SHINING A LIGHT ON CLIMATE CHANGE

Do you see what I see?

This fluorescent phytoplankton bloom off the coast of Laguna Beach in 2020, similar to that seen this week, reminds me of the NASA studies of phytoplankton attempting to sort out the impact of the warming of ocean waters.

This is what the National Resources Defense Council said about plankton 9/9/2020:

“Betcha a nickel you don’t know what plankton is. Less than 9 percent of college-educated Americans do,according to a very unscientific survey of semi-randomly selected people I happen to know (n=12). That’s a shame, because plankton is an incredibly important part of the marine ecosystem, and it’s behaving in increasingly weird ways. A recent study from researchers at Stanford University shows that the growth rate of a type of plankton called phytoplankton in the Arctic Ocean has increased 57 percent between 1998 and 2018, with uncertain implications for animals higher up the food chain (which is most of them, including us).”

The timing of growth of these microorganisms is crucial for the ocean’s food chain (phytoplankton are eaten by zooplankton, which are eaten by small fish, which are eaten by larger fish and mammals).

The NRDC explained that as of 2010, phytoplankton blooms were occurring on average 50-days earlier in the spring than they historically would. “That’s a problem because the marine ecosystem is synced to the beginning of the algae season.” This can potentially cause certain types of fish stocks to be less able to eat, breed and survive.

In addition, as explained by NASA, the chemical DMS, which phytoplankton releases, becomes an aerosol in the atmosphere, and this provides tiny objects upon which water droplets can form, supporting rainfall.

Being educated about all the ramifications of global warming is like developing a sixth sense — a climate sense. Suddenly you can detect what was previously hidden in plain sight, like shining a black light on crime scene or a touched-up artwork.

It all traces back to the effects of carbon dioxide, which also takes special equipment to “see.”

After all, you can’t resist what you can’t “see.”

Gary M. Stewart, M.D.

Laguna Beach

Internal medicine physician with varied interests. Primary public focus on responses to the climate crisis.