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Water Pollution in Lake Maracaibo and Gulf of Venezuela, Venezuela and Colombia – June 6th, 2013

9.5N 71.3W

June 6th, 2013 Category: Image of the day, Sediments MODISAqua

Venezuela and Colombia – June 5th, 2013

Though undoubtedly shocking and disconcerting, the recent Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is hardly the first incident of its kind in the region. Starting in the 1920s, American and British subsidiaries of Standard Oil of New Jersey, Gulf and Royal Dutch Shell turned environmentally pristine Lake Maracaibo (below), which empties out into the Gulf of Venezuela (above) and the Caribbean, into toxic sludge.

Travel to Lake Maracaibo today and you can still see the relics of the pioneering petroleum past: hundreds of offshore oil derricks dot the horizon as far as the eye can see. During the 1920s oil was a messy business and blow-outs, fires and fantastic gushers were a common occurrence. Just as in Louisiana today, the oil industry in Lake Maracaibo put delicate lakeshore mangroves in danger as well as tropical wildlife.

The water used by local residents for domestic uses came from the lake itself, and reportedly there was little risk of getting sick from the water as it was clean, such that one could even see the head of a coin or a needle in the water. With the arrival of the oil companies however, the water became dirty (click here for more information).

Disappearance of Coastal Wetlands in Mississippi Delta, USA

29.9N 90W

May 4th, 2013 Category: Climate Change, Wetlands

USA – May 4th, 2013

Coastal wetlands in the Mississippi Delta are disappearing. Many factors contribute to the stress placed on wetlands, including the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in the summer of 2010. But natural forces are at work as well—local sinking of the ground and accelerating rates of sea-level rise, which scientists expect to further accelerate due to climate change.

Over the past century, Louisiana has lost 1,900 square miles (4,920 square kilometers) of coastal wetlands—more than one-third of its coastal plain. Because coastal wetlands help protect the coastline from storm surge, Louisiana’s capacity to absorb the surge from hurricanes such as Katrina in 2005 has been weakened. Increases in extreme weather in the Gulf Coast region—home to the U.S. oil and gas industry—are expected to disrupt the nation’s energy production and supply (click here for more information).

Fires Across Southeastern USA – March 28th, 2013

31.3N 83.3W

March 28th, 2013 Category: Fires, Image of the day

USA – March 27th, 2013

Many plumes of smoke from fires burning across the southeastern United States of America can be seen here. The fires are affecting several states (from left to right): Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina, as well as Florida (below).

There are currently nine active large fires that have burned 13,226 acres as well as numerous smaller ones. A “large fire” is defined by the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) as a wildfire of 100 acres or more occurring in timber, or a wildfire of 300 acres or more occurring in grass/sage.

Mississippi River Delta and Sediments Along Louisiana Coastline, USA

March 6th, 2013 Category: Sediments

USA – March 6th, 2013

Looking at this vibrant, colorful image of sediments along the Louisiana coastline and by the Mississippi River Delta, it is perhaps too easy to forget that not so long ago the BP oil disaster dumped nearly five million barrels of oil— the equivalent of over 200 million gallons—into the Gulf of Mexico and oiled hundreds of miles of coastline in the five gulf states, with Louisiana’s coast and wildlife receiving the greatest percentage of direct ecological damage.

The disaster’s long-term effects are still unfolding. Damage done to animals and plants will have ripple effects through the food web for many years to come. Hydrocarbons from the crude oil remain in the Gulf of Mexico habitats and waters, and – we can expect based on studies of previous spills – will linger in some places for many years.

The full consequences of this event will be understood more fully over time, but it is already clear that the catastrophe further damaged ecosystems that were already compromised and collapsing, especially in the Mississippi River Delta. An oil spill of monumental proportions was the last thing the region needed.

The RESTORE Gulf Coast States Act (RESTORE Act) dedicates 80 percent of the penalties paid by BP and others responsible for the 2010 oil disaster toward gulf restoration, as recommended by the bipartisan National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling. The money from these fines will go towards jump starting long-term restoration (click here for more information).

Climate Change and Low-Lying Coastal Mississippi River Delta, USA – February 17th, 2013

29.9N 90W

February 17th, 2013 Category: Climate Change, Image of the day, Rivers, Sediments

USA – January 25th, 2013

Here, sediments can be seen spilling forth from the Mississippi River in Louisiana, USA. The low lying, coastal Mississippi River Delta region is particularly vulnerable to the climate change threats of sea level rise, increased flood risk and more intense hurricanes. The area is additionally plagued by human-induced environmental degradation that has occurred over the past 200-300 years. The region has lost 1,900 square miles of land since the 1930s and is losing the wetland areas that are crucial to the region’s ecosystem function, economy and character.

Global climate change has induced an increase in global mean sea level with a 3.1 mm/year average rate of increase since 1991. Climate projections indicate a widespread increase of more intense precipitation events, with an associated increased risk of flooding. Similarly, climate scientists also predict an increase in hurricane wind speed and total volume (click here for more information).

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