Ecology, Climate Change and Related News

Ellie Cohen, President and CEO, Point Blue Conservation Science

Archive: Feb 2014

  1. Increase in Extreme Heat; Rise in Global Average Temperatures– not slowed even without El Nino

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    Climate change: No warming hiatus for extreme hot temperatures
    (February 26, 2014) — While there are claims that there has been a hiatus in global average temperatures, no such hiatus has occurred at the extreme end of the temperature spectrum. New research shows extremely hot temperatures over land have dramatically and unequivocally increased in number and area despite claims that the rise in global average temperatures has slowed over the past 10 to 20 years. … “It quickly became clear, the ‘hiatus’ in global average temperatures did not stop the rise in the number, intensity and area of extremely hot days,” said one of the paper’s authors, Dr Lisa Alexander. “Our research has found a steep upward tendency in the temperatures and number of extremely hot days over land and the area they impact, despite the complete absence of a strong El Niño since 1998.” The researchers examined the extreme end of the temperature spectrum because this is where global warming impacts are expected to occur first and are most clearly felt. As Australians saw this summer and the last, extreme temperatures in inhabited areas have powerful impacts on our society.

    The observations also showed that extremely hot events are now affecting, on average, more than twice the area when compared to similar events 30 years ago….”It is important when we take global warming into account, that we use measures that are useful in determining the impacts on our society,” said Professor Sonia Seneviratne from ETH Zurich, who led the study while on sabbatical at the ARC Centre. “Global average temperatures are a useful measurement for researchers but it is at the extremes where we will most likely find those impacts that directly affect all of our lives. Clearly, we are seeing more heat extremes over land more often as a result of enhanced greenhouse gas warming.”…> full story

     

    Sonia I. Seneviratne, Markus G. Donat, Brigitte Mueller, Lisa V. Alexander. No pause in the increase of hot temperature extremes. Nature Climate Change, 2014; 4 (3): 161 DOI: 10.1038/nclimate2145

     

    Nature Stunner: As Climate Change Speeds Up, The Number Of Extremely Hot Days Is Soaring

    By Joe Romm on February 26, 2014

    The number of very hot days have soared in the past 15 years, a new study finds. Based on observations, the authors conclude that “the term pause, as applied to the recent evolution of global annual mean temperatures, is ill-chosen and even misleading in the context of climate change.”

  2. CA Drought: Snowpack Grows, But Not Enough; Federal Rules Complicate Water Management in West

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    California drought: Snowpack grows, but not enough

    Kurtis Alexander SF Chronicle Updated 6:40 am, Friday, February 28, 2014

     

    Fresh snow is blanketing the Sierra this week, but not enough to put a big dent in the statewide drought. State surveying crews, making their monthly trek on skis and snowshoes to high-elevation weather stations, said Thursday that the snowpack is just 24 percent of average for this time of year. That means the mountain runoff that normally fills reservoirs and makes up a third of the state’s water supply will amount to little more than a trickle. Although there’s more snow than there was a month ago – when the accumulation was just 12 percent of average and surveyors found bare ground in some spots – it’s likely that cities and farms that depend on the Sierra for their water will come up short in the summer. “It’s not a good situation for us,” said Steve Ritchie, assistant general manager for water for the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, which delivers water from the Sierra to 2.6 million Bay Area customers. “We’re waiting for the snow to melt and come down and fill our reservoir, but it ain’t happening.

    Voluntary cutbacks

    The district is among several Bay Area agencies that are asking people to reduce their water consumption by 10 percent, while hoping late-season storms will head off the need for mandatory rationing.  Some North Bay communities, which depend on local supplies, and Sacramento have already imposed mandatory cuts. The wet weather hitting California this week is helping. A system from the Gulf of Alaska dropped a foot of snow in the High Sierra since Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service, and an additional 15 inches is expected this weekend. The incoming storm is expected to drop large amounts of rain over much of the state. With precipitation at just 42 percent of average in the northern range and 36 percent in the southern mountains, much more is needed. But more may not be on the way. The weather service’s Climate Prediction Center is projecting a drier-than-average spring.

    40 days, 40 nights

    “Every report I’ve seen says we need another 40 days and 40 nights of rain or whatever to make any difference,” said Daniel Sumner, who as director of the UC Agricultural Issues Center in Davis is closely watching water supplies. “Every drop is helpful, but we need a lot more.” The Department of Water Resources’ snowpack measurement is a benchmark for state and federal officials who determine how much water California’s networks of reservoirs and canals will deliver to communities and farms. At the Phillips Station off Highway 50 near Echo Summit, surveyors measured 8.1 inches of water in the frozen snow Thursday, just a third of what the site averages at this time of year. It was the same story at other weather stations. “We welcome the late storms, but they are not enough to end the drought,” Mark Cowin, director of the state Department of Water Resources, said in a statement. “We can’t control the weather, but we can control the amount of water we use. This drought is a wake-up call that we all have to take water conservation seriously and make it a way of life.”

    No help from feds

    U.S. Bureau of Reclamation officials said last week that water districts serving farmers are likely to get no water from the Central Valley Project if conditions don’t improve. Urban districts, they said, would get just half of what they requested. State Water Project officials said last month that their customers would get no water. The estimates mean cities and farms will have to turn to other sources, such as groundwater and locally managed reservoirs. Some parts of the state are better equipped to do this than others. San Francisco officials say voluntary water reductions and a few more storms should get them through the dry year. In the East Bay, water officials also say 10 percent voluntary reductions and backup supplies will help weather dry times. “We certainly got a big boost with the rains in February,” said Andrea Pook, spokeswoman for East Bay Municipal Utility District, which provides water, largely from the Sierra, to 1.3 million customers. “But we’re going to need a lot more precipitation to bring us out of a drought.”

    Drought coverage

    For complete coverage of California’s water problems, go to www.sfgate.com/drought.

     


    Dusty federal rules complicate water management in parched West



    Annie Snider, E&E reporter Greenwire: Thursday, February 27, 2014

    California wine country was parched early in the winter of 2012. So Sonoma County Water Agency chief engineer Jay Jasperse was relieved when a major storm blew in that December, dumping buckets of rain that filled Lake Mendocino, the agency’s reservoir on the upper Russian River. Then Jasperse watched in misery as the Army Corps of Engineers drained that water to make room in the reservoir in case another big rain fell on the flood-prone region. The corps was following its rules for the reservoir — an operations manual that Mother Nature ignored.

    “It basically quit raining through 2013 and early 2014,” Jasperse said. “We had the driest year in over 400 years based on tree ring studies, and so we’re all looking back and a lot of folks in the community are saying, ‘Why didn’t we hang onto the water that was released by the corps in December 2012?’” With climate change expected to shift precipitation and snowmelt patterns, federal rules that have long governed water management in the West are making it difficult to balance supply and flood protection.

    Already, warmer temperatures are causing winter precipitation to fall as rain rather than snow in the mountains that provide much of California’s drinking water. And the mountain snowpack is melting earlier in the season, rather than during the spring and summer months when users rely on it for water supply. But winter and early spring are when the region tends to see intense storms fed by “atmospheric rivers” that dump massive amounts of water in a very short period of time — a big flood risk.

    The average atmospheric river moves an amount of vapor 10 times what the Mississippi River dumps as water into the Gulf of Mexico, according to Marty Ralph, director of the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. These storms provide between a third and a half of the region’s average annual rainfall and snowpack, he said. Although research on atmospheric rivers is in its early stages, the West Coast has long been lashed by storms they spawn and built reservoirs to accommodate their deluges. For reservoirs where the Army Corps handles flood control, the agency wrote manuals with “rule curves” delineating how much water can be stored in the reservoir during different times of the year.

    During fall and winter, water levels are kept low to leave room for runoff in big storms. When spring comes, the reservoir is allowed to refill and water levels are kept higher during the summer when the risk of storms is low. Then, when fall comes, the reservoir is drawn back down to create flood space.
    But with warming temperatures pushing the snowmelt season earlier, the season when runoff needs to be captured for water supply begins to overlap with the time when major storms still pose a flood risk. “The big dilemma is, if you drain the reservoir in the fall a fair bit in order to make room for a possible flood in the winter, but then you don’t get enough rain when you’re officially able to refill in the spring, there’s no water to refill with,” Ralph said.

    ‘Slide rules and pencils, not computers’

    Water management is complicated in the West because there’s more than one agency overseeing many dams. The Army Corps often manages flood protection, so it prefers to keep as little water in the reservoir as possible, while the Bureau of Reclamation or local agencies like the Sonoma County Water Agency manage for water supply and tend to angle for as much water as possible. Hydropower, environmental and recreation interests are also part of the equation.

    Some say divided management responsibilities help ensure that any decision is given full attention. But others argue that because managers must follow the Army Corps’ manuals first, flood control is given the upper hand. “The corps’ manual is No. 1 on the hierarchy,” said Ron Stork with Friends of the River in Sacramento. “You can do anything you want with the dam as long as it doesn’t interfere with the corps’ manual.”

    Moreover, many of the manuals are decades old, and activity and development in the watershed have often changed dramatically since the rules were first written. For example, the rule curve at Lake Mendocino hasn’t been updated since 1959. Over the years, Sonoma County agriculture has shifted from orchards to vineyards, cities have grown, and inflows from a neighboring hydroelectric tunnel have been cut. The National Environmental Policy Act has also inserted endangered species concerns into the mix. “A lot of these rule curves literally were done when the corps was using slide rules and pencils, not computers, and that’s just outrageous,” said Melissa Samet, senior water resources counsel for the National Wildlife Federation.

    A number of groups, ranging from environmental organizations to the state of California, have been pressing the corps to regularly update its manuals. But the corps contends that engineers have long accounted for climate variability in their planning. “To say that climate change wasn’t contemplated is almost wrong — anytime you do water resource engineering, you build some sort of adaptive capacity into it, because the process of identifying how much flow of water you’re going to have at a given location is uncertain,” said Stu Townsley, flood risk program manager for the Army Corps’ South Pacific Division. “It’s a remarkably robust process.” Still, Townsley acknowledged that if current climate predictions prove correct, rule curves will likely have to be updated — a pricey proposition that could potentially require new congressional authorization. “Frankly, we’re just not really funded,” Townsley said. “This would come out of the corps’ operations and maintenance budget, and that budget’s been in essence flatlined for the past 30 years. We’re literally confronted with, should we pay to keep a dam tender in there to make a gate change, or can we support these kinds of studies?”

    Is flexible water management possible?

    What many stakeholders would like to see is for modern weather forecasting to be incorporated into reservoir management. “The fundamental runoff patterns, we know, are changing — have changed — as has the weather science,” Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), who represents Sonoma County, said in an interview. “From both ends of that, you’ve got an overwhelming case for updating these manuals.”

    Huffman, who previously worked as an attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council as well as the director of the Marin Municipal Water District, introduced legislation (H.R. 3988) earlier this month to require the corps and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to review whether weather and runoff forecasting can improve reservoir operations in some cases. Those on the water supply side hope modern weather forecasting and better monitoring throughout the watershed could open the door to a fundamental rethinking of how reservoirs are managed.

    “With the rule curve, there’s not that much room in terms of increasing the water supply function,” said Chris Delaney, senior engineer at the Sonoma County Water Agency.

    But with the ability to see coming storms even just a few days out, water managers could store extra water in the reservoir during winter months and then release it to make room for runoff if a major storm were predicted, he said. “You would basically remove the line and operate the whole pool in benefit of water supply,” Delaney said. “Or, if you had a large event, you might actually drain the reservoir extra in order to increase that flood control option.” That type of flexibility is being contemplated now as the corps works with stakeholders to update its manual for Folsom Dam near Sacramento during a major construction project.

    Whether the science and forecasting ability are to the point where water managers feel confident making updates related to climate change varies by location, said David Raff, the Bureau of Reclamation’s new scientific adviser, who has long worked on water and climate issues. “It is very regionally dependent,” he said. “And yet we start to see trends and agreement amongst models that is enough information to start to adapt to climate change.”

    Ralph, the atmospheric rivers researcher, said meteorologists can currently offer forecasts about three days out that are accurate enough for reservoir operators to start paying attention. But how much extra water that could allow to be held back also depends on how quickly the rules allow water to be released without causing environmental and flood risk concerns downstream. “I think the advances we’re making in atmospheric rivers and prediction offer the potential for a breakthrough advance for how to do this in the future,” Ralph said. “But nobody in their right mind would sign on to do this without a serious demonstration.”

    But then there’s another problem: There’s only so much wiggle room for the agencies without congressional involvement, federal managers say. The corps in particular has a reputation for being risk-averse, not wanting to chance the possibility of not being able to perform the tasks it’s responsible for, even if there are big benefits on the other side. If Congress approved a dam to be built for flood control 40 years ago, that’s still its purpose today unless lawmakers formally change it. Reclamation is also facing the possibility of having to go back to Congress for authorizations if the conversations it is having now with communities about the future climate and water-demand challenges in Western river basins yield proposals for new reservoirs or changes in the flood control rules.

    Raff said any such proposal would need to be “darn near consensus for it to be viable.” But, he said, “I don’t think that there are very many subjects or opportunities with regard to that that are wins just about everywhere.”

  3. Climate Change: Evidence and Causes US Natl Academy of Sciences and UK Royal Society

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    Climate Change: Evidence & Causes.


    National Academy Of Sciences Delivers Highly Readable Climate Change Warning



    By Joe Romm on February 27, 2014 at 4:11 pm

    So you’ve been wondering what to recommend to your open-minded friends who want a readable but authoritative introduction to climate change, one which answers their key questions. Look no further! The US National Academy of Sciences and the U.K. Royal Society have achieved a breakthrough in readability with their new report, “Climate Change: Evidence & Causes.” Group reports by leading climate scientists are notoriously hard to read, such as the opaque-as-squid-ink IPCC report from September. But the Academy and Society shrewdly break the mold for climate reports by starting with a Climate Change Q&A — and by beginning each answer with a short, non-technical response….

  4. Conservation Science News February 28, 2014

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    Focus of the Week – DROUGHT: CA
    Snowpack Grows, But Not Enough; Federal Rules Complicate Water Management in West

    1-ECOLOGY, BIODIVERSITY, RELATED

    2-CLIMATE CHANGE AND EXTREME EVENTS

    3-
    POLICY

    4- RENEWABLES, ENERGY AND RELATED

    5-
    RESOURCES and REFERENCES

    6-OTHER NEWS OF INTEREST 

    7-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, www.blm.gov/ca/news/newsbytes/2012/529.html 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 the California Landscape Conservation Cooperative ListServe or the Bay Area Ecosystems Climate Change Consortium listserve to receive this or you can email me directly at Ellie Cohen, ecohen at pointblue.org if you want your name added to or dropped from this list. 

    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- DROUGHT: CA
    Snowpack Grows, But Not Enough; Federal Rules Complicate Water Management in West

     

     


    California drought: Snowpack grows, but not enough

    Kurtis Alexander SF Chronicle Updated 6:40 am, Friday, February 28, 2014

     

    Fresh snow is blanketing the Sierra this week, but not enough to put a big dent in the statewide drought. State surveying crews, making their monthly trek on skis and snowshoes to high-elevation weather stations, said Thursday that the snowpack is just 24 percent of average for this time of year. That means the mountain runoff that normally fills reservoirs and makes up a third of the state’s water supply will amount to little more than a trickle. Although there’s more snow than there was a month ago – when the accumulation was just 12 percent of average and surveyors found bare ground in some spots – it’s likely that cities and farms that depend on the Sierra for their water will come up short in the summer. “It’s not a good situation for us,” said Steve Ritchie, assistant general manager for water for the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, which delivers water from the Sierra to 2.6 million Bay Area customers. “We’re waiting for the snow to melt and come down and fill our reservoir, but it ain’t happening.

    Voluntary cutbacks

    The district is among several Bay Area agencies that are asking people to reduce their water consumption by 10 percent, while hoping late-season storms will head off the need for mandatory rationing. Some North Bay communities, which depend on local supplies, and Sacramento have already imposed mandatory cuts. The wet weather hitting California this week is helping. A system from the Gulf of Alaska dropped a foot of snow in the High Sierra since Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service, and an additional 15 inches is expected this weekend. The incoming storm is expected to drop large amounts of rain over much of the state. With precipitation at just 42 percent of average in the northern range and 36 percent in the southern mountains, much more is needed. But more may not be on the way. The weather service’s Climate Prediction Center is projecting a drier-than-average spring.

    40 days, 40 nights

    “Every report I’ve seen says we need another 40 days and 40 nights of rain or whatever to make any difference,” said Daniel Sumner, who as director of the UC Agricultural Issues Center in Davis is closely watching water supplies. “Every drop is helpful, but we need a lot more.” The Department of Water Resources’ snowpack measurement is a benchmark for state and federal officials who determine how much water California’s networks of reservoirs and canals will deliver to communities and farms. At the Phillips Station off Highway 50 near Echo Summit, surveyors measured 8.1 inches of water in the frozen snow Thursday, just a third of what the site averages at this time of year. It was the same story at other weather stations. “We welcome the late storms, but they are not enough to end the drought,” Mark Cowin, director of the state Department of Water Resources, said in a statement. “We can’t control the weather, but we can control the amount of water we use. This drought is a wake-up call that we all have to take water conservation seriously and make it a way of life.”

    No help from feds

    U.S. Bureau of Reclamation officials said last week that water districts serving farmers are likely to get no water from the Central Valley Project if conditions don’t improve. Urban districts, they said, would get just half of what they requested. State Water Project officials said last month that their customers would get no water. The estimates mean cities and farms will have to turn to other sources, such as groundwater and locally managed reservoirs. Some parts of the state are better equipped to do this than others. San Francisco officials say voluntary water reductions and a few more storms should get them through the dry year. In the East Bay, water officials also say 10 percent voluntary reductions and backup supplies will help weather dry times. “We certainly got a big boost with the rains in February,” said Andrea Pook, spokeswoman for East Bay Municipal Utility District, which provides water, largely from the Sierra, to 1.3 million customers. “But we’re going to need a lot more precipitation to bring us out of a drought.”

    Drought coverage

    For complete coverage of California’s water problems, go to www.sfgate.com/drought.

     


    Dusty federal rules complicate water management in parched West


    Annie Snider, E&E reporter Greenwire: Thursday, February 27, 2014

    California wine country was parched early in the winter of 2012. So Sonoma County Water Agency chief engineer Jay Jasperse was relieved when a major storm blew in that December, dumping buckets of rain that filled Lake Mendocino, the agency’s reservoir on the upper Russian River. Then Jasperse watched in misery as the Army Corps of Engineers drained that water to make room in the reservoir in case another big rain fell on the flood-prone region. The corps was following its rules for the reservoir — an operations manual that Mother Nature ignored.

    “It basically quit raining through 2013 and early 2014,” Jasperse said. “We had the driest year in over 400 years based on tree ring studies, and so we’re all looking back and a lot of folks in the community are saying, ‘Why didn’t we hang onto the water that was released by the corps in December 2012?’” With climate change expected to shift precipitation and snowmelt patterns, federal rules that have long governed water management in the West are making it difficult to balance supply and flood protection.

    Already, warmer temperatures are causing winter precipitation to fall as rain rather than snow in the mountains that provide much of California’s drinking water. And the mountain snowpack is melting earlier in the season, rather than during the spring and summer months when users rely on it for water supply. But winter and early spring are when the region tends to see intense storms fed by “atmospheric rivers” that dump massive amounts of water in a very short period of time — a big flood risk.

    The average atmospheric river moves an amount of vapor 10 times what the Mississippi River dumps as water into the Gulf of Mexico, according to Marty Ralph, director of the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. These storms provide between a third and a half of the region’s average annual rainfall and snowpack, he said. Although research on atmospheric rivers is in its early stages, the West Coast has long been lashed by storms they spawn and built reservoirs to accommodate their deluges. For reservoirs where the Army Corps handles flood control, the agency wrote manuals with “rule curves” delineating how much water can be stored in the reservoir during different times of the year.

    During fall and winter, water levels are kept low to leave room for runoff in big storms. When spring comes, the reservoir is allowed to refill and water levels are kept higher during the summer when the risk of storms is low. Then, when fall comes, the reservoir is drawn back down to create flood space.
    But with warming temperatures pushing the snowmelt season earlier, the season when runoff needs to be captured for water supply begins to overlap with the time when major storms still pose a flood risk. “The big dilemma is, if you drain the reservoir in the fall a fair bit in order to make room for a possible flood in the winter, but then you don’t get enough rain when you’re officially able to refill in the spring, there’s no water to refill with,” Ralph said.

    ‘Slide rules and pencils, not computers’

    Water management is complicated in the West because there’s more than one agency overseeing many dams. The Army Corps often manages flood protection, so it prefers to keep as little water in the reservoir as possible, while the Bureau of Reclamation or local agencies like the Sonoma County Water Agency manage for water supply and tend to angle for as much water as possible. Hydropower, environmental and recreation interests are also part of the equation.

    Some say divided management responsibilities help ensure that any decision is given full attention. But others argue that because managers must follow the Army Corps’ manuals first, flood control is given the upper hand. “The corps’ manual is No. 1 on the hierarchy,” said Ron Stork with Friends of the River in Sacramento. “You can do anything you want with the dam as long as it doesn’t interfere with the corps’ manual.”

    Moreover, many of the manuals are decades old, and activity and development in the watershed have often changed dramatically since the rules were first written. For example, the rule curve at Lake Mendocino hasn’t been updated since 1959. Over the years, Sonoma County agriculture has shifted from orchards to vineyards, cities have grown, and inflows from a neighboring hydroelectric tunnel have been cut. The National Environmental Policy Act has also inserted endangered species concerns into the mix. “A lot of these rule curves literally were done when the corps was using slide rules and pencils, not computers, and that’s just outrageous,” said Melissa Samet, senior water resources counsel for the National Wildlife Federation.

    A number of groups, ranging from environmental organizations to the state of California, have been pressing the corps to regularly update its manuals. But the corps contends that engineers have long accounted for climate variability in their planning. “To say that climate change wasn’t contemplated is almost wrong — anytime you do water resource engineering, you build some sort of adaptive capacity into it, because the process of identifying how much flow of water you’re going to have at a given location is uncertain,” said Stu Townsley, flood risk program manager for the Army Corps’ South Pacific Division. “It’s a remarkably robust process.” Still, Townsley acknowledged that if current climate predictions prove correct, rule curves will likely have to be updated — a pricey proposition that could potentially require new congressional authorization. “Frankly, we’re just not really funded,” Townsley said. “This would come out of the corps’ operations and maintenance budget, and that budget’s been in essence flatlined for the past 30 years. We’re literally confronted with, should we pay to keep a dam tender in there to make a gate change, or can we support these kinds of studies?”

    Is flexible water management possible?

    What many stakeholders would like to see is for modern weather forecasting to be incorporated into reservoir management. “The fundamental runoff patterns, we know, are changing — have changed — as has the weather science,” Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), who represents Sonoma County, said in an interview. “From both ends of that, you’ve got an overwhelming case for updating these manuals.”

    Huffman, who previously worked as an attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council as well as the director of the Marin Municipal Water District, introduced legislation (H.R. 3988) earlier this month to require the corps and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to review whether weather and runoff forecasting can improve reservoir operations in some cases. Those on the water supply side hope modern weather forecasting and better monitoring throughout the watershed could open the door to a fundamental rethinking of how reservoirs are managed.

    “With the rule curve, there’s not that much room in terms of increasing the water supply function,” said Chris Delaney, senior engineer at the Sonoma County Water Agency.

    But with the ability to see coming storms even just a few days out, water managers could store extra water in the reservoir during winter months and then release it to make room for runoff if a major storm were predicted, he said. “You would basically remove the line and operate the whole pool in benefit of water supply,” Delaney said. “Or, if you had a large event, you might actually drain the reservoir extra in order to increase that flood control option.” That type of flexibility is being contemplated now as the corps works with stakeholders to update its manual for Folsom Dam near Sacramento during a major construction project.

    Whether the science and forecasting ability are to the point where water managers feel confident making updates related to climate change varies by location, said David Raff, the Bureau of Reclamation’s new scientific adviser, who has long worked on water and climate issues. “It is very regionally dependent,” he said. “And yet we start to see trends and agreement amongst models that is enough information to start to adapt to climate change.”

    Ralph, the atmospheric rivers researcher, said meteorologists can currently offer forecasts about three days out that are accurate enough for reservoir operators to start paying attention. But how much extra water that could allow to be held back also depends on how quickly the rules allow water to be released without causing environmental and flood risk concerns downstream. “I think the advances we’re making in atmospheric rivers and prediction offer the potential for a breakthrough advance for how to do this in the future,” Ralph said. “But nobody in their right mind would sign on to do this without a serious demonstration.”

    But then there’s another problem: There’s only so much wiggle room for the agencies without congressional involvement, federal managers say. The corps in particular has a reputation for being risk-averse, not wanting to chance the possibility of not being able to perform the tasks it’s responsible for, even if there are big benefits on the other side. If Congress approved a dam to be built for flood control 40 years ago, that’s still its purpose today unless lawmakers formally change it. Reclamation is also facing the possibility of having to go back to Congress for authorizations if the conversations it is having now with communities about the future climate and water-demand challenges in Western river basins yield proposals for new reservoirs or changes in the flood control rules.

    Raff said any such proposal would need to be “darn near consensus for it to be viable.” But, he said, “I don’t think that there are very many subjects or opportunities with regard to that that are wins just about everywhere.”

     

    More drought coverage at the end of the Climate/Extremes section below.

     

     

     

     

    A fin whale is shown breaching the water’s surface.Credit: Kate Stafford, UW

    Whales, ships more common through Bering Strait
    (February 26, 2014) — The Arctic is home to a growing number of whales and ships, and to populations of sub-Arctic whales that are expanding their territory into newly ice-free Arctic waters. A three-year survey of whales in the Bering Strait reveals that many species of whales are using the narrow waterway, while shipping and commercial traffic also increase. … A study of the narrow passage of the Bering Strait uses underwater microphones to track the whales by their sounds. Three years of recordings reveal more detections of both Arctic and sub-Arctic whales traveling through the narrow choke point. Kate Stafford, an oceanographer with the University of Washington’s Applied Physics Laboratory, will present the results Feb. 26 at the Ocean Sciences meeting in Honolulu.

    The recordings show Arctic beluga and bowhead whales migrating seasonally through the region from the Arctic south to spend winter in the Bering Sea. They also detect large numbers of sub-Arctic humpback, fin and killer whales traveling north through the Bering Strait to feed in the biologically rich Chukchi Sea.

    “It’s not particularly surprising to those of us who work up in the Arctic,” Stafford said. “The Arctic seas are changing. We are seeing and hearing more species, farther north, more often. And that’s a trend that is going to continue.” Stafford placed microphones below the water’s surface and recorded in summer and early winter from 2009 to 2012 as part of a U.S.-Russian scientific collaboration. Melodious humpback whale songs showed up regularly on recordings into late fall. Fin and killer whales, which are southern species that seldom travel into Arctic waters, were heard into early November. “These animals are expanding their range,” Stafford said. “They’re taking advantage of regions in seasons that they may not have previously.” The recordings also picked up ships using the ice-free summers to travel through two international shipping lanes. This poses an increased risk of collisions between whales and ships, and of noise pollution.
    Marine mammals rely primarily on sound to navigate, to find food and to find mates. Sound is their modality,” Stafford said. “If we increase the ambient sound level, it has the potential to reduce the communication range of cetaceans and all marine mammals.”…> full story

     

     

    Amid Efforts to Expand Marine Preserves, a Warning to Focus on Quality

    FEB. 19, 2014 NY TIMES Green Column
    By KATE GALBRAITH
    SAN FRANCISCO — A generation ago, when Tommy Remengesau Jr. went fishing off the beautiful island nation of Palau, the seas were so rich, he said, that “I could see great stocks of fish.” Such bounty has since dwindled, in Palau and worldwide.
    “Reckless and destructive fishing practices, overfishing, and illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing have robbed us of our resources,” Mr. Remengesau, now Palau’s president, told the United Nations General Assembly this month. “They must be stopped.” That grim pronouncement lies behind a new plan by Palau to ban commercial fishing in a vast area off its coast. The reserve will cover 230,000 square miles, which is about the size of Ukraine. Palau is far from alone — other nations are also engaging in efforts to create marine reserves. New Zealand, which already has a number of protected areas, is establishing a new conservation area in its far southern region that is off-limits to fishing, mining and oil exploration, though it is smaller, at 1,680 square miles. Over all, 2.8 percent of the world’s oceans have been committed to conservation reserves, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, a global environmental group. That remains far short of an international goal of 10 percent. The reserves are often called marine protected areas, or M.P.A.s. “There is a trend toward creating more M.P.A.s in recent years,” said Samantha Murray, director of the Pacific program at the Ocean Conservancy, an environmental group. But the percentage of ocean territory that is protected is far lower than the comparable figure for land, she said….

