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Significant Red Tide In 2010

Seed Population on Seafloor Points to a large ‘Red Tide’; Impacts will Depend on Ocean Conditions and Weather

Scientists from the NOAA-funded Gulf of Maine Toxicity project issued an outlook for a significant regional bloom of a toxic alga that causes ‘red tides’ in the spring and summer of this year, potentially threatening the New England shellfish industry.

The outlook is based on a seafloor survey of the seed-like cysts of Alexandrium fundyense, an organism that causes harmful algal blooms, sometimes referred to as ‘red tides’. Cysts deposited in the fall hatch the following spring; last fall the abundance of cysts in the sediment was 60 percent higher than observed prior to the historic bloom of 2005, indicating that a large bloom is likely in the spring of 2010.

The cyst bed also appears to have expanded to the south, so the 2010 bloom may affect areas such as Massachusetts Bay and Georges Bank sooner than has been the case in past years.

Although the algae in the water pose no direct threat to human beings, toxins produced by Alexandrium can accumulate in filter-feeding organisms such as mussels and clams, which can cause paralytic shellfish poisoning in humans who consume them. In order to protect public health, shellfish beds are monitored by state agencies and closed when toxin concentrations rise above a quarantine level. There have been no illnesses from legally harvested shellfish in recent years despite some severe blooms.

Scientists are reluctant to make a “forecast” of precisely where and when the bloom will make landfall because bloom transport depends on weather events that cannot be predicted months in advance.

“Our research has shown that cyst abundance in the fall is an indicator of the magnitude of the bloom in the following year,” said Dennis McGillicuddy, a senior scientist with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and member of the Gulf of Maine Toxicity project, or GOMTOX. “Even if there is a large bloom offshore, certain wind patterns and ocean currents in the late spring and summer are needed to transport it onshore where it can affect coastal shellfish.”

This year’s bloom could be similar to the major blooms of 2005 and 2008, according to Don Anderson, a biologist with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and principal investigator of the GOMTOX study. The 2005 bloom shut down shellfish beds from Maine to Martha’s Vineyard for several months and caused an estimated $20 million in losses to the Massachusetts shellfish industry alone.

Government agencies and researchers believe that the regional-scale, seasonal outlook can be useful in preparing for contingencies. “NOAA’s goal is to provide tools to prevent, control, or mitigate the occurrence of harmful algal blooms and their impacts,” said David M. Kennedy, acting assistant administrator for NOAA’s National Ocean Service. “This advanced warning, along with updates during the season, can help state agencies prepare for monitoring harmful algal blooms and assessing public health risks.”

Early warnings can give shellfish farmers and fishermen the opportunity to shift the timing of their harvest or postpone plans for expansion of aquaculture beds. Area restaurants may also benefit from advance warnings by making contingency plans for supplies of seafood during the summer.

GOMTOX researchers regularly share their field observations and models with more than 80 coastal resource and fisheries managers in six states as well as federal entities like NOAA, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration.

“’Red tide’ is a chronic problem in the Gulf of Maine and states have limited resources to handle it,” said Darcie Couture, director of Biotoxin Monitoring for the Maine Department of Marine Resources. “When we get this information about the potential severity of a bloom season and the dynamics of the bloom once the season has started, then it gives us an advantage in staging our resources during an otherwise overwhelming environmental and economic crisis.”

Ruoying He, associate professor at North Carolina State University and GOMTOX member, will present data and models on the projected bloom at the 2010 Ocean Sciences Meeting today in Portland, Ore.

The GOMTOX project, funded by NOAA’s ECOHAB Program, is a collaboration of investigators from NOAA, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, North Carolina State University, University of Maine, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, Rutgers University, the Food and Drug Administration, the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Maine Department of Marine Resources, Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries and the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services. Other support for Alexandrium studies in the Gulf of Maine is provided by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation (through the Woods Hole Center for Oceans and Human Health).

