TIME Environment

Gulf of Mexico ‘Dead Zone’ Now the Size of Connecticut

Mike Coleman and Jarad Williams check their crab traps on October 4, 2013 in Grand Isle, Louisiana.
Mike Coleman and Jarad Williams check their crab traps on October 4, 2013 in Grand Isle, Louisiana. Marianna Massey—Getty Images

Surveyors measured a 5,052sq mile expanse of asphyxiating water off of the coast of Louisiana

A survey of marine life in the Gulf of Mexico has found the world’s second-largest “dead zone” ballooning out from the mouth of the Mississippi River and covering an expanse of ocean roughly equal in size to the state of Connecticut.

Scientists for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration measured the dead zone, an expanse of asphyxiating water marked by unusually low oxygen levels and marine life, at roughly 5,052 square miles. Scientists trace the dead zone to nutrient runoffs from farmlands upriver. The nutrients stimulate algae growth, creating massive algae blooms that sink, decompose and consume oxygen that is vital to the surrounding marine life.

“The Dead Zone off the Louisiana coast is the second largest human-caused coastal hypoxic area in the global ocean and stretches from the mouth of the Mississippi River into Texas waters and less often, but increasingly more frequent, east of the Mississippi River,” wrote the study’s author Nancy Rabalais of the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium (LUMCON). The largest dead zone is thought to be in the Baltic Sea, in Scandinavia.

NOAA scientists note that this year’s dead zone is smaller than the one recorded last year, but still well above the federal target of 1,900 square miles.

TIME Environment

Toledo, Ohio, Headed for Third Day With Drinking Water Ban

Algae in Lake Erie may have caused toxin levels to rise

+ READ ARTICLE

Updated Aug. 4, 6:40 a.m. ET

Water tests on Sunday night showed a toxin thought to come from an algae bloom was continuing to contaminate the regional water supply from Lake Erie, threatening to leave residents of Toledo, Ohio, and part of Michigan without drinking water for a third full day, but officials said the results were improving.

Residents of Toledo and the surrounding area had been instructed on Saturday neither to drink their tap water or using it to brush their teeth, nor boil it, which would increase the concentration of microsystin, the Associated Press reports. Ingestion of the toxin could cause diarrhea, vomiting and other health issues.

While the city’s health department originally said the roughly 400,000 affected residents were free to take baths and showers, it advised that children and people with liver disease and sensitive skin avoid using water from the city’s treatment plant to bathe, CBS News reports. As of Sunday night, no serious illnesses had yet been reported.

City council members in Toledo, Ohio’s fourth-largest city, are due to go over the results at a meeting on Monday, the AP adds.

Ohio Governor John Kasich declared a state of emergency on Saturday and couldn’t say how long the warning would last or what caused the spike in toxin levels. He said the state was working to provide supplies and safe water for the affected areas.

“What’s more important than water? Water’s about life,” Kasich said. “We know it’s difficult. We know it’s frustrating.”

In a Saturday press conference, Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins called upon residents to stay calm.

“I don’t believe we’ll ever be back to normal,” he said, the Toledo Blade reports. “But this is not going to be our new normal. We’re going to fix this. Our city is not going to be abandoned.”

Meanwhile, police officers went to stores to keep the peace as residents stocked up on water in a scene one local said “looked like Black Friday.”

“People were hoarding it,” a different resident, Monica Morales, told the AP. “It’s ridiculous.”

One farmer from a nearby village, John Myers, put 450 gallons of well water into a container on his pickup truck and offered it up at no charge in a high school parking lot.

“I never thought I’d see the day that I’d be giving water away,” he said.

While the city runs more tests, the Environmental Protection Agency office in Cincinnati will also investigate water samples from the lake.

Though water plants along Lake Erie, which provides hydration for 11 million people, treat the water to combat algae, plant operators have grown concerned with threats from toxins in the past few years. A similar warning was in place for a small Ohio township roughly one year ago.

[CBS]

MORE: SlideshowToledo Ohio Crisis

 

TIME Taiwan

Taiwan’s Crippling Gas Explosion Caught On Camera

+ READ ARTICLE

Kaohsiung, Taiwan’s second largest city, is currently in a state of disarray due to blasts caused by a gas explosion. The number of casualties has now surpassed 250, with bodies continuing to be discovered as the day progresses.

Eruptions began around midnight Thursday and continued into the morning Friday. Taiwan’s Central News Agency (CNA) announced that residents had been reporting smells of leaking gas to authorities prior to the explosions.

Investigations are currently underway to uncover how the blasts could have occurred and who was responsible. It is currently assumed that the cause was underground gas leaks from petrochemical pipelines built alongside the city’s sewer system.

TIME United Kingdom

Garbage Truck Named After Author David Sedaris

"C.O.G." Premiere - 2013 Sundance Film Festival
David Sedaris attends a premiere at Library Center Theater during the 2013 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, on Jan. 20, 2013 Sonia Recchia—Getty Images

Author and "local hero" often spends nine hours a day picking up litter near his U.K. home

The Horsham District Council in West Sussex, England, recently named a garbage truck “Pig Pen Sedaris,” after Grammy Award–nominated author and comedian David Sedaris, who reportedly walks several miles every day to collect litter in the community.

Diana van der Klugt, a district councillor, told The West Sussex County Times that Sedaris was a “welcome sight” to residents of Horsham District “as he tirelessly and painstakingly goes about gathering up the litter so thoughtlessly discarded.”

Susan Pyper, lord lieutenant of West Sussex, added that Sedaris’ efforts to reduce community blight made him a “real local hero,” that inspired others, the County Times reported.