     

    A big problem is that the quality of the reserves varies. A new study in the journal Nature found that of 87 marine protected areas surveyed, 59 percent “were not ecologically distinguishable from fished sites.” The reality may be even more dismal, because the survey included some of the world’s most effective reserves. A different study, to be published next week in the journal Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems, finds that countries often seek to create marine reserves in areas that are the least used, rather than focusing on maximizing biodiversity. Achieving targets for protecting a certain amount of the ocean could therefore result in a “false sense of achievement for conservation,” it warns. “It’s almost universal, the fact that whenever there’s negotiations over marine protected areas, the areas with most fish are retained by the fishing areas,” said Graham Edgar, a professor at the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies at the University of Tasmania in Australia. Professor Edgar was involved in both studies…..

     

     

     

    Connecting the Dots for Pacific Marine Life

    Connecting with Sarah Allen, National Park Service “Bureau-ologist”

    by Beth Slatkin on February 27, 2014

    National Park Service ecologist Sarah Allen has been looking at the “big picture” of marine ecosystem health since the mid-1970s, when she worked on the Farallon Islands and later in the 1980s and ’90s  tracking seabirds, whales, and seals in the Gulf of the Farallones  for Point Reyes Bird Observatory (now Point Blue Conservation Science).

    Sarah Allen, NPS marine ecologist

    After grad school, she resumed her work as a marine ecologist, working for the Point Reyes National Seashore.  Author of Bay Nature’s current cover story on orcas (Jan-Mar 2014), Sarah now connects the dots for researchers at 24 national marine parks across the Pacific West and represents the National Park Service in inter-agency ocean policy issues. She recently took time out from her very busy job as NPS’ Coast and Ocean Program Lead (Pacific West Region) to talk to Bay Nature.

    Are you originally from the Bay Area?  Tell us a bit about your educational background. Yes, I’ve lived here most of my life since age 7 and grew up in West Marin. When I was in high school my biology teacher connected me with a professor at the College of Marin to sample bivalves in Bolinas Lagoon. That’s where my interest in field study started. I got my Bachelor of Science in Conservation of Natural Resources at UC Berkeley in 1976, taking classes from Starker Leopold, who at the time was on the Marine Mammal Commission. Later I returned to UC and  got my MS and PhD in Wildland Resource Science….. 

     
     

    Ecological impacts of invasive species can be readily predicted from features of their behavior
    (February 27, 2014) — Ecologists have studied the behavior of some of the “world’s worst” invasive species, including the large-mouth bass, an invasive fish which typically devastates invertebrate and other fish communities wherever it is introduced. They have revealed that the ecological impacts of invasive species might be readily predicted from features of their behavior. … > full story

     

    Microbes on floating ocean plastics: Uncovering the secret world of the ‘Plastisphere’
    (February 24, 2014) — Scientists are revealing how microbes living on floating pieces of plastic marine debris affect the ocean ecosystem, and the potential harm they pose to invertebrates, humans and other animals. … > full story

     

    The importance of (experimental) design
    (February 25, 2014) — One of the hottest debates in evolutionary biology concerns the origin of behavior: is it genetically encoded or do animals and birds copy their parents or other individuals? A classic experiment published in 2000 seemed to provide overwhelming evidence that a particular behavioral choice (whether individuals of a species of swallow breed in a small colony or a large one) is largely genetically determined. Scientists have now re-examined the data and shown that the findings could be explained by random choice. … > full story

    It’s all water over the dam – but how, when it falls has huge impact on salmon
    (February 25, 2014) — By adjusting water discharges in ways designed to boost salmon productivity, officials at a dam in central Washington were able to more than triple the numbers of juvenile salmon downstream of the dam over a 30-year period. The investigators say the results also show how the existence of dams can actually improve salmon survival. Prior to the development of the hydroelectric system, water flow in the Columbia could drop very low in winter. These low flows, when combined with temperatures below freezing, likely resulted in mortality of eggs and young salmon still in the gravel. Current dam operations maintain minimum water flows that are more than twice as high as historic levels during winter, which keeps young fish in water more consistently than what might occur naturally. … > full story

     

    Bison and Cranes Reunited to Support Habitat Restoration

    KQED QUEST (blog)

     - ‎Feb 25, 2014‎

           

    But this year, thanks to the work of a nonprofit organization called the Crane Trust, a small group of the giant herbivores have made their triumphant return to Shoemaker Island, an 11-mile-long, 1.25-mile-wide plot of grassy habitat surrounded by river.

     

    Join the crowd: Digitize biodiversity research specimens
    (February 26, 2014)A crowdsourcing project aims to enable transcription of specimen labels and ledgers from the world’s 3 billion biodiversity research specimens. … > full story

     

    Storms ‘slaughter’ kills over 21,000 birds on French coast

    February 26, 2014 Phys.org

    A wave crashes against the breakwater of Lomener in Ploemeur, western France on February 5, 2014 as Brittany and the Atlantic coasts were facing winds of 100 kilometres an hour

    More than 21,000 sea birds have died since the end of January on France’s Atlantic coast due to storms in the worst “slaughter” in a century, the national Bird Protection League (LPO) said Wednesday. A total of 21,341 dead birds had been counted up to February 24 on the southwestern Basque coast and in Brittany in northwestern France, a statement said. The worst affected species were the Atlantic Puffin, the Common Murre or Common Guillemot and the Razorbill, it said. Nearly 2,800 were housed in bird protection shelters in these areas, the LPO said, adding that this was a provisional toll and the final numbers could be much higher. It said the count had been carried out over three weekends and involved more than 500 volunteers. The birds basically died of starvation, LPO’s Nicolas Gendre told AFP, adding that the “storms had forced the birds to areas that are less rich in food”. He said the last such toll only occurred in 1900. Gendre said that the birds used up more energy to survive and seek food during storms. Although most of the bird deaths were caused by the weather conditions, the LPO said there had also been some caused by pollution as a result of cargo ships taking advantage of the inclement conditions to dump noxious gases at sea.

     

    Gauging what it takes to heal a disaster-ravaged forest: Case study in China
    (
    February 24, 2014) — Recovering from natural disasters usually means rebuilding infrastructure and reassembling human lives. Yet ecologically sensitive areas need to heal, too, and scientists are pioneering new methods to assess nature’s recovery and guide human intervention. A new study focused on the epicenter of China’s devastating Wenchuan earthquake in 2008, a globally important valuable biodiversity hotspot and home to the beloved and endangered giant pandas. Not only did the quake devastate villages and roads, but the earth split open and swallowed sections of the forests and bamboo groves that shelter and feed pandas and other endangered wildlife. The study indicated that forest restoration after natural disasters should not only consider the forest itself, but also take into account the animals inhabiting the ecosystem and human livelihoods. … > full story

     

    Fukushima’s Radioactive Ocean Water Arrives At W. Coast

    Discovery News

     - ‎Feb 25, 2014‎

           

    When people fled Fukushima and other parts of Japan a year ago, thousands of pets were left behind. While many pets have since been reunited with their owners, a horrific situation still exists in the no-go 12.5-mile radiation zone around the damaged 

     

    Biologists hope wild-hatched condor will produce more birds

    Salt Lake Tribune

     - ‎February 26 2014‎

           

    Phoenix • Groups tracking the reintroduction of the endangered California condor celebrated last year when a record four birds hatched near the Arizona-Utah border. This year has brought increased enthusiasm with the possibility that a condor hatched

     

     

    World Ocean Summit Puts Marine Issues “On Global Agenda”

    NatGeo News Watch (blog)

    Feb 25, 2014

     
     

    Written by

    Clark Howard

     
           

    Goddard said there has been a relative “poverty of knowledge” about the ocean, compared with the land, although that has been changing in recent years thanks to significant investments by governments, nonprofit institutions, and companies.

     

     

    Antarctic circumpolar current carries 20 percent more water than previous estimates
    (February 26, 2014) — By analyzing four years of continuous measurements of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current at Drake Passage, the narrowest point in the Southern Ocean, oceanographers have concluded that the current carries 20 percent more water than previous estimates. They also found that the current remains strong all the way to the seafloor. … > full story

     

    ‘Oddball science’ has proven worth, biologists say
    (February 27, 2014) — Scoffing at or cutting funds for basic biological research on unusual animal adaptations from Gila monster venom to snail sex, though politically appealing to some, is short-sighted and only makes it more likely that important economic and social benefits will be missed in the long run, say a group of evolutionary biologists. … > full story

     

    Cows are smarter when raised in pairs: Evidence practice of housing calves alone linked to learning difficulties
    (February 26, 2014) — Cows learn better when housed together, which may help them adjust faster to complex new feeding and milking technologies on the modern farm, a new study finds. Dairy calves become better at learning when a “buddy system” is in place. The study also provides the first evidence that the standard practice of individually housing calves is associated with certain learning difficulties. … > full story

     

    Waterbirds’ hunt aided by specialized tail: Swimming birds evolved rudder-like tail to dive for food
    (February 26, 2014) — The convergent evolution of tail shapes in diving birds may be driven by foraging style. Birds use their wings and specialized tail to maneuver through the air while flying. It turns out that the purpose of a bird’s tail may have also aided in their diversification by allowing them to use a greater variety of foraging strategies. To better understand the relationship between bird tail shape and foraging strategy, researchers examined the tail skeletal structure of over 50 species of waterbirds, like storks, pelicans, and penguins, and shorebirds, like gulls and puffins. They first categorized each species by foraging strategy, such as aerial, terrestrial, and pursuit diving, and then compared the shape and structure of different tails. … > full story

     

    CA BLM WILDLIFE TRIVIA QUESTION of the WEEK

     

    Gray whales feed on which of the following?
    (a) small shrimp that float around on the currents
    (b) small fish and crustaceans that swim at the surface of the ocean
    (c) small crustaceans and tube worms found in ocean sediments
    (d) small to large fish and other animals that stray into its mouth
    (e) a, b, c,
    (f) all of the above


    See answer at bottom

     

     

     


    Emperor Penguins: Changes in the extent and duration of Ross Sea ice will significantly impact marine life in what is one of the world’s most productive and unspoiled marine ecosystems, where rich blooms of phytoplankton feed krill, fish, and higher predators such as penguins.

    Credit: Photo courtesy of Walker Smith

     

    Big thaw projected for Antarctic sea ice: Ross Sea will reverse current trend, be largely ice free in summer by 2100
    (February 27, 2014)

    A new modeling study suggests that a recent observed increase in summer sea-ice cover in Antarctica’s Ross Sea is likely short-lived, with the area projected to lose more than half its summer sea ice by 2050 and more than three quarters by 2100. These changes will significantly impact marine life in what is one of the world’s most productive and unspoiled marine ecosystems. …

    Smith says “The Ross Sea is critically important in regulating the production of Antarctica’s sea ice overall and is biologically very productive, which makes changes in its physical environment of global concern. Our study predicts that it will soon reverse its present trend and experience major drops in ice cover in summer, which, along with decreased mixing of the vertical column, will extend the season of phytoplankton growth. These changes will substantially alter the area’s pristine food web.”

    Researchers attribute the observed increase in summertime sea ice in the Ross Sea — where the number of days with ice cover has grown by more two months over the past three decades — to a complex interplay of factors, including changes in wind speed, precipitation, salinity, ocean currents, and air and water temperature. But global climate models agree that air temperatures in Antarctica will increase substantially in the coming decades, with corresponding changes in the speed and direction of winds and ocean currents. When Smith and his colleagues fed these global projections into a high-resolution computer model of air-sea-ice dynamics in the Ross Sea, they saw a drastic reduction in the extent and duration of summer sea ice.The modeled summer sea ice concentrations decreased by 56% by 2050 and 78% by 2100. The ice-free season also grew much longer, with the mean day of retreat in 2100 occurring 11 days earlier and the advance occurring 16 days later than now.

    Also changed was the duration and depth of the “shallow mixed layer,” the zone where most phytoplankton live. “Our model projects that the shallow mixed layer will persist for about a week longer in 2050, and almost three weeks longer in 2100 than now,” says Smith. “The depth of the shallow mixed layer will also decrease significantly, with its bottom 12% shallower in 2050, and 44% shallower in 2100 than now.”

    For Smith, these changes in ice, atmosphere, and ocean dynamics portend major changes in the Antarctic food web. On the bright side, the decrease in ice cover will bring more light to surface waters, while a more persistent and shallower mixed layer will concentrate phytoplankton and nutrients in this sunlit zone. These changes will combine to encourage phytoplankton growth, particularly for single-celled organisms called diatoms, with ripples of added energy potentially moving up the food web. But, Smith warns, the drop in ice cover will negatively affect several other important species that are ice-dependent, including crystal krill and Antarctic silverfish. A decrease in krill would be particularly troublesome, as these are the major food source for the Ross Sea’s top predators — minke whales, Adélie and Emperor penguins, and crabeater seals.

    Overall, says Smith, “our results suggest that phytoplankton production will increase and become more diatomaceous. Other components of the Ross Sea food web will likely be severely disrupted, creating significant but unpredictable impacts on the ocean’s most pristine ecosystem.”

    ….> full story

     

    Walker O. Smith, Michael S. Dinniman, Eileen E. Hofmann, John M. Klinck. The effects of changing winds and temperatures on the oceanography of the Ross Sea in the 21stcentury. Geophysical Research Letters, 2014; DOI: 10.1002/2014GL059311

     

    Climate change: No warming hiatus for extreme hot temperatures
    (February 26, 2014) — While there are claims that there has been a hiatus in global average temperatures, no such hiatus has occurred at the extreme end of the temperature spectrum. New research shows extremely hot temperatures over land have dramatically and unequivocally increased in number and area despite claims that the rise in global average temperatures has slowed over the past 10 to 20 years. … “It quickly became clear, the ‘hiatus’ in global average temperatures did not stop the rise in the number, intensity and area of extremely hot days,” said one of the paper’s authors, Dr Lisa Alexander. “Our research has found a steep upward tendency in the temperatures and number of extremely hot days over land and the area they impact, despite the complete absence of a strong El Niño since 1998.” The researchers examined the extreme end of the temperature spectrum because this is where global warming impacts are expected to occur first and are most clearly felt. As Australians saw this summer and the last, extreme temperatures in inhabited areas have powerful impacts on our society.

    The observations also showed that extremely hot events are now affecting, on average, more than twice the area when compared to similar events 30 years ago….”It is important when we take global warming into account, that we use measures that are useful in determining the impacts on our society,” said Professor Sonia Seneviratne from ETH Zurich, who led the study while on sabbatical at the ARC Centre. “Global average temperatures are a useful measurement for researchers but it is at the extremes where we will most likely find those impacts that directly affect all of our lives. Clearly, we are seeing more heat extremes over land more often as a result of enhanced greenhouse gas warming.”…> full story

     

    Sonia I. Seneviratne, Markus G. Donat, Brigitte Mueller, Lisa V. Alexander. No pause in the increase of hot temperature extremes. Nature Climate Change, 2014; 4 (3): 161 DOI: 10.1038/nclimate2145

     

    Nature Stunner: As Climate Change Speeds Up, The Number Of Extremely Hot Days Is Soaring

    By Joe Romm on February 26, 2014

    The number of very hot days have soared in the past 15 years, a new study finds. Based on observations, the authors conclude that “the term pause, as applied to the recent evolution of global annual mean temperatures, is ill-chosen and even misleading in the context of climate change.”

     

     

    Where have all the codfish gone? Research suggests food source loss has contributed
    (February 26, 2014)
    – The mega-decline in cod and other fisheries across the North Atlantic Ocean threatens the livelihood of fishermen and communities in New England and Atlantic Canada. One suspect in the disappearance of cod and other groundfish is the food source for their young: a planktonic copepod crustacean. The first transcriptome for the key North Atlantic copepod Calanus finmarchicus has been published; scientists will use it to decode the genetic instructions that are resulting in population changes. …
    For this and other reasons, Petra Lenz and Andrew Christie are among the scientists at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa working to understand how copepods are responding to global climate change, including to increases in water temperature, altered ocean currents, and ocean acidification. Because of the copepod’s small size and its vast ocean habitat, it is a poor subject for conventional physiological studies. New molecular techniques have opened doors for an alternative approach. Known as transcriptomics, this technique makes a catalog of all the messages (“transcripts”) produced by the cells that control the animal’s physiology. With this tool, biologists are now able to listen in on the instructions being sent out to direct an organism’s response to its changing environment. With respect to copepods, the challenge is to identify and understand each message, in order to track down the causes of population changes….This publication provides the first publicly accessible, large-scale molecular resource for investigating the physiological ecology ofCalanus. Highlights of this study include:

    1. The observation that a large percentage of genes are not in play at any particular time while a young copepod matures;
    2. The discovery of specific messages being sent out as individuals prepare to enter a critical dormant phase in their annual population cycle; and
    3. The discovery of a number of previously unknown genes, suggesting a more complex biology than that of related animals like the fruit fly and water flea, which are used extensively for biomedical and ecotoxicologial research.

    With the Calanus transcriptome in hand, scientist now have a tool to better understand how copepods adapt, and may be better able to predict when and where population changes will occur for this planktonic crustacean on which many fisheries depend…..full story

     

    Petra H. Lenz, Vittoria Roncalli, R. Patrick Hassett, Le-Shin Wu, Matthew C. Cieslak, Daniel K. Hartline, Andrew E. Christie. De Novo Assembly of a Transcriptome for Calanus finmarchicus (Crustacea, Copepoda) – The Dominant Zooplankter of the North Atlantic Ocean. PLoS ONE, 2014; 9 (2): e88589 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0088589

     

    Acidic Waters Kill 10 Million Scallops Off Vancouver

    By Kiley Kroh on February 26, 2014 at 11:16 am Think Progress

    A worker harvests oysters for Taylor Shellfish in Washington, another company grappling with the effects of ocean acidification.  CREDIT: AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File

    A mass die-off of scallops near Qualicum Beach on Vancouver Island is being linked to the increasingly acidic waters that are threatening marine life and aquatic industries along the West Coast. Rob Saunders, CEO of Island Scallops, estimates his company has lost three years worth of scallops and $10 million dollars — forcing him to lay off approximately one-third of his staff. “I’m not sure we are going to stay alive and I’m not sure the oyster industry is going to stay alive,” Saunders told The Parksville Qualicum Beach NEWS. “It’s that dramatic.” Ocean acidification, often referred to as global warming’s “evil twin,” threatens to upend the delicate balance of marine life across the globe. As we pump increasing amounts of carbon pollution into the atmosphere, it’s not just wreaking havoc on air quality. The oceans are the world’s largest carbon sinks, absorbing one-quarter of the carbon dioxide emitted every year. The more carbon dioxide absorbed, the more acidic the water becomes and as a result, organisms like shellfish no longer have the calcium carbonate they need to build their shells…..

     

    IPCC: Climate Impacts ‘Are Very Evident, They’re Widespread’ And ‘We Are Not Prepared’

    By Joe Romm on February 25, 2014

    The next IPCC report due in March from the world’s top scientists is on impacts, and it isn’t pretty. One summary of a leaked draft of the report noted man-made climate change is likely to worsen “starvation, poverty, flooding, heat waves, droughts, war and disease.”….

     

    Scientists blend synthetic air to measure climate change
    (February 26, 2014) — Scientists have produced a synthetic air reference standard which can be used to accurately measure levels of carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere. This will greatly help scientists contribute to our understanding of climate change. … > full story

    Cyclones and frost: Two climate change myths debunked
    (February 25, 2014) — Scientists have debunked two big myths around climate change by proving firstly, that despite predictions, tropical storms are not increasing in number. However, they are shifting, and South Africa could be at increased risk of being directly impacted by tropical cyclones within the next 40 years. Secondly, while global warming is causing frost to be less severe, late season frost is not receding as quickly as flowering is advancing, resulting in increased frost risk which will likely begin to threaten food security. … > full story

    Offshore wind farms could tame hurricanes before they reach land
    (February 26, 2014) — Computer simulations have shown that offshore wind farms with thousands of wind turbines could have sapped the power of three real-life hurricanes, significantly decreasing their winds and accompanying storm surge, and possibly preventing billions of dollars in damages. In the case of Hurricane Katrina, the computer model revealed that an array of 78,000 wind turbines off the coast of New Orleans would have significantly weakened the hurricane well before it made landfall. … > full story

     


    National Academy Of Sciences Delivers Highly Readable Climate Change Warning


    By Joe Romm on February 27, 2014 at 4:11 pm

    So you’ve been wondering what to recommend to your open-minded friends who want a readable but authoritative introduction to climate change, one which answers their key questions. Look no further! The US National Academy of Sciences and the U.K. Royal Society have achieved a breakthrough in readability with their new report, “Climate Change: Evidence & Causes.” Group reports by leading climate scientists are notoriously hard to read, such as the opaque-as-squid-ink IPCC report from September. But the Academy and Society shrewdly break the mold for climate reports by starting with a Climate Change Q&A — and by beginning each answer with a short, non-technical response….

     

    Climate change puts wheat crops at risk of disease
    (February 26, 2014) — There is a risk that severity of epidemics of some wheat diseases may increase within the next ten to twenty years due to the impacts of climate change according to a study by international researchers. The researchers carried out a survey in China to establish a link between weather and the severity of epidemics of fusarium ear blight on the wheat crops. This weather-based model was then used to predict the impact on severity of the disease of future weather scenarios for the period from 2020 to 2050. … > full story

     

    Did five years of drought lead to two years of revolution in Syria?
    (February 26, 2014) — Negotiators in Geneva might not have brought the conflict in Syria to an end last week, but new research explains how the 2006–10 drought contributed to its start. … > full story

     

    Climate change causes high but predictable extinction risks

    February 26, 2014 Science Daily

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Ornate Box Turtle and Massasauga are among the species in a study that focused on the predictability of species extinction risks due to climate change.

    Judging the effects of climate change on extinction may be easier than previously thought, according to a paper entitled, “Life history and spatial traits predict extinction risk due to climate change,” published today in the journal Nature Climate Change. Although widely used assessments of threatened species, such as the IUCN Red List, were not developed with the effects of climate change in mind, a study of 36 amphibian and reptile species endemic to the US has concluded that climate change may not be fundamentally different from other extinction threats in terms of identifying species in danger of extinction. The new study, funded by NASA and led by Dr. Richard Pearson of UCL Centre for Biodiversity and Environment Research and formerly of the American Museum of Natural History, and by Dr. Resit Akçakaya of Stony Brook University in New York, identified factors that predispose species to high extinction risk due to climate change. By looking at pre-existing information on species of salamanders, turtles, tortoises, snakes and lizards, the team hoped to create a blueprint for judging extinction risk in other species around the world…..

     

    Volcanoes contribute to recent global warming ‘hiatus
    (February 24, 2014) — Volcanic eruptions in the early part of the 21st century have cooled the planet, according to a new study. This cooling partly offset the warming produced by greenhouse gases. … > full story

     

    Climate Boomerang: Small Volcanoes Restraining A Much Faster Warming Planet, For Now

    By Joe Romm on February 24, 2014

    Surface temperatures would be warming much faster if not for various natural cooling factors, such as small volcanic eruptions since 2000. Since recent research shows surface temperatures have not slowed down, we should expect accelerated warming in the near future as some of these factors abate….

     

    Is polar warming to blame for America’s and Britain’s bad winter weather?

    The Economist

     - ‎Feb 21, 2014‎

           

    CLIMATE change is supposed to unfold slowly, over decades. But that is not true up in the great white north, as those attending this year’s meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science were reminded in the session on climate …

     

    Climate engineering: Minor potential, major risk of side-effects?
    (February 25, 2014) — Researchers have studied with computer simulations the long-term global consequences of several ‘climate engineering’ methods. They show that all the proposed methods would either be unable to significantly reduce global warming if CO2 emissions remain high, or they could not be stopped without causing dangerous climate disruption. … > full story

     

    Decline of bronze age ‘megacities’ linked to climate change
    (February 26, 2014) — Scientists have demonstrated that an abrupt weakening of the summer monsoon affected northwest India 4,100 years ago. The resulting drought coincided with the beginning of the decline of the metropolis-building Indus Civilization, which spanned present-day Pakistan and India, suggesting that climate change could be why many of the major cities of the civilization were abandoned. … > full story

     

    Could climate change ruin the winter sports industry? C BS NEWS

    The Sochi Olympics suffered some of the most extreme weather of any Winter Games. Athletes faced fog, rain and temperatures in the 60s. Research predicts that could become the new reality at ski resorts around the world…

     

    Why are we still debating climate change?

    By Carol Costello updated 9:11 PM EST, Mon February 24, 2014

    Costello: Climate change isn’t a debate

    STORY HIGHLIGHTS

    • 97% of scientists say humans are causing climate change
    • Carol Costello: Why pretend that there’s still a debate going on?
    • Politicians, conservative organizations seek to foster denial of the reality, she says
    • Costello: Lack of trust in scientists is one reason the phony controversy continues

    Editor’s note:
    Carol Costello anchors the 9 to 11 a.m. ET edition of CNN’s “Newsroom” each weekday.

    (CNN) — There is no debate. Climate change is real. And, yes, we are, in part, to blame. There is a 97% consensus among scientific experts that humans are causing global warming. Ninety-seven percent!

    Yet some very vocal Americans continue to debate what is surely fact. The question is, why? Trust certainly plays a part. According to Gordon Gauchat, an associate professor of sociology from the University of Wisconsin, just 42% of adults in the U.S. have a great deal of confidence (PDF) in the scientific community…..

     

     

    MORE ON CA’s DROUGHT:

    DROUGHT PRESENTATION- VIDEO

    Jayme Laber, Senior Service Hydrologist at NOAA National Weather Service gave an interesting and informative presentation on our current drought situation. If interested, check out this ~20-minute excerpt from his full seminar presentation given last week… (from Maven’s Notebook)

     

    Russian River district orders 50% mandatory cutbacks  Press Democrat

    Ukiah Valley residents, businesses and farmers will be required to cut their dependence on Lake Mendocino water by half beginning next month.  The Russian River Flood Control and Water Conservation Improvement District board of directors Monday night unanimously adopted the 50 percent mandatory cutbacks in an effort to maintain as much water as they can in drought-plagued Lake Mendocino.

     

    California Drought: How NASA tracks underground water levels from space

    This week NASA will meet with officials from the California Department of Water Resources to talk drought.  The space agency tracks the levels of underground aquifers using satellites.  It plans to advise the state on how to keep those crucial water supplies from getting too low.  But how exactly does a satellite in space monitor something as deep underground as an aquifer?

     

     

    The Search For Drinking Water In California Has Led To The Ocean

    by Nate Rott NPR February 26, 2014 5:45 PM

    Extreme drought conditions in California have state officials looking for alternative sources of water, including desalinated ocean water.

    Richard Vogel/AP

    California is getting some much needed rain this week, but more than two-thirds of the state is still in extreme drought conditions, and that has the state thinking about alternative ways of getting water.

    On the coast in Carlsbad, Calif., construction workers are building what will be the largest seawater desalination plant in the Western Hemisphere. When finished in early 2016, it is expected to provide up to 50 million gallons of fresh drinkable water every day. “That’s enough water for 112,000 households here in the region,” says Peter MacLaggan with Poseidon Resources, the developer of this $1 billion plant.

    The process, MacLaggan explains, involves taking water from the Pacific Ocean, removing the silt, sand and “organics,” then pressurizing the water through very fine membranes. The technical name is reverse osmosis. And the result? “Every 2 gallons of seawater that goes in, 1 gallon of high-quality drinking water comes out,” he says. And MacLaggan says the best part is it’s droughtproof.

    “It’s droughtproof because it’s not dependent on snowpack in the Sierras, it’s not dependent on rainfall here in San Diego,” he says. “You’re getting water from the Pacific Ocean.”

     

    The word “droughtproof” carries a lot of weight in California. That snowpack in the Sierra Nevada he’s talking about is still less than half of what it should be for this time of year. Farmers, environmentalists and cities like nearby San Diego have been fighting over what little water there is.

    “San Diego currently imports about 70 percent of its water,” says Bob Yamada, the water resources manager at the San Diego County Water Authority. Yamada says that’s why the authority has agreed to buy water from the Carlsbad plant when it’s finished — even though it costs twice as much as the water imported from Northern California and the Colorado River. It’s expensive “but it does provide you with the highest reliability,” Yamada says. And he says people are willing to pay more for reliability. He also thinks that the difference in price between imported water and desalinated will shrink as more and more people vie for less and less water from rainfall and snowpack.

    Desalination costs more because it takes a lot of energy to suck 100 million gallons of ocean water into a plant and pressurize it through little tubes. And that’s where the opposition comes in.

