Ecology, Climate Change and Related News

Ellie Cohen, President and CEO, Point Blue Conservation Science

Author Archives: ecohen

  1. Adaptation Toolkits

    Leave a Comment

     

    A Toolkit to Help Communities Respond to a Changing Climate

    Posted by Dr. John P. Holdren, Mike Boots, Lisa Monaco on November 17, 2014 at 12:45 PM EST

    The Obama Administration, as part of the President’s Climate Data Initiative, released the Climate Resilience Toolkit (http://toolkit.climate.gov/) which includes in their catalogue 3 tools developed and managed by Point Blue and numerous partners:

      * Future SF Bay Tidal Marshes 

      * Our Coast, Our Future 

      * California Climate Commons 

     

    NOAA National Sea Grant Resilience Toolkit Released
    Sea Grant has recently launched the National Resilience Toolkit, a combination of tools and resources developed over the past several years by the Sea Grant Network to assist local communities in becoming more resilient to climate change. As coastal populations grow, it becomes necessary for communities to become more resilient to several natural hazards, including water quality challenges, severe weather, and overall effects of climate change. Sea Grant programs are spread out across diverse communities and specialize in developing tools that are tailored to local needs. This toolkit allows users to learn about tools from across the entire network, giving them the opportunity to adapt tools for their own local needs. Each entry includes a description of the tools, a link for more information, and a point of contact. The toolkit combines more than 100 tools and will be updated as more tools are created. Visit the toolkit

     

        DECISION SUPPORT TOOLS- Sampling

  2. What Past Droughts Tell us about Tomorrow

    Leave a Comment

     

     


    Lake Powell, in 2009, showing a white calcium carbonate “bathtub ring” exposed after a decade of drought lowered the level of the reservoir to 60 percent of its capacity. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.)

    The West without Water: What Can Past Droughts Tell Us About Tomorrow?

    by B. Lynn Ingram vol. 8, issue 6 – March 2015 OSU.EDU

    Editor’s Note:

    Almost as soon as European settlers arrived in California they began advertising the place as the American Garden of Eden. And just as quickly people realized it was a garden with a very precarious water supply. Currently, California is in the middle of a years-long drought and the water crisis is threatening the region’s vital agricultural economy, not to mention the quality of life of its people, plants, and animals. This month B. Lynn Ingram, Professor of Geography and Earth & Planetary Science, examines how a deep historical account of California’s water patterns can help us plan for the future.

    The state of California is beginning its fourth year of a serious drought, with no end in sight. The majority of water in the western United States is delivered by winter storms from the Pacific, and over the past year, those storms were largely blocked by an enormous ridge of high pressure. A relatively wet December has given way to the driest January on record, and currently over 90 percent of California is in severe to exceptional drought. The southwestern states are also experiencing moderate to severe drought, and this comes on the heels of a very dry decade. This long drought has crept up on the region, partly because droughts encroach slowly and they lack the visual and visceral effects of other, more immediate natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, or tsunamis. Meteorologists define drought as an abnormally long period of insufficient rainfall adversely affecting growing or living conditions. But this bland definition belies the devastation wrought by these natural disasters. Drought can lead to failed crops, desiccated landscapes, wildfires, dehydrated livestock, and in severe cases, water wars, famine, and mass migration. Although the situation in the West has not yet reached such epic proportions, the fear is that if it continues much longer, it could.

    In California, reservoirs are currently at only 38 percent of capacity, and the snowpack is only 25 percent of normal for late January. Elsewhere in the Southwest, Lake Powell, the largest reservoir on the Colorado River, is at 44 percent of capacity. The amount of water transported through irrigation systems to California’s Central Valley—the most productive agricultural region in the world—has been reduced to only 20 percent of customary quantities, forcing farmers to deepen groundwater wells and drill new ones. Over the past year, 410,000 acres have been fallowed in this vast agricultural region that provides 30 percent of all the produce grown in the United States and virtually all of the world’s almonds, walnuts, and pistachios. As California dries up, food prices might well rise across the nation.
    The question on everyone’s mind is when will this dry period finally come to an end and rainfall return to normal—and just what is normal for the U.S. Southwest when it comes to rain?
    And with a growing and more urban population and an ever-changing climate, will we ever be free from the threat of long dry periods, with their disruptive effects on food production and the plants and animals that rely on water to survive?

    A glance into the history of the Southwest reminds us that the climate and rainfall patterns have varied tremendously over time, with stretches of drought many decades longer than the one we are experiencing now. Long dry stretches during the Medieval centuries (especially between 900 and 1350 CE) had dramatic effects on the native peoples of the Southwest (the ancestral Pueblo, Hohokam, and Sinagua), including civilizational collapse, violence, malnutrition, and forced social dislocation. These earlier Americans are a warning to us. The past 150 years, which we have used as our baseline for assumptions about rainfall patterns, water availability for agriculture, water laws, and infrastructure planning, may in fact be an unusually wet period. Let’s look at the past few hundred years first and then explore the region’s climate in geological time.

     

    [excellent article- worth reading entire piece here…]

  3. What massive snowfall in Boston tells us about global warming

    Leave a Comment

     

     

    Source: U.S. National Climate Assessment.

    What the massive snowfall in Boston tells us about global warming

    By Chris Mooney February 10  2015 Washington Post

    The snowfall in Boston lately is simply insane. The local bureau of the National Weather Service has tallied up the data and here’s how it looks — with all time records for snow within a 14-, 20-, and 30-day period: You could treat this as ordinary weather, or, you could think about it in a climate context. Counter-intuitive though it may sound, the fact remains that — as I have noted previously — some kinds of winter precipitation could indeed be more intense because we’re in a warming world. Consider, for instance, that sea surface temperatures off the coast of New England are flashing red, showing an extreme warm anomaly. That’s highly relevant — because warmer oceans have atmospheric consequences.  “Sea surface temperatures off the coast of New England right now are at record levels, 11.5C (21F) warmer than normal in some locations,” says Penn State climate researcher Michael Mann. “There is [a] direct relationship between the surface warmth of the ocean and the amount of moisture in the air. What that means is that this storm will be feeding off these very warm seas, producing very large amounts of snow as spiraling winds of the storm squeeze that moisture out of the air, cool, it, and deposit it as snow inland.” Warmer oceans also increase the temperature contrasts that winter storms encounter when they hit the East Coast, notes Mann — and this ups their strength.  “Heavy snows mean the temperature is just below freezing, any cooler and the amount would be a lot less,” adds Kevin Trenberth, a climate expert at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. “Warmer waters off the coast help elevate winter temperatures and contribute to the greater snow amounts. This is how global warming plays a role.” Yes, it might sound strange, but it can actually snow more when it’s a bit warmer — not too warm for snow, of course, but not extremely cold, either. What we’re seeing also fits a trend for New England. As the U.S. National Climate Assessment so helpfully illustrates [above], the region has seen a dramatic 71 percent upswing in extreme precipitation from 1958 to 2012:
    “Increase of extreme precipitation has occurred in all regions of the continental USA and further changes are expected in the coming decades,” adds a 
    recent study. The mechanisms by which global warming messes with winter certainly do involve some counterbalancing forces. On the one hand, if it’s warmer overall, you’d expect temperatures to reach the threshold required for snow less frequently. You’d also expect snow cover to decline — snow will melt away faster in a warmer world when it does fall. As Trenberth argues, this means that at the beginning and end of winter, precipitation that might once have fallen as snow would now be more likely to fall as rain.

  4. Global warming to increase ocean upwelling, but fisheries impact uncertain

    Leave a Comment

     

    Global warming to increase ocean upwelling, but fisheries impact uncertain

    Posted: 18 Feb 2015 06:30 AM PST

    A new report in NATURE suggests that global warming may increase upwelling in several ocean current systems around the world by the end of this century, especially at high latitudes, and will cause major changes in marine biodiversity. Since upwelling of colder, nutrient-rich water is a driving force behind marine productivity, one possibility may be enhancement of some of the world’s most important fisheries. However, solar heating due to greenhouse warming may also increase the persistence of “stratification,” or the horizontal layering of ocean water of different temperatures. The result could be a warm, near-surface layer and a deep, cold layer. If this happens to a significant extent, it could increase global “hypoxic,” or low-oxygen events, decouple upwelling from the supply of nutrient-rich water and pose a significant threat to the global function of fisheries and marine ecosystems. The projected increase in upwelling, in other words, appears clear and definitive. But researchers say its biological impact is far less obvious, which is a significant concern. These upwelling systems cover less than 2 percent of the ocean surface, but contribute 7 percent to global marine primary production, and 20 percent of global fish catches…. Among the findings of the study:

    * The change in upwelling may be more pronounced in the Southern Hemisphere, due to the local influences of land masses, coastline, water depth and other issues.

    * Major current systems will be affected off the western coasts of North America, South America, Africa and parts of Europe.

    * The general increase in upwelling is going to be driven by a strengthening of alongshore winds, due to a differential in land and ocean heating.

    * At high, but not low latitudes, the upwelling season will start earlier, last longer and be more intense.

    * At tropical and sub-tropical latitudes, upwelling will become almost a year-round phenomenon.

    * The findings are consistent with different research which shows that coastal upwelling has intensified over the past 60 years.

    * Impacts on the California Current System are expected to be less pronounced because of other climatic forces at work, such as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, the El Nino-Southern Oscillation, and the North Pacific Gyre Oscillation.

     

    Daiwei Wang, Tarik C. Gouhier, Bruce A. Menge, Auroop R. Ganguly. Intensification and spatial homogenization of coastal upwelling under climate change. Nature, 2015; 518 (7539): 390 DOI: 10.1038/nature14235

  5. Fearless birds and big city spiders: is urbanization pushing earth’s evolution to a tipping point?

    Leave a Comment

     

     

    Pigeon. Birds in urban areas are growing tamer and bolder, outcompeting their country cousins.Credit: © Tatiana Katsai / Fotolia

    Fearless birds and big city spiders: Is urbanization pushing earth’s evolution to a tipping point?

    Posted: 18 Feb 2015 04:15 PM PST

    That humans and our cities build affect the ecosystem and even drive some evolutionary change is already known. What’s new is that these evolutionary changes are happening more quickly than previously thought, and have potential impacts on ecosystem function on a contemporary scale. Not in the distant future, that is — but now. The signs are small but striking: Spiders in cities are getting bigger and salmon in rivers smaller; birds in urban areas are growing tamer and bolder, outcompeting their country cousins. …suggests that if human-driven evolutionary change affects the functioning of ecosystems — as evidence is showing — it “may have significant implications for ecological and human well-being.” Alberti, a professor of urban design and planning, said that until recently it was assumed that evolutionary change would take too long to affect ecological processes quite so immediately. Such thinking has prevented evidence from coming together “in a way that can only emerge through a cross-disciplinary lens,” she said, observing the interactions between humans and natural processes. “We now have evidence that there is rapid evolution. These changes may affect the state of the environment now. This is what’s called eco-evolutionary feedback. “Cities are not simply affecting biodiversity by reducing the number and variety of species that live in urban habitats,” Alberti said. Humans in cities are causing organisms to undergo accelerated evolutionary changes “that have effects on ecosystem functions such as biodiversity, nutrient cycling, seed dispersal, detoxification, food production and ultimately on human health and well-being.”… Humans in cities cause these changes through a variety of ways, Alberti said. Our urbanization alters and breaks up natural vegetation patterns, introduces toxic pollutants and novel disturbances such as noise and light and increases the temperature. Human presence also changes the availability of resources such as food and water, altering the life cycle of many species. Alberti said the emerging evidence prompts serious questions with implications for the focus and design of future studies:

    • Can global rapid urbanization indeed affect the course of Earth’s evolution?

    • Is urbanization moving the world closer to an environmental tipping point on the scale of the Great Oxidation Event that introduced oxygen into the atmosphere more than 2 billion years ago?

    • Might different patterns of urbanization alter the effect of human action on eco-evolution?

    Still, Alberti said hers is not a “catastrophic” perspective, but one that highlights both the challenges and the unique opportunity that humans have in shaping the evolution of planet Earth.

    Ecosystems in urban environments are a sort of hybrid, she said: “It is their hybrid nature that makes them unstable, but also capable of innovating.” She explores the theme further in a book to be published in spring 2016, titled “Cities as Hybrid Ecosystems.” “We can drive urbanizing ecosystems to collapse — or we can consciously steer them toward a resilient and sustainable future,” Alberti said. “The question is whether we become aware of the role we are playing.”

     

    Marina Alberti. Eco-evolutionary dynamics in an urbanizing planet. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 2015; 30 (2): 114 DOI: 10.1016/j.tree.2014.11.007

  6. Climate-Smart Restoration Toolkit- Point Blue

    Leave a Comment



    Ecological Restoration


    Science and Practice

    Worldwide, habitat loss is the number one cause of extinction and loss of ecosystem services.  In California, more than 90% of all wetlands and riparian areas have been completely destroyed and what remains is highly degraded. Accelerating climate and land-use change adds additional stress to what little habitat remains, and to the species and services provided by nature.   

    The results – poor water quality, higher flood risk, fewer species, and less carbon sequestered by nature, to name a few. But there is hope.  Ecological restoration is a key tool to help heal the damage and to prepare ecosystems for climate change. 

    What is ecological restoration?  The Society for Ecological Restoration defines it as the process of assisting the recovery of an ecosystem that has been degraded, damaged, or destroyed.  Point Blue scientists believe we need to expand this definition to include climate change adaptation – actions designed to reduce the vulnerability of natural and societal systems to the effects of climate change. We call this climate-smart restoration….


    Climate-Smart Restoration Toolkit


    Tools for preparing restoration projects for climate change

    Here we provide resources for restoration practitioners interested in designing their projects in a way that prepares them for climate change – climate-smart restoration.

    Restoration Checklist: A check-list (MS Word) that can be used to plan and describe climate-smart restoration projects.

    Riparian Restoration Design Database, Marin and Sonoma counties: An XCEL toolkit (MS Excel) and associated “How To” guide (pdf) that allows the user to design riparian restoration re-vegetation projects that are climate-smart.

    Selected Resources: Climate Change Predictions

    Selected Resources: Riparian Restoration

  7. Conservation Science News Feb 20 2015

    Leave a Comment

     

     

    Focus of the Week -Climate-Smart Restoration Tool Kit

    1-ECOLOGY, BIODIVERSITY, RELATED

    2-CLIMATE CHANGE AND EXTREME EVENTS with special DROUGHT section

    3- ADAPTATION and HOPE

    4- POLICY

    5- RENEWABLES, ENERGY AND RELATED

    6-
    RESOURCES and REFERENCES

    7-OTHER NEWS OF INTEREST 

    8-IMAGES OF THE WEEK

    ——————————–

    NOTE: Please pass on my weekly news update that has been prepared for
    Point Blue Conservation Science
    staff.  You can find these weekly compilations posted on line
    by clicking here.  For more information please see www.pointblue.org.


    The items contained in this update were drawn from www.dailyclimate.org, www.sciencedaily.com, SER The Society for Ecological Restorationhttp://news.google.com, www.climateprogress.org, www.slate.com, www.sfgate.com, The Wildlife Society NewsBrief, CA BLM NewsBytes and other sources as indicated.  This is a compilation of information available on-line, not verified and not endorsed by Point Blue Conservation Science.  
    You can sign up for this news compilation by signing up for the California Landscape Conservation Cooperative Newsletter or the Bay Area Ecosystems Climate Change Consortium listserve to receive this. You can also email me directly at Ellie Cohen, ecohen at pointblue.org with questions or suggestions. 

    Founded as Point Reyes Bird Observatory, Point Blue’s 140 scientists advance nature-based solutions to climate change, habitat loss and other environmental threats to benefit wildlife and people, through bird and ecosystem science, partnerships and outreach.  We work collaboratively to guide and inspire positive conservation outcomes today — for a healthy, blue planet teeming with life in the future.  Read more about our 5-year strategic approach here.

     

     

    Focus of the Week- Climate-Smart Restoration Toolkit



    Ecological Restoration


    Science and Practice

    Worldwide, habitat loss is the number one cause of extinction and loss of ecosystem services.  In California, more than 90% of all wetlands and riparian areas have been completely destroyed and what remains is highly degraded. Accelerating climate and land-use change adds additional stress to what little habitat remains, and to the species and services provided by nature.   

    The results – poor water quality, higher flood risk, fewer species, and less carbon sequestered by nature, to name a few. But there is hope.  Ecological restoration is a key tool to help heal the damage and to prepare ecosystems for climate change. 

    What is ecological restoration?  The Society for Ecological Restoration defines it as the process of assisting the recovery of an ecosystem that has been degraded, damaged, or destroyed.  Point Blue scientists believe we need to expand this definition to include climate change adaptation – actions designed to reduce the vulnerability of natural and societal systems to the effects of climate change. We call this climate-smart restoration….


    Climate-Smart Restoration Toolkit


    Tools for preparing restoration projects for climate change

    Here we provide resources for restoration practitioners interested in designing their projects in a way that prepares them for climate change – climate-smart restoration.

    Restoration Checklist: A check-list (MS Word) that can be used to plan and describe climate-smart restoration projects.

    Riparian Restoration Design Database, Marin and Sonoma counties: An XCEL toolkit (MS Excel) and associated “How To” guide (pdf) that allows the user to design riparian restoration re-vegetation projects that are climate-smart.

    Selected Resources: Climate Change Predictions

    Selected Resources: Riparian Restoration

     

     

     

    Pigeon. Birds in urban areas are growing tamer and bolder, outcompeting their country cousins.Credit: © Tatiana Katsai / Fotolia

    Fearless birds and big city spiders: Is urbanization pushing earth’s evolution to a tipping point?

    Posted: 18 Feb 2015 04:15 PM PST

    That humans and our cities build affect the ecosystem and even drive some evolutionary change is already known. What’s new is that these evolutionary changes are happening more quickly than previously thought, and have potential impacts on ecosystem function on a contemporary scale. Not in the distant future, that is — but now. The signs are small but striking: Spiders in cities are getting bigger and salmon in rivers smaller; birds in urban areas are growing tamer and bolder, outcompeting their country cousins. …suggests that if human-driven evolutionary change affects the functioning of ecosystems — as evidence is showing — it “may have significant implications for ecological and human well-being.” Alberti, a professor of urban design and planning, said that until recently it was assumed that evolutionary change would take too long to affect ecological processes quite so immediately. Such thinking has prevented evidence from coming together “in a way that can only emerge through a cross-disciplinary lens,” she said, observing the interactions between humans and natural processes. “We now have evidence that there is rapid evolution. These changes may affect the state of the environment now. This is what’s called eco-evolutionary feedback. “Cities are not simply affecting biodiversity by reducing the number and variety of species that live in urban habitats,” Alberti said. Humans in cities are causing organisms to undergo accelerated evolutionary changes “that have effects on ecosystem functions such as biodiversity, nutrient cycling, seed dispersal, detoxification, food production and ultimately on human health and well-being.”… Humans in cities cause these changes through a variety of ways, Alberti said. Our urbanization alters and breaks up natural vegetation patterns, introduces toxic pollutants and novel disturbances such as noise and light and increases the temperature. Human presence also changes the availability of resources such as food and water, altering the life cycle of many species. Alberti said the emerging evidence prompts serious questions with implications for the focus and design of future studies:

    • Can global rapid urbanization indeed affect the course of Earth’s evolution?

    • Is urbanization moving the world closer to an environmental tipping point on the scale of the Great Oxidation Event that introduced oxygen into the atmosphere more than 2 billion years ago?

    • Might different patterns of urbanization alter the effect of human action on eco-evolution?

    Still, Alberti said hers is not a “catastrophic” perspective, but one that highlights both the challenges and the unique opportunity that humans have in shaping the evolution of planet Earth.

    Ecosystems in urban environments are a sort of hybrid, she said: “It is their hybrid nature that makes them unstable, but also capable of innovating.” She explores the theme further in a book to be published in spring 2016, titled “Cities as Hybrid Ecosystems.” “We can drive urbanizing ecosystems to collapse — or we can consciously steer them toward a resilient and sustainable future,” Alberti said. “The question is whether we become aware of the role we are playing.”

     

    Marina Alberti. Eco-evolutionary dynamics in an urbanizing planet. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 2015; 30 (2): 114 DOI: 10.1016/j.tree.2014.11.007

     

    Plants survive better through mass extinctions than animals

    Posted: 17 Feb 2015 05:39 AM PST

    At least five mass extinction events have profoundly changed the history of life on Earth. But a new study shows that plants have been very resilient to those events.
    For over 400 million years, plants have played an essential role in almost all terrestrial environments and covered most of the world’s surface. During this long history, many smaller and a few major periods of extinction severely affected Earth’s ecosystems and its biodiversity.
    In the upcoming issue of the journal New Phytologist, the team reports their results based on more than 20,000 plant fossils with the aim to understand the effects of such dramatic events on plant diversity
    . Their findings show that mass extinction events had very different impacts among plant groups. Negative rates of diversification in plants (meaning that more species died out than new species were formed) were never sustained through long time periods. This indicates that, in general, plants have been particularly good at surviving and recovering through tough periods.

    “In the plant kingdom, mass extinction events can be seen as opportunities for turnover leading to renewed biodiversity,” says leading author Daniele Silvestro. Most striking were the results for the Cretaceous-Paleogene mass extinction, caused by the impact of an asteroid off the Mexican coast some 66 million years ago. This event had a great impact on the configuration of terrestrial habitats and led to the extinction of all dinosaurs except birds, but surprisingly it had only limited effects on plant diversity.

    Some important plant groups, such as the gymnosperms (including pines, spruce and firs) lost a great deal of their diversity through extinction. On the other hand, flowering plants (angiosperms) did not suffer from increased extinction, and shortly after the impact they underwent a new rapid increase in their diversity. These evolutionary dynamics contributed to make flowering plants dominate today’s global diversity above all other plant groups. “Mass extinctions are often thought as a bad thing, but they have been crucial in changing the world into how we know it today,” says senior author Alexandre Antonelli. If that asteroid had not struck the Earth, chances are that large dinosaurs would still be hunting around, mammals would be small and hiding in caves, and humans might never have evolved. “By studying such extreme events we are trying to learn which groups of organisms and features are more sensitive to changes, so that we can apply this knowledge to protect biodiversity in the face of on-going climate change and human deterioration of natural ecosystems,” concludes Antonelli

     

    Size matters in the battle to adapt to diverse environments, avoid extinction

    Posted: 18 Feb 2015 07:16 AM PST

    By examining research on global patterns of amphibian diversification over hundreds of millions of years, researchers have discovered that ‘sexually dimorphic’ species — those in which males and females differ in size, for example — are at lower risk of extinction and better able to adapt to diverse environments.

     

    This is a sample of the debris recovered from marine life. Credit: Lloyd Russell

    Global impact of debris on marine life studied

    Posted: 19 Feb 2015 07:16 AM PST

    Nearly 700 species of marine animal have been recorded as having encountered humanmade debris such as plastic and glass according to the most comprehensive impact study in more than a decadeResearchers at Plymouth University found evidence of 44,000 animals and organisms becoming entangled in, or swallowing debris, from reports recorded from across the globe. Plastic accounted for nearly 92 per cent of cases, and 17 per cent of all species involved were found to be threatened or near threatened on the IUCN Red List, including the Hawaiian monk seal, the loggerhead turtle and sooty shearwater. In a paper, The impact of debris on marine life, published in Marine Pollution Bulletin, authors Sarah Gall and Professor Richard Thompson present evidence collated from a wide variety of sources on instances of entanglement, ingestion, physical damage to ecosystems, and rafting — where species are transported by debris.

