July was ‘absolutely’ Earth’s hottest month ever recorded

NOAA and NASA data reveal the Earth’s temperature reached its highest point in 136 years of record-keeping during July.

“July 2016 was absolutely the hottest month since the instrumental records began,” tweeted Gavin Schmidt, who directs NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, which is responsible for temperature measurements.

It was the 15th straight month of recording-breaking temperatures in NOAA’s analysis and 10th-straight in NASA’s, passing the previous hottest Julys by substantial margins.

“It’s a little alarming to me that we’re going through these records like nothing this year,” said Jason Furtado, a professor of meteorology at the University of Oklahoma.

“Each month just gives another data point that makes the evidence stronger that we’re changing the climate,” added Simon Donner, professor of climatology at the University of British Columbia.

July is usually the hottest month of the year, as it coincides with the peak of summer in the Northern Hemisphere. But this July was more than 1.5 degrees above average in both NOAA and NASA’s analyses.

“July 2016 was the 379th consecutive month with temperatures at least nominally above the 20th century average,” NOAA said.

Aricle: WaPo

Southern residents receive funding to support recovery

NOAA Fisheries West Coast announced

Southern Resident Killer Whales (#SRKW) and #WhiteAbalone receive more than a combined 1 million in funds to support their recovery through NOAA Fisheries’ Species Recovery Grants this year. These two highly endangered species are being highlighted in our #NOAASpotlightSpeciesprogram.

The funds are being provided to our state partners California Department of Fish and Wildlife and Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife to support critical recovery actions such as reducing vessel impacts to SRKW and increasing the captive breeding and outplanting program for white abalone.

LEARN more about this grant program

Greenland Shark Is Officially the Longest-Living Vertebrate on Earth

by Allison Eck

The Greenland Shark is an old, misunderstood late-bloomer.

You might be inclined to feel sorry for it—but this vertebrate lives a long, slow-going life. A team of researchers led by Julius Nielsen of the University of Copenhagen has determined that it can live to at least 272 (possibly up to 500) years old.

This shark grows slowly: the cold environment retards its metabolism, safeguarding tissue from damage. And its actual body size increases by only a centimeter per year. Female Greenland sharks are in no rush to reproduce; they likely reach mid-life at 156 years old, when they’re finally ready to start breeding…

(read more: PBS NOVA NEXT)

photograph by NOAA Ocean Explorer


When the Education department tells guests not to “trash where they splash”, they aren’t being cute. Along with SeaWorld San Antonio, the Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network, and NOAA, a nice chunk of my own SeaWorld Orlando squad has been down near South Padre Island, TX searching for a dolphin dragging more than 3lbs of hooks, leaders, and fishing line on its body. The dolphin was successfully caught, disentangled, treated for injuries, and returned to the ocean. Countless other animals will not be so lucky. Please recycle old, tangled, or otherwise unusable fishing line. NEVER throw it overboard, off a pier, or leave it on the beach. It doesn’t just suddenly poof away. It hangs around for ages waiting to inflict agony on animals such as this one. (Images © SeaWorld).  

Papahānaumokuākea Expands, Now Largest Conservation Area on Earth

Today, President Obama announced that Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, located in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, will expand from 139,818 square miles to 582,578 square miles. That’s bigger than the total land area of the state of Alaska – and makes Papahānaumokuākea larger than any other land or ocean conservation area on Earth.

Map showing the expanded area of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. The new boundary extends out to the U.S. EEZ (shown in purple). The monument’s original area is shown in blue. Image: NOAA

Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument hosts an amazing array of wildlife, from 14 million seabirds representing 22 species that breed and nest within its boundaries, to over 7,000 species of marine life, one quarter of which are found only in the Hawaiian Archipelago.

Fishes on a deep reef at Pearl and Hermes Atoll in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA

The monument is also of great importance to Native Hawaiians, with significant cultural sites found in the original monument area on the islands of Mokumanamana and Nihoa. This expansion will help protect and sustain Hawai’i’s marine life and cultural sites for future generations.

Mokumanamana, or Necker Island, is known for its numerous wahi pana (religious places) and mea makamae (cultural objects). Photo: James Watt/NOAA

Originally designated in 2006 by then-President George W. Bush, Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument previously protected the waters within 50 miles of the uninhabited Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. In 2010, the monument was inscribed as a mixed natural and cultural World Heritage Site by UNESCO, making it the first mixed UNESCO World Heritage Site in the United States.

