Thursday, December 22, 2005

Long Island Sound and Climate Change: An Upcoming Conference

Global warming and rising water temperatures have been on the minds of people concerned about Long Island Sound since at least the spring of 2000. In the aftermath of the 1999 lobster die off, researchers gathered in Stamford to discuss possible causes. I was preparing to hand in the final manuscript of my book then and my editor asked me to include an afterword about the lobster die-off, and particularly its possible link to global warming. Here’s part of what I wrote:

Water temperatures in the Sound were unusually high from 1996 through 1999. In the winter of 1998-99, for example, the temperature in the western Sound never dropped below three degrees centigrade, according to Matthew Gates of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection. Most years it drops to one degree centigrade and on occasion falls below zero.

The research that Gates and many others did came together last year when scientists concluded that warmer water temperatures were in fact part of the cause of the die-off.

What else is global warming contributing to? The last three or four summers have seen a spike in the severity of hypoxia, which is a warm-weather phenomenon.

Greenwich Time reporter Michael Dinan wrote one of the few stories about hypoxia in the Sound last summer, and reported this:

According to the National Weather Service, water temperatures in the Sound -- along with the rest of the Atlantic Ocean -- have been unusually hot this summer. In recent weeks, low water temperatures at night are barely dipping down to what meteorologists normally see as seasonal highs on the Sound.

"What I believe is that it's not just the heat, but the lack of cooling at night," said Tim Morrin, a meteorologist with the weather service in Upton, N.Y. "We have a weather pattern where temperatures have not dropped to normal levels at night,'' so bodies of water are not allowed to cool and get back to normal.

A Weather Service surface buoy off of Bridgeport's shore reached 83 degrees last week -- "a remarkable spike," Morrin said, compared with a historical summer average of 74 degrees. Nighttime lows in western Long Island Sound are lingering around 75 or 76 degrees, Morrin said, just three degrees below normal summer highs.

All this is a way of getting around to yesterday’s announcement that “Climate Change and its Impact on Long Island Sound” will be the subject of this year’s Long Island Sound summit, an annual event organized by Save the Sound (and its parent organization, Connecticut Fund for the Environment), the Long Island Sound Watershed Alliance, and EPA’s Long Island Sound Program. It will be held on Saturday, April 8, at the Holiday Inn in Bridgeport (which is near the ferry, which should make it somewhat convenient for Long Islanders to attend).

It promises to be an interesting conference, though no doubt one of those events where you walk away shaking your head at the realization that we’re in worse trouble than we thought.


Blogger Sam said...

83 degrees near Bridgeport? I live darn near to Mexico on the Gulf and the max was 87 degrees - the water was hot. That is truly remarkable. There must be a large differntial between water temperatures at the Race versus Bridgeport, and it seems it could be widening - or is it as they say "a gradual rising tide" of temperatures?

Not to criticize, but "lack of overnight cooling" mentioned above is rather arsey-versey statement, although we all know what was meant (cooling is negative heat input, and lack of cooling is ... not-not?).

One might look to the failure of strong southwest winds from the Bermuda High and the occassional cyclone from the northwest to provide a partial explanation (and Tom you know I'm an "air head").

There is some evidence that the ocean currents in the Gulf-Mex and Atlantic Seaboard are indeed rising. However, it should be qualified that very few scientists truly believe that this was caused by Global Warming, even with all the hurricane activity the past several years. The shifts in ocean currents may cause an Ice Age in Europe if the Laborador Current opens to the south.

However, in areas such as western LI Sound which may not have the benefit of tidal flushing (exchanging waters with the ocean), and with lack of strong littoral wind currents, Global Warming may become the "smoking gun" you're looking for - just maybe.
Sam Wells
South Padre Island

6:24 PM  

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