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Amount of Coldest Antarctic Water Near Ocean Floor Decreasing for Decades

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Scientists have found a large reduction in the amount of the coldest deep ocean water, called Antarctic Bottom Water, all around the Southern Ocean using data collected from 1980 to 2011. These findings, in a study now online, will likely stimulate new research on the causes of this change.

Two oceanographers from NOAA and the University of Washington find that Antarctic Bottom Water has been disappearing at an average rate of about eight million metric tons per second over the past few decades, equivalent to about fifty times the average flow of the Mississippi River or about a quarter of the flow of the Gulf Stream in the Florida Straits.

“Because of its high density, Antarctic Bottom Water fills most of the deep ocean basins around the world, but we found that the amount of this water has been decreasing at a surprisingly fast rate over the last few decades,” said lead author Sarah Purkey, graduate student at the School of Oceanography at the University of Washington in Seattle, Wash. “In every oceanographic survey repeated around the Southern Ocean since about the 1980s, Antarctic Bottom Water has been shrinking at a similar mean rate, giving us confidence that this surprisingly large contraction is robust.”

Antarctic Bottom Water is formed in a few distinct locations around Antarctica, where seawater is cooled by the overlying air and made saltier by ice formation. The dense water then sinks to the sea floor and spreads northward, filling most of the deep ocean around the world as it slowly mixes with warmer waters above it.

The world’s deep ocean currents play a critical role in transporting heat and carbon around the planet, thus regulating our climate.

While previous studies have shown that the bottom water has been warming and freshening over the past few decades, these new results suggest that significantly less of this bottom water has been formed during that time than in previous decades.

“We are not sure if the rate of bottom water reduction we have found is part of a long-term trend or a cycle,” said co-author Gregory C. Johnson, Ph.D., an oceanographer at NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle. “We need to continue to measure the full depth of the oceans, including these deep ocean waters, to assess the role and significance that these reported changes and others like them play in the Earth’s climate.”

Changes in the temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, and dissolved carbon dioxide of this prominent water mass have important ramifications for Earth’s climate, including contributions to sea level rise and the rate of Earth’s heat uptake.

“People often focus on fluctuations of currents in the North Atlantic Ocean as an indicator of climate change, but the Southern Ocean has undergone some very large changes over the past few decades and also plays a large role in shaping our climate,” said Johnson.

The data used in this study are highly accurate temperature data repeated at roughly 10-year intervals by an international program of repeated ship-based oceanographic surveys. Within the U.S., the collection of these data has been a collaborative effort of governmental laboratory and university scientists, funded primarily by NOAA and the National Science Foundation. However, much of the data used in this study were measured by international colleagues.

“Collection of these data involves 12-hour days, seven days a week, of painstaking, repetitive work at sea, often for weeks on end with no sight of land. We are grateful for the hard work of all those who helped in this effort,” said Purkey.

Source

NOAA

USA: Attorney General Seeks to Prevent Future LNG Terminals Near RI

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The Weaver’s Cove LNG terminal project was abandoned over a year ago, in June 2011, but Rhode Island Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin continues his effort by seeking standards that would help prevent such a project in the future.

On Wednesday, Kilmartin, joined by Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, renewed a request to the federal government for rules for the location and siting of LNG import and storage facilities. Wednesday’s request comes in the form of an appeal filed in connection with an earlier petition for rulemaking directed to the Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration within the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT).

This is the latest step in a petition that was first filed in September 2004. In early February, a lower official in the USDOT had denied the original request.

In support of the request, Attorney General Kilmartin stated, “While the State obviously had concerns about Weaver’s Cove’s proposal to construct an LNG facility in a densely-populated urban environment in Massachusetts, with tanker traffic transiting through actively-used Rhode Island waters, within close distance of populated shorelines, Rhode Island’s motives were – and remain – much more broad. Indeed, these motives apply to any number of other locations in close proximity to populated areas and heavily-used waters of Rhode Island on which future LNG developers may set their sights. The petition expresses concern not just about whether a single project goes forward, but over the need for USDOT to set standards that apply to any number of sites that could put Rhode Island’s citizens and natural resources at risk.”

Kilmartin added that “USDOT has continually failed to establish minimum safety standards for determining the location of LNG facilities and has only established minimum federal safety standards for the design of those facilities. We seek to correct this to prevent another unsuitable proposal like Weaver’s Cove in the future.

The Weaver’s Cove LNG facility was proposed in December 2003 and became the target of an 8-year fight waged by the Attorney General’s office and other state officials to protect Narragansett Bay from hazards and closures.

Kilmartin said, “While that fight reached a successful conclusion when the developer withdrew the proposal in June of 2011, we do not want to have to have a repeat of that threat.

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EIA: Spot Gas Prices Near 10-Year Lows (USA)

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The U.S. Energy Information Administration said in a report that natural gas prices have continued their downward trend this winter as a result of warmer-than-normal temperatures, ample natural gas in storage, and growing production.

Average spot natural gas prices for January were at $2.68/MMBtu.

Spot natural gas prices in January 2012 reached their lowest level in 10 years except for a 4-day period over the Labor Day weekend in 2009.

Population-weighted heating degree days since November 1, 2011 are down 12% nationally from the 30-year average.

Total working natural gas in underground storage in the lower 48 states was 3,098 Bcf for the week ending January 20, 21% above the storage levels from one year ago.

Daily dry gas production averaged about 64.2 billion cubic feet per day (Bcfd) in January, up almost 10% from last January.

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Russia: Gazprom Discovers New Offshore Field Near Sakhalin III

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As a result of geological exploration, Gazprom discovered a new field within the Mynginskaya geological structure in the Kirinsky prospect of the Sakhalin III project.

Gas and condensate inflow was reported in the prospecting well during the exploration operations. The well testing will be followed by the reserves estimation.

The new field was the second discovery in the Kirinsky prospect.

Background

Gazprom carries out geological exploration in the Sakhalin shelf as part of the state-run Development Program for an integrated gas production, transportation and supply system in Eastern Siberia and the Far East, taking into account potential gas exports to China and other Asia-Pacific countries. The Program was approved by the September 2007 Order of the Russian Federation Industry and Energy Ministry. Gazprom was appointed by the Russian Federation Government as the Program execution coordinator.

Gazprom holds subsurface use licenses for the Kirinskoye field, the Kirinsky prospect (including Yuzhno-Kirinskoye field) and the Vostochno-Odoptinsky and Ayashsky licensed blocks within the Sakhalin III project. Natural gas produced by Gazprom within the project will be delivered into the Sakhalin – KhabarovskVladivostok gas transmission system.

Based on the results of the geological exploration performed between 2009 and 2010, Gazprom increased the Kirinskoye gas and condensate field reserves from 75 billion cubic meters of C1+C2 gas to 137 billion cubic meters of C1 gas. The recoverable condensate reserves rose from 8.6 to 15.9 million tons. It is projected to commission the field in 2012.

In September 2010 Gazprom discovered the large Yuzhno-Kirinskoye field in the Kirinsky prospect. The field’s C1+C2 gas reserves make up 260 billion cubic meters, the recoverable condensate reserves – 29.9 million tons.

Gazflot (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Gazprom) acts as the geological exploration operator.

Original Article

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