earth talk

  • Toyota's Mirai fuel cell vehicle is already available in California, the only U.S. state with any kind of hydrogen refueling infrastructure in place. Photo Credit: RynseOut, FlickrCC

    Is It True That Fuel Cell Cars Are Finally Available for Mainstream Drivers in the U.S.?

    Roddy Scheer & Doug Moss EarthTalk For years, green car enthusiasts have been heralding the dawn of a new era of pollution-free driving powered by fuel cells, which combine readily available hydrogen with oxygen to fire up the engine. NASA created the first commercial grade fuel cells in the...
  • You call this a revolution? Spraying fields with synthetic chemicals to keep pests down is no way to take care of the planet and its inhabitants' health. Photo Credit: Oregon Dep't of Agriculture, FlickrCC.

    Food for Thought

    Even though pesticides may take an environmental toll, isn’t it worth it given how many more mouths we can feed thanks to their use? Roddy Scheer & Doug Moss EarthTalk The advent of new technologies coming out of World War II led agricultural researchers to start experimenting with new...
  • Avengers star Mark Ruffalo is one of a handful of Hollywood A-listers committed to the fight against climate change. Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore, FlickrCC

    Who are some of the greener movie stars out there today and what are they doing to fight for the planet?

    Roddy Scheer & Doug Moss EarthTalk While a handful of Hollywood A-listers—Robert Redford, Meryl Streep and Ed Begley Jr., to name a few —have been actively campaigning for the environment for decades, a new wave of green celebrities is using star power to help convince millions of fans around...
  • Some consider the lead contamination of the water supply of predominantly African-American Flint, Michigan to be an environmental justice issue. Photo Credit: Victoria Pickering, FlickrCC.

    What Is “Environmental Justice” and How Is It Under Assault in the New Administration?

    Roddy Scheer & Doug Moss EathTalk Environmental justice is defined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin or income, with respect to the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and policies.”...
  • Environmentalists worry that Neil Gorsuch will be dismissive of advocacy groups and could cast the deciding vote against implementing the Clean Power Plan. Photo Credit: Wikipedia

    Neil Gorsuch and the Environment

    What will be the implications for environmental and climate policy if Neil Gorsuch is confirmed to fill the vacant seat on the Supreme Court? Roddy Scheer & Doug Moss EarthTalk Environmental leaders aren’t particularly jazzed about Neil Gorsuch as Donald Trump’s nominee to fill the vacancy left on the...
  • Los devastadores daños causados por el muro existente. Photo Credit:Sierra Club

    El Muro de la Vergüenza

    Javier Sierra Sierra Club Durante los peores años de la Guerra Fría, el Muro de Berlín se ganó el sobrenombre de Muro de la Vergüenza. En 1963, el Presidente Kennedy, en un memorable discurso, dijo que, “El Muro es (…) una ofensa contra la humanidad que separa a familias,...
  • This huge 2010 phytoplankton bloom, visible from space, stretched for hundreds of miles across the Barents Sea between Russia and Scandinavia. Photo Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.


In this natural-color image from August 31, 2010, the ocean’s canvas swirls with turquoise, teal, navy, and green, the abstract art of the natural world. The colors were painted by a massive phytoplankton bloom made up of millions of tiny, light-reflecting organisms growing in the sunlit surface waters of the Barents Sea. Such blooms peak every August in the Barents Sea.

The variations in color are caused by different species and concentrations of phytoplankton. The bright blue colors are probably from coccolithophores, a type of phytoplankton that is coated in a chalky shell that reflects light, turning the ocean a milky turquoise. Coccolithophores dominate the Barents Sea in August. Shades of green are likely from diatoms, another type of phytoplankton. Diatoms usually dominate the Barents Sea earlier in the year, giving way to coccolithophores in the late summer. However, field measurements of previous August blooms have also turned up high concentrations of diatoms.

The Barents Sea is a shallow sea sandwiched between the coastline of northern Russia and Scandinavia and the islands of Svalbard, Franz Josef Land, and Novaya Zemlya. Within the shallow basin, currents carrying warm, salty water from the Atlantic collide with currents carrying cold, fresher water from the Arctic. During the winter, strong winds drive the currents and mix the waters. When winter’s sea ice retreats and light returns in the spring, diatoms thrive, typically peaking in a large bloom in late May.

The shift between diatoms and coccolithophores occurs as the Barents Sea changes during the summer months. Throughout summer, perpetual light falls on the waters, gradually warming the surface. Eventually, the ocean stratifies into layers, with warm water sitting on top of cooler water. The diatoms deplete most of the nutrients in the surface waters and stop growing. Coccolithophores, on the other hand, do well in warm, nutrient-depleted water with a l

    How do environmentalists feel about the concept of ocean fertilization as a form of carbon sequestration?

    Doug Moss & Roddy Scheer EarthTalk Ocean fertilization is a technique whereby swaths of ocean are “seeded” with iron to promote the growth of phytoplankton (microscopic plants that form the base of the marine food chain), and is one of several promising geo-engineering techniques that could help mitigate global...
  • Everyday Americans shouldn't feel helpless when it comes to influencing policy on environmental issues. Calling on your Representatives in Congress to let them know how you feel is the first step toward becoming part of the solution. Photo Credit: RJ Schmidt, FlickrCC.

    A New Administration, a New Fight for the Environment

    What can be done as an average citizen to combat harmful environmental policies Roddy Scheer & Doug Moss EarthTalk Lots. The sad fact is that while more than two-thirds of Americans want the federal government to do more to protect against global warming and other environmental ills, the Trump...
  • Activists with the Sierra Club's Beyond Dirty Fuels campaign are stepping up efforts to fight oil and gas pipelines given Donald Trump's intentions to increase fossil fuel development. Photo Credit: EarthTalk

    What are environmentalists doing to prepare for a Trump presidency?

    EarthTalk Roddy Scheer & Doug Moss Many different interest groups are worried about what Donald Trump’s ascendancy to the White House will mean for their causes, but perhaps none are as concerned as environmental and climate activists. The new administration has vowed to gut the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA),...