Gulf of Mexico

Keep up with news on BP's oil spill at The Daily Glob, courtesy SEJ

One of the cool fringe benefits of doing a lot of free labor for the Society of Environmental Journalists is that I get to hang out with folks who are doing some really cool stuff. Example: If you want to keep up with the latest on BP's Deepwater Horizon oil spill, check out SEJ's new newsfeed, The Daily Glob.




Keep Up With Gulf Spill News on SEJ's New Daily Glob The story of the tragic Gulf oil spill is getting bigger every day. Keeping up with hourly breaking news, and the spill's causes and consequences, can be overwhelming both to journalists and the general public. The Society of Environmental Journalists has launched a new tracking blog to help you follow the Gulf spill story: The Daily Glob — online at . The site links to an array of the best information sources about the spill and related topics — ranging from the Coast Guard's spill news page, to lists of university spill experts, to the Times-Picayune's spill news portal. It also collects on an hour-by-hour basis, links to the hottest breaking spill news stories from all kinds of media — offering one-stop shopping for all the top stories. The array of news tools will help reporters find and enrich stories. They include mapping tools, infographics, photo and video resources, background information, experts' phone numbers, Congressional hearings, and more. Take a look. — — Tell your colleagues. And check back often for more.

Obama finally admits what's been obvious for years: We can't clean up oil spills

Cold comfort for a nation that stands mouth agape at the mind-boggling catastrophe off our southern shore, but today President Obama finally admitted what we and others had been saying for years: America is wholly unprepared for a major oil spill. (And Puget Sound is particularly at risk. More on that in a moment.)

It's just a five-paragraph blurb on The New York Times' website, but in it our nation's highest-ranking civil servant says he made a mistake believing ''the oil companies had their act together when it came to worst case scenarios.'' He went on:

''I was wrong.''

D'ya think? But let's not go too hard on the commander-in-chief, given that every other level of government that's handled the so-called preparations for this massive spill got it wrong as well.

This incredibly dispiriting oil spill continues to leave me a little too slack-jawed to take it on in earnest as a blog topic. But it bears repeating that:

* Skimming oil is largely ineffective, capturing maybe 10 percent of the spilled oil -- if we're lucky.

* Boom is great and useful -- but you can't boom off the whole coast.

* There's a very basic assumption made across the country in planning for the worst-case oil spill: that equipment and workers can be "cascaded in" from other regions of the nation over a period of days to deal with the disaster. 

Post-Deepwater Horizon, it doesn't seem necessary to lay bare the fallacies in this last point.

Despite massive Gulf oil spill, offshore oil drilling starts soon in the Arctic Ocean

If you thought BP's massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill would give the oil companies some pause about offshore drilling, you were sadly mistaken. Armed with a just-issued appellate court ruling against environmentalists and Alaskan native tribes, Shell is pushing briskly ahead with plans to launch exploratory drilling off the north coast of Alaska in matter of weeks.

Yes, just as BP's Deepwater Horizon spill is revealed to be on course to outdo the nation's worst oil spill, Alaska's Exxon Valdez, another oil company wants to open up vast swaths off the the 49th state's coast for drilling. These are the same waters that produce the nation's largest fish catch.

Recall that, as we recounted not long ago, government auditors have established that the U.S. Minerals Management Service scientists were ordered to do a shoddy job analyzing environmental risks of this new drilling campaign in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas of the Arctic Ocean.

Recall also -- and we're having trouble understanding why this isn't coming up more right about now -- that it wasn't that long ago that Minerals Management Service officials literally were having sex and snorting cocaine with the oil-company execs their agency was supposed to be regulating. In a novel, this would not be believeable. But it happened.

So now that we've covered the institutional background behind this Alaskan oil-drilling adventure, let's consider it in light of the Gulf spill.  

Brown pelicans delisted -- now what?

Hey folks, this was supposed to post yesterday, goes.

I grew up playing in the water of the Gulf of Mexico, where I watched brown pelicans dive for mullet -- the same mullet my grampa and I liked to catch.  We had our cast nets fringed with weights.  The pelicans had their mighty beaks and amazing expanding throats.  Game on.

But it wasn't my grampa's mullet-catching prowess that nearly did the brown pelican in.  No, it was DDT, a pesticide that weakened brown pelican eggs so much that they couldn't hatch.

Anyone who's seen a pelican flatten itself into a three-pronged bullet before plunging into the water can attest to the bird's glory, which was nearly decimated by the chemicals draining from the fields of our great nation.

Banning DDT in 1972 helped take the brown pelican off the endangered species list from Texas to Florida in the mid 1980s, but it took another two decades for Southern California's brown pelican population to recover enough to get off that list -- yesterday.  Protecting the pelican's nesting sites and habitat also helped its recuperation.

Government officials and environmentalists alike hailed the endangered species act's success in bringing brown pelicans back from the brink of extinction.

Pacific Ocean dead patches here to stay, say scientists.

For the eighth consecutive year, Oregon's coastal waters  have experienced abnormally low late-summer oxygen levels -- often resulting in massive biological "dead zones" -- and scientists believe that trend is here to stay.

While many notorious dead zones, such as that in the Gulf of Mexico, have been attributed to agricultural run off, Kim Murphy of the L.A. Times and Scott Learn of the Oregonian report that increases in ocean temperatures, mostly linked to climate change, have been driving unique wind patterns and ocean currents that cause the suffocating conditions in the Pacific Ocean's Northwest region.

Oxygen levels are typically lower in August and September off the coast of Oregon, triggered by a routine summertime mixing of cold, nutrient-rich deep water with warmer surface waters. But Oregon State University scientists say that records dating back to 1950 reveal that the last eight years have seen unprecedented oxygen depletion, and it's likely to get worse.

Murphy and Learn's news follows a recently released report by the National Science Foundation on ocean dead zones. The group's research team said that summer die-offs are doubling every decade world-wide, largely due to human activities that alter oceanic and atmospheric conditions.

However, climbing ocean temperatures are not affecting every coast the same. A new University of B.C.