Category Archives: Oceans

2010 BP Gulf Oil Spill Ecological Damages Valued at $17.2 Billion, According to Research Published on April 20, 2017

In the April 20, 2017, issue of Science, a team of researchers (including Kevin Boyle of Virginia Tech’s Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics) estimated that the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which began April 20, 2010, resulted in the equivalent of $17.2 billion of damage to natural resources.

The estimate was based on a household survey asking what people would be willing to pay to prevent or reduce a future recurrence of the kinds of damages (to organisms and habitats) seen from the 2010 incident.

The article is “Putting a value on injuries to natural assets: The BP oil spill,” in the April 20, 2017, issue of Science (Vol. 356, Issue 6335, pages 253-254), available online at  (The direct link to article is, but a subscription is required for access.)  A summary of the research is available in BP oil spill did $17.2 billion in damage to natural resources, scientists find in first-ever financial evaluation of spill’s impact, Virginia Tech News, 4/20/17.

Climate Change Workshop for Educators to be held July 19-20, 2017, in Charleston, S.C.

On July 19-20, 2017, South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium (Consortium), the South Carolina Aquarium (SCA), and the National Park Service (NPS) will hold Rising Tides and Changing Times–A Climate Change Workshop for Educators.  The event will be at the South Carolina Aquarium in Charleston.  According to the event Web site, “[s]cientists from the Consortium and SCA will share information about climate impacts on both our community and wildlife; the NPS will discuss climate change from a historical perspective during a tour of Fort Sumter; and technology will be used to investigate downtown Charleston’s challenges with flooding during a ‘Climate Change Amazing Race’ competition.”  While the event will feature Charleston as an example of sea-level rise and other impacts of climate change, it will involve National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) tools and activities that can used by teachers in other states.

For more information or to register, visit; phone (843) 953-2078; or e-mail:

An Examination of Antarctic’s Larsen Ice Shelf Changes, in 3/8/17 PBS NewsHour Video

The section-by-section disappearance of Antarctica’s Larsen Ice Shelf is the focus of “How scientists are tracking a massive iceberg in the making,” broadcast on March 8, 2017, on the PBS NewsHour.  The 5 min./55 second video, available online at, discusses how an early 2017 rift in the ice shelf is one of the largest ever seen, separating a section approximately the size of the state of Delaware.  This follows the loss in 2002 of a section in that was approximately the size of Rhode Island.  The report describes some of the satellite technology and imagery used to track such large-scale changes.  More information on changes to the Larsen Ice Shelf is available from the National Aeronautic and Space Agency (NASA), “Antarctica’s Changing Larsen Ice Shelf,” online at

Block Island, Rhode Island, Offshore Wind-energy Project Begins Commercial Operation on Dec. 12, 2016; First U.S. Commercial Offshore Wind Project

On December 12, 2106, the Block Island, Rhode Island, offshore wind-energy project began commercial operation.  The $300-million project, consisting of five wind turbines, is the first commercial offshore wind-energy facility in the United States.

Sources: Block Island Wind Farm begins commercial operations, Deepwater Wind News Release, 12/12/16.  U.S. builds first offshore wind farm, PBS NewsHour video (10 min./00 sec.), 12/11/16.

For a previous News Grouper post related to the Rhode Island project, please see Virginia, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island are Planned Locations for First-ever Offshore Wind Energy Lease Sales, Expected in 2013.

For a News Grouper post on offshore wind-energy developments in Virginia as of April 2015, please see Offshore Wind-energy Development in Virginia: April 2015 Update, including March 24, 2015, Announcement of First Research Lease in Federal Waters.

For a News Grouper post on a proposed onshore wind-energy project in Botetourt County, Va., which if built would be the first commercial-scale wind project in Virginia, please see Commercial-scale Wind-energy Project Proposal in Botetourt County, Va.

Three Sea Grant Fellowship Opportunities: 1) Virginia Commonwealth Coastal/Marine Policy Fellowships Starting June 1, 2017 – Application Deadline January 23, 2017; 2) Nationwide Ph.D. Fellowships – Application Deadline Jan. 27, 2017; 3) 2018 Nationwide Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship Starting February 1, 2018 – Application Deadline Feb. 21, 2017 (EXTENDED from Feb. 10)

[The Virginia Water Monitoring Council (VWMC), provided some of the information for this post.  For more in formation about the VWMC, please visit]

Virginia Sea Grant is offering or facilitating three fellowship opportunities for graduate students or post-graduates.

