Archive for December, 2011

gCaptain – 

As global leaders weigh Iran’s threat to block oil deliveries through the Strait of Hormuz, U.S. energy officials said Friday that more oil passed through the strategically located stretch of water in 2011 than in previous years and that any blockage of so-called chokepoints could lead to “substantial increases” in energy costs.

In data released Friday, the Energy Information Administration said an average of 17 million barrels of oil moved daily through the Strait this year, up from 15.5 million to 16 million barrels in 2009 and 2010.

The Strait carried about 20% of all oil traded worldwide and about 35% of all seaborne-traded oil, EIA said.

Located between Oman and Iran, “Hormuz is the world’s most important oil chokepoint,” the EIA said on its web site.

The EIA released data on the Strait of Hormuz after Iran’s first vice president, Mohammad-Reza Rahimi, said Iran would block oil deliveries through the Strait if global powers imposed sanctions targeting his own country’s oil industry.

Iran is the fourth largest oil producer in the world. Oil currently trades at around $99 a barrel.

While experts say Iran is unlikely to actually close the Strait, in large part because such a move would damage its own economy, Iran is conducting a 10-day naval exercise in and around the waters of the Persian Gulf.

On Thursday, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said “the ratcheting up of pressure” on Iran “is pinching in a way that is causing them to lash out,” according to transcripts.

If the Strait of Hormuz were to close, oil deliveries could be rerouted via pipelines “at increased transportation costs,” the EIA said. Specifically, oil could be shipped via a 745-mile pipeline that stretches across Saudi Arabia from Abqaiq to the Red Sea.

Oil could also be pumped north via pipeline to a port on the Mediterranean Sea.

Full story…

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gCaptain –

An Isle Of Mann-registered ship was detained by authorities in Finland last week for smuggling missiles and explosives out of the country.

The vessel was stopped and the local bomb squad called in when officials at the port of Kotka found sixty nine Patriot defense missiles and 150 tonnes of general explosives on board.

According to Petri Lounatmaa a Finnish Customs spokesman, investigating officers did not know the origin of the missiles or who was supposed to receive them.

“We have impounded the explosives and missiles and asked the Defense Ministry to transport and store them.” Mr. Lounatmaa told the New York Times.

Alarms sounded in the port shortly after dock workers discovered explosive material stored on open pallets which lead police to conduct a search of the ship’s cargo containers.

What they found shocked them. Inside containers labeled and manifested as “fireworks” where highly sophisticated Patriot defense missiles.

Full story…

Bob Marshall –

 How can an event be both good and sad at the same time ?

How can it be an occasion when both congratulations and condolences are in order ?

Yet, that was the only way to look at Wednesday’s press event marking the start of construction on the Dudley and Kim Vandenborre Artificial Fishing Reef in Lake Pontchartrain between Slidell and Irish Bayou.

It was a good thing that rubble from the demolition of the old Interstate 10 twin spans was being recycled, and congratulations were in order for all the parties involved: The state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries for the reef program, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for enabling a Hurricane Katrina disaster relief grant that paid for the work; the Coastal Conservation Association for helping smooth out the considerable regulatory logistics – and the Vandenborres, who came up with the idea.

But the very idea that we’re building artificial reefs in the coastal wetlands is a sad admission of this fact: The only reason we need them is because we’re still losing the battle to save the habitat base that produces the fish we hope this reef will attract – our coastal wetlands.

Full story…

Hydro International –

While on passage from the Canadian west coast to the arctic, Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) scientists from the Institute of Ocean Sciences (IOS) in Sidney, British Columbia were able to collect dozens of high-quality 400m CTD profiles across the Pacific Ocean without stopping or slowing the icebreaker CCGS Sir Wilfrid Laurier.

The researchers are among the latest groups to use the Oceanscience UnderwayCTD system for this type of profiling challenge.

Each year, scientists from IOS travel to the arctic on board the Laurier and are able to conduct science while in transit.

However, slowing or stopping the ship to conduct science activities is often not possible; and as a result, most research has to be done while underway.

