One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Dead Fish: Beware ‘The Blob’

But on the upside: Snails and sea slugs may be more resilient than we thought, brought to you by the Haaretz climate change briefs

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Grouper in warming seas
Grouper in warming seasCredit: Oren Klein

Climate change causing deadly ‘blobs’

In 1958 somebody made a movie called “The Blob” about a killer alien amoeba, blurbed “Nothing can stop it!” Our terrestrial blobs are worse. The seas warm more slowly than the land but climate change is driving an unprecedented rise in water temperatures, most extremely in the Arctic but also in the Mediterranean, warn scientists in the Journal of Operational Oceanography. The problem isn’t the average, it’s the spikes. In 2013 science noticed a massive patch of overly warm water in the Pacific, off the American coast, that they called “the Blob” and which only spread in subsequent years and has been deadly not only to marine life but to birds, seals, etc. As the authors suggest: “Human society has always been dependent on the seas. Failure to reach good environmental status for our seas and oceans is not an option.”

‘Worst flooding in living memory’

Dozens remain missing after a storm named Alex pummeled Italy and France with torrential rains and high winds as of Friday, killing at least two. Roads and bridges were swept away and towns isolated by what Christian Estrosi, mayor of Nice, described as the worst flooding in living memory, the BBC reported. How bad was the storm? Meteo France reported 500 millimeters of rain (19.7 inches) over 24 hours in Saint-Martin-Vésubie, one of the worst affected villages, and the water level in the River Po jumped by 3 meters in four hours, Reuters reported on Saturday.

Flood surging through Saint-Martin-Vesubie, southeastern France, after heavy rainsCredit: VALERY HACHE - AFP
House of two elderly people who sought refuge on the roof, before being washed away by floods in Roquebilliere, Oct. 2, 2020Credit: GREGORY LECLERC - AFP

Nights are warming faster than the days

Bad news for the insomniacs of the world: The nights are heating by twice as much as the days, ZME Science reports. The reason may be that clouds help cool the surface during the day but maintain its heat at night. This discrepancy isn’t uniform. And while climate change is affecting our slumber in part because of environmental havoc and in part because of worry, separate research has proven that the hotter the night, the less well we sleep.

Greenland warming faster than the night

Excuse us for harping on Greenland but a new study published in Nature says it’s on track to lose ice faster in this century than in any century in 12,000 years, which is the period in which humans began not only killing off megafauna but settling down and physically changing the environment. Ice sheet modeling shows that if we were to suddenly halt greenhouse gas emissions, the Greenland ice sheet’s mass loss by 2100 will be only a wee bit more than anything experienced in the past 12,000 years. And if we continue emitting, as we are doing? The ice sheet mass loss could be about four times worse than experienced under natural climate variability in 12,000 years.

Which speaks among other things to sea level rise. Scientists estimate that if (when) the Greenland ice sheet melts, it will contribute 6 meters to sea level rise. If the Antarctic ice sheet melts we’re talking 60 meters.

And on the upside: Hail the snail

The cockroach is sourly touted as the likely last survivor on land if we marvels of evolution obliterate each other with nukes. Snails and their cousins the sea slug (and sea butterfly) may, surprisingly, also be resilient to another aspect of our planetary befouling – ocean acidification – says a report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. These animals, called pteropods, have fragile shells susceptible to dissolving in acidic water. Yet it turns out they, existed in the early Cretaceous, ergo their ancestors survived environmental dramatics that caused mass extinctions, including the infamous Paleocene Eocene Thermal Maximum 55.5 million years ago, when vast carbon dioxide emissions caused warming and ocean acidification. So they may survive us too. More power to the sea slug.

Sea butterfly, among the species that may prove resilientCredit: Nova PBS, YouTube

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