Now, President Obama has expanded most of the monument out to 200 nautical miles within federal waters. The expanded area will provide additional protection for open ocean features including seamounts, submerged reefs and sunken islands. The monument will continue to be managed by NOAA, US Fish and Wildlife, and the State of Hawai'i, and will also include the Office of Hawaiian Affairs within the co-trusteeship.

Commercial fishing and other resource extraction activities, which are currently prohibited in the boundaries of the existing monument, are also prohibited within the expanded monument boundaries. Noncommercial fishing, such as recreational fishing and the removal of fish and other resources for Native Hawaiian cultural practices, is allowed in the expansion area by permit, as is scientific research.

This previously-undescribed species of octopod was discovered in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands in 2016 at a depth of 4,290 meters. Photo: NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, 2016 Hohonu Moana: Exploring Deep Waters off Hawaiʻi

“We are honored to be a partner in the management and protection of what is now the largest protected area in the world,” said John Armor, acting director of NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. “Through daily interaction, management, research and outreach, we will continue working with our partners to to protect this unique ocean treasure, home to rare natural and cultural resources. The monument holds a sacred place in Native Hawaiian culture. With this announcement, it also holds a place in history for global ocean conservation.”

A high-density community of brisingid sea stars was discovered in the expansion area of Papahānaumokuākea in 2016. Photo: NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, 2016 Hohonu Moana: Exploring Deep Waters off Hawaiʻi

This expansion not only provides direct protection to this global resource, but also brings critical attention to the need for increased ocean conservation and protection worldwide. Despite its remote location in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument faces a looming threat of global climate change that will affect its land and marine ecosystems, as well as its cultural resources – a threat that ocean resources are facing across the globe.

For additional photos and video visit our media resources page.

What is the heat index?

Here in DC, the outside temperature is 97°F (37°C) today. It is, for me, the apocalypse. I’m from Massachusetts, and prefer northern climates. But the Heat Index is it 109°F or 42.77°C. If I go outside, my body will experience that the temperature is actually 109F, not 97F. Why is that? Here comes the science:

What is the heat index?            

“It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity”. That’s a partly valid phrase you may have heard in the summer, but it’s actually both. The heat index, also known as the apparent temperature, is what the temperature feels like to the human body when relative humidity is combined with the air temperature. This has important considerations for the human body’s comfort. When the body gets too hot, it begins to perspire or sweat to cool itself off.  If the perspiration is not able to evaporate, the body cannot regulate its temperature. Evaporation is a cooling process. When perspiration is evaporated off the body, it effectively reduces the body’s temperature. When the atmospheric moisture content (i.e. relative humidity) is high, the rate of perspiration from the body decreases. In other words, the human body feels warmer in humid conditions. The opposite is true when the relative humidity decreases because the rate of perspiration increases. The body actually feels cooler in arid conditions. There is direct relationship between the air temperature and relative humidity and the heat index, meaning as the air temperature and relative humidity increase (decrease), the heat index increases (decreases).

In order to determine the heat index using the chart above, you need to know the air temperature and the relative humidity.  For example, if the air temperature is 100°F and the relative humidity is 55%, the heat index will be 124°F. When the relative humidity is low, the apparent temperature can actually be lower than the air temperature.  For example, if the air temperature is 100°F and the relative humidity is 15%, the heat index is 96°F.

In the Panhandles, we commonly see hot temperatures during the summer, but the low relative humidity values make it somewhat unusual to see dangerous heat index values (i.e. 103°F or greater).  A full heat index chart for a larger range of temperatures and relative humidity values can be found here.


First of advanced environment satellites arrives at Kennedy.

The United State’s latest and most technologically advanced weather satellite was transported from its assembly facility in Colorado to Kennedy Space Center today, August 22.

A joint endeavour between NASA and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, the GOES-R satellite weighs in at more than 6,200 pounds. Orbiting more than 22,300 miles above the Earth in Geostationary Transfer Orbit, GOES-R will provide the western hemisphere advanced weather and environmental forecasting technology.