    “Well, on a macro level, we just think that there are less expensive, less environmentally damaging ways to increase our water supply,” says Rick Wilson with Surfrider Foundation. The nonprofit environmental group opposes the Carlsbad project. One reason, Wilson says, is that all of that energy use will contribute to global warming. More directly, he says, the intake pipe for the plant will suck in sea life, killing marine animals. “And there’s also the concern in some cases about the discharge from these plants,” he says. Discharge is the extra salty leftover water that’s pumped back into the ocean. Those concerns have stalled plans for another desalination site farther up the coast, in Huntington Beach. Carlsbad though, has met all of the state’s requirements. Still, Wilson says, money would be better spent on conservation and water recycling efforts.

    Jeffrey Kightlinger, the general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, says the district has invested in conservation and recycling, and it has helped, but the region still needs more water to meet demand. That’s always been the case in arid California, but it’s even more so now. “There are two things that are changing the landscape for us,” he says. “One is we’ve grown a lot. We’re doing water for nearly 40 million people statewide. The second thing that really changed is climate change. It’s real. And it’s stressing our system in new ways.”

    Kightlinger says that means Californians have less time and flexibility to debate different ways of getting water, storing it and moving it to areas where it’s needed. “We don’t have time to rehash the same debates over and over and over again. We’re going to have to start investing in things for the future,” Kightlinger says. He says desalination helps, but it’s not a cure-all. It’s expensive, it does take a lot of energy and it can treat only so much water at a time. His agency gets about 30 percent of its water from Northern California through the State Water Project. “To replace that supply would require a Carlsbad plant every 4 miles between LA and San Diego,” he says. That would be 25 plants in that stretch. Statewide, 17 desalination plants are in some stage of planning on the California coast.

     

     

     

     

    Review opens door to assessing oil reserves in Atlantic
    Feb 27 2014
    Reuters

    The Obama administration laid out a framework on Thursday for assessing the amount of crude off the Atlantic coast, another step toward possibly allowing oil production in an area that has been out of reach for decades…..

     

    Bipartisan Energy Efficiency Bill Gains More Support — Could Congress Pass It?

    By Emily Atkin on February 28, 2014 climateprogress.org

    The original premise of Shaheen-Portman was simple: create a new energy-saving standards for buildings and homes, and do it in a way that both parties can agree with.

     

    Colorado Becomes The First State To Regulate Methane Emissions From Fracking

    By Kiley Kroh on February 24, 2014

    As fracking booms in Colorado, historic new rules will attempt to curb the air pollution it creates.

     

    U.S. Falling Behind As Other Countries Pass Climate Legislation, New Survey Shows

    By Rebecca Lefton, Guest Blogger on February 27, 2014

    Out of 66 countries representing 88 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, 61 have legislation aimed at cutting carbon pollution and promoting clean energy sources, according to an annual audit released Thursday.

     

     

    Drought: Feds cut water to Central Valley farmers to zero

    Kurtis Alexander Updated 6:39 am, Saturday, February 22, 2014

    A sign is seen at an intersection near Cantua Creek, California in this February 14, 2014 file photo.The worsening drought in California will for the first time force a complete cutoff of federally supplied irrigation water to most farm districts in the state’s Central Valley heartland this year, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation said on February 21, 2014. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith/Files\

    Central Valley farmers took a crippling blow Friday when U.S. officials made the unprecedented announcement that they would get no irrigation water from the federal government this year because of the drought. But growers in a region with the country’s most productive soil said the loss of one of their chief water supplies won’t be their problem alone: Consumers will be hit hard in the form of higher prices at the produce market….

     

    California Legislature sends drought relief package to Gov. Brown

    The $687.4-million emergency drought relief package would free up California’s water supplies and aid residents facing hardship due to the drought.

     

    By Melanie Mason and Patrick McGreevy LA TIMES February 27, 2014, 9:30 p.m.

    SACRAMENTO — A $687.4-million emergency drought relief package is on its way to Gov. Jerry Brown‘s desk after easily clearing the Legislature on Thursday.

    Brown and legislative leaders unveiled the proposal last week to free up the state’s water supplies and aid residents who face hardship due to the drought.

    “Today we provide significant relief,” state Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) said in a floor speech. “This is a lot of money and will help thousands of California families dealing with the drought.” Although recent storms have offered slight relief, the state has been suffering from dramatically parched conditions. Last year was the driest calendar year on record in California.

    The proposal would direct $15 million to address water scarcity. The state Department of Public Health last week identified 10 rural areas at risk of acute drinking water shortages due to the drought…..

     

     

    California ocean salmon season looks promising

    Sacramento River fall Chinook abundance forecast is large

    by Dan Bacher Feb 27 2014
    In spite of the record drought, the forecast for recreational and commercial salmon fishing year on the California coast from Horse Mountain in Humboldt County to below Monterey looks relatively good, according to data released at a California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) meeting in Santa Rosa on Wednesday. The majority of the fish caught in this region are Sacramento River fall-run Chinook salmon stocks, the driver of West Coast salmon fisheries. The ocean abundance forecast is 634,650 Chinook salmon, less than last year’s forecast of 865,525, but still a promising number. “The abundance forecast is large,” said Michael O’Farrell of the National Marine Fisheries Service. “Our preliminary prediction is 328,567 spawners that would return to the Sacramento River and tributaries if the 2013 regulations were in place this year.” .. Based on the preliminary data released on Wednesday and other scientific information, the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) will craft three options for ocean salmon seasons in its upcoming meeting at the Double Tree Hotel in Sacramento March 7-13. The Council will then make a final decision on the seasons at its April meeting. For more information, go to: http://www.pcouncil.org/….

     

    Source: Investigators think Rancho Feeding sold beef from cows with cancer

    By JEREMY HAY THE PRESS DEMOCRAT February 26, 2014, 3:00 AM

    A criminal investigation into Rancho Feeding Corporation is examining allegations the Petaluma plant slaughtered cows with cancer and illegally sold the carcasses as healthy meat, according to a source with knowledge of the probe.”Basically, Rancho had figured out a way to sell meat for profit that they would otherwise have had to destroy,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity….The slaughterhouse, which closed Feb. 9, is at the center of an international recall of all beef and veal produced at the plant in 2013, some 8.7 million pounds of meat. No illnesses linked to the meat have been reported. The company is being investigated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the USDA’s inspector general and the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

    The USDA has said the plant is under investigation for “intermittent circumvention” of the inspection process, which involves repeated examinations of the animal from the time it leaves the truck at the slaughterhouse through its death and processing. The scheme described by the source would have had to completely bypass the inspection process or else involve the USDA veterinarian or inspector assigned to the slaughterhouse, a former USDA supervising veterinarian said…..The recall has ensnared tens of thousands of pounds of meat belonging to custom beef ranchers whose cattle were slaughtered at Rancho separately from the dairy cows that Rancho bought, killed and sold under its own brand. On Wednesday evening, Amaral’s attorney called on the USDA to release meat that Rancho processed for Bolinas rancher Bill Niman and other custom beef producers who hired the Petaluma company to slaughter their cattle. Niman has more than $300,000 worth of frozen beef slaughtered at Rancho that his BN Ranch cannot sell because of the recall. “None of Bill Niman’s cows, or the meat from other local custom beef ranchers, were in any way tainted, diseased or uninspected. The records and documentation obtained by federal investigators support this fact,” attorney Jeffrey Bornstein said in a statement….

    The USDA has been silent on most matters related to the recall and investigation. That has frustrated North Coast legislators trying to help Niman and other ranchers prove their beef was properly inspected, fully healthy and not mingled with diseased meat. “If we could just get some facts from USDA I think these producers could demonstrate that. But the problem is USDA has put out this sweeping recall and won’t tell anyone what happened,” said Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, who was briefed Monday by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “The secretary felt that he was unable to share specifics with us because of the pending investigation,” Huffman said. “I get no facts beyond what was already reported in the media.” “They have been pretty tight-lipped on anything,” said Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, who was on the telephone briefing with Vilsack.

     

     

     

     

    U.S. Approves Two Huge Solar Projects On Public Lands In California

    By Emily Atkin on February 21, 2014

    Before President Obama’s election in 2008, there had been no solar projects approved on public lands. With these two approvals, there are now 50….

     

    Seismic Airgun Blasts Would Harm Ocean Wildlife, Find Little Atlantic Oil

    By Ari Phillips on February 28, 2014

    On Thursday the Interior Department set the stage for controversial seismic tests to locate fossil fuels off the Atlantic coast. If found, the region will be subject to similar risks as 2010′s Deepwater Horizon disaster.

     

    Still-fresh remnants of Exxon Valdez oil 25 years after oil spill, found protected by boulders
    (February 26, 2014) — Twenty-five years after the infamous Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound, beaches on the Alaska Peninsula hundreds of kilometers from the incident still harbor small hidden pockets of surprisingly unchanged oil, according to new research. … > full story

    Sugarcane converted to cold-tolerant, oil-producing crop
    (February 24, 2014) — A multi-institutional team reports that it can increase sugarcane’s geographic range, boost its photosynthetic rate by 30 percent and turn it into an oil-producing crop for biodiesel production. … > full story

    Tesla sees electric future outside the automobile

    David R. Baker SF Chronicle Updated 5:21 am, Friday, February 28, 2014

    Tesla Motors’ voracious appetite for growth reaches beyond cars. The upstart automaker also wants to build batteries capable of powering homes or businesses, an emerging market that could even surpass Tesla’s core business making high-end electric sedans. Tesla recently disclosed plans for a $5 billion “Gigafactory” to make advanced batteries for its next generation of cars. But the Palo Alto firm also said it will use some of the lithium-ion batteries for “stationary storage applications,” according to documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. “We also plan to start selling (batteries) for use in homes, commercial sites and utilities,” the company said in the filing. “The applications for these battery systems include backup power, peak demand reduction, demand response and wholesale electric market services.” CEO Elon Musk touts Tesla’s battery pack technology, developed with help from Panasonic, as the best in the business. Speaking Thursday at a public forum in San Francisco, Musk said Tesla has been developing battery packs for homes, where they can be paired with rooftop solar panels to store electricity during the day for use at night. Combining cheap, reliable and compact storage with aesthetically pleasing panels, he said, could be a game-changer for the solar industry….

     

     

     

    1. RESOURCES and REFERENCES

     
     

     

    UPCOMING CONFERENCES: 

     

    Climate-Smart Conservation  NWF/NCTC ALC3195 

    March 4-6, 2014 Sacramento State University – Modoc Hall. Sacramento, CA 3 days /no tuition for this class.

    The target audience includes conservation practitioners and natural resource managers working at multiple scales to ensure the ongoing effectiveness of their work in an era of climate change. This course is based on a forthcoming guide to the principles and practice of Climate-Smart Conservation. This publication is the product of an expert workgroup on climate change adaptation convened by the National Wildlife Federation in collaboration with the FWS’s National Conservation Training Center and other partners (see sidebar).  …Register online at http://training.fws.gov . In partnership with staff from National Wildlife Federation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey, National Park Service, Environmental Protection Agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Forest Service, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Conservation Society, The Nature Conservancy, EcoAdapt, Geos Institute, and Point Blue Conservation Science.

    Contact for Registration Questions: Jill DelVecchio at 304/876-7424 or jill_delvecchio@fws.gov  

    Contact for Content Questions: Christy Coghlan at 304/876-7438 or christy_coghlan@fws.gov

     

    Communicating Climate Change: Climate Engagement Strategies and Problem Solving

    San Francisco Bay NERR  March 4, 2014 Contact: Heidi Nutters, 415-338-3511 -or-
    Elkhorn Slough NERR   March 6, 2014
    Contact: Virginia Guhin, 831-274-8700  Please read the details carefully as this 1-day training is being offered in two locations!

    Sponsored by: Elkhorn Slough and San Francisco Bay Coastal Training Programs Instructor: Cara Pike, TRIG’s Social Capital Project/Climate Access

     

    Soil Science Society of America ecosystems services conference–abstracts are now being invited and are due by 12/1/2013.

    March 6-9, 2014 Sheraton Grand Hotel, Sacramento, CA Sponsored by the Ecological Society of America, American Geophysical Union, and US Geological Survey. More info is available here:  https://www.soils.org/meetings/specialized/ecosystem-services

     

    Cartographic Design for Geographic Information Systems (GIS)March 14-15, 2014, from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

    Center for Integrated Spatial Research at the University of California, Santa Cruz– The Elkhorn Slough Coastal Training Program

    Registration fee: $500 Teacher: Tim Norris, Cartography Consultant, PhD Candidate

     

    WATER RESOURCES MANAGEMENT  2014 Conference

    North (SF) Bay Watershed Association  Friday, April 11, 2014  NOVATO, CA  8:00 AM to 4:30 PM PDT

    The conference will bring together key participants from around the North Bay to focus on how we can work together to manage our water resources.

    Keynote Speakers

    • Mark Cowin, Director, CA Department of Water Resources
    • Jared Huffman, U.S. Congressman, California 2nd District
    • Felicia Marcus, Chair, State Water Resources Control Board

    For more information or questions contact: Elizabeth Preim-Rohtla North Bay Watershed Association nbwa@marinwater.org 415-945-1475

     

    EARTH DAY 2014

    Stanford experts from a range of disciplines will discuss the interconnections and interactions among humanity’s need for and use of climate, energy, food, water, and environmental resources…..

     

    Southern Sierra Fire and Hydroclimate Workshop

    April 22-24, 2014 Yosemite Valley, CA

    This workshop is focused on developing an integrated view of the physical landscape, climate effects, hydrology and fire regimes of the Sierra Nevada.

     

    Sanctuary Currents Symposium; Marine Debris: How do you pitch in?
    Saturday April 26, 2014, University Center, California State University Monterey Bay

    Research Posters: Call for abstracts will occur in January.  Visit the Sanctuary Currents Symposium website for updates and information: Sanctuary Currents Symposium

     

    Scenario Planning toward Climate Change Adaptation (pdf) WORKSHOP May 6-8, 2014 NCTC, Shepherdstown, West Virginia

    This overview course will introduce the core elements of scenario planning and expose participants to a diversity of approaches and specific scenario development techniques that incorporate both qualitative and quantitative components.

     


    Ecosystems, Economy and Society: How large-scale restoration can stimulate sustainable development (in DC)

    29 – 30 MAY 2014 U.S. National Academy of Sciences, Washington DC, USA

     

    99th Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America
    Sacramento, California  August 10-15, 2014  http://www.esa.org/sacramento

     

    California Adaptation Forum 
    August 18-20, 2014
    .

    This two-day forum will build off a successful National Adaptation Forum held in Colorado in 2013. The attendance of many California leaders there underscored the need for a California-focused event, which will be held every other year to complement the biennial national conference.  To register go to:  https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/886364449

     

     

    BOOKS:

     

    ‘Water 4.0,’ by David Sedlak

    Kate Galbraith SF Chronicle Book Review Updated 5:08 pm, Friday, February 21, 2014

    Water 4.0 The Past, Present, and Future of the World’s Most Vital Resource

    By David Sedlak

    (Yale University Press; 332 pages; $28.50)

    With the turn of a tap, clean water flows out. With the flush of a toilet, waste travels to a plant for treatment. It all seems so simple and obvious.

    And yet, as UC Berkeley Professor David Sedlak explains in his fact-packed new book, “Water 4.0,” such conveniences are really a marvel of engineering, built on centuries of trial and (often) error. More improvements are urgently needed as new challenges like climate change loom. So Sedlak’s effort to engage the public on this oft-neglected subject is welcome.

    Sedlak’s focus is city water systems, and he begins with the ancient Romans. They built an impressive aqueduct network, albeit capped off with lead pipes and fountains, to support Rome’s growing population. Subsequent centuries brought efforts to solve the overlapping problems of waste removal and drinking-water quality – challenges made more urgent amid outbreaks of diseases like cholera and typhoid.

     


    ‘The Sixth
    Extinction,’ by Elizabeth Kolbert – San Francisco
    Chronicle



    San Francisco Chronicle Review by Mary Ellen Hannibal Updated 5:03 pm, Friday, February 7, 2014.

    “There is grandeur in this view of life,” concludes Charles Darwin in his opus “On the Origin of Species.” “… From so simple a beginning, endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved.” Darwin was right about many things, including the mechanism by which the plenitude of life we know as biodiversity came to thrive on this planet. Unfortunately for us, his picture of a continuously rich congregation of interacting species has hit a big roadblock.  ….. In the West, the lack of big teeth on the landscape actually has an impact on the water system, since the over-browsing deer and elk erode the banks of creeks and rivers, and pave the way for invasive plants to further degrade nature’s operations there.  Finally, while there is probably no hope for many of the Earth’s creatures no matter what we do right now, we certainly can stem this extinction crisis. With any hope, Kolbert’s readers will not be able to sleep until we all do our part to protect habitat for our co-travelers through what Darwin rightly called Earth’s grandeur. As climate change forces species to adjust how and where they live, we can help them by protecting enough natural places for them to do so.

     

    Mary Ellen Hannibal is the author of “The Spine of the Continent: The Race to Save America’s Last, Best Wilderness,” and winner of Stanford’s Knight-Risser Prize in Western Environmental Journalism. E-mail: books@sfchronicle.com

     

     

    Thinking Like a Planet: The Land Ethic and the Earth Ethic

    Environmental Philosopher Baird Callicott has recently published a new book entitled Thinking Like a Planet: The Land Ethic and the Earth Ethic, now available from Oxford University Press. In this book, Callicott develops a new moral philosophy that is capable of engaging the most urgent and otherwise intractable ethical concern of the first century of the new millennium: global climate change. He updates and expands Aldo Leopold’s land ethic to make it relevant to contemporary concerns with regard to climate change.

     

     

    JOBS:

     

    POINT BLUE: CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER

     

     

     

    1. OTHER NEWS OF INTEREST

     

    Ancient ‘great leap forward’ for life in the open ocean: Cyanobacteria sheds light on how complex life evolved on earth
    (February 27, 2014) — Plankton in the Earth’s oceans received a huge boost when microorganisms capable of creating soluble nitrogen ‘fertilizer’ directly from the atmosphere diversified and spread throughout the open ocean. This event occurred at around 800 million years ago and it changed forever how carbon was cycled in the ocean. … > full story

    Byproducts of bacteria-causing gum disease incite oral cancer growth, study shows
    (February 25, 2014) — Researchers have discovered how byproducts in the form of small fatty acids from two bacteria prevalent in gum disease incite the growth of deadly Kaposi’s sarcoma-related lesions and tumors in the mouth. High levels of these bacteria are found in the saliva of people with periodontal disease, and at lower levels in those with good oral health — further evidence of the link between oral and overall physical health. The discovery could lead to early saliva testing for the bacteria, which, if found, could be treated and monitored for signs of cancer and before it develops into a malignancy, the researchers say. … > full story

    Different eggs in adolescent girls, adult women
    (February 26, 2014) — Are the eggs produced by adolescent girls the same as the ones produced by adult women? A recent study shows compelling evidence that there are two completely distinct types of eggs in the mammalian ovary — ‘the first wave’ and ‘the adult wave.’ The first wave of eggs, which starts immediately after birth, contributes to the onset of puberty and provides fertilizable eggs into the transition from adolescence to adulthood. In contrast, the adult wave remains in a state of dormancy until activated during the adult life and then provides eggs throughout the entire reproductive lifespan. … > full story

     

     

    Bird’s-eye view

    Lynne Parks explores loss of migratory songbirds in BMA exhibit

     

    Water filter from the sapwood in pine tree branches
    (February 26, 2014) — If you’ve run out of drinking water during a lakeside camping trip, there’s a simple solution: Break off a branch from the nearest pine tree, peel away the bark, and slowly pour lake water through the stick. The improvised filter should trap any bacteria, producing fresh, uncontaminated water. In fact, scientists have discovered that this low-tech filtration system can produce up to four liters of drinking water a day — enough to quench the thirst of a typical person. The researchers demonstrate that a small piece of sapwood can filter out more than 99 percent of the bacteria E. coli from water. … > full story

     

    Why dark chocolate is good for your heart
    (February 27, 2014) — It might seem too good to be true, but dark chocolate is good for you and scientists now know why. Dark chocolate helps restore flexibility to arteries while also preventing white blood cells from sticking to the walls of blood vessels. Both arterial stiffness and white blood cell adhesion are known factors that play a significant role in atherosclerosis. What’s more, the scientists also found that increasing the flavanol content of dark chocolate did not change this effect. … > full story

     

     

    1. IMAGES OF THE WEEK

     

     

     

     

     

     

    CA BLM WILDLIFE TRIVIA answer and related websites

    Gray whales feed on which of the following?

    (c) small crustaceans and tube worms found in ocean sediments.




    SOURCE: Gray Whale Fact Sheet
    (American Cetacian Society Webpage) http://acsonline.org/fact-sheets/gray-whale/

    RELATED: Gray Whale Population Studies
    (NOAA Website) http://ow.ly/tNwq1

    RELATED: National Marine Sancutuary Foundation
    (Facebook Page)
    Great blog post on national marine sanctuaries from our friends at the National Aquarium! http://ow.ly/tNwWE

     

    ————

    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.

     

  5. Aldo Leopold’s Land Ethic- the Earth Ethic- expanded to address climate change

    Leave a Comment

     

     

    Thinking Like a Planet: The Land Ethic and the Earth Ethic

    Environmental Philosopher Baird Callicott has recently published a new book entitled Thinking Like a Planet: The Land Ethic and the Earth Ethic, now available from Oxford University Press. In this book, Callicott develops a new moral philosophy that is capable of engaging the most urgent and otherwise intractable ethical concern of the first century of the new millennium: global climate change. He updates and expands Aldo Leopold’s land ethic to make it relevant to contemporary concerns with regard to climate change.

  6. Desalination- from California to Australia—water, energy, climate, wildlife perspectives

    Leave a Comment

     

    Desalination plants a pricey option if drought persists

    Kevin Fagan SF Chroncle Updated 10:52 pm, Saturday, February 15, 2014

    As the drought bakes its way toward a fourth year, the state has a string of secret weapons in the works that could supply millions of gallons of new drinking water and help stave off disaster: desalination plants. Seventeen plants are in planning stages along the coast to convert salt water from the ocean or bays, including one near Concord that would serve every major water agency in the Bay Area. That plant is tentatively targeted to open in 2020, but could be kick-started earlier in an emergency, officials say – and once online, would gush at least 20 million gallons a day of drinkable water. Starting up this string of desalination plants would be no easy skate, though.

     

    Machines that filter salt out of water still face the same opposition they have for generations from critics who say they are too expensive to run, kill fish as they suck in briny water, and spew greenhouse gases into the air from the energy they require to run. But in recent years, as technology and techniques for desalination have improved, such plants have gained momentum – enough so that in Carlsbad near San Diego, the biggest desalination facility in the Western Hemisphere is under construction and set to begin operation in two years.  The $1 billion plant will tap the biggest water tank around, the Pacific Ocean. It will produce 50 million gallons of potable water daily, supplying more than 110,000 customers throughout San Diego County. Another large plant, with a potential price tag of $400 million, could begin construction in Monterey County by 2018. It would be near the only desalination plant in California that fills the needs of an entire municipality – the one that has been supplying water to Sand City, population 334, since 2010. “It’s a miracle how we managed to get this plant,” said Sand City Mayor David Pendergrass. “If we didn’t have it, the whole area would be in trouble. We’re not under any rationing here, but then we’ve been practicing conservation for years already, so we are responsible about our water use.

    “I would absolutely recommend desalination for other areas.”

     

    Bay Area project

    Two hours north of Sand City, there is cautious enthusiasm for the $150 million Bay Area Regional Desalination Plant – as well as serious reservations. The biggest water agencies in the area, including San Francisco’s, have been developing the plant since 2003 and ran a successful small pilot version of it three years ago to make sure the location would work. The plant would sit in windswept Mallard Slough outside Bay Point and draw from delta waters flowing into Suisun Bay. “Certainly, the project is years out from being done, but it could be in the back of people’s minds as a ‘what if’ – and if we got into dire straits, money could be mobilized fast to finish it,” said Steve Ritchie, assistant general manager for water for the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. San Francisco has been developing the plant with the East Bay Municipal Utility District, the Santa Clara Valley Water District, the Contra Costa Water District and the Zone 7 Water Agency, which serves the Livermore region. So far the consortium has spent $2.5 million in mostly state grant money on the plan. If built, the plant would be only a supplemental source for districts that collectively distribute about 750 million gallons of water a day. But that still makes it an important potential weapon in the fight for dwindling supply, proponents said.

     

    The agencies’ officials emphasized they would explore other options such as conservation, recycling and tapping new groundwater wells before turning to desalination. But even the prospect of the plant opening has some environmentalists concerned. New plants require electricity that puts more greenhouse gases in the air, when simple conservation methods should be encouraged instead, some say. There is also the possibility that the pumps could suck in and kill small marine organisms and fish such as the endangered delta smelt, although the Concord-area plant’s designers say that’s unlikely because of its location at the side of a flowing channel.

     

    Environmental fears

    Also, though the delta water at Mallard Slough is brackish water rather than seawater – meaning it contains less salt and requires less energy to screen – the salinity level is expected to increase in coming decades as sea levels rise. And as the salinity goes up, so does the cost of screening the water. That cost would probably be passed on to water customers. Similar environmental and cost concerns over the past couple of years have stalled plans to build desalination plants in Santa Cruz and Marin County. “We actually support desalination when properly used, but you should look at the other options first,” said Charlotte Allen, co-chairwoman of the Sierra Club
    Bay Chapter Water Committee.

    The delta water plant – like the other 16 proposed along the coast and a handful of tiny plants already in use besides Sand City – would use a method called reverse osmosis, in which salty water is pulled in through filters. Typically, it takes two gallons of salty water to produce one gallon of potable water…..With better screens and technology that helps the plants power themselves by recycling the energy used to suck in water – in a way, like a hybrid car regenerates power from its own motion – the typical cost of running desalination plants can dip below $2,000 an acre-foot. Because pulling up groundwater from wells and recycling water can now cost the same or more, desalination is suddenly relatively affordable for many areas – such as the Bay Area.

     

    Surface water from reservoirs and mountain runoff, in plentiful years, can be as cheap as $100 an acre-foot. But that bargain has become scarce in the drought. “In most areas of California we have exhausted a lot of the obvious water sources, and desalination is certainly an option – but it tends to be among the most expensive, even though the price has come down from what it was in 1991,” said Heather Cooley, a senior water researcher with the Pacific Research Institute, a nonprofit in Oakland. “Certainly there are other options that can be looked at first.” She also noted that with no sizable desalination plants operating in California, there hasn’t been much study on the full effect they could have on the coastline.  “I would argue there is a risk in building too early or too big,” Cooley said. “Our understanding is improving. We know the technology works. But the challenge is that it is not appropriate in every location. “It would be better to go forward very carefully.”

     

    Online: Complete drought coverage at www.sfgate.com/drought.

     

     

    Parched California Pours Mega-Millions Into Desalination Tech

    By John Roach NBC News February 17, 2014

    Besieged by drought and desperate for new sources of water, California towns are ramping up plans to convert salty ocean water into drinking water to quench their long-term thirst. The plants that carry out the high-tech “desalination” process can cost hundreds of millions of dollars, but there may be few other choices for the parched state. Where the Pacific Ocean spills into the Agua Hedionda Lagoon in Carlsbad, Calif., construction is 25 percent complete on a $1 billion project to wring 50 million gallons of freshwater a day from the sea and pour it into a water system that serves 3.1 million people. Desalination was a dreamy fiction during the California Water Wars of the early 20th century that inspired the classic 1974 movie “Chinatown.” In the 1980s, however, the process of forcing seawater through reverse osmosis membranes to filter out salt and other impurities became a reliable, even essential, tool in regions of the world desperate for water….

    Cost and environmental concerns 

    “The trend of imported water (pricing) is definitely going up,” Heather Cooley, co-director of the water program at the Pacific Institute, an Oakland-based environmental think tank, told NBC News. “We have some major infrastructure investments needed for imported water in California. I don’t have a crystal ball for what it is going to look like, but no doubt it will raise the price of imported water.” The pending price hikes for imported water as well as its uncertain reliability, she explained, are compelling reasons for municipalities to consider desalination. But, she noted, “we can’t look at these issues in a vacuum; we have to look at all the options that are available.” The sentiment is echoed by the San Clemente, Calif.-based Surfrider Foundation, which has opposed several desalination projects, including Carlsbad, on environmental grounds. For example, sucking up large amounts of seawater can kill fish and other creatures as water passes through intake screens. “Our general position is there is just a lot more that can be done on both the conservation side and the water recycling side before you get to [desalination] and we feel, in a lot of cases, that we haven’t really explored all of those options,” Rick Wilson, the organization’s coastal management coordinator, told NBC News….

