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Madagascar commissioning enhances African SAR coverage

Sub-centre, at Antananarivo, Madagascar for SAR coordination purposes A further key link in the plan to provide effective search and rescue (SAR) coverage off the coast of Africa has been established, with the commissioning of a search and rescue sub-centre that will operate in conjunction with the regional Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) in Cape Town, South Africa.The sub-centre, at Antananarivo, Madagascar, was commissioned on 11 December 2011 by IMO Secretary-General Efthimios E. Mitropoulos, together with Madagascar's Minister for Transports, Benjamina Ramarcel Ramantsoa and Mr. Jérôme Sambalis Director General of the Agence Portuaire, Maritime et Fluviale (APMF).The inauguration of the new facility, which will operate as a joint maritime and aeronautical centre, marks an important step in a process that began at a conference on Search and Rescue and the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System, convened by IMO in Florence, Italy, in October 2000. African Governments represented at the Conference agreed on a regional approach to the provision of SAR services in western, southern and eastern parts of the continent as well as in island States around Africa.To that effect, they adopted a resolution inviting the African countries bordering the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, as well as the nearby ...

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Undersea mountains march into the abyss

Destruction of massive underwater mountains Startling new images from the depths of the Pacific Ocean reveal one of Earth's most violent processes: the destruction of massive underwater mountains.The pictures were created by sonar in waters up to 6km (4mi) deep.They expose how tectonic action is dragging giant volcanoes into a chasm in the seabed.The volcanoes are strung across several thousand kilometres of ocean floor and are moving westward on the Pacific tectonic plate at up to 6cm per year.The extraordinary scene was captured along the Tonga Trench during a research expedition last summer.The trench is a highly active fault line running north from New Zealand towards Tonga and Samoa.The first images have been released to BBC News as the findings are presented to the annual conference of the American Geophysical Union.They are the result of a joint project by the universities of Oxford and Durham, funded by the Natural Environment Research Council.Into the abyss Where the Pacific plate collides with the Indo-Australian plate, it is forced downwards into the trench, a subduction zone, and the volcanoes are carried with it.The trench, reaching a depth of 10.9km, forms the second deepest stretch of seabed anywhere in the world - easily large ...

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New insight into climate change in the Pacific

The past decade has been the warmest and ocean acidity levels continue to increase New research providing critical information about how climate change is affecting Australia's Pacific island neighbours and East Timor has been released by the Australian Government's Pacific Climate Change Science Program (PCCSP).The landmark, peer-reviewed publication, Climate Change in the Pacific: Scientific Assessment and New Research, presents the most comprehensive scientific analysis to date of climate change in the Pacific region.Co-editor of the report, the Bureau of Meteorology's Dr Scott Power, said the findings would be presented at an event during the 2011 United Nations Climate Change Conference being held from next week in Durban, South Africa."The research provides clear evidence of how the climate has changed across this region. For example, the past decade has been the warmest on record and ocean acidity levels are continuing to increase in response to rising atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations," Dr Power said.According to co-editor, CSIRO's Kevin Hennessy, the research indicates future decreases in droughts in most parts of the Pacific and decreases in the frequency of tropical cyclones by the end of the century."We also expect widespread increases in extreme rainfall events, large increases in the incidence of hot days ...

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Northern sea route cargo shipments on the rise

It is expected to reach 3 million tons - record volume since the late 1980's This year the cargo transportation of the Northern Sea Route (NSR), a shipping lane from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean along the Russian Arctic coast, is expected to reach 3 million tons, which is a record volume since the late 1980's, Andrei Smirnov, an official with the parent navigation company Rosatomflot said.In the late 1980's the cargo transportation volume on NSR amounted to 7 million tons. However, in the 1990's it declined almost five times down to 1.5 billion tons. Later the growth resumed and in 2010 the volume of cargo transportation reached 2.3 billion tons. The leap is explained by a number of factors, Smirnov says."Though the Northern sea route was open for foreign ships navigation 20 years ago, only in 2009 foreign ship-owners got interested in this route. Three foreign ships used the route and last year transit along the route already reached 100,000 tons. This year a Russian icebreaker has convoyed the Affinity tanker. It is likely that two-three more ships will sail the NSR this year. Many foreign shipping companies are interested in the transportation of cargos to Asia ...

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Lawyers prepare for Pacific seabed mining

New legislation within three years to protect Pacific marine environments Legal experts hope to have new legislation in place within three years to protect Pacific marine environments from possible damage caused by new deep sea mining projects.Deep seabed minerals have the potential to be a major economic resource for countries across the Pacific but there is concern about the lack of laws governing the practice.The world's first seabed mining project in waters off Papua New Guinea is expected to begin in 2013. And Tonga and Nauru have sought exploration licenses in international waters in the east Pacific through their sponsorship of companies Tonga Offshore Mining Limited and Nauru Offshore Resources Inc.Hannah Lily, a lawyer for the Secretariat of the Pacific Community's Deep Sea Minerals Project, is working with 15 Pacific nations to establish the regional framework before mining begins.Ms Lily told Pacific Beat a regional standard would be developed that every country could agree to."Once we've developed some regional standards that we think we can apply, which will be quite high level, they're going to need to be implemented in quite different ways in each of the countries.""That's why I'm really looking forward to working with the government and legal ...

