Post Reports

The ‘South Atlantic blob’: The vulnerability of the world’s warming oceans

Chris Mooney, John Muyskens and Carolyn Van Houten on the dangerous hot zones spreading around the world. David Weigel previews the next Democratic presidential debate. And Sarah Kaplan describes a ‘Super Earth’ 110 light-years away.
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Post Reports is the daily podcast from The Washington Post. Unparalleled reporting. Expert insight. Clear analysis. Everything you’ve come to expect from the newsroom of The Post -- for your ears.

In this episode

Dangerous hot zones spread across the world
The entire global ocean is warming, but some parts of it are changing much faster than others – like a hot spot off Uruguay that was first identified by scientists in 2012. There, researchers have observed mass die-offs of clams, dangerous ocean heat waves and algal blooms, and changes in Uruguay’s fish catch. 

The South Atlantic region is part of a global trend: Around the planet, enormous ocean currents are traveling to new locations. As they relocate, waters are growing warmer. 

“Scientists have basically correlated the clam decline and a lot of other things that have happened at the same time with the really quick warm-up of temperatures that have happened in this region,” says environmental reporter Chris Mooney

He and data reporter John Muyskens have been examining how temperatures have changed around the world since the late 1800s. 

Mooney, along with photographer Carolyn Van Houten, met clammers directly affected by climate change in Barra del Chuy, Uruguay. Out on the sand, the harvesters demonstrated how difficult it has become for them to maintain their traditions and livelihoods as the clams die out.

“People essentially live off the fruits of the sea,” Van Houten says. “That’s a very long-standing thing for people to do. But it has received quite a jolt in this region. And it’s not clear that it will ever be the same.”

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‘There is a fear that anything less than the safe choice would lose the election’
On Thursday, Democratic presidential candidates who were able to pull 130,000 unique donations and poll at least 2 percent in four polls will meet on the debate stage in Houston. 

It’ll be the first time top-polling candidates Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders share the stage and the only night of debate for the 10 qualifying candidates this month.

“There are not five stragglers who think they’re going to burst into the top by attacking a frontrunner,” says political reporter David Weigel. “The debate you might see instead would be about the sale-ability, politically, or the realism of a couple of different plans.”

Weigel says the candidates who poll behind the top three will have to prove they’re electable before voters narrow their lists.

“The tug-of-war that people are having onstage does not reflect with voters who just want to be convinced that, ‘Okay, if I vote for the person I like best, will they not blow it? Because I’m scared of what happened last time,’ ” Weigel says.

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‘Not a vacation destination’: Scientists discover ‘Super Earth’ a mere 110 light-years away
Using the Hubble Space Telescope, scientists have found a potentially habitable “Super Earth” planet with water in its atmosphere – and possibly (likely) on its surface. K2-18b is large and rocky and closely orbits a dim red star just 110 light-years away in the constellation Leo. 

“As strange and alien as this place seems, this exoplanet is now considered a really great target to search for life beyond our planet,” says science reporter Sarah Kaplan.

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About Post Reports

Post Reports is the daily podcast from The Washington Post. Unparalleled reporting. Expert insight. Clear analysis. Everything you’ve come to expect from the newsroom of The Post -- for your ears.