Washington Post - Two new studies are adding to concerns about one of the most troubling scenarios for future climate change: the possibility that global warming could slow or shut down the Atlantic's great ocean circulation systems, with dramatic implications for North America and Europe. The research, by separate teams of scientists, bolsters predictions of disruptions to global ocean currents - such as the Gulf Stream - that transfer tropical warmth from the equator to northern latitudes, as well as a large conveyor system that cycles colder water into the ocean's depths. Both systems help ensure relatively mild conditions in parts of Northern Europe that would otherwise be much colder. The papers offer new insight into how rapidly melting Arctic ice could slow or even temporarily halt the ocean's normal circulation, with possible effects ranging from plunging temperatures in northern latitudes to centuries-long droughts in Southeast Asia.
New York Times - When Congress returns for business on Tuesday, lawmakers have scheduled a mere 12 legislative days to find a bipartisan compromise to keep the government open, vote on one of the most contentious foreign policy matters in a generation, reconcile the future of funding for Planned Parenthood and roll out the red carpet - and a few thousand folding chairs - to greet Pope Francis. What could go wrong? Ignoring the advice that one should never go to bed angry, members of Congress left for their home states in August with two major fights at full boil. One dispute is over the Iran nuclear accord, which congressional Republicans and a number of Democrats oppose, set for debate in both chambers this week.
Washington Post - We're taught from a young age to be afraid of mercury poisoning - it's the reason most people are careful to never break a thermometer. But human pollution is putting mercury into the environment anyway, in both the gases we pour into the atmosphere and the waste we dump into our waterways, and one of the biggest places it's showing up is in the ocean. That's bad enough, but to make matters worse, a new study, published Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that a particularity toxic form of mercury is being shuttled fro the open ocean into coastal areas in an unexpected way: in the fur of seals and sea lions.
New York Times - At an inspection station here on the border with Montana, a black dog in an orange vest briskly scoured the hull of a motorboat, his nose twitching as he investigated every crevice. Suddenly he found the scent: a quagga mussel. Wicket sat and looked expectantly at his handler. "Good do," said Aimee Hurt, who trained Wicket for a group called Working Dogs for Conservation. She tossed a red rubber ball on a rope to him which he tackled with gusto. "He's not just a seeker of mussels," she said. "He's a destroyer because if he could, he'd chomp them." Exercises like these are fun for Wicket, but they are deadly serious to his handlers. Montana, Wyoming, Washington, Oregon, and Idaho are the only states in the West still free of invasive quagga and zebra mussels. State officials want desperately to keep the mussels out of blue-ribbon trout streams and pristine mountain lakes.
Washington Post - A new, definitive U.N. report on the world' forests finds that the rate of deforestation is slowing down - but that its global tolls has been immense in the last 25 years. During that period, says the Food and Agriculture Organization's 2015 Global Forest Resources Assessment, the world's forested area declined from 31.6 to 30.6 percent of the Earth's land surface. This represented a loss of 129 hectares of forest - equivalent to nearly 500,000 square miles. According to the United Nations, that's "an area almost equivalent in size to South Africa." It's also nearly two Texases. Nonetheless, the FAO report notes "a very encouraging tendency towards a reduction in the rates of deforestation and carbon emissions from forests and increases in capacity for sustainable forest management."
Houston Chronicle - It is one of the Houston area's grand ironies that the city of Tomball is located nowhere near the crowning achievement of namesake Congressman Tom Ball - the Houston Ship Channel. The drive from that suburban city to the Bay Area industrial corridor may take an hour or more, but even the folks out in Tomball benefit from the channel, which pumps more than $178.5 billion into the state economy and creates more than 1 million Texas jobs, according to a 2012 study. This prosperity stands as a testament to the wise foresight that men like Ball had more than a century ago. But now, as we hold our collective breath through another hurricane season, too many of our political leaders continue to turn a blind eye to the threat of a storm surge in Galveston Bay and the Houston Ship Channel.
Detroit Free Press - With Congress returning to Capitol Hill this week, efforts by Great Lakes shippers and the businesses they serve will ramp up again to secure funding for a study that could improve the chances of a new super-size navigational lock finally being built in Sault Ste. Marie. As the Free Press reported, no new funding has been set aside for construction of a second lock capable of handling the largest freighters, even though such a lock was authorized by Congress 29 years ago and only one of the current Soo Locks - the 47-year-old Poe - is big enough to handle such freighters now. A 20-day closure this summer of the other operational lock at the Soo, the MacArthur, sent all the ship traffic traveling between Lake Superior and the lower Great Lakes through the Poe, raising concerns that if something happened to it, shipments of iron ore that steelmakers and other manufacturers count on would effectively be halted.
Portland Press Herald - The BBC Amber is at the dock on an early August afternoon, unloading wind turbine tower segments bound for the Passadumkeag Mountain wind project in Grand Falls Township, 70 miles to the north. At 14,000 tons, it is a relatively small vessel, drawing just 24 feet on arrival, and was able to transit hte channel to the Searsport, located at the head of Penobscot Bay, without concern for the 10-foot tides or high spots, where as much as 4 feet of silt has fallen into the channel since it was last dredged a half-century ago. But on both the day before and the day that followed, two 23,000-ton oil tankers had been forced to wait for a rising tide to proceed into the port, where oil, gasoline, road salt, wood pulp and other cargo is offloaded, much of it bound for the landlocked interior. But an extensive dredging project proposed to improve and upgrade Maine’s second-busiest port has raised alarm bells up and down Penobscot Bay, where fishermen, shellfish farmers, owners of tourism-dependent businesses, and environmentalists fear it will trigger an ecological and economic catastrophe.
Associated Press - The noise and bustle of nearby neighborhoods fade away at New Haven's sprawling port. An oil and chemical tanker floats placidly at a dock. A tug pushes a barge out in Long Island Sound. Only occasionally do trucks rumble up to a scrap metal business or deliver materials for road work. What was a key port for lumber and other goods dating to Colonial times is, like other New England ports, facing a reckoning after a lengthy decline. In the region that nurtured the beginnings of New World commerce with whaling, fishing, and shipbuilding, state and local governments are taking stock of aging infrastructure at deep-water ports. As they move to stay relevant in an age of ever-larger ships.