Senin, 31 Agustus 2020

Sea level rise from ice sheets track worst-case climate change scenario - Science Daily

Ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica whose melting rates are rapidly increasing have raised the global sea level by 1.8cm since the 1990s, and are matching the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's worst-case climate warming scenarios.

According to a new study from the University of Leeds and the Danish Meteorological Institute, if these rates continue, the ice sheets are expected to raise sea levels by a further 17cm and expose an additional 16 million people to annual coastal flooding by the end of the century.

Since the ice sheets were first monitored by satellite in the 1990s, melting from Antarctica has pushed global sea levels up by 7.2mm, while Greenland has contributed 10.6mm. And the latest measurements show that the world's oceans are now rising by 4mm each year.

"Although we anticipated the ice sheets would lose increasing amounts of ice in response to the warming of the oceans and atmosphere, the rate at which they are melting has accelerated faster than we could have imagined," said Dr Tom Slater, lead author of the study and climate researcher at the Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling at the University of Leeds.

"The melting is overtaking the climate models we use to guide us, and we are in danger of being unprepared for the risks posed by sea level rise."

The results are published today in a study in the journal Nature Climate Change. It compares the latest results from satellite surveys from the Ice Sheet Mass Balance Intercomparison Exercise (IMBIE) with calculations from climate models. The authors warn that the ice sheets are losing ice at a rate predicted by the worst-case climate warming scenarios in the last large IPCC report.

Dr Anna Hogg, study co-author and climate researcher in the School of Earth and Environment at Leeds, said: "If ice sheet losses continue to track our worst-case climate warming scenarios we should expect an additional 17cm of sea level rise from the ice sheets alone. That's enough to double the frequency of storm-surge flooding in many of the world's largest coastal cities."

So far, global sea levels have increased in the most part through a mechanism called thermal expansion, which means that volume of seawater expands as it gets warmer. But in the last five years, ice melt from the ice sheets and mountain glaciers has overtaken global warming as the main cause of rising sea levels.

Dr Ruth Mottram, study co-author and climate researcher at the Danish Meteorological Institute, said: "It is not only Antarctica and Greenland that are causing the water to rise. In recent years, thousands of smaller glaciers have begun to melt or disappear altogether, as we saw with the glacier Ok in Iceland, which was declared "dead" in 2014. This means that melting of ice has now taken over as the main contributor of sea level rise. "

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Materials provided by University of Leeds. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

The Link Lonk

August 31, 2020 at 11:04PM

Sea level rise from ice sheets track worst-case climate change scenario - Science Daily

Deep-Sea Mining: How to Balance Need for Metals with Ecological Impacts - Scientific American

Slashing humanity’s reliance on fossil fuels will require billions of kilograms of metal: a single wind turbine can contain more than a metric ton of copper, and electric car batteries demand heaps of cobalt, nickel and manganese. Most of these metals now come from terrestrial mines—often at the cost of deforestation, water pollution and human rights abuses. But a vast trove of metals on the deep-sea floor could soon provide an alternative source.

Though companies have been eyeing this possibility for decades, engineering challenges and unfavorable economics have kept work in the exploration phase. There has also been a lack of international rules to govern the nascent industry. But that is poised to change soon: The United Nations–chartered International Seabed Authority (ISA) has been finalizing regulations for commercially extracting deep-sea metals in international waters. These rules could emerge within a year. The inherent tension in setting them lies in balancing economic interests in metal production with another consideration: the potential for environmental damage.

Proponents say deep-sea mining can avoid a few of the ills of land-based extraction and cut the costs of renewable technology. But some scientists caution against jumping from exploration to exploitation too quickly, given how little we know about the deep-sea environment and the life it supports. “I generally don’t think it’s possible for us to objectively assess all the risks involved right now,” says Jeff Drazen, a marine biologist at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. “This is the poorest-described ecosystem on the planet.”

Enticing Prize at a Vast Depth

Interest in deep-sea minerals focuses largely on one particular resource: polymetallic nodules. These potato-sized deposits are rich in manganese, copper, cobalt and nickel. They form over millions of years as dissolved metals precipitate around the nuclei of organic materials—often ancient shark teeth, according to Antje Boetius, a marine biologist at the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology in Bremen, Germany. She says these nodules are scattered in many areas across the global seafloor. They are especially plentiful in a vast swath of the ocean’s abyssal plain that stretches from Hawaii to Mexico and is called the Clarion-Clipperton Zone (CCZ). Nodules in the CCZ alone contain more nickel and cobalt than all known land-based reserves of those metals.

Retrieving such nodules from their resting places—often more than three kilometers below the surface—is still a theoretical proposition, though most plans follow a similar blueprint: First, dump-truck-sized collection vehicles would scour the seafloor for nodule-bearing sediment. A vertical “riser” pipe would then whisk the material up to ships equipped with sorting facilities, which would pluck out the valuable nodules and flush unwanted sediment back into the ocean.

But this mining method would necessarily disturb the marine environment, altering deep-sea ecosystems that scientists are still working to understand. In a 2016 study in Nature, researchers found seven new species (including four representing new genera) living among the CCZ’s nodule beds. “There are millions of species out there that have yet to be described,” says Lisa Levin, a marine biologist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, who was not involved in the study.

An Unknown Cost

Even as researchers piece together the basics of these ecosystems, recent studies have sought to understand how mining might impact them. Work by Boetius and her colleagues, published this past April in Science Advances, found that collection vehicles can have long-lasting physical and biological effects on the seafloor. Her team revisited a site in the Peru Basin where, in 1989, researchers had simulated effects of collection vehicles by cutting tracks into the seafloor with a blade-mounted plow towed by a ship. The plow tracks were plainly visible decades later. Initially, “we were absolutely shocked,” Boetius says. But she explains that in the stable environment of the deep sea—with weak currents and low rates of sediment dropping to the seafloor—it takes much longer for an area to recover than it would in shallower waters or on land. In the old vehicle tracks, microbes were 30 percent less abundant than in a nearby unplowed region. Animals such as worms and sea cucumbers were also less numerous. “You have such compacted sediments that no one can enter anymore,” Boetius says. “Our experiment really shows that such physical processes will stop animals and microbes from returning to repopulate that habitat.”

Mining impacts could reach well beyond the seafloor. The plumes of sediment that sorting vessels flush back into the water have been compared to inverted smokestacks sticking below the ocean’s sunlit surface layer. Scientists estimate a single nodule-mining operation could release 50,000 cubic meters of sediment-laden water each day—enough to fill 10 Goodyear blimps. But Thomas Peacock, a mechanical engineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who studies plume behavior using computer models and field trials, has found that turbulence dilutes the plume, quickly bringing sediment concentrations close to background levels.