NOAA understands and predicts changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and conserves and manages our coastal and marine resources.

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Latest Earthquakes Shake The World

Magnitude 8.8 – OFFSHORE MAULE, CHILE
Magnitude 8.8
Date-Time Saturday, February 27, 2010 at 06:34:14 UTC
Saturday, February 27, 2010 at 03:34:14 AM at epicenter
Time of Earthquake in other Time Zones

Location 35.846°S, 72.719°W
Depth 35 km (21.7 miles) set by location program
Region OFFSHORE MAULE, CHILE
Distances 100 km (60 miles) NNW of Chillan, Chile

Summary: This earthquake occurred at the boundary between the Nazca and South American tectonic plates. The two plates are converging at a rate of 80 mm per year. The earthquake occurred as thrust-faulting on the interface between the two plates, with the Nazca plate moving down and landward below the South American plate.

Coastal Chile has a history of very large earthquakes. Since 1973, there have been 13 events of magnitude 7.0 or greater. The February 27 shock originated about 230 km north of the source region of the magnitude 9.5 earthquake of May, 1960 – the largest earthquake worldwide in the last 200 years or more. This giant earthquake spawned a tsunami that engulfed the Pacific Ocean. An estimated 1600 lives were lost to the 1960 earthquake and tsunami in Chile, and the 1960 tsunami took another 200 lives among Japan, Hawaii, and the Philippines. Approximately 870 km to the north of the February 27 earthquake is the source region of the magnitude 8.5 earthquake of November, 1922. This great quake significantly impacted central Chile, killing several hundred people and causing severe property damage. The 1922 quake generated a 9-meter local tsunami that inundated the Chile coast near the town of Coquimbo; the tsunami also crossed the Pacific, washing away boats in Hilo harbor, Hawaii. The magnitude 8.8 earthquake of February 27, 2010 ruptured the portion of the South American subduction zone separating these two massive historical earthquakes.

A large vigorous aftershock sequence can be expected from this earthquake.

Magnitude 7.0 – RYUKYU ISLANDS, JAPAN
Magnitude 7.0
Date-Time Friday, February 26, 2010 at 20:31:27 UTC
Saturday, February 27, 2010 at 05:31:27 AM at epicenter
Time of Earthquake in other Time Zones

Location 25.902°N, 128.417°E
Depth 22 km (13.7 miles) set by location program
Region RYUKYU ISLANDS, JAPAN
Distances 80 km (50 miles) ESE of Naha, Okinawa, Japan

Summary: The Ryukyu Islands earthquake of February 26, 2010, occurred near the boundary that accommodates most of the relative motion between the Philippine Sea and Eurasia tectonic plates. In the region of the earthquake, the Philippine Sea plate moves WNW with respect to the interior of the Eurasia plate, with a relative velocity of approximately 60 mm/yr. The Philippine Sea plate subducts beneath the Eurasia plate at the Ryukyu Trench and is seismically active to depths of about 250 km. The initial estimates of the earthquake’s epicenter, focal-depth, and focal-mechanism imply that the shock occurred as an intraplate event either within the subducting Philippine Sea Plate, or within the overlying Eurasia plate, rather than on the thrust-fault plate interface that separates the two, but preliminarily data do not clearly discriminate between these two possibilities.

The largest, instrumentally recorded, shallow-focus, earthquakes from the region of the central Ryukyu trench have had magnitudes in the 7.1 – 7.4 range.

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Raining Fish In Australia

Torrential rains caused it to rain fish from the sky in Australia. The bizarre phenomena happened twice in the same day.

When Christine Balmer saw “hundreds and hundreds” of fish falling from the sky, she could not believe it.

“It rained fish in Lajamanu on Thursday and Friday night,” she said, “They fell from the sky everywhere. Locals were picking them up off the footy oval and on the ground everywhere. These fish were alive when they hit the ground. I haven’t lost my marbles. Thank God it didn’t rain crocodiles.”

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