GOES-R, which stands for Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite, is the first of four third-generation GOES satellites built by Lockheed Martin.

Lofting such a heavy and sensitive satellite across the country required the use of a U.S. Air Force C-5 cargoplane.A t 3:16pm EDT the plane touched down at Kennedy Space Center’s Shuttle Landing Facility. Later this evening, the satellite will be transported 17 miles to a clean room facility in nearby Titusville. There, it will undergo unpacking and inspection before prelaunch operations commence.

Liftoff is scheduled for 5:40pm EDT on November 4. A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket will fly in the 541 configuration with a five meter diameter payload fairing, four strap on AJ-60A solid rocket motors, and a single-RL-10 engine on the Centaur upper stage.

P/c: NASA, NOAA, Lockheed Martin, Gary Napier.


NOAA Encounter with Hawaiian Orca

Excerpt from this article, dated July 24th, 2016:

Over the past two weeks, we found killer whales off the north side of Maui on July 13, off the southern Kona coast of the Big Island on July 16, and again off central Kona while working with our partners from Cascadia Research on July 21.  The two encounters off the Big Island were of the same group, while the group seen off Maui was different, distinguished by the shape of and nicks on their dorsal fins and the shape and coloration of the saddle patches.  Although our previous experience with killer whales in Hawaii has been that they are skittish and rarely stay around long enough for even identification photographs, all three encounters this month were extraordinarily productive.  We were able to collect small tissue samples (or biopsies) from all 5 whales seen off the Big Island, a significant increase in biopsy sample size for killer whales around Hawaii.  The biopsy samples will be used to understand how these killer whales relate to others throughout the Pacific, and can also contribute to foraging and contaminant studies.

We were also able to deploy two satellite tags during our last encounter, which will allow us to understand where else these animals spend their time.  Satellite tags have been previously deployed on one group of killer whales in Hawaii in November 2013 by Cascadia Research.  Those animals traveled halfway to the Marshall Islands before the tag stopped transmitting.  So far, our tagged whales have headed northeast, and are currently about 100 miles northeast of Maui.


NOAA recently took a dive and livestreamed the event. These are some pictures I screengrabbed while watching

That white guy with yellow eyes, one of the interns nicknamed ‘Falcor’ - it’s a species they’ve never seen living irl, only found dead specimens. They stumbled across it just hangin’ out, doing its thing. 

The huge spiral motherfucker is a type of coral. 

This regal-looking floof is a white tern, or manu-o-kū in Hawaiian. This tiny tern was spotted on Kure Atoll in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. White terns are found throughout the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, where instead of building nests, they lay their singled speckled egg on a small depression on a branch, roof or other surface. Such minimalism! 

(Photo: Carlie Wiener/NOAA)

Fires, Floods, and Scorchers: Earth Destroys Yet Another Heat Record
July was the hottest on record, the 15th consecutive record-breaking month.

The extremes of recent months are such that we’re only midway into 2016, and there’s already a greater than 99 percent likelihood that this year will go down as the hottest on record, according to Gavin Schmidt, who directs NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. NASA and NOAA maintain independent records of the earth’s temperatures, and both agree that last month was a scorcher. “July 2016 was absolutely the hottest month since the instrumental records began,” Schmidt wrote on Twitter. 

Lost WWII Ships Explored in Underwater Expedition

An exploration of a World War II battleground right off U.S. shores is now underway.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is working with several nonprofit and private partners to explore the twin wrecks of the freighter SS Bluefields and the German U-boat U-576. The German submarine attacked and sank the Bluefields on July 15, 1942, and was then itself sunk by bombs from U.S. Navy air cover and the deck gun of another merchant ship in the convoy, the Unicoi.

All hands were evacuated from the Bluefields and survived. Everyone on the U-576 — a crew of 45 — died.

The precise location of the shipwrecks was lost until 2014, when an exploration by NOAA and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management discovered the two vessels 240 yards (219 meters) apart from one another off the North Carolina coast. The U-576 is a war grave; the German government stated in 2014 that it has no interest in recovering any wreckage or bodies and instead would be following the custom of viewing the wreck as a protected final resting place of any sailors within the submarine. Read more.