Still, even a small bump in sediment concentration could harm deep-sea dwellers such as plankton and jellyfish, which evolved in a habitat nearly devoid of sediment, Drazen says. Many of these creatures feed by filtering tiny organic particles out of the water. If caught in a sediment plume, “they’re going to have a ton of mud to sift through,” he says. “This may clog their filtering apparatus, or it may make it hard for them to choose the good stuff from the bad stuff.”

In a peer-reviewed opinion paper published in June in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, Drazen and more than a dozen co-authors highlighted this and other risks mining poses to deep-sea waters. The authors also warned that the practice could interrupt animal communication: noise pollution from sediment rattling up riser pipes could jam acoustic signals among whales and other cetaceans, while sediment plumes could cloud the bioluminescent signals that creatures such as squid and jellyfish use in the darkness of the deep ocean. “The animals are just blinking on and off,” Drazen says. Piloting a submarine through them is “like falling through the stars.”

How to Proceed

While Drazen and others have identified some types of harm mining could inflict on deep-sea life, they cannot yet pinpoint how much damage might be done: available information is still scant, and the industry is in its early stages. This uncertainty has led many scientists to adopt a precautionary approach. The ills of terrestrial mining do not justify a headlong rush to dig up the ocean floor, says Diva Amon, a marine biologist at the Natural History Museum in London. “We would essentially be creating damage in an ecosystem we don’t yet understand,” she says. Groups such as the nonprofit Conservation International have called for a 10-year moratorium on deep-sea mining to give scientists and policy makers more time to examine the potential environmental harms.

But others see the emerging industry as a moral imperative, given metals’ crucial role in the renewable-energy technologies needed to curtail global warming—and the environmental and social costs often linked to existing mining practices. “I started looking at the footprint of terrestrial mining, and it is horrific,” says Gregory Stone, chief ocean scientist at DeepGreen, a mining company with exploration agreements in the CCZ. He points to sometimes deadly health impacts on workers and to child-labor violations, both of which are often associated with terrestrial mining of minerals such as cobalt. With deep-sea mining, “the disruption to the planetary system will be a lot less,” Stone contends. He adds that a multiyear environmental assessment prior to commercial extraction—which the ISA could require in its final regulations—could help minimize damage. For example, it could do so by placing the most environmentally sensitive areas off-limits to mining.

The ISA is using the growing body of scientific research in the CCZ “to identify the best measures required to protect the marine environment” as the group creates the first ever deep-sea-mining-exploitation code, according to a written statement from its secretary-general Michael Lodge. These regulations will be adopted if all 168 ISA members (167 countries plus the European Union) agree on them, he said. This summer, the organization’s annual assembly was postponed because of COVID-19, but regulations could be adopted next year. Lodge did not comment on the possibility of regulating the specific potential environmental harms identified by researchers so far.

Scientists from all sectors—industry, academia and conservation—are closely following the ISA’s efforts. Boetius says that in recent years, the ISA has convened discussions about protecting organisms ranging from bacteria to octopuses. “The [regulatory] system has gotten more ecologically friendly and concerned than it was 20 years ago,” she says. Boetius and others, including an international network called the Deep-Ocean Stewardship Initiative, have provided expert input to help ensure sufficient environmental precautions. “There have been huge strides made during this process of drafting regulations,” says Amon, who works with the network. “But there’s still much more to be done.”

Levin agrees and raises the question of how much of the finalized ISA rule book will consist of enforceable mandates—versus mere suggestions. “A lot of the environmental components are just guidance right now,” she says. Levin stops short of calling for a moratorium but says she is not fully convinced of the need for deep-sea mining; she does not think it will simply replace terrestrial operations. “It would almost certainly add to [them],” Levin says. She also notes that future improvements to metal recycling and product life spans could reduce demand for a new source of virgin metals. “My number-one question is ‘Do we really need minerals from the bottom of the ocean?’” Levin says.

The Link Lonk

August 31, 2020 at 05:45PM

Deep-Sea Mining: How to Balance Need for Metals with Ecological Impacts - Scientific American

Newly hatched Florida sea turtles are consuming dangerous quantities of floating plastic -
Newly hatched Florida sea turtles are consuming dangerous quantities of floating plastic
Deceased post-hatchling loggerhead sea turtle next to plastic pieces found in its stomach and intestines. Credit: Gumbo Limbo Nature Center, CC BY-ND

Plastic pollution has been found in practically every environment on the planet, with especially severe effects on ocean life. Plastic waste harms marine life in many ways—most notably, when animals become entangled in it or consume it.

We work as scientists and rehabilitators at The Whitney Laboratory for Marine Bioscience and Sea Turtle Hospital at the University of Florida. Our main focus is on sea turtle diseases that pose conservation threats, such as fibropapillomatosis tumor disease.

However, it's becoming increasingly hard to ignore evidence that plastic pollution poses a growing, hidden threat to the health of endangered sea turtles, particularly our youngest patients. In a newly published study, we describe how we examined 42 post-hatchling loggerhead sea turtles that stranded on beaches in Northeast Florida. We found that almost all of them had ingested plastic in large quantities.

An ocean of plastic

Ocean plastic pollution originates mostly from land-based sources, such as landfills and manufacturing plants. One recent study estimates that winds carry 200,000 tons of tiny plastic particles from degraded tires alone into the oceans every year.

Plastics are extremely durable, even in salt water. Materials that were made in the 1950s, when plastic mass production began, are still persisting and accumulating in the oceans. Eventually these objects disintegrate into smaller fragments, but they may not break down into their chemical components for centuries.

Overall, some 11 million tons of plastic enter the ocean each year. This amount is projected to grow to 29 million tons by 2040.

Newly hatched Florida sea turtles are consuming dangerous quantities of floating plastic
Post-hatchling sea turtle being treated at Gumbo Limbo Nature Center. Credit: Gumbo Limbo Nature Center, CC BY-ND

A microplastic diet

Many forms of plastic threaten . Sea turtles commonly mistake floating bags and balloons for their jellyfish prey. Social media channels are replete with videos and images of sea turtles with plastic straws stuck in their nostrils, killed in plastic-induced mass mortality events, or dying after ingesting hundreds of plastic fragments.

So far, however, scientists don't know a lot about the prevalence and health effects of plastic ingestion in vulnerable young sea turtles. In our study, we sought to measure how much plastic was ingested by post-hatchling washback sea turtles admitted to our rehabilitation hospital.

Post-hatchling washbacks are recently hatched baby turtles that successfully travel from their nesting beaches out to the open ocean and start to feed, but are then washed back to shore due to strong winds or ill health. This is a crucial life stage: Turtles need to feed to recover from their frenzied swim to feeding grounds hundreds of miles offshore. Feeding well also helps them grow large enough to avoid most predators.

