The main purpose of this ongoing blog will be to track planetary extreme or record temperatures related to climate change. Any reports I see of ETs will be listed below the main topic of the day. I’ll refer to extreme or record temperatures as ETs (not extraterrestrials).😉
Main Topic: Massive Oil Spill Closes California Beaches
Dear Diary. I’ve seen this rodeo before. I can’t count the times during my 60 years that I’ve heard then read about an offshore oil spill, the most two notable being from the Exxon Valdez off the coast of Alaska in 1989 and when the Deepwater Horizon platform blew up in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. This morning I got news that a pipeline ruptured spilling oil into waters off the southern California coast, so much so that many of its beaches have been closed. Here I am rolling my eyes thinking why can’t we transition to a world in which the transport of oil across oceans becomes a thing of the past? That change can’t come fast enough in my book.
Back during the 18th century we got some of our energy from whale oil, which nearly killed off many species of that wonderful animal. Petroleum and the incandescent light bulb replaced whale oil as a major facet of society’s energy mix during the 20th century, easing life for many…including whales. Now we have an opportunity to replace rancid petroleum with renewables, which are becoming cheaper by the day, during the early 21st century. Change can be very good.
Well sigh. Change has not come fast enough to California, which on top of enduring climate crisis ramped up forest fires is having to close beaches because of the transport of a toxic fluid that can be linked to all those conflagrations during this century. Here are more details from the Los Angeles Times:
Massive oil spill sends crude onto Orange County beaches, killing birds, marine life
PUBLISHED OCT. 2, 2021 UPDATED OCT. 3, 2021 8:50 AM PT
Crews raced Sunday morning to contain the damage from a major oil spill off the Orange County coast that left crude spoiling beaches, killing fish and birds and threatening local wetlands.
The oil slick originated Saturday from a broken pipeline connected to an offshore oil platform known as Elly and has poured more than 126,000 gallons of crude into coastal waters and seeped into the Talbert Marsh, officials said. Floating barriers known as booms have been deployed to try to stop further incursion.
By sunrise Sunday, oil had washed ashore in Huntington Beach with slicks visible in the ocean, prompting officials to close a stretch of sand from the pier to the Newport Beach city line. Dead birds and fish had begun to wash up on the shore, officials said.
“We classify this as a major spill, and it is a high priority to us to mitigate any environmental concerns,” said Jennifer Carey, a Huntington Beach city spokesperson. “It’s all hands on deck.”
After sunrise the smell of diesel and tar overwhelmed the shoreline at Huntington State Beach. Crashing waves brought dark oil onto the shore in clumps and rings.
Despite the beach closure, residents walked out onto the sand early Sunday to observe the damage.
“It’s terrible,” said Jon Ely, a 58-year-old Huntington Beach resident. “This stuff is not going to come up. It’s goo, and it’s thick.”
Huntington State Beach is home to a number of species of birds, including gulls, willet, long-billed fletcher, elegant teens and reddish egret, which area rarity on the west coast, according to Ben Smith, a biologist and environmental consultant for the county.
Smith drove to the beach Sunday morning to observe wildlife ahead of a construction project planned at the mouth of the Santa Ana River, which opens into the ocean at the border of Huntington State Beach and Newport Beach.
“There’s tar everywhere,” he said, surveying the birds congregated on the north bank of the river. “You think by now we would have figured out how to keep this kind of thing from happening, but I guess not.”
The spill could have a significant impact on the habitat, he said.
“If the birds get into this tar it’s going to stick to their feathers and it’s going to be a problem for them,” he said. “It contaminated the water — it’s bad for the wildlife, bad for the water, bad for the people who use the water. It’s really unfortunate.”
The spill has already resulted in more fuel being spilled in waters than one that occurred in San Francisco Bay in 2007, which involved the cargo ship Cosco Busan striking the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge in heavy fog. That spill poured 58,000 gallons of bunker fuel into the bay, resulting in the documented deaths of more than 6,800 birds.
By Sunday morning, oil was still continuing to spill about five miles off the coast of Huntington Beach from the broken pipeline, said Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley, whose district includes Huntington Beach. Foley said Newport Beach Mayor Brad Avery told her that “he hit the oil slick in his boat … heading back from Catalina. He saw dolphins swimming thru the oil.”
Areas just offshore from the Southern California coast are a major source of oil. The platform Elly, located in federal waters off the Los Angeles County coast, was installed in 1980 and processes crude oil production from two other platforms. Elly sits atop a large reservoir of crude oil that is called Beta Field, which sits in waters overseen by the U.S. Department of the Interior.
In a statement issued just before 1 a.m. Sunday, Huntington Beach officials said more work needs to be done after sunrise to repair the leak.
“While the leak has not been completely stopped, preliminary patching has been completed to repair the oil spill site. Additional repair efforts will be attempted in the morning,” the city said in a statement. “At this time, due to the toxicity created by the spill, the city is asking that all individuals remain clear of the beach and avoid coming into contact with oiled areas.”
Divers are expected to respond Sunday to stop the leak and offshore skimming vessels will be working to protect sensitive habitat.
Officials said they won’t know the extent of the damage until sunrise. But the spill had already caused “significant ecological impacts” to the beach and wetlands area, Huntington Beach officials said.
The Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach is preparing to triage oiled wildlife impacted by the spill in the coming days, said Krysta Higuchi, public and community relations manager for the center.
“We’re not entirely sure of the magnitude just yet,” she said. “It’s definitely an all hands on deck kind of situation. We are trained for it, but it’s training you never want to have to use.”