    Ultimately, she said, seawater desalination will become part of the solution to California’s ongoing water woes — something to consider along with other supply options, including increased wastewater recycling. “The key questions,” Cooley said of the desalination plants, “are when do you build them and how large do you build them?”

     

    WATCH: Parched from Drought, California’s Reservoirs Nearly Empty

     

     

    Water-Cleaning Technology Could Help Farmers

    By TODD WOODY NY Times February 17, 2014, Monday

    A project developed by WaterFX, a start-up in drought-stricken California, exploits two things the Central Valley possesses in abundance — fallow land and sunshine — to cut desalinization costs

    FIREBAUGH, Calif. (Fresno) — The giant solar receiver installed on a wheat field here in California’s agricultural heartland slowly rotates to track the sun and capture its energy. The 377-foot array, however, does not generate electricity but instead creates heat used to desalinate water. It is part of a project developed by a San Francisco area start-up called WaterFX that is tapping an abundant, if contaminated, resource in this parched region: the billions of gallons of water that lie just below the surface. Financed by the Panoche Water District with state funds, the $1 million solar thermal desalinization plant is removing impurities from drainage water at half the cost of traditional desalinization, according to Aaron Mandell, a founder of WaterFX. If the technology proves commercially viable — a larger plant is to be built this year — it could offer some relief to the West’s long-running water wars. WaterFX faces a daunting and urgent task. The water is tainted with toxic levels of salt, selenium and other heavy metals that wash down from the nearby Panoche foothills, and is so polluted that it must be constantly drained to keep it from poisoning crops.

    A solar receiver in a field in Firebaugh, Calif. It is part of a project developed by WaterFX to cleanse water at a lower cost than traditional desalinization. Peter DaSilva for The New York Times ….

    This year, farmers in the Panoche district will receive no water. Last year, they received only 20 percent of their allocation, Mr. Falaschi said. In 2012, the allocation was 40 percent. Farmers elsewhere who rely on the State Water Project to irrigate 750,000 acres of farmland will also receive no water in 2014. For agricultural water districts like Panoche, solar thermal desalinization promises to solve two persistent problems. One is a chronic water shortage, even in rainy years, as regulators divert water to cities and for environmental purposes, like protecting endangered fish. The other is the growing salt contamination of agricultural land that has led farmers to abandon more than 100,000 acres in the Central Valley in recent years. For decades, water districts like Panoche have drained salty groundwater and disposed of it in places like the San Joaquin River. But new environmental restrictions ban that practice. WaterFX could reduce the volume of drainage water that needs to be diverted while providing a new supply of fresh water for irrigation that is not dependent on the vagaries of snowpack and rainfall in far-off parts of the state. “This subsurface groundwater is a possible gold mine,” Mr. Falaschi said. “You’re taking a water supply that is unusable now and you’re converting it to a usable source.”
    The desalinated water is of bottled-water quality, purer than what is needed for irrigation…..

     

     

    Desalination destroys the environment and isn’t a quick fix for Southern California’s water woes

    Angeles Chapter- Sierra Club Blog Monday, March 4, 2013 By Ray Hiemstra the Orange County Conservation Committee Chair for the Angeles Chapter Sierra Club.

    Many people in Southern California think that we are in a perpetual drought and will not have enough water to sustain ourselves. Unfortunately, this common fear is fueling misguided support for ocean desalination, the process of removing salt from seawater to create potable water. Our fresh water supply is often wasted and underutilized, especially when 60% percent of the water we produce goes towards landscaping purposes, not human sustenance. We need to use what we have wisely, and consider innovative, cost effective and environmentally friendly supply options. There are currently 16 proposed desalination plants in California, and the idea is spreading. Desalination is the most environmentally damaging, energy intensive and expensive water supply option. In Huntington Beach, Poseidon Resources, a Connecticut-based corporation, plans to privatize a public good, and use outdated technologies to make a profit at the expense of ocean ecosystems and ratepayers wallets. Poseidon has never successfully built a large desalination plant before; they have only demonstrated that they are good at making closed-door deals.

    Poseidon plans to use open ocean intake pipes, which the State of California has required all coastal power plants to discontinue using by 2020. Open ocean intakes suck in and kill billions of fish eggs, adult fish and other marine life. Not only is desalination harmful when taking water in, but also when it expels hyper saline brine, the salt by-product of the desalination process. In addition to a very high concentration of salt, brine also contains other pollutants such as heavy metals that can bioaccumulate throughout the food chain.  According to a study by the Pacific Institute, “direct discharges into estuaries and the ocean disrupt natural salinity balances and cause environmental damage of sensitive marshes or fisheries.” The brine discharge from the Poseidon plant will cause a dead zone off the coast of Huntington Beach. (For more information on opposition to the Poseidon plan, go to nowaterdeal.com.

    Desalination not only harms marine resources, but it also affects our climate through increased greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Desalination is the most energy intensive water supply option. The Poseidon Huntington Beach plant would use enough energy to power 30,000 homes. Twenty percent of California’s cumulative energy demand goes to moving and treating water. In a 2008 report, the California Air Resources Board noted that a way for the state to reach its reduced GHG goals is to replace existing water supply and treatment processes with more energy efficient alternatives. Desalination is a step in the wrong direction if we want to reach this goal.

    A recently approved Poseidon desalination plant in Carlsbad was originally estimated to cost around $250 million; now it is nearly a $1 billion project. The water to be produced at the plant costs 4 to 8 times more than other water sources such as groundwater or recycled water. And rate payers are bound to a 30- year contract to buy the water. Desalination may be one of the tools that water agencies and the public choose to pursue in the future but not before fully exploring and adopting the less expensive and proven options such as promoting water use efficiency, or funding the expanded use of recycling systems such as the Ground Water Replenishment System in Fountain Valley. The system takes highly treated wastewater that would have been discharged into the ocean and purifies it at a very affordable rate. In fact, the cost of water, per acre-foot, produced at the replenishment system costs one-third of what distributed water produced from a desalination plant would cost. Capturing urban runoff from the many high volume creeks and streams throughout the region, which dump hundreds of millions of gallons of polluted water a day into the ocean, is a viable and cost-effective alternative. Richard Atwater, Executive Director of the Southern California Water Committee recently stated that Southern California needs to “recognize the importance and potential of stormwater as a supplemental water supply source to what we currently import”. Much of this water should be captured and recycled to provide indirect potable water and reduce pollution to our ocean, which is required by law anyway

    Another flaw of building a desalination plant in Huntington Beach is that the Orange County Sanitation District releases millions of gallons of secondary treated water a day into the ocean less than a mile from the site for the desalination plant. Why treat wastewater, release it into the ocean, then spend $1 billion to build a plant that sucks that same water back in just to take the salt out of it? The water coming out of the sanitation district’s facility is already being treated at a level that it could be used as an indirect potable water source to expand the Ground Water Replenishment System.

    Water reuse can help better utilize our current water supply, but we can also implement more conservation measures on the demand side. A cost-effective example is the move some cities are making to stop using potable water for landscaping. Reclaimed water is clean and safe enough to be utilized for irrigation. With the elimination of overwatering and the use of modern landscaping featuring California Friendly vegetation, we can drastically reduce the amount of water needed for landscaping and use the saved water for people and industry. The resulting water savings would help protect our current water supply, save ratepayers money, and reduce the need to create, or import more water. The Sierra Club realizes that desalination is a necessary option for the future, in regions that have exhausted all other options. What we are opposed to is using destructive 1960s technology that destroys our fish stocks and pollutes our ocean. Other countries have implemented desalination as a last resort when all other options have been tried. Hopefully California will do the same.  The Poseidon Huntington Beach project will be the turning point on desalination is done in California and your help is needed. Watch for messages from the Sierra Club Angeles Chapter regarding opportunities to send in letters or attend meetings to stop Poseidon and protect our environment.

     

     

    Desalination- overview (2005)

    This website outlines various methods of desalination, their operation, costs, ecological impacts, and benefits as well as drawbacks.
    This website was developed for the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire course ENPH 441:Water and Wastewater by Karen Bartosh,  Stefan Boerboom, and Lisa Brzenski, and Michael Checkai.  ….  Any concerns over copyrighted content or inaccuracies may be forwarded to boerbosc@uwec.edu. Information on this website was compiled December 2005.

    Desalination is seen by some as a solution to the problem of a shortage of potable water. In the state of California alone the population is expected to increase by 60,000 people per year. In an effort to meet the demand for fresh water, California already has 11 seawater desalination plants in operation along the cost. An additional 21 plants are in the planning stages. Desalination technology is becoming more beneficial in the cost aspect. Over the last decade the price has gone down from $2,000 per acre foot in 1990 to $800 in 2003. (An acre foot is equivalent to 326,000 gallons or about one households use in a year). As an incentive to increase the production of desalination plants, the Metropolitan Water District in Southern California is offering subsidies of $250 per acre foot. States such as Florida, Texas, Hawaii, and New Mexico are also applying desalination technology to meet their water demand needs. There are various regulatory bodies overseeing the planning, building, and maintenance of desalination plants in the United States. Some bodies include the EPA, Coast Guard, and the Army Corps of Engineers. Specifically California desalinations are regulated under the California Coastal Act, among others. Details of this act are discussed below.

    California Costal Act and Environmental Impacts
    Two sections of the California Costal Act specifically address the issues of marine life and water quality and are stated as follows:
    Section 30230:
    “Marine resources shall be maintained, enhanced, and where feasible restored. Special protection shall be gives to areas and species of special biological or economic significance. Use of marine environment shall be carried out in a manner that will sustain the biological productivity of coastal waters and that will maintain healthy populations of all species of marine organisms adequate for long-term commercial, recreational, scientific, and educational purposes.”
    Section 30231:
    “The biological productivity and the quality of coastal waters, streams, wetlands, estuaries, and lakes appropriate to maintain optimum populations of marine organisms and for the protection of human health shall be maintained and , where feasible, resorted through, among other means, minimizing adverse effects of waste water discharges and entrainment, controlling runoff, prevention depletion of ground water supplies and substantial interference with surface water flow, encouraging waste water reclamation, maintaining natural vegetation buffer areas the protect riparian habitats, and minimizing alteration of natural streams.” http://www.coastal.ca.gov/energy/14a-3-2004-desalination.pdf

    Intake and Discharge
    In the process of reverse osmosis, the technique used most in the US, for every 2 gallons of intake water, 1 gallon of potable water is produced and 1 gallon of brine is produced. Intake, the first step in desalination, and discharge can have the potential to adversely harm marine life. The California Costal Act states that the water and marine life should at the minimum be maintained, a task which intake and discharge practices can impede on. During intake, marine life can be harmed or even killed when they are pulled into the intake pipe and are unable to escape due to the large water velocity.

    Potential Solutions:
    A solution to the intake problem is the potential use of a subsurface intake such as a beachwell or an open water intake. In areas where the soil types consist of clay, silt or unfractured rock, this alternative would not work. Ideally sandy soil would be needed to act as a natural filter. The city of Long Beach, California has proposed a system that would reduce the harmful effects of intake. They plan to use a system of pipes located underneath the sand in the ocean. Sand acts as a natural filter to the water being drawn into the plant. This system can also be used for the highly concentrated brine byproduct of desalination that is discharged. http://www.lbwater.org/desalination/Under.html

    Other Solutions:
    1. Reducing the intake velocity- Fish and other organisms are able to escape or avoid being pulled in when the velocity is below .5 feet per second.
    2. Velocity Caps-Fish have the ability to detect changes in horizontal velocity, but have a difficult time detecting changes coming vertically. Most intake systems pull water from above, making it difficult for the fish to detect. Placing a cap on the intake and leaving a gap between the intake and the cap allows for a flow that can be detected by fish.
    3. Screens and fish return systems- screens placed at the landward side of the intake system allow fish to be release into an area prior to the plant. A fish return system can be implemented in this area to route the fish back to the body of water.
    Discharge:
    The brine discharged from a desalination plant can have a saline concentration of 70,000 ppm compared to the intake water of 35,000ppm. Organisms are adapted to the natural saline concentration and most of the time cannot handle the dramatic increase in concentration. Also, organisms at different stages of their lives have different sensitivity levels to saline. “Chemicals used during the desalination process include chlorine, ozone, or other biocides, various coagulants, acids, antiscalants, and others”. http://www.coastal.ca.gov/energy/14a-3-2004-desalination.pdf 

    Contaminants found in the intake water also become part of the waste stream produced through desalination. The filters and membranes used in intake and the desalination process itself collect biomass. The accumulated dead organisms are forced to become part of the plants waste.
    Solutions:
    1. Location, Location, Location! – finding a proper location for discharge is crucial. Discharge should be done in areas where the population is not sensitive to changes in water quality.
    2. Diffusers- allowing the discharge to be spread over a large area can result in faster diffusion into the water.
    It is very important to note that the environmental impacts as well as cost and benefits vary from place to place….

     

     

    AUSTRALIA AND MIDDLE EAST PERSPECTIVES:

     

    Abu Dhabi Company Searches for Greener Method of Desalination

    By SARA HAMDAN NY Times January 24, 2013, Thursday

    Masdar, a renewable energy company, is turning its attention to finding ways to remove the salt from seawater using solar power and other innovative technologies.

     

     

    Arid Australia Sips Seawater, but at a Cost

    Edwina Pickles for The New York Times Government-subsidized tanks are used to capture rainwater for home in the Australian state of Queensland, part of the response to recent drought.

    By NORIMITSU ONISHI
    Published: July 10, 2010  NY TIMES BRISBANE, Australia — In Australia, the world’s driest inhabited continent, early British explorers searching for a source of drinking water scoured the bone-dry interior for a fabled inland sea. One overeager believer even carted a whaleboat hundreds of miles from the coast, but found mostly desert inside. Today, Australians are turning in the opposite direction: the sea.  In one of the country’s biggest infrastructure projects in its history, Australia’s five largest cities are spending $13.2 billion on desalination plants capable of sucking millions of gallons of seawater from the surrounding oceans every day, removing the salt and yielding potable water. In two years, when the last plant is scheduled to be up and running, Australia’s major cities will draw up to 30 percent of their water from the sea.  The country is still recovering from its worst drought ever, a decade-long parching that the government says was deepened by climate change. With water shortages looming, other countries, including the United States and China, are also looking to the sea.

    “We consider ourselves the canary in the coal mine for climate change-induced changes to water supply systems,” said Ross Young, executive director of the Water Services Association of Australia, an umbrella group of the country’s urban water utilities. He described the $13.2 billion as “the cost of adapting to climate change.”  But desalination is also drawing fierce criticism and civic protests. Many homeowners, angry about rising water bills, and environmentalists, wary of the plants’ effect on the climate, call the projects energy-hungry white elephants. Stricter conservation measures, like mandating more efficient washing machines, would easily wring more water from existing supplies, critics say.

    ….  Besides restricting water use and subsidizing the purchase of home water tanks to capture rainwater, the state spent nearly $8 billion to create the country’s most sophisticated water supply network. It fashioned dams and a web of pipelines to connect 18 independent water utilities in a single grid. To “drought proof” the region, it built facilities for manufacturing water, by recycling wastewater, to use for industrial purposes, and by desalinating seawater. Production of desalinated water can be adjusted according to rain levels.

    “When the last of the assets were coming online, it rained, as it always does,” Mr. Dennien said, adding that the region now has enough water for the next 20 years.

    “We’ve got a method of operating the grid that the next time any sign of drought occurs, we can just,” he snapped his fingers, “build something else or turn something else on, and we’ve got enough water supply.”  Other cities are making the same bet. Perth, which opened the nation’s first desalination plant in 2006, is building a second one. Sydney’s plant started operating early this year, and plants near Melbourne and Adelaide are under construction.  Until a few years ago, most of the world’s large-scale desalination plants were in the Middle East, particularly in Saudi Arabia, though water scarcity is changing that. In the United States, where only one major plant is running, in Tampa Bay, officials are moving forward on proposed facilities in California and Texas, said Tom Pankratz, a director of the International Desalination Association, based in Topsfield, Mass. China, which recently opened its biggest desalination plant, in Tianjin, could eventually overtake Saudi Arabia as the world leader, he said.

    Many environmentalists and economists oppose any further expansion of desalination because of its price and contribution to global warming. The power needed to remove the salt from seawater accounts for up to 50 percent of the cost of desalination, and Australia relies on coal, a major emitter of greenhouse gases, to generate most of its electricity.

    Critics say desalination will add to the very climate change that is aggravating the country’s water shortage. To make desalination politically palatable, Australia’s plants are using power from newly built wind farms or higher-priced energy classified as clean. For households in cities with the new plants, water bills are expected to double over the next four years, according to the Water Services Association.

    But critics say there are cheaper alternatives. They advocate conservation measures, as well as better management of groundwater reserves and water catchments. “Almost every city which has implemented a desalination plant has nowhere near maxed out or used up their conservation potential,” said Stuart White, director of the Institute for Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology, Sydney. Even without restrictions, cities could easily save 20 percent of their water, Mr. White said.

    He said cities should practice “desalination readiness” by drawing plans to build a plant, but should carry them out only as a last resort in the event of a severe drought.

    Mr. Young of the Water Services Association said desalination in Australia costs $1.75 to $2 per cubic meter, including the costs of construction, clean energy and production. The prices are probably the world’s highest, said Mr. Pankratz of the International Desalination Association, adding that desalination was cheaper in countries with less strict environmental standards. He said the cost at a typical new plant in the world today would be about $1 per cubic meter.  Opponents of desalination say that a cheaper and environmentally friendlier alternative is recycling wastewater, though persuading people to drink it remains difficult and politically delicate. The SEQ Water Grid Manager, for instance, retreated from its initial plan to introduce recycled wastewater into its drinking reservoirs after it began raining.  “There’s a stigma against recycled water,” said David Mason, 40, a resident of Tugun.  “But since there’s only so much water in the world, and it’s been through somebody’s body or some other place over the past 250 million years, maybe it’s not that bad. At least, it might be better than desalination.”

     


    The Grass is Greener in Perth, a Water-Scarce City Adjusting to Climate Change


    Posted by Robert Glennon in Water Currents on April 10, 2012 National Geographic

    The capital of Western Australia, Perth, is at the epicenter of global climate change. The city’s strategic response offers lessons about climate change mitigation, exacerbation and adaptation. The lessons are acutely relevant to the United States, particularly California. The grass is greener and there’s lots of it in Perth, as residents who once called Great Britain home recreated lush landscapes with sprawling lawns, tidy gardens, and enormous parks. That Great Britain’s climate is cold and wet while Perth’s is hot and arid has not dampened Perth’s love affair with lawns. Nor has the soil, which is as sandy as a Florida beach rather than as loamy as an English countryside….. In 2006, Perth made a strategic choice to build a desalination plant, powered by a wind farm. The next year the city opted to build a second plant in Binningup, 150 kilometers south of Perth. This second plant will provide 100 billion liters of water every year, enough to satisfy 20 percent of Perth’s needs.

    The Water Corporation proudly notes that the Binningup Desalination Plant will rely on solar and wind credits. What is less publicized is that a coal-fired power plant will actually provide the electricity to run the desalination facility.  This irony of using coal, the biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, has not gone unnoticed and the Water Corporation and the Western Australia Department of Water have had to fend off charges of hypocrisy….. Or, in Perth’s case, it’s exacerbation and adaptation. Perth’s use of coal will exacerbate climate change by releasing lots of CO2, but it also adapts to lower river flows and plummeting groundwater tables by finding a new supply of water — the ocean.

    Perth will suffer, along with the rest of the world, from the GHGs released by the coal-fired plant. But, the consequence for climate change from the GHGs released by any single plant is trivial. It’s the combination of the small releases by millions of polluters that threatens the planet. Meanwhile, Perth gets 100 percent of the benefits from running a coal-fired desalination plant: 100 billion liters per year of fresh water.  In this framing, Perth’s decision to use coal is an example of the tragedy of the commons. The air is the common pool resource and the environmental harms are the third-party consequences (or externalities), that is, costs caused by an actor but not paid for (or internalized) by that actor. The benefits to Perth are direct and immediate (new water) and the harms are diffuse and inter-generational. That’s what makes climate change such an intractable problem.

     

    World Environment Day: Desalination and Green Energy in Australia

    Posted on 5 June 2012 by Neil Palmer, CEO National Centre for Excellence in Desalination
    Presented on World Environment Day 2012 at Sultan Qaboos University, Muscat, Oman

    Australia faced a severe and prolonged drought from 1997–2009.  It was considered to be a one in a thousand year event and became known as the “Millennium Drought”.  During this period, increasingly severe water restrictions were imposed on consumers across Australia.  Water stored in reservoirs became depleted and in some cases almost ran out. As a direct result, Governments in Australia invested heavily in climate resilient water supply technology.  This included seawater reverse osmosis desalination and waste water recycling.  The total amount invested was more than $US10 billion and resulted in construction of six major seawater desalination plants and one major indirect potable water reuse system.

    Capacity and Cost of Australia’s Major Urban Desalination and Reuse Plants

    Desalination Plant

    When
    constructed

    Capacity
    ML/d

    Cost
    $A billion

    Perth (Kwinana)

    2006

    130

    0.31

    Gold Coast (Tugun)

    2009

    142

    1.20

    Brisbane Western Corridor Water Recycling Project

    2009

    232

    2.80

    Sydney (Kurnell)

    2011

    250

    1.89

    Perth Southern (Binningup) Stages 1 and 2

    2012

    300

    1.40

    Adelaide (Pt Stanvac)

    2012

    300

    1.83

    Melbourne (Wonthaggi)

    2012

    450

    3.50

    Total

     

    1804

    12.93

    Source: ATSE: “Sustainable Water Management – Securing Australia’s Future in a Green Economy” ARC April 2012 pp 53-55

     

    A further private desalination plant of 140 ML/d capacity has been built for Citic Asia Pacific iron ore mine near Cape Preston in northern Western Australia and a new 280 ML/d plant has been approved for construction for BHP Billiton’s Olympic Dam expansion project near Whyalla in South Australia, bringing the total installed capacity to more than 2200 ML/d. This is significant by world standards and also redressements very rapid development. Following this investment in water resilient infrastructure, the Australian Government funded two research centres: The National Centre of Excellence in Desalination, Australia and the Australian Water Recycling Centre of Excellence. These Centres have each been funded $A20 million over 5 years from the Australian Government’s National Water Initiative. Desalination is sometimes termed “energy guzzling” in Australia, even though the consumption of energy for supplying a whole household with water is relatively modest (about the same as the energy used in running the household domestic refrigerator). Notwithstanding its modest power consumption, Australia’s water utilities have elected to purchase renewable wind energy to offset the entire energy budget of all the six major seawater desalination plants. It can be said that effectively these desalination plants have a negligible operating carbon footprint. In Western Australia, the Water Corporation expressed a desire for a significant portion of the renewable energy from the Southern Seawater Desalination Plant to be derived from “other than wind power” and as a result one of Australia’s largest solar power stations is being constructed near Geraldton on the mid west coast. This will supply 10% of the total energy used in the plant. Construction of the six major urban desalination plants has resulted in massive development of wind farms in Australia as a green alternative to enlarging the capacity of coal burning power stations. The National Centre of Excellence in Desalination (NCEDA) has been in operation since 2009 and has run four funding rounds with proposals being accepted from all of the 14 Participating Organisations.  The funding is competitive and is highly sought after by the academic community.  The NCEDA has a focus on commercialisation and projects that invent or develop new technology are highly regarded.

    The NCEDA has a mandate from the Government to “efficiently and affordably reduce the carbon footprint of desalination facilities and technologies”.  A number of projects are in progress to develop seriously the use of renewable resources to power desalination.
    ….  Australia has a great deal of land available close to the sea and the concept of a reliable, climate resilient water supply powered from renewable solar energy is very appealing in a world that is increasingly short of food….Australia has invested heavily in urban desalination and water recycling technology over the past ten years.  In doing so, decisions of state Governments to power the desalination plants effectively from renewable resources has provided a big boost to the renewable energy industry as well as ensuring a secure water supply is always available, but with a very low operating carbon footprint.  Research is also focusing on ways to reduce carbon footprint in a number of ways by developing renewable sources including solar, waste heat and geothermal energy to power desalination.


    Social, environmental and economic issues



     National Centre for Excellence in Desalination, Australia

    Desalination is still a relatively controversial public issue. Most of this controversy revolves around the energy intensity of desalination and concerns over the environmental impacts of brine concentrate and other waste products. The production of data and the application of scientific rigour that provides an independent analysis and assessment of controversial issues associated with desalination would go a long way toward addressing public concerns in a constructive manner. There is an opportunity for research that assists the development of a scientifically informed public awareness program. Widespread deployment of desalination, while dependent on improvements in critical system requirements, will also require attention to environmental impact, social concerns, economic policy, and other non-technical barriers….(see list of research projects)


     

  7. Conservation Science News Feb 21, 2014

    Leave a Comment

    Focus of the WeekDesalination- from California to Australia

    1-ECOLOGY, BIODIVERSITY, RELATED

    2-CLIMATE CHANGE AND EXTREME EVENTS

    3-
    POLICY

    4- RENEWABLES, ENERGY AND RELATED

    5-
    RESOURCES and REFERENCES

    6-OTHER NEWS OF INTEREST 

    7-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, www.blm.gov/ca/news/newsbytes/2012/529.html 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 the California Landscape Conservation Cooperative ListServe or the Bay Area Ecosystems Climate Change Consortium listserve to receive this or you can email me directly at Ellie Cohen, ecohen at pointblue.org if you want your name added to or dropped from this list. 

    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- Desalination- from California to Australia

     

    Desalination plants a pricey option if drought persists

    Kevin Fagan SF Chroncle Updated 10:52 pm, Saturday, February 15, 2014

    As the drought bakes its way toward a fourth year, the state has a string of secret weapons in the works that could supply millions of gallons of new drinking water and help stave off disaster: desalination plants. Seventeen plants are in planning stages along the coast to convert salt water from the ocean or bays, including one near Concord that would serve every major water agency in the Bay Area. That plant is tentatively targeted to open in 2020, but could be kick-started earlier in an emergency, officials say – and once online, would gush at least 20 million gallons a day of drinkable water. Starting up this string of desalination plants would be no easy skate, though.

     

    Machines that filter salt out of water still face the same opposition they have for generations from critics who say they are too expensive to run, kill fish as they suck in briny water, and spew greenhouse gases into the air from the energy they require to run. But in recent years, as technology and techniques for desalination have improved, such plants have gained momentum – enough so that in Carlsbad near San Diego, the biggest desalination facility in the Western Hemisphere is under construction and set to begin operation in two years. The $1 billion plant will tap the biggest water tank around, the Pacific Ocean. It will produce 50 million gallons of potable water daily, supplying more than 110,000 customers throughout San Diego County. Another large plant, with a potential price tag of $400 million, could begin construction in Monterey County by 2018. It would be near the only desalination plant in California that fills the needs of an entire municipality – the one that has been supplying water to Sand City, population 334, since 2010. “It’s a miracle how we managed to get this plant,” said Sand City Mayor David Pendergrass. “If we didn’t have it, the whole area would be in trouble. We’re not under any rationing here, but then we’ve been practicing conservation for years already, so we are responsible about our water use.

    “I would absolutely recommend desalination for other areas.”

     

    Bay Area project

    Two hours north of Sand City, there is cautious enthusiasm for the $150 million Bay Area Regional Desalination Plant – as well as serious reservations. The biggest water agencies in the area, including San Francisco’s, have been developing the plant since 2003 and ran a successful small pilot version of it three years ago to make sure the location would work. The plant would sit in windswept Mallard Slough outside Bay Point and draw from delta waters flowing into Suisun Bay. “Certainly, the project is years out from being done, but it could be in the back of people’s minds as a ‘what if’ – and if we got into dire straits, money could be mobilized fast to finish it,” said Steve Ritchie, assistant general manager for water for the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. San Francisco has been developing the plant with the East Bay Municipal Utility District, the Santa Clara Valley Water District, the Contra Costa Water District and the Zone 7 Water Agency, which serves the Livermore region. So far the consortium has spent $2.5 million in mostly state grant money on the plan. If built, the plant would be only a supplemental source for districts that collectively distribute about 750 million gallons of water a day. But that still makes it an important potential weapon in the fight for dwindling supply, proponents said.

     

    The agencies’ officials emphasized they would explore other options such as conservation, recycling and tapping new groundwater wells before turning to desalination. But even the prospect of the plant opening has some environmentalists concerned. New plants require electricity that puts more greenhouse gases in the air, when simple conservation methods should be encouraged instead, some say. There is also the possibility that the pumps could suck in and kill small marine organisms and fish such as the endangered delta smelt, although the Concord-area plant’s designers say that’s unlikely because of its location at the side of a flowing channel.

