Saturday, August 22, 2009

Nile Delta: 'We are going underwater. The sea will conquer our lands'


The Nile Delta is under threat from rising sea levels. Without the food it produces, Egypt faces catastrophe

Jack Shenker

The Guardian, Friday 21 August 2009

A farmer ploughs his rice paddy in the Delta

A farmer ploughs his rice paddy in the Delta. Photograph: Jason Larkin

Maged Shamdy's ancestors arrived on the shores of Lake Burrulus in the mid-19th century. In the dusty heat of Cairo at the time, French industrialists were rounding up forced labour squads to help build the Suez Canal, back-breaking labour from which thousands did not return. Like countless other Egyptians, the Shamdys abandoned their family home and fled north into the Nile Delta, where they could hide within the marshy swamplands that fanned out from the great river's edge.

As the years passed, colonial rulers came and went. But the Shamdys stayed, carving out a new life as farmers and fishermen on one of the most fertile tracts of land in the world. A century and a half later, Maged is still farming his family's fields. In between taking up the rice harvest and dredging his irrigation canals, however, he must contemplate a new threat to his family and livelihood, one that may well prove more deadly than any of Egypt's previous invaders. "We are going underwater," the 34-year-old says simply. "It's like an occupation: the rising sea will conquer our lands."

Maged understands better than most the menace of coastal erosion, which is steadily ingesting the edge of Egypt in some places at an astonishing rate of almost 100m a year. Just a few miles from his home lies Lake Burrulus itself, where Nile flower spreads all the way out to trees on the horizon. Those trunks used to be on land; now they stand knee-deep in water.

Maged's imperial imagery may sound overblown, but travel around Egypt's vast, overcrowded Delta region and you hear the same terms used time and again to describe the impact climate change is having on these ancient lands. Egypt's breadbasket is littered with the remnants of old colonisers, from the Romans to the Germans, and today its 50 million inhabitants jostle for space among the crumbling forts and cemeteries of those who sought to subjugate them in the past.

On the Delta's eastern border, in Port Said, an empty stone plinth is all that remains of a statue of Ferdinand de Lesseps, the man who built the Suez Canal; somewhere along the Delta's westernmost reaches, the long-lost tomb of Cleopatra lies buried. With such a rich history of foreign rule, it's only natural that the latest hostile force knocking at the gates should be couched in the language of occupation.

"Egypt is a graveyard for occupiers," observes Ramadan el-Atr, a fruit farmer near the antiquated town of Rosetta, where authorities have contracted a Chinese company to build a huge wall of concrete blocks in the ocean to try to save any more land from melting away. "Just like the others, the sea will come and go – but we will always survive."