We examined 42 dead washbacks, and found that 39 of them, or 93%, had ingested plastic—often in startling quantities. A majority of it was hard fragments, most commonly colored white.

One turtle that weighed 48 grams or 1.6 ounces – roughly equivalent to 16 pennies – had ingested 287 plastic pieces. Another hatchling that weighed just 27 grams, or less than one ounce, had ingested 119 separate pieces of plastic that totaled 1.23% of its body weight. The smallest turtle in our study, with a shell just 4.6 centimeters (1.8 inches) long, had ingested a piece of plastic one-fourth the length of its shell.

[You're smart and curious about the world. So are The Conversation's authors and editors. You can get our highlights each weekend.]

Newly hatched Florida sea turtles are consuming dangerous quantities of floating plastic
The Sargasso Sea is an important feeding ground for immature Atlantic sea turtles, but the same currents that concentrate seaweed there also carry drifting plastic trash. Credit: University of Florida, CC BY-ND

Consuming such large quantities of plastic increases the likelihood that broken-down plastic nanoparticles or chemicals that leach from them will enter turtles' bloodstreams, with unknown health effects. Ingested plastic can also block turtles' stomachs or intestines. At a minimum, it limits the amount of space that's physically available for consuming and digesting genuine prey that they need to survive and grow.

Turtles at this life stage live at the ocean's surface, sheltering in floating mats of seaweed, where they feed on invertebrate prey such as zooplankton. These floating seaweed mats gather in the Atlantic, in an area known as the Sargasso Sea,which is bounded by four major ocean currents and covers much of the central Atlantic Ocean. The area is heavily polluted with plastic, as both seaweed and plastic travel on and are concentrated by the same currents. Our study suggests that these baby turtles are mistakenly feeding on plastic floating in and around the seaweed.

Post-hatchling are young and need to feed and grow rapidly. This means they are particularly at risk from the harmful consequences of ingesting plastic. We find it especially troubling that almost all of the animals we assessed had ingested plastic in such large quantities. Plastic pollution is only one of many human-related threats that these charismatic and endangered creatures face at sea.

Stemming the plastic tsunami

Since plastic persists for hundreds of years in the environment, clearing it from the oceans will require ingenious cleanup technologies, as well as lower-tech beach and shore cleanups. But in our view, the top priority should be curbing the rampant flow of plastic that is swamping oceans and coasts.

Earth's ecosystems, especially the oceans, are interconnected, so reducing plastic waste will require global solutions. They include improving methods for recycling plastics; developing bio-based plastics; banning single-use plastic items in favor of more sustainable or reusable alternatives; and reducing shipment of plastic waste abroad to countries with lax regulatory regimes, from where it is more likely to enter the environment.

Our observations in post-hatchling are part of a growing body of research showing how is harming wildlife. We believe it is time for humanity to face up to its addiction to plastic, before we find ourselves wading through swathes of debris and wondering what went wrong.

Explore further

160 turtles caught in plastic waste rescued from Bangladesh beach

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The Link Lonk

August 31, 2020 at 09:30PM

Newly hatched Florida sea turtles are consuming dangerous quantities of floating plastic -

Ocean Infrastructure Has Basically Created Cities at Sea - Gizmodo
Offshore oil rigs off the coast of Scotland.
Offshore oil rigs off the coast of Scotland.
Photo: Jeff J. Mitchell (Getty Images)

The oceans may seem vast and indomitable, and yet humanity has found a way to spread its influence over them. New findings show that the world’s oceans are cluttered with all other sorts of human infrastructure.


The coverage area of human activity is so wide, our ocean infrastructure footprint is equivalent to the footprint of cities on land—and it’s poised to grow in the coming decade, creating a bizarro real-life Waterworld. Human seaward expansion provides some benefits to natural ecosystems, but the message in the findings published on Monday in Nature Sustainability is clear: The world has to be deliberate or risk further screwing over the seas.

These findings are the first of their kind to map humanity’s watery footprint. The researchers mapped a range of human activities happening both nearshore and far offshore, including oil rigs, pipelines, cables, fish farms, ports, and offshore wind farms. The findings show that 12,355 square miles (32,000 square kilometers) of seafloor, an area about the size of Maryland, have been directly colonized by human activities and infrastructure. But that physical footprint only tells part of the story; all told, up to 1.3 million square miles (3.4 million square kilometers) of seascapes have been impacted by human activities. That includes noise from ports and other knock-on effects.


The overall footprint of human infrastructure in the ocean accounts for 1.5% of all economic exclusive zones or areas that are generally within 230 miles (370 kilometers) of countries’ coastlines. That footprint is on par with the amount of land on Earth turned over to cities. It’s also likely an underestimate because researchers didn’t look at coastal defenses like sea walls.

While China has seen the most construction, including a huge area of aquculture and fish farming, other countries also get a few superlatives. The UK has the biggest offshore wind footprint as a pioneer in the industry. The U.S., meanwhile, can lay claim to the ignominious title of offshore drilling leader: Nearly half of offshore drilling’s footprint can be found in the Gulf of Mexico alone.

By 2028, ocean construction could grow out by up to 70% from its current range, driven by aquaculture and wind and tidal energy farms, the researchers predict. Though again, that could be an underestimate since we’re going to need a lot more coastal protections to deal with rising seas as a result of climate change.

The extended footprint of infrastructure only tells part of the story of humans’ impact on the seas. Overfishing, marine heat waves driven by climate change, sea-level rise, and catastrophes like oil spills are all putting pressure on marine life and the ecosystems they depend on. Developments on land can also impact the high seas, including building hard defenses against the sea that can strangle out ecosystems like mangroves or agriculture runoff that has led to toxic dead zones. Scientists warned in a landmark report last year that oceans will “transition to unprecedented conditions” this century as the planet warms at a rate ecosystems will struggle to adapt to.


As the fate of the oceans go, so goes our fate. We rely on them for sustenance, to suck up carbon dioxide, and a host of other benefits. The results of the new study point to the need to think about how and where we develop at sea more carefully given the stress we already put on marine life. Some developments like protecting and restoring coastal wetlands as opposed to building new defenses can be a win-win solution that keeps ecosystems intact and provides flood control. There are also signs that offshore wind farms can be ecologically beneficial by creating artificial reefs, though it’s still an area of active research to figure long-term consequences and if they may invite non-native species or have other unintended impacts.

Much like cities on land, though, it’s clear we need to make decisions that allow us to live in better harmony with nature. The alternative is having oceans that may look blue and watery on the surface, but seem more like the Sahara under the waves.