     

    Environmental fears

    Also, though the delta water at Mallard Slough is brackish water rather than seawater – meaning it contains less salt and requires less energy to screen – the salinity level is expected to increase in coming decades as sea levels rise. And as the salinity goes up, so does the cost of screening the water. That cost would probably be passed on to water customers. Similar environmental and cost concerns over the past couple of years have stalled plans to build desalination plants in Santa Cruz and Marin County. “We actually support desalination when properly used, but you should look at the other options first,” said Charlotte Allen, co-chairwoman of the Sierra Club
    Bay Chapter Water Committee.

    The delta water plant – like the other 16 proposed along the coast and a handful of tiny plants already in use besides Sand City – would use a method called reverse osmosis, in which salty water is pulled in through filters. Typically, it takes two gallons of salty water to produce one gallon of potable water…..With better screens and technology that helps the plants power themselves by recycling the energy used to suck in water – in a way, like a hybrid car regenerates power from its own motion – the typical cost of running desalination plants can dip below $2,000 an acre-foot. Because pulling up groundwater from wells and recycling water can now cost the same or more, desalination is suddenly relatively affordable for many areas – such as the Bay Area.

     

    Surface water from reservoirs and mountain runoff, in plentiful years, can be as cheap as $100 an acre-foot. But that bargain has become scarce in the drought. “In most areas of California we have exhausted a lot of the obvious water sources, and desalination is certainly an option – but it tends to be among the most expensive, even though the price has come down from what it was in 1991,” said Heather Cooley, a senior water researcher with the Pacific Research Institute, a nonprofit in Oakland. “Certainly there are other options that can be looked at first.” She also noted that with no sizable desalination plants operating in California, there hasn’t been much study on the full effect they could have on the coastline. “I would argue there is a risk in building too early or too big,” Cooley said. “Our understanding is improving. We know the technology works. But the challenge is that it is not appropriate in every location. “It would be better to go forward very carefully.”

     

    Online: Complete drought coverage at www.sfgate.com/drought.

     

     

    Parched California Pours Mega-Millions Into Desalination Tech

    By John Roach NBC News February 17, 2014

    Besieged by drought and desperate for new sources of water, California towns are ramping up plans to convert salty ocean water into drinking water to quench their long-term thirst. The plants that carry out the high-tech “desalination” process can cost hundreds of millions of dollars, but there may be few other choices for the parched state. Where the Pacific Ocean spills into the Agua Hedionda Lagoon in Carlsbad, Calif., construction is 25 percent complete on a $1 billion project to wring 50 million gallons of freshwater a day from the sea and pour it into a water system that serves 3.1 million people. Desalination was a dreamy fiction during the California Water Wars of the early 20th century that inspired the classic 1974 movie “Chinatown.” In the 1980s, however, the process of forcing seawater through reverse osmosis membranes to filter out salt and other impurities became a reliable, even essential, tool in regions of the world desperate for water….

    Cost and environmental concerns

    “The trend of imported water (pricing) is definitely going up,” Heather Cooley, co-director of the water program at the Pacific Institute, an Oakland-based environmental think tank, told NBC News. “We have some major infrastructure investments needed for imported water in California. I don’t have a crystal ball for what it is going to look like, but no doubt it will raise the price of imported water.” The pending price hikes for imported water as well as its uncertain reliability, she explained, are compelling reasons for municipalities to consider desalination. But, she noted, “we can’t look at these issues in a vacuum; we have to look at all the options that are available.” The sentiment is echoed by the San Clemente, Calif.-based Surfrider Foundation, which has opposed several desalination projects, including Carlsbad, on environmental grounds. For example, sucking up large amounts of seawater can kill fish and other creatures as water passes through intake screens. “Our general position is there is just a lot more that can be done on both the conservation side and the water recycling side before you get to [desalination] and we feel, in a lot of cases, that we haven’t really explored all of those options,” Rick Wilson, the organization’s coastal management coordinator, told NBC News….

    Ultimately, she said, seawater desalination will become part of the solution to California’s ongoing water woes — something to consider along with other supply options, including increased wastewater recycling. “The key questions,” Cooley said of the desalination plants, “are when do you build them and how large do you build them?”

     

    WATCH: Parched from Drought, California’s Reservoirs Nearly Empty

     

     

    Water-Cleaning Technology Could Help Farmers

    By TODD WOODY NY Times February 17, 2014, Monday

    A project developed by WaterFX, a start-up in drought-stricken California, exploits two things the Central Valley possesses in abundance — fallow land and sunshine — to cut desalinization costs

    FIREBAUGH, Calif. (Fresno) — The giant solar receiver installed on a wheat field here in California’s agricultural heartland slowly rotates to track the sun and capture its energy. The 377-foot array, however, does not generate electricity but instead creates heat used to desalinate water. It is part of a project developed by a San Francisco area start-up called WaterFX that is tapping an abundant, if contaminated, resource in this parched region: the billions of gallons of water that lie just below the surface. Financed by the Panoche Water District with state funds, the $1 million solar thermal desalinization plant is removing impurities from drainage water at half the cost of traditional desalinization, according to Aaron Mandell, a founder of WaterFX. If the technology proves commercially viable — a larger plant is to be built this year — it could offer some relief to the West’s long-running water wars. WaterFX faces a daunting and urgent task. The water is tainted with toxic levels of salt, selenium and other heavy metals that wash down from the nearby Panoche foothills, and is so polluted that it must be constantly drained to keep it from poisoning crops.

    A solar receiver in a field in Firebaugh, Calif. It is part of a project developed by WaterFX to cleanse water at a lower cost than traditional desalinization. Peter DaSilva for The New York Times ….

    This year, farmers in the Panoche district will receive no water. Last year, they received only 20 percent of their allocation, Mr. Falaschi said. In 2012, the allocation was 40 percent. Farmers elsewhere who rely on the State Water Project to irrigate 750,000 acres of farmland will also receive no water in 2014. For agricultural water districts like Panoche, solar thermal desalinization promises to solve two persistent problems. One is a chronic water shortage, even in rainy years, as regulators divert water to cities and for environmental purposes, like protecting endangered fish. The other is the growing salt contamination of agricultural land that has led farmers to abandon more than 100,000 acres in the Central Valley in recent years. For decades, water districts like Panoche have drained salty groundwater and disposed of it in places like the San Joaquin River. But new environmental restrictions ban that practice. WaterFX could reduce the volume of drainage water that needs to be diverted while providing a new supply of fresh water for irrigation that is not dependent on the vagaries of snowpack and rainfall in far-off parts of the state. “This subsurface groundwater is a possible gold mine,” Mr. Falaschi said. “You’re taking a water supply that is unusable now and you’re converting it to a usable source.”
    The desalinated water is of bottled-water quality, purer than what is needed for irrigation…..

     

     

    Desalination destroys the environment and isn’t a quick fix for Southern California’s water woes

    Angeles Chapter- Sierra Club Blog Monday, March 4, 2013 By Ray Hiemstra the Orange County Conservation Committee Chair for the Angeles Chapter Sierra Club.

    Many people in Southern California think that we are in a perpetual drought and will not have enough water to sustain ourselves. Unfortunately, this common fear is fueling misguided support for ocean desalination, the process of removing salt from seawater to create potable water. Our fresh water supply is often wasted and underutilized, especially when 60% percent of the water we produce goes towards landscaping purposes, not human sustenance. We need to use what we have wisely, and consider innovative, cost effective and environmentally friendly supply options. There are currently 16 proposed desalination plants in California, and the idea is spreading. Desalination is the most environmentally damaging, energy intensive and expensive water supply option. In Huntington Beach, Poseidon Resources, a Connecticut-based corporation, plans to privatize a public good, and use outdated technologies to make a profit at the expense of ocean ecosystems and ratepayers wallets. Poseidon has never successfully built a large desalination plant before; they have only demonstrated that they are good at making closed-door deals.

    Poseidon plans to use open ocean intake pipes, which the State of California has required all coastal power plants to discontinue using by 2020. Open ocean intakes suck in and kill billions of fish eggs, adult fish and other marine life. Not only is desalination harmful when taking water in, but also when it expels hyper saline brine, the salt by-product of the desalination process. In addition to a very high concentration of salt, brine also contains other pollutants such as heavy metals that can bioaccumulate throughout the food chain.  According to a study by the Pacific Institute, “direct discharges into estuaries and the ocean disrupt natural salinity balances and cause environmental damage of sensitive marshes or fisheries.” The brine discharge from the Poseidon plant will cause a dead zone off the coast of Huntington Beach. (For more information on opposition to the Poseidon plan, go to nowaterdeal.com.

    Desalination not only harms marine resources, but it also affects our climate through increased greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Desalination is the most energy intensive water supply option. The Poseidon Huntington Beach plant would use enough energy to power 30,000 homes. Twenty percent of California’s cumulative energy demand goes to moving and treating water. In a 2008 report, the California Air Resources Board noted that a way for the state to reach its reduced GHG goals is to replace existing water supply and treatment processes with more energy efficient alternatives. Desalination is a step in the wrong direction if we want to reach this goal.

    A recently approved Poseidon desalination plant in Carlsbad was originally estimated to cost around $250 million; now it is nearly a $1 billion project. The water to be produced at the plant costs 4 to 8 times more than other water sources such as groundwater or recycled water. And rate payers are bound to a 30- year contract to buy the water. Desalination may be one of the tools that water agencies and the public choose to pursue in the future but not before fully exploring and adopting the less expensive and proven options such as promoting water use efficiency, or funding the expanded use of recycling systems such as the Ground Water Replenishment System in Fountain Valley. The system takes highly treated wastewater that would have been discharged into the ocean and purifies it at a very affordable rate. In fact, the cost of water, per acre-foot, produced at the replenishment system costs one-third of what distributed water produced from a desalination plant would cost. Capturing urban runoff from the many high volume creeks and streams throughout the region, which dump hundreds of millions of gallons of polluted water a day into the ocean, is a viable and cost-effective alternative. Richard Atwater, Executive Director of the Southern California Water Committee recently stated that Southern California needs to “recognize the importance and potential of stormwater as a supplemental water supply source to what we currently import”. Much of this water should be captured and recycled to provide indirect potable water and reduce pollution to our ocean, which is required by law anyway

    Another flaw of building a desalination plant in Huntington Beach is that the Orange County Sanitation District releases millions of gallons of secondary treated water a day into the ocean less than a mile from the site for the desalination plant. Why treat wastewater, release it into the ocean, then spend $1 billion to build a plant that sucks that same water back in just to take the salt out of it? The water coming out of the sanitation district’s facility is already being treated at a level that it could be used as an indirect potable water source to expand the Ground Water Replenishment System.

    Water reuse can help better utilize our current water supply, but we can also implement more conservation measures on the demand side. A cost-effective example is the move some cities are making to stop using potable water for landscaping. Reclaimed water is clean and safe enough to be utilized for irrigation. With the elimination of overwatering and the use of modern landscaping featuring California Friendly vegetation, we can drastically reduce the amount of water needed for landscaping and use the saved water for people and industry. The resulting water savings would help protect our current water supply, save ratepayers money, and reduce the need to create, or import more water. The Sierra Club realizes that desalination is a necessary option for the future, in regions that have exhausted all other options. What we are opposed to is using destructive 1960s technology that destroys our fish stocks and pollutes our ocean. Other countries have implemented desalination as a last resort when all other options have been tried. Hopefully California will do the same.  The Poseidon Huntington Beach project will be the turning point on desalination is done in California and your help is needed. Watch for messages from the Sierra Club Angeles Chapter regarding opportunities to send in letters or attend meetings to stop Poseidon and protect our environment.

     

     

    Desalination- overview (2005)

    This website outlines various methods of desalination, their operation, costs, ecological impacts, and benefits as well as drawbacks.
    This website was developed for the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire course ENPH 441:Water and Wastewater by Karen Bartosh,  Stefan Boerboom, and Lisa Brzenski, and Michael Checkai.  ….  Any concerns over copyrighted content or inaccuracies may be forwarded to boerbosc@uwec.edu. Information on this website was compiled December 2005.

    Desalination is seen by some as a solution to the problem of a shortage of potable water. In the state of California alone the population is expected to increase by 60,000 people per year. In an effort to meet the demand for fresh water, California already has 11 seawater desalination plants in operation along the cost. An additional 21 plants are in the planning stages. Desalination technology is becoming more beneficial in the cost aspect. Over the last decade the price has gone down from $2,000 per acre foot in 1990 to $800 in 2003. (An acre foot is equivalent to 326,000 gallons or about one households use in a year). As an incentive to increase the production of desalination plants, the Metropolitan Water District in Southern California is offering subsidies of $250 per acre foot. States such as Florida, Texas, Hawaii, and New Mexico are also applying desalination technology to meet their water demand needs. There are various regulatory bodies overseeing the planning, building, and maintenance of desalination plants in the United States. Some bodies include the EPA, Coast Guard, and the Army Corps of Engineers. Specifically California desalinations are regulated under the California Coastal Act, among others. Details of this act are discussed below.

    California Costal Act and Environmental Impacts
    Two sections of the California Costal Act specifically address the issues of marine life and water quality and are stated as follows:
    Section 30230:
    “Marine resources shall be maintained, enhanced, and where feasible restored. Special protection shall be gives to areas and species of special biological or economic significance. Use of marine environment shall be carried out in a manner that will sustain the biological productivity of coastal waters and that will maintain healthy populations of all species of marine organisms adequate for long-term commercial, recreational, scientific, and educational purposes.”
    Section 30231:
    “The biological productivity and the quality of coastal waters, streams, wetlands, estuaries, and lakes appropriate to maintain optimum populations of marine organisms and for the protection of human health shall be maintained and , where feasible, resorted through, among other means, minimizing adverse effects of waste water discharges and entrainment, controlling runoff, prevention depletion of ground water supplies and substantial interference with surface water flow, encouraging waste water reclamation, maintaining natural vegetation buffer areas the protect riparian habitats, and minimizing alteration of natural streams.” http://www.coastal.ca.gov/energy/14a-3-2004-desalination.pdf

    Intake and Discharge
    In the process of reverse osmosis, the technique used most in the US, for every 2 gallons of intake water, 1 gallon of potable water is produced and 1 gallon of brine is produced. Intake, the first step in desalination, and discharge can have the potential to adversely harm marine life. The California Costal Act states that the water and marine life should at the minimum be maintained, a task which intake and discharge practices can impede on. During intake, marine life can be harmed or even killed when they are pulled into the intake pipe and are unable to escape due to the large water velocity.

    Potential Solutions:
    A solution to the intake problem is the potential use of a subsurface intake such as a beachwell or an open water intake. In areas where the soil types consist of clay, silt or unfractured rock, this alternative would not work. Ideally sandy soil would be needed to act as a natural filter. The city of Long Beach, California has proposed a system that would reduce the harmful effects of intake. They plan to use a system of pipes located underneath the sand in the ocean. Sand acts as a natural filter to the water being drawn into the plant. This system can also be used for the highly concentrated brine byproduct of desalination that is discharged. http://www.lbwater.org/desalination/Under.html

    Other Solutions:
    1. Reducing the intake velocity- Fish and other organisms are able to escape or avoid being pulled in when the velocity is below .5 feet per second.
    2. Velocity Caps-Fish have the ability to detect changes in horizontal velocity, but have a difficult time detecting changes coming vertically. Most intake systems pull water from above, making it difficult for the fish to detect. Placing a cap on the intake and leaving a gap between the intake and the cap allows for a flow that can be detected by fish.
    3. Screens and fish return systems- screens placed at the landward side of the intake system allow fish to be release into an area prior to the plant. A fish return system can be implemented in this area to route the fish back to the body of water.
    Discharge:
    The brine discharged from a desalination plant can have a saline concentration of 70,000 ppm compared to the intake water of 35,000ppm. Organisms are adapted to the natural saline concentration and most of the time cannot handle the dramatic increase in concentration. Also, organisms at different stages of their lives have different sensitivity levels to saline. “Chemicals used during the desalination process include chlorine, ozone, or other biocides, various coagulants, acids, antiscalants, and others”. http://www.coastal.ca.gov/energy/14a-3-2004-desalination.pdf

    Contaminants found in the intake water also become part of the waste stream produced through desalination. The filters and membranes used in intake and the desalination process itself collect biomass. The accumulated dead organisms are forced to become part of the plants waste.
    Solutions:
    1. Location, Location, Location! – finding a proper location for discharge is crucial. Discharge should be done in areas where the population is not sensitive to changes in water quality.
    2. Diffusers- allowing the discharge to be spread over a large area can result in faster diffusion into the water.
    It is very important to note that the environmental impacts as well as cost and benefits vary from place to place….

     

     

    AUSTRALIA AND MIDDLE EAST PERSPECTIVES:

     

    Abu Dhabi Company Searches for Greener Method of Desalination

    By SARA HAMDAN NY Times January 24, 2013, Thursday

    Masdar, a renewable energy company, is turning its attention to finding ways to remove the salt from seawater using solar power and other innovative technologies.

     

     

    Arid Australia Sips Seawater, but at a Cost

    Edwina Pickles for The New York Times Government-subsidized tanks are used to capture rainwater for home in the Australian state of Queensland, part of the response to recent drought.

    By NORIMITSU ONISHI
    Published: July 10, 2010 NY TIMES BRISBANE, Australia — In Australia, the world’s driest inhabited continent, early British explorers searching for a source of drinking water scoured the bone-dry interior for a fabled inland sea. One overeager believer even carted a whaleboat hundreds of miles from the coast, but found mostly desert inside. Today, Australians are turning in the opposite direction: the sea. In one of the country’s biggest infrastructure projects in its history, Australia’s five largest cities are spending $13.2 billion on desalination plants capable of sucking millions of gallons of seawater from the surrounding oceans every day, removing the salt and yielding potable water. In two years, when the last plant is scheduled to be up and running, Australia’s major cities will draw up to 30 percent of their water from the sea. The country is still recovering from its worst drought ever, a decade-long parching that the government says was deepened by climate change. With water shortages looming, other countries, including the United States and China, are also looking to the sea.

    “We consider ourselves the canary in the coal mine for climate change-induced changes to water supply systems,” said Ross Young, executive director of the Water Services Association of Australia, an umbrella group of the country’s urban water utilities. He described the $13.2 billion as “the cost of adapting to climate change.” But desalination is also drawing fierce criticism and civic protests. Many homeowners, angry about rising water bills, and environmentalists, wary of the plants’ effect on the climate, call the projects energy-hungry white elephants. Stricter conservation measures, like mandating more efficient washing machines, would easily wring more water from existing supplies, critics say.

    …. Besides restricting water use and subsidizing the purchase of home water tanks to capture rainwater, the state spent nearly $8 billion to create the country’s most sophisticated water supply network. It fashioned dams and a web of pipelines to connect 18 independent water utilities in a single grid. To “drought proof” the region, it built facilities for manufacturing water, by recycling wastewater, to use for industrial purposes, and by desalinating seawater. Production of desalinated water can be adjusted according to rain levels.

    “When the last of the assets were coming online, it rained, as it always does,” Mr. Dennien said, adding that the region now has enough water for the next 20 years.

    “We’ve got a method of operating the grid that the next time any sign of drought occurs, we can just,” he snapped his fingers, “build something else or turn something else on, and we’ve got enough water supply.” Other cities are making the same bet. Perth, which opened the nation’s first desalination plant in 2006, is building a second one. Sydney’s plant started operating early this year, and plants near Melbourne and Adelaide are under construction. Until a few years ago, most of the world’s large-scale desalination plants were in the Middle East, particularly in Saudi Arabia, though water scarcity is changing that. In the United States, where only one major plant is running, in Tampa Bay, officials are moving forward on proposed facilities in California and Texas, said Tom Pankratz, a director of the International Desalination Association, based in Topsfield, Mass. China, which recently opened its biggest desalination plant, in Tianjin, could eventually overtake Saudi Arabia as the world leader, he said.

    Many environmentalists and economists oppose any further expansion of desalination because of its price and contribution to global warming. The power needed to remove the salt from seawater accounts for up to 50 percent of the cost of desalination, and Australia relies on coal, a major emitter of greenhouse gases, to generate most of its electricity.

    Critics say desalination will add to the very climate change that is aggravating the country’s water shortage. To make desalination politically palatable, Australia’s plants are using power from newly built wind farms or higher-priced energy classified as clean. For households in cities with the new plants, water bills are expected to double over the next four years, according to the Water Services Association.

    But critics say there are cheaper alternatives. They advocate conservation measures, as well as better management of groundwater reserves and water catchments. “Almost every city which has implemented a desalination plant has nowhere near maxed out or used up their conservation potential,” said Stuart White, director of the Institute for Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology, Sydney. Even without restrictions, cities could easily save 20 percent of their water, Mr. White said.

    He said cities should practice “desalination readiness” by drawing plans to build a plant, but should carry them out only as a last resort in the event of a severe drought.

    Mr. Young of the Water Services Association said desalination in Australia costs $1.75 to $2 per cubic meter, including the costs of construction, clean energy and production. The prices are probably the world’s highest, said Mr. Pankratz of the International Desalination Association, adding that desalination was cheaper in countries with less strict environmental standards. He said the cost at a typical new plant in the world today would be about $1 per cubic meter. Opponents of desalination say that a cheaper and environmentally friendlier alternative is recycling wastewater, though persuading people to drink it remains difficult and politically delicate. The SEQ Water Grid Manager, for instance, retreated from its initial plan to introduce recycled wastewater into its drinking reservoirs after it began raining. “There’s a stigma against recycled water,” said David Mason, 40, a resident of Tugun. “But since there’s only so much water in the world, and it’s been through somebody’s body or some other place over the past 250 million years, maybe it’s not that bad. At least, it might be better than desalination.”

     


    The Grass is Greener in Perth, a Water-Scarce City Adjusting to Climate Change


    Posted by Robert Glennon in Water Currents on April 10, 2012 National Geographic

    The capital of Western Australia, Perth, is at the epicenter of global climate change. The city’s strategic response offers lessons about climate change mitigation, exacerbation and adaptation. The lessons are acutely relevant to the United States, particularly California. The grass is greener and there’s lots of it in Perth, as residents who once called Great Britain home recreated lush landscapes with sprawling lawns, tidy gardens, and enormous parks. That Great Britain’s climate is cold and wet while Perth’s is hot and arid has not dampened Perth’s love affair with lawns. Nor has the soil, which is as sandy as a Florida beach rather than as loamy as an English countryside….. In 2006, Perth made a strategic choice to build a desalination plant, powered by a wind farm. The next year the city opted to build a second plant in Binningup, 150 kilometers south of Perth. This second plant will provide 100 billion liters of water every year, enough to satisfy 20 percent of Perth’s needs.

    The Water Corporation proudly notes that the Binningup Desalination Plant will rely on solar and wind credits. What is less publicized is that a coal-fired power plant will actually provide the electricity to run the desalination facility.  This irony of using coal, the biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, has not gone unnoticed and the Water Corporation and the Western Australia Department of Water have had to fend off charges of hypocrisy….. Or, in Perth’s case, it’s exacerbation and adaptation. Perth’s use of coal will exacerbate climate change by releasing lots of CO2, but it also adapts to lower river flows and plummeting groundwater tables by finding a new supply of water — the ocean.

    Perth will suffer, along with the rest of the world, from the GHGs released by the coal-fired plant. But, the consequence for climate change from the GHGs released by any single plant is trivial. It’s the combination of the small releases by millions of polluters that threatens the planet. Meanwhile, Perth gets 100 percent of the benefits from running a coal-fired desalination plant: 100 billion liters per year of fresh water.  In this framing, Perth’s decision to use coal is an example of the tragedy of the commons. The air is the common pool resource and the environmental harms are the third-party consequences (or externalities), that is, costs caused by an actor but not paid for (or internalized) by that actor. The benefits to Perth are direct and immediate (new water) and the harms are diffuse and inter-generational. That’s what makes climate change such an intractable problem.

     

    World Environment Day: Desalination and Green Energy in Australia

    Posted on 5 June 2012 by Neil Palmer, CEO National Centre for Excellence in Desalination
    Presented on World Environment Day 2012 at Sultan Qaboos University, Muscat, Oman

    Australia faced a severe and prolonged drought from 1997–2009.  It was considered to be a one in a thousand year event and became known as the “Millennium Drought”.  During this period, increasingly severe water restrictions were imposed on consumers across Australia.  Water stored in reservoirs became depleted and in some cases almost ran out. As a direct result, Governments in Australia invested heavily in climate resilient water supply technology.  This included seawater reverse osmosis desalination and waste water recycling.  The total amount invested was more than $US10 billion and resulted in construction of six major seawater desalination plants and one major indirect potable water reuse system.

    Capacity and Cost of Australia’s Major Urban Desalination and Reuse Plants

    Desalination Plant

    When
    constructed

    Capacity
    ML/d

    Cost
    $A billion

    Perth (Kwinana) 

    2006 

    130 

    0.31 

    Gold Coast (Tugun) 

    2009 

    142 

    1.20 

    Brisbane Western Corridor Water Recycling Project 

    2009 

    232 

    2.80 

    Sydney (Kurnell) 

    2011 

    250 

    1.89 

    Perth Southern (Binningup) Stages 1 and 2

    2012 

    300 

    1.40 

    Adelaide (Pt Stanvac) 

    2012 

    300 

    1.83 

    Melbourne (Wonthaggi) 

    2012 

    450 

    3.50 

    Total

     

    1804

    12.93

    Source: ATSE: “Sustainable Water Management – Securing Australia’s Future in a Green Economy” ARC April 2012 pp 53-55

     

    A further private desalination plant of 140 ML/d capacity has been built for Citic Asia Pacific iron ore mine near Cape Preston in northern Western Australia and a new 280 ML/d plant has been approved for construction for BHP Billiton’s Olympic Dam expansion project near Whyalla in South Australia, bringing the total installed capacity to more than 2200 ML/d. This is significant by world standards and also redressements very rapid development. Following this investment in water resilient infrastructure, the Australian Government funded two research centres: The National Centre of Excellence in Desalination, Australia and the Australian Water Recycling Centre of Excellence. These Centres have each been funded $A20 million over 5 years from the Australian Government’s National Water Initiative. Desalination is sometimes termed “energy guzzling” in Australia, even though the consumption of energy for supplying a whole household with water is relatively modest (about the same as the energy used in running the household domestic refrigerator). Notwithstanding its modest power consumption, Australia’s water utilities have elected to purchase renewable wind energy to offset the entire energy budget of all the six major seawater desalination plants. It can be said that effectively these desalination plants have a negligible operating carbon footprint. In Western Australia, the Water Corporation expressed a desire for a significant portion of the renewable energy from the Southern Seawater Desalination Plant to be derived from “other than wind power” and as a result one of Australia’s largest solar power stations is being constructed near Geraldton on the mid west coast. This will supply 10% of the total energy used in the plant. Construction of the six major urban desalination plants has resulted in massive development of wind farms in Australia as a green alternative to enlarging the capacity of coal burning power stations. The National Centre of Excellence in Desalination (NCEDA) has been in operation since 2009 and has run four funding rounds with proposals being accepted from all of the 14 Participating Organisations.  The funding is competitive and is highly sought after by the academic community.  The NCEDA has a focus on commercialisation and projects that invent or develop new technology are highly regarded.

    The NCEDA has a mandate from the Government to “efficiently and affordably reduce the carbon footprint of desalination facilities and technologies”.  A number of projects are in progress to develop seriously the use of renewable resources to power desalination.
    ….  Australia has a great deal of land available close to the sea and the concept of a reliable, climate resilient water supply powered from renewable solar energy is very appealing in a world that is increasingly short of food….Australia has invested heavily in urban desalination and water recycling technology over the past ten years.  In doing so, decisions of state Governments to power the desalination plants effectively from renewable resources has provided a big boost to the renewable energy industry as well as ensuring a secure water supply is always available, but with a very low operating carbon footprint.  Research is also focusing on ways to reduce carbon footprint in a number of ways by developing renewable sources including solar, waste heat and geothermal energy to power desalination.