    Sarah Gall said: “The impact of debris on marine life is of particular concern, and effects can be wide reaching, with the consequence of ingestion and entanglement considered to be harmful. Reports in the literature began in the 1960s with fatalities being well documented for birds, turtles, fish and marine mammals.” In total, they found that 693 species had been documented as having encountered debris, with nearly 400 involving entanglement and ingestion. These incidents had occurred around the world, but were most commonly reported off the east and west coasts of North America, as well as Australia and Europe. Plastic rope and netting were responsible for the majority of entanglements, with a high number of incidents affecting northern right whales, green, loggerhead and hawksbill turtles, and the northern fulmar

     

     

    White sharks grow more slowly, mature much later than previously thought

    Posted: 18 Feb 2015 07:19 AM PST

    A new study on white sharks in the western North Atlantic indicates they grow more slowly and mature much later than previously thought. The findings present the first reliable growth curve for this species in the western North Atlantic. The results: males are sexually mature around age 26 and females around age 33, much later than currently accepted estimates of 4-10 years for males and 7-13 years for females.

     

     

    Farmers can better prevent nutrient runoff based on land characteristics

    Posted: 18 Feb 2015 01:58 PM PST

    Doing more to keep farm runoff out of the country’s waterways can start with a few key questions about what the land looks like, researchers say after creating a comprehensive nutrient runoff mitigation guide for farmland in both the Ohio and Upper Mississippi River Basins…For the type of farmland Schilling describes–a high-sloped land with a lot of runoff–the research recommends that farmers use some combination of grass waterways, contour filter strips, terraces, ponds, riparian buffers, and cover crops. This is in contrast to the methods recommended for low-sloped, well-drained land. For that type of situation, Schilling’s research suggests farmers pay increased attention to in-field source controls, and use methods such as two-stage ditches, floodplain reconnection, and off-channel wetlands. The researchers envision their guide as equally useful for conservation professionals and watershed managers, who can often be faced with an “overwhelming array of choices,” according to the article. While it is common to think that more choices can be better, the researchers say more choice can often lead to indecisiveness and inaction. With more guidance, the researchers hope that already-limited conservation resources will be directed in the most effective ways. Much of that focus remains on Iowa, Schilling says…

     

     

     

    An example of comparing two photos using the visual site assessment method in Barnhardy Meadow. Willow have increased. Aspen are present in the photo, but due to the willow obstruction, it is unclear if the level of recruitment has changed. Bare soil has decreased, eroding banks have decreased, channel width has decreased, and amount of exposed channel decreased. Credit: 1990–Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge, 2013–Jonathan Batchelor

    Cattle damage to riverbanks can be undone

    February 19, 2015 Springer Science+Business Media

    Simply removing cattle may be all that is required to restore many degraded riverside areas in the American West, although this can vary and is dependent on local conditions, researchers have found after comparing repeat photographs to assess rehabilitation of Oregon wildlife refuge. …
    Livestock ranching is ubiquitous across much of the western US. Depending on the density of livestock and grazing duration, it can have numerous impacts on the environment — from changes in the soil characteristics to the plants and animals to be found in an area. Riparian, or riverside, vegetation is particularly susceptible to the effects of grazing. This is because cattle tend to congregate around rivers for easy access to water, lush forage and favorable terrain. Their presence can cause woody plants to decrease, riverbanks to erode, streams to become shallower and wider, and a change to take place in the quality and temperature of the water.
    It is not only important to note the effects of grazing on the environment, but also to know what happens when cattle are no longer present in a particular ecosystem. …. “The study at Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge shows just how much a system can change within only two decades of cattle removal,” said Ripple.
    Batchelor added, “The removal of cattle can result in dramatic changes in riparian vegetation, even in semi-arid landscapes and without active restoration treatments.”

    Jonathan L. Batchelor, William J. Ripple, Todd M. Wilson, Luke E. Painter. Restoration of Riparian Areas Following the Removal of Cattle in the Northwestern Great Basin. Environmental Management, 2015; DOI: 10.1007/s00267-014-0436-2

    Bottom of Form

     

     

    Switchgrass removes PCBs from soils, engineers find

    Posted: 18 Feb 2015 11:14 AM PST

    A type of grass that was once a staple of the American prairie can remove soil laden with PCBs, toxic chemicals once used for cooling and other industrial purposes, a study has found.

     

    A bumble bee collecting nectar containing iridoid glycoside secondary metabolites from a turtlehead flower.Credit: Leif Richardson

    Bee disease reduced by nature’s ‘medicine cabinet’

    February 19, 2015

    Nicotine isn’t healthy for people, but such naturally occurring chemicals found in flowers of tobacco and other plants could be just the right prescription for ailing bees, according to a Dartmouth College-led study. The researchers found that chemicals in floral nectar, including the alkaloids anabasine and nicotine, the iridoid glycoside catalpol and the terpenoid thymol, significantly reduce parasite infection in bees. The results suggest that growing plants high in these compounds around farm fields could create a natural “medicine cabinet” that improves survival of diseased bees and pollination of crops. The researchers studied parasite infections in bumble bees, which like honey bees are important pollinators that are in decline around the world, a trend that threatens fruits, vegetables and other crops that make up much of the food supply for people….

     

     

    Researchers propose using a national park in NSW, in Australia, to test if revitalised dingo populations can restore biodiversity and degraded rangelands. Credit: Bob Tamayo

    Time for a bold dingo experiment to restore degraded rangelands, researchers say

    Posted: 17 Feb 2015 09:27 AM PST

    Sturt National Park in Australia is the ideal site to test whether dingoes can play a role in restoring biodiversity and degraded rangelands. The future survival of large carnivores depends on our understanding of their role, researchers say. “Our approach is purposefully bold because only an experiment on this scale can resolve the long-running debate over whether the dingo can help halt Australia’s biodiversity collapse and restore degraded rangeland environments,” said Dr Thomas Newsome from the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Sydney and lead author of an article published in Restoration Ecology. Written with Dr Newsome’s colleagues from the University of Sydney and other universities in Australia and in America, where he completed a Fulbright Scholarship, the article outlines how the experiment could be undertaken. “Half the world’s mammal extinctions over the last two hundred years have occurred in Australia and we are on track for an acceleration of that loss. This experiment would provide robust data to address an issue of national and international significance,” said Dr Newsome. “Our approach is based on dingoes’ ability to suppress populations of invasive predators such as red foxes and feral cats that prey on threatened native species. Dingoes can also control numbers of introduced species such as European wild rabbits, feral pigs and goats or native herbivores such as kangaroos, that in high numbers can contribute to rangeland degradation. “There are major challenges, including convincing livestock producers and local communities to support the experiment, but we currently have almost no understanding of the impact of increased dingo populations over large areas. “It took 20 years of debate in America before wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho — so let’s start having the conversation.”

     

    Urbanization may affect the initiation of thunderstorms

    Posted: 18 Feb 2015 09:36 AM PST

    A study that assessed the impact of urban land use on the initiation of thunderstorms from 1997 to 2013 in the humid subtropical region of the southeast United States found that so-called isolated convective initiation events occur more often over the urban area of Atlanta compared with its surrounding rural counterparts. The findings confirm that human-induced changes in land cover in tropical environments lead to more thunderstorm initiation events.

     

    Genetic evidence shows penguins have ‘bad taste’

    Posted: 16 Feb 2015 10:11 AM PST

    Penguins apparently can’t enjoy or even detect the savory taste of the fish they eat or the sweet taste of fruit. A new analysis of the genetic evidence suggests that the flightless, waddling birds have lost three of the five basic tastes over evolutionary time. For them, it appears, food comes in only two flavors: salty and sour.

     

    iSpot: Crowdsourcing effective for gathering biodiversity data

    Posted: 12 Feb 2015 09:23 AM PST

    New research on iSpot — The Open University’s platform to help people share and learn more about nature — has recognised crowdsourcing as having a key role in the identification of plant species and wildlife.

     

     

    Humans altering Adriatic ecosystems more than nature, study shows

    Posted: 17 Feb 2015 10:12 AM PST

    The ecosystems of the Adriatic Sea have weathered natural climate shifts for 125,000 years, but humans could be rapidly altering this historically stable biodiversity hot spot, a new study shows.

     

    (Photo: Tom Spader / Asbury Park Press)

    6 million birds and counting

    Amanda Oglesby, @OglesbyAPP1:48 p.m. EST February 15, 2015

    Laura Stone spent Sunday morning peeking through the blinds in her Jackson home, counting birds that stopped to feed at her bird feeders despite frigid temperatures and gusty winds. Stone and thousands of other New Jersey residents spent portions of the weekend participating in the Great Backyard Bird Count, an international effort to get a bird’s eye view of avian populations around the world. “It’s important that people look at nature, protect nature,” said 79-year-old Stone, who leads bird talks and monitors 60 bluebird nesting boxes at the Forest Resource Education Center in Jackson in her free time. “They (birds) are so distinct and so different, but people don’t even look… (and) their habitat is disappearing.” The Great Backyard Bird Count was created in 1998 by the National Audubon Society and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology as a way to help scientists understand dynamic bird populations, collect information on species diversity in different environments, and see what diseases are affecting bird communities. Last year, participants counted 4,300 species of birds across 135 countries….

     

    New ozone-destroying gases on the rise; not controlled by treaty

    Posted: 16 Feb 2015 10:02 AM PST

    Scientists report that chemicals that are not controlled by a United Nations treaty designed to protect the Ozone Layer are contributing to ozone depletion.

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Global warming to increase ocean upwelling, but fisheries impact uncertain

    Posted: 18 Feb 2015 06:30 AM PST

    A new report in NATURE suggests that global warming may increase upwelling in several ocean current systems around the world by the end of this century, especially at high latitudes, and will cause major changes in marine biodiversity. Since upwelling of colder, nutrient-rich water is a driving force behind marine productivity, one possibility may be enhancement of some of the world’s most important fisheries. However, solar heating due to greenhouse warming may also increase the persistence of “stratification,” or the horizontal layering of ocean water of different temperatures. The result could be a warm, near-surface layer and a deep, cold layer. If this happens to a significant extent, it could increase global “hypoxic,” or low-oxygen events, decouple upwelling from the supply of nutrient-rich water and pose a significant threat to the global function of fisheries and marine ecosystems. The projected increase in upwelling, in other words, appears clear and definitive. But researchers say its biological impact is far less obvious, which is a significant concern. These upwelling systems cover less than 2 percent of the ocean surface, but contribute 7 percent to global marine primary production, and 20 percent of global fish catches…. Among the findings of the study:

    * The change in upwelling may be more pronounced in the Southern Hemisphere, due to the local influences of land masses, coastline, water depth and other issues.

    * Major current systems will be affected off the western coasts of North America, South America, Africa and parts of Europe.

    * The general increase in upwelling is going to be driven by a strengthening of alongshore winds, due to a differential in land and ocean heating.

    * At high, but not low latitudes, the upwelling season will start earlier, last longer and be more intense.

    * At tropical and sub-tropical latitudes, upwelling will become almost a year-round phenomenon.

    * The findings are consistent with different research which shows that coastal upwelling has intensified over the past 60 years.

    * Impacts on the California Current System are expected to be less pronounced because of other climatic forces at work, such as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, the El Nino-Southern Oscillation, and the North Pacific Gyre Oscillation.

     

    Daiwei Wang, Tarik C. Gouhier, Bruce A. Menge, Auroop R. Ganguly. Intensification and spatial homogenization of coastal upwelling under climate change. Nature, 2015; 518 (7539): 390 DOI: 10.1038/nature14235

     

     

    Sardines move north due to ocean warming

    Posted: 18 Feb 2015 04:32 AM PST

    Sardines, anchovies and mackerels play a crucial role in marine ecosystems, as well as having a high commercial value. However, the warming of waters makes them vanish from their usual seas and migrate north, as confirmed by a pioneering study analysing 57,000 fish censuses from 40 years. The researchers warn that coastal towns dependent on these fishery resources must adapt their economies. The continued increase in water temperature has altered the structure and functioning of marine ecosystems across the world. The effect has been greater in the North Atlantic, with increases of up to 1.3 ºC in the average temperature over the last 30 years. This variation directly affects the frequency and biogeography of a group of pelagic fish, which includes the sardine (Sardina pilchardus), anchovy (Engraulis encrasicolus), horse mackerel (Trachurus trachurus) and mackerel (Scomber scombrus), among others, which feed off phytoplankton and zooplankton and that are the staple diet of large predators such as cetaceans, large fish and marine birds. These fish also represent a significant source of income for the majority of coastal countries in the world. Until now, scientists had not managed to prove whether the changes observed in the physiology of the pelagic fish were the direct result of the water temperature or if they were due to changes in plankton communities, their main food source, which have also been affected by global warming and have changed their distribution and abundance. The new study, published in Global Change Biology and that has developed statistical models for the North Sea area, confirms the great importance of sea temperatures. “Time series of zooplankton and sea surface temperature data have been included to determine the factor causing these patterns,” Ignasi Montero-Serra, lead author of the study and researcher in the department of Ecology at the University of Barcelona, explains….. Due to the accelerated increase in temperature of the continental seas, sardines and anchovies (with a typically subtropical distribution) have increased their presence in the North Sea “even venturing into the Baltic Sea,” confirms Montero-Serra, who adds that the species with a more northern distribution (like the herring and the sprat) have decreased their presence. The analysis is therefore a clear sign that species in the North Sea and Baltic Sea are “becoming subtropical […] where sardines, anchovies, mackerel and horse mackerel, more related to higher temperatures, have increased their presence,” says the researcher. This is due to the pelagic fish being highly dependent on environmental temperatures at different stages of their life cycle: from reproductive migrations and egg-laying, to development and survival of larvae. According to researchers, the changes in such an important ecological group “will have an effect on the structure and functioning of the whole ecosystem.” The expert warns that coastal towns that are highly dependent on these fishery resources “must adapt to the new ecological contexts and the possible consequences of these changes,” although they still do not know the scale of the socio-economic and ecological repercussions….

     

    Ignasi Montero-Serra, Martin Edwards, Martin J. Genner. Warming shelf seas drive the subtropicalization of European pelagic fish communities. Global Change Biology, 2015; 21 (1): 144 DOI: 10.1111/gcb.12747

     

    In a warmer world, ticks that spread disease are arriving earlier, expanding their ranges

    Posted: 18 Feb 2015 09:29 AM PST

    In the northeastern United States, warmer spring temperatures are leading to shifts in the emergence of the blacklegged ticks that carry Lyme disease and other tick-borne pathogens. At the same time, milder weather is allowing ticks to spread into new geographic regions.

     

     

    Scientists have used satellite data to map the alkalinity of the world’s oceans for the first time. The image above shows the average level of alkalinity over the past five years with blue marking water that is more acidic. By using satellite data, scientists can obtain live information as the ocean changes.

    Satellite images reveal ocean acidification from space

    February 16, 2015 University of Exeter

    Pioneering techniques that use satellites to monitor ocean acidification are set to revolutionise the way that marine biologists and climate scientists study the ocean. This new approach, published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, offers remote monitoring of large swathes of inaccessible ocean from satellites that orbit the Earth some 700 km above our heads.
    Each year more than a quarter of global CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels and cement production are taken up by the Earth’s oceans. This process turns the seawater more acidic, making it more difficult for some marine life to live. Rising CO2 emissions, and the increasing acidity of seawater over the next century, has the potential to devastate some marine ecosystems, a food resource on which we rely, and so careful monitoring of changes in ocean acidity is crucial
    Current methods of measuring temperature and salinity to determine acidity are restricted to in situ instruments and measurements taken from research vessels. This approach limits the sampling to small areas of the ocean, as research vessels are very expensive to run and operate.
    The new techniques use satellite mounted thermal cameras to measure ocean temperature while microwave sensors measure the salinity. Together these measurements can be used to assess ocean acidification more quickly and over much larger areas than has been possible before.A number of existing satellites can be used for the task; these include the European Space Agency’s Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity (SMOS) sensor that was launched in 2009 and NASA’s Aquarius satellite that was launched in 2011.
    The development of the technology and the importance of monitoring ocean acidification are likely to support the development of further satellite sensors in the coming years.

     

     

    Integrated climate and land use change scenarios for California rangeland ecosystem services: wildlife habitat, soil carbon, and water supply

    January, 2015

    In addition to biodiversity conservation, California rangelands generate multiple ecosystem services including livestock production, drinking and irrigation water, and carbon sequestration. California rangeland ecosystems have experienced substantial conversion to residential land use and more intensive agriculture. To understand the potential impacts to rangeland ecosystem services, we developed six spatially explicit (250 m) climate/land use change scenarios for the Central Valley of California and surrounding foothills consistent with three Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change emission scenario narratives. We quantified baseline and projected change in wildlife habitat, soil organic carbon (SOC), and water supply (recharge and runoff). For six case study watersheds we quantified the interactions of future development and changing climate on recharge, runoff and streamflow, and precipitation thresholds where dominant watershed hydrological processes shift through analysis of covariance. The scenarios show that across the region, habitat loss is expected to occur predominantly in grasslands, primarily due to future development (up to a 37 % decline by 2100), however habitat loss in priority conservation errors will likely be due to cropland and hay/pasture expansion (up to 40 % by 2100). Grasslands in the region contain approximately 100 teragrams SOC in the top 20 cm, and up to 39 % of this SOC is subject to conversion by 2100. In dryer periods recharge processes typically dominate runoff. Future development lowers the precipitation value at which recharge processes dominate runoff, and combined with periods of drought, reduces the opportunity for recharge, especially on deep soils. Results support the need for climate-smart land use planning that takes recharge areas into account, which will provide opportunities for water storage in dry years. Given projections for agriculture, more modeling is needed on feedbacks between agricultural expansion on rangelands and water supply.

    Byrd, K. B., L. E. Flint, P. Alvarez, C. F. Casey, B. M. Sleeter, C. E. Soulard, A. L. Flint, and T. L. Sohl. 2015. Integrated climate and land use change scenarios for California rangeland ecosystem services: wildlife habitat, soil carbon, and water supply. Landscape Ecology:1–22.

    Bottom of Form

     

     

     

    Source: U.S. National Climate Assessment.

    What the massive snowfall in Boston tells us about global warming

    By Chris Mooney February 10  2015 Washington Post

    The snowfall in Boston lately is simply insane. The local bureau of the National Weather Service has tallied up the data and here’s how it looks — with all time records for snow within a 14-, 20-, and 30-day period: You could treat this as ordinary weather, or, you could think about it in a climate context. Counter-intuitive though it may sound, the fact remains that — as I have noted previously — some kinds of winter precipitation could indeed be more intense because we’re in a warming world. Consider, for instance, that sea surface temperatures off the coast of New England are flashing red, showing an extreme warm anomaly. That’s highly relevant — because warmer oceans have atmospheric consequences.  “Sea surface temperatures off the coast of New England right now are at record levels, 11.5C (21F) warmer than normal in some locations,” says Penn State climate researcher Michael Mann. “There is [a] direct relationship between the surface warmth of the ocean and the amount of moisture in the air. What that means is that this storm will be feeding off these very warm seas, producing very large amounts of snow as spiraling winds of the storm squeeze that moisture out of the air, cool, it, and deposit it as snow inland.” Warmer oceans also increase the temperature contrasts that winter storms encounter when they hit the East Coast, notes Mann — and this ups their strength.  “Heavy snows mean the temperature is just below freezing, any cooler and the amount would be a lot less,” adds Kevin Trenberth, a climate expert at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. “Warmer waters off the coast help elevate winter temperatures and contribute to the greater snow amounts. This is how global warming plays a role.” Yes, it might sound strange, but it can actually snow more when it’s a bit warmer — not too warm for snow, of course, but not extremely cold, either. What we’re seeing also fits a trend for New England. As the U.S. National Climate Assessment so helpfully illustrates [above], the region has seen a dramatic 71 percent upswing in extreme precipitation from 1958 to 2012:
    “Increase of extreme precipitation has occurred in all regions of the continental USA and further changes are expected in the coming decades,” adds a 
    recent study. The mechanisms by which global warming messes with winter certainly do involve some counterbalancing forces. On the one hand, if it’s warmer overall, you’d expect temperatures to reach the threshold required for snow less frequently. You’d also expect snow cover to decline — snow will melt away faster in a warmer world when it does fall. As Trenberth argues, this means that at the beginning and end of winter, precipitation that might once have fallen as snow would now be more likely to fall as rain.

     

     

    Reduced rainfall in the northern tropics linked to industrial emissions, research suggests

    Posted: 09 Feb 2015 08:32 AM PST

    Scientists have produced a rainfall record strongly suggesting that man-made industrial emissions have contributed to less rainfall in the northern tropics. The research team reconstructed rainfall patterns stretching back more than 450 years by analysing the chemical composition of a stalagmite recovered from a cave in Belize, Central America…They identified a substantial drying trend from 1850 onwards, coinciding with a steady rise in sulphate aerosols in the atmosphere as a result of burning fossil fuels to drive the industrial boom in Europe and North America. Importantly they also identified nine short-lived drier spells in the northern tropics since 1550 following very large volcanic eruptions in the Northern Hemisphere that produced similar emissions as those produced by burning fossil fuels. This provided very strong evidence that any injection of sulphate aerosols into the upper atmosphere could lead to shifts in rainfall patterns, the researchers said Writing in the journal Nature Geoscience (Monday, February 9), the researchers said that sulphate aerosols moderated temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere by reflecting the Sun’s radiation. As a result the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) — a tropical rainfall belt near the equator — shifted towards the warmer Southern Hemisphere leading to dryer conditions in the northern tropics. The findings confirm previously published observations using 20th Century historical data and computer modelling, the researchers said….

     

    Harriet E. Ridley, et al. Aerosol forcing of the position of the intertropical convergence zone since ad 1550. Nature Geoscience, 2015; DOI: 10.1038/ngeo2353

     

     

    New device will change how Florida monitors sea level rise, water quality, hurricanes and more

    Posted: 18 Feb 2015 07:15 AM PST

    Small wireless computing devices, ranging from the size of a matchbox to the size of a dime are going to change the way Florida monitors its water quality, sea level rise, hurricanes, agriculture, aquaculture, and even its aging senior population.

     

    Climate change booklet [from the Australian Academy of Science] aims to dispel confusion, misinformation

    By environment and science reporter Jake Sturmer Updated Sun at 12:07pmSun 15 Feb 2015, 12:07pm

    Australia’s top scientific minds have released a new publication to dispel confusion and misinformation about climate change and warn of dire consequences if no action is taken now. The Australian Academy of Science has launched a new booklet reiterating that man-made climate change is real. The booklet titled Science Of Climate Change: Questions And Answers warns of the consequences for Australia if no changes are made to address the issue. Academy president Professor Andrew Holmes said there was a gap between public perception of climate change and reality. “Therefore we need to communicate with the public efficiently, effectively and convincingly so that they’re aware,” he said.

    This update, which has been written and rigorously reviewed by 17 of Australia’s leading experts in a range of climate-related sciences, provides a clear and balanced account of climate change and its impact on Australia. “Climate change is not something happening in the far-off future, it’s happening now. “2014 was the hottest year on record, and 14 of the 15 warmest years on record have occurred during the first 15 years of this century.”