A humpback whale breaches in NOAA’s Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary in Massachusetts

Though humpback whales are relatively slow swimmers, able to swim at about 15 miles per hour but averaging only two to nine miles per hour, they’re amazing acrobats. From summer through fall, humpback whales are quite active in Stellwagen Bank waters, giving visitors a great chance to glimpse this incredible behavior!

photograph by Anne Smrcina/NOAA

(via: NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries)

Drumroll please! 1st place winner in the “Sanctuary Life” category of our 2016 Get Into Your Sanctuary Photo Contest goes to Christina Parsons, with this incredible photo of a Brandt’s cormorant in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary

Those eyes are captivating! Brandt’s cormorants breed all along the Pacific coast, making them inhabitants of several of our marine sanctuaries, including Monterey Bay and Channel Islands national marine sanctuaries. 

See all the photo contest winners here.

(Photo: Christina Parsons)

Let’s talk about Aquaculture!

So what is Aquaculture? A definition from NOAA:

The broad term “aquaculture” refers to the breeding, rearing, and harvesting of animals and plants in all types of water environments including ponds, rivers, lakes, and the ocean.

Aquaculture has become a booming industry both in the United States and internationally. In the United States alone, aquaculture (both freshwater and marine) brings in about $1.2 billion annually. Aquaculture has allowed food security during a time of increasing global populations and increasing seafood consumption per capita. Overall, aquaculture is one of the most resource-efficient ways to produce protein.

But there has to be a catch, right?

First off, aquaculture facilities (obviously) require extensive amounts of water to operate. For these farms running in Western states such as California, Texas, and Arizona, this can put an added pressure to already limited water supplies. Unfortunately, in many parts of the Western United States, municipal, agricultural, and industrial operations are given water priorities, thus leaving local riparian ecosystems high and dry during severe droughts.

A Tilapia (Oreochromis aureus) farm in Desert Center, CA.

Unfortunately, this can have numerous adverse impacts on local ecosystems.

Introducing diseases from farmed fish to wild populations can have devastating impacts on local ecosystems. 

  • Whirling Disease (Myxobolus cerebralis) is a parasite that affects the brains and skeletal structure of salmonoid fishes. It was first described in the Northeastern United States in 1956 in farmed trout that had been imported from Europe. By the 1990′s Whirling Disease had spread through river systems in several Rocky Mountain states, including Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Montana, Idaho, and New Mexico. Some streams in the Western United States have experienced up to a 90% loss in trout populations. 
  • In Norway, a species of salmon fluke (Gyrodactulus salaris) spread from fish hatcheries to wild populations.
  • A recent study in British Columbia links the spread of salmon lice (Lepeophtheirus salmonis) from captive farm-raised river salmon to wild populations of salmon in marine systems. Wild salmon on the West Coast of Canada are being driven to extinction by salmon lice from nearby fish farms. 

Myxobolus cerebralis, the cause of Whirling Disease in salmonoid fishes.

A Salmon Louse (Lepeophtheirus salmonis)

Aquaculture also allows for fish species to be harvested in places where they would otherwise not occur naturally. For instance: there are numerous Blue Tilapia (Oreochromis aureus) farms in the United States, and Tilapia is endemic to Africa and the Middle East. This can be great for local economies, but what happens when one of these exotic species inevitably escapes?

Blue Tilapia (Oreochromis aureus)

Since being introduced to Florida in 1961, their population has exploded. Tilapia has become the most widespread invasive species in Florida, posing major management challenges for Fish and Wildlife officers in Everglades National Park. The species is also expanding its range in Texas where it has caused declines in Largemouth Bass (Micropterus salmoides) and Unionid mussel populations.

Not to mention the numerous impacts that these escaped organisms have on local genetic diversity.

When done correctly, aquaculture is a resource-efficient way to keep up with the world’s ever increasing appetite for seafood. However, in order to keep natural aquatic systems healthy, these aquaculture operations must be intensively managed, and we must continue to be vigilant in our efforts to control populations of exotic species.

Oooh a ravioli sea star!…I can never remember their real name so I always just call them ravioli sea stars

Actual researcher from the NOAA Okeanos Explorer Deep Sea Expedition

“So Chris stepped out, so we’re not going to get his idea of what this is”

“Well then ravioli sea star it is!”

“Sounds like a good name to me”

Quality Science In The Making