The Link Lonk

August 31, 2020 at 10:59PM

Ocean Infrastructure Has Basically Created Cities at Sea - Gizmodo

Oahu Beach Has First Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle Hatchlings - U.S. News & World Report
[unable to retrieve full-text content]Oahu Beach Has First Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle Hatchlings  U.S. News & World Report The Link Lonk

August 31, 2020 at 08:47PM

Oahu Beach Has First Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle Hatchlings - U.S. News & World Report

China makes progress on spaceport project for sea launches - SpaceNews

HELSINKI — China is making progress with a spaceport to facilitate sea-based launch activity and development of rockets, satellites and related applications.

The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. (CASC), the country’s main space contractor, is developing the spaceport in Haiyang City on the coast of the eastern province of Shandong.

The ‘Eastern aerospace port’ will add to China’s four established space launch centers and be a base for sea launches of light-lift solid rockets. 

A recent inspection (Chinese) by Wang Xiaojun, head of China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT), under CASC, reported ‘substantial progress’ in the construction and planning of the port.

China carried out its first sea launch in June 2019 using the Long March 11. Analysts note that the new capability brings rapid response and a measure of stealth to launch capabilities. Sea launches could also somewhat mitigate safety risks to its civilian population.

China currently has inland launch sites at Jiuquan in the northwest, Taiyuan (north), Xichang (southwest), and a coastal site at Wenchang on the southern island of Hainan. Launches from inland sites often see spent stages threaten inhabited areas, requiring expensive safety and cleanup operations.

The space port project also hopes to create and foster a localized cluster of aerospace and high-end manufacturing industries.

A second Long March 11 sea launch is expected before the end of 2020 and as soon as mid-September. 

China has increased its launch activity in recent years, launching over thirty times in both 2018 and 2019. The country attempted just six launches in 2009. 

Much of the increase is due to national projects including the Beidou navigation system, Earth observation constellations and their military counterparts. However the opening of the space industry to private capital in 2014 has created new possibilities. Ensuing policy support including the recent addition of ‘satellite internet’ to a government list of “new infrastructures” promises to create demand for launch. 

A complex for commercial launches is under construction in the vicinity of the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center.

Space industry reforms?

CASC last week signed an agreement with the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp. (CASIC), another gigantic SOE and fellow defense contractor, to deepen strategic cooperation. 

The agreement sets out the goals of building a world-class aerospace conglomerate and a world-class aerospace defense company. The pair also commit to increasing China’s aerospace international competitiveness and international influence. Other main tasks include joint support development of the military and to serve major national strategic needs.

CASC and CASIC were created in 1999 through government reforms. Both entities, now Fortune Global 500 companies, were previously part of the former China Aerospace Corporation. 

The agreement follows recent merger of institutes under CAST, a CASC subsidiary, including the Qian Xuesen Laboratory for Space Technology, to form the Remote Sensing Satellite General Department. 

The activity suggests China’s aerospace industry could undergo further reform in the near future. China is currently developing a national 14th Five Year Plan to cover the period 2021-2025. This could potentially bring a range of changes to optimise and reorganize the space industry.

The Link Lonk

August 31, 2020 at 08:40PM

China makes progress on spaceport project for sea launches - SpaceNews

Saudi-led coalition says it foiled rebel attacks by air, sea - WBNG-TV

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — The Saudi-led coalition allied with Yemen’s government says it foiled two attacks launched by Iran-backed Houthi rebels, including an explosives-laden boat dispatched into the Red Sea near international shipping lanes. The coalition says the remotely controlled boat was spotted late Sunday. It described the attempted boat attack as a “terrorist attack” that threatens commercial shipping routes in the vital Bab al-Mandeb strait. Yemeni officials say the explosion killed at least three people and wounded five others, and that it damaged five coalition vessels. The coalition says it also intercepted and destroyed a drone carrying explosives over the Abha international airport in southwestern Saudi Arabia on Sunday.

The Link Lonk

August 31, 2020 at 04:25PM

Saudi-led coalition says it foiled rebel attacks by air, sea - WBNG-TV

Minggu, 30 Agustus 2020

Disturbance in Caribbean Sea expected to strengthen into tropical depression - Tampa Bay Times

A tropical wave moving west through the eastern Caribbean Sea is expected to strengthen into a tropical depression in the coming days, the National Hurricane Center announced in a special advisory Sunday.

The wave is one of a quartet of storms that are brewing in the Atlantic, but, because of its location and organization, it poses the greatest imminent threat to land in North and Central America. Currently named Disturbance 1, it was given a 80 percent chance of developing into a named storm in the next five days by the Hurricane Center.

“Showers and thunderstorms associated with a tropical wave over the eastern Caribbean Sea are beginning to show signs of organization,” the center wrote at 12:10 p.m. Sunday. “Recent satellite-derived surface winds also indicated that a broad low-pressure system has formed in association with the wave.”

Disturbance 1 was carrying a disorganized cluster of showers and thunderstorms on Sunday afternoon while it moved west at 15 to 20 mph, according to the Hurricane Center.

Disturbance 1, in the eastern Caribbean Sea, is expected to strengthen into a tropical depression at the beginning of next week. [ National Hurricane Center ]

There is another disturbance with a high chance of formation as of Sunday afternoon — a low-pressure area off the eastern seaboard, near northeast Florida. The Hurricane Center gave the disturbance a 70 percent chance of becoming a tropical cyclone by the end of next week.

The system isn’t expected to pose a threat to Florida, however, according to the Hurricane Center. It most likely will move parallel with the eastern United States while developing, then veer into the open Atlantic Ocean next week.

The Hurricane Center said Sunday that it is also monitoring two other tropical waves — Disturbance 2 and Disturbance 4 — that have a low chance of formation in the next five days. Both are slow-moving systems in the eastern Atlantic, near the coast of Africa and the Cabo Verde Islands. Their chance of development over the next five days is less than 30 percent.

Disturbance 2 and Disturbance 4, off the coast of Africa, both still have less than a 30 percent chance of formation in the next five days. [ National Hurricane Center ]

If all four storms are to grow strong enough to be declared tropical storms or hurricanes, they would be named Nana, Omar, Paulette and Rene.

Together with researchers at Colorado State University, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted an “extremely active” hurricane season in the Atlantic this year that would see 11 named storms between June 1 and Nov. 30. This season has already had 13 named storms and is threatening more — all before Sept. 10, which is recognized by scientists as being the climatological peak of the storm season.