    Social, environmental and economic issues



    National Centre for Excellence in Desalination, Australia

    Desalination is still a relatively controversial public issue. Most of this controversy revolves around the energy intensity of desalination and concerns over the environmental impacts of brine concentrate and other waste products. The production of data and the application of scientific rigour that provides an independent analysis and assessment of controversial issues associated with desalination would go a long way toward addressing public concerns in a constructive manner. There is an opportunity for research that assists the development of a scientifically informed public awareness program. Widespread deployment of desalination, while dependent on improvements in critical system requirements, will also require attention to environmental impact, social concerns, economic policy, and other non-technical barriers….(see list of research projects)

     

     

     

     

     

    Restoration Ecology- Most Downloaded Articles in 2013

     

    Theory on origin of animals challenged: Some animals need extremely little oxygen
    (February 17, 2014) — One of science’s strongest dogmas is that complex life on Earth could only evolve when oxygen levels in the atmosphere rose to close to modern levels. But now studies of a small sea sponge fished out of a Danish fjord shows that complex life does not need high levels of oxygen in order to live and grow. … > full story

    Fertilization destabilizes global grassland ecosystems
    (February 16, 2014) — Fertilization of natural grasslands — either intentionally or unintentionally as a side effect of global farming and industry — is having a destabilizing effect on global grassland ecosystems. Using a network of natural grassland research sites around the world called the Nutrient Network, the study represents the first time such a large experiment has been conducted using naturally occurring sites. The researchers found that plant diversity in natural ecosystems creates more stable ecosystems over time because of less synchronized
    growth of plants. …
    “The results of our study emphasize that we need to consider not just how productive ecosystems are but also how stable they are in the long-term, and how biodiversity is related to both aspects of ecosystem functioning,” says Andy Hector.

    The researchers also found that grassland diversity and stability are reduced when fertilizer is added….full story

     

    Deep ocean needs policy, stewardship where it never existed, experts urge
    (February 16, 2014) — Echnological advances have made the extraction of deep sea mineral and precious metal deposits feasible, and the dwindling supply of land-based materials creates compelling economic incentives for deep sea industrialization. But at what cost? Plans to begin mining nodules of valuable metals from deep ocean deposits have oceanographers concerned about the lack of public awareness or international agreements governing these habitats. “The deep sea is out of sight, out of mind … there’s a whole level of concern that isn’t being expressed when it comes to deep sea industrialization,” an expert said. … > full story

    Ants build raft to escape flood, protect queen
    (February 19, 2014) — When facing a flood, ants build rafts and use both the buoyancy of the brood and the recovery ability of workers to minimize injury or death. … > full story

     

    Asian elephants reassure others in distress: First empirical evidence of consolation in elephants
    (February 18, 2014) — Asian elephants console others who are in distress, using physical touches and vocalizations, new research shows. The findings are the first empirical evidence of consolation in elephants. Consolation behavior is rare in the animal kingdom, with empirical evidence previously provided only for the great apes, canines and certain corvids. … > full story

     

    Forest model predicts canopy competition: Airborne lasers help researchers understand tree growth
    (February 20, 2014) — Scientists use measurements from airborne lasers to gauge changes in the height of trees in the forest. Tree height tells them things like how much carbon is being stored. But what accounts for height changes over time — vertical growth or overtopping by a taller tree? A new statistical model helps researchers figure out what’s really happening on the ground. … > full story

    Conservation: Nicaragua Canal could wreak environmental ruin

    Axel Meyer & Jorge A. Huete-Pérez NATURE 19 February 2014 PDF and Rights & Permissions

    Plans for a 300-kilometre waterway joining the Pacific and Atlantic oceans need independent environmental assessment, urge Axel Meyer and Jorge A. Huete-Pérez.

    Last June, the Nicaraguan government granted a concession to a Hong Kong company to build a canal connecting the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean, through the Caribbean Sea. The HK Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Company (operating as HKND Group) signed a 50-year lease, renewable for another 50 years. It plans to break ground in December after spending this year establishing a route and conducting feasibility studies. Included in the concession are the rights to build and operate industrial centres, airports, a rail system and oil pipelines, as well as land expropriation and the rights to natural resources found along the canal route….

     

    Legal Harvest of Marine Turtles Tops 42,000 Each Year

    Feb. 20, 2014 — A new study has found that 42 countries or territories around the world permit the harvest of marine turtles — and estimates that more than 42,000 turtles are caught each year by these fisheries. … full story

     

    Saving lemurs: Action plan devised to save Madagascar’s 101 lemur species
    (February 20, 2014) — An Canadian primatologist has teamed with 18 lemur conservationists and researchers, many of whom are from Madagascar or have been working there for decades, to devise an action plan to save Madagascar’s 101 lemur species. The action plan contains strategies for 30 different priority sites for lemur conservation and aims to help raise funds for individual projects. Lemurs, the most endangered mammal group on Earth, represent more than 20 per cent of the world’s primates. Native only to Madagascar, more than 90 percent of the species are threatened with extinction. … > full story

     

    Speaking Up for the Mute Swan

    By HUGH RAFFLESFEB. 17, 2014 NY TimesThe Opinion Pages|OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR

    Hugh Raffles, a professor of anthropology at the New School, is the author, most recently, of “Insectopedia.”

     

     

    THE Department of Environmental Conservation is proposing to kill New York State’s entire population of free-ranging mute swans, those graceful white water birds long treasured as symbols of romance and fidelity. New Yorkers have until Feb. 21 to submit responses to a plan that calls for the removal by 2025 of the estimated 2,200 birds by methods that could include shooting, gassing, decapitation and egg addling. Mute swans — so called because they’re not generally vocal, their most arresting sound being the beating of their wings — arrived in New York from Europe in the late 19th century, imported as aristocratic decoration for country estates. They adapted with ease and soon spread to public lands, where they were embraced for their beauty and as evidence of environmental health. Only in recent decades, as conservationists’ preoccupation with the geographical origins of species has intensified, have these immigrants with established communities on Long Island, in the Hudson Valley and on Lake Ontario become perceived as a problem. The decisive moment came in 2004, when the United States Congress, under pressure from an alliance of waterfowl hunters and conservation organizations, including the National Audubon Society and the American Bird Conservancy, revised the Migratory Bird Treaty Act specifically to withdraw protection from mute swans and other nonnative species. Wildlife managers see mute swans as an invasive species, whose year-round residence, wanton appetite for subaquatic vegetation and aggressive territoriality threaten unsuspecting humans, native wildfowl such as the black tern, and dwindling wetland habitat.

     

    But many New Yorkers have a different view. After all, these are regal birds, protected in Europe and celebrated in myth, poetry and song. Many people share W. B. Yeats’s vision of them as “mysterious, beautiful” creatures that “delight men’s eyes,” and they feel grateful for the otherworldly serenity that a mating pair or, even better, a snow-white flock can bring to the neighborhood pond in this age of municipal austerity. Mute swans are defensive, not aggressive, their advocates say. If people carelessly encroach on their nests and young, they should expect to be unequivocally rebuffed. If the birds have an appetite for subaquatic vegetation, it may have local effects, but as they compose about half of 1 percent of New York’s more than 400,000 waterfowl, the impact on the state’s ecosystems is minor. And if, as the state claims but has difficulty demonstrating, mute swans really displace New York’s native birds, there should be a debate about the criteria used to value one species over another. The state’s management plan is based on a D.E.C. study that produced some markedly inconclusive science. The threat from New York’s swans appears largely speculative: The study’s authors base their assumptions on programs to control growing numbers of mute swans in Michigan and the Chesapeake Bay, yet as the report itself shows, the birds’ populations in New York State are relatively small and currently either steady or in decline. It’s hard to resist concluding that the startling plan to eliminate the swans statewide is a case of bureaucratic overreach. Swan lovers are unlikely to be placated by the proposal to license small numbers of clipped birds on private lands.

     

    We live on a planet where not only are the fates of all species profoundly entwined, but where, one way or another, all plants, animals and natural phenomena have been touched by our often heavy human hands. What’s more, we’ve turned out to be unreliable managers of nature, allowing our interventions to be driven by interest groups and underwritten by unholy compromises. We have swerved from paradigm to paradigm as we rewrite our models of natural processes according to contemporary fashion: Even now, for example, we struggle to determine how best to use fire in our forests, and how to cope with poorly conceived biological controls like the harlequin ladybird, a nonnative species introduced in America to tackle aphids that has displaced indigenous ladybugs.

    There’s no question that species designated as nonnative can affect our ecosystems, sometimes changing them in ways that are expensive and undesirable. Dramatic examples abound — zebra mussels, cane toads, kudzu. But as more and more research is demonstrating, “nonnative” is an ideological grab bag of a category whose members are varied in their impacts and diverse in their contributions. Nonnative species may be beneficial, rather than harmful. They may also be well integrated into their environment, particularly if, like the mute swan and the honeybee — another European transplant, brought here in the early 17th century — they have been resident in their host ecosystems for a substantial amount of time.

    Indeed, given the limited scale of their impact, it’s difficult to imagine that mute swans would be considered a nuisance if they were also considered native. Under these conditions, we should carefully examine the evidence offered by New York State in support of its plan and consider whether it is adequate to condemn a much-loved species and allow its wholesale killing. There’s a larger issue here. The real environmental problems faced by New York State are created not by birds, but by people. In the nearly 150 years that the mute swan has been among us, it has witnessed a radical decline in the extent of the state’s wildlife habitat and in the quality of its water and soil.
    The loss of wetlands has slowed and even reversed since the low point of the 1970s, but splintering habitat, sea-level rise, legislative loopholes, untreated sewage discharge and contaminated runoff from agriculture, and adjacent development continue to threaten these vital ecosystems. Because of their limited diet, mute swans are a sentinel species, concentrating contaminants in their livers and revealing the presence of chemical toxicities in fresh water. Rather than eliminating swans, we should pay attention to their struggle to survive and what it can tell us about the state of our state.

     

     

     


    Acid trap


    Earth’s oceans are beginning to warm and turn acidic, endangering plankton and the entire marine food chain

    by Peter Brannen AEON Magazine Peter Brannen is a journalist whose work has appeared in The New York Times, Wired, and The Guardian, among others. In 2011, he was a journalism fellow at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

    Charismatic microfauna; Limacina-helicina, a small, swimming, predatory sea snail. Photo by Alexander Semenov

    At the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, snowdrifts piled up outside shuttered T-shirt shops, and wind and whitecaps lashed vessels tethered to empty piers in the harbour. The flood of sun-tanned tourists and research students that descends on this place in summer was still months away. The only visitor was a winter storm that hung over the coast, making travel in and out of the cedar-shingled town impossible. In a research building downtown, at the end of a dimly lit hallway, Peter Wiebe sat with a stack of yellowed composition notebooks, reliving a lifetime spent on the ocean. Wiebe, a grizzled scientist emeritus, is transcribing his research cruise logs, which go back to 1962. His handwritten notes archive a half-century of twilit cruises in the Antarctic and languorous equatorial days surrounded by marine life. ‘It’s quite clear to me things are changing,’ he told me, after I asked him to think back on his decades on the ocean. ‘As a graduate student on one cruise, my logs talk about a hammerhead and two whitetips following the ship the whole time. On other cruises, we would fish for mahimahi and tuna, and occasionally catch a shark. Now we hardly ever see any big fish or sharks at all.’ Indeed, in oceanography, the big story over the past half century – the span of Wiebe’s career – has been the wholesale removal of the seas’ top predators through overfishing. But the story of the oceans for the coming century may be a revolution that starts from the bottom of the food chain, not the top. ‘I won’t be around to see it,’ Wiebe told me. ‘I wish I were.’

    Plankton (taken from the Greek word for wanderer) are the plants, animals and microbes that are unable to overcome the influence of ocean currents, either because they’re too small, like bacteria, or because, as in the case of the indifferent jellyfish, they can’t be bothered. Wiebe’s speciality is zooplankton, the kaleidoscopic, translucent animal world in miniature, much of which feeds on even smaller photosynthetic life called phytoplankton. To make the jump from photosynthesis to fish, birds and whales, you have to go through zooplankton first.

    Wiebe is part of a body of researchers worldwide working feverishly to find out how these grazers will be affected by an increasingly unfamiliar ocean, an ocean that absorbs 300,000 Hiroshimas of excess heat every day, and whose surface waters have already become 30 per cent more acidic since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. ‘When I first started, the idea that you could actually change the pH of the ocean just wasn’t there – no one expected us to be able to do it,’ Wiebe told me. ‘Certainly, no one expected us to be able to do it at the pace we’re doing it, at a pace that far surpasses anything natural that has ever happened.’….

     

     

    Previous rapid thinning of Pine Island Glacier sheds light on future Antarctic ice loss

    February 20, 2014
    British Antarctic Survey

    New research, published this week in Science, suggests that the largest single contributor to global sea level rise, a glacier of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, may continue thinning for decades to come. Geologists from the UK, USA and Germany found that Pine Island Glacier (PIG), which is rapidly accelerating, thinning and retreating, has thinned rapidly before. The team say their findings demonstrate the potential for current ice loss to continue for several decades yet.

     
     
     

    Their findings reveal that 8000 years ago the glacier thinned as fast as it has in recent decades, providing an important model for its future behaviour. The glacier is currently experiencing significant acceleration, thinning and retreat that is thought to be caused by ‘ocean-driven’ melting; an increase in warm ocean water finding its way under the ice shelf.

    After two decades of rapid ice loss, concerns are arising over how much more ice will be lost to the ocean in the future. Model projections of the future of PIG contain large uncertainties, leaving questions about the rate, timing and persistence of future sea level rise. Rocks exposed by retreating or thinning glaciers provide evidence of past ice sheet change, which helps scientists to predict possible future change. The geologists used highly sensitive dating techniques, pioneered by one of the team, to track the thinning of PIG through time, and to show that the past thinning lasted for several decades….. “Based on what we know, we can expect the rapid ice loss to continue for a long time yet, especially if ocean-driven melting of the ice shelf in front of Pine Island Glacier continues at current rates,”…” The results are clear in showing a remarkably abrupt thinning of the glacier 8000 years ago.”


    J. S. Johnson, M. J. Bentley, J. A. Smith, R. C. Finkel, D. H. Rood, K. Gohl, G. Balco, R. D. Larter, J. M. Schaefer. Rapid thinning of Pine Island Glacier in the early Holocene. Science, 20 February 2014 DOI: 10.1126/science.1247385

     


    Climate Change: Unstable Atlantic Deep Ocean Circulation May Hasten ‘Tipping Point’



    Feb. 20, 2014 — A new study looking at past climate change asks if these changes in the future will be spasmodic and abrupt rather than a more gradual increase in the temperature. Today, deep waters formed in the northern North Atlantic fill approximately half of the deep ocean globally. In the process, this impacts the circum-Atlantic climate and regional sea level, and it soak up much of the excess atmospheric carbon dioxide from industrialisation — helping moderate the effects of global warming. Changes in this circulation mode are considered a potential tipping point in future climate change that could have widespread and long-lasting impacts including on regional sea level, the intensity and pacing of Sahel droughts, and the pattern and rate of ocean acidification and CO2 sequestration. Until now, this pattern of circulation has been considered relatively stable during warm climate states such as those projected for the end of the century. A new study led by researchers from the Bjerknes Centre of Climate Research at the University of Bergen (UiB) and Uni Research in Norway, suggests that Atlantic deep water formation may be much more fragile than previously realised. … full story

     

    Eirik Vinje Galaasen, Ulysses S. Ninnemann, Nil Irvalı, Helga (Kikki) F. Kleiven, Yair Rosenthal, Catherine Kissel, and David A. Hodell. Rapid Reductions in North Atlantic Deep Water During the Peak of the Last Interglacial Period. Science, 20 February 2014 DOI: 10.1126/science.1248667

    Warmer world may wreak havoc with the Atlantic

    19:00 20 February 2014 by Colin Barras

    A warming world could slow the circulation of the Atlantic Ocean, potentially triggering African droughts and more rapid sea level rise around Europe. If it happens, it won’t be the first time the Atlantic has been disrupted during a warm period. Water in the Atlantic is constantly on the move. In the icy north, cool and dense surface water sinks and flows south, forming the North Atlantic Deep Water. The NADW then encourages warm surface water in the south to flow north, creating the Gulf Stream. In theory, this “conveyor belt” could weaken as a result of climate change. A hugely exaggerated version of this proposal was the premise for the film The Day After Tomorrow. But until now the evidence from warmer periods in Earth’s past suggested that temperature rises would not affect the circulation. A new study indicates otherwise. Eirik Vinje Galaasen at the University of Bergen, Norway, and his colleagues looked at deep-sea sediments from a site off the southern tip of Greenland. Sediment builds up so rapidly there that 3.5 centimetres are deposited each century, meaning that important but short-lived climate shifts show up clearly….

     

    Melting Ice Makes The Arctic A Much Worse Heat-Magnet Than Scientists Feared

    By Ari Phillips on February 18, 2014 at 4:17 pm

    Arctic ice provides more than just homes for fish and mammals — it also slows global warming. Dwindling sea ice in the Arctic Ocean is creating large areas of relatively dark ocean surface that reduce the albedo, or reflectivity, of the polar region. More open water causes the Earth to absorb more of the sun’s solar energy rather than reflect it back into the atmosphere. A new study by researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego, has found that the impact this phenomenon is having on global warming has likely been substantially underestimated.

    “It’s fairly intuitive to expect that replacing white, reflective sea ice with a dark ocean surface would increase the amount of solar heating,” Kristina Pistone, a graduate student at Scripps who participated in the research, said in a statement. However, the study, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, used direct satellite measurements for the first time rather than computer models to determine that the magnitude of surface darkening has been two to three times as large as found in previous studies. “Scientists have talked about Arctic melting and albedo decrease for nearly 50 years,” Veerabhadran Ramanathan, a distinguished professor of climate and atmospheric sciences, said. “This is the first time this darkening effect has been documented on the scale of the entire Arctic.”

    Sea ice extent on September 9, 2011, the date of minimum extent for the year. Ice-covered areas range in color from white (highest concentration) to light blue (lowest concentration). Areas where the ice cover was less than 15 percent, including open water, are dark blue, and land masses are gray. The gold outline shows the median minimum ice extent for 1979–2000; that is, areas that were at least 15 percent ice-covered in at least half the years between 1979 and 2000. Based on sea ice concentration data from the National Snow and Ice Data Center. CREDIT: Climate.gov

     

     


    Extreme Weather Caused by Climate Change Decides Distribution of Insects, Study Shows



    Feb. 20, 2014 — Extreme weather caused by climate change in the coming decades is likely to have profound implications for distributions of insects and other invertebrates. This is suggested by a new study of … full story

     

    Finding common ground fosters understanding of climate change
    (February 17, 2014) — Grasping the concept of climate change and its impact on the environment can be difficult. Establishing common ground and using models, however, can break down barriers and present the concept in an easily understood manner, says an ecologist and modeler.
    Grasping the concept of climate change and its impact on the environment can be difficult. Establishing common ground and using models, however, can break d
    own barriers and present the concept in an easily understood manner.

     
     
     

    In a presentation at this year’s meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Michigan State University systems ecologist and modeler Laura Schmitt-Olabisi shows how system dynamics models effectively communicate the challenges and implications of climate change.

    In order to face the ongoing challenges posed by climate adaptation, there is a need for tools that can foster dialogue across traditional boundaries, such as those between scientists, the general public and decision makers,” Schmitt-Olabisi said. “Using boundary objects, such as maps, diagrams and models, all groups involved can use these objects to have a discussion to create possible solutions.” … > full story

     

    Science Linking Drought to Global Warming ….

    By JUSTIN GILLISFEB. 16, 2014

    In delivering aid to drought-stricken California last week, President Obama and his aides cited the state as an example of what could be in store for much of the rest of the country as human-caused climate change intensifies. But in doing so, they were pushing at the boundaries of scientific knowledge about the relationship between climate change and drought. ….”I’m pretty sure the severity of this thing is due to natural variability,” said Richard Seager, a climate scientist who studies water issues at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University. To be sure, 2013 was the driest year in 119 years of record keeping in California. But extreme droughts have happened in the state before, and the experts say this one bears a notable resemblance to some of those, including a crippling drought in 1976 and 1977. Over all, drought seems to be decreasing in the central United States and certain other parts of the world, though that is entirely consistent with the longstanding prediction that wet areas of the world will get wetter in a warming climate, even as the dry ones get drier. What may be different about this drought is that, whatever the cause, the effects appear to have been made worse by climatic warming. And in making that case last week, scientists said, the administration was on solid ground. California has been warming along with most regions of the United States, and temperatures in recent months have been markedly higher than during the 1976-77 drought. In fact, for some of the state’s most important agricultural regions, summer lasted practically into January, with high temperatures of 10 or 15 degrees above normal on some days….The White House science adviser, John P. Holdren, said in a briefing last week: “Scientifically, no single episode of extreme weather, no storm, no flood, no drought can be said to have been caused by global climate change. But the global climate has now been so extensively impacted by the human-caused buildup of greenhouse gases that weather practically everywhere is being influenced by climate change.”…California gets much of its water from snow in the winter along the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada. That means 38 million people and a $45 billion agricultural economy are critically dependent on about five heavy storms a year….. “It all adds up across the Southwest to an increasingly stressed water system,” he said. “That’s what they might as well get ready for.”

     

     

    Study Sounds ‘El Niño Alarm’ For Late This Year

    By Andrew Freedman Climate Central Published: February 10th, 2014

    A new study shows that there is at least a 76 percent likelihood that an El Niño event will occur later this year, potentially reshaping global weather patterns for a year or more and raising the odds that 2015 will set a record for the warmest year since instrument records began in the late 19th centuryThe study, published on Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, builds on research put forward in 2013 that first proposed a new long-range El Niño prediction method.  Although they occur in the equatorial tropical Pacific Ocean, the effects of El Niño events can reverberate around the globe, wreaking havoc with typical weather patterns. El Niños increase the likelihood for California to be pummeled by Pacific storm systems, for example, while leaving eastern Australia at greater risk of drought. Because they are characterized by higher than average sea surface temperatures in the equatorial tropical Pacific Ocean, and they add heat to the atmosphere, El Niño events also tend to boost global average temperatures. By acting in concert with manmade greenhouse gases, which are also warming the planet, calendar years featuring a strong El Niño event, such as 1998, can more easily set all-time high temperature records. Today, scientists can only reliably predict the onset and severity of El Niño events by about 6 months ahead of time. And this lead time may actually decrease due to Congressional budget cuts for ocean monitoring buoys that provide crucial information for El Niño forecasting. The new study, by an international group of researchers, takes a starkly different approach to El Niño forecasting compared to conventional techniques. While the forecast models in use today tend to rely on observations of the ocean conditions and trade winds that generally blow from east to west across the tropical Pacific, the new method relies on an index that compares surface air temperatures in the area where El Niño events typically occur with temperatures across the rest of the Pacific…..

     

     

     

    What is El Niño Taimasa? Strong El Niño events leading to lower local sea levels
    (February 20, 2014) — During a very strong El Niño, sea level can drop in the tropical western South Pacific and tides remain below normal for up to a year, especially around Samoa. Scientists are studying the climate effects of this variation of El Niño, naming it ‘El Niño Taimasa’ after the wet stench of coral die-offs, called ‘taimasa’ by Samoans. … > full story

     


    Believe It Or Not, January 2014 Was One Of The Hottest Ever Recorded



    By Jeff Spross on February 21, 2014

    Despite the polar vortex in America, GISS and NOAA ranked last month as the 3rd and 4th warmest January on record, respectively…..

     

     

    Even In Perpetual Darkness, Arctic Sea Ice Coverage Drops To Record Lows

    By Ryan Koronowski on February 20, 2014 at 10:02 am

    The thin blue line is this year, far lower than normal. CREDIT: National Snow and Ice Data Center

    Despite the fact that large parts of the Arctic region have not been warmed by the sun for many weeks, sea ice extent in the far north dipped to record low levels in February. On the 18th, sea ice covered 5.544 million square miles of the Arctic, while the previous low on that date was in 2006, at 5.548 million square miles. The National Snow and Ice Data Center reported that in January, average sea ice extent was 5.30 million square miles, which was 309,000 square miles less than the 1981-2010 average. This happened as temperatures in the region rose above normal levels. As the shifted polar vortex caused temperatures to drop to colder-than-recent-normal levels in the eastern half of the United States, Arctic temperatures have spiked. From the beginning of February through Monday, Arctic temperatures were between 7.2°-14.4°F above normal. “Right now, the Arctic is pretty warm everywhere,” National Snow and Ice Data Center senior scientist Julienne Stroeve told Climate Central. “If I look at temperature anomalies, there’s a huge anomaly over the Barents Sea and Sea of Okhotsk of about 10°C (above normal) compared to 1981-2010.”…..

     

     

    Coastal Blue Carbon Opportunity Assessment For Snohomish Estuary : Climate Benefits Of Estuary Restoration

    When coastal wetlands are drained and converted to terrestrial land uses, carbon is rapidly released back to the atmosphere in the form of carbon dioxide. Restoring coastal wetlands stops the drainage-induced releases of carbon and reactivates carbon sequestration. This new report from Restore America’s Estuaries (RAE) discusses the methods, approach, findings, and recommended next steps for the Snohomish Estuary as a model for improved management of coastal wetlands for climate change mitigation benefits.

     

    Climate Change and Ecological Restoration

    As evidence mounts of the scope of climate change and its varied impacts on the world, it makes sense to consider its impact on ecological restoration projects. It is not always clear how best to accomplish this. Join the conversation: Let us know your thoughts by joining in on Society for Ecological Restoration’s LinkedIn group!

     

     

    Global warming: Warning against abrupt stop to geoengineering method (if started)
    (February 17, 2014) — As a range of climate change mitigation scenarios are discussed, researchers have found that the injection of sulfate particles into the atmosphere to reflect sunlight and curb the effects of global warming could pose a severe threat if not maintained indefinitely and supported by strict reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. … > full story

    Increase in Arctic cyclones is linked to climate change
    (February 18, 2014) — Winter in the Arctic is not only cold and dark; it is also storm season when hurricane-like cyclones traverse the northern waters from Iceland to Alaska. These cyclones are characterized by strong localized drops in sea level pressure, and as Arctic-wide decreases in sea level pressure are one of the expected results of climate change, this could increase extreme Arctic cyclone activity, including powerful storms in the spring and fall. A new study uses historical climate model simulations to demonstrate that there has been an Arctic-wide decrease in sea level pressure since the 1800′s. … > full story

     

    UM study indicates cropland absorbs less carbon pollution

    Chronicle file photo A combine runs through a barley field off Kagy Blvd. in 2011.

    Posted: Tuesday, February 18, 2014 10:11 pm LAURA LUNDQUIST, Chronicle Staff Writer | 1 Comment

    Plants remove carbon gases from the air, using the carbon to build stems and leaves. Now a new study indicates that wildlands remove the most carbon, providing the most promise for minimizing climate change. In a study highlighted this month in the journal Nature Geoscience, a team of University of Montana and U.S. Geological Survey scientists presented satellite data showing that farmland and other disturbed areas process less carbon than areas where the native vegetation is undisturbed. Lead author Bill Smith said the team compared visible and infrared satellite images of natural and agricultural areas for a snapshot of the Earth’s vegetative production, which is a measure of the amount of carbon being processed. Agricultural land tends to be planted in rows alternating with uncovered soil, and every year, most plants are removed. So it wasn’t surprising that such areas took up less carbon than wild areas with a wider variety of more plants that used more carbon throughout the year. But how much more carbon? The study reported that the agriculture that exists now has reduced the Earth’s potential productivity by 7 percent. That doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a global average, Smith said. Some forests of the planet show bigger productivity losses than others if they’re mowed down. The rainforests of the tropics are the most productive ecosystems on the planet, locking up tons of carbon. So the productivity loss caused by tropical deforestation is double that of more temperate forests, Smith said…..

     

     

    Los Angeles’ vulnerability to future sea level rise projected

    February 18, 2014 USC Sea Grant Program

    Los Angeles, a metropolis perched on the edge of a coast, can expect to experience sea level rise of as much as two feet due by 2050 due to climate change, according to current projections.

     
     
     

    In anticipation, a team from USC partnered with the City of Los Angeles to gauge the impact of the rising tides on local communities and infrastructure. The results, according to a report that was released today, are a mixed bag — but at-risk assets can be protected by proactive planning and early identification of adaptation measures, according to the report’s authors. “Some low-lying areas within the City’s jurisdiction, such as Venice Beach and some areas of Wilmington and San Pedro, are already vulnerable to flooding,” said Phyllis Grifman, lead author of the report and associate director of the USC Sea Grant Program. “Identifying where flooding is already observed during periods of storms and high tides, and analyzing other areas where flooding is projected are key elements in beginning effective planning for the future.”

    Other key findings from the report include:

    • The cityʼs wastewater management, storm water management and potable water systems are highly vulnerable to sea level rise.
    • The Port of Los Angeles and the cityʼs energy infrastructure would be mostly unaffected by the rise in sea level due to a replacement schedule that will allow the city to prepare for future needs to change infrastructure.
    • Projected flooding and erosion damage to roads along the coast could impede emergency services.
    • Many cultural assets located along the coast, including museums, historic buildings and the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, could face damage.
    • Residents of low-lying communities, such as San Pedro and Wilmington, as well as those with older buildings and high numbers of renters, such as Venice, would be most affected by flooding. In particular, the Abbot Kinney corridor and the fragile Ballona wetlands are at risk. But the region’s wide sandy beaches, if maintained, can provide a valuable bulwark against higher waters, according to the report.