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Rising carbon dioxide levels not tied to Pacific Ocean

Deep ocean was not an important source of carbon during glacial times After the last ice age peaked about 18,000 years ago, levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide rose about 30 percent. Scientists believe that the additional carbon dioxide -- a heat-trapping greenhouse gas -- played a key role in warming the planet and melting the continental ice sheets. They have long hypothesized that the source of the gas was the deep ocean.But a new study by a University of Michigan paleoclimatologist and two colleagues suggests that the deep ocean was not an important source of carbon during glacial times. The finding will force researchers to reassess their ideas about the fundamental mechanisms that regulate atmospheric carbon dioxide over long time scales."We're going back to the drawing board. It's certainly fair to say that we need to have some other working hypotheses at this point," said U-M paleoclimatologist David Lund, lead author of a paper in the journal Nature Geoscience."If we can improve our understanding of the carbon cycle in the past, we will be better positioned moving forward as CO2 levels rise due to anthropogenic causes," said Lund, an assistant professor in the U-M Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences. ...

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Nitrate pollution in Pacific Ocean

Rising nitrate levels in the northwest Pacific Ocean can influence marine ecology Rising nitrate levels in the northwest Pacific Ocean could alter the makeup of marine plants and influence marine ecology, U.S. and Korean researchers say.Atmospheric and riverine pollution off the coasts of Korea and Japan that is changing the ratio of nitrate to phosphorus has researchers saying they're concerned about ecological effects."Normally in a marine environment nitrate is the limiting factor, but increased nitrate in the ocean can spur growth and create a situation where phosphorus becomes the nutrient in short supply," Raymond G. Najjar, Penn State professor of oceanography, said."This change in nutrients could favor organisms that are better suited for high nitrate and low phosphorus."The effects of man-made nitrate pollution have been shown to be significant in local lakes, streams and estuaries in Norway, Sweden and the United States, researchers said, but this is the first study of such effects in open ocean waters."This is the first evidence of increases in nitrate in ocean waters, not in an enclosed estuary like the Chesapeake Bay," Najjar said. "These are large, very deep bodies of water and it is surprising to see increased nitrate in these large seas."A significant ...

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Hurricane Hilary Forms In The Pacific

Strengthened into a small, but powerful Category 4 storm in the pacific Forecasters say Hurricane Hilary has strengthened into a small, but powerful Category 4 storm in the Pacific.Hilary's maximum sustained winds were near 135 mph (217 kph) Thursday. The hurricane is not forecast to make landfall, though officials say it is expected to rake Mexico's coast with wind, rain and heavy surf.The U.S. National Hurricane Center says a tropical storm warning is in effect for Mexico's coast from Lagunas de Chacahua to Punta San Telmo. A tropical storm watch is in effect for west of Punta San Telmo to Manzanillo.Hilary is centered about 85 miles (137 kilometers) southwest of Acapulco, Mexico, and is moving west-northwest.In the Atlantic, Tropical Storm Ophelia is weakeningSource: Huffington Post

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Radioactive cesium from Fukushima on tour of Pacific Ocean

It will wash up on Japan's shores again in between 20 and 30 years Scientists from the government's Meteorological Research Institute and the Central Research Institute of the Electric Power Industry announced their findings at a meeting of the Geochemical Society of Japan this week, adding that some of the cesium will also flow into the Indian Ocean and, eventually, reach the Atlantic.The scientists estimated that some 3,500 terabecquerels of cesium-137 was released into the sea directly from the plant between March 11, when the earthquake and tsunami struck, and the end of May. Another 10,000 terabecquerels of cesium fell into the ocean after escaping from the reactors in the form of steam.One terabecquerel is a trillion becquerels, the standard measure of radiation, and the Japanese government has set the permissible level of iodine-131 for vegetables and fish at 2,000 becquerels per kilogram (2.2lbs).Cesium is considered a more serious threat, however, because of its relatively long half-life. Cesium has a half-life of around 30 years, can accumulate in muscles and is a known cause of cancer.The researchers believe that the cesium has initially dispersed into the Pacific from the coast of Fukushima Prefecture but will be taken to the southwest ...

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Economists say sea level rise would be costly

A recent study hows a surge in the Pacific Ocean because of climate change Economists predict erosion from rising sea levels could cost California hundreds of millions of dollars in lost tourism and tax revenues as beaches shrink and buildings would have to be protected, according to a new report.A study by San Francisco State University released Tuesday shows a surge in the Pacific Ocean because of climate change, and accompanying storms and erosion, would batter California's shoreline, diminishing the appeal of coastal areas and threatening structures with flood damage.The eroding beaches will also destroy scores of animal habitats, the report finds."More than 80 percent of Californians live in coastal communities, and California's beaches support local economies and critical natural species," said Philip King, the study's author and an economics professor at San Francisco State.The study commissioned by the California Department of Boating and Waterways examined sea level projections at five beach communities.As the authors note, coastal storms and beach erosion are a common event that have already shaped the geography of coastal environments. Yet, because sea levels are projected to rise and storms are expected to be more intense due to a warming planet, the effects over the next ...

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