• • •

2020 Tampa Bay Times Hurricane Guide

HURRICANE SEASON IS HERE: Get ready and stay informed at

PREPARE FOR COVID-19 AND THE STORM: The CDC’s tips for this pandemic-hurricane season

PREPARE YOUR STUFF: Get your documents and your data ready for a storm

BUILD YOUR KIT: The stuff you’ll need to stay safe — and comfortable — for the storm

PROTECT YOUR PETS: Your pets can’t get ready for a storm. That’s your job

NEED TO KNOW: Click here to find your evacuation zone and shelter

Lessons from Hurricane Michael

What the Panhandle’s top emergency officials learned from Michael

‘We’re not going to give up.’ What a school superintendent learned from Michael

What Tampa Bay school leaders fear most from a storm

Tampa Bay’s top cops fear for those who stay behind

The Link Lonk

August 30, 2020 at 12:32PM

Disturbance in Caribbean Sea expected to strengthen into tropical depression - Tampa Bay Times

South China Sea: how the US can head off an ugly showdown with China - South China Morning Post
[unable to retrieve full-text content]South China Sea: how the US can head off an ugly showdown with China  South China Morning Post The Link Lonk

August 31, 2020 at 05:15AM

South China Sea: how the US can head off an ugly showdown with China - South China Morning Post

That U.S. Air Force B-52 Flying Over The Black Sea Was Bait For The Russians - Forbes

On Aug. 28, six U.S. Air Force B-52 bombers from Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota flew over all 30 NATO countries in a single day.

Yes, even Canada.

This theatrical display of air power wasn’t just for show. It apparently also was the bait in a carefully-planned intelligence-gathering operation targeting Russian air-defenses around the Black Sea.

The Air Force on Aug. 22 flew six B-52s from Minot to the Royal Air Force base at Fairford. The bombers flew over the Arctic—where the Russian navy recently staged a mock amphibious landing—around the same time as a rarely-seen U.S. Navy submarine, USS Seawolf, also passed under the North Pole ice.

Six days later four of the bombers at Fairford, plus two still in the United States, took off in the morning and fanned out across Canada and Europe before returning to base in the afternoon.

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They flew higher than 20,000 feet at top speeds exceeding 400 miles per hour.

Of the United Kingdom-based B-52s, one flew over NATO’s Nordic members. Another headed across the Baltic region. A third flew west to cross over Portugal and Spain. A dizzying array of alliance fighters—British Typhoons, French Mirage 2000s, Belgian F-16s, Czech Gripens, Romanian and Croatian MiG-21s, Bulgarian MiG-29s, Italian F-35s—joined up with the bombers.

The fourth B-52, call-sign “NATO01,” had the most interesting flight path. NATO01, a B-52H built in 1961, headed for the Black Sea, which since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2014 steadily has become more dangerous. Russian warships and fighters crisscross the sea. Russian air-defense systems ring it.

Understanding those Russian defenses is top job of NATO intelligence. Which apparently is why, when NATO01 flew through international air space over the Black Sea, two U.S. Air Force RC-135V/W Rivet Joints were nearby.

The four-engine RC-135V/Ws are electronic-intelligence systems. Using sensitive receivers, they listen for, and help to catalogue, enemy radars and other sensors. The U.S. Air Force has just 17 RC-135V/Ws. Committing two of them to a single mission ... is a big deal.

Russian forces went on alert as NATO01 passed through. Two armed Su-27 fighters flew so close to the B-52 that their afterburners rocked the eight-engine bomber.

“Actions like these increase the potential for midair collisions, are unnecessary and inconsistent with good airmanship and international flight rules,” said Gen. Jeff Harrigian, U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa commander.

But the same Russian response—not only fighter-intercepts but sea- and ground-base air-defense efforts—likely handed the RC-135V/Ws lots of interesting data.

The Link Lonk

August 30, 2020 at 07:00PM

That U.S. Air Force B-52 Flying Over The Black Sea Was Bait For The Russians - Forbes

Hundreds of migrants stranded in Mediterranean Sea - Vatican News

By Stefan J. Bos

Many were rescued within 48 hours in international waters near Libya in recent days. They include nearly 100 passengers in an overcrowded and unseaworthy dinghy.

"We need you to calm down, we need you to calm down," said a rescue worker as he tried to approach the people in the small rubber boat. "Otherwise, we can't help, calm down."

More than a dozen frightened women and dozens of men and children were taken from the dingy. They later received medical care on board. Among those rescued are also unaccompanied minors.  

Yet they are among the lucky ones. The United Nations estimates that at least 443 people have died or gone missing attempting to cross the Mediterranean from North Africa to Europe this year alone.

The Sea Watch group says its ship also rescued migrants from other vessels, including 27 people more than three long weeks ago.

Rescue efforts

Their rescue operations began after another boat carrying dozens of migrants bound for Europe capsized near Libya. They also received migrants from a smaller privately funded rescue boat, the Louise Michel.

Sea-Watch said it was waiting for a port off Malta. Disembarking rescued migrants in Italy has become particularly politically sensitive during the pandemic. Last week, the governor of Sicily closed all migrant centers on the Italian island, saying they had become too crowded to guarantee social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic.

Some rescued migrants in Italy have also tested positive for COVID-19, though it remains unclear how many were hospitalized. On Thursday, an administrative court in Sicily ruled that the governor's order be stayed for now, pending an outcome of an expected challenge by Italy's central government.

But even if migrants finally make it into the European Union, their future remains uncertain.

Despite the uncertainty, many migrants continue to risk their lives to cross the Mediterranean, searching for what they believe will be a better life than the hardship faced home.  

The Link Lonk

August 30, 2020 at 01:41PM

Hundreds of migrants stranded in Mediterranean Sea - Vatican News

A Banksy-Funded Humanitarian Ship Saves 130 Migrants—But Now Sits Stranded In The Mediterranean Sea - Forbes


A rescue ship, funded by enigmatic British street artist Banksy—who had been impressed by the ship’s ‘badass” captain—is stranded in the Mediterranean Sea after rescuing 130 migrants from a sinking vessel off the coast of Libya.


The Louise Michel rescued 130 people from an overcrowded dinghy that was taking on water and in danger of sinking on Friday after responding to a distress call from the Moonbird, an aircraft that monitors migrants’ boats in danger in the central Mediterranean.

The crew had already rescued 89 refugees on Thursday, including 14 women and four children—but hadn’t yet found a safe port for them to disembark.

The Louise Michel, a former French navy ship with a ten person crew financed and decorated by Banksy, has a capacity of 120 people.

The 130 passengers were left alone in the Malta search and rescue zone, according to the crew of the Louise Michel, and as of early Saturday there had been no response to calls for help from Malta, Italy or Germany, despite constant pleas for help.

After over 12 hours stranded at sea, an Italian Coast Guard ship arrived Saturday afternoon and evacuated 49 of the most vulnerable passengers, though the ship was still overcrowded and unable to move.

Another rescue vessel, the Mare Jonio, said Saturday it was leaving the port of Sicily 48 hours ahead of schedule to aid the Louise Michel.