     

    The science of climate change

    The science of climate change: Questions and answers – View web version
    PDF with references (7mb – PDF)
    PDF without references (7mb – PDF)

    Wollongong Harbour, NSW. by Robert Montgomery

    This publication from the Australian Academy of Science aims to address confusion created by contradictory information in the public domain. It sets out to explain the current situation in climate science, including where there is consensus in the scientific community and where uncertainties exist.

     

     

    A plume of frigid, Arctic air is pushing south into the eastern U.S. this week. Shown above is an analysis of pressure over North America this week, illustrating a strong ridge of high pressure over the western U.S. and Alaska, and a deep trough in the east, which is allowing polar air to dive south. It’s all connected — while the eastern U.S. freezes, Alaska is surging to more than 40 degrees above normal for this time of year thanks to a strong ridge of high pressure over western North America. (weatherbell.com)


    Polar vortex promises more historic cold in eastern U.S. on Friday

    By Angela Fritz February 19 at 10:05 PM Washington Post

    Friday morning promises an icy chill as Arctic air surges into the eastern United States. The cold snap is taking aim at long-standing records from Boston to Miami. It could prove to be the coldest morning of the season for many parts of the eastern U.S. as the plume of Arctic air digs in. All-time February record lows are possible from Ohio to Virginia as temperatures plummet to as much as 40 degrees below average for this time of year. … All three Washington-area airports will be in range to set record cool high temperatures on Friday; the old records are 18 degrees at both Baltimore-Washington and National set in 1896, and 26 at Dulles set in 1972.
    NOAA’s Weather Prediction Center 
    writes that the dangerously cold outbreak is surging south thanks in part to an appendage of the polar vortex
    . “There are indications that this could be some of the coldest weather since the mid-1990s for parts of the Southeast U.S., Mid-Atlantic, and central Appalachians,” it wrote. “An eddy of the polar vortex will add to the potency of the surface cold front, thus creating a deep layer of bitterly cold air.” But the week’s record-breaking cold is not just Arctic, but Siberian air that has been trudging across the North Pole and into North America — leading many to refer to the outbreak as the “Siberian Express.”….Contrast the Eastern Seaboard cold with the above-average temperatures in the West, where record highs fell this week. On the north slope of Alaska, temperatures were running an astonishing 40 degrees above average on Thursday morning. A strong ridge of high pressure has been building over the West, all the way north into the Arctic circle, which has not only brought extreme warmth over western North America but has also forced the eastern U.S. into its record-setting February cold snap. Though the cold is expected to linger in the Northeast over the weekend, temperatures will moderate across most of the eastern U.S. by Saturday.

     

     

    New York City Could See 6-Foot Sea Rise, Tripling of Heat Waves by 2100
    Click here to read the report.

    If left unconstrained, global warming could wreak havoc on the Big Apple

    February 19, 2015 |By Colin Sullivan and ClimateWire

    Heat waves and floods caused by climate change could mean disaster for the Big Apple’s five boroughs by the end of the century, with sea levels now predicted by a new report to climb by as much as 6 feet by 2100. According to the New York City Panel on Climate Change, an independent body composed of climate scientists, New York could see a 6-foot increase under a worst-case scenario that has been revised from previous estimates that 2 to 4 feet would be the maximum rise. The report also marked a new estimate for how hot it could become within the next 80 or so years, with the panel projecting a temperature increase as much as 8.8 degrees Fahrenheit and a tripling in the frequency of heat waves by the 2080s in the city. The report noted that temperatures in Central Park climbed at a rate of 0.3 F per decade from 1900 to 2013, totaling a 3.4 F rise, but the panel expects those figures to soar, with an increase of 4.1 to 5.7 F by the 2050s and 5.3 to 8.8 F by the 2080s.

    The frequency of extreme precipitation is expected to jump, as well, with about 1½ times more events per year possible by the 2080s, the report said. Coastal communities, like many on Staten Island and in low-lying Brooklyn and Queens, could be in particular jeopardy, with storms likely to alter local beaches and coastlines. To date, the city has already dumped 26,000 linear feet of sand along Staten Island’s shorelines, for instance, but that number could pale in comparison with future adaptation needs, the report said. The report is meant to help the city plan for climate change, including greenhouse gas emission reductions and making Staten Island’s shores more resilient to storm surges and rising seas. New York has set a goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050, and a series of projects are underway to harden the city’s infrastructure. The report also attempts to prod the Federal Emergency Management Agency into revising its 2013 preliminary flood insurance rate maps to reflect the panel’s conclusion that new projections will roughly double the areas likely to be affected by a 100-year flood. For the 500-year flood, new sea-level-rise estimates by 2100 increase the affected areas by 50 percent compared with FEMA’s 2013 estimates, the panel said. All this is why the report’s authors are urging FEMA and the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) to heed the warnings contained in the exhaustive study.

    Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500

     

     

    Global Warming Could Make the Super-Rich Jealous of Rowhouse Residents

    FEB. 20, 2015 NY Times Ginia Bellafante

    As you went spelunking through snowdrifts in recent days, pondering the moral necessity of pet-friendly ice melt and perhaps noting in horror the story of a Manhattan woman who froze to death hiking in subzero New Hampshire temperatures over the weekend, you were thinking about the future, defined in the moment as July. City functionaries were looking further ahead to a potentially more “Hunger Games” epoch. Extreme weather has coincided with the release of a report by the New York City Panel on Climate Change.… Not long after Hurricane Sandy, the Urban Green Council, an organization focused on sustainable building, set out to study those questions and found that few buildings of the kind that populate the city would fare well. The worst possible place to live in a scenario like that one would be a single-family detached house; in other words you would not want to be living in Mill Basin in Brooklyn or many places on Staten Island or in Queens. A single-family detached house, the study found, would fall below freezing by the fourth day of a blackout. But the luxury glass towers proliferating in Manhattan would also do terribly — reaching just slightly above freezing by the fourth day. During a summer blackout, glass towers, because of the intensity with which glass conducts heat, would be rough places to live; indoor temperature would get into the high 80s and beyond by Day 3. (Of course, it is the ultimate science fiction to imagine that anyone living in a $50 million apartment with wall-to-wall views would be in New York in August in the first place.) In both cold and hot conditions, the study found, a rowhouse would be the best place to be. Being attached to other houses limits its exposure and keeps it better insulated. During a winter blackout, the temperature in a townhouse would still be in the low 40s after a week. As if the Brooklyn brownstone needed more to make it a precious commodity, this should be reason enough. And what this all implies is that the poor are right to resent the affluent, but might feel sorry for the exceedingly rich. According to Russell Unger, executive director of the Urban Green Council, the building sector in New York is looking to reduce carbon emissions by 10 percent in the next 10 years, largely through innovative reconstruction. “What Denmark is to windmills,” he told me, “New York could be to retrofit.

     

     

    A member of Doctors Without Borders (MSF) puts on protective gear at an isolation ward where people infected with the Ebola virus are being treated. (Cellou Binani/AFP/Getty Images)

    The weird way that climate change could lead to new disease outbreaks around the world

    By Dominic Basulto February 18 at 6:50 AM Washington Post

    Climate change could be behind more than just rising ocean levels, melting polar ice caps, and extreme weather events – it could also be creating the ecological basis for infectious diseases to spread to new places and new hosts. Writing in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, two prominent zoologists, Daniel Brooks of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Eric Hoberg of the U.S. National Parasite Collection of the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, warn that outbreaks of infectious diseases such as West Nile virus and Ebola are just the start – global warming could enable similar types of diseases to emerge and thrive in places you might not expect. The basic underpinning of this “climate change causes infectious disease” model is that warming temperatures and other forms of “climatological variation” have the potential to fundamentally change natural habitats. As habitats change, this ultimately leads to wildlife, crops, livestock and humans being exposed to new pathogens. In some cases, these pathogens find new susceptible hosts and are able to spread quickly. If carried to an extreme, it’s an unnerving scenario – “vector-borne diseases” (think malaria) could become more and more likely, even as medical researchers thought they had figured out how to deal with most of them last century. In a worst-case scenario, subtropical and tropical diseases may end up heading to more temperate climes, such as Europe and, yes, America.

    “It’s not that there’s going to be one ‘Andromeda Strain’ that will wipe everybody out on the planet,” according to Brooks. “There are going to be a lot of localized outbreaks putting pressure on medical and veterinary health systems. It will be the death of a thousand cuts.” In other words, if climate change takes on greater intensity, localized outbreaks of Ebola could become the norm rather than the exception. This escalation of new outbreaks in places you wouldn’t expect would put a huge strain on the capacity of medical and health practitioners to deal with them.

    This innovative thinking about the link between climate change and infectious disease overturns the current thinking on how and why diseases spread. The conventional wisdom (referred to as the “parasite paradox”) is that the host-pathogen relationship is so tightly adapted that pathogens have a hard time finding a new host species when things go wrong. Even with ecological change and habitat destruction, these pathogens would essentially have no place to turn, no “back up plan” if their hosts suddenly disappear as the result of changing habitats and ecosystems. The new thinking, known as the “Stockholm Paradigm” (not to be confused with the “Stockholm Syndrome”), combines four different ecological concepts – ecological fitting, the geographic mosaic theory of co-evolution, taxon pulses and the oscillation hypothesis – to conjecture that pathogens may not really have as hard of a time finding a new host as we thought. They may already have the “ancestral genetic capabilities” to switch to new hosts that are genetically close enough to the original hosts.

    Historical examples cited by the researchers, who have studied infectious diseases in both Arctic and tropical ecosystems, include the howler monkey (which substituted nicely for the spider monkey in Costa Rica) and the muskoxen (which took over from the caribou in the Canadian Arctic). Of course, there is bound to be a certain amount of skepticism when people (and especially scientists) claim that, “Well, things are different this time around.” There have always been variations in climate, and there have always been “habitat perturbations.” So what’s different this time around? The answer may be that climate change is happening more rapidly than it has in the past, upsetting biodiversity dynamics in a way that has never before been possible. In layman’s terms, Darwin never thought parasites could evolve this fast. Science naysayers, and there are more than a few of them these days, will no doubt refuse to believe this theory. If they deny global warming, it’s easy to see that they will deny the “climate change causes infectious diseases” theory. The danger, however, is that we will fail to prevent infectious diseases such as Ebola from ever starting in the first place because we won’t understand how and where they can spread. So what can be done if we want to avoid the real-life remake of “Contagion”? One obvious answer might be to provide more funding and support to agencies that monitor and prevent outbreaks. This would help to prevent or minimize human contact with potentially infected animals. “We have to admit we’re not winning the war against emerging diseases,” Brooks said. “We’re not anticipating them. We’re not paying attention to their basic biology, where they might come from and the potential for new pathogens to be introduced.” Another approach that might be worth adopting, says Brooks, is studying the evolutionary relationships among species, in order to predict which species will take over as disease-carriers. He suggests that there should be greater coordination between the public and veterinary health communities and members of the “museum” community who classify species. In short, one of the best ways to prevent disease outbreaks such as Ebola in the future is to look way, way back into our evolutionary past.

    Bottom of Form

     

    The term that actually makes climate change less political- Geoengineering

    By Puneet Kollipara February 18 at 4:13 PM Washington Post

    As we’ve told you in recent weeks, a growing body of psychological research in political science is starting to show us why the debate over climate change is so politically polarized. People’s politics and worldviews seem to affect how they perceive climate change’s existence and severity. This “cultural cognition” model is giving us new insights into how we should talk about climate change, vaccines and other hot-button issues where risk is involved. The moral of the story: More information doesn’t always help, and in some cases it can hurt by polarizing people ideologically on these issues. A new study, published recently in the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, confirms what we knew — that government proposals to cut greenhouse-gas emissions polarize us over climate change. But it also tells us of a potential policy that actually somewhat depolarizes people, while still getting them to care about climate change: geoengineering.…With the geoengineering group, however, something different happened. The anti-pollution and geoengineering groups were still roughly equally polarized over how risky they think climate change is, relative to the control group. But when it came to the scientific information on climate change that the researchers made all participants read, the anti-pollution group was actually less polarized on whether the science is solid than the control group was. What’s going on here? Not only was it a matter of conservative skepticism of climate science shrinking in the geoengineering group, but liberals in the geoengineering group became more likely to question the science. The researchers wonder whether many liberals’ concerns about geoengineering’s potential pitfalls made them more likely to question the science. Meanwhile, more conservatives in the geoengineering group could have accepted the information because geoengineering wouldn’t entail the emissions-cutting policies they oppose Those findings confirm that people’s views on a problem like climate change are shaped not only by what we know about the problem, but also by the problem’s societal implications. More surprisingly, however, geoengineering might not make people complacent about climate change at all. Also, at least superficially, geoengineering appears to have a depolarizing effect on the climate debate — and not simply by quelling conservative rejection of climate science. I’m not saying we should all hop on board the geoengineering train. But the broader point here is that getting people concerned about climate change isn’t a matter of giving them more information about it. Rather, it may all be in the framing.

     

     

    DROUGHT:

     



     

     

     

    State’s population growth expected to outstrip water conservation in coming years

    BY MATT WEISER AND PHILLIP REESE  02/14/2015 Sacramento Bee

    California water agencies are on track to satisfy a state mandate to reduce water consumption 20 percent by 2020. But according to their own projections, that savings won’t be enough to keep up with population growth just a decade later.

    A 2009 state law requires urban water agencies to reduce per-capita water consumption 20 percent by 2020, compared with use at the start of the century. Most agencies are on track to reach that goal, and have made even more progress thanks to emergency cuts over the past year triggered by the ongoing drought. However, by 2030, the data show, these savings will be more than erased by anticipated population growth…”We are having a hard time managing the scarce water we have now,” said Newsha Ajami, director of urban water policy at Water in the West, a research group at Stanford University. “The problem is, every time the drought ends we snap out of it, and we don’t actually start planning for the next drought. We need to help people understand what this means for future generations.”…collectively, urban water agencies expect demand to grow 16 percent by 2030 and continue growing beyond that. This would eclipse the 2020 goal by nearly 1 million acre-feet, potentially adding significant new water demand in the next drought…. Under current law, urban water agencies face no required conservation targets beyond 2020, but a Water Action Plan released last year by Gov. Jerry Brown vows to develop new conservation targets for the years beyond.  “We fully anticipate there will be further targets after 2020,” Brostrom said. “The goal is to hold the total volume of urban water use to be the equivalent of roughly what it was in 2000.”….Gregory Weber, executive director of the California Urban Water Conservation Council, said water agencies throughout the state understand they will have to work harder on conservation. If anything, the current drought has made that clearer.  Conservation is often the first option water agencies choose to accommodate growth, rather than seeking out new water supplies. Conservation and other options – such as recycling stormwater and wastewater – are almost always cheaper than buying water, building dams or drilling wells. “There’s general recognition on the part of members throughout the state that, if you’ve got restrictions on supply, the only way you can pay for growth is by investments in efficiency, conservation or water recycling,” said Weber, whose group represents hundreds of urban water suppliers. “I’ve never heard anybody say, ‘We’ll hit 20 percent by 2020, and then we’re done.’ ” The Pacific Institute and Natural Resources Defense Council recently completed a report, called “Untapped Potential,” that reveals lots of opportunity left in California to conserve water. Simply switching commercial and residential customers to the latest high-efficiency appliances and plumbing fixtures could save 5 million acre-feet per year, according to the report. That’s enough to serve more than 10 million households. Stopping leaks, adding more water recycling and stormwater capture, and reducing water use for landscaping could boost total savings to 13 million acre-feet. “We do have enough water available to meet the demands of a growing population,” Quinn said. “We just have to be more innovative in the ways that we’re using the water that we have.”

     
     

     

     

    New desalination technology could answer state drought woes

    Posted: 17 Feb 2015 11:42 AM PST

    Could desalination be the answer to California’s drought? As parts of the state become drier, scientists are looking at ways to turn seawater into drinkable water. Desalination has made headlines in recent months as a possible solution to the state’s water shortage. But in addition to being expensive, its byproduct — salty brine — can harm marine life once it’s reintroduced into the ocean. A team of researchers from Humboldt State University and the University of Southern California is hoping to address those concerns with a new process called Reverse Osmosis-Pressure Retarded Osmosis (RO-PRO). They’re developing a portable, prototype RO-PRO system in Samoa, Calif. — which could lower the cost of desalination and reduce its impact on the environment.
    “The high cost and environmental impact of desalination are major issues preventing it from becoming a reliable, drought-resistant water supply,” said Andrea Achilli, an Environmental Resources Engineering professor at Humboldt State, who holds a patent on the technology with researchers from the University of Southern California and Colorado School of Mines. “What our system does is address those problems head on.” Desalination plants typically use reverse osmosis, a process that pushes saltwater through a membrane to create purified, drinking water. But in addition to being costly, and energy-intensive, reverse osmosis can negatively impact the environment. The researcher’s system is different because it uses both reverse osmosis and its opposing process, pressure-retarded osmosis. In PRO, freshwater and seawater are combined in a pressurized chamber, creating water pressure that spins a turbine. When combined with RO, that energy is directly used to power the entire system. According to researchers, the process uses 30 percent less energy than traditional desalination methods.
    Another benefit of the system is that the highly-concentrated saltwater is eventually diluted back to seawater, reducing environmental harm. “If used on a large scale, it could have a positive environmental effect and result in significant cost and energy savings,” Achilli says. Once the system is completed, it will be housed and tested at the Samoa Pump Mill, where water from the Mad River meets the Pacific Ocean. During that time, researchers will test the system and its efficiency to determine whether it’s suitable for wider use. After that, they plan to incorporate the technology into existing desalination facilities around the state. “Eventually, we’d like to see the technology built into new desalination plants in California and elsewhere,” Achilli says.

     

     


    Lake Powell, in 2009, showing a white calcium carbonate “bathtub ring” exposed after a decade of drought lowered the level of the reservoir to 60 percent of its capacity. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.)

    The West without Water: What Can Past Droughts Tell Us About Tomorrow?

    by B. Lynn Ingram vol. 8, issue 6 – March 2015 OSU.EDU

    Editor’s Note:

    Almost as soon as European settlers arrived in California they began advertising the place as the American Garden of Eden. And just as quickly people realized it was a garden with a very precarious water supply. Currently, California is in the middle of a years-long drought and the water crisis is threatening the region’s vital agricultural economy, not to mention the quality of life of its people, plants, and animals. This month B. Lynn Ingram, Professor of Geography and Earth & Planetary Science, examines how a deep historical account of California’s water patterns can help us plan for the future.

    The state of California is beginning its fourth year of a serious drought, with no end in sight. The majority of water in the western United States is delivered by winter storms from the Pacific, and over the past year, those storms were largely blocked by an enormous ridge of high pressure. A relatively wet December has given way to the driest January on record, and currently over 90 percent of California is in severe to exceptional drought. The southwestern states are also experiencing moderate to severe drought, and this comes on the heels of a very dry decade. This long drought has crept up on the region, partly because droughts encroach slowly and they lack the visual and visceral effects of other, more immediate natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, or tsunamis. Meteorologists define drought as an abnormally long period of insufficient rainfall adversely affecting growing or living conditions. But this bland definition belies the devastation wrought by these natural disasters. Drought can lead to failed crops, desiccated landscapes, wildfires, dehydrated livestock, and in severe cases, water wars, famine, and mass migration. Although the situation in the West has not yet reached such epic proportions, the fear is that if it continues much longer, it could.

    In California, reservoirs are currently at only 38 percent of capacity, and the snowpack is only 25 percent of normal for late January. Elsewhere in the Southwest, Lake Powell, the largest reservoir on the Colorado River, is at 44 percent of capacity. The amount of water transported through irrigation systems to California’s Central Valley—the most productive agricultural region in the world—has been reduced to only 20 percent of customary quantities, forcing farmers to deepen groundwater wells and drill new ones. Over the past year, 410,000 acres have been fallowed in this vast agricultural region that provides 30 percent of all the produce grown in the United States and virtually all of the world’s almonds, walnuts, and pistachios. As California dries up, food prices might well rise across the nation.
    The question on everyone’s mind is when will this dry period finally come to an end and rainfall return to normal—and just what is normal for the U.S. Southwest when it comes to rain?
    And with a growing and more urban population and an ever-changing climate, will we ever be free from the threat of long dry periods, with their disruptive effects on food production and the plants and animals that rely on water to survive?

    A glance into the history of the Southwest reminds us that the climate and rainfall patterns have varied tremendously over time, with stretches of drought many decades longer than the one we are experiencing now. Long dry stretches during the Medieval centuries (especially between 900 and 1350 CE) had dramatic effects on the native peoples of the Southwest (the ancestral Pueblo, Hohokam, and Sinagua), including civilizational collapse, violence, malnutrition, and forced social dislocation. These earlier Americans are a warning to us. The past 150 years, which we have used as our baseline for assumptions about rainfall patterns, water availability for agriculture, water laws, and infrastructure planning, may in fact be an unusually wet period. Let’s look at the past few hundred years first and then explore the region’s climate in geological time.

     

    [excellent article- worth reading entire piece here…]

     

     

    Photo: Annika Toernqvist, The Chronicle
    The view at Squaw Valley on Feb. 17, 2015.

    Drought cancels World Cup ski competition at Squaw Valley

    By Kurtis Alexander
    Updated 10:28 am, Tuesday, February 17, 2015

    The lack of snow in the Sierra has prompted the cancellation of a major stop on the international ski and snowboarding circuit.
    The International Ski Federation‘s World Cup skicross and snowboardcross competition will not be held March 4-8 at Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association announced on its website.
    “Squaw Valley has just received more than two feet of snow, however the amount of snow needed to build the World Cup courses is significant,” the organization said.
    Three years of drought and extraordinarily warm temperatures have left snow in California at historically low levels. Snowpack statewide Tuesday measured just 22 percent of normal for this time of year.
    A handful of smaller, low-lying ski resorts have taken the unprecedented step of closing mid-season because of the conditions. Many of the larger spots are relying on their snow-making capabilities to get by. Normally, February is the height of California’s ski season. The World Cup skicross and snowboardcross competition features Olympic-style ski and snowboard racing. Some of the sport’s biggest names, including Olympian and seven-time X Games champion Nate Holland, were scheduled to compete. It was the first time the World Cup was scheduled for Squaw Valley since 1969. The resort remains open to the public.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Boston Redevelopment Authority- One group suggested floating water gardens in the Fort Point Channel for residents to explore by canoe or kayak.

    Designs show how Boston could adapt as sea levels rise

    By Steve AnnearGlobe Staff February 19, 2015

    In 100 years, when rising sea levels are expected to spill over onto flood-prone Morrissey Boulevard, commuters may be able to ditch their cars in favor of an MBTA water taxi. The proposal to build transit canals alongside the low-lying thoroughfare is one of 50 ideas floated by designers in a $20,000 competition sponsored by the city, which is looking for plans that could help Boston accommodate predicted flooding linked to climate change. Other ideas called for the construction of “living levees” in Fort Point, which could soak up water during storms but also support floating structures — including apartments and a farmers market that would rise and fall with the tides. “We wanted feasible schemes, we weren’t looking for pie-in-the-sky stuff,” said John Dalzell, senior architect at the Boston Redevelopment Authority, which helped organize the contest. “A lot of the schemes really got that.” Called “Boston Living With Water,” the contest drew interest from design and architectural firms from around the world, officials said. The competition launched with the help of the Boston Harbor Association and the Boston Society of Architects on the two-year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy last year….

    Boston Redevelopment Authority -One proposal for the Fort Point area anchors around letting the site flood completely and creating a city built over water.
    See more designs here.

