by: Michael Buresh Updated:
Dec. 1, 2016 - The active 2016 hurricane season is behind us.... the most active over the Atlantic Basin since 2012. Click -- here -- for my review in "Talking the Tropics With Mike". Click -- here -- for a podcast review/discussion courtesy News 104.5 WOKV.
After a very dry Nov. with officially only 0.02" of rain at JIA (driest since 0.17" in 2007.... driest on record is a trace in 1970), we turn the calendars to Dec. Averages at JIA:
Low / High.... the 1st: 47 / 70, 31st: 42 / 65
Sunrise / Sunset: 1st - 7:06am / 5:26pm ..... 31st - 7:23am / 5:37pm - lose 6 min. of daylight.
EARTH GAUGE (NEEF) Blue Whale Migratin, Sarah Blount......
Imagine an animal about the size of three school buses parked end-to-end, with a weight roughly equivalent to 40 elephants, migrating south for the winter. This animal is the largest ever known to have lived on this planet—you would think that you would notice when it came through! However, despite their massive size and weight, blue whales and their travel patterns remain largely a mystery to scientists all over the world.
Much like some of their smaller counterparts in the animal kingdom, blue whales migrate seasonally in search of food and possibly calving and nursing areas. They are found in all of the world’s oceans, and are thought to travel towards the poles in the spring to take advantage of the high zooplankton production that occurs there in the summer (blue whales feed predominantly on krill, a type of zooplankton), and then back towards the equator in the early winter. While the search for breeding grounds is a common impetus for migration in many other animal species, scientists do not yet know when or where blue whales mate. Many females give birth in the warm waters of the southernmost leg of their journey, but research has not yet delivered a clear picture of the larger trends in blue whale reproduction.
What information we do know about blue whales’ traveling habits does not apply to these animals world-over—while some populations only travel short distances to feed and reproduce, other blue whales will make annual trips from polar waters to equatorial waters. Without more information about where and when these whales are traveling, it can be difficult to keep these populations safe. Ship strikes can kill and seriously injure blue whales—three of these whales were killed by ship strike near the Santa Barbara Channel off the coast of Southern California in 2007, a stark increase in mortality for animals with a typical life expectancy of 80 to 90 years in the wild.
You can help scientists learn more about these mysterious giants while aiding in reducing the number of ship strikes whales experience by taking part in Whale Alert(link is external), a network of non-profit organizations, government agencies, and shipping and tech companies focused on reducing whale strikes. By using their free app you can report whale sightings, helping vessels in the area avoid these animals. If you are boating in areas where these whales are known to swim, you can use the app to learn more about what kinds of mandated protections apply to where you are in the water.
Want to know where to spot these whales? On the East Coast, blue whales are most commonly seen off the coast of eastern Canada, more specifically in the Gulf of St. Lawrence during the summer and fall feeding seasons. In the winter, this population group may be seen in the waters off of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and on rare occasions another population group may possibly be seen in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean. On the West Coast, the Eastern North Pacific stock of blue whales is thought to winter I the waters off of Mexico and Central America, and feed during the summer in the waters off of the coast of the western United States. Other Pacific blue whale populations may be seen off of the Aleutians and in the Gulf of Alaska in the summer, and possibly Hawaii in the winter.
For more specific guidance on where and how to whale-watch off the West Coast, check out this resource from Whale Watch.
National Geographic. 2016. "Kingdom of the Blue Whale." Accessed November 28. http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/channel/content/kingdom-of-the-blue-whale-3302/blue-whale-facts/#/compare/weight
MARINE SPECIES ON THE MOVE, Nick Bradford
Did You Know?
- More than 80% of earth’s marine life is migrating to different places and changing their breeding and feeding patterns due to warming waters.
- Ocean species are migrating in response to climate change 10 times faster than land species.
- Some marine species have migrated as much as 600 miles from where they were abundant just a few decades ago.
- 80% of ocean pollution comes from the land.
For humans, life on land is closely linked to and dependent upon the health of the oceans. The oceans provide an abundance of resources for humans including oxygen, food, energy, and recreation.
As ocean water temperatures warm, the distribution of many marine species – including those we rely on for food – will shift due to their dependence on specific water temperatures and nutrient availability. There are cold-loving species near the poles and warm-loving species near the equator. As warmer water temperatures shift, so do warm and cold loving marine species. Warmer water temperatures also deplete vital nutrients, which can cause species to migrate elsewhere to feed. Once those species shift, so must the predators that rely on them for food.
Not all marine species are responding to changing temperatures and nutrient availability at the same time, which can disrupt the food web. Many marine creatures time their reproductive and migratory cycles around prey, such as whales migrating to the Arctic to feed on krill in the summer and salmon migrating to the oceans for seasonal nutrients. When these patterns are disrupted due to a changing climate, they can also change predator-prey relationships and increase mass strandings, starvation and poor reproductive success. For example, Atlantic Cod prey on a specific zooplankton species in the Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank. Higher sea surface temperatures along the US Northeast continental shelf are causing the zooplankton to shift to cooler waters. Scientists have found that populations of Atlantic Cod in areas where zooplankton have shifted seem to have lower reproductive success – this may make it harder for these fisheries to recover.
Due to other human stressors on marine life such as water pollution, overfishing and the destruction of coastal habitats, it is important to understand how the ecosystem as a whole reacts to changing water temperatures and nutrient availability, in order to sustain fisheries and populations of marine species.
- Discover what the main sources of ocean pollution are and how you can reduce your impact.
- Explore NEEF’s new Animal Migration Activity Gide for fun at-home activities regarding animal migration!
- NOAA. 2013. “Two Takes on Climate Change in the Ocean.” Accessed October 14, 2015.
- Poloczanska, Elivra, S., Christopher J. Brown, William J. Sydeman, Wolfgang Kiessling, David S. Schoeman, Pippa J. Moore, Keith Brander, John F. Bruno, Lauren B. Buckley, Michael T. Burrows, Carlos M. Duarte, Benjamin S. Halpern, Johnna Holding, Carrie V. Kappel, Mary I. O’Connor, John M. Pandolfi, Camille Parmesan, Franklin Schwing, Sarah Ann Thompson, and Anthony J. Richardson. 2013. "Global imprint of climate change on marine life." Nature Climate Change 3: 919-925.
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