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August 12 Weekly Newsletter


The Atlantic Ocean is heating up and it's not just the usual suspects like greenhouse gases or weather patterns that could be to blame. An unexpected cause has come to light: the disappearance of certain clouds called "ship tracks." These are the low-lying, reflective clouds that ships leave in their wake (you can see them clearly in the picture above), and they've been helping to keep our planet cool. However, the 2020 regulations by the United Nations's International Maritime Organization (IMO) curtailed ships' sulfur pollution to improve air quality. While this was great for our lungs, it caused fewer ship tracks and thus a warmer Earth, particularly where there's a lot of boat traffic, like on the Atlantic.


This unintended test of geoengineering—though not in the direction we'd like—has given researchers a unique chance to study how we might influence our planet's temperature through manipulating clouds. A strategy called marine cloud brightening proposes we make clouds more reflective by pumping salt particles into the air. The drop in ship tracks has shown that this could have a significant impact on cooling the Earth.


Source: Professor Eliot Jacobson

It’s worth mentioning that sulfur clouds from ship pollution also contribute to acid rain (sulfur dioxide), so it's not a good idea to revert to old habits. We would need to find a cleaner way to make these clouds. Thankfully the idea mentioned above, marine cloud brightening, could generate reflective clouds with far less pollution.


This situation paints a picture of a complex and delicate balance between our actions and the environment. Our efforts to reduce sulfur pollution, while positive for air quality and reducing acid rain, have had an unexpected warming effect on our planet. Yet, it's also highlighted potential ways we can deliberately cool the Earth. As we continue to grapple with climate change, this underscores the importance of understanding the full impact of our decisions and the potential for innovative, environmentally-conscious solutions.



 

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News Headlines and Articles

‘Suffocated to death’: Florida researchers testing water, carcasses to determine what caused fish kill (FOX 35 Orlando) - Researchers in Florida are investigating a recent fish kill in the Indian River Lagoon, with concerns that the deaths could be attributed to factors like a low oxygen event, nutrient cycle disruption, and algal blooms, while tests are being conducted to identify the toxins present and the extent of the damage.


Making a connection: Construction of Olso Road interchange with I-95 ready to get underway (TCPalm) - Construction of the long-awaited Oslo Road interchange with I-95 is set to begin in Indian River County, marking a significant project valued at $95.8 million and expected to be completed by summer 2027. The project involves partial cloverleaf ramps, widening of Oslo Road, and various infrastructure enhancements, aiming to improve economic development and emergency evacuation routes for the county. The Chamber of Commerce anticipates positive economic growth with increased access to the area. More pictures here.


Brightline high-speed rail coming around bend; how can we mitigate Treasure Coast deaths? (TCPalm) - Concerns about safety and potential fatalities arise as Brightline high-speed rail plans to operate at speeds over 80 mph through the area, despite past accidents and close calls at crossings, raising questions about the effectiveness of safety measures and public education.


The case for sugar reform is resonating on Capitol Hill (Everglades Foundation) - Friends of the Everglades advocates for sugar reform through bipartisan efforts on Capitol Hill, highlighting the environmental and health impacts of the sugar industry and urging changes in the 2023 Farm Bill.


Introducing the Dirty Money Project: Because dirty money = dirty water (VoteWater.org) - VoteWater.org launches the "Dirty Money Project" to investigate campaign finance data in South Florida counties and reveal the influence of polluting industries on elected officials and clean water policies.


Shades of BLUE turning GREEN (Florida Weekly) - The quality of water from Lake Okeechobee, including concerns of blue-green algae and its impacts on water quality, tourism, and health, is highlighted as experts discuss potential summer algal blooms and the need for measures to address polluted water conditions.


The State of Florida Preempts Local Contracting Licenses. What Does This Mean to You? What’s Next? (Vero Communique) - Florida's new laws (HB 735 and HB 1383) regarding contractor licensing have preempted local contracting licenses to the state, leading to confusion and unintended consequences for Indian River County homeowners, with implications such as the inability to seek relief for fraud due to the absence of local licenses, resulting in matters now being handled through small claims court; furthermore, the loss of local control over certain contractor licensing areas and additional legislation (HB 1383) further complicates the landscape by prohibiting local governments from requiring licenses for job scopes not available at the state level, potentially leading to difficulties in identifying licensed businesses. This is a very good example of why the state's constant attacks on Home Rule need to be fought.


 

While the Sargassum Belt may seem like a sticky blob, it's actually a rich ecosystem. But as giant masses end up in the unfamiliar territory of the US and Caribbean, scientists race to figure out how to protect the coast. Nobody is safe from "The Great Seaweed Invasion." Check out this 20 minute documentary to learn more!


 

Some Treasure Coast law enforcement agencies reporting increase in check fraud cases (TCPalm) - Beware of rising check fraud cases on the Treasure Coast, where criminals are targeting the U.S. Mail for check fraud, and law enforcement agencies advise avoiding mailing checks whenever possible or using secure mail drops like post offices due to increasing incidents of altered checks and sophisticated criminal operations infiltrating postal distribution centers and setting up fake businesses, urging individuals to take precautions such as delivering checks directly to post offices and utilizing programs like USPS's informed delivery to prevent potential losses.