Key background

Banksy’s humanitarian ship left port from Burriana, Spain on August 18 and has since been patrolling the Mediterranean for refugees in distress. His history with the Louise Michel’s rescue mission goes back to September 2019, when he sent an email to former rescue vessel captain Pia Klemp. “Hello Pia, I’ve read about your story in the papers. You sound like a badass,” he wrote, according to The Guardian, “I am an artist from the UK and I’ve made some work about the migrant crisis, obviously I can’t keep the money. Could you use it to buy a new boat or something? Please let me know. Well done. Banksy.” Klemp said the goal of the Louise Michel, which is smaller and faster than most humanitarian ships, is to “outrun the Libyan coast guard before they get to boats with refugees and migrants and pull them back to the detention camps in Libya.” International organizations have accused the Libyan coastguard of mistreating refugees at sea and even selling them off to militias at Libyan harbors. The United Nations Refugee Agency called Saturday for the immediate disembarkation of the Louise Michel, along with three other ships carrying refugees bound for Europe, and for EU Member States to provide more support to countries at the forefront of receiving sea arrivals of refugees in the Mediterranean. 

Crucial Quote

In an instagram post introducing the Louise Michel, Banksy said, “Like most people who make it in the art world, I bought a yacht to cruise the Med. It’s a French Navy vessel we converted into a lifeboat because the EU. authorities deliberately ignore distress calls from non-Europeans. All Black lives matter.”

Surprising Fact

Banksy’s ship is named after French anarchist, revolutionary and teacher Louise Michel, one of the leading figures of socialist and feminist thought in late 1800’s France. She worked with the ambulance service during the German siege of Paris and helped the National Guard defend the Paris Commune in 1871.

Further Reading

Banksy's migrant rescue boat says overloaded, stranded at sea (Reuters)

Banksy funds refugee rescue boat operating in Mediterranean (The Guardian)

Libya and its migrants confront new threats (Brookings Institute)

The Link Lonk

August 30, 2020 at 02:06AM

A Banksy-Funded Humanitarian Ship Saves 130 Migrants—But Now Sits Stranded In The Mediterranean Sea - Forbes

Sabtu, 29 Agustus 2020

Turtle hatchlings scramble across Outer Banks beach on journey to sea - FOX 10 News Phoenix

Flash Flood Watch

until SUN 11:00 PM MST, Northwest Deserts, Yavapai County Mountains, Northern Gila County, Yavapai County Valleys and Basins, Western Pima County Including Ajo/Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Tohono O'odham Nation including Sells, Upper Santa Cruz River and Altar Valleys including Nogales, Tucson Metro Area including Tucson/Green Valley/Marana/Vail, South Central Pinal County including Eloy/Picacho Peak State Park, Southeast Pinal County including Kearny/Mammoth/Oracle, Upper San Pedro River Valley including Sierra Vista/Benson, Galiuro and Pinaleno Mountains including Mount Graham, Chiricahua Mountains including Chiricahua National Monument, Dragoon/Mule/Huachuca and Santa Rita Mountains including Bisbee/Canelo Hills/Madera Canyon, Santa Catalina and Rincon Mountains including Mount Lemmon/Summerhaven, Baboquivari Mountains including Kitt Peak, Central La Paz, Aguila Valley, Northwest Valley, Tonopah Desert, Gila Bend, Buckeye/Avondale, Cave Creek/New River, Deer Valley, Central Phoenix, North Phoenix/Glendale, New River Mesa, Scottsdale/Paradise Valley, Rio Verde/Salt River, East Valley, Fountain Hills/East Mesa, South Mountain/Ahwatukee, Southeast Valley/Queen Creek, Superior, Northwest Pinal County, West Pinal County, Apache Junction/Gold Canyon, Tonto Basin, Mazatzal Mountains, Pinal/Superstition Mountains, Sonoran Desert Natl Monument, San Carlos, Dripping Springs, Globe/Miami, Southeast Gila County

The Link Lonk

August 28, 2020 at 06:13PM

Turtle hatchlings scramble across Outer Banks beach on journey to sea - FOX 10 News Phoenix

China test fires so-called 'carrier killer' missiles into South China Sea - - WISC-TV3
China DF-21D missiles
Military vehicles carrying DF-21D missiles are displayed in a military parade at Tiananmen Square in Beijing on September 3, 2015.

China launched a series of ballistic missiles into the South China Sea this week, according to United States defense officials, part of a flurry of military exercises extending thousands of miles along the country’s coastline, as tensions with Washington over the disputed waterway continue to escalate.

Beijing claims almost all of the vast South China Sea as its sovereign territory and has stepped-up efforts to assert its dominance over the resource-rich waters in recent years, transforming a string of obscure reefs and atolls into heavily fortified man-made islands and increasing its naval activity in the region.

China’s territorial ambitions are contested by at least five other countries, and have been rejected outright by Washington which has declared Beijing’s claims to be illegal under international law.

A US defense official told CNN that the Chinese military launched four medium-range missiles from mainland China on Wednesday. The missiles impacted in the northern reaches of the South China Sea between Hainan Island and the Paracel Islands, known as the Xisha Islands in China, the official said.

In a statement Thursday, the Pentagon described the drills as the latest in a long string of Chinese actions intended to “assert unlawful maritime claims” that disadvantage neighboring countries. The comments follow the announcement Wednesday that the US government will impose sanctions on dozens of Chinese companies for assisting Beijing in the development and militarization of artificial islands in the South China Sea.

‘Neither confirm nor deny’

Senior Col. Wu Qian, a spokesman for the Chinese Ministry of National Defense, said on Thursday that China had carried out drills in waters and airspace between Qingdao in northeastern China and the disputed Spratly islands — known as Nansha in China — in the South China Sea, but did not mention the missiles outright.

According to Wu, the drills “did not target any country.”

Though China’s Defense Ministry has not confirmed the missile tests, China’s government controlled media made several detailed references to the launches, citing reports in overseas media.

Those reports said the missiles involved were DF-21D and DF-26 missiles, both of which have been touted in Chinese propaganda as highly accurate and able to hit ships moving at sea.

“China’s DF-26 and DF-21D are the world’s first ballistic missiles capable of targeting large and medium-sized vessels, earning them the title of ‘aircraft carrier killers,'” the state-run Global Times said on Thursday, citing military observers.

A separate editorial in the same outlet acknowledged speculation around the launch of the DF-21D and DF-26 missiles, saying only that the “Chinese side has neither confirmed nor denied it.”

The editorial added that China “must increase its actions in the waters accordingly to suppress US arrogance and reinforce the US understanding that China does not fear a war.”

Home to vital international shipping lanes, the South China Sea is widely deemed as a potential flashpoint for a military conflict between the US and China.