Sedaris told the County Times that when he first moved to the area several years ago, he was surprised by the amount of trash on the streets. “I’m angry at the people who throw these things out their car windows, but I’m just as angry at the people who walk by it every day. I say, pick it up yourself. Do it enough and you might one day get a garbage truck named after you,” Sedaris said.

Although Sedaris’ recent book Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls reached No. 1 on the New York Times nonfiction best-seller list, the author might be better known in his U.K. home for his obsession with walking and picking up litter, Gawker reports. The County Times wrote an addendum to their article about Sedaris’ celebrated trash-collecting habit to explain his international fame.

Sedaris wrote in The New Yorker in June that his use of Fitbit, a wearable pedometer, encouraged him to walk farther every day with “ a heavy bag of garbage” in tow. “On foot, nothing escapes my attention: a potato-chip bag stuffed into the hollow of a tree, an elderly mitten caught in the embrace of a blackberry bush, a mud-coated matchbook at the bottom of a ditch,” Sedaris wrote.

The author now spends nine hours a day walking 60,000 steps, which is about 25 miles, picking up trash along the way.

TIME Environment

Florida’s Attempt to Ban This Fish Has Virtually No Chance of Working

A winged lionfish at the Beijing Aquarium on May 30, 2012.
A winged lionfish at the Beijing Aquarium on May 30, 2012. Mark Ralston—AFP/Getty Images

Why the lionfish is here to stay

If you were trying to create the perfect invasive aquatic species, a fish capable of out-eating and out-breeding anything it comes across, chances are you wouldn’t be able to improve upon the lionfish. The spiny, venomous fish can produce up to 15,000 eggs every four days, and feed voraciously on small fish, invertebrates and mollusks. They also tend to have a hostile territorial attitude to other reef fish and scuba divers alike. Introduce a lionfish into a coastal coral reef, and it can quickly clear the habitat of any competitors.

Since the lionfish—which is native to Indo-Pacific waters—was accidentally introduced off Florida in the 1980s or 1990s, that’s exactly what has happened. The lionfish has been identified as a major threat through the coastal waters of the Atlantic, from North Carolina to the Caribbean. There have been sponsored lionfish derbies, underwater hunts where divers stalk the invasive fish, and restaurants have even tried to make an industry out of harvesting the lionfish, serving them to diners. (They’re not bad, provided you remove the poisonous spikes.)

And starting on Aug.1, Florida will no longer allow the importation of invasive lionfish—though that might seem like closing the barn door after the horse has left, given that the first lionfish introduced into the Atlantic likely came from aquarium, and the population has since exploded. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will also allow lionfish to be hunted by divers equipped with a rebreather, a machine that recycles oxygen so that divers can remain below the surface for much longer. That might help divers spear a few extra lionfish, but given that a female can produce as many as 2 million eggs in a year, divers will need to be awfully busy to keep up.

The reality is, as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has said, “it is unlikely that the lionfish invasion can be reversed.” Which means divers should get used to the sight of the striped-lion fish, fins open like a sail, patrolling its new territory. That’s the challenge of responding to invasive species—there is no cure. There is only prevention.

TIME Environment

Unprecedented California Drought Restrictions Go Into Effect

Poor water conservation could cost you up to $500 a day

+ READ ARTICLE

California implemented emergency water-conservation measures today as it struggles to cope with an ongoing drought that has sapped reservoirs and parched farms across the state.

The new rules — the first statewide curbs on water use since the current drought began nearly three years ago — can lead to fines of up to $500 per day for using a hose to clean a sidewalk, running ornamental fountains that do not recirculate water and other wasteful behaviors. The regulations will be in effect for 270 days, unless they are repealed earlier.

Officials have said they don’t expect to issue too many tickets. Instead, they hope the rules will promote conservation by making it clear how serious the drought in California has become.

“We were hoping for more voluntary conservation, and that’s the bottom line,” Felicia Marcus, chair of the State Water Resources Board, told TIME when the body voted to approve the regulations on July 22. “We hope this will get people’s attention.”

An earlier effort to do that landed with a thud. In January, Governor Jerry Brown issued an emergency declaration and called for residents to voluntarily cut their water use by 20%. Earlier this month, a state survey found that California actually used more water in May than the previous three year average for that month. With the entire state experiencing some degree of drought and 80% of it in an extreme drought, the new measures are the latest effort to wake residents to the crisis.

“We can’t count on it raining next year or even the next,” Marcus said.

TIME Paleontology

What Killed The Dinosaurs? Bad Luck, Study Suggests

The asteroid was simply the straw that broke the camptosaurus's back

+ READ ARTICLE

While it’s widely accepted that dinosaurs were made extinct by a six-mile long asteroid that hit Earth, a new study posits that the asteroid was simply the last piece of bad fortune in a run of poor luck that killed the species.

According to the newly released paleontology report titled ‘The Extinction of the Dinosaurs’ – published by the journal Biological Reviews - the dinosaurs could have likely survived the asteroid, had it not been for the unfortunate environmental conditions they were already facing as a species.

Hebrivores were already decreasing in population at the time, says the report, and the loss in biodiversity created a great deal of problems for dinosaurs, most specifically less food available at the bottom of the food chain.

“If the asteroid hit a few million years earlier, when dinosaurs were more diverse, or a few million years later, when they had a chance to recover as they often had done before after diversity losses, then dinosaurs probably wouldn’t have gone extinct,” said University of Edinburgh paleontologist and evolutionary biologist Stephen Brusatte, who led the study.

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 46,359 other followers