Hot water: Fish kills and bioluminescence loom in Indian River Lagoon amid summer heat (TCPalm) - The Indian River Lagoon is experiencing elevated water temperatures, resulting in a large fish kill and potential ecological problems due to reduced oxygen levels, algal blooms, and the threat of damaging the unique worm reef off Stuart, with scientists and authorities urging precautions to prevent further harm to lagoon plants, animals, and seagrasses, while concerns are raised about the potential for increased infection rates of Vibrio vulnificus bacteria due to warmer waters.


Researchers say vital seagrass is dying off at rapid rates in Florida (Coastal News Today) - Seagrass, a vital underwater plant abundant in Florida, is dying off at an unsustainable rate due to environmental damage, climate change, and water pollution, leading to significant impacts on marine life, fishery industry, storm protection, water quality, and carbon storage, with researchers emphasizing the need for better water and waste management to address the issue.


Florida seagrass die-off harms human and animals alike (NBC Miami) - Seagrass, essential for both marine life and human well-being in Florida, is rapidly declining due to environmental damage and climate change, impacting fishery industry, storm protection, water quality, and even home insurance rates, with researchers emphasizing the need for improved water and waste management to safeguard these vital ecosystems.


Army Corps' Lake Okeechobee releases carry toxic algae to Timer Powers Park in Indiantown (TCPalm) - Toxic algae originating from Lake Okeechobee is contaminating the C44-Canal at the Timer Powers Park boat ramp in Indiantown, with high levels of microcystin toxin detected, posing health risks to humans and pets; the situation has been exacerbated by recent Army Corps discharges, highlighting the ongoing challenges of managing water quality and algae blooms in the region.


Algae at Indiantown boat ramp 100 times more toxic than considered safe (WPTV) - The excessive heat in South Florida is exacerbating the growth of toxic blue-green algae along the Treasure Coast, with harmful algal toxins detected in the C44 Canal near Timer Powers Park in Indiantown; samples showed levels of the microcystin toxin 100 times higher than deemed safe by the EPA for human exposure. The issue is linked to the recent opening of floodgates by the Army Corps of Engineers, exacerbating blooms that threaten the local ecosystem, and experts predict that the situation may worsen throughout the summer and beyond.


 

Check out more information about them all here.


 

Other News

Update on Nestle Lawsuit From Florida Springs Council (Florida Springs Council) - The Florida Springs Council has launched a lawsuit against the water use permit that allows the owners of Ginnie Springs to pump nearly 1 million gallons of water per day for Nestle/BlueTriton bottling. The lawsuit argues that the permit was granted without adequately considering the public interest and the potential harm to the local ecosystem. The Suwannee River Water Management District approved the permit despite concerns about over-pumping and harm to the Santa Fe River. Check out their July update at the above link.


Rural Florida residents strike out when their own commissioner pitches a big development (Florida Phoenix) - Former Boston Red Sox player Mike Greenwell, now a county commissioner, has sparked controversy by pushing for large-scale development in Alva, Florida, a rural area known for its natural beauty and small-town feel, despite community opposition and concerns about the impact on the environment and local character. Greenwell's plans for a 400,000-square-foot shopping center and apartment complex have divided residents and led to lawsuits against him, highlighting the challenges of balancing development with preserving the unique charm of rural communities.


Low-Sulfur Fuel Rules May Have Contributed to Record Ocean Temps (Coastal News Today) - More info about the top story here. But to recap, the reduction of sulfur dioxide (SOx) emissions from shipping due to the switch to low-sulfur fuel in compliance with IMO2020 regulations might have contributed to the record ocean temperatures observed in the North Atlantic, as the decrease in reflective cloud cover due to reduced SOx emissions led to less cooling and more heating, according to recent research, raising implications for the potential impact of geoengineering efforts involving SOx emissions to artificially modify the climate.


Scientist on dying coral: ‘If this doesn’t wake people up, I don’t know what will’ (Coastal News Today) - South Florida's coral reefs are experiencing catastrophic effects from the ongoing unprecedented summer heat wave, with NOAA scientists reporting 100% bleaching at monitoring sites, prompting concerns over the survival of even the most resilient and oldest corals and emphasizing the urgent need for climate change mitigation to prevent further devastation to the already significantly diminished coral cover.


An Outer Banks town is falling into the ocean. Can Rodanthe be saved? (Coastal News Today) - Rodanthe, an Outer Banks town in North Carolina, is facing severe erosion and sea level rise, causing beachfront homes to fall into the ocean, highlighting the larger-scale challenge of mitigating storm damage and climate change impact on the coastline, with efforts to save vulnerable homes through beach nourishment facing financial and logistical challenges, and the long-term feasibility of such projects being questioned due to the high erosion rates and costs associated with repeated sand placement episodes.


Russia's attack on Ukraine leaving catastrophic toll on environment (Independent) - The ongoing unprovoked invasion of Ukraine by Russia has led to an environmental catastrophe, causing massive damage to cities, infrastructure, agriculture, and ecosystems, including the destruction of the Kakhovka Dam, resulting in the loss of biodiversity, deforestation, and disruption of energy systems, with long-lasting ecological and economic impacts on Ukraine and the global community.


 

Credit to Save the Manatees Club.


 

The Indian River County Lagoon Management Plan (LMP) pinpoints 17 essential factors influencing the Indian River Lagoon's health. Divided into five focal areas linked to county departments, the plan not only sets forth goals but also recommends projects and best practices. This guide underscores the importance of collaborative efforts in safeguarding Florida's treasured habitat. Essential to its development and success are public meetings, ensuring community involvement. Please plan to attend either the August 10 or 17 workshop, and please note the August 17 workshop has virtual options. Use this link to download and comment on the plan.






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