8_13 Earth Imaging Broadcast (Toxic Phytoplankton, Climate Change and More)

Hello, and welcome to GeoSpatial Stream. I’m your host, Todd Danielson, and today’s Lead Sponsor is Esri’s Geodesign Summit.

Today’s Top Story is phytoplankton, the micro algae that are the primary vegetation in the oceans and fresh waters. Did you know that phytoplankton remove more carbon dioxide from Earth’s atmosphere than all terrestrial vegetation combined? Or that phytoplankton produce more than 50 percent of the world’s oxygen?

So phytoplankton are mostly good, but they can occasionally get out of hand and cause serious problems. NASA’s Landsat 8 satellite has been tracking severe blooms that are causing havoc on both coasts of the United States.

At this time, the bloom in the Atlantic Ocean appears relatively benign. Other than the pretty pictures and colored goo, it seems like a bloom that will better feed the ocean creatures further up the food chain.

But that’s not the case in the Pacific, where several species of blooming phytoplankton are toxic (here’s a picture of one of the bad ones). The blooms there, up to 40 miles wide and 650 feet deep, have been linked to deaths of whales, sea lions and sea birds; and some fisheries for crabs, clams, sardines and anchovies have been closed.

If these blooms continue to last and cause further havoc, look for more updates from space in future broadcasts.

That was today’s Top Story. I’ll be back with more news after this interview clip from Esri’s Geodesign Summit.

NOAA announced that June 2015 was the warmest June on record for the globe; global land areas and oceans each recorded record highs for June; and the first half of 2015 was also a global record high. The June record surpassed the previous high that went all the way back to … last year. Of course, NOAA records only go back to 1880, so there’s that. I won’t even go into the sea-ice numbers, but let’s just say that Arctic shipping lanes are looking better and better.

And NASA opened its CubeSat Launch Initiative to applicants until Nov. 24, 2015. The initiative gives CubeSat developers access to a low-cost pathway to get their satellites into space. However, NASA does not provide funding for developing the satellites.


In industry headlines, Bluesky added thousands of old aerial photos to its online data collection, including some of the earliest commercial aerial survey images.


Esri published Essential Earth Imaging for GIS, a field guide to Earth imaging that provides guidance to efficiently and effectively display, manipulate, enhance, and interpret features from an image.

The European Space Agency and Airbus Safran Launchers signed a €2.4 billion Euro contract covering the development of the Ariane 6 satellite launcher.

And here’s a video from Harris Corp. about one of its new satellites:

For today’s Final Thought, I wanted to revisit the unusual phytoplankton blooms. This is a serious problem, as the toxins can cause brain damage in humans and are doing much worse to other creatures. Some areas on the Pacific coast are warning against collecting or eating fish or shellfish you catch yourself, but note that anything reaching your local grocery store has been tested and is safe, so don’t over panic.

But this is going to cost many millions of dollars, and the leading culprit for the massive and dangerous blooms is … you guessed it … warmer temperatures in the ocean. As usual, the jury is slightly out if such temperature rises are normal or part of a warming trend often referred to as global warming or climate change. But there’s a patch of water feeding the blooms that’s 3 degrees centigrade warmer than normal, and it’s called The Blob. And some scientists predict The Blob could be even bigger next year.

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I’m Todd Danielson, and this … was your GeoSpatial Stream.