That’s where the latest Oceanscience profiler comes in. The DFO scientists have traditionally used expendable CTD (XCTD) probes, launched from the Laurier while slowing the ship to about 9 kts, from its typical transit speed of about 11kts.

While easy to deploy, the expendable probes do not match research-grade oceanographic instruments in accuracy and resolution, and are not ideal as a tool to monitor subtle changes and variability in the temperature and salinity fields of the North East Pacific, associated with climate change and moving fronts.

Full story…

The China Post –

Taiwan’s marine ecosystem showed signs of crisis this year because of a notable decline in the variety of coral reef marine life, the Taiwan Environmental Information Association said yesterday.

In its annual overall review of Taiwan’s coral reefs, the association said that while most of reefs were healthy, fish and invertebrate animals that serve as indicators of the health of the ecosystem were rare.

The fish “shortage” was a warning sign of an imbalance in the coral reef ecosystem’s food chain, which could have a huge impact on tourism, fishing and the broader ecosystem, said Chen Chao-lun, acoordinator of the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network’s Taiwan branch. Chen attributed the lack of critical marine life in coral reefare as to overfishing.

This year’s study showed coral reef “cover” — how much of the reef is covered with live coral — ranging from 75 percent in waters around Green Island to 14 percent in northeast Taiwan’s Bitou Cape, Chen said. Meanwhile, the association also unveiled the three presidential candidates’ responses to environmental groups’ suggestions and opinions on marine protection.

Karen Bowerman –

Frank Wild was the right-hand man to Sir Ernest Shackleton, joining him on several of his Antarctic expeditions.

But is he finally stepping out of the great explorer’s shadow, as his ashes make a poignant journey south ?

Almost 100 years ago, the famous polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton set out to try to be the first to cross Antarctica.

He failed, but his ill-fated expedition on the Endurance, which began in 1914, is now seen as one of history’s greatest stories of survival and leadership.

But while much has been written about Shackleton, his second-in-command on that voyage, a Yorkshireman called Frank Wild, has been largely overlooked by history.

At least, until now. Wild’s relatives recently accompanied him on his final journey to Antarctica, as they took his ashes to South Georgia, to rest next to the grave of Shackleton, the man he affectionately referred to as “the boss”.

The 18-day voyage retraced the disastrous Endurance expedition and ended in a final reunion of two great polar explorers.

The two men shared several trips to Antarctica, including the Nimrod expedition in 1907-09 which brought them to within 100 miles of the South Pole, a record at the time.

But within weeks of setting sail in early 1915, the Endurance was trapped in ice and 10 months later it was crushed, a moment recounted by Wild in his recently re-published polar memoirs.

Full story…

By Brett Israel

The Red Sea has a new inhabitant: a smoking island.

The island was created by a wild eruption that occurred in the Red Sea earlier this month.

It is made of loose volcanic debris from the eruption, so it may not stick around long.

According to news reports, fishermen witnessed lava fountains reaching up to 90 feet (30 meters) tall on Dec. 19, which is probably the day the eruption began, said Erik Klemetti, a volcanologist at Denison University in Granville, Ohio.

NASA This “before” picture from Oct. 24, 2007, shows an area of the Red Sea with open water where the new island now sits.

Ash plumes were seen emanating from the spot Dec. 20 and Dec. 22 by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer, or MODIS, on NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites.

The Ozone Monitoring Instrument on NASA’s Aura satellite detected elevated levels of sulfur dioxide, further indicating an eruption.

By Dec. 23, what looked like a new island had appeared in the Red Sea off the west coast of Yemen.

“I am surprised about how quickly the island has grown,” Klemetti, who writes Wired’s Eruptions Blog, told OurAmazingPlanet.

The volcanic activity occurred along the Zubair Group, a collection of small islands that run in a roughly northwest-southeast line.

The islands rise from a shield volcano (a kind of volcano built from fluid lava flows) and poke above the sea surface.

Full story…