Billions of crabs went missing around Alaska. Scientists now know what happened to them

“Billions of snow crabs have disappeared from the ocean around Alaska in recent years, and scientists now say they know why: Warmer ocean temperatures likely caused them to starve to death.
The finding comes just days after the Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced the snow crab harvest season was canceled for the second year in a row, citing the overwhelming number of crabs missing from the typically frigid, treacherous waters of the Bering Sea.”

“Snow crabs are cold-water species and found overwhelmingly in areas where water temperatures are below 2 degrees Celsius, though they can function in waters up to 12 degrees Celsius, according to the study. Warmer ocean water likely wreaked havoc on the crabs’ metabolism and increased their caloric needs.

The amount of energy crabs needed from food in 2018 — the first year of a two-year marine heat wave in the region — may have been as much as quadrupled compared to the previous year, researchers found. But with the heat disrupting much of the Bering Sea’s food web, snow crabs had a hard time foraging for food and weren’t able to keep up with the caloric demand.”

I visited a beautiful coral reef in 2022. What I saw there this summer shocked me.

“Coral in the Florida Keys, home to the largest reef in the continental US, is dying. The ghostly white appearance of the coral above is due to a phenomenon known as bleaching. Coral, an anemone-like marine animal, gets most of its color and food from a kind of algae that lives within its tissue. When that algae disappears, the coral appears stark white. Bleached corals aren’t dead; they are starving to death.

What happened between those two snapshots is extreme and unrelenting heat. Since July, a record-setting heat wave has been cooking waters in Florida and parts of the Caribbean, at times pushing water temperatures above 100 degrees. This excessive heat causes the relationship between coral and those symbiotic algae to break down; the algae leave the coral, though it’s not entirely clear which initiates the breakup.

The result of this epic marine heat wave is a devastating bleaching event that stretches across the Keys and much of the Caribbean, threatening the future of the region’s coral reefs. That in turn threatens human lives and well-being. These ecosystems — which were already under siege well before this summer — protect coastal communities from storm surge, support fisheries, and drive tourism.”

“Underwater photojournalist Jennifer Adler and I went scuba-diving in the Florida Keys before and after this marine heat wave. What we saw is a stark reminder that climate change is not a distant threat; it’s destroying ecosystems today.”

The world’s brutal climate change report card, explained

“mustering the political will to make these drastic changes is going to be an immense challenge. But at the same time, cleaner energy is more affordable than ever and the stocktake says a transition away from fossil fuels is within our grasp. In many parts of the world, wind and solar power are the cheapest sources of new energy, sometimes undercutting existing fossil fuel sources. “There are now sufficient cost-effective opportunities to address the 2030 emissions gap,” the report says. The challenges are entirely political hurdles.”

“One key barrier to transitioning from fossil fuels is the trillions of dollars in subsidies that governments pour into the industry year after year. A recent analysis from the International Monetary Fund found these subsidies have only grown; they surged to $7 trillion last year, $2 trillion more than in 2021.”

The Southern Hemisphere, where it’s winter, has been really hot too

“Winters tend to be milder in the Southern Hemisphere than in the North, and many of the factors that cranked up the heat across North America, Europe, and Asia in recent months are doing the same thing below the equator: Ocean temperature cycles like El Niño are in their warm phases, while greenhouse gasses from burning fossil fuels are accumulating in the atmosphere, warming the planet and changing its climate. So the hot winter across the Southern Hemisphere this year lined up with what scientists expected.”

““The biggest difference between the Northern and Southern hemispheres as a whole is that the North contains more large continents with an Arctic Ocean, whereas the Southern features fewer large land areas, the Southern Ocean and then Antarctica,” Grose said.
The oceans act like shock absorbers for weather and have a moderating effect on the climate. The Southern Hemisphere, with proportionately more ocean than land, tends to have a less drastic swing between seasons than places above the equator. That also means that winters in the south start from a warmer baseline than winters in the north.

So countries like Brazil rarely get chilly weather in the winter. “It’s dry and mild,” said Fábio Luiz Teixeira Gonçalves, a professor of geosciences at the University of São Paulo. Temperatures typically range between 53°F and 78°F, but they have been about 3.6°F higher on average since May around São Paulo. Those higher average temperatures fueled more extreme heat.”

“Hotter weather in the winter can have a lot of important consequences, even if temperatures don’t reach the triple-digit peaks of the summer. Plants, for instance, rely on temperature signals to time their life-cycles”

“Cold temperatures also keep dangerous insects in check”

“Warmer, drier winters also mean that there is less water recharging rivers and groundwater supplies, and thus less water available for agriculture the following season.”

Climate disasters will happen everywhere, anytime

“This summer has seen a rising number of “compound events,” disasters occurring simultaneously or hitting one after another, according to climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe. In some cases, one event might accelerate another. A heat wave, drought, and wildfire can conceivably all hit the same area, for example, and even raise the risks of flooding if a storm finally comes, because the ground is too parched to absorb the influx of water.
And there may be worse to come. Disaster season — or at least, what we’ve historically thought of as disaster season — is hardly over yet. Summer and fall are typically prime times for extremes, but this year we also have El Niño, the natural cycle when Pacific waters reach higher-than-average temperatures, which is just starting to ramp up. This is why meteorologists expect an extraordinary fall to follow the unprecedented summer, likely filled with active hurricanes and warmer weather through the winter.

With El Niño amplifying the effects of climate change, what we can expect from seasons is rapidly changing. Instead of a singular type of disaster any given region must prepare for, but places all over the world can expect multiple events at once. That means our traditional idea of disaster season no longer holds. What we now have is an extended practically year-round calendar of disasters, which often all hit at once.”

Politicians Say They Want To Fight Climate Change. So Why Are They Fighting China on Electric Vehicles?

“Much of the banter surrounding the rise of China’s electric vehicle (E.V.) industry and the implication for the global economy is misleadingly alarmist. When our government gets involved in such narratives, it calls into question the sincerity of its insistence that E.V.s are essential to an existential battle against climate change. If China’s foray succeeds, the world gets cleaner cars and non-Chinese automakers are obliged to improve their own products.”

“any related national security concerns are often rooted in misconceptions about the technologies themselves. It’s important to differentiate between civilian and military technologies. E.V. manufacturing primarily involves civilian tech that’s unlikely to have significant national security implications.”

How Louisiana — one of the nation’s wettest states — caught on fire

“Much like other places, Louisiana is experiencing record-breaking heat and dryness, which have made it easier for wildfires to proliferate.”

This summer is giving us a glimpse at the dangerous future of work

“Temperatures also don’t have to be very high for strenuous work to become deadly. The lack of heat acclimatization all too frequently kills workers; the majority of workers who die from heat do so in the first few days at work. “A lot of workers will actually end up in heatstroke during the first week on the job,” says Brenda Jacklitsch, a health scientist at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
Extreme heat is also affecting productivity. According to a 2022 study by The Lancet, which is tracking the relationship between climate change and public health, about 470 billion hours of labor were lost in 2021 due to extreme heat. The US alone lost 2.5 billion hours, mostly in the construction, manufacturing, service, and agriculture sectors.”