Wednesday’s tests come a month after two US aircraft carrier strike groups, led by the USS Nimitz and USS Ronald Reagan, completed combined exercises in the South China Sea for the first time in six years.

The US has increased its naval activity in the region in recent months, carrying out routine patrols, referred to as freedom of navigation operations. On Thursday a US guided-missile destroyer sailed near the Chinese-claimed Paracel Islands.

In a news conference call on Thursday, US Vice Adm. Scott Conn, commander of the US Navy’s Third Fleet, talked up the US naval presence in the region and its ability to respond to Chinese threats.

“In terms of launching of the ballistic missiles, the US Navy has 38 ships underway today in the Indo-Pacific region, including the South China Sea, and we continue to fly and sail and operate anywhere international law allows to demonstrate our commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific and reassure our allies and partners,” he said.

‘High level of sophistication’

China’s drills, while intended to send a message to adversaries, also offer a rare opportunity for observers to assess the country’s advanced military capabilities.

According to Carl Schuster, a retired US Navy captain and former director of operations at the US Pacific Command’s Joint Intelligence Center, Wednesday’s missile tests showed a high level of sophistication, owing to the involvement of two separate military branches, the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) and its Strategic Rocket Force (SRF).

“This missile shot indicates China has or is very close to establishing procedures for coordinated fleet-SRF anti-ship ballistic missile attacks,” he said. That echoes comments made in Chinese state media that Beijing had developed what it termed a “complete system,” using aircraft, satellites and ships at sea to monitor the movements of enemy vessels and relay information to the missiles so they can adjust their trajectories during their final attack phase.

Schuster also noted the missiles were fired into an area where Chinese naval vessels were likely operating, indicating a high degree of confidence in the accuracy of the missiles.

More maneuvers are expected in the days ahead. Beijing announced new exercises are set to begin in the Yellow Sea on Saturday and stretch through next Thursday.

Those follow at least four exercises that were underway on Tuesday, when Beijing says a US U-2 spy plane encroached on an exercise off its northern coast.

“The trespass severely affected China’s normal exercises and training activities, and violated the rules of behavior for air and maritime safety between China and the United States, as well as relevant international practices,” Wu, the Defense Ministry spokesperson, said.

A statement from US Pacific Air Forces to CNN confirmed a U-2 flight — but said it did not violate any rules.

“A U-2 sortie was conducted in the Indo-Pacific area of operations and within the accepted international rules and regulations governing aircraft flights. Pacific Air Forces personnel will continue to fly and operate anywhere international law allows, at the time and tempo of our choosing,” the statement said.

The Link Lonk

August 29, 2020 at 09:28PM

China test fires so-called 'carrier killer' missiles into South China Sea - - WISC-TV3

A toddler who drifted out to sea on a unicorn floaty was rescued by a passing ship - Insider - INSIDER
  • A 4-year-old girl was found floating on a unicorn floaty nearly a mile off the coast of Greece on Monday, according to local reports.
  • The child's parents had lost track of her for a second when she drifted off into the sea. 
  • The crew of a passing ferry rescued the toddler, pulling her aboard. 
  • Video of the rescue captured by passenger Petros Kritsonis went viral shortly after the event was posted to Facebook. 
  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

A 4-year-old toddler found herself floating nearly a mile off the coast of Greece on Monday, accompanied only by her unicorn floaty. 

The child had been pulled out to sea by a current when her parents looked away for only a second. 

Luckily, a crew of a passing ferry approximately 1600 feet off the Gulf of Corinth spotted the child and her inflatable companion as they drifted further and further away from the shore, reported the Greek City Times. 

Captain Grigoris Karnesis pulled carefully the child aboard as onlookers watched on in awe. 

"The little one was not cool, she was frozen from her fear, because the current was very strong," Karnesis told the Greek City Times. "I put the ship in such a position so as not to affect the small buoy, I placed it in such a way that the ship was not affected by ripples, because if the buoy sank we would have serious problems. We approached it slowly and we were able to rescue the child."

The rescue was captured on video by passenger Petros Kritsonis and went viral soon after he posted it to Facebook.  The toddler was reunited with her parents shortly after being rescued. 

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This one-wheeled stroller is a fun ride for kids

The Link Lonk

August 27, 2020 at 02:00PM

A toddler who drifted out to sea on a unicorn floaty was rescued by a passing ship - Insider - INSIDER

Banksy's migrant rescue boat stranded at sea with more than 200 on board - Reuters

ROME (Reuters) - A rescue boat funded by British street artist Banksy has issued urgent calls for help, saying it is stranded in the Mediterranean and overloaded with migrants who it has been unable to bring ashore.

Migrants are seen on the Louise Michel ship operating in the Mediterranean sea and financed by British street artist Banksy, on August 29, 2020. MV Louise Michel/Handout via REUTERS

The Louise Michel, named after a French feminist anarchist, started operating last week. It is trying to find a safe port for the 219 migrants it has picked up off the coast of Libya since Thursday.

The boat, manned by a crew of 10, issued a series of tweets overnight and on Saturday saying its situation was worsening, and appealing in vain for help from authorities in Italy, Malta and Germany.

“We are reaching a state of emergency. We need immediate assistance,” said one tweet, adding that it was also carrying a body bag containing the corpse of one migrant who had died.

Another said the boat was unable to move and “no longer the master of her own destiny” due to her overcrowded deck and a life raft deployed at her side, “but above all due to Europe ignoring our emergency calls for immediate assistance.”

An Italian charity ship, the Mare Jonio, said it was leaving the Sicilian port of Augusta to go to assist the Louise Michel.

“Helping these people is a question of life or death,” it said, condemning the inertia of the Italian and Maltese coastguards.

Two United Nations agencies called for the “urgent disembarkation” of the Louise Michel and two other ships carrying a total of more than 400 migrants in the Mediterranean.

Some 200 are on the Sea Watch 4, a German charity ship, while 27 have been on board the commercial tanker Maersk Etienne since their rescue on Aug. 5.

The International Organisation for Migration and the UN High Commission for Refugees said in a joint statement they were “deeply concerned about the continued absence of dedicated EU-led search and rescue capacity in the Central Mediterranean”.

“The humanitarian imperative of saving lives should not be penalized or stigmatized, especially in the absence of dedicated state-led efforts,” they said.

Italy is the destination of most migrants who have departed from Libya across the Mediterranean in recent years. The influx has created political tensions in Rome and fuelled the success of Matteo Salvini’s right-wing League party.

The 30-metre long Louise Michel, a former French Navy boat daubed in pink and white, was bought with proceeds from the sale of Banksy artwork.

The side of the vessel’s cabin features a picture of a girl holding a heart-shaped life buoy in Banksy’s familiar stencilled style.

