Sunday, March 11, 2007

Rains Help Cool Barrier Reef & Dead Sea At Risk

Gudday Mate! News from Australia

Batfish on Great Barrier Reef
Scientists fear global warming and pollution are harming the reef
Recent torrential rain and monsoons in northern Queensland have provided some rare relief for the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.

The poor conditions have significantly reduced ocean temperatures, making them the coolest for up to five years.

It has been a blessing for the corals - usually in the summer they are at risk of serious scorching and bleaching.

The Great Barrier Reef is the world's largest living organism, stretching over more than 345,000 sq km.

It is also the world's most protected marine area.

It has been under threat from a combination of global warming, pollution and over-fishing.

Cooler water

Scientists had predicted that this summer would be a tough one for the reef. They feared that extreme heat would scorch the coral.

An aerial view of the Great Barrier Reef (file image)
More than 2,000 km long
Home to 1,500 types of fish
Only living thing the naked eye can see from space

But recent storms that dumped torrential rain across much of Australia's north-east have brought some unexpected good news.

The region's normally warm seas have been stirred. Jeff Maynard of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority says the water has become cooler.

"This year reef temperatures have shown that temperatures for the majority of the Great Barrier Marine Park are below the long-term averages we see for this time of year," he said.

"So right now we're considering bleaching risks to be low compared to bleaching years like '98 and 2002."

The future, however, still does not look good.

Researchers believe as the world's climate continues to change the bleaching of the coral will become increasingly common.

Bleaching occurs when unusually warm seas cause the organisms that make up the coral to die.

All that is left is a white limestone skeleton.

The Great Barrier Reef is home to 1,500 types of fish and at more than 2,000 km long, it is the only living thing the naked eye can see from space.

Lets hope the rain continues and the bleaching is abated as a result. Theres also news from Israel about the Dead Sea. It would appear that the Dead Sea (the lowest point below regular sea level on Earth) is receding by over one metre per year. In fact when the Ein Gud Spa centre opened 20 years ago, visitors simply had to walk down a few steps into the Dead Sea waters. Now visitors have to take a train ride to step into the sea from the same spa building.

The Dead Sea is fed from the river Jordan which is now more like a trickle by the time it reaches the sea as much of the freshwater is now diverted for agricultural irrigation and drinking water by Syria, Jordan and part of the Lebanon.

Israel have proposed a "peace pipeline" to install a 200km water pipeline to feed water from the Red Sea to prop up the water levels in the Dead Sea. However there are huge potential impacts when considering this solution even before you start to consider the obvious environmental ones. The sea water in the Red Sea contains approx 4gms of salt per litre and the Dead Sea water has around 300mg of salt per litre - so effectively Red Sea water will desalinate the high levels of salt in the Dead Sea changing its balance and also its colour from bright cobalt blue to either brown or red!

I know nothing lives in the Dead Sea but these changes would still be a major environmental impact on another one of our world heritage sites. I guess theres not much choice - either it disappears in our lifetime or it stays but changes forever?

Make Good Choices

From Your Friend The Energy Angel


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