    The full report is available on the USC Sea Grant website at http://www.usc.edu/org/seagrant/research/sea_level_rise_vulnerability.html

     

    George Monbiot canoes across the UK floods – video

    The Guardian February 17, 2014

    The environmentalist floats across the flood plains in Hurley, Berkshire, one of the villages worst hit by the floods that have badly affected swaths of southern England and Wales over the last few weeks. He heads to the source of the Thames to examine how rainwater and silt from ploughed fields swell the floods downriver
    How we ended up paying farmers to flood our homes

     

    Extreme weather images in the media cause fear and disengagement with climate change
    (February 18, 2014) — Extreme weather images represent human suffering and loss. They are iconic of climate change and are symbols of its natural impacts. Reporting on extreme weather has increased over the last few years. In the past social scientists, and media and communication analysts have studied how climate change is depicted in the text of media and social media. While researchers have become increasingly interested in climate change images, they have not yet studied them with respect to symbolizing certain emotions. … > full story

     

    Crop species may be more vulnerable to climate change than we thought
    (February 20, 2014) — Scientists have overturned a long-standing hypothesis about plant speciation (the formation of new and distinct species in the course of evolution), suggesting that agricultural crops could be more vulnerable to climate change than was previously thought. …
    Unlike humans and most other animals, plants can tolerate multiple copies of their genes — in fact some plants, called polyploids, can have more than 50 duplicates of
    their genomes in every cell. Scientists used to think that these extra genomes helped polyploids survive in new and extreme environments, like the tropics or the Arctic, promoting the establishment of new species. However, when Dr Kelsey Glennon of the Wits School of Animal, Plant and Environmental Sciences and a team of international collaborators tested this long-standing hypothesis, they found that, more often than not, polyploids shared the same habitats as their close relatives with normal genome sizes. “This means that environmental factors do not play a large role in the establishment of new plant species and that maybe other factors, like the ability to spread your seeds to new locations with similar habitats, are more important,” said Glennon. “This study has implications for agriculture and climate change because all of our important crops are polyploids and they might not be much better at adapting to changing climate than their wild relatives if they live in similar climates.” …full story

     

    Kelsey Glennon. Evidence for shared broad-scale climatic niches of diploid and polyploid plants. Ecology Letters, 2014 DOI: 1111/ele.12259

    What the West’s Ancient Droughts Say About Its Future

    The American West could face centuries of parched land, as it has in the past.

    The Dust Bowl drought in the 1930s forced many farmers off their land. This farm family makes do in a ramshackle cabin north of Shafter, California. Photograph by Dorothea Lange, Resettlement Administration/Time Life Pictures/Getty

    Lisa M. Krieger for National Geographic Published February 13, 2014

    A millennium ago—just yesterday, in geologic time—Native Americans waited all winter for rains that never came. They waited the next winter and the next. Then the marshes of their sacred San Francisco Bay turned from cattails to salt grass. Fishing declined and the Native Americans could no longer rely on the bounty of the bay. Finally, they left, hungry and thirsty, in search of water. Now, as modern Californians hope for fierce storms to break a dangerous dry spell, the questions arise: Is the current drought just an aberration? Or might it signal the beginning of a more fearsome era, with echoes of the ancient drought that uprooted Native Americans?
    Is it a megadrought? Most scientists sidestep a yes or no answer. But they agree that the past century has been unusually moist—and warn that California is now vulnerable to a drought that is measured not in years, but decades. Perhaps even centuries….

     

    …..But ancient clues in the landscape show this is not the first time the American West has been severely parched. It’s unlikely to be the last. And the recent spate of dry years is nothing next to the ancient “megadroughts” that have occurred multiple times in human history. ”What research shows is a roughly 50- to 90-year cycle of wet and dry periods over the last few thousand years, with some droughts lasting over a decade. But between 900 and 1400 A.D., during the ‘Medieval Warm Period,‘ there were a couple of droughts that were over a century long,” said B. Lynn Ingram, professor of Earth and planetary science and geography at the University of California, Berkeley, and co-author of the book The West Without Water: What Past Floods, Droughts, and Other Climatic Clues Tell Us About Tomorrow. “The 20th century was a relatively wet time, and a time when all of our modern societies were built,” she said. “We’ve had centuries where it was far drier. We’re not prepared.”

    …. Another tree study, lead by University of Arkansas dendrochronologist David Stahle and Edward Cook of Columbia University, used more than 1,400 climate-sensitive tree-ring chronologies from multiple species across North America to reconstruct what’s called “the Great Pueblo Drought,” which occurred from 1276 to 1297 and may have contributed to the Anasazi tribe’s abandonment of their magnificent cliff-dwellings in the northern Colorado Plateau. Other megadrought evidence can be found in forests at the bottoms of lakes and streams, using tree-ring analysis and radiocarbon dating. Graham Kent, director of the Nevada Seismological Laboratory, found a forest in the Sierra Mountains dating back to the medieval era. A drought from 850 to 1150 drained the alpine Fallen Leaf Lake, leaving it barren enough for tall trees to grow, he concluded. Then the water returned, and the trees were preserved. An 800-year-old pine branch, recently salvaged from the lake, still smells pungently of sap…..

     

     

    Drought threatens California wildlife

    by Hashem Said
    February 18, 2014 11:53AM ET AlJazeera

    If dry conditions continue, the state’s animal populations could suffer irreversible damage

                 

    If water levels remain low, California’s animals and fish could face severe conditions.David McNew/Getty Images

    The future of some of California’s wildlife is under threat as the state suffers from its worst drought in 100 years. Because of record low levels of precipitation, fisheries are drying up, and animals are migrating in a desperate search for food and water.

    Experts believe some wildlife has already been affected, and if the arid conditions continue, more will suffer.  “We’ll have a much better idea of where we stand in two to three months,” said Jason Holley, wildlife biologist supervisor for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. “However, we’re greatly concerned about many likely implications should the drought increase in severity or duration. We are preparing for the worst and hoping for a very wet late winter and spring.”…

     


    Why give away fish flows for free during a drought?



    Posted on February 11, 2014 by UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences

    American River, 1977. Source: California Department of Water Resources

    By Jay Lund, Ellen Hanak, Barton “Buzz” Thompson, Brian Gray, Jeffrey Mount and Katrina Jessoe

    With California in a major drought, state and federal regulators will be under pressure to loosen environmental flow standards that protect native fish. This happened in the 1976-77 and 1987-92 droughts, and today’s drought could become much worse. These standards demonstrate the high value society places on the survival of native fish and wildlife. In past droughts, we have given away some of these protections because of pressure to make more water available for other uses. But this time, California can do better. We can create a special water market that better meets the state’s goals of both ensuring a reliable water supply and protecting the environment. In this market, growers and cities would pay for the additional water made available from relaxed environmental standards, and the revenues would help support fish and wildlife recovery….

     

    Glendale residents will get high tech reminders to conserve water and electricity
    Los Angeles KPCC Radio, California February 17, 2014

    In the face of California’s record drought, Glendale Water and Power is counting on technology to help make homeowners more aware of the electricity and water they use.

     

     

    H20 Tracker awards points by correctly answering quiz questions such as whether more water is spent taking a bath or washing a car.

    Water-saving apps turn conservation into a money-saving game
    San Jose Mercury News February 16, 2014

    With millions of people worried about California’s historic drought, a proliferation of free apps turn water conservation into a game while letting consumers save both water and money around the house.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Ahwahnee Principles
    (pdf) for Resource-Efficient Communities, Economic Development, and Water.

     

    Governor Brown, Legislative Leaders Announce Emergency Drought Legislation

    From the Office of the Governor  February 19, 2014

    “With California experiencing its worst water shortage crisis in modern history, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. today joined Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez to announce legislation to immediately help communities deal with the devastating dry conditions affecting our state and provide funding to increase local water supplies.

    “This is a call to action. We must all do our part to conserve in this drought,” said Governor Brown. “The state is doing its part by providing immediate funding for drinking water, food, housing and assistance for water-conserving technologies,” said Governor Brown.

    The legislation provides $687.4 million to support drought relief, including money for housing and food for workers directly impacted by the drought, bond funds for projects to help local communities more efficiently capture and manage water and funding for securing emergency drinking water supplies for drought-impacted communities. In addition, the legislation increases funding for state and local conservation corps to assist communities with efficiency upgrades and reduce fire fuels in fire risk areas, and includes $1 million for the Save Our Water public awareness campaign – which will enhance its mission to inform Californians how they can do their part to conserve water……

     

    Highlights of the legislation include:

    Enhancing Water Conservation and Improving Water Supplies

    • $549 million from the accelerated expenditure of voter-approved bonds, Proposition 84 and Proposition 1E, in the form of infrastructure grants for local and regional projects that are already planned or partially completed to increase local reliability, including recapturing of storm water, expand the use and distribution of recycled water, enhance the management and recharging of groundwater storage and strengthen water conservation.

    • $20 million transferred from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund to the Department of Water Resources (DWR) for direct expenditures and grants to state and local agencies to improve water use efficiency, save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from state and local water transportation and management systems.

    • $14 million for groundwater management across the state, including assistance to disadvantaged communities with groundwater contamination exacerbated by the drought.

    • $10 million transferred from the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Fund for the California Department of Food and Agriculture to invest in irrigation and water pumping systems that reduce water use, energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.

    • $10 million transferred from the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Fund for the DWR to establish a grant program for state and local agencies to implement residential, commercial or institutional water efficiency projects that reduce water and energy use.

    • $15 million from the General Fund for Emergency Drinking Water Fund to address emergency water shortages due to drought.

    • $13 million from the General Fund to augment the California Conservation Corps and local community conservation corps to expand water use efficiency and conservation activities and to reduce fuel loads to prevent catastrophic fires.

     

    Assisting Californians Disproportionately Impacted by the Drought

    • $25.3 million from the General Fund for food assistance, which will be structured to maximize the potential federal drought assistance that can be provided to provide food assistance to those impacted by the drought.

    • $21 million from the General Fund and federal funds for housing related assistance for individuals impacted by the drought…..

     

     

    California Lawmakers Pushing Bills Addressing Drought And Climate Change

    By Ari Phillips on February 20, 2014

    Politicians in California are engaged in an acrimonious back-and-forth about how to confront the crippling drought, but Democratic bills addressing the state’s long-term goal of mitigating climate change are also on the move….

     

     

    Reclamation announces initial 2014 Central Valley Project Water Supply Allocation: 0% for North of Delta, South of Delta ag; 50% for M&I

    Water by Maven From the Bureau of Reclamation:

    The Bureau of Reclamation today announced the initial 2014 water supply allocation for Central Valley Project agricultural contractors, municipal and industrial contractors and federal refuges. The California Department of Water Resources reports that snowpack and precipitation in the Sierra Nevada are historically low and the snow-water content statewide stands at 29 percent of average for this time of year.
    ….Actual deliveries of water will be subject to the State Water Resources Control Board order of January 31, including any subsequent modifications and clarifications to the order. To view the January 31 order, please visit: http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/waterrights/water_issues/programs/drought/docs/tucp/bd_change_order.pdf As drought conditions continue putting further stress on limited water supplies, Reclamation will work with the SWRCB, DWR and all contractors to effectively carry out project operations consistent with all applicable laws. Earlier this month, Reclamation and the Natural Resources Conservation Service announced they are leveraging federal funds for water delivery agencies and agricultural producers and will provide up to $14 million in funding for water districts and associated growers to conserve water and improve water management. The projects funded through this partnership will help communities build resilience to drought, including modernizing their water infrastructure and efficiently using scarce water resources, while continuing to support the agricultural economy.

    Reclamation also recently released the 2014 CVP Water Plan that outlines numerous actions to help water users better manage their water supplies during drought conditions, such as expanding operational flexibility and streamlining the water transfer process.

    North-of-Delta Contractors

    Sacramento River

    • Agricultural water service contractors North-of-Delta are allocated 0 percent of their contract supply of 443,000 acre-feet.
    • M&I water service contractors North-of-Delta who are serviced by Shasta Reservoir on the Sacramento River are allocated 50 percent of their historic use.
    • Sacramento River Settlement Contractors, whose water supply is based upon senior water rights and is subject to pre-established Shasta Reservoir inflow criteria, are allocated 40 percent of their contract supply of 2.2 million acre-feet.

    American River

    • M&I water service contractors North-of-Delta who are serviced by Folsom Reservoir on the American River are allocated 50 percent of their historic use.

    In-Delta

    • The Contra Costa Water District, which receives water directly from the Delta, is allocated 50 percent of its historic use amount of 170,000 acre-feet.

    South-of-Delta Contractors

    • Agricultural water service contractors South-of-Delta are allocated 0 percent of their contract supply of 1.965 million acre-feet.
    • M&I water service contractors South-of-Delta are allocated 50 percent of their historic use.
    • San Joaquin River Exchange and Settlement Contractors, whose CVP water supply allocation is subject to pre-established Shasta Reservoir inflow criteria, are allocated 40 percent of their contract supply of 875,000 acre-feet.

    Wildlife Refuges

    • Wildlife refuges (Level 2) North- and South-of-Delta, which also have allocations subject to pre-established Shasta inflow criteria, are allocated 40 percent of their contract supply of 422,000 acre-feet.

    Friant Division Contractors

    • Friant Division contractors’ water supply is delivered from Millerton Reservoir on the upper San Joaquin River. The first 800,000 acre-feet of water supply is considered Class 1, and the next 1.4 million acre-feet is considered Class 2. Based upon DWR’s February WY 2014 Runoff Forecast, the Friant Division water supply allocation is 0 percent of Class 1 and 0 percent of Class 2.

    Eastside Water Service Contractors

    • Eastside water service contractors (Central San Joaquin Water Conservation District and Stockton East Water District), whose water supplies are delivered from New Melones Reservoir on the Stanislaus River, are allocated 55 percent of their contract supply of 155,000 acre-feet.

    As the water year progresses, changes to hydrology and opportunities to exercise operational flexibility of the CVP are factors and conditions that will influence future allocations. Water supply updates will be made as appropriate and posted on Reclamation’s website at http://www.usbr.gov/mp/pa/water.

     

     

    Financier Plans Big Ad Campaign on Environment

    By NICHOLAS CONFESSORE February 18, 2014 NY Times

    Tom Steyer, a retired hedge fund manager, plans to spend as much as $100 million this year on a hard-edge campaign to pressure officials and candidates to support climate change measures. The donor, Tom Steyer, a Democrat who founded one of the world’s most successful hedge funds, burst onto the national political scene during last year’s elections, when he spent $11 million to help elect Terry McAuliffe governor of Virginia and millions more intervening in a Democratic congressional primary in Massachusetts. Now he is rallying other deep-pocketed donors, seeking to build a war chest that would make his political organization, NextGen Climate Action, among the largest outside groups in the country, similar in scale to the conservative political network overseen by Charles and David Koch. In early February, Mr. Steyer gathered two dozen of the country’s leading liberal donors and environmental philanthropists to his 1,800-acre ranch in Pescadero, Calif. — which raises prime grass-fed beef — to ask them to join his efforts. People involved in the discussions say Mr. Steyer is seeking to raise $50 million from other donors to match $50 million of his own. The money would move through Mr. Steyer’s fast-growing, San Francisco-based political apparatus into select 2014 races. Targets include the governor’s race in Florida, where the incumbent, Rick Scott, a first-term Republican, has said he does not believe that science has established that climate change is man-made. Mr. Steyer’s group is also looking at the Senate race in Iowa, in the hope that a win for the Democratic candidate, Representative Bruce Braley, an outspoken proponent of measures to limit climate change, could help shape the 2016 presidential nominating contests. Mr. Steyer also prospected for potential donors on a recent trip to New York City, where he met with aides to former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who has made championing climate change a focus of his post-mayoral political life, but whose own “super PAC” has focused chiefly on gun control….

    ….Mr. Steyer poured tens of millions of dollars into a successful 2012 ballot initiative in California that eliminated a loophole in the state’s corporate income tax and dedicated some of the resulting revenue to clean-energy projects. He also has helped finance opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline, appearing in a series of self-funded 90-second ads seeking to stop the project. Those efforts cemented his partnership with Chris Lehane, a California-based Democratic strategist, and heralded the emergence of NextGen Climate, now a 20-person operation encompassing a super PAC, a research organization and a political advocacy nonprofit. The group employs polling, research and social media to find climate-sensitive voters and spends millions of dollars in television advertising to try to persuade them. It already is among the biggest environmental pressure groups in the country: For example, the League of Conservation Voters, considered the most election-oriented of such groups, reported spending about $15 million on campaign ads in 2012. And while Mr. Steyer has been critical of Democrats who waver on climate issues, he has aimed most of his firepower so far at Republicans. The new fund-raising push seeks to tap into the booming fortunes of Silicon Valley, where many donors rank climate change as their top political issue. It also signals a shift within the environmental movement, as donors — frustrated that neither Democratic nor Republican officials are willing to prioritize climate change measures — shift their money from philanthropy and education into campaign vehicles designed to win elections….

     

     

    Is Tom Steyer facing a mismatch versus Kochs? Politico February 21, 2014

    Liberal billionaire Tom Steyer may be pledging to spend $100 million or more to make climate change a prime election issue in 2014 and beyond, but he’s still a long way from matching the conservative empire of Charles and David Koch.

     

    Keystone XL pipeline hits another snag. Will it ever be built? Christian Science Monitor

    The Keystone XL pipeline suffered a legal setback Wednesday when a state court voided the Nebraska governor’s approval of the project. After more than five years of review, the fate of the Keystone XL pipeline still hangs in the balance. Christian Science Monitor

     

    Obama to Request New Rules for Cutting Truck Pollution

    By CORAL DAVENPORT February 18, 2014 NY Times

    President Obama will direct the Environmental Protection Agency to develop new regulations to reduce greenhouse gas pollution from truck tailpipes by March 2016.

     

     

     

     

    NPR’s Guide To Changing Light Bulbs

    February 18, 2014 3:49 PM

    Buying a light bulb used to be relatively straightforward: Check your old bulb’s wattage, head to the store and pick up a new one. But the transition to energy-efficient lighting has changed that. Halogens, CFLs, LEDs, watts vs. lumens — the array of choices on the market today can make selecting the right a bulb an exercise in confusion. So here, we try to demystify the new light bulb landscape….

    The Major Bulb Standards

    • Standard Incandescent  Cost over 10 years $76.70

      Incandescent bulbs give off the warm, yellowish-white light we’ve grown to love, but they are highly inefficient, losing 90 percent of their energy to heat. You can still find traditional incandescent bulbs on store shelves, but major manufacturers have stopped producing the most common varieties — meaning that 40-, 60-, 75- and 100-watt bulbs will become scarcer in the coming months. Production of specialty incandescents like three-way bulbs will continue.

    • Halogen Incandescent  Cost over 10 years $68.19

      Contrary to some reports, incandescent bulbs have not been banned. In response to a 2007 law setting higher efficiency standards, manufacturers added halogen gas to incandescent bulbs to make them burn more efficiently. Halogen incandescents give off the same light as traditional incandescents, but use 28 percent less energy. Like standard incandescents, they last about one year.

    • CFL  Cost over 10 years $22.88

      Compact fluorescents — CFLs — have come a long way since becoming widely available in the 1990s. Today, the color of the light is much improved, some bulbs can be dimmed, and the price per bulb has dropped dramatically to a few dollars or less. They use about 75 percent less energy than incandescents and have an estimated life of nine years. CFLs contain very small amounts of mercury and should be disposed of properly.

    • LED  Cost over 10 years $16.37

      Currently, LEDs make up less than 1 percent of the domestic market. But with prices dropping rapidly, adoption rates are expected to soar. LEDs use about 80 percent less energy than incandescents and have an estimated life of more than 20 years. Most LEDs can be dimmed. So far, cost has been the biggest obstacle to wider use; while 60-watt equivalent LED bulbs are now selling for less than $10, the price for higher-wattage equivalents is at least twice that.

      Sources: Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Energy, NPR research Credit: April Fehling, Andrea Hsu, Alyson Hurt, Avie Schneider and Jim Tuttle/NPR

      Listen to the story- Watt’s the Deal

      In The Dark About Picking A Light Bulb? This FAQ Can Help

      by NPR Staff February 18, 2014 4:06 PM

     

    Bird habitat concern forces utilities to scrap wind farm. Bloomberg News

    Three utilities scrapped plans to extend the world’s biggest offshore wind farm, saying they had doubts they could satisfy concerns about how the facility would affect the habitat of a bird in the estuary east of London.

     

    Offshore Wind Industry Slowed by Birds, Bombs, Sharks

    Bloomberg

     - ‎February 21, 2014‎

           

    Birds, sharks and unexploded bombs from World War II are being blamed for holding up offshore wind farms, raising doubts about the costs of the technology.

     

     

    U.S. Offshore Wind Inches Closer To Reality As Dominion Places Bid On Ocean Lease

    By Emily Atkin on February 19, 2014

    Despite its potential to produce more than 4,000 gigawatts of renewable energy, the United State still does not have a single operational offshore wind farm. But we’re getting closer.

     

    Cool Roofs Might Be Enough to Save Cities from Climate Overheating

    New research suggests that planting gardens atop roofs or painting them white could offset both the local urban heat island effect and global warming, although one roof type does not cover all situations

    Feb 14, 2014 |By David Biello


    COOL ROOF: The green roof atop a post office building in Midtown Manhattan offers cooling, water filtration and even rest for weary urbanites. © David Biello

    Crickets chirp and bees buzz from sedum flower to flower atop the post office in midtown Manhattan during a visit to the 9th Avenue facility on a perfect New York City fall day. On a sprawling roof that covers most of a city block a kind of park has been laid, sucking up carbon dioxide and other air pollution, filtering rainfall, making it less acidic. Such verdant roofs may form part of an effective strategy for both cooling buildings and helping combat climate change, according to new research published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) on February 11. Other solutions cited in the study include white roofs that reflect more sunlight back to space or hybrid roofs that combine aspects of white and green, or planted, roofs. A large enough number of such roofs could “completely offset warming due to urban expansion and even offset a percentage of future greenhouse warming over large regional scales,” says sustainability scientist Matei Georgescu at Arizona State University, who lead the research. That conclusion contradicts previous findings by researchers from Stanford University, who found that reflective roofs actually might increase global warming…..

    But the new research published in PNAS suggests that such white roofs would have different impacts in different places. So, in New York City any energy savings on air-conditioning in the summer are counterbalanced by increased heating usage in winter (although this can be addressed with optimal roof design or roofs with adjustable reflectivity). And white roofs can reduce precipitation as well, by reducing the amount of warm, humid air rising and, thus, the number of clouds and eventual rainfall. “Adaptation to urban-induced climate change depends on specific geographic factors,” Georgescu adds, noting that white, reflective cool roofs work well in California, but could reduce rainfall from Florida up the U.S. east coast, for example. “What works over one geographical area may not be optimal for another,” he says. Green roofs may be a better fit for New York City, for example, because they provide better insulation during winter, along with cooling benefits in the summer. Water evaporation from the plants lowers overall temperatures—and releases more humidity into the air. And, they offer ancillary benefits like green space for weary urban minds….

    … Regardless, the space for reflective or even green roofs is limited. Urban areas cover less than 1 percent of the globe (although that number is likely to increase in coming decades), and less than half of that area is roof- or road-top, amenable to whitening. It also fails to capture the complexity of an urban environment, such as how replacing trees with buildings affects the water table and wind speeds. “Urbanization affects not just surface albedo,” says urban environment researcher Karen Seto of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, who was not involved in any of the research. The new PNAS study “is an innovative first step, but limited in terms of what impacts they’re looking at,” she adds.In the meantime, black roofs remain a human health risk. In the deadly Chicago heat wave of 1995 those living on the top floor of a building with a black roof were most likely to die, according to subsequent analysis. “Black roofs should be outlawed,” geochemist Wade McGillis of the Lamont–Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University told me during my visit to the post office green roof. “If you’re going to put up a roof, don’t put up black.

     

     

    Energy and Climate Experts Find Wide Range of 2030 Emissions Targets on Path to 2050

    The UC Davis Policy Institute for Energy, Environment and the Economy and the Sustainable Transportation Energy Pathways (NextSTEPS) program of the Institute of Transportation Studies (ITS-Davis) hosted a forum in December 2013 as part of the California Climate Policy Modeling (CCPM) project. Six of the models presented at the forum included “deep GHG reduction scenarios” that achieved either a reduction of 80% in GHG emissions by 2050 or cumulatively similar emission reductions. These scenarios showed the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 8-52% below 1990 levels by 2030 through a combination of strategies that include energy efficiency, renewable energy and low-carbon transportation solutions. The CCPM is an ongoing project to bring together policy makers, modeling groups, and key stakeholders to:

    1) improve the knowledge of possible scenarios for future technology adoption, energy use, air quality, and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions,

    2) identify midpoint goals and/or targets for GHG emissions between 2020 and 2050,

    3) discuss policy options for meeting the state’s climate and air quality goals, identify policy gaps, and improve existing policies and,

    4) improve the state of modeling, including identifying ways to make the findings more useful and accessible to policymakers. Modeling teams represented at the forum included UC Davis; UC Berkeley; Stanford University; Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; National Renewable Energy

    Laboratory; and the private consulting firm E3. Representatives from the California Governor’s Office, Air Resources Board, Energy Commission, Public Utilities Commission, and other stakeholders also attended the two-day conference and provided substantive input.

     

    Annual and cumulative emissions in scenarios that achieve deep GHG emissions reductions by 2050

     

    Key insights from the forum included:

    * 2030 annual emissions range from 208-396 million metric tonnes MMT) of CO2e per year, or a reduction of 8-52% below 1990 levels.

    * Demonstrating the potential significance of early reductions, cumulative emissions range from 6,492-9,205 MMT (through 2030) and 10,357-14,394 MMT (through 2050).

    * De-carbonizing end-use energy consumption, including transportation and residential and commercial heating are key compliance pathways to meet the 2050 goals across all models. If pursued primarily through electrification, total electricity generation for California will rise dramatically from today’s level of approximately 323 terawatt hours (TWh) to between 436-1375 TWh in 2050.

    *  Estimates of renewable generation, excluding large hydroelectric, wary widely from 30-55% in 2030 increasing to 38-94% in 2050. The renewable fraction is largely driven by assumptions about the availability or lack of nuclear power and carbon capture and storage.

    *  Absent further policy, non-energy related and high-global-warming potential GHG emissions could exceed the 2050 emission goal even if all other emissions are zero.

    *  Transportation achieves the largest magnitude of GHG reductions of any sector from 2010 to 2050, while at the same time remaining the highest contributor to overall emissions of any sector with emissions of between 30-105 MMT in 2050. Zero emission vehicles including plug-in battery electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles dominate the light-duty market making up between 50-96% of the fleet by 2050.

    *  Biomass is used almost exclusively for transportation. Due to feedstock limitations, maximum penetration of biofuels in the transportation energy mix is estimated at approximately 40% across all modes supplying between 5.5-10.3 billion gallons of gasoline equivalent in 2050.

    *  Strategies are needed that simultaneously reduce GHG emissions, particulate matter, oxides of nitrogen, and/or reactive organic gases related to ozone pollution consistent with both the near-term 2023 and midterm 2032 national ambient air quality standards and long-term 2050 GHG targets. For those scenarios that are also designed to consider air quality goals, zero and near zero-emission goods movement solutions are needed by 2030, especially in the South Coast and San Joaquin Valley Air Basins.

    *  Estimates of average carbon mitigation cost vary between models, across sectors and time periods. One model reports the average mitigation costs (including savings from demand reduction and efficiency improvement) over the time period from 2010-2050 range from -$110 (savings) to +$220/tCO2e. In another the average mitigation cost from 2010-2050 is $109/tCO2e with the average in 2050 equal to $97/tCO2e.

    *  More dialogue between modelers and policymakers is needed to guide decision-making and policy design, and to improve the value of future modeling efforts. Opportunities to improve the usefulness of modeling outputs include greater representation of explicit policies, uncertainty, scenarios impacts to other non-energy related metrics (e.g. water, land-use, air quality) and the use of a broader range of performance metrics for reporting the results. Modelers would benefit from greater access to relevant government-collected data and the status and plans for current and future policies

     

    Sustainable manufacturing system to better consider the human component
    (February 20, 2014) — Engineers have developed a new approach toward ‘sustainable manufacturing’ that begins on the factory floor and tries to encompass the totality of manufacturing issues — including economic, environmental, and social impacts. It may help meet demands for higher corporate social responsibility. … > full story

    Urgent need to recycle rare metals
    (February 17, 2014) — Rare earth metals are important components in green energy products such as wind turbines and eco-cars. But the scarcity of these metals is worrying the European Union. … > full story

    US backing first nuclear reactors in 30 years
    Interpress Service

    The U.S. government has announced that it will be offering substantial loan guarantees for two new nuclear reactors, giving a major boost to what would be the first such projects to go forward in the United States in more than three decades.