Read more…..The Guardian

Friday, August 21, 2009

Females threaten to overtake turtle species

From: ABC News – The World Today with Eleanor Hall 20/08/09

ELEANOR HALL: Australia is home to the world's largest population of green sea turtles but females are threatening to overtake the species.
Scientists say climate change is threatening the turtle population's gender balance and could also see the ocean rising to inundate nesting sites.
But there is some optimism that the turtles will adapt.
Annie Guest spoke to Townsville based scientist Mariana Fuentes.
MARIANA FUENTES: The northern Great Barrier Reef green turtle population is actually the largest green turtle population in the world.
There is basically 50,000 turtles nesting during a high nesting year and this population of sea turtles nests is on the northern Great Barrier Reef region and Torres Strait region.
So this population of sea turtles has a very important ecological role but also a social and cultural importance because Torres Strait Islanders rely on the sea turtle population as food sources and also as a symbol during social gatherings and ceremonies.
ANNIE GUEST: And what have you found about the future for the northern Australian green sea turtle population?
MARIANA FUENTES: I found that by 2070 under an extreme scenario climate change, there will be more female turtles being produced into this population as well as a reduction in the hatchlings� success.
ANNIE GUEST: Why will there be more female turtles produced?
MARIANA FUENTES: Sea turtles have temperature dependent sex determination and this means that the sex of the hatchlings is determined by the same temperature, with warmer temperature producing more females and cooler temperature producing more males.
ANNIE GUEST: So if there are more females in the green sea turtle population is that then dire for this community to survive?
MARIANA FUENTES: We think they can adapt but it would take a long time for them to adapt so in the process of adapting the population might reduce in numbers.
ANNIE GUEST: How have sea turtles adapted over the centuries to climate change? You say that they are an example of a species that has done this well.
MARIANA FUENTES: Millions of years ago the areas that are land now used to be ocean and that is where they went to lay their eggs so they have changed where they nested to different areas that are now available.
ANNIE GUEST: And they have done this successfully? Well they are now a threatened species?
MARIANA FUENTES: Yes they have done it successfully. The reason why they are threatened now is because of anthropogenic activities, human impact.
ANNIE GUEST: Your research has also made other forecasts that are quite negative for this green sea turtle population. Can you tell us about those?
MARIANA FUENTES: We also found that sea level rise will impact this population and by this I mean that we found that about 34 per cent of the nesting area available for this population will be lost or inundated as a result of sea level rise by 2070. So there will be more density dependent issues and diseases in those nesting grounds.
ANNIE GUEST: We started this interview by talking about the significance of this green sea turtle population to the Torres Strait Islanders for a food source and cultural reasons.
If this green sea turtle is affected by these two issues of more females in the population and nesting sites going underwater, what could that mean for Torres Strait Islanders?
MARIANA FUENTES: Torres Strait Islanders won't see the impacts from climate change until a few years because sea turtles take about 30 years to mature but what will happen is there will be less number of turtles available for islanders to rely on and to take as a food source.
ANNIE GUEST: And that could be at the turn of the next century then?
ELEANOR HALL: That�s ecologist Mariana Fuentes speaking to Annie Guest at a conference on Ecology in a Changing Climate in Brisbane.

Monday, August 17, 2009

NOAA: Warmest Global Ocean Surface Temperatures on Record for July

From: noaanews

August 14, 2009

The planet’s ocean surface temperature was the warmest on record for July, breaking the previous high mark established in 1998 according to an analysis by NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C. The combined average global land and ocean surface temperature for July 2009 ranked fifth-warmest since world-wide records began in 1880.

Global Climate Statistics
  • The combined global land and ocean surface temperature for July 2009 was the fifth warmest on record, at 1.03 degrees F (0.57 degree C) above the 20th century average of 60.4 degrees F (15.8 degrees C).
  • The global ocean surface temperature for July 2009 was the warmest on record, 1.06 degrees F (0.59 degree C) above the 20th century average of 61.5 degrees F (16.4 degrees C). This broke the previous July record set in 1998. The July ocean surface temperature departure of 1.06 degrees F from the long-term average equals last month’s value, which was also a record.
  • The global land surface temperature for July 2009 was 0.92 degree F (0.51 degree C) above the 20th century average of 57.8 degrees F (14.3 degree C), and tied with 2003 as the ninth-warmest July on record.
Notable Developments and Events
  • El NiƱo persisted across the equatorial Pacific Ocean during July 2009. Related sea-surface temperature (SST) anomalies increased for the sixth consecutive month. 
  • Large portions of many continents had substantially warmer-than-average temperatures during July 2009. The greatest departures from the long-term average were evident in Europe, northern Africa, and much of western North America. Broadly, across these regions, temperatures were about 4-7 degrees F (2-4 degrees C) above average.
  • Cooler-than-average conditions prevailed across southern South America, central Canada, the eastern United States, and parts of western and eastern Asia. The most notably cool conditions occurred across the eastern U.S., central Canada, and southern South America where region-wide temperatures were nearly 4-7 degrees F (2-4 degrees C) below average.
  • Arctic sea ice covered an average of 3.4 million square miles during July. This is 12.7 percent below the 1979-2000 average extent and the third lowest July sea ice extent on record, behind 2007 and 2006.  Antarctic sea ice extent in July was 1.5 percent above the 1979-2000 average. July Arctic sea ice extent has decreased by 6.1 percent per decade since 1979, while July Antarctic sea ice extent has increased by 0.8 percent per decade over the same period.
NOAA understands and predicts changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the oceans to surface of the sun, and conserves and manages our coastal and marine resources.