1) 2017 Commonwealth Coastal & Marine Policy Fellowship – Virginia Sea Grant will offer 12-month, paid fellowships starting June 1, 2017.  The deadline to apply is January 23, 2017.  The objective of the Commonwealth Coastal and Marine Policy Fellowship is to provide educational and professional development opportunities for post-graduates interested in Virginia’s coastal and marine resources.  Those eligible for the fellowships are graduate students close to completing their degree (Masters, Ph.D., or J.D.) in a coastal- or marine-related or relevant field at a Virginia university or college; and graduates from a Virginia university or college in the spring semester 2016 or after.  The fellowships will involve on-the-job training with a Virginia host agency along with learning about state-level policy and management processes.  Virginia Sea Grant and its sponsoring partners, the Virginia Environmental Endowment the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, anticipate supporting three fellows for the period starting June 2017.  The fellowship announcement is available online at

2) Ph.D. Fellowship Opportunities in Population & Ecosystem Dynamics and Marine Resources Economics.  The deadline to apply is January 27, 2017, 5 p.m. EST.  This fellowship, offered in partnership between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Sea Grant Program and NOAA’s Fisheries Office, is available to any U.S. citizen who is a graduate student enrolled in a Ph.D. program at an academic institution in the United States or its territories.  For more information, visit

3) 2018 Sea Grant Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship.  The deadline to apply is February 21, 2017, 5 p.m. EST (extended from previous Feb. 10 deadline).  This nationwide fellowship is for graduate students with an interest in marine, coastal, or Great Lakes resources and in related national policy.  The fellowship period is for one year, beginning February 1, 2018.  In Virginia, eligible students who may apply via Virginia Sea Grant are anyone (regardless of citizenship) who, as of February 21, 2017, is enrolled towards a degree in a graduate or professional program in a relevant field at a Virginia institution.  For more information, visit

For more information on these three opportunities:
Samuel J. Lake, Fellowship & Research Program Coordinator
Virginia Sea Grant
P.O. Box 1346, Gloucester Pt., VA 23062
Phone (804) 684-7436
Fax (804) 684-7269

On Virginia Water Radio for 12-5-16: Audio Snapshots from the 2016 Atlantic Tropical Storm Season

Virginia Water Radio’s latest episode, for the week of December 5, 2016, is “From Alex to Otto, 2016 Atlantic Tropical Storm Season was a Bit Above Normal.”  The 4 min./59 sec. episode, available online at, is an audio summary of the 2016 tropical storm season for the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Mexico.  The episode includes comments from a North Carolina National Guard member and a U.S. Coast Guard admiral on some of the responses to Hurricane Matthew.  (Please note: For a more detailed season-end summary,  see this Water Central News Grouper post.)

Virginia Water Radio’s is a weekly broadcast/podcast produced by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center.  The home page is  Have a listen or two!

Atlantic Tropical Storm Season-end Report for 2016 Issued December 1 by National Hurricane Center

(Please note: For a 4 min./59 sec. audio version of the season-end summary of the 2016 Atlantic tropical storm season, please see Virginia Water Radio Episode 345, 12-5-16.)

On December 1, 2016, the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida, published its final monthly summary and its season-end report for the 2016 tropical storm season in the Atlantic Basin (North Atlantic, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Mexico).  The Atlantic season runs June 1-November 30.  The report is available online at

One named storm, Hurricane Otto, formed in the Atlantic basin during November 2016.  The Hurricane Center’s report noted that during the period 1981-2010, a named tropical storm has formed in November in about 7 out of every 10 years, and a hurricane has formed about every other year.

Overall during 2016, 15 named storms occurred, seven of which became hurricanes; three of those became “major” hurricanes (Category 3 or above).  The annual average seen during the 30-year period 1981-2010 is 12 named storms, six hurricanes, and three major hurricanes.  The report also noted that the “accumulated cyclone energy” for 2016—combining strength and duration of storms—was about 40 percent above the 1981-2010 average.  Three strong storms—Matthew, Gaston, and Nicole—produced over 70 percent of the seasonal ACE; many of the other Atlantic basin storms in 2016 were relatively weak, or short duration, or both.

Below is the Hurricane Center’s list of all tropical depressions, tropical storms, and hurricanes in the Atlantic basin in 2016, with their dates of occurrence and maximum wind speeds (H = hurricane; MH = major hurricane; TD = tropical depression; TS = tropical storm):
H Alex – Jan. 13-15 – 85 mph
TS Bonnie – May 27-June 4 – 45 mph
TS Colin – June 5-7 – 50 mph
TS Danielle – June 19-21 – 45 mph
H Earl – Aug. 2-6 – 80 mph
TS Fiona – Aug. 17-23 – 50 mph
MH Gaston – Aug 22-Sep. 3 – 120 mph
TD Eight – Aug. 28-Sep 1 – 35 mph
TS Hermine – Aug 28-Sep. 3 – 80 mph
TS Ian – Sep. 12-16 – 60 mph
TS Julia – Sep. 13-19 – 40 mph
TS Karl – Sep. 14-25 – 70 mph
TS Lisa – Sep. 19-25 – 50 mph
MH Matthew – Sep. 28-Oct. 9 – 160 mph
MH Nicole – Oct. 4-18 – 130 mph
H Otto – Nov. 21-26 – 110 mph

When completed, reports on individual 2016 storms (including tracks) will be available online at  The archive of advisories on these storms is available online at

Below is the Hurricane Center’s graph of preliminary (subject to verification) tracks of Atlantic tropical storms and hurricanes in 2016, as of 12-1-16.