     

    Switch to Gas From Coal May Threaten Water Supply

    Climate Central Published: February 17th, 2014 By Bobby Magill

    With drought and water shortages affecting areas where much of America’s natural gas is produced, power plants making the switch to gas from coal could have other costs that may be made worse by manmade climate change. This is especially true if global warming, as studies show, intensifies drought. One of those costs is water. Natural gas is primarily produced after shale oil and gas wells are hydraulically fractured, or fracked, often using millions of gallons of water for each well. Take south Texas’ Eagle Ford shale, one of thirstiest natural gas fields in the U.S., where high water demand from the oil and gas industry is adding strain to already stressed water supplies….

     

    Amory Lovins: Energy visionary sees renewables revolution in full swing The Guardian February 17, 2014

    Amory Lovins last year harvested from his small garden more than 30 pounds of bananas, along with guava, mango, papaya, loquat, passion and other exotic fruit. Nothing remarkable in that, except that the energy analyst and chief scientist of the Rocky Mountain Institute does not live in the tropics but in an unheated house 6,500 feet up a mountain near Aspen, Colorado.

     

     

    1. RESOURCES and REFERENCES

     
     

     

     

    WEBINARS:

    Please note that webinar space is limited.

    Detecting and Addressing Climate Change Impacts on Birds and Their Habitat in Northern Mexico and the Southwestern U.S.

    Friday, February 28, 2014 12:00-1:00 pm, Mountain Time

    Presenter: Dr. Sam Veloz, Point Blue Conservation Science
    hosted by the Desert Landscape Conservation Cooperative!
    DATE: From U.S.: 1-866-692-4541; From Mexico: 001-866-597-6485; Participant code: 92479385#

    YOU MUST REGISTER TO ATTEND THIS WEBINAR 1. Go to https://usgs.webex.com/usgs/j.php?ED=266534272&RG=1&UID=1827819532&RT=MiM1  2. Register for the meeting.  To view in other time zones or languages, please click the link:  https://usgs.webex.com/usgs/j.php?ED=266534272&RG=1&UID=1827819532&ORT=MiM1  Once you have registered for the meeting, you will receive an email message confirming your registration. This message will provide the information that you need to join the meeting.

    ———————————————————–

    For help with WebEx: 1. Go to https://usgs.webex.com/usgs/mc  2. On the left navigation bar, click “Support”.

     

     

    UPCOMING CONFERENCES: 

    Fostering Resilience in Southwestern Ecosystems: A Problem Solving Workshop
    February 25-27, 2014
    Tucson, Arizona
    This workshop will focus on answering urgent questions such as: How do managers “build resilience”
    when ecosystems are undergoing rapid change? What are our options when megafires remove huge swaths of forests not well adapted to this disturbance?  Click here for more information or to register

     

    Climate-Smart Conservation  NWF/NCTC ALC3195 

    March 4-6, 2014 Sacramento State University – Modoc Hall. Sacramento, CA 3 days /no tuition for this class.

    The target audience includes conservation practitioners and natural resource managers working at multiple scales to ensure the ongoing effectiveness of their work in an era of climate change. This course is based on a forthcoming guide to the principles and practice of Climate-Smart Conservation. This publication is the product of an expert workgroup on climate change adaptation convened by the National Wildlife Federation in collaboration with the FWS’s National Conservation Training Center and other partners (see sidebar).  …Register online at http://training.fws.gov . In partnership with staff from National Wildlife Federation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey, National Park Service, Environmental Protection Agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Forest Service, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Conservation Society, The Nature Conservancy, EcoAdapt, Geos Institute, and Point Blue Conservation Science.

    Contact for Registration Questions: Jill DelVecchio at 304/876-7424 or jill_delvecchio@fws.gov  

    Contact for Content Questions: Christy Coghlan at 304/876-7438 or christy_coghlan@fws.gov

     

    Communicating Climate Change: Climate Engagement Strategies and Problem Solving

    San Francisco Bay NERR  March 4, 2014 Contact: Heidi Nutters, 415-338-3511 -or-
    Elkhorn Slough NERR   March 6, 2014
    Contact: Virginia Guhin, 831-274-8700  Please read the details carefully as this 1-day training is being offered in two locations!

    Sponsored by: Elkhorn Slough and San Francisco Bay Coastal Training Programs Instructor: Cara Pike, TRIG’s Social Capital Project/Climate Access

     

    Soil Science Society of America ecosystems services conference–abstracts are now being invited and are due by 12/1/2013.

    March 6-9, 2014 Sheraton Grand Hotel, Sacramento, CA Sponsored by the Ecological Society of America, American Geophysical Union, and US Geological Survey. More info is available here:  https://www.soils.org/meetings/specialized/ecosystem-services

     

    Cartographic Design for Geographic Information Systems (GIS)March 14-15, 2014, from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

    Center for Integrated Spatial Research at the University of California, Santa Cruz– The Elkhorn Slough Coastal Training Program

    Registration fee: $500 Teacher: Tim Norris, Cartography Consultant, PhD Candidate

     

    WATER RESOURCES MANAGEMENT  2014 Conference

    North (SF) Bay Watershed Association  Friday, April 11, 2014  NOVATO, CA  8:00 AM to 4:30 PM PDT

    The conference will bring together key participants from around the North Bay to focus on how we can work together to manage our water resources.

    Keynote Speakers

    • Mark Cowin, Director, CA Department of Water Resources
    • Jared Huffman, U.S. Congressman, California 2nd District
    • Felicia Marcus, Chair, State Water Resources Control Board

    For more information or questions contact: Elizabeth Preim-Rohtla North Bay Watershed Association nbwa@marinwater.org 415-945-1475

     

    EARTH DAY 2014

    Stanford experts from a range of disciplines will discuss the interconnections and interactions among humanity’s need for and use of climate, energy, food, water, and environmental resources. The day will feature key authors of the new Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on impacts, adaptation and vulnerability to climate change.  Professor Chris Field, co-chair of IPCC Working Group II, and members of the Technical Support Group will provide an overview of their major findings. Stanford students and faculty will lead an interactive breakout session on key challenges associated with climate change. A faculty panel—representing WG I, WG II and WG III—will connect the dots by evaluating some of the ways in which decisions in one resource area can lead to tradeoffs or co-benefits in others. Finally a keynote speaker will consider the impacts, adaptation and vulnerability of climate change for the Bay Area, which has billions of dollars invested in shoreline development and infrastructure.  Registration is free – required.

    Confirmed Speakers

    • Stacey Bent, Professor of Chemical Engineering; Director of the TomKat Center for Sustainable Energy
    • Noah Diffenbaugh, Associate Professor of Environmental Earth System Science; Senior Fellow at the Woods Institute for the Environment
    • Chris Field, Professor of Biology and of Environmental Earth System Science; Director of the Carnegie Institution Department of Global Ecology, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group II
    • Charles Kolstad, Senior Fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research and the Precourt Institute for Energy
    • Jon Krosnick, Professor of Communications and of Political Science
    • Katharine Mach, Carnegie Institution, Co-Director of Science, IPCC Working Group II Technical Support Unit
    • Michael Mastrandrea, Carnegie Institution, Co-Director of Science for IPCC Working Group II Technical Support Unit
    • Terry Root, Senior Fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment  (Point Blue Science Advisory Committee member and former Board member)

     

    Southern Sierra Fire and Hydroclimate Workshop

    April 22-24, 2014 Yosemite Valley, CA

    This workshop is focused on developing an integrated view of the physical landscape, climate effects, hydrology and fire regimes of the Sierra Nevada.

     

    Sanctuary Currents Symposium; Marine Debris: How do you pitch in?
    Saturday April 26, 2014, University Center, California State University Monterey Bay

    Research Posters: Call for abstracts will occur in January.  Visit the Sanctuary Currents Symposium website for updates and information: Sanctuary Currents Symposium

     

    Scenario Planning toward Climate Change Adaptation (pdf) WORKSHOP May 6-8, 2014 NCTC, Shepherdstown, West Virginia

    This overview course will introduce the core elements of scenario planning and expose participants to a diversity of approaches and specific scenario development techniques that incorporate both qualitative and quantitative components.

     

    99th Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America
    Sacramento, California  August 10-15, 2014  http://www.esa.org/sacramento

     

    California Adaptation Forum 
    August 18-20, 2014
    .

    This two-day forum will build off a successful National Adaptation Forum held in Colorado in 2013. The attendance of many California leaders there underscored the need for a California-focused event, which will be held every other year to complement the biennial national conference.  To register go to:  https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/886364449

     

     

    BOOKS:

     


    ‘The Sixth
    Extinction,’ by Elizabeth Kolbert – San Francisco
    Chronicle



    San Francisco Chronicle Review by Mary Ellen Hannibal Updated 5:03 pm, Friday, February 7, 2014.

    “There is grandeur in this view of life,” concludes Charles Darwin in his opus “On the Origin of Species.” “… From so simple a beginning, endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved.” Darwin was right about many things, including the mechanism by which the plenitude of life we know as biodiversity came to thrive on this planet. Unfortunately for us, his picture of a continuously rich congregation of interacting species has hit a big roadblock.  New Yorker staff writer Elizabeth Kolbert lays out the situation in “The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History.” The activities of Homo sapiens – that’s right, us – are reducing the volume and kinds of other life-forms on the planet at a rate and magnitude that earn our moment in time its own epochal designation. By 2016, it is expected that the inherently conservative Geological Society of London will make it official: We’re living in an Anthropocene of our own devising.  In her elegant and quickly paced book, Kolbert reviews the history of the very concept of extinction, noting that neither Aristotle nor Pliny nor Linnaeus ever guessed there had been life-forms on Earth that no longer exist….

     

    ….It is not possible to overstate the importance of Kolbert’s book. Her prose is lucid, accessible and even entertaining as she reveals the dark theater playing out on our globe. It is enough for one book to cover the enormous swaths of scientific territory she does here. Still, I would have liked more reference and explanation of how this accelerated take-down of creatures causes even more negative effects than the immediate one of species loss.  For example, here in North America, the loss of top predators (grizzly bears and wolves) exacerbates our current ecological woes. On the East Coast, superabundant deer are decimating forests and in some communities have to be culled by hunters. These deer also bring us proliferating ticks and Lyme disease. In the West, the lack of big teeth on the landscape actually has an impact on the water system, since the over-browsing deer and elk erode the banks of creeks and rivers, and pave the way for invasive plants to further degrade nature’s operations there.  Finally, while there is probably no hope for many of the Earth’s creatures no matter what we do right now, we certainly can stem this extinction crisis. With any hope, Kolbert’s readers will not be able to sleep until we all do our part to protect habitat for our co-travelers through what Darwin rightly called Earth’s grandeur. As climate change forces species to adjust how and where they live, we can help them by protecting enough natural places for them to do so.

     

    Mary Ellen Hannibal is the author of “The Spine of the Continent: The Race to Save America’s Last, Best Wilderness,” and winner of Stanford’s Knight-Risser Prize in Western Environmental Journalism. E-mail: books@sfchronicle.com

     

     

    Thinking Like a Planet: The Land Ethic and the Earth Ethic

    Environmental Philosopher Baird Callicott has recently published a new book entitled Thinking Like a Planet: The Land Ethic and the Earth Ethic, now available from Oxford University Press. In this book, Callicott develops a new moral philosophy that is capable of engaging the most urgent and otherwise intractable ethical concern of the first century of the new millennium: global climate change. He updates and expands Aldo Leopold’s land ethic to make it relevant to contemporary concerns with regard to climate change.

     

     

    JOBS:

     

    POINT BLUE: CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER

    Western Rivers Conservancy Lands Director

    Golden Gate Audubon is looking for a new Executive Director

    San Francisco Estuary Institute-ASC Executive Director Filing date: Sunday, February 16, 2014.

    Senior Project Manager:  Position open until filled. More information.

    USFWS- Assistant Regional Director for Science Applications – Pacific Southwest Region, Sacramento

    GS-0480-15 Fish and Wildlife Administrator, Assistant Regional Director for Science

    Application vacancy announcements opened today Feb 13, and will close Feb 27, 2014.

    External R8-14-1051452-SG  
    Government-wide R8-14-1045018-SG 

     

     

     

     

    1. OTHER NEWS OF INTEREST

     

    What Bill Nye the Science Guy and Ken Ham missed

    Oliver Putz Opinion SF Chronicle Updated 1:18 pm, Saturday, February 15, 2014

    Bill Nye “the Science Guy” (left) listens as Ken Ham makes a point this month at a debate on evolution at Ham’s Creation Museum in Petersburg, Ky. Photo: Matt Stone, Associated Press

    Once again the perennial talk of a “war” between religion and science is upon us. In an Internet-televised debate, creationist Ken Ham went head-to-head with TV scientist Bill Nye on the question of whether creation is a viable model of origins in today’s modern scientific era. Unsurprisingly, Ham insisted that it is, while Nye objected. As so often with these debates, religion and science were simplistically pitted against each other, proving once more that what the opponents in – and organizers of – that sort of spectacle are missing is the capacity for critical thinking…. How, then, can religion and science be related in a productive fashion, aside from the obvious, abandoning biblical literalism and paradoxical metaphysics? Philosopher of science Ernan McMullin proposed to look for consonance between religious and scientific knowledge claims. He argues that as long as theological doctrines and scientific theories do not contradict one another, there is no need for any conflict. Yet such consonance is only possible if both disciplines hold themselves to the highest scholarly standards and remain academically honest…

     

    Chemist gets U.S. patent for solution to antibiotic resistance problem
    (February 17, 2014) — A chemist in Copenhagen has just taken out a patent for a drug that can make previously multidrug-resistant bacteria once again responsive to antibiotics. … > full story

    Wringing A Wet Towel In Space [VIDEO]: What happens if you wring out a wet towel while floating in space?

    The water shouldn’t fall towards the floor because while orbiting the Earth, free falling objects will appear to float. But will the water fly out from the towel, or what?   The answer may surprise you…
     
    Tech shift: More women in computer science classes

    Kristen V. Brown, San Francisco Chronicle Updated 6:03 pm, Tuesday, February 18, 2014

    …but this Berkeley computer science class is at the vanguard of a tech world shift. The class has 106 women and 104 men. The gender flip first occurred last spring. It was the first time since at least 1993 – as far back as university enrollment records are digitized – that more women enrolled in an introductory computer science course. It was likely the first time ever. …Berkeley, Stanford and a handful of other universities have experienced a marked uptick in the numbers of female computer science students. Those increases have also coincided with a reimagining of computer science classes, especially introductory ones. In some cases, that meant doing away with aspects of classes that seemed to specifically discourage young women. For Garcia’s course, which is for nonmajors, the goal was to expand the class beyond “just programming,” to make it “kind of right-brained as well.” Berkeley put more emphasis on the impact and relevance of computing in the world, and added pair exercises. Each class begins with a discussion of a recent tech-related news article. Introduction to Symbolic Programming was reborn as Beauty and the Joy of Computing…..

    The way a room is lit can affect the way you make decisions
    (February 20, 2014) — The next time you want to turn down the emotional intensity before making an important decision, you may want to dim the lights first. A new study shows that human emotion, whether positive or negative, is felt more intensely under bright light. under bright lights emotions are felt more intensely. In the brighter room participants wanted spicier chicken wing sauce, thought the fictional character was more aggressive, found the women more attractive, felt better about positive words and worse about negative words, and drank more of the “favorable” juice and less of the “unfavorable” juice. … > full story

    Toilet etiquette and other tips to conserve water

    Kurtis Alexander SF Chronicle Updated 8:47 am, Tuesday, February 18, 2014

    If it’s yellow, let it mellow has been the go-to rule of water conservation for decades. The easy-to-remember adage speaks of a common-sense sacrifice made for the common good: selective flushing.

    Drought tips: 15 easy ways to save water now

     

     

    Food packaging chemicals may be harmful to human health over long term
    (February 19, 2014) — The synthetic chemicals used in the packaging, storage, and processing of foodstuffs might be harmful to human health over the long term, warn environmental scientists. This is because most of these substances are not inert and can leach into the foods we eat, they say. Despite the fact that some of these chemicals are regulated, people who eat packaged or processed foods are likely to be chronically exposed to low levels of these substances throughout their lives. And far too little is known about their long term impact. … > full story

     

     

     

    1. IMAGES OF THE WEEK

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    ————

    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. The Sixth Extinction- by Elizabeth Kolber, Review by Mary Ellen Hannibal, SF Chronicle

    Leave a Comment


    ‘The Sixth
    Extinction,’ by Elizabeth Kolbert – San Francisco
    Chronicle



    San Francisco Chronicle Review by Mary Ellen Hannibal Updated 5:03 pm, Friday, February 7, 2014.

     

    “There is grandeur in this view of life,” concludes Charles Darwin in his opus “On the Origin of Species.” “… From so simple a beginning, endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved.” Darwin was right about many things, including the mechanism by which the plenitude of life we know as biodiversity came to thrive on this planet. Unfortunately for us, his picture of a continuously rich congregation of interacting species has hit a big roadblock. New Yorker staff writer Elizabeth Kolbert lays out the situation in “The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History.” The activities of Homo sapiens – that’s right, us – are reducing the volume and kinds of other life-forms on the planet at a rate and magnitude that earn our moment in time its own epochal designation.

     

    By 2016, it is expected that the inherently conservative Geological Society of London will make it official: We’re living in an Anthropocene of our own devising. In her elegant and quickly paced book, Kolbert reviews the history of the very concept of extinction, noting that neither Aristotle nor Pliny nor Linnaeus ever guessed there had been life-forms on Earth that no longer exist….

     

    ….It is not possible to overstate the importance of Kolbert’s book. Her prose is lucid, accessible and even entertaining as she reveals the dark theater playing out on our globe. It is enough for one book to cover the enormous swaths of scientific territory she does here. Still, I would have liked more reference and explanation of how this accelerated take-down of creatures causes even more negative effects than the immediate one of species loss. For example, here in North America, the loss of top predators (grizzly bears and wolves) exacerbates our current ecological woes. On the East Coast, superabundant deer are decimating forests and in some communities have to be culled by hunters. These deer also bring us proliferating ticks and Lyme disease.

     

    In the West, the lack of big teeth on the landscape actually has an impact on the water system, since the over-browsing deer and elk erode the banks of creeks and rivers, and pave the way for invasive plants to further degrade nature’s operations there. Finally, while there is probably no hope for many of the Earth’s creatures no matter what we do right now, we certainly can stem this extinction crisis. With any hope, Kolbert’s readers will not be able to sleep until we all do our part to protect habitat for our co-travelers through what Darwin rightly called Earth’s grandeur. As climate change forces species to adjust how and where they live, we can help them by protecting enough natural places for them to do so.

     

    Mary Ellen Hannibal is the author of “The Spine of the Continent: The Race to Save America’s Last, Best Wilderness,” and winner of Stanford’s Knight-Risser Prize in Western Environmental Journalism. E-mail: books@sfchronicle.com

  9. Aldo Leopold Legacy — Revisiting Leopold

    Leave a Comment

     

     

    The Leopold Legacy

    As the National Park Service prepares to celebrate its 100th anniversary, the “Leopold Report” of 50 years ago remains influential, but much has also changed.

    By Tom Persinger Winter 2014 American Forests

     


    Aldo Leopold’s shack. Credit: Tom Persinger

     

    First protected in 1864, Yosemite became one of the first U.S. national parks in 1890. Currently, more than 3.7 million people visit each year. Credit: Arturo Yee

     

    The shack I stand looking at on this cold winter day was once a run-down chicken coop on an abandoned farm on the Wisconsin River. But, in 1935, this place would become Aldo Leopold’s weekend family retreat, living laboratory and the site where he would write one of America’s most enduring environmental masterpieces, “A Sand County Almanac.” It is also the land that would shape each of his children’s lifelong pursuits and passions. Aldo Starker Leopold, Aldo’s oldest son, commonly called Starker, was already a young man by the time the Leopold family began their work to restore the farm to conditions resembling the days before its collapse from over-farming. Even so, his time and effort there would prove foundational. In this place, Starker cleared brush, planted pines, built the outhouse affectionately referred to as ”The Parthenon” and worked in his father’s living laboratory as they experimented with ways to manage wildlife. Starker would use these experiences and others to go on to a distinguished career as professor at University of California, Berkeley, author, forester, zoologist, conservationist and — perhaps most significantly — creator of the document that would shape over 50 years of National Park Service policy. So, my visit this morning to Leopold’s shack and through the Leopold Pines is a visit to hallowed ground. And it is the beginning of my journey to uncover more about how the document this place inspired has shaped the course of land management history.

     

    THE LEOPOLD REPORT: PRESERVING WILDERNESS

    The report that would become one of the most significant in National Park Service history was born of a public relations disaster. In 1962, Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall tasked Starker Leopold with addressing the issue of wildlife population control in national parks. Udall’s request was formed in response to the public outcry brought upon by park personnel killing over 4,000 elk in Yellowstone National Park in the winter of 1961…..

     

    Revisiting Leopold” offers what it calls the precautionary principle as a tool moving forward in the face of that uncertainty. It “requires that stewardship decisions reflect science-informed prudence and restraint.” Moving forward is never easy, and moving forward into the unknown can be paralyzing without the toolset and method with which to do so.

     

    Toward its end, “Revisiting Leopold” offers a few steps toward the effective
    implementation of its policy recommendations.

    • The NPS should undertake a major, systematic and comprehensive review of its policies, despite the risk and uncertainty that this effort may entail.
    • NPS will need to significantly expand the role of science in the agency.
    • Expanded scientific capacity must be interdisciplinary as well as disciplinary.
    • NPS should establish a standing Science Advisory Board.
    • NPS must also expand its capacity to manage natural and cultural resources efficiently across large-scale landscapes.
    • NPS should function as a scientific leader in documenting and monitoring conditions of the park system.
    • NPS managers must be supported with the necessary funds and personnel.

     

    Considering the size and scope of NPS operations, it will be interesting to see how these recommendations are utilized to guide and develop future policy decisions. A leaner, more efficient organization is desirable, but could be difficult to achieve considering the current lack of financial support. Equally interesting to see will be if these recommendations prove to have the same staying power and long-term vision as Leopold’s initial report…..

  10. Conservation Science News February 14, 2014

    Leave a Comment

    Focus of the WeekGreen Valentine’s Day; Using Water Wisely

    1-ECOLOGY, BIODIVERSITY, RELATED

    2-CLIMATE CHANGE AND EXTREME EVENTS

    3-
    POLICY

    4- RENEWABLES, ENERGY AND RELATED

    5-
    RESOURCES and REFERENCES

    6-OTHER NEWS OF INTEREST 

    7-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, www.blm.gov/ca/news/newsbytes/2012/529.html 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 the California Landscape Conservation Cooperative ListServe or the Bay Area Ecosystems Climate Change Consortium listserve to receive this or you can email me directly at Ellie Cohen, ecohen at pointblue.org if you want your name added to or dropped from this list. 

    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- Green Valentine’s Day; Using Water Wisely

     

    Sharing a green Valentine’s Day

    Jared Blumenfeld Opinion SF Chronicle February 14, 2014

     

    Jared Blumenfeld is the regional administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Pacific Southwest Region.

     

    Valentine’s Day has always been about sharing – with your partner, parents, children, community or even a total stranger. Sharing is a big part of what love is all about. My neighbor Henry has nearly every power tool that a grown man could want, and he generously shares them with me and others on our block, which means we don’t need to buy tools and let them sit idle in our garages.

     

    By connecting with people, we are entering an era in which everything from a bicycle to a car to a power tool can be fully used by a network of users rather than just one owner. And that’s good news for our environment and our economy.

    Bicycle- and car-sharing can happen informally between family and friends, but collaborative websites and organized programs now help us do the sharing. Last year, Bay Area Bike Share put 700 bicycles into curbside stations in five cities. The 350 bikes within San Francisco – half the fleet – are used 900 to 1,000 times per day. That translates into a significant decrease in traffic and tailpipe emissions.

     

    Our cars sit idle 90 percent of the time, so sharing them can have a huge effect. For example, when miles driven in the United States dropped just 3 percent in 2008, road congestion declined 30 percent. Every shared ride is a win for our environment and our health, because less traffic means less stress.

     

    When we no longer need items, instead of throwing them into the trash, it’s easy to sell or donate them. Online sales of used goods reached at least $16 billion last year, and more than 25,000 consignment and resale stores across the country generated an additional $13 billion. When Macklemore’s song about shopping for bargains at thrift shops hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts, I knew this “sharing economy” must be gaining steam.

     

    Not only does donating your used clothes help the needy (and the trendy!), but every pound in the drop-off bin saves about 3.6 pounds of carbon dioxide and 725 gallons of water that would have been used to grow fibers and manufacture clothing. We can do a lot more – only about 15 percent of clothes in the United States are being recycled.

     

    San Francisco, however, is doing something about it. Thanks to a partnership with Goodwill, the city is placing high-tech recycle bins in 100 condominiums and apartment buildings, with the goal of equipping all its high-rises by 2019. Built from recycled materials, each bin is equipped with devices that notify Goodwill when it’s full. Donated clothes will be resold, used in other textiles, or broken into fibers for use in products like insulation.

     

    Did you realize that 15 percent of American households don’t know where their next meal is coming from? You can share food with those in need through donation programs, and you can encourage your local restaurants and businesses to donate canned goods to local food banks. More than 40 percent of

     

    America’s food is wasted. When food ends up in a landfill, it generates methane, one of the most potent greenhouse gases in the world.

     

    By recycling and composting biodegradables, Americans cut more than 183 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent each year. This is equal to taking 34 million passenger cars off the road for a year – more than all the cars registered in California, Arizona, Nevada and Hawaii combined. And sharing doesn’t have to be limited to consumer goods.

     

    The possibilities for sharing are limitless and sustainable, bringing environmental as well as social benefits. Through sharing, trusting relationships are formed. In the new sharing economy, nearly three-quarters of startup businesses rely on social networking features to find trusted contacts to share goods and services. Join me in sharing and reducing waste today and every day. Happy Green Valentine’s Day!

     

     

    Using Water Wisely

    California’s dry conditions renew the need to save water. Californians should pitch in and cut back on lawn watering, keep showers short, run only full loads in washing machines and dishwashers, fix leaks, and consider water-wise landscaping. For more tips on saving water, go to http://www.saveourh2o.org/ or view “Real People Real Savings” videos at http://www.saveourh2o.org/real-stories.

     

     

     

     

    Relocating ‘nuisance’ animals often unhealthy for wildlife
    (February 12, 2014) — The long-distance relocation of nuisance animals may appear to benefit both people and wildlife, but often the animals end up dead. Research suggests such human/animal conflicts are best solved with short-distance relocations instead. … > full story

    Cities support more native biodiversity than previously thought
    (February 12, 2014) — The rapid conversion of natural lands to cement-dominated urban centers is causing great losses in biodiversity. Yet, according to a new study involving 147 cities worldwide, surprisingly high numbers of plant and animal species persist and even flourish in urban environments — to the tune of hundreds of bird species and thousands of plant species in a single city. … > full story

    Whales viewed from space: Satellite technology can be used to count whales
    (February 12, 2014) — Scientists have demonstrated how new satellite technology can be used to count whales, and ultimately estimate their population size. Using Very High Resolution satellite imagery, alongside image processing software, they were able to automatically detect and count whales breeding in part of the Golfo Nuevo, Peninsula Valdes in Argentina. … > full story

     

    Orcas of the California Coast: Deciphering the Culture of Killer Whales

    by Sarah Allen
    on January 13, 2014 Bay Nature Magazine California Academy of Sciences curator Moe Flannery also contributed to this article.

    Photo by Tory Kallman

    On a cold, blustery day in late February, a group of killer whales known as “K Pod” was detected swimming down the coast of Northern California from an area around Fort Bragg….But while killer whales are found in all of the world’s oceans, their lives in the wild are poorly understood, in part because there are tremendous differences between different groups of orcas….. Many orca researchers believe that there may be two new ecotypes in the eastern Pacific. An “L.A. Pod” was identified in the 1980 and ’90s near Los Angeles with individuals that are much smaller and display more superficial gashes compared to the other three ecotypes. (Members of this pod were filmed in 1997 just off the Farallon Islands attacking and killing a great white shark