The final day of the three-day Pacific Airshow, which had been scheduled for Sunday, has been canceled. The air show this year featured flyovers by the U.S. Navy Blue Angels, the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and the Canadian Forces Snowbirds.
“The need for prompt and intensive intervention efforts requires complete and unfettered access to the marine environment,” Huntington Beach officials said in a statement.
Officials said they had identified a 5.8-mile oil plume running roughly from Huntington Beach Pier to Newport Beach. The coast in Newport Beach remained open Sunday morning, but officials were starting to receive reports of oil hitting the beach between 52nd and the jetty, said Councilman Will O’Neill.
The Coast Guard received an initial report of an oil sheen about three miles off the coast of Newport Beach about 9:10 a.m. Saturday. Workers moved to shut the pipeline down and use pressurized equipment to retrieve as much oil as possible soon after the incident was reported, said Kate Conrad of Beta Offshore, a Southern California oil producer involved in the operation.
“We were alerted quickly,” she said.
The Coast Guard has established a unified command along with Beta Offshore and California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response. Supporting agencies are the cities of Long Beach, Newport Beach and Huntington Beach and the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.
People are being asked not to approach potentially affected wildlife, as “they can cause more harm than good to the animals,” but instead call the UC Davis Oiled Wildlife Care Network at (877) 823-6926, said Eric Laughlin, a spokesman for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. A crew from the network has been mobilized for any needed rescue and rehabilitation work.
“Members of the public should avoid the oiled shoreline, as the area is unsafe and should be cleaned only by trained contractors,” Laughlin said.
Newport Beach resident Kerry Keating said she and other neighbors began smelling a “horrible and strong” tar-like odor Friday night, and several people on the Nextdoor neighborhood network also reported hearing a loud boom.
“We are all quite concerned for the marine life,” Keating wrote in an email.
In Huntington Beach, fire officials were deploying booms to block the ocean water from entering the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve and wetlands, said Carey, the city’s spokeswoman.
At a news conference late Saturday night, local officials expressed grave concern about the environmental impacts of the spill and hoped workers could prevent the oil from hitting sensitive wetlands.
“We’ve been working with our federal, state and county partners to mitigate the impact that could be a potential ecological disaster,” Huntington Beach Mayor Kim Carr told reporters.
The incident comes more than 30 years after a huge oil spill hit the Orange County coast.
On the afternoon of Feb. 7, 1990, the oil tanker American Trader ran over its anchor in relatively shallow water off Huntington Beach, spilling nearly 417,000 gallons of crude and fouling popular beaches along the Orange County coast. The oil killed fish and about 3,400 birds.
In 2015, an oil pipeline ruptured north of Santa Barbara and sent 143,000 gallons of crude oil flowing onto Refugio State Beach, with some of it getting into the ocean. Tar balls from the leak were found as far away as Manhattan Beach.
That spill forced the closure of Refugio and El Capitan state beaches and covered waves, rocky shores, sandy beaches and kelp forests with oil. According to the Oiled Wildlife Care Network, which was involved in recovery efforts, 204 birds and 106 marine mammals died as a result of the spill.
A Santa Barbara County grand jury later indicted Plains All American Pipeline on 46 criminal counts, including four felony charges of knowingly discharging a pollutant into state waters. The company agreed to pay more than $60 million and change its operations to settle litigation arising from the oil spill.
Sen. Dave Min (D-Irvine) said the Orange County spill is a catastrophe for the area’s beautiful coastline.
“I spoke with state officials last night, and this oil spill sounds comparable to the 2015 spill at Refugio State Beach. Beaches may have to be shut down for several weeks or longer. The impacts to our local marine ecosystem and economy will be significant,” Min said.
There has been debate in recent years about whether the government should allow new oil drilling off the California coast. No new offshore oil drilling has been approved in federal waters off the state coastline since 1984.
The Trump administration proposed to open for exploration offshore oil and natural gas reserves, including waters off California.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) proposed a bill in January that would permanently ban the Department of the Interior from allowing new leases to allow for the exploration, development or production of oil or natural gas off the coast of California, Oregon and Washington state.
The worst marine oil spill in California’s history occurred in 1969, after a blowout of a drilling rig platform resulted in the spill of 4.2 million gallons of crude off Santa Barbara. Crude oil spewed out of the rupture at a rate of 1,000 gallons an hour for a month before it could be slowed; thousands of birds, fish and sea mammals died.
The 1969 offshore oil spill was the nation’s worst until the Exxon Valdez dumped 11 million gallons of crude oil off the coast of Alaska in 1989. That spill painted beaches black, and resulted in the corpses of seals and dolphins washing in with the tides.
The largest marine oil spill in U.S. history resulted in 134 million gallons of oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico after an explosion in 2010 rocked the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform.
The San Francisco Bay Area recently commemorated the 50th anniversary of the devastating 1971 oil spill that dumped 800,000 gallons of bunker fuel in the bay. The spill occurred after two oil tankers struck each other in heavy fog. Thousands of birds died.
Here is some September 2021 climatology:
Here is more climate and weather news from Sunday:
(As usual, this will be a fluid post in which more information gets added during the day as it crosses my radar, crediting all who have put it on-line. Items will be archived on this site for posterity. In most instances click on the pictures of each tweet to see each article. The most noteworthy items will be listed first.)
Now here are some of today’s articles and notes on the horrid COVID-19 pandemic:
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Guy Walton “The Climate Guy”