A November 30, 2016, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) news release on the 2016 tropical storm season (“First above-normal Atlantic hurricane season since 2012 produced five landfalling U.S. storms“) noted the following about this year’s season in the  Atlantic basin as well as the Pacific basin:

Atlantic Basin

“For the Atlantic, this was the first above-normal season since 2012.  The Atlantic saw 15 named storms during 2016, including 7 hurricanes (Alex, Earl, Gaston, Hermine, Matthew, Nicole, and Otto), 3 of which were major hurricanes (Gaston, Matthew and Nicole).  NOAA’s updated hurricane season outlook in August called for 12 to 17 named storms, including 5 to 8 hurricanes, with 2 to 4 of those predicted to become major hurricanes.

“Five named storms made landfall in the United States during 2016, the most since 2008 when six storms struck.  Tropical Storm Bonnie and Hurricane Matthew struck South Carolina.  Tropical Storms Colin and Julia, as well as Hurricane Hermine, made landfall in Florida.  Hermine was the first hurricane to make landfall in Florida since Wilma in 2005.

“Several Atlantic storms made landfall outside of the United States during 2016: Tropical Storm Danielle in Mexico, Hurricane Earl in Belize, Hurricane Matthew in Haiti, Cuba, and the Bahamas, and Hurricane Otto in Nicaragua.

“The strongest and longest-lived storm of the season was Matthew, which reached maximum sustained surface winds of 160 miles per hour and lasted as a major hurricane for eight days from Sept. 30 to Oct. 7.  Matthew was the first category 5 hurricane in the Atlantic basin since Felix in 2007.  Matthew intensified into a major hurricane on Sept. 30 over the Caribbean Sea, making it the first major hurricane in that region since Poloma in 2008.  It made landfall as a category 4 major hurricane in Haiti, Cuba and the Bahamas, causing extensive damage and loss of life.  It then made landfall on Oct. 8 as a category 1 hurricane in the U.S. near McClellanville, South Carolina.

“Matthew caused storm surge and beach erosion from Florida through North Carolina, and produced more than 10 inches of rain resulting in extensive freshwater flooding over much of the eastern Carolinas.  The storm was responsible for the greatest U.S. loss of life due to inland flooding from a tropical system since torrential rains from Hurricane Floyd caused widespread and historic flooding in eastern North Carolina in 1999.

“’The strength of Hurricane Matthew, as well as the increased number of U.S. landfalling storms this season, were linked to large areas of exceptionally weak vertical wind shear that resulted from a persistent ridge of high pressure in the middle and upper atmosphere over Caribbean Sea and the western Atlantic Ocean,’” said Gerry Bell, Ph.D., lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. “’These conditions, along with very warm Caribbean waters, helped fuel Matthew’s rapid strengthening.’”

Pacific Basin
“The eastern Pacific hurricane basin, which covers the eastern Pacific Ocean east of 140 degrees West, produced 21 named storms during 2016, including 11 hurricanes of which 5 became major hurricanes. July through September was the most active three-month period on record for this basin. NOAA’s eastern Pacific hurricane season outlook called for 13 to 20 named storms, including 6 to 11 hurricanes, 3 to 6 of which were expected to become major hurricanes.

“The central Pacific hurricane basin covers the Pacific Ocean west of 140 degrees West to the International Date Line. This basin saw seven tropical cyclones (includes tropical depressions and named storms) during 2016. All seven became named storms, and included three hurricanes of which two were major hurricanes. Tropical Storm Darby made landfall on the Big Island of Hawaii, marking the first time in recorded history that two storms in three years struck the Big Island (Darby in 2016 and Iselle in 2014). NOAA’s central Pacific hurricane season outlook called for 4 to 7 tropical cyclones. That outlook does not predict specific ranges of named storms, hurricanes and major hurricanes.”

For a news media report summarizing the 2016 Atlantic tropical storm season, see Several storms left their mark during 2016 hurricane season, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 11/30/16.

Other Water Central News Grouper tropical storm reports are available online at


October 5, 2016 (8:15 a.m. EDT) satellite photo of Hurricane Matthew (category 4 at the time), centered between Cuba and Haiti; and Tropical Storm Nicole in the Atlantic northeast of Puerto Rico.  Photo accessed at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Web site at, on 10/5/16, 9:00 a.m. EDT.  NOTE: Z, or Greenwich Mean Time, shown on the photo is 4 hours ahead of EDT and 5 hours ahead of EST.