     

     

    A Toolkit to Help Communities Respond to a Changing Climate

    Posted by Dr. John P. Holdren, Mike Boots, Lisa Monaco on November 17, 2014 at 12:45 PM EST

    The Obama Administration, as part of the President’s Climate Data Initiative, released the Climate Resilience Toolkit (http://toolkit.climate.gov/) which includes in their catalogue 3 tools developed and managed by Point Blue and numerous partners:

      * Future SF Bay Tidal Marshes 

      * Our Coast, Our Future 

      * California Climate Commons 

     

    NOAA National Sea Grant Resilience Toolkit Released
    Sea Grant has recently launched the National Resilience Toolkit, a combination of tools and resources developed over the past several years by the Sea Grant Network to assist local communities in becoming more resilient to climate change. As coastal populations grow, it becomes necessary for communities to become more resilient to several natural hazards, including water quality challenges, severe weather, and overall effects of climate change. Sea Grant programs are spread out across diverse communities and specialize in developing tools that are tailored to local needs. This toolkit allows users to learn about tools from across the entire network, giving them the opportunity to adapt tools for their own local needs. Each entry includes a description of the tools, a link for more information, and a point of contact. The toolkit combines more than 100 tools and will be updated as more tools are created. Visit the toolkit

     

        DECISION SUPPORT TOOLS- Sampling

     

    Interior announces $8 Million for tribal climate change adaptation, planning projects

    Adaptation Funding to Help Strengthen Resilience for Communities on the Front Lines of a Changing Climate
    Published on Tuesday, 17 February 2015 20:09 DOI Media Release
    WASHINGTON – As part of the Obama Administration’s effort to prepare communities nationwide for the impacts of a changing climate, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today announced that the Interior Department will make available $8 million to fund projects that promote tribal climate change adaptation and ocean and coastal management planning through its Tribal Climate Resilience Program. “Sea level rise, coastal erosion, drought and more frequent and severe weather events are impacting Alaska Native villages and American Indian tribal communities across the nation,” said Secretary Jewell. “As governments at all levels work on these challenges, we are committed to partnering with American Indians and Alaska Natives to build more resilient and sustainable communities and economies. This funding can help tribes prepare and plan for climate-related events and build capacity to address these evolving challenges.” “No one is impacted by climate change more than Native communities in Alaska, but we have also seen serious problems developing for tribal communities across the West and on both coasts. We must act to help protect these communities,” said Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn. “The cultural and economic needs of tribes are tied to the land and protecting that land is a critical component of advancing tribal sovereignty and self-determination.” Of the $8 million, $4 million will be available for Climate Adaptation Planning and another $4 million for Ocean/Coastal Management Planning. Funding will support tribal climate adaptation planning, training, and participation in technical workshops and forums. In addition, funding will support coastal tribes in addressing the challenges of coastal erosion and development, rising sea levels, ocean acidification, and emergency management…. A Request for Proposal (RFP) will be available in the coming days and requests for the application can be sent to climate.funding@bia.gov or to the attention of Helen Riggs, Deputy Bureau Director, Office of Trust Services, Bureau of Indian Affairs, 1849 C St., N.W., MS-4620-MIB, and Washington, D.C. 20240….

     

     

    Using rooftop rainwater to make drinking water

    Posted: 09 Feb 2015 06:49 AM PST

    Climate change will lead to water scarcity in large parts of Africa. But there is hope – on African rooftops. Researchers in Norway are currently involved in the development of better water systems for Ghana, in order to ensure that people have more sustainable access to clean water.

     

     

     

     

     

     

    EPA considers delaying carbon deadline after utilities object
    February 18, 2015 Bloomberg News

    The Obama administration may ease off on a deadline for power companies to start meeting new rules to cut carbon emissions, the top environmental regulator said, a win for utilities that complained too much was required too soon. Gina McCarthy, the head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, offered Tuesday what she said was a “big hint,” saying she heard complaints that the 2020 deadline for states to make steep cuts is too strict. The final climate standards take effect in 2030, and many state regulators said the pace could endanger the reliability of the electric grid. “I have heard very few real comments about the final goal; it’s really a question about how quickly you get there,” McCarthy said at a conference of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners in Washington. “We want the states to have flexibility to explore options.” The EPA’s first standards for fossil-fuel power plants, the top source of the emissions blamed for global warming, drew fire from utilities. The plan, which seeks a 30 percent cut in emissions during a quarter century ending in 2030, is the centerpiece of President Barack Obama’s effort to combat global warming.

     

     

    Climate change efforts backfire in Brazil’s steel industry, doubling carbon emissions

    Posted: 09 Feb 2015 09:28 AM PST

    New research shows that climate change mitigation efforts in Brazil’s steel industry have failed. Instead of reducing greenhouse gas pollution, scientists discovered that these strategies, promoted under the global Kyoto Protocol, led to an overall doubling of carbon dioxide emissions in the industry.

     

    Outdoors: Court rules that trout stocking can continue

    By Tom Stienstra SF Chronicle February 13, 2015 Updated: February 14, 2015 5:15pm
    …At the state Court of Appeal in Sacramento, the Center for Biological Diversity lost its lawsuit to stop the Department of Fish and Wildlife from stocking trout in the state’s lakes. In a separate action, the court also ruled that the DFW was wrong to impose a series of requirements on private companies that stock lakes, in a case brought by the California Association for Recreational Fishing. Hundreds of lakes and reservoirs, including those in the Bay Area, would have no trout if they were not stocked, and hundreds of private ponds on ranches would not have bass, bluegill and catfish if they weren’t planted, either. The Center for Biological Diversity was able to block trout plants temporarily in 2008 when it argued that the state must complete environmental studies that show potential impacts before any plants are permitted, such as to the red-legged frog, for instance, even if frogs didn’t exist in the lakes being planted. The court upheld the DFW’s statewide Environmental Impact Report on trout plants, which will allow the hatchery program to continue. The DFW already had transformed its hatcheries to produce a strain of rainbow trout called a “triploid,” which does not reproduce, and therefore can be planted in reservoirs that have feeder streams with wild fish….



    ABC Submits New Petition to Regulate the Wind Industry — FWS Considering Rulemaking

    February 19, 2015

    American Bird Conservancy (ABC) has filed a formal petition with the U.S. Department of the Interior calling for the agency to establish new regulations governing the impacts of wind energy projects on migratory birds. The ABC petition augments an earlier petition filed by ABC in December 2011 that also called for wind industry regulatory action that would reduce the projected 1.4-2 million bird deaths expected to be caused by the industry when it is fully built out. The ABC petition would have the Department of Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) establish a permitting process that would significantly improve the protection of birds covered by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) and would afford the wind industry a degree of regulatory and legal certainty that cannot be provided in the absence of such a process. “This is the second time we have petitioned for improvements on the permitting issue—this time with new and even stronger arguments– and it appears that FWS is now starting a process that could lead to that becoming a reality,” Hutchins said in reference to FWS filing a Notice of Intent to take action with the Office of Management and Budget on this issue. “We recognize that properly sited and operated wind energy projects may be an important part of the solution to climate change, a contemporary challenge that indisputably poses a rapidly growing threat to species and ecosystems,” Hutchins said.

       
     

     

     

     

     

    Nature’s nastiness: Marine birds smeared with oil wash up on California shores

    By Leigh Cooper Santa Cruz Sentinel Posted:   02/17/2015 12:31:32 PM PST0 Comments

    SANTA CRUZ — The television images after a catastrophic oil spill, such as the one caused by the container ship Cosco Busan’s 2007 collision with the Bay Bridge, are often stark and heartbreaking — thousands of birds covered in oily tar struggling for their lives. But marine birds smeared with oil continuously wash up on California beaches, and not just after large accidents. The culprit: nature. Oil from natural seeps accounts for 9 of 10 oiled birds found along California’s coast in the average year, according to researchers at Santa Cruz’s Marine Wildlife Veterinary Care and Research Center. Researchers counted oiled birds washing up on California’s coast and sent their greased feathers for “oil fingerprinting” to identify the origination of the oil. Before working on the study, “I didn’t know much about these natural oil seeps in California,” acknowledged Laird Henkel, the center’s director. “We are guessing that more than 1,000 seabirds are oiled each year by this natural source of oil.” Similar to the La Brea tar pits in Los Angeles, natural seeps are cracks in the ground where oil oozes out. Worldwide, nearly 200 million gallons of oil pour into marine ecosystems annually from such seeps, according to the National Research Council. That amount is half the crude oil released into the ocean each year. Humans are responsible for the other half through discharge from ships, oil operations, pipelines, spills and extraction. Once the oil rises to the surface, the birds come in contact with it. “Most of the oiling occurs around the belly, called the bathtub ring,” said Hannah Nevins, a seabird biologist with the American Bird Conservancy. The birds then rub it onto their wings and, if they try to clean themselves, smear it onto their faces and beaks.

    Covered in oil, the birds risk hypothermia when they dive for food; they can die from starvation or the cold. “It’s like if you were skiing and had a hole in your down jacket,” Nevins said. “If their feathers get all gummed up, it messes up their waterproofing.” The recently published study by the Marine Wildlife Veterinary Care and Research Center took about a decade to complete….

     

    Numerous bats killed by German wind turbines: Migratory bats at risk

    Posted: 10 Feb 2015 06:18 PM PST

    Numerous bats are killed by German wind turbines. The number of such turbines, already very high, is planned to be increased further. More than two-thirds of bats being killed by wind turbines on German ground are migrants on their way between summer and winter habitats. Due to its geographical location in Europe, Germany has consequently a central responsibility for the conservation of migratory bats.

     

    Marcus Constantino/Daily Mail/AP

    After fiery West Virginia train derailment, is oil by rail safe?

    Monday’s derailment in West Virginia is the latest in a string of oil train mishaps that have resulted in explosions and sometimes fatalities.

    US shipments of crude by rail have jumped 400 percent since 2005, fueling calls for tighter safety rules.

    By Jared Gilmour, Staff writer February 17, 2015

    Washington — Fireballs erupted in West Virginia Monday after an oil train derailed, setting ablaze tank cars full of North Dakota crude and threatening the local water supply. One derailed oil car went up in flames after hitting a house. Another ended up in the Kanawha River, threatening drinking water. Of the train’s 109 tank cars, about 25 derailed, each loaded with up to 30,000 gallons of oil. The derailment occurred near Mount Carbon, W.Va. as heavy snows began blanketing the south-central portion of the state Monday afternoon. Though no serious injuries were reported, hundreds evacuated as the derailed cars exploded and shot flames into the air. Tank cars were still burning Tuesday afternoon. “It was a little scary,” David McClung, who lives a half mile uphill from the explosion site, told the Associated Press Monday. Mr. McClung said heat from the blasts could be felt from his home. He even saw one of the explosions send flames bursting 300 feet into the air: “It was like an atomic bomb went off.” Monday’s blast comes as the US Department of Transportation and the Obama administration finalize new rules, first proposed last summer, requiring safer tank cars and limiting train speeds. A string of crude by rail catastrophes – like the fiery derailment that rocked Casselton, N.D., last year – has increased public scrutiny on a growing form of transportation. All told, shipments of crude by rail in the US have increased 400 percent since 2005, prompting many to call for updated safety standards in the industry. The increasing prevalence of oil-related blasts and derailments is one byproduct of a shale oil boom that has boosted US crude production and pushed down the price of oil around the world. “The large-scale shipment of crude oil by rail simply didn’t exist ten years ago, and our safety regulations need to catch up with this new reality,” Deborah A.P. Hersman, chair of the National Transportation Safety Board, said a year ago when proposing tougher standards. But those standards have been slow to materialize, as a growing glut of new US oil looks for ways to get to market….

     

    Impact of Deepwater Horizon Oil on beach microbial communities

    Posted: 17 Feb 2015 12:40 PM PST

    Using advanced genomic identification techniques, researchers studying the impact of the Deepwater Horizon spill on communities of beach microbes saw a succession of organisms and identified population changes in specific organisms that marked the progress of the oil’s breakdown.

     

     

     

     

     
     

     

     

    WEBINARS:

     

    CA LCC Webinar – Impacts of Climate Change on Waterbirds of the Central Valley February 25, 2014 11:00 – 12:00 PM PST
    Speakers Dr. Joe Fleskes and Elliott Matchett, USGS Western Ecological Research Center, will discuss their CA LCC-supported project that is investigating the projected impacts of climate, urbanization, and water supply management on the habitats and ecology of waterbirds in California’s Central Valley.
    Click here for more information.

    To join the webinar: Call-in Number: 1-866-737-4154; Passcode: 287 267 0 Meeting link: https://mmancusa.webex.com/mmancusa/j.php?MTID=medd6a3e564c20badc34ca21d85a25ce3

     

     

    SF BAY AREA: Joint Policy Committee’s BACERP is proud to present two 60-minute webinars on March 4th and 11th.

    RSVP via email to bruce@bayareajpc.net to reserve your space. Sign-on info will be sent to you. 

     

    Ohmconnect: Getting Paid to Cut Pollution

    Presentation and Q&A with Curtis Tongue, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Ohmconnect

    March 4, 11am – Noon

    Partnership opportunities for local governments, community-based organizations and others!

    Curtis Tongue will show us Ohmconnect, the smart new business that pays you to reduce electricity use during peak demand periods, thereby helping to keep dirty, expensive “peaker” power plants off the grid. More than a great idea, Ohmconnect is up and running using mobile alerts, smart meters and PayPal accounts to reduce GHGs and produce cash for you or your favorite charity.

     

    Proven and Promising Climate Measures from U.S. Communities

    Presentation and Q&A with Stacey Meinzen and Ann Hancock, Center for Climate Protection (formerly Climate Protection Campaign)

    March 11, 2015 — 9:30 am – 10:30 am

    Winning strategies to help your climate program get results!

    The authors will present highlights from their recent report on U.S. cities that are achieving measurable success in reducing GHGs. Specific projects are spotlighted for renewable energy, energy efficiency, transportation and land use, solid waste, carbon sequestration, financing, tracking progress, and building awareness & support

     

     

     

    UPCOMING CONFERENCES: 

     

    Point Reyes Station, CA

    The conference takes its name from Wallace Stegner’s famous “Wilderness Letter” to Congress in support of the 1964 Wilderness Act. In it he described wild landscapes as part of our “geography of hope.” Building on that, the 2015 gathering will be a conversation about how to map out a new geography of hope. The Geography of Hope Conference features panels and conversations held in a hay barn and in the West Marin elementary school gymnasium as well as art exhibits and installations at local galleries. Naturalist-led field trips to Point Reyes National Seashore let participants experience the land firsthand. Additional field trips go to privately owned farms and ranches in West Marin. Meals feature delicious food from Marin’s farms and ranches served family-style. For more information, click here.

     

    Revelations: Celebrating Our Local Heroes and the Art of Nature  March22 2015
    Join Bay Nature Institute in celebrating Julia Clothier and two other extraordinary Bay Area conservation heroes at its Annual Awards Dinner on March 22, 2015 from 5:30 – 9:00 pm.
    Julia is this year’s recipient of the prestigious Local Hero Award for Environmental Education to honor her tremendous achievements educating our communities’ about the natural wonders of the local Bay Area. There will also be a presentation by San Francisco artist Josie Iselin featuring gorgeous images from her book An Ocean Garden: The Secret Life of Seaweed. Enjoy this once-a-year gathering that brings together the Bay Area’s conservation leaders and nature lovers from all points of the nine-county region!

     

    2015 California Climate & Agriculture Summit  March 24 and 25, 2015
    UC Davis Conference CenterCall for Workshop and Poster Presentations   

     

    INVITATION TO PARTICIPATE  Abstract submission deadline is 1 November 2014 

    COME TO OUR HISTORIC SUMMIT 25-27 MARCH 2015

    ABSTRACT SUBMISSION (through November 1, 2014) and REGISTRATION (through January 25, 2015) NOW OPEN for Science for Parks, Parks for Science: The Next Century – A 2.5-day Summit at U.C. Berkeley March 25-27, 2015 convening natural and social scientists, managers and practitioners — 100 years after historic meetings at U.C. Berkeley helped launch the National Park Service — to rededicate a second century of science and stewardship for national parks.  This summit will feature visionary plenary lectures, strategic panel discussions on current controversies, and technical sessions of contributed paper and posters.   Keynote Speaker: E. O. Wilson.  Distinguished Plenary Speakers and Panelists include David Ackerly, Jill Baron, Steven Beissinger, Joel Berger, Edward Bernbaum, Ruth DeFries, Thomas Dietz, Josh Donlan, Holly Doremus, Ernesto Enkerlin, John Francis, David Graber, Denis Galvin, Jane Lubchenco, Gary Machlis, George Miller, Hugh Possingham, Jedediah Purdy, Nina Roberts, Mark Schwartz, Daniel Simberloff, Monica Turner, & Jennifer Wolch.

     

     

    Communicating about Climate Impacts and Engaging Stakeholders in Solutions April 30 & May 1, 2015, 9:00am – 5:00pm, Romberg Tiburon Center, Tiburon, CA

    With Cara Pike from Climate Access. $310 includes lunch and all materials — Limited scholarships are available

    Bay Conference Center, Romberg Tiburon Center, 3152 Paradise Drive, Tiburon, CA 94920

     

     


    National Adaptation Forum– Call for Proposals
    May 12 – 14, 2015 in St. Louis, MO

    The National Adaptation Forum is a biennial gathering of the adaptation community to foster information exchange, innovation, and mutual support for a better tomorrow. The Forum will take place from May 12 – 14, 2015 in St. Louis, MO. 
    Proposals are being accepted for Symposia, Training Sessions, Working Groups, Poster Presentations, and a Tools Cafe. 

    Click here for more information.

     

     

     

    22nd annual conference

    California Society for Ecological Restoration (SERCAL)

    “Restoration for the Next Generation” May 12-14 2015 San Diego

    The annual SERCAL conference is attended by a diverse mix of researchers, students, consultants, nonprofit and agency scientists, planners, and landowners/managers, and is a great venue for professional development and for staying current with new advances in ecological restoration.  “Call for Abstracts” document (http://sercal.org/images/SERCALcfa2015web.pdf). The deadline for abstract submission is Feb. 4, 2015. Please note the five additional conference sessions (Wetlands/Water, Urban, Mitigation Banks, Special-status Plant Species, and Using Restoration to Accomplish Non-restoration Goals) – abstracts are being sought for these sessions as well. A poster session will also be held, and abstracts for this event are also welcome. The conference (May 13-14) will be proceeded by a day of field trips related to restoration in Southern California.

     

     

     

    First San Joaquin River Restoration Program Science Symposium

    June 11-12, 2015, Los Banos Community Center, Los Banos, CA.  More information will follow soon, but save the date!  

     

                                                         
     

     

    American Water Resources Association (AWRA): “Climate Change Adaptation”  June 15 – 17, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana
    Abstracts due to AWRA website: 02/13/2015  

    The focus of the conference is on ACTION – how we more effectively develop and use climate change adaptation information to respond, build resilient systems, and influence decision makers. The conference will bring water professionals from federal, state, local, and private sectors together to focus on the issues that need to be addressed to develop effective strategies for mitigating climate change impacts such as sea-level rise, changes in precipitation patterns, increased severe weather events, and worsening droughts, AND more effectively communicate such information to decision makers. Conference sessions will be devoted to addressing the following questions:


    •     How can climate change adaptation be integrated into water, coastline, and riparian resource planning and management?
    •     How can data, models and tools aid in adaptive actions?
    •     What are social/cultural factors of climate change adaptation?
    •     How are businesses and economics impacted by climate change and can they serve as drivers of action?
    •     What adaptation actions should be taken to conserve, restore, protect, and enhance water quality and quantity?
    •     Moving from planning to action – what steps are needed? What do decision makers need?
    •     What engineering and infrastructural approaches are available to address climate change adaptation?

                                                             

    Ninth International Association for Landscape Ecology (IALE) World Congress meeting, July 9th 2015

    Coming to Portland, Oregon July 5-10, 2015! The symposium, which is held every four years, brings scientists and practitioners from around the globe together to discuss and share landscape ecology work and information. The theme of the 2015 meeting is Crossing Scales, Crossing Borders: Global Approaches to Complex Challenges.

     

    FUNDING

     

    The NERRS Science Collaborative (NSC) is soliciting proposals for two types of projects.

     
     

    Science Collaborative Projects

    ·       Pre-proposals are due February 27; if invited to submit, full proposals will be due May 13

    ·       Two types of projects are possible: collaborative research projects (up to $250,000/year, for 1 – 3 years) and integrated assessments (up to $250,000 total, for 1 – 2 years).

    ·       Projects should address reserve management and research priorities, within the context of NSC priorities, and use a collaborative approach that engages end-users.

     
     

    Science Transfer Projects

    ·       Proposals are due March 27

    ·       Awards of up to $45,000 total, for up to 2 years

    ·       Projects should extend, share and apply existing information, approaches, and/or techniques within the NERRS and with partners outside of the reserve system.

     
     

    All questions about these funding opportunities should be submitted to NERRS-info@umich.edu.  For additional information, please visit http://graham.umich.edu/water/nerrs/funding.

     

    JOBS (apologies for any duplication; thanks for passing along)

     

    Bird Conservation Coordinator/North American Bird Conservation Initiative Coordinator for the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (AFWA) (pdf)

    The coordinator’s responsibilities include coordination of the US NABCI committee and implementation of its priorities including advancement of and support for Bird Habitat Joint Ventures, development and promotion of the State of the Birds report, advancement of effective and efficient bird monitoring, support of efforts to increase bird conservation through management on private lands and support of policies that facilitate and improve the conservation of birds and their habitats. The position also staffs AFWA’s Bird Conservation Committee and supports its working groups which include the Partners in Flight/shorebird/waterbird working group, resident game bird working group, waterfowl working group and migratory shore and upland game bird working group. The position also coordinates work on other state fish and wildlife agency bird conservation priorities including revision and implementation of State Wildlife Action Plans and Flyway Nongame Technical Sections. Through these activities, the coordinator will provide leadership on national bird conservation issues in partnership with state fish and wildlife agencies, federal agencies and non-governmental organizations.

     

    TomKat Ranch Conservation Ranching Fellowship 2015

    Innovations in sustainable animal agriculture, conservation ranching, business, technology, food advocacy, and community organizing are needed to truly make sustainable animal agriculture viable and sustainable.The TomKat Ranch Educational Foundation is committed to producing healthy food on working lands in a way that sustains the planet and inspires others to action.  In cooperation with our on-site partners, the ranch is an open-source learning laboratory that supports research and innovation to inform compatible and sustainable strategies for conservation and production. The Conservation Ranching Fellowship is an exciting opportunity for leaders, innovators, and professionals in the field of sustainable ranching to spend a year at TomKat Ranch working closely with TomKat’s world-class staff and on-site partners to care for the ranch’s 2,000+ acres and herd of 100% grass-fed cattle, share his/her knowledge, skills, and ideas and work with the TomKat team to develop innovative solutions to the challenges of sustainable ranching. The Conservation Ranching Fellowship is a one-year paid position that includes a competitive compensation package (including health benefits) to attract the best and brightest in sustainable ranching.  The fellow’s principal responsibility is to provide on-the-ground support and knowledge to help TomKat Ranch manage its land and animals using the most ecological, productive, and sustainable methods available. …

    Contact Kevin@TomKatRanch.org

     

    Executive Director, San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory

    The San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory (SFBBO) is seeking a full-time Executive Director. SFBBO is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) corporation located in Milpitas, CA dedicated to the conservation of birds and their habitats through science and outreach. In 2015, SFBBO will have 8 full-time staff, 6 part-time staff, 3 full-time interns, and an annual budget of $750,000. Established in 1981, SFBBO has 34 years of experience conducting avian and habitat restoration research as well as undertaking community outreach in the San Francisco Bay Area. Our work contributes to land management decisions that address local conservation challenges of concern to resource agencies, policymakers, and California citizens. Our work promotes an ethic of environmental stewardship in Bay Area citizens…. To apply please submit a cover letter, a resume, and a list of 3 references to Board Chairs Lynne Trulio and Brian Fulfrost at executivesearch@sfbbo.org. The deadline for applying for this position has been extended to March 28, 2015. The position will remain open until filled. More info here.

