fresh cherries to the “local foods” advocate. As a locavore — someone who tries to eat only food grown within a 100-mile radius of them — Pollan would have likely reacted to cherries like a vampire reacts to garlic. At this time of year, any fresh cherries in northern California would most likely have come from orchards in Chile, roughly 6,000 miles to the southeast.

Yet, when Pollan was handed the microphone he probably did not turn to David Wehner, Dean of the college hosting the event, and ask, “By the way, Dean – Where did the electricity electrons  powering this thing come from?”

Maybe he should have.
 

Econundrum: Phone Chargers Go Global

| Mon Nov. 2, 2009 5:00 AM EST

I recently forgot my phone charger on a weeklong trip. I was staying with friends, so I asked around: Surely someone had a charger that fit my phone? No dice. A subway ride to the AT&T store and $30 later, I had a new charger, identical to my old one. I used it for the remainder of the trip, then shoved it in a drawer when I got home. Good story, huh?

So-called "redundant chargers" are actually a big problem—not just for forgetful people like me, but for folks who buy the same phone over and over and get a new charger (they typically come with the phone) every time. An estimated 1.2 billion cell phones were sold worldwide in 2008, and the UN's International Telecommunication Union estimates that between 50 and 80 percent of those were replacements.

Good news: The Union just approved a universal charger. If enough manufacturers adopt it, the industry could make half as many chargers—thus reducing greenhouse gases from manufacturing and transporting replacement chargers by as much as 15 to 24 million tons a year.

Bonus: The universal charger will likely use half as much energy on standby as conventional chargers, solving the "wall wart" problem.

The charger is currently set to launch internationally next year, and a European industry group expects it to come standard with many phones by 2012. Manufacturers won't be required to sign on, but a few (Samsung, Nokia, Motorola) already have. 

So consider this a heads up: If you're in the market for a new cell phone next year, look for one with a universal charger. In the meantime, unplug your charger when you're not using it: If 10 percent of cell phone users unplugged, they would save enough energy to power 60,000 European homes. Consider a hand-crank or solar-powered charger. (People seem to like this one, which is also a radio and a flashlight. Cool.) And, uh, remember to take your charger with you on vacation.