Evidence of Earth’s Changing Seascape Found in Arctic Waters

Tides rise and fall, we eat and sleep, work and play all the while our Earth is ever changing.  We seem to never get used to the painfully slow movements of our governments as they seek solutions and thankfully for the most part our planet’s movements are also exceedingly slow but every now and then an event makes us take notice.  As the free world concerns itself with the state of the European Union and what that means for us a line from Shakespeare’s Hamlet comes to mind, “something is rotten in the state of Denmark”. Moving from politics and the economy to the environment there is something happening beneath the ice of the Arctic Ocean that is new to scientists and is very puzzling.  In 2011 a giant algae bloom was discovered by an American team of researchers while on their ICESCAPE (Impacts of Climate on EcoSystems and Chemistry of the Arctic Pacific Environment) expedition, as explained on the CBC radio broadcast Quirks and Quarks and also referred to on their website. The algae bloom, which is made up of the single-celled organism phytoplankton, is a food source for sea life and is fairly common.  However, the team of researchers who discovered this particular bloom were shocked to see that it was forming closer to the surface of the ice and was spread out over one-hundred square kilometers.  The researches determined that the algae is utilizing the UV-filtered light that comes through first-year ice to grow (usually the algae doesn’t begin to form until the ice is gone), essentially adapting to and thriving in the waters, all the while eating up carbon dioxide and producing oxygen. This unique arctic algae bloom shares a common characteristic with other algae blooms around the world; each one has different qualities depending on their habitat.  Back in 2006 a giant algae bloom was spotted off the coast of Vancouver Island in British Columbia, as reported in a Cosmos Magazine online article.  At the time the algae bloom, which could be seen from space, was associated with climate change and was thought to be possibly toxic.  Algae blooms in that area were not unusual, but the 2006 bloom was thought to be the largest to date for the region.  It is also interesting to note that algae blooms are said to leave behind minute amounts of chalk, “which geologists believe created the limestone deposits off England known as the White Cliffs of Dover,” according to the Cosmos article mentioned above. So what are we to make from all of this change global, political and economic?  For me it is simply perspective. A changing planet as well as a changing economy is inevitable and unsettling for sure.  It shouldn’t be taken lightly but we should be cautious as we work to find solutions.  I was speaking with a colleague earlier in the week about Europe’s political and financial woes as the UEFA Euro Cup 2012 plays out (stadiums are full).  He, like many, is quick to say that Europe or more specifically Europe’s leaders have to get their acts together. Quit talking and act!  I pointed out that Europe, more specifically individual nation states, have had difficulty doing that since there was a concept known as Europe.  In modern times we have witnessed two world wars on European soil that destroyed countless lives and economies.  The likes of Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin and Franco all took action to solve their countries economic and political problems as they saw fit much to the determent of society and mankind.  Blitzkrieg, doodlebugs, V2’s and other weapons of mass destruction greatly impacted the lives of millions of people.  That wasn’t that long ago, less than a hundred years.  The point is that some change is easier to take in stride and adapt to than others.  Look at European history over the millennium. So, what about those algae blooms?  They are just one organism adapting to the increased levels of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere.  Remember that within each challenge lies opportunity.  Have we evolved?  I like to think so.  Will the world change?  Absolutely; and to quote Pearl Jam, “It’s evolution baby!”  | Raymond Matt, CFP, CLU, TEP, CHS | The Ontarian, Writer, Editor

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