In case you missed it: 3 big stories from our world

French Grunts, Squirrelfish, Blue Tang and soft coral, pictured above, on a shallow reef in the Bahamas. (© Jeff Yonover)

Editor’s note: News about conservation and the environment is made every day, but some of it can fly under the radar. In a recurring feature, Human Nature shares three stories from the past week that you should know about.

The oceans’ circulation hasn’t been this sluggish in 1,000 years

The story: A recent study found that the Atlantic Ocean circulation that carries warm water into the Northern Hemisphere has slowed to a “record low” because of climate change, Chris Mooney reported for The Washington Post on Wednesday. The circulation plays a part in regulating weather patterns in Europe and North America by bringing warm water from the equator north and cold water down through the deep ocean.

The big picture: Scientists are linking the changes in ocean circulation to recent summer heat waves. The circulation is also critical for healthy fisheries along the U.S. east coast, which is already dealing with collapsing cod populations. This is “something that climate models have predicted for a long time, but we weren’t sure it was really happening. I think it is happening,” said one of the study’s authors, Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany. “And I think it’s bad news.”

Read more here.

Environmental group plans methane-tracking satellite

The story: The Environmental Defense Fund said that it will launch a satellite that will monitor the potent greenhouse gas methane from space, Christopher Joyce reported for NPR on Wednesday. The satellite will be about the size of a beer keg and is due for launch in three years.

The big picture: Tracking methane in the air is difficult because it rises and spreads from its sources, the largest of which are oil and gas operators, landfills and livestock and farming. “[The satellite] will be able to see where it’s happening [and] how much, across the globe — not just the big sources, but all the sources collectively, and understand the scale of the problem,” said Steven Hamburg, climate scientist at EDF. “That’s the kind of data we don’t have anywhere in the world.”

Read more here.


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‘Day zero’ water crises: Spain, Morocco, India and Iraq at risk as reservoirs shrink

The story: Shrinking reservoirs in Morocco, India, Iraq and Spain could initiate the next “day zero” water crises, according to the developers of a satellite early warning system for the world’s 500,000 dams, Jonathan Watts reported for The Guardian on Wednesday. On “day zero,” water taps would be shut off in these areas and the government would ration set amounts of water to individuals.

The big picture: Cities became concerned about water usage when Cape Town came close to shutting off its taps this year due to drought. Because of water conservation efforts, the city has since announced that “day zero” would not occur this year. “Cities need to act proactively and think about planning for both conventional infrastructure and nature simultaneously, rather than reacting when they’re in crisis mode,” Robin Abell, Conservation International’s freshwater lead, told Human Nature in March. “That means protecting natural areas, integrating nature-based solutions (‘green infrastructure’) with traditional (‘gray’) infrastructure to achieve what we might call sustainable infrastructure, and encouraging citizens as well as water-using industries to use water responsibly.”

Read more here.

Morgan Lynch is a staff writer for Conservation International.

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