The Bristol-born artist, who keeps his identity a secret, is known for his political or social-commentary graffiti that has popped up in cities around the world.

additional reporting by Angelo Amante and Stephanie Ulmer-Nebehay; editing by John Stonestreet and Clelia Oziel

The Link Lonk

August 29, 2020 at 04:49PM

Banksy's migrant rescue boat stranded at sea with more than 200 on board - Reuters

Jumat, 28 Agustus 2020

US investigates 'unprofessional interactions' after Russian military confronts Bering Sea fishermen - Alaska Public Media News
A Russian vessel participating in military exercises on the Bering Sea steams past the pollock trawler Vesteraalen on Wednesday. (Courtesy Steve Elliott)

Steve Elliott’s trawler, the Vesteraalen, was fishing for Bering Sea pollock Wednesday afternoon when he and his crew started hearing voices speaking Russian on their ship’s radio — an unusual development, given that they were 80 miles from the U.S.-Russian maritime boundary.

Soon after, though, the voices switched to English, with a stern message to Elliott’s boat, and the dozen others all fishing within a few miles: Move.

“Three warships and two support vessels of theirs were coming and would not turn,” Elliott said, in an interview over the Vesteraalen’s satellite phone. “And they came marching right through the fleet.”

Other vessels reported being buzzed by Russian aircraft and ordered out of the area on a specific heading. And the incident has now drawn the attention of both of Alaska’s U.S. senators and an investigation by three federal agencies into what they’re calling “unprofessional interactions” by the Russian military.

The altercation interrupted fishing for several boats, and some industry players say they’re worried about continuing impacts of exercises that, according to a federal notice, could run into September. This year’s summer pollock season has already been challenging, with slower fishing and added precautions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and vessels only have until Nov. 1 to catch their limit.

A map of the close encounter between American fishing boats and Russian military vessels on the Bering Sea on Wednesday, August 26, 2020. (Valerie Kern/Alaska Public Media

“We were caught by surprise,” said Stephanie Madsen, executive director of the At-Sea Processors Association, a trade group of 13 large vessels that catch Bering Sea pollock and process it in onboard factories. “It caused a disruption in our fishing operations for at least the 24- to 36-hour period where we were trying to get the facts about what was happening. And then it’s unclear what impacts could continue through the time that the Russians have given us notice the exercises will be underway.”

Elliott said that in three decades of fishing, he’s never seen anything like what he experienced Wednesday. But experts say this is unlikely to be the last encounter between Russian and American vessels in the Bering Sea, as the warming Arctic becomes an area of increasing military and economic focus for global powers.

“Welcome to the future,” said Heather Conley, an Arctic expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “Unfortunately, I think we’re going to see more of this type of exercising and significant military presence in the Arctic — we just haven’t seen it for a long time.”

The pollock trawlers were operating within the U.S. “exclusive economic zone” — an area that reserves fishing rights for American boats but doesn’t block international vessels from entering or operating, said Kip Wadlow, a Juneau-based U.S. Coast Guard Spokesman.

While the Coast Guard called the exercises “pre-planned” and said that a notice about them was published earlier this month, fishing industry representatives argued that it was useless to them, because it was issued through a system they don’t regularly monitor.

In interviews, Bering Sea fishermen and executives described a chaotic and unsettling run-in with the military assets, which the Russian government now describes as part of “massive drills” happening for the first time ever in the region, with missiles, submarines and dozens of warships and planes.

The Blue North, which was fishing for cod to the northeast of the trawl fleet, was buzzed six times by a Russian aircraft that, by radio, ordered the ship out of the area on a specific course at “maximum speed,” according to Mike Fitzgerald, a crew member.

“I won’t say we were fearful, because we’re Bering Sea fishermen. But this goes beyond anything when you really know what happened,” Fitzgerald said. “We had Russian military aircraft threatening us: ‘Danger area. Missile area. Proceed out of here.’ That’s unheard of, and it’s really wrong that we haven’t gotten more protection out here.”

Fitzgerald also provided a photo, sent by another fishing vessel, that appeared to show a Russian submarine surfaced close to the shore of St. Matthew Island, which is part of the United States.

Republican U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan said in a prepared statement that the exercises are a “stark reminder of why we need a strong U.S. military presence in the Arctic.”

This photo appears to show a Russian submarine surfaced not far from the shore of U.S.-owned St. Matthew Island, in the Bering Sea. (Courtesy Mike Fitzgerald)

“In recent months, Russian provocation has only increased. Our commercial fishing fleet encountered a frightening situation, with huge safety implications,” the statement quoted Sullivan as saying. “Clearly, there was a communications breakdown among our military agencies, and we are working to get to the bottom of it – so that this type of incident, which caught our fishermen off guard, does not happen again.”

Republican U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski also released a statement saying she’d been briefed by Coast Guard and NORAD officials in an effort to understand what happened, and to ensure that maritime interactions are conducted “lawfully, peacefully and with due regard for the safety of those at sea.”

On Thursday, military officials said only that they were monitoring the situation, and that the Russian military exercises were taking place in international waters “well outside the U.S. territorial sea.”

But on Friday, the Trump administration released a sharper statement, saying that the three federal agencies are investigating reports of “unprofessional interactions by Russian military forces with U.S. fishing vessels in the Bering Sea.”

“Initial indications are that these interactions stem from a Russian naval exercise,” said Larry Pixa, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of State, which is working with the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Coast Guard.

Crew members on the fishing vessel Commodore empty a trawl net of pollock during a trip on the Bering Sea last year. (Nat Herz/Alaska’s Energy Desk)

Experts say that the incident comes as the U.S. — not just Russia — has also become more assertive in the Arctic. Conley said there’s been increasing American naval and air activity in the Barents Sea, near Norway, and that the two nations are “signaling to one another” about the strategic and military importance of the Arctic.

The fishing boats’ experience in the Bering Sea highlights the need for enhanced systems of communication as the Arctic becomes more crowded, and it should serve as a learning experience, said Mike Sfraga, director of the Wilson Center’s Polar Institute and a former vice chancellor at University of Alaska Fairbanks.

The Russian military wasn’t operating outside “international norms” in conducting its Bering Sea drills, and neither were the American fishermen, Sfraga said. But though it appears that certain parts of the U.S. government were made aware of the exercises in advance, that message didn’t get passed along to the pollock fleet, he added.

“This is what most of us worry about,” he said. “It seems to beckon for a higher, government-to-government level discussion about how we engage in the future, because this will not be the last time.”

National Public Radio diplomatic correspondent Michele Kelemen contributed reporting from Washington, D.C.

The Link Lonk

August 29, 2020 at 08:00AM

US investigates 'unprofessional interactions' after Russian military confronts Bering Sea fishermen - Alaska Public Media News