OSM Day 7--Press Coverage (late update)

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The coolest part of the media experience has been watching the story spread around the world.  This is a testament to the global reach of the BBC as well as the global interest in carbon issues, especially in Europe.  As of 8:30 EST on 3/1, stories based on the BBC report have appeared in 


The Norwegian story is definitely my personal favorite.  It includes a statement by Rasmus Hansson, the Secretary General of WWF Norway that the ideas are "Interessant og tankevekkende" (interesting and thought provoking).  Like most online news, the NRK site has a comments section.  They introduce the comments with "Synes du de høye CO2-utslippene er godt nok argument for å stanse hvalfangsten? Si din mening!"  (Do you think high CO2 emissions are a good reason to stop the whale hunt?  Say what you mean!). 

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I am in Estonia, and I have also read your article. Very interesting!

And, greetings from Australia!. Blogs are definitely the right way for scientists to engage with non-scientific audiences. I read the paper of your talk - congratulations on making it through to the talk

Your work is absolutely fascinating, and seemingly logical. I have a few questions which I also posted in the comments section of your Impact of Whales and Whaling on Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide Concentrations) paper post:

How can you be sure that most whales that die of natural causes sink and store carbon for 200 years? I see you use a 50% sink rate in your calculations.

What percentage of this subset gets washed up on beaches to decay and release carbon dioxide and methane, do you know?

Also, is the main (climate change related) problem the actual release of co2 from the harpooning of whales, or is the problem the fact that the killed whale can't reproduce, thus removing it's progeny from acting as an important on-going carbon sink.

Is the period of time that co2 is sequestered in a whale sink (you suggest for a couple of hundred years) a enough of a period to have an impact in reduced atmospheric CO2.

The reason why I ask is that if every bit of the harpooned whale is used in processing (meat, products, etc) as a Climategate.com (I do not endorse this awful site - I'm just reading the comments of AGW deniers)commenter noted, then is there the same or similar chance of the whale carbon being released into the atmosphere, as there would be in a whale sink?

Congratulations Wadard for being the first commenter on our site (the Estonian comment was just a test). You raise some great questions. Let me try to answer them.

1. Proportion sinking--people that study whale falls (dead whale carcasses on the bottom of the ocean) have estimated that 90% of whales that die of natural causes sink to the bottom. This figure has always seemed high to me, so I went with the smaller number. Some support for the view of a high sinking rate: all non-right whales (blues, humpbacks, grays, etc.) have a strong tendency to sink when killed. This is why they were "wrong" whales and the last to be hunted. Beaching events are rare, especially for the larger baleen whales, but certainly some of the whales that die naturally may end up on a beach.
2. Main problem--there are two main problems as I see it. First, whaling reduced the stored biomass of carbon by removing whales. Second, the smaller populations produced fewer whale falls each year.
3. Time period--The time that sinking carbon remains out of the atmosphere depends on where it sinks and how deep it gets. The deeper you go in the ocean, the longer that the water and the gases dissolved in it will remain out of contact with the atmosphere. The ~200 year timescale is, in my opinion, quite conservative, since sinking whales are likely to make it all the way to the bottom.
4. Whale processing--using the whole whale, either for meat or oil, would result in its carbon being released to the atmosphere. In reality, some of the whale carcass was likely dumped over the side or picked over by sharks and birds. In this case, the main effect is to transfer the whale's carbon into the bodies of smaller things that will have a faster metabolic rate.
5. Climategate.com--thanks for the tip. I'm looking forward to engaging in the intelligent and rational debate that their site is known for. I'm hoping I can get a cool nickname like the ones they've given Al Gore.

Thanks again for your questions.

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This page contains a single entry by Andy Pershing published on March 1, 2010 1:27 PM.

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