     

     

    Public Policy Institute of California’s Water Policy Center

     

     

     

     

    • OTHER NEWS OF INTEREST

     

    Bill Gates Is Still Wrong On Climate Change, It Will Undo His Foundation’s Work

    by Joe Romm Posted on February 18, 2015 at 4:59 pm climateprogress.org

    The Gates Foundation is doing important work helping the poorest countries deal with disease and poverty. The fact that the $42 billion Foundation is utterly ignoring the biggest long-term threat to the health and well-being of the poorest countries would itself be easier to ignore — if only Bill Gates would stop saying nonsensical things about climate change as if they were facts. Gates himself has just invited us all to ask whether climate change will in fact undo the work of his Foundation. In his Foundation’s latest Annual letter, Gates writes early on, “It is fair to ask whether the progress we’re predicting will be stifled by climate change.” I asked and answered that question 6 years ago: Yes, climate change will stifle the progress the foundation is predicting. Even back then, using a “middle of the road” greenhouse gas emissions scenario, a study in Science found that “Half of world’s population could face climate-driven food crisis by 2100.” The study concluded, “Ignoring climate projections at this stage will only result in the worst form of triage.” A study led by MIT economists found that “the median poor country’s income will be about 50 percent lower than it would be had there been no climate change.” And that was based on a 3-degree C warming by 2100, about half the warming we are currently on track to reach. The latest climate research is even more worrisome: Study after study has made clear much of the world’s habited and arable land faces multi-decade megadroughts and/or near-permanent Dust-Bowlification if we were to dawdle, say, yet another 15 years before slashing carbon pollution. Gates offers his own, absurd, answer to his question in the 2015 letter, to explain why the Foundation isn’t focusing resources on the climate problem: The most dramatic problems caused by climate change are more than 15 years away, but the long-term threat is so serious that the world needs to move much more aggressively — right now — to develop energy sources that are cheaper, can deliver on demand, and emit zero carbon dioxide. The next 15 years are a pivotal time when these energy sources need to be developed so they’ll be ready to deploy before the effects of climate change become severe.

    How suicidal would it be if the world actually adopted that strategy of focusing on developing new energy sources, wait 15 years to start aggressive deployment? Every major scientific study, every major international report, every major economic analysis makes clear that we must start aggressively deploying the vast array of costs carbon-free technologies now — not 15 years from now.

    Action now is super-cheap (see literature review here), whereas delay is super-costly and likely to be fatally late. Back in 2011, the International Energy Agency warned “Delaying action is a false economy: for every $1 of investment in cleaner technology that is avoided in the power sector before 2020, an additional $4.30 would need to be spent after 2020 to compensate for the increased emissions.”

    Worse, we are already very close to major climatic tipping points, beyond which comes not merely a bunch of catastrophic impacts, but ones that are irreversible on a time scale of centuries. The collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet may be under way — further delay would only speed up sea level rise and risk crossing many more points of no return.

    That’s why in 2014 the world’s top scientists concluded their major literature review of mitigation costs “Delaying is estimated to … substantially increase the difficulty of the transition to low, longer-term emissions levels and narrow the range of options consistent with maintaining temperature change below 2 degrees C.” Again, that IPCC summary conclusion is so uncontroversial every major government in the world signed off on it! Same for the IPCC’s final summary conclusion in November that further delay risks risk “severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems.”

     

    Photo: Sophia Germer / The Chronicle In the San Francisco marina, Ian Wren, a Baykeeper scientist, along with Karin Tuxen Bettman of Google explain technologies relating to rising tide levels.

    Google camera helps capture bay’s rising sea levels

    By Kristen V. Brown Updated 9:36 pm, Friday, February 13, 2015

    Recent visitors to San Francisco Bay might have spotted something strange: a small unmanned vessel zipping through the water with a mysterious sphere mounted atop its two parallel hulls….For the past few months, the nonprofit San Francisco Baykeeper has been remotely piloting the craft — a catamaran topped with a loaner Google Street View camera. In a teaming of tech and environmental advocacy, Baykeeper is using the camera’s 360-degree imagery to capture the shoreline’s rising sea levels, mapping a meandering 400 miles of the bay’s coast. The idea is to give people a close-up view of the shore, the kind of view typically available only from a boat. This, Baykeeper hopes, will rile them up. “A lot of people know about sea level rise,” said Sejal Choksi, an environmental lawyer and Baykeeper’s interim director. “We are hoping these images will really bring the reality home to the public, that they will look at pictures of places they know and say, ‘Oh my gosh, this is going to be underwater.‘” Google’s Street View cameras have been affixed to cars, boats, people and even camels. But this catamaran, a Wave Adaptive Modular Vessel that keeps the camera steady even as the tide swells, is a first. Baykeeper initially planned to use kayaks and GoPro cameras to document small parts of the bay. After Baykeeper won a $100,000 grant from Google, though, the Mountain View tech giant offered up its imaging gear….

     

    Popular soda ingredient, caramel color, poses cancer risk to consumers

    Posted: 18 Feb 2015 04:16 PM PST

    Public health researchers have analyzed soda consumption data in order to characterize people’s exposure to a potentially carcinogenic byproduct of some types of caramel color. Caramel color is a common ingredient in colas and other dark soft drinks. The results show that between 44 and 58 percent of people over the age of six typically have at least one can of soda per day, possibly more, potentially exposing them to 4-methylimidazole (4-MEI), a possible human carcinogen formed during the manufacture of some kinds of caramel color….

     

    Sunlight continues to damage skin in the dark

    Posted: 19 Feb 2015 11:46 AM PST

    Much of the damage that ultraviolet radiation does to skin occurs hours after sun exposure, a team of researchers has concluded. While noting that news of the carcinogenic effect of melanin is disconcerting, the researchers also pointed to a ray of hope: The slowness of chemiexcitation may allow time for new preventive tools, such as an “evening-after” sunscreen designed to block the energy transfer

     

    Computer model of blood development could speed up search for new leukemia drugs

    Posted: 09 Feb 2015 08:32 AM PST

    The first comprehensive computer model to simulate the development of blood cells could help in the development of new treatments for leukemia and lymphoma, say researchers.

     

    Even animals compose: What it means to be a musical species

    Posted: 17 Feb 2015 09:27 AM PST

    Music is found in all human cultures and thus appears to be part of our biology and not simply a cultural phenomenon. One approach to studying the biology of music is to examine other species to see if they share some of the features that make up human musicality.

     

    My Own Life

    Oliver Sacks on Learning He Has Terminal Cancer

    By OLIVER SACKS FEB. 19, 2015 NY Times Opinion

     

     

     

     

     


     


     


     

     


     

     


     

     


     


     

     



    ————

    Ellie Cohen, President and CEO

    Point Blue Conservation Science (formerly PRBO)

    3820 Cypress Drive, Suite 11, Petaluma, CA 94954

    707-781-2555 x318

     

    www.pointblue.org  | Follow Point Blue on Facebook!

     

    Point Blue—Conservation science for a healthy planet.

     

  8. Meeting two degree climate target means 80 per cent of worlds’ coal is unburnable, study says

    Leave a Comment

     


    Meeting two degree climate target means 80 per cent of world’s coal is unburnable, study says

    Posted on 6 February 2015 by Guest Author skepticalscience.come This is a re-post from Roz Pidcock at Carbon Brief

    More than 80 per cent of the world’s known coal reserves need to stay in the ground to avoid dangerous climate change, according to new research. Thirty per cent of known oil and 50 per cent of gas reserves are unburnable and drilling in the Arctic is out of the question if we’re to stay below two degrees, the new research notes. That vast amounts of fossil fuels must go unused if we’re to keep warming in check isn’t a new idea. What’s novel about today’s paper is that it pinpoints how much fuel is unburnable in specific regions of the world, from Canadian tar sands to the oil-rich Middle East.

    In its most recent report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) calculated how much carbon we can emit and still keep a decent chance of limiting warming to two degrees above pre-industrial levels. This is known as a carbon budget. Two degrees is the internationally-accepted point beyond which climate change risks become unacceptably high. As of 2010, we could release a maximum of about  1000 billion more tonnes of carbon dioxide and still have a 50:50 chance of staying below two degrees, according to the  IPCC. Today’s paper compares this allowable carbon budget with scientists’ best estimate of how much oil, gas and coal exist worldwide in economically recoverable form, known as “reserves”. Were we to burn all the world’s known oil, gas and coal reserves, the greenhouse gases released would blow the budget for two degrees three times over, the paper finds.

    The implication is that any fossil fuels that would take us over-budget will have to be left in the ground. Globally, this equates to 88 per cent of the world’s known coal reserves, 52 per cent of gas and 35 per cent of oil, according to the new research. The University College London team used a complex energy system model to investigate the fraction of “unburnable” fossil fuel reserves in 11 specific regions worldwide. The results suggest the Middle East holds half of total global unburnable oil and gas reserves, with more than 260 billion barrels of oil and nearly 50 trillion cubic metres of gas needing to remain untouched if we’re to stay within budget. This “unburnable” fraction equates to two thirds of the region’s gas and 38 per cent of oil reserves. Russia accounts for another third of the world’s total unburnable gas …. It’s worth noting, the numbers above relate to known “reserves”. These are fossil fuels that have already been discovered and have a high probability of being recovered under current economic conditions. This is different from fossil fuel “resources”. These are all the fossil fuels thought to exist which are potentially recoverable irrespective of economic conditions.Today’s research suggests 25 per cent of Europe’s unconventional gas resources could feasibly be exploited while still remaining below two degrees. This includes shale gas, tight gas and coal-bed methane. How much of this is economically viable to recover remains to be seen, however….…According to today’s research, technology to capture greenhouse gas emissions before they reach the atmosphere would only have a limited impact on the proportion of fossil fuels that can be burned. Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) would allow just six per cent more of the world’s known coal reserves to be burned, with an even lower figure for oil and gas. The paper explains:

    “Because of the expense of CCS, its relatively late date of introduction (2025), and the assumed maximum rate at which it can be built, CCS has a relatively modest effect on the overall levels of fossil fuel that can be produced before 2050 in a two-degree scenario”. The new research paints a stark picture of the compromises in fuel use necessary in a climate-constrained world. The researchers say it raises the question of how we divvy up the winners and losers, and that’s one we should all now be asking of our policymakers.

     

    McGlade, C & Ekins, P. (2015) The geographical distribution of fossil fuels unused when limiting global warming to 2C. Nature, http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature14016

  9. Megadroughts’ predicted to ravage the Southwest: warming pushes Western US toward driest period in 1000 years

    Leave a Comment

     

     

    Warming pushes Western U.S. toward driest period in 1,000 years: Unprecedented risk of drought in 21st century

    February 12, 2015 The Earth Institute at Columbia University

     

    During the second half of the 21st century, the U.S. Southwest and Great Plains will face persistent drought worse than anything seen in times ancient or modern, with the drying conditions “driven primarily” by human-induced global warming, a new study predicts.

    The research says the drying would surpass in severity any of the decades-long “megadroughts” that occurred much earlier during the past 1,000 years — one of which has been tied by some researchers to the decline of the Anasazi or Ancient Pueblo Peoples in the Colorado Plateau in the late 13th century. Many studies have already predicted that the Southwest could dry due to global warming, but this is the first to say that such drying could exceed the worst conditions of the distant past. The impacts today would be devastating, given the region’s much larger population and use of resources.

    “We are the first to do this kind of quantitative comparison between the projections and the distant past, and the story is a bit bleak,” said Jason E. Smerdon, a co-author and climate scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, part of the Earth Institute at Columbia University. “Even when selecting for the worst megadrought-dominated period, the 21st century projections make the megadroughts seem like quaint walks through the Garden of Eden.”

    The surprising thing to us was really how consistent the response was over these regions, nearly regardless of what model we used or what soil moisture metric we looked at,” said lead author Benjamin I. Cook of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. “It all showed this really, really significant drying.”

    The new study, “Unprecedented 21st-Century Drought Risk in the American Southwest and Central Plains,” will be featured in the inaugural edition of the new online journal Science Advances, produced by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, which also publishes the leading journal Science.

    Today, 11 of the past 14 years have been drought years in much of the American West, including California, Nevada, New Mexico and Arizona and across the Southern Plains to Texas and Oklahoma, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, a collaboration of U.S. government agencies.

    The current drought directly affects more than 64 million people in the Southwest and Southern Plains, according to NASA, and many more are indirectly affected because of the impacts on agricultural regions.

    Shrinking water supplies have forced western states to impose water use restrictions; aquifers are being drawn down to unsustainable levels, and major surface reservoirs such as Lake Mead and Lake Powell are at historically low levels. This winter’s snowpack in the Sierras, a major water source for Los Angeles and other cities, is less than a quarter of what authorities call a “normal” level, according to a February report from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. California water officials last year cut off the flow of water from the northern part of the state to the south, forcing farmers in the Central Valley to leave hundreds of thousands of acres unplanted.

    Changes in precipitation, temperature and drought, and the consequences it has for our society — which is critically dependent on our freshwater resources for food, electricity and industry — are likely to be the most immediate climate impacts we experience as a result of greenhouse gas emissions,” said Kevin Anchukaitis, a climate researcher at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Anchukaitis said the findings “require us to think rather immediately about how we could and would adapt.”

    Much of our knowledge about past droughts comes from extensive study of tree rings conducted by Lamont-Doherty scientist Edward Cook (Benjamin’s father) and others, who in 2009 created the North American Drought Atlas. The atlas recreates the history of drought over the previous 2,005 years, based on hundreds of tree-ring chronologies, gleaned in turn from tens of thousands of tree samples across the United States, Mexico and parts of Canada.

    For the current study, researchers used data from the atlas to represent past climate, and applied three different measures for drought — two soil moisture measurements at varying depths, and a version of the Palmer Drought Severity Index, which gauges precipitation and evaporation and transpiration — the net input of water into the land. While some have questioned how accurately the Palmer drought index truly reflects soil moisture, the researchers found it matched well with other measures, and that it “provides a bridge between the [climate] models and drought in observations,” Cook said.

    The researchers applied 17 different climate models to analyze the future impact of rising average temperatures on the regions. And, they compared two different global warming scenarios — one with “business as usual,” projecting a continued rise in emissions of the greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming; and a second scenario in which emissions are moderated.

    By most of those measures, they came to the same conclusions.

    The results … are extremely unfavorable for the continuation of agricultural and water resource management as they are currently practiced in the Great Plains and southwestern United States,” said David Stahle, professor in the Department of Geosciences at the University of Arkansas and director of the Tree-Ring Laboratory there. Stahle was not involved in the study, though he worked on the North American Drought Atlas.

    Smerdon said he and his colleagues are confident in their results. The effects of CO2 on higher average temperature and the subsequent connection to drying in the Southwest and Great Plains emerge as a “strong signal” across the majority of the models, regardless of the drought metrics that are used, he said. And, he added, they are consistent with many previous studies.

    Anchukaitis said the paper “provides an elegant and convincing connection” between reconstructions of past climate and the models pointing to the risk of future drought.

     

    Benjamin I. Cook, Toby R. Ault, Jason E. Smerdon. Unprecedented 21st century drought risk in the American Southwest and Central Plains. Science Advances, 12 February 2015 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1400082

     

    .

     

    Megadroughts’ predicted to ravage the Southwest

    By David Perlman SF Chron February 12, 2015 Updated: February 12, 2015 9:18pm

     

    The Southwest, including California, along with the Great Plains states, will endure long-lasting “megadroughts” in the second half of this century, worse by far than anything seen in the past 1,000 years, a team of climate experts said Thursday. The driving force behind the devastating droughts? Human-induced global warming, the team reported. The new forecast is based on models of continued climate change that consider the slow pace of many nations to curb their output of greenhouse gases.

     

    The scientists contend there is at least a 20 percent chance that coming droughts will last 35 years or more, and a 50 percent chance that they will last 10 years or more. “When you stack these model projections against the reconstruction of past climates, the results are so sobering that they have me ready to go out for a drink,” said Ken Caldeira, a climate scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science and Stanford University, in an e-mail. Caldeira, who was not connected with the study, said the scientists’ forecasts are based on “the most reliable model results available in the world today.”

     

    Current drought unrelated

    The report comes as California remains in a severe drought, but a leading scientist on the project said the current drought is not directly connected to the new forecast. “I do, however, want to be clear that our results do not say anything about the current and ongoing drought in California,” said climate scientist Benjamin I. Cook of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

    Cook worked with Toby R. Ault of Cornell University and Jason E. Smerdon of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory to arrive at the forecast of an “unprecedented 21st century drought risk.” Their report appears Friday in the new peer-reviewed journal Science Advances, published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, which is meeting this week in San Jose. The prediction of megadroughts, the report’s authors say, “contrasts sharply with the recent emphasis on uncertainty” in drought forecasts by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which is considered the authoritative international agency on climate change. “Future droughts will occur owing to significantly higher temperatures than ever recorded” in the Southwest and Great Plains regions, the scientists said, adding that these extremes are likely to cause “increased stress on natural ecosystems and agriculture. In the not-too-distant future, the impending droughts will put a lot more pressure on all our resources,” said Kevin Anchukaitis, a climate researcher at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on Cape Cod, Mass., who was not involved in the study. “We can head off some of the impact by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but we’ll face difficult choices about reducing our hydropower capacity.”

     

    Tree-ring records

    To gather evidence of past megadroughts, the scientists used thousands of tree-ring records collected over many years by other researchers, as well as the histories of ancient droughts that affected the long-puzzling history of the Anasazi people in the American Southwest. Those people and their widespread cultures disappeared around 1300 A.D. and the cause of their disappearance has long been disputed by archaeologists. But the tree-ring records and the radiocarbon dates of their plant remains show that they did undergo centuries of alternating heat-induced droughts — climaxed by what has been called the “great drought” of 1276 to 1299 A.D. In his discussion of the megadrought report, Caldeira recalled visiting Anasazi ruins like Mesa Verde in Arizona and said “it looks like the droughts in store for us later this century will make the droughts that did in the Mesa Verde civilization look like child’s play.”

  10. Conservation Science News Feb 13 2015

    Leave a Comment

     

    Focus of the Week: Warming Pushes Western US toward Driest Period in 1,000 Years– Unprecedented Risk of Drought in 21st Century

    1-ECOLOGY, BIODIVERSITY, RELATED

    2-CLIMATE CHANGE AND EXTREME EVENTS with special DROUGHT section

    3- ADAPTATION and HOPE

    4- POLICY

    5- RENEWABLES, ENERGY AND RELATED

    6-
    RESOURCES and REFERENCES

    7-OTHER NEWS OF INTEREST 

    8-IMAGES OF THE WEEK

    ——————————–

    NOTE: Please pass on my weekly news update that has been prepared for
    Point Blue Conservation Science
    staff.  You can find these weekly compilations posted on line
    by clicking here.  For more information please see www.pointblue.org.


    The items contained in this update were drawn from www.dailyclimate.org, www.sciencedaily.com, SER The Society for Ecological Restorationhttp://news.google.com, www.climateprogress.org, www.slate.com, www.sfgate.com, The Wildlife Society NewsBrief, CA BLM NewsBytes and other sources as indicated.  This is a compilation of information available on-line, not verified and not endorsed by Point Blue Conservation Science.  
    You can sign up for this news compilation by signing up for the California Landscape Conservation Cooperative Newsletter or the Bay Area Ecosystems Climate Change Consortium listserve to receive this. You can also email me directly at Ellie Cohen, ecohen at pointblue.org with questions or suggestions. 

    Founded as Point Reyes Bird Observatory, Point Blue’s 140 scientists advance nature-based solutions to climate change, habitat loss and other environmental threats to benefit wildlife and people, through bird and ecosystem science, partnerships and outreach.  We work collaboratively to guide and inspire positive conservation outcomes today — for a healthy, blue planet teeming with life in the future.  Read more about our 5-year strategic approach here.

     

     

    Focus of the Week-

     

    Warming pushes Western U.S. toward driest period in 1,000 years: Unprecedented risk of drought in 21st century

    February 12, 2015 The Earth Institute at Columbia University

     

    During the second half of the 21st century, the U.S. Southwest and Great Plains will face persistent drought worse than anything seen in times ancient or modern, with the drying conditions “driven primarily” by human-induced global warming, a new study predicts.

    The research says the drying would surpass in severity any of the decades-long “megadroughts” that occurred much earlier during the past 1,000 years — one of which has been tied by some researchers to the decline of the Anasazi or Ancient Pueblo Peoples in the Colorado Plateau in the late 13th century. Many studies have already predicted that the Southwest could dry due to global warming, but this is the first to say that such drying could exceed the worst conditions of the distant past. The impacts today would be devastating, given the region’s much larger population and use of resources.

    “We are the first to do this kind of quantitative comparison between the projections and the distant past, and the story is a bit bleak,” said Jason E. Smerdon, a co-author and climate scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, part of the Earth Institute at Columbia University. “Even when selecting for the worst megadrought-dominated period, the 21st century projections make the megadroughts seem like quaint walks through the Garden of Eden.”

    The surprising thing to us was really how consistent the response was over these regions, nearly regardless of what model we used or what soil moisture metric we looked at,” said lead author Benjamin I. Cook of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. “It all showed this really, really significant drying.”

    The new study, “Unprecedented 21st-Century Drought Risk in the American Southwest and Central Plains,” will be featured in the inaugural edition of the new online journal Science Advances, produced by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, which also publishes the leading journal Science.

    Today, 11 of the past 14 years have been drought years in much of the American West, including California, Nevada, New Mexico and Arizona and across the Southern Plains to Texas and Oklahoma, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, a collaboration of U.S. government agencies.

    The current drought directly affects more than 64 million people in the Southwest and Southern Plains, according to NASA, and many more are indirectly affected because of the impacts on agricultural regions.

    Shrinking water supplies have forced western states to impose water use restrictions; aquifers are being drawn down to unsustainable levels, and major surface reservoirs such as Lake Mead and Lake Powell are at historically low levels. This winter’s snowpack in the Sierras, a major water source for Los Angeles and other cities, is less than a quarter of what authorities call a “normal” level, according to a February report from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. California water officials last year cut off the flow of water from the northern part of the state to the south, forcing farmers in the Central Valley to leave hundreds of thousands of acres unplanted.

    Changes in precipitation, temperature and drought, and the consequences it has for our society — which is critically dependent on our freshwater resources for food, electricity and industry — are likely to be the most immediate climate impacts we experience as a result of greenhouse gas emissions,” said Kevin Anchukaitis, a climate researcher at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Anchukaitis said the findings “require us to think rather immediately about how we could and would adapt.”

    Much of our knowledge about past droughts comes from extensive study of tree rings conducted by Lamont-Doherty scientist Edward Cook (Benjamin’s father) and others, who in 2009 created the North American Drought Atlas. The atlas recreates the history of drought over the previous 2,005 years, based on hundreds of tree-ring chronologies, gleaned in turn from tens of thousands of tree samples across the United States, Mexico and parts of Canada.

    For the current study, researchers used data from the atlas to represent past climate, and applied three different measures for drought — two soil moisture measurements at varying depths, and a version of the Palmer Drought Severity Index, which gauges precipitation and evaporation and transpiration — the net input of water into the land. While some have questioned how accurately the Palmer drought index truly reflects soil moisture, the researchers found it matched well with other measures, and that it “provides a bridge between the [climate] models and drought in observations,” Cook said.

    The researchers applied 17 different climate models to analyze the future impact of rising average temperatures on the regions. And, they compared two different global warming scenarios — one with “business as usual,” projecting a continued rise in emissions of the greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming; and a second scenario in which emissions are moderated.

    By most of those measures, they came to the same conclusions.

    The results … are extremely unfavorable for the continuation of agricultural and water resource management as they are currently practiced in the Great Plains and southwestern United States,” said David Stahle, professor in the Department of Geosciences at the University of Arkansas and director of the Tree-Ring Laboratory there. Stahle was not involved in the study, though he worked on the North American Drought Atlas.

    Smerdon said he and his colleagues are confident in their results. The effects of CO2 on higher average temperature and the subsequent connection to drying in the Southwest and Great Plains emerge as a “strong signal” across the majority of the models, regardless of the drought metrics that are used, he said. And, he added, they are consistent with many previous studies.

    Anchukaitis said the paper “provides an elegant and convincing connection” between reconstructions of past climate and the models pointing to the risk of future drought.

     

    Benjamin I. Cook, Toby R. Ault, Jason E. Smerdon. Unprecedented 21st century drought risk in the American Southwest and Central Plains. Science Advances, 12 February 2015 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1400082

     

    .

     

    Megadroughts’ predicted to ravage the Southwest

    By David Perlman SF Chron February 12, 2015 Updated: February 12, 2015 9:18pm

     

    The Southwest, including California, along with the Great Plains states, will endure long-lasting “megadroughts” in the second half of this century, worse by far than anything seen in the past 1,000 years, a team of climate experts said Thursday. The driving force behind the devastating droughts? Human-induced global warming, the team reported. The new forecast is based on models of continued climate change that consider the slow pace of many nations to curb their output of greenhouse gases.

     

    The scientists contend there is at least a 20 percent chance that coming droughts will last 35 years or more, and a 50 percent chance that they will last 10 years or more. “When you stack these model projections against the reconstruction of past climates, the results are so sobering that they have me ready to go out for a drink,” said Ken Caldeira, a climate scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science and Stanford University, in an e-mail. Caldeira, who was not connected with the study, said the scientists’ forecasts are based on “the most reliable model results available in the world today.”

     

    Current drought unrelated

    The report comes as California remains in a severe drought, but a leading scientist on the project said the current drought is not directly connected to the new forecast. “I do, however, want to be clear that our results do not say anything about the current and ongoing drought in California,” said climate scientist Benjamin I. Cook of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

    Cook worked with Toby R. Ault of Cornell University and Jason E. Smerdon of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory to arrive at the forecast of an “unprecedented 21st century drought risk.” Their report appears Friday in the new peer-reviewed journal Science Advances, published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, which is meeting this week in San Jose. The prediction of megadroughts, the report’s authors say, “contrasts sharply with the recent emphasis on uncertainty” in drought forecasts by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which is considered the authoritative international agency on climate change. “Future droughts will occur owing to significantly higher temperatures than ever recorded” in the Southwest and Great Plains regions, the scientists said, adding that these extremes are likely to cause “increased stress on natural ecosystems and agriculture. In the not-too-distant future, the impending droughts will put a lot more pressure on all our resources,” said Kevin Anchukaitis, a climate researcher at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on Cape Cod, Mass., who was not involved in the study. “We can head off some of the impact by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but we’ll face difficult choices about reducing our hydropower capacity.”

     

    Tree-ring records

    To gather evidence of past megadroughts, the scientists used thousands of tree-ring records collected over many years by other researchers, as well as the histories of ancient droughts that affected the long-puzzling history of the Anasazi people in the American Southwest. Those people and their widespread cultures disappeared around 1300 A.D. and the cause of their disappearance has long been disputed by archaeologists. But the tree-ring records and the radiocarbon dates of their plant remains show that they did undergo centuries of alternating heat-induced droughts — climaxed by what has been called the “great drought” of 1276 to 1299 A.D. In his discussion of the megadrought report, Caldeira recalled visiting Anasazi ruins like Mesa Verde in Arizona and said “it looks like the droughts in store for us later this century will make the droughts that did in the Mesa Verde civilization look like child’s play.”

     

     

    MORE ON DROUGHT BELOW….

     

     

     

     

    High seas fishing ban could boost global catches, equality

    February 12, 2015 University of British Columbia

    Closing the high seas to commercial fishing could be catch-neutral and distribute fisheries income more equitably among the world’s maritime nations, according to research from the University of British Columbia (UBC). The analysis of fisheries data indicates that if increased spillover of fish stocks from protected international waters were to boost coastal catches by 18 per cent, current global catches would be maintained. When the researchers modelled less conservative estimates of stock spillover, catches in coastal waters surpassed current global levels. “We should use international waters as the world’s fish bank,” says U. Rashid Sumaila, director of the UBC Fisheries Economics Research Unit and lead author of the study. “Restricting fisheries activities to coastal waters is economically and environmentally sensible, particularly as the industry faces diminishing returns.” The findings appeared today in Scientific Reports, published by Nature Publishing Group and will be presented February 13 at the 2015 annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). The study also indicates that a high-seas moratorium would improve fisheries income distribution among maritime nations. Currently, 10 high seas fishing nations capture 71 per cent of the landed value of catches in international waters

     

    U. Rashid Sumaila, Vicky W. Y. Lam, Dana D. Miller, Louise Teh, Reg A. Watson, Dirk Zeller, William W. L. Cheung, Isabelle M. Côté, Alex D. Rogers, Callum Roberts, Enric Sala, Daniel Pauly. Winners and losers in a world where the high seas is closed to fishing. Scientific Reports, 2015; 5: 8481 DOI: 10.1038/srep08481

     

     

    Urban pollinators get the job done

    Posted: 12 Feb 2015 12:45 PM PST

    Native bees in San Francisco provide adequate pollination to crop plants such as tomato plants, new research shows. Plants left open to the air produced more and larger tomatoes than those that self-pollinated only, and even matched the production of artificially pollinated plants. The research also found that the density of flowers in a garden — and not the garden’s size — is the key factor in attracting more pollinators.
    “What this shows is that just because you’re in an urban setting doesn’t mean that bees aren’t providing important pollinator service, and not just honeybees,” said Gretchen LeBuhn, a professor of biology at San Francisco State University and co-author of the study. “Our wild bees here are providing all the service you might need.” LeBuhn has extensively studied the decline of pollinators across North America and since 2008 has led the nation’s largest citizen science project focused on pollinators, which conducts an annual census of bees…. “We were actually surprised,” LeBuhn said. “We expected to find that there was not adequate pollinator service in the city, but in fact we actually found bees do quite well. Anybody who grows tomatoes in San Francisco knows it’s really hard to grow them here, but our data says it’s not because of the pollinators.” Even more surprising, neither the size of the garden nor the amount of green space in the surrounding area impacted the amount of pollinator service a plant received. Instead, the key factor was the “floral resource density,” or the abundance of flowers present within the garden in which the tomato plant was located. The more densely flowers were grown within each garden, the higher the yield of tomatoes. “This is good news in San Francisco, because we have very limited space for urban agriculture,” said Potter, now an environmental consultant. “Small gardens with lots of flowers are enough to attract bees.”

     

    Andrew Potter, Gretchen LeBuhn. Pollination service to urban agriculture in San Francisco, CA. Urban Ecosystems, 2015; DOI: 10.1007/s11252-015-0435-y

     

     

    This image shows Haiti. Credit: Timothy Townsend

    An ocean of plastic: Magnitude of plastic waste going into the ocean calculated

    February 12, 2015 University of California – Santa Barbara

    Ocean currents have been carrying floating debris into all five of the world’s major oceanic gyres for decades. The rotating currents of these so-called ‘garbage patches’ create vortexes of trash, much of it plastic. However, exactly how much plastic is making its way into the world’s oceans and from where it originates has been a mystery — until now….A new study published today in the journal Science, quantifies the input of plastic waste from land into the ocean and offers a roadmap for developing ocean-scale solutions to the problem of plastic marine pollution….The study found that more than 4.8 million metric tons of plastic waste enters the oceans from land each year, and that figure may be as high as 12.7 million metric tons. That’s one to three orders of magnitude greater than the reported mass of plastic floating in the oceans. A metric ton is equivalent to 1,000 kilograms or 2,205 pounds. “Using the average density of uncompacted plastic waste, 8 million metric tons — the midpoint of our estimate — would cover an area 34 times the size of Manhattan ankle-deep in plastic waste,” said co-author Roland Geyer, an associate professor at UCSB’s Bren School of Environmental Science & Management. “Eight million metric tons is a vast amount of material by any measure. It is how much plastic was produced worldwide in 1961.”… “Large-scale removal of plastic marine debris is not going to be cost-effective and quite likely simply unfeasible,” said Geyer. “This means that we need to prevent plastic from entering the oceans in the first place through better waste management, more reuse and recycling, better product design and material substitution.” …. “The researchers suggest achievable solutions that could reverse the alarming trend in plastics being dumped into our oceans.” Among them, according to the study, are waste reduction and “downstream” waste management strategies such as expanded recovery systems and extended producer responsibility. According to the researchers, while infrastructure is being built in developing nations, “industrialized countries can take immediate action by reducing waste and curbing the growth of single-use plastic.

     

     

     

    Images show increasing levels of conservation buffers on one of four landscape study sites on the Palouse, a rich but erosive wheat region in eastern Washington State. Residents preferred images with more conservation elements — trees and shrubs that protect the environment and reduce erosion. Credit: Linda Klein

    Adding natural buffers to the farm landscape slows erosion and looks good too

    Posted: 05 Feb 2015 09:31 AM PST

    Researchers know that adding natural buffers to the farm landscape can stop soil from vanishing. Now a scientist has found that more buffers are better, both for pleasing the eye and slowing erosion.

     

    Environmentalists say 30% of the world’s Western sandpiper population migrate to the Bay of Panama

    Panama protects wetlands from construction boom

    10 February 2015 BBC News

    Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela signed a bill on Monday aimed at protecting the wetlands outside the capital, Panama City, from a construction boom. Under the new law, construction is banned in a 85,000-hectare-stretch (210,000 acres) of the Bay of Panama. The wetlands are a key stopover and wintering area for migratory shorebirds in the Western Hemisphere. Mr Varela’s predecessor had encouraged construction projects in the area. The new law, which came into effect on Monday, also bans logging, the removal of soil and any other activity which may affect the mangrove swamps. In recent years, the area around Panama City has seen fast growth with the construction of major residential, tourism and industrial complexes. Environmentalists accused President Ricardo Martinelli of tacitly encouraging unrestrained growth during his time in office from 2009 to 2014 by lowering the fines for cutting down mangrove trees. They say the move sped up the destruction of Panama’s mangrove forests, 55% of which were lost between 1969 and 2007, according to United Nations figures. About a million shorebirds migrate to the Bay of Panama every year. The area is also home to anteaters, Central American tapirs and loggerhead turtles.

     

     

     

    Would federal lands takeover in Utah harm the public? Experts think so

    Posted: 06 Feb 2015 09:51 AM PST

    The transfer of 31 million acres of land managed by the federal government to Utah would hinder public land management reforms and harm the state, according to a newly released analysis.

     

     

     

    CREDIT: Courtesy of Center For Biological Diversity

    First Gray Wolf Spotted At Grand Canyon In 70 Years Shot Dead By Hunter By Mistake

    by Ari Phillips Posted on February 12, 2015 at 2:59 pm Updated: February 13, 2015 at 8:54 am

    Officials have confirmed that the first gray wolf seen around the Grand Canyon in 70 years was killed in December by a hunter in southern Utah after he mistook it for coyote. The three-year-old female, named “Echo” through a contest held with hundreds of schoolchildren, was the first gray wolf to be spotted in the region since the 1940s. After being collared in Wyoming in early January 2014, the wolf had ventured at least 750 miles into the new territory — further evidence that gray wolf populations are coming back from the brink of extinction after decades of reckless killings. “The fact the Echo had ventured into new territory hopefully signifies that there is still additional habitat where this vulnerable species can thrive and survive,” Nidhi J. Thakar, deputy director of the public lands project at the Center for American Progress, told ThinkProgress. While the gray wolf may be making a comeback it still occupies only around 10 percent of its historic range, according to the Center for Biological Diversity, which states that researchers have identified more than 350,000 square miles of unoccupied suitable wolf habit including remote stretches of the southern Rockies, Adirondacks, Sierra Nevada, and Cascade mountains. In the mid-20th century, the only places gray wolves could be found in the U.S. included a slice of northern Minnesota and Michigan’s Isle Royale….

     

     

    Strange newfound fanged frog gives birth to live tadpoles

    By David Perlman SF Chronicle February 9, 2015

    Deep in Indonesia’s Sulawesi rain forest, where humans first left their mark more than 40,000 years ago, a unique breed of frogs reproduce in a most unusual way: The females don’t lay eggs as most frogs do, but give birth to live young — in clutches of slithery tadpoles by the dozens….

     

    A new species of hummingbird?

    Posted: 12 Feb 2015 09:23 AM PST

    The Bahama Woodstar is a hummingbird found in the Bahamas, and comprises two subspecies. One of these is found throughout the islands of the Bahamas, and especially in the northern islands. The other is found only among the southern Inaguan islands of the Bahama Archipelago. A research team now argues that the two subspecies should be recognized as two distinct species.

     

     

     

     


    A 23-year experiment finds surprising global warming impacts already underway

    Posted on 9 February 2015 by dana1981 skepticalscience.com

    A new paper published in Global Change Biology summarizes the results of a 23-year experiment monitoring how global warming is impacting certain ecosystems. At the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory, the scientists have monitored ten 30-square meter plots of meadowland since 1989. Above five of those plots, overhead infrared radiators have been on constantly since January 1991, while the other five were used as the controls for comparison. The study reports, The microclimatic effect of experimental heating throughout the growing season has been to warm the top 15 cm of soil by ~2 °C and dry it by 10–20% (gravimetric basis) during the growing season, and to prolong the snow-free season at each end by an average of ~2 weeks.

    Ecosystem Changes Amplifying Global Warming

    The scientists monitored the type of vegetation growing in the meadows. In both the controlled and heated plots, they saw a shift away from flowering plants, towards woody plants like sagebrush, with a bigger change in the heated plots.

    They also monitored the amount of carbon in the soil. In the heated plots, the amount of carbon stored in the soil decreased, but it later rebounded. In the control plots, the carbon storage decreased more slowly, and hasn’t yet rebounded after 23 years. Simulations suggest the soil carbon storage will continue to decline for about another 40 years before it rebounds. The change in carbon storage was caused by the shift from flowering to woody plants. As lead author John Harte of UC Berkeley explained,

    When shrubs replace forbs [flowering plants], the rate of input of organic carbon to the soil declines because in these ecosystems forbs photosynthesize at a higher rate (per area) than do the shrubs and return more annual growth to the soil at the end of the growing season. The loss of all that annual production leads to a rather rapid decline in soil carbon (the quantity factor). But the soil carbon arising from dead shrub leaves is less digestible than is the soil carbon from forbs (the quality factor).

    Over a period of decades, this leads to the eventual recovery of the soil carbon. The delay in the influence of the quality factor is due to the fact that until the soil carbon resulting from shrub production has built up to a sufficient level, most of the soil carbon will still be that from forbs.

    The study notes that a similar change happening as spruce forests convert to pine forests. This shift results in less carbon storage in both the short- and long-term, causing what’s called a “positive feedback,” as more carbon remaining in the atmosphere will amplify global warming further. I asked Dr. Harte if he could speculate about whether these results give us an indication about how we can expect carbon storage in the global biosphere to change in a hotter world. He told me,

    A basis for speculation at the global scale comes from ice core data showing that over the past hundreds of thousands of years, during periods in which earth is warming, atmospheric CO2 levels rise, and during periods in which earth is cooling, those levels drop. The oceans undoubtedly play a big role in this but it is likely that terrestrial ecosystems also factor in. While we can’t yet be quantitative, there is good reason to believe that the terrestrial contribution is on average, one of positive feedback (that is, contributing to the global trend revealed in the ice core data).

    Changes Happening Sooner than Expected

    While some of the changes in the heated plots were expected, the scientists were surprised that they saw similar changes occur in the control plots. Since 1991, the snow-free season has become extended, the soil has become hotter and drier, and there’s been a shift from flowering to woody vegetation. Harte said of his research,

    We were actually very surprised to see such dramatic changes in the control plots. That the plant community could undergo such rapid change, from a carpet of wildflowers to sagebrush, in just a couple of decades under the artificial heaters was not a surprise. But that the same transition would be visible in the ambient plots was a surprise; we expected that such a transition would take at least 3 or 4 decades. And even more surprising was the clear evidence after two decades that the ambient plots were losing soil carbon to the atmosphere. A number of soil scientists said that it was a waste of time to measure soil carbon because we would never detect change in the lifetime of an experiment. Not only could we detect it rather rapidly in the heated plots, but it is now apparent even in the ambient plots

     

     

    Convergent ecosystem responses to 23-year ambient and manipulated warming link advancing snowmelt and shrub encroachment to transient and long-term climate–soil carbon feedback

    John Harte1,*, Scott R. Saleska2 and Charlotte Levy3 Article first published online: 29 JAN 2015 DOI: 10.1111/gcb.12831 © 2014 John Wiley & Sons Ltd

    View Full Article with Supporting Information (HTML)
    Enhanced Article (HTML)
    Get PDF (495K)

    Abstract: Ecosystem responses to climate change can exert positive or negative feedbacks on climate, mediated in part by slow-moving factors such as shifts in vegetation community composition. Long-term experimental manipulations can be used to examine such ecosystem responses, but they also present another opportunity: inferring the extent to which contemporary climate change is responsible for slow changes in ecosystems under ambient conditions. Here, using 23 years of data, we document a shift from nonwoody to woody vegetation and a loss of soil carbon in ambient plots and show that these changes track previously shown similar but faster changes under experimental warming. This allows us to infer that climate change is the cause of the observed shifts in ambient vegetation and soil carbon and that the vegetation responses mediate the observed changes in soil carbon. Our findings demonstrate the realism of an experimental manipulation, allow attribution of a climate cause to observed ambient ecosystem changes, and demonstrate how a combination of long-term study of ambient and experimental responses to warming can identify mechanistic drivers needed for realistic predictions of the conditions under which ecosystems are likely to become carbon sources or sinks over varying timescales.

     

     

    Different fire–climate relationships on forested and non-forested landscapes in the Sierra Nevada ecoregion

    February 2015 USGS WERC

    In the California Sierra Nevada region, increased fire activity over the last 50 years has only occurred in the higher-elevation forests on US Forest Service (USFS) lands, and is not characteristic of the lower-elevation grasslands, woodlands and shrublands on state responsibility lands (Cal Fire). Increased fire activity on USFS lands was correlated with warmer and drier springs. Although this is consistent with recent global warming, we found an equally strong relationship between fire activity and climate in the first half of the 20th century. At lower elevations, warmer and drier conditions were not strongly tied to fire activity over the last 90 years, although prior-year precipitation was significant. It is hypothesised that the fire–climate relationship in forests is determined by climatic effects on spring and summer fuel moisture, with hotter and drier springs leading to a longer fire season and more extensive burning. In contrast, future fire activity in the foothills may be more dependent on rainfall patterns and their effect on the herbaceous fuel load. We predict spring and summer warming will have a significant impact on future fire regimes, primarily in higher-elevation forests. Lower elevation ecosystems are likely to be affected as much by global changes that directly involve land-use patterns as by climate change.

     

    Keeley, JE, AD Syphard. 2015. Different Fire-Climate relationships on forested and non-forested landscapes in the Sierra Nevada ecoregion.
    International Journal of Wildland Fire 24:27-36. doi: 10.1071/WF14102

     

    The magnitude and spatial patterns of historical and future hydrologic change in California’s watersheds

    James H.
    Thorne1,, R. M.
    Boynton1, Lorraine E.
    Flint2, and Alan L.
    Flint2

    Ecosphere Feb 12 2015

    Process-based models that link climate and hydrology permit improved assessments of climate change impacts among watersheds. We used the Basin Characterization Model (BCM), a regional water balance model to (1) ask what is the magnitude of historical and projected future change in the hydrology of California’s watersheds; (2) test the spatial congruence of watersheds with the most historical and future hydrologic change; and (3) identify watersheds with high levels of hydrologic change under drier and wetter future climates. We assessed change for 5135 watersheds over a 60-year historical period and compared it to 90-year future projections. Watershed change was analyzed for climatic water deficit, April 1st snowpack, recharge, and runoff. Watersheds were ranked by change for the historical and two future scenarios. We developed a normalized index of hydrologic change that combined the four variables, and identified which watersheds show the most spatial congruence of large historical change and continued change under the two futures. Of the top 20% of all watersheds (1028), 591 in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and Northwestern ecoregions have high spatial congruence across all time periods. Among watersheds where change accelerates in the future, but not historically, a majority are congruent between both climate models, predominantly in the Sierra Nevada, Cascade Ranges and the Northwestern ecoregions. This congruence of impacts in watersheds under drier or wetter scenarios is driven by snowpack, but in areas with low snowpack, hydrologic change varied spatially depending on projected precipitation and temperature, with 151 watersheds in Northwestern California showing high levels of drying under the drier scenario, while 103 watersheds in Central western and Southwestern California show increasing hydrologic activity under the wetter scenario. In some regions, the loss of snowpack allows the cycle of runoff and recharge to function without delay represented by springtime snow melt, causing these watersheds to become more immediately hydrologically responsive to changing climate. The study also found watersheds with low rainfall that have already passed through their highest response to changing climate, and show less future change. The methods used here can also be used to identify watersheds resilient to changing climate.

     

    James H. Thorne, R. M. Boynton, Lorraine E. Flint, and Alan L. Flint 2015. The magnitude and spatial patterns of historical and future hydrologic change in California’s watersheds. Ecosphere 6:art24–art24. http://dx.doi.org/10.1890/ES14-00300.1

    Carbon release from ocean helped end the Ice Age

    Posted: 11 Feb 2015 10:20 AM PST

    A release of carbon dioxide from the deep ocean helped bring an end to the last Ice Age, according to new research. The study shows that carbon stored in an isolated reservoir deep in the Southern Ocean re-connected with the atmosphere, driving a rise in atmospheric CO2 and an increase in global temperatures. The finding gives scientists an insight into how the ocean affects the carbon cycle and climate change.

     

    New evidence of global warming: Remote lakes in Ecuador not immune to climate change

    Posted: 09 Feb 2015 10:07 AM PST

    A study of three remote lakes in Ecuador has revealed the vulnerability of tropical high mountain lakes to global climate change — the first study of its kind to show this. The data explains how the lakes are changing due to the water warming as the result of climate change.

     

     

    The findings raise concerns about whether warming conditions will make certain parts of the ocean uninhabitable for a wide range of marine life that needs oxygen to survive. Credit: Travis Wise/Flickr

    Global Warming May Boost Dead Zones in Oceans

    Ice Age evidence suggests rising temperatures could boost areas of ocean water with little oxygen for life

    February 10, 2015 |By Niina Heikkinen and ClimateWire

    Scientists are finding clues about how climate change could affect marine life by looking deep into the global ocean’s past experiences with warming. Through analysis of ocean sediment data, researchers at the University of California, Davis, found that the last time the planet underwent a major temperature change at the end of the last ice age, ocean oxygen levels fell sharply along the continental margins in the eastern Pacific Ocean. The findings raise concerns about whether warming conditions will make certain parts of the ocean uninhabitable for a wide range of marine life that needs oxygen to survive. The researchers focused specifically on regions called oxygen minimum zones (OMZs), which are naturally occurring low-oxygen regions in the intermediary waters just below the oxygen-rich surface.

    During the glacial period around 20,000 years ago, these zones did not exist. But in modern oceans, they occur in intermediary waters all over the world. Over several millenia after the ice age ended, the low oxygen expanses of water began expanding until they peaked midway through the deglaciation period about 14,000 years ago. In some locations, the expansion took place much more quickly, over less than a hundred years.

    The researchers analyzed archived sediment core sample data to chart ocean oxygen concentrations from four regions in the eastern Pacific—from the sub-Arctic region down to the equatorial Pacific.

    The largest oxygen minimum zone appeared along the Humboldt Current on the western coastline of Central and South America. The extremely low oxygen region had a huge vertical range, from 110 to more than 3,000 meters (360 to 10,170 feet) below sea level. Today’s oxygen minimum zones in the same region are much less extensive, extending from about 100 to 500 meters (128 to 1,640 feet) below sea level.

    Expansion of the zones coincided well with the peak in deglaciation, according to the study….

    ….The Pacific coastline is at risk not just from low oxygen levels but also from higher concentrations of dissolved CO2, which are increasing the water’s acidity. “I think for a long time we were talking about the vulnerability of coral reefs. Actually, it’s turning out that places like the U.S. West Coast are vulnerable because of currents and low oxygen,” he said. Others researchers, like Chavez are more skeptical of the short-term risks of low ocean oxygen levels. “Because of these dynamic processes, with atmospheric highs and lows that intensify in a warmer world, you can override some of the stratification,” he said. While oxygen levels may have been declining off California’s coastline for more than a decade, Chavez said imminent results of the decrease are unlikely in the next 10, 20 or even 50 years. “If we continue down this path now, in several hundred years, we will have serious problems,” he said.

    Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500

     


    ‘The likelihood of eventually considering last-ditch efforts to address damage from climate change grows with every year of inaction on emissions control,’ says US National Academy of Science report. Photograph: ISS/NASA

    Scientists urge global ‘wake-up call’ to deal with climate change; Climate change has advanced so rapidly that work must start on unproven technologies now, admits US National Academy of Science

    Suzanne Goldenberg Tuesday 10 February 2015 15.22 EST

    Climate change has advanced so rapidly that the time has come to look at options for a planetary-scale intervention, the National Academy of Science said on Tuesday. The scientists were categorical that geoengineering should not be deployed now, and was too risky to ever be considered an alternative to cutting the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change. But it was better to start research on such unproven technologies now – to learn more about their risks – than to be stampeded into climate-shifting experiments in an emergency, the scientists said.
    With that, a once-fringe topic in climate science moved towards the mainstream – despite the repeated warnings from the committee that cutting carbon pollution remained the best hope for dealing with climate change.
    “That scientists are even considering technological interventions should be a wake-up call that we need to do more now to reduce emissions, which is the most effective, least risky way to combat climate change,” Marcia McNutt, the committee chair and former director of the US Geological Survey, said.
    Asked whether she foresaw a time when scientists would eventually turn to some of the proposals studied by the committee, she said: “Gosh, I hope not.”
    The two-volume report, produced over 18 months by a team of 16 scientists, was far more guarded than a similar British exercise five years ago which called for an immediate injection of funds to begin research on climate-altering interventions.
    The scientists were so sceptical about geo-engineering that they dispensed with the term, opting for “climate intervention”. Engineering implied a measure of control the technologies do not have, the scientists said.
    But the twin US reports – Climate Intervention: Carbon Dioxide Removal and Reliable Sequestration and Climate Intervention: Reflecting Sunlight to Cool the Earth – could boost research efforts at a limited scale.

    The White House and committee leaders in Congress were briefed on the report’s findings this week….

     

     

    Michie.ru/Flickr

    The Best Technology for Fighting Climate Change? Trees [and Soil]

    Between now and 2050, forests are one of our “most promising” geo-engineering tools.

    Robinson Meyer Feb 9 2015, 12:30 PM ET The Atlantic

    When people talk about technologies that might offset climate change, they often evoke not-yet-invented marvels, like planes spraying chemicals into the atmosphere or enormous skyscrapers gulping carbon dioxide from the clouds. But in a new report, Oxford University researchers say that our best hopes might not be so complex. In fact, they are two things we already know how to do: plant trees and improve the soil. Both techniques, said the report, are “no regrets.” They’ll help the atmosphere no matter what, they’re comparatively low-cost, and they carry little additional risk. Specifically, the two techniques it recommends are afforestation—planting trees where there were none before—and biochar—improving the soil by burying a layer of dense charcoal. Between now and 2050, trees and charcoal are the “most promising” technologies out there, it said. It also cautioned, however, that these so-called “Negative Emissions Technologies” or NETs should only be seen as a way to stave off the worst of climate change. “NETs should not be seen as a deus ex machina that will ‘save the day,'” its authors wrote. NETs should instead be seen as one of several tools to meet the international goal of avoiding climate change greater than 2 degrees Celsius. Another crucial tool is reducing emissions….

     

     

    (Photo: Kayana Szymczak, Getty Images)

    Buried in Boston? Blame it on climate change — maybe

    Two of Boston’s 10 biggest snowstorms ever recorded have occurred in the past two weeks and today’s could add to that number.

    Doyle Rice, USA TODAY 9:51 a.m. EST February 10, 2015

    Boston is used to snow, but not like this — nearly 6 feet in two weeks, including the biggest two snowstorms since records began after the Civil War. And two more storms carrying a foot of snow each are forecast in the next week.d Massachusetts has already removed enough snow to fill the Patriots’ Gillette Stadium 90 times, and Gov. Charlie Baker called the situation “pretty much unprecedented.” What’s going on? Although no individual storm can be directly linked to climate change, Boston’s snowy winter could point to weather patterns affected by global warming. “The environment in which all storms form is now different than it was just 30 or 40 years ago because of global warming,” said Kevin Trenberth, a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo. Higher temperatures warm the oceans and allow the atmosphere to hold a greater amount of water vapor, said Brad Johnson, a meteorologist with the University of Georgia. “Both of these factors, among others, contribute to stronger storms in general,” he said. Johnson also said scientists are not able to attribute just a single storm or series of storms directly to climate change.
    In the future, due to climate change, snowfalls will increase because the atmosphere can hold 4% more moisture for every 1-degree increase in temperature, Trenberth said. As long as temperatures stay just below freezing, the result is more snow — rather than rain, he said.

     

     

    DROUGHT

     

     

     


     

     

     

    Persistent drought conditions could compel Metropolitan to limit imported water supplies for Southern California

    February 9, 2015
    Maven
    Other news From the Metropolitan Water District:

    Preparing for a potential fourth drought year, Southern California’s wholesale water importer today outlined scenarios that could require the agency to limit deliveries and prompt mandatory rationing throughout much of the region this summer. After a good, wet start to February following a historically dry January, a report to a committee of the Metropolitan Water District’s Board of Directors laid out a range of possible water allocation actions—from zero supply restrictions to possible cutbacks of 5-10 percent or even more. ….The current 15 percent state project water allocation for Metropolitan and other parts of the state would yield about 280,000 acre-feet of water from Northern California, following 2014’s record low 5 percent SWP allocation. (An acre-foot of water is nearly 326,000 gallons, about the amount used by two typical Southland households in a year.) With a forecast of 930,000 acre-feet in 2015 Colorado River deliveries, Kightlinger said Metropolitan could be forced to make significant withdrawals from the Southland’s remaining reserves to help meet water demands. Today, the region’s reserves stand at about 1.2 million acre-feet, less than half of what Metropolitan held in storage at the end of 2012. “This is a serious situation,” Kightlinger said. “The challenge is how we balance the region’s demands with the available imported supplies, while maintaining sufficient reserves in case the drought continues beyond this year.”

    Bottom of Form

     

    SMAP satellite to measure soil moisture from space

    February 13, 2015

    NASA’s Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) satellite, which launched on January 31, will collect measurements to advance Earth system science and support a range of applications, such as improved weather and crop yield forecasts. 

     


    Storm not nearly enough to bust California drought

    By Kurtis Alexander SF Chron February 9, 2015 Updated: February 9, 2015 10:09pm

    The pair of wet and windy storms that pounded Northern California over the weekend, bringing as much as 13 inches of rain in some spots and knocking down trees all over, helped push state rainfall totals to just about average for the season. That’s the good news. But with the wet weather gone, and sunny skies in the forecast for at least the next week, the drought picture hasn’t brightened much. The big reservoirs that provide the bulk of the state’s drinking water remained much lower than normal on Monday, as did the Sierra snowpack that fills them. “We didn’t come close to alleviating the deficit that we’re in,” said Doug Carlson, a spokesman for the state Department of Water Resources. “We are right on par with where we were last year, and last year was a really bad year.” Three dry years have left California water supplies urgently low. With the rainy season more than halfway over, many communities have begun looking to extend water restrictions put in place last year, while farms across California are bracing for cuts by state and federal sources. Californians have weathered the drought so far, but they’ve done so by using less water, efforts that may have to be ramped up in the coming year.

    Reservoirs down

    As of Sunday, the state’s two biggest reservoirs, Shasta Lake and Lake Oroville, stood at just 71 percent and 64 percent of their usual supply, respectively, for this time of year. Meanwhile, the East Bay Municipal Utility District, which serves parts of Alameda and Contra Costa counties with water from the Sierra’s Pardee Reservoir, was at 73 percent of its normal supply. San Francisco’s Hetch Hetchy system was at 70 percent. San Francisco residents have been asked to voluntarily reduce water use by 10 percent, but in a sign that tighter conservation measures may lie ahead, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission is reprogramming its billing system to handle water quotas, should managers choose to go that route. “We’re waiting to see what February, March and April bring us,” said commission spokesman Tyrone Jue. “Hopefully, we’ll see a turn of events.” For water managers, a central problem is the lack of snow in the Sierra. Snow is vital because it stores water until the dry spring and summer months, when it melts and gives reservoirs an additional boost. Snow typically accounts for up to a third of the state’s total water supply. This weekend’s wet system, as well as the stormy weather that gripped the state in early December, were relatively warm, dropping snow only at the highest points. California’s snowpack on Monday measured just 27 percent of average for this time of year.

    Warmest year

    “Last year was the warmest year on record in California and the world,” Carlson said. “When the storms blow through as warm storms, it’s going to disappoint a lot of people — reservoir operators as well as ski resort operators.” The dry January forced a handful of resorts, including Tahoe Donner off Interstate 80, to take the unprecedented step of closing mid-season. Though as much as 23 inches of snow fell on the Sierra crest from Friday to Monday morning, most of the snow fell at 7,500 feet or higher. Ski resorts at high elevations reported much-improved conditions, though low-lying resorts got little more than a dusting. Jeffrey Mount, a geologist who studies water and a senior fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California, said while snow has been sparse, the wet start to February was a positive development. “It would have been nice if we packed in a little snow, but if you’re in a fourth year of drought, you take what you can get,” he said. “It’s not like this water was lost — it’s being captured as we speak into the reservoirs. These reservoirs do have plenty of space.” The Department of Water Resources has estimated that the Sierra needs 150 percent of average precipitation this season, about 75 inches of rain or the snow equivalent through September, to begin bringing reservoirs back to normal. The range has seen almost 30 inches so far, about 102 percent of average to date — with the wet months quickly running out….

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Financing Natural Infrastructure: Reducing Sea-level-rise Risk at San Francisco Bay

    New white paper explores innovative options to protect San Francisco Bay from sea-level rise and other environmental threats

    San Francisco, California | February 04, 2015

    Today, the Nature Conservancy’s California office released a white paper, “New Prospects for Financing Natural Infrastructure.” The paper explores financing options for an innovative concept that may help protect San Francisco Bay from sea-level rise and address other threats while providing a market basket of social and environmental benefits.
    “As society confronts the escalating threats from climate change, Conservancy economist Mark Zimring has offered critical insight to better understand a novel strategy that could harness the power of nature to address climate change,” said Louis Blumberg, director of the California Climate Change program for The Nature Conservancy. “This multi-benefit strategy is what we call ‘natural infrastructure,'” added Blumberg. The paper examines financial issues involved with the “horizontal levee”—a strategy that relies on restoring and creating wetlands to address multiple needs along the San Francisco Bay shoreline. It is designed to reduce flood risk and restore habitat for birds and animals, including the threatened clapper rail and salt marsh harvest mouse, while also improving water quality and enhancing resilience to climate change for neighboring communities.   “Horizontal levees have the potential to protect shoreline communities against sea-level rise at a lower cost than conventional levees and seawalls,” said Sam Schuchat, executive officer of the California State Coastal Conservancy. “They would also add to the bay’s wildlife habitats and offer a way to put treated wastewater to good use.” The Coastal Conservancy has been working to restore the bay’s wetlands since the late 1980s and more recently has been studying how shoreline wetlands might provide large-scale and long-term flood protection. The paper examines four approaches to address potential financial and technical risks identified with this novel strategy: 1) performance guarantees, 2) pay-for-performance contracts, 3) coordinated investment vehicles and 4) monetizing co-benefits.   “This paper is an important addition to the growing body of scientific and analytic work exploring what could turn out to be a very valuable tool addressing climate change and restoring wetlands around the San Francisco Bay region,” stated Blumberg. The Nature Conservancy hopes the paper will stimulate action by the many stakeholders investigating the horizontal levee concept to build a working pilot project demonstrating the capability of natural infrastructure to address climate change at the San Francisco Bay and beyond.

    The report can be found at nature.org/ourinitiatives/regions/northamerica/unitedstates/california/ca-natural-infrastructure-white-paper.pdf

     

     

    Agricultural Movement Tackles Challenges of a Warming World

    February 5, 2015 by lisa palmer

    With temperatures rising and extreme weather becoming more frequent, the “climate-smart agriculture” campaign is using a host of measures — from new planting practices to improved water management — to keep farmers ahead of the disruptive impacts of climate change.
    Rice is a thirsty crop. Yet for the past three years, Alberto Mejia has been trying to reduce the amount of water he uses for irrigation on his 1,100-acre farm near Ibague in the tropical, central range of the Colombian Andes. He now plants new kinds of rice that require less water. He floods his paddies with greater precision and has installed gauges that measure the moisture content of the soil. On a daily basis he can determine how much nitrogen the plants need, and he relies on more advanced weather forecasting to plan when to fertilize, water, and harvest the grain. “We are learning how to manage the crops in terms of water, which will be a very, very good help for us now and in the future,” Mejia says, adding that the current El Niño weather pattern has caused serious drought. “We have very difficult days — hot, with no rain. It’s dry. There are fires in the mountains … Growing crops makes it a complicated time here.” …

    Ever since a drought devastated his yields five years ago, Mejia has been eager to integrate sweeping changes into his rice production. He believes that the weather has become more erratic and is concerned that future climate change will make rice farming even more difficult. As a result, and with the help of his local rice growers association and scientists from the International Center for Tropical Agriculture, he is embracing what has come to be known as “climate-smart agriculture.” These are agricultural techniques that protect farmers from the effects of global warming and improve crop yields, while also limiting greenhouse gas emissions.
    The growing move to climate-smart agriculture is strongly supported by dozens of organizations such as the World Bank, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, and the CGIAR Consortium, a network of 15 international research centers that work to advance agriculture research globally. The Global Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture, launched last September, aims to strengthen global food security, improve resilience to climate change, and help 500 million small farmers adapt to more stressful growing conditions. Another rationale behind climate-smart agriculture is to adjust to the new growing conditions in a sustainable fashion because yield gains experienced in the Green Revolution — particularly with rice and wheat — have stagnated. Using seeds specifically bred to withstand certain temperatures or moisture levels, coupled with better water management, can help to keep improving agricultural productivity. For example, in Rwanda projects include better management of rainfall on steep hillsides and terracing that prevents water runoff and erosion. In Senegal, various organizations are providing planting, growing, and harvesting information to women, who do the majority of farming but have historically not benefited from agriculture extension services because communications have focused on crops men tend to grow, such as corn, sorghum, and millet. The women receive text-message alerts and information on blackboards at community outposts to provide them with advice on seeds, fertilizer, planting methods, or weather patterns that affect the crops women commonly cultivate, including rice, tomatoes, and onions.

     

     

    CREDIT: AP Photo/University of Mississippi, Nathan Latil

    Legislation Would Provide Funding For Teachers Who Find Ways To Take Their Lessons Outdoors

    by Katie Valentine Posted on February 12, 2015 at 4:33 pm

    Learning about the environment in a classroom isn’t enough for one U.S. Congressman: if kids are learning about nature, he says, they should be doing it outdoors.

    That’s the motivation behind the No Child Left Inside Act, which was introduced Wednesday by Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD) and Mike Fitzpatrick (R-PA). The act, which has been introduced in Congress before but never passed, aims to increase environmental education opportunities outdoors by providing grant funding for teachers who create environmental education programs that center around outdoor activities. It would also give incentive for states to develop environmental literacy plans — which, according to the bill, 48 states either have done or are in the process of doing — and would encourage teachers and education groups to partner with local nonprofits to develop new ways to bring environmental education into their lessons….

     

     

     

    Want to save the planet? Neighbors better allies than family

    Posted: 11 Feb 2015 05:29 AM PST

    Socializing with neighbors leads to more planet-friendly behaviors than spending time with friends or family, research finds. That’s due to the diversity of neighbors and overwhelming similarity of loved ones, researchers say. So be kind to your neighbors: they may hold the secret to greater action on climate change… Researchers blame the differences, in part, on the overwhelming similarity of loved ones due to shared cultural and socio-economic upbringings. “This similarity provides emotional benefits, but limits our exposure to important new ideas,” says Macias, a professor in UVM’s Sociology Department. In contrast, neighbors are relatively diverse enough to expose us to greater amounts of new information, such as environmental issues and practices. And shared geography means neighborhood discussions will naturally gravitate towards sustainability matters. To identify predictors of green behavior, researchers used the 2010 U.S. General Survey, the largest and most recent national collection of Americans’ environmental attitudes and behavior. They compared green outcomes with three variables: personal relationships, generalized trust and participation in community organizations. “Neighbors can be important role models,” Macias says. “Backyard conversations, sidewalk exchanges and neighborly visits may be some of the best ways to learn about environmentally friendly practices.”…

    Key findings:

    Socializing with neighbors is positively linked to a set of environmental behaviors, namely, buying chemical-free fruits and vegetables, using less water, consuming less household energy, and driving less

    Generalized trust in others is positively linked to a willingness to make personal sacrifices for the environment through green taxes, higher prices and standard of living reductions

    • Hours watching TV was negatively associated with a willingness to make standard of living reductions for the benefit of the environment.

    • Religious attendance significantly was positively linked to the likelihood that respondents would be willing pay higher taxes and higher prices for the benefit of the natural environment

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     


    Meeting two degree climate target means 80 per cent of world’s coal is unburnable, study says

    Posted on 6 February 2015 by Guest Author skepticalscience.come This is a re-post from Roz Pidcock at Carbon Brief

    More than 80 per cent of the world’s known coal reserves need to stay in the ground to avoid dangerous climate change, according to new research. Thirty per cent of known oil and 50 per cent of gas reserves are unburnable and drilling in the Arctic is out of the question if we’re to stay below two degrees, the new research notes. That vast amounts of fossil fuels must go unused if we’re to keep warming in check isn’t a new idea. What’s novel about today’s paper is that it pinpoints how much fuel is unburnable in specific regions of the world, from Canadian tar sands to the oil-rich Middle East.

    In its most recent report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) calculated how much carbon we can emit and still keep a decent chance of limiting warming to two degrees above pre-industrial levels. This is known as a carbon budget. Two degrees is the internationally-accepted point beyond which climate change risks become unacceptably high. As of 2010, we could release a maximum of about  1000 billion more tonnes of carbon dioxide and still have a 50:50 chance of staying below two degrees, according to the  IPCC. Today’s paper compares this allowable carbon budget with scientists’ best estimate of how much oil, gas and coal exist worldwide in economically recoverable form, known as “reserves”. Were we to burn all the world’s known oil, gas and coal reserves, the greenhouse gases released would blow the budget for two degrees three times over, the paper finds.

    The implication is that any fossil fuels that would take us over-budget will have to be left in the ground. Globally, this equates to 88 per cent of the world’s known coal reserves, 52 per cent of gas and 35 per cent of oil, according to the new research. The University College London team used a complex energy system model to investigate the fraction of “unburnable” fossil fuel reserves in 11 specific regions worldwide. The results suggest the Middle East holds half of total global unburnable oil and gas reserves, with more than 260 billion barrels of oil and nearly 50 trillion cubic metres of gas needing to remain untouched if we’re to stay within budget. This “unburnable” fraction equates to two thirds of the region’s gas and 38 per cent of oil reserves. Russia accounts for another third of the world’s total unburnable gas …. It’s worth noting, the numbers above relate to known “reserves”. These are fossil fuels that have already been discovered and have a high probability of being recovered under current economic conditions. This is different from fossil fuel “resources”. These are all the fossil fuels thought to exist which are potentially recoverable irrespective of economic conditions.Today’s research suggests 25 per cent of Europe’s unconventional gas resources could feasibly be exploited while still remaining below two degrees. This includes shale gas, tight gas and coal-bed methane. How much of this is economically viable to recover remains to be seen, however….…According to today’s research, technology to capture greenhouse gas emissions before they reach the atmosphere would only have a limited impact on the proportion of fossil fuels that can be burned. Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) would allow just six per cent more of the world’s known coal reserves to be burned, with an even lower figure for oil and gas. The paper explains:

    “Because of the expense of CCS, its relatively late date of introduction (2025), and the assumed maximum rate at which it can be built, CCS has a relatively modest effect on the overall levels of fossil fuel that can be produced before 2050 in a two-degree scenario”. The new research paints a stark picture of the compromises in fuel use necessary in a climate-constrained world. The researchers say it raises the question of how we divvy up the winners and losers, and that’s one we should all now be asking of our policymakers.

     

    McGlade, C & Ekins, P. (2015) The geographical distribution of fossil fuels unused when limiting global warming to 2C. Nature, http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature14016

     

     

    A garlic field in Cantua Creek, Calif. A record drought in 2014 threatened hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland in the Central Valley. Credit Matt Black for The New York Times

    Climate Is Big Issue for Hispanics, and Personal

    By CORAL DAVENPORT MY Times FEB. 9, 2015

    WASHINGTON — Alfredo Padilla grew up in Texas as a migrant farmworker who followed the harvest with his parents to pick sugar beets in Minnesota each summer. He has not forgotten the aches of labor or how much the weather — too little rain, or too much — affected the family livelihood. Now an insurance lawyer in Carrizo Springs, Tex., he said he was concerned about global warming. “It’s obviously happening, the flooding, the record droughts,” said Mr. Padilla, who agrees with the science that human activities are the leading cause of climate change. “And all this affects poor people harder. The jobs are more based on weather. And when there are hurricanes, when there is flooding, who gets hit the worst? The people on the poor side of town.” Mr. Padilla’s concern is echoed by other Hispanics across the country, according to a poll conducted last month by The New York Times, Stanford University and the nonpartisan environmental research group Resources for the Future. The survey, in which Mr. Padilla was a respondent, found that Hispanics are more likely than non-Hispanic whites to view global warming as a problem that affects them personally. It also found that they are more likely to support policies, such as taxes and regulations on greenhouse gas pollution, aimed at curbing it. The findings in the poll could have significant implications for the 2016 presidential campaign as both parties seek to win votes from Hispanics, particularly in states like Florida and Colorado that will be influential in determining the outcome of the election. The poll also shows the challenge for the potential Republican presidential candidates — including two Hispanics — many of whom question or deny the scientific basis for the finding that humans caused global warming. Among Hispanic respondents to the poll, 54 percent rated global warming as extremely or very important to them personally, compared with 37 percent of whites. Sixty-seven percent of Hispanics said they would be hurt personally to a significant degree if nothing was done to reduce global warming, compared with half of whites. And 63 percent of Hispanics said the federal government should act broadly to address global warming, compared with 49 percent of whites. A greater percentage of Hispanics than whites identify as Democrats, and Democrats are more likely than Republicans and independents to say that the government should fight climate change. In the poll, 48 percent of Hispanics identified as Democrats, 31 percent as independents and 15 percent as Republicans. Among whites, 23 percent identified as Democrats, 41 percent as independents and 27 percent as Republicans. Over all, the findings of the poll run contrary to a longstanding view in politics that the environment is largely a concern of affluent, white liberals. “There’s a stereotype that Latinos are not aware of or concerned about these issues,” said Gabriel Sanchez, an associate professor of political science at the University of New Mexico and director of research at Latino Decisions, a survey firm focused on the Hispanic population. “But Latinos are actually among the most concerned about the environment, particularly global warming.”

    One reason, Mr. Sanchez and others said, is that Hispanics often live in areas where they are directly exposed to pollution, such as neighborhoods near highways and power plants….

     

     

    State pledges to stop oil firms from tainting aquifers

    By David R. Baker SF Chronicle February 9, 2015 Updated: February 9, 2015 7:37pm

    Oil companies in California must stop injecting wastewater from their operations into potentially drinkable aquifers by Oct. 15, according to a plan by state regulators who allowed it to happen for years.
    In a proposal submitted to the federal Environmental Protection Agency, regulators promised to painstakingly review wells at risk of contamination, ensuring the injections did not taint aquifers already used for drinking water or irrigation in the drought-plagued Central Valley. The plan — from California’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources — comes in response to revelations that, for decades, the division granted oil companies permits to inject leftover water from their operations into aquifers that the federal government wanted protected. Now, with California heading into a fourth year of drought, that water may be difficult for humans to use. A Chronicle analysis found that the state allowed oil companies to drill 171 wastewater injection wells into aquifers that could have been tapped for crops or people. Of those wells, 140 are still in use, according to the division. Injection into those wells must stop by mid-October unless specifically approved by the EPA, according to the plan.

    February deadline

    An additional 253 wells breached lower-quality aquifers still considered off-limits by the EPA, from which water could have been used with more extensive treatment. Oil companies must cease using these wells by Feb. 15, 2017, barring an exemption from the EPA. The EPA, which helped uncover the practice in 2011, had given the division until Feb. 6 to submit plans for fixing the problem. The EPA has threatened to seize control of regulating the oil industry’s underground injection wells in California if the state doesn’t do a better job protecting groundwater supplies from contamination. (Although the division’s plan is dated Feb. 6, it was released to the public on Monday.) “Our goal is to make sure the state is up to the job,” said Jared Blumenfeld, regional administrator for the EPA, in an interview before the division submitted its plans. “Frankly, if it got to the level where we needed to take (control) back, we would. That’s never been off the table. But I think we’re fairly far from needing to do that.” The time frame for reform has already drawn fire from environmentalists. But both state and federal regulators say the oil industry will need time to comply. If the division is forced to shut down some wells to protect drinking water supplies, the oil companies will have time to find other ways to deal with the waste. …

     

     

    Fifty years ago this this month President Johnson’s science advisors delivered the first warning about rising greenhouse gas emissions to a sitting president. On Feb. 8, he warned Congress about altering the atmosphere with carbon emissions. Above, climate scientist Roger Revelle shakes hands with Johnson in the Oval Office. Photo courtesy Roger Revelle Papers, Special Collections & Archives, University of California, San Diego.

    A 50th anniversary few remember: LBJ’s warning on carbon dioxide

    By Marianne Lavelle The Daily Climate Feb. 2, 2015

    It is a key moment in climate change history that few remember: This week marks the 50th anniversary of the first presidential mention of the environmental risk of carbon dioxide pollution from fossil fuels. President Lyndon Baines Johnson, in a February 8, 1965 special message to Congress warned about build-up of the invisible air pollutant that scientists recognize today as the primary contributor to global warming. “Air pollution is no longer confined to isolated places,” said Johnson less than three weeks after his 1965 inauguration. “This generation has altered the composition of the atmosphere on a global scale through radioactive materials and a steady increase in carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels.” The speech mainly focused on all-too-visible pollution of land and waterways, including roadside auto graveyards, strip mine sites, and soot pollution that had marred even the White House. Within the year, Johnson would sign six new environmental laws during a period better remembered for the strife that led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the escalation of the Vietnam War. Johnson also that year established a dozen new national monuments, historic sites, and recreation areas; and submitted a draft nuclear non-proliferation treaty to the United Nations.  Carbon risk, of course, still stymies policymakers. But it was not ignored entirely in the wake of Johnson’s “Special Message to Congress on Conservation and Restoration of Natural Beauty.” In fact, the warnings and predictions given to Johnson from his science team proved remarkably prescient….

     

     

     

     

     

    In this July 3, 2013 file photo, an Atlantic bottlenose dolphin named Tanner is shown during a demonstration at the Dolphin Research Center on Grassy Key in Marathon, Fla. CREDIT: AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee

    Unusual String Of Bottlenose Dolphin Deaths Linked To BP Oil Spill

    by Emily Atkin Posted on February 13, 2015 at 11:30 am

    An “unusual mortality event” among marine mammals — primarily bottlenose dolphins — in the northern Gulf of Mexico has been linked to BP’s historic 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. In research published Wednesday in the journal PloS One, a team of marine scientists from across the country documented a large cluster of dolphin strandings and deaths in the Gulf of Mexico between 2010 and June 2013. Of those strandings and deaths, they said, most occurred in areas impacted by the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill. “[T]he location, timing, and magnitude of dolphin stranding trends observed following the [BP] oil spill, particularly statewide for Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, overlap with the location and magnitude of oil during and the year following [the] spill,” the research reads. “In comparison, the [Gulf of Mexico] coasts of Florida and Texas experienced little to no oiling, and … these areas lacked significant annual, statewide increases in stranded dolphins.” The peer-reviewed research is just the latest linking the Deepwater Horizon spill to extreme health problems in dolphins, particularly in Louisiana’s Barataria Bay. In a previous
    study published in 2013, scientists have said that the 4.2 million barrels of oil sloshed into the Gulf of Mexico may be linked to deteriorating dolphin health including missing teeth, lung disease, and hormonal imbalances. That study was funded by BP. “I’ve never seen such a high prevalence of very sick animals,” said National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration researcher Lori Schwacke, the lead author of the 2013 study….

     

    High efficiency concentrating solar cells move to the rooftop

    Posted: 05 Feb 2015 09:31 AM PST

    Ultra-high efficiency solar cells similar to those used in space may now be possible on your rooftop thanks to a new microscale solar concentration technology developed by an international team of researchers.

     

    Electricity from biomass with carbon capture could make western US carbon-negative

    Posted: 09 Feb 2015 10:07 AM PST

    Biomass conversion to electricity combined with technologies for capturing and storing carbon, which should become viable within 35 years, could result in a carbon-negative power grid in the western US by 2050. That prediction comes from an analysis of various fuel scenarios. Bioenergy with carbon capture and sequestration may be a better use of plant feedstocks than making biofuels.

     

    PG&E wants ratepayers to foot bill for 25,000 car chargers

    By David R. Baker February 10, 2015 SF Chronicle

    As more Californians switch to electric cars, the state’s biggest utility — Pacific Gas and Electric Co. — sees a new potential role for itself: Gas station owner. PG&E on Monday announced plans to install 25,000 electric car chargers across Northern and Central California, in what the company billed as the nation’s largest charger deployment project yet. The utility, based in San Francisco, described the $653.8 million effort as an important step toward reaching Gov. Jerry Brown’s goal of having 1.5 million zero-emission vehicles on the state’s roads by 2025. California already has more than 100,000 electric cars on its roads, a greater number than any other state or country. And 60 percent of those cars reside in PG&E’s territory. But many potential buyers still suffer from “range anxiety,” the fear of running out of juice on the open road. More public charging stations would soothe that fear….

    While other companies — including automakers such as Tesla Motors, BMW and Volkswagen — are deploying charging stations as well, PG&E’s plan comes with a significant difference. The program’s cost would be paid by all 5.1 million of PG&E’s electricity customers, whether they own electric cars or not.

    In California, utility profits are based largely on the value of the equipment they own — the substations, wires, meters and poles. The cost for the charging stations would be passed on to PG&E customers in the same way, adding about 70 cents to the monthly bill of a typical residential customer, starting in 2018.

    As a result, PG&E’s plan requires the approval of the California Public Utilities Commission, which sets utility rates. PG&E submitted its proposal to the commission on Monday.

    The idea of passing on the program’s costs irks consumer advocates. Mark Toney, executive director of The Utility Reform Network, noted that charging-station technology is advancing quickly. And it’s still not clear, he said, that electric vehicles will win in the looming head-to-head competition with fuel-cell vehicles, championed by Toyota, Hyundai and several other automakers.

    “It’s way too early in this technology to know what’s going to be around for the long term,” Toney said. “The last thing we want to see is to invest millions of ratepayer dollars into a technology that’s going to be obsolete in five years.”…

     

     

     

    Elon Musk Is Right: Hydrogen Is ‘An Incredibly Dumb’ Car Fuel

    by Joe Romm Posted on February 12, 2015

    “There’s no need for us to have this debate. I’ve said my peace on this, it will be super obvious as time goes by.”….

     

     

     

     

     

     
     

     

    UPCOMING CONFERENCES: 

     

     

     

    CHARG- Coastal Hazards Adaptation Resiliency Group- SFBay- to Co-host the 2015 BAFPAA Annual Conference

    Thursday February 19, 2015 8:00am-5:00pm (Reception to follow) Elihu M. Harris State Building, 1515 Clay St, Oakland

    Please join us for an exciting and informative day-long conference co-hosted by CHARG and BAFPAA. The focus will be on:

    • Adapting to Climate Change
    • Visioning Bay Area Resiliency
    • Mapping and Data Tools
    • Permitting Agencies’ Alignment

    Cost: Nominal fee for lunch

    Online registration will be available soon at www.bafpaa.org  

    Questions: Ellen Cross, CHARG Facilitator 510.316.9657 e.cross@conveyinc.com

     

    Pricing Carbon: Can Conservatives and Progressives Agree?
    A Panel Discussion with Diverse Leaders February 20, 2015 – 7 to 9pm San Francisco

    (Marriott Marquis Hotel – Lower Level, Yerba Buena Ballroom – Salon 8, 780 Mission Street, San Francisco)

    Doors open at 6pm for networking. Admission is Free Panel Members:

    Greg Dalton – moderator, Climate One of the Commonwealth Club
    Kevin Krick – California Republican Party Regional Vice Chair
    Bruce Hamilton – Sierra Club Deputy Executive Director
    Bill Shireman – Future 500 President and CEO
    Ian Adams – R Street Institute Western Region Director
    Kate Gordon – Next Generation Senior VP and Director of Energy and Climate
    Paul Nahi – Enphase Energy President and CEO
    Mark Reynolds – Citizens’ Climate Lobby Executive Director

    Citizens’ Climate Lobby will hold a panel discussion with diverse leaders in the political, business and environmental communities on solutions to the urgent issue of climate change and runaway carbon emissions.

    CCL proposes a revenue-neutral, steeply rising carbon fee with border adjustments and full revenue return to US households. The discussion will focus on this and other carbon pricing mechanisms and where conservatives and progressives can agree. Citizens’ Climate Lobby’s panel discussion, Pricing Carbon: Can Conservatives and Progressives Agree?, on February 20 in San Francisco is turning into a big event! We’ve added a social networking hour (with wine and food) ahead of the panel discussion, beginning at 6 PM, and a Town Hall style discussion in the second hour where your voice can be heard. Staffers from at least 4 of our federal representatives will attend, as well as members of the scientific, business and academic communities. We will record the event for broadcast over the internet.  

     

    Revelations: Celebrating Our Local Heroes and the Art of Nature  March22 2015
    Join Bay Nature Institute in celebrating Julia Clothier and two other extraordinary Bay Area conservation heroes at its Annual Awards Dinner on March 22, 2015 from 5:30 – 9:00 pm.
    Julia is this year’s recipient of the prestigious Local Hero Award for Environmental Education to honor her tremendous achievements educating our communities’ about the natural wonders of the local Bay Area. There will also be a presentation by San Francisco artist Josie Iselin featuring gorgeous images from her book An Ocean Garden: The Secret Life of Seaweed. Enjoy this once-a-year gathering that brings together the Bay Area’s conservation leaders and nature lovers from all points of the nine-county region!

     

    2015 California Climate & Agriculture Summit  March 24 and 25, 2015
    UC Davis Conference CenterCall for Workshop and Poster Presentations   

     

    INVITATION TO PARTICIPATE  Abstract submission deadline is 1 November 2014 

    COME TO OUR HISTORIC SUMMIT 25-27 MARCH 2015

    ABSTRACT SUBMISSION (through November 1, 2014) and REGISTRATION (through January 25, 2015) NOW OPEN for Science for Parks, Parks for Science: The Next Century – A 2.5-day Summit at U.C. Berkeley March 25-27, 2015 convening natural and social scientists, managers and practitioners — 100 years after historic meetings at U.C. Berkeley helped launch the National Park Service — to rededicate a second century of science and stewardship for national parks.  This summit will feature visionary plenary lectures, strategic panel discussions on current controversies, and technical sessions of contributed paper and posters.   Keynote Speaker: E. O. Wilson.  Distinguished Plenary Speakers and Panelists include David Ackerly, Jill Baron, Steven Beissinger, Joel Berger, Edward Bernbaum, Ruth DeFries, Thomas Dietz, Josh Donlan, Holly Doremus, Ernesto Enkerlin, John Francis, David Graber, Denis Galvin, Jane Lubchenco, Gary Machlis, George Miller, Hugh Possingham, Jedediah Purdy, Nina Roberts, Mark Schwartz, Daniel Simberloff, Monica Turner, & Jennifer Wolch.

     

     

    Communicating about Climate Impacts and Engaging Stakeholders in Solutions April 30 & May 1, 2015, 9:00am – 5:00pm, Romberg Tiburon Center, Tiburon, CA

    With Cara Pike from Climate Access. $310 includes lunch and all materials — Limited scholarships are available

    Bay Conference Center, Romberg Tiburon Center, 3152 Paradise Drive, Tiburon, CA 94920

     

     


    National Adaptation Forum– Call for Proposals
    May 12 – 14, 2015 in St. Louis, MO

    The National Adaptation Forum is a biennial gathering of the adaptation community to foster information exchange, innovation, and mutual support for a better tomorrow. The Forum will take place from May 12 – 14, 2015 in St. Louis, MO. 
    Proposals are being accepted for Symposia, Training Sessions, Working Groups, Poster Presentations, and a Tools Cafe. 

    Click here for more information.

     

     

     

    22nd annual conference

    California Society for Ecological Restoration (SERCAL)

    “Restoration for the Next Generation” May 12-14 2015 San Diego

    The annual SERCAL conference is attended by a diverse mix of researchers, students, consultants, nonprofit and agency scientists, planners, and landowners/managers, and is a great venue for professional development and for staying current with new advances in ecological restoration.  “Call for Abstracts” document (http://sercal.org/images/SERCALcfa2015web.pdf). The deadline for abstract submission is Feb. 4, 2015. Please note the five additional conference sessions (Wetlands/Water, Urban, Mitigation Banks, Special-status Plant Species, and Using Restoration to Accomplish Non-restoration Goals) – abstracts are being sought for these sessions as well. A poster session will also be held, and abstracts for this event are also welcome. The conference (May 13-14) will be proceeded by a day of field trips related to restoration in Southern California.

     

     

     

    First San Joaquin River Restoration Program Science Symposium

    June 11-12, 2015, Los Banos Community Center, Los Banos, CA.  More information will follow soon, but save the date!  

     

                                                         
     

     

    American Water Resources Association (AWRA): “Climate Change Adaptation”  June 15 – 17, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana
    Abstracts due to AWRA website: 02/13/2015  

    The focus of the conference is on ACTION – how we more effectively develop and use climate change adaptation information to respond, build resilient systems, and influence decision makers. The conference will bring water professionals from federal, state, local, and private sectors together to focus on the issues that need to be addressed to develop effective strategies for mitigating climate change impacts such as sea-level rise, changes in precipitation patterns, increased severe weather events, and worsening droughts, AND more effectively communicate such information to decision makers. Conference sessions will be devoted to addressing the following questions:


    •     How can climate change adaptation be integrated into water, coastline, and riparian resource planning and management?
    •     How can data, models and tools aid in adaptive actions?
    •     What are social/cultural factors of climate change adaptation?
    •     How are businesses and economics impacted by climate change and can they serve as drivers of action?
    •     What adaptation actions should be taken to conserve, restore, protect, and enhance water quality and quantity?
    •     Moving from planning to action – what steps are needed? What do decision makers need?
    •     What engineering and infrastructural approaches are available to address climate change adaptation?

                                                             

    Ninth International Association for Landscape Ecology (IALE) World Congress meeting, July 9th 2015

    Coming to Portland, Oregon July 5-10, 2015! The symposium, which is held every four years, brings scientists and practitioners from around the globe together to discuss and share landscape ecology work and information. The theme of the 2015 meeting is Crossing Scales, Crossing Borders: Global Approaches to Complex Challenges.

     

    FUNDING

     

    The NERRS Science Collaborative (NSC) is soliciting proposals for two types of projects.

     
     

    Science Collaborative Projects

    ·       Pre-proposals are due February 27; if invited to submit, full proposals will be due May 13

    ·       Two types of projects are possible: collaborative research projects (up to $250,000/year, for 1 – 3 years) and integrated assessments (up to $250,000 total, for 1 – 2 years).

    ·       Projects should address reserve management and research priorities, within the context of NSC priorities, and use a collaborative approach that engages end-users.

     
     

    Science Transfer Projects

    ·       Proposals are due March 27

    ·       Awards of up to $45,000 total, for up to 2 years

    ·       Projects should extend, share and apply existing information, approaches, and/or techniques within the NERRS and with partners outside of the reserve system.

     
     

    All questions about these funding opportunities should be submitted to NERRS-info@umich.edu.  For additional information, please visit http://graham.umich.edu/water/nerrs/funding.

     

    JOBS (apologies for any duplication; thanks for passing along)

     

     

    TomKat Ranch Conservation Ranching Fellowship 2015

    Innovations in sustainable animal agriculture, conservation ranching, business, technology, food advocacy, and community organizing are needed to truly make sustainable animal agriculture viable and sustainable.The TomKat Ranch Educational Foundation is committed to producing healthy food on working lands in a way that sustains the planet and inspires others to action.  In cooperation with our on-site partners, the ranch is an open-source learning laboratory that supports research and innovation to inform compatible and sustainable strategies for conservation and production. The Conservation Ranching Fellowship is an exciting opportunity for leaders, innovators, and professionals in the field of sustainable ranching to spend a year at TomKat Ranch working closely with TomKat’s world-class staff and on-site partners to care for the ranch’s 2,000+ acres and herd of 100% grass-fed cattle, share his/her knowledge, skills, and ideas and work with the TomKat team to develop innovative solutions to the challenges of sustainable ranching. The Conservation Ranching Fellowship is a one-year paid position that includes a competitive compensation package (including health benefits) to attract the best and brightest in sustainable ranching.  The fellow’s principal responsibility is to provide on-the-ground support and knowledge to help TomKat Ranch manage its land and animals using the most ecological, productive, and sustainable methods available. …

    Contact Kevin@TomKatRanch.org

     

     

    Public Policy Institute of California’s Water Policy Center

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    • OTHER NEWS OF INTEREST

     

    Energy drinks significantly increase hyperactivity in schoolchildren, study finds

    Posted: 09 Feb 2015 06:50 AM PST

    Middle-school children who consume heavily sweetened energy drinks are 66 percent more likely to be at risk for hyperactivity and inattention symptoms, a new study has found.

     

    Investigation reveals network of links between public health scientists and sugar industry

    Posted: 11 Feb 2015 05:40 PM PST

    Public health scientists and a government committee working on nutritional advice receive funding from the very companies whose products are widely held to be responsible for the obesity crisis, an investigation by The BMJ reveals. Recipients of research funding from sugar and other related industries include members of the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN), which is currently updating official advice on carbohydrates consumption, and researchers working for the Medical Research Council’s Human Nutrition Research unit (HNR).

     

    F-bombs notwithstanding, all languages skew toward happiness: Universal human bias for positive words

    Posted: 09 Feb 2015 01:11 PM PST

    Arabic movie subtitles, Korean tweets, Russian novels, Chinese websites, English lyrics, and even the war-torn pages of the New York Times — research examining billions of words, shows that these sources — and all human language — skews toward the use of happy words. This Big Data study confirms the 1969 Pollyanna Hypothesis that there is a universal human tendency to “look on and talk about the bright side of life.”

     

    What’s next in diets: Chili peppers?

    Posted: 08 Feb 2015 12:27 PM PST

    A large percentage of the world’s population — fully one third, by the World Health Organization’s estimates — is currently overweight or obese. This staggering statistics has made finding ways to address obesity a top priority for many scientists around the globe, and now a group of researchers has found promise in the potential of capsaicin — the chief ingredient in chili peppers — as a diet-based supplement.

     

    Exposure to mercury, seafood associated with risk factor for autoimmune disease

    Posted: 10 Feb 2015 02:04 AM PST

    One of the greatest risk factors for autoimmunity among women of childbearing age may be associated with exposure to mercury such as through seafood, a new study says. Mercury — even at low levels generally considered safe — was associated with autoimmunity. Autoimmune disorders, which cause the body’s immune system to attack healthy cells by mistake, affects nearly 50 million Americans and predominately women.

     

    Dogs know that smile on your face

    Posted: 12 Feb 2015 10:16 AM PST

    Dogs can tell the difference between happy and angry human faces, according to a new study. The discovery represents the first solid evidence that an animal other than humans can discriminate between emotional expressions in another species, the researchers say.

     

     

     

     

     


     


     

     


     


     

     


    ————

    Ellie Cohen, President and CEO

    Point Blue Conservation Science (formerly PRBO)

    3820 Cypress Drive, Suite 11, Petaluma, CA 94954

    707-781-2555 x318

     

    www.pointblue.org  | Follow Point Blue on Facebook!

     

    Point Blue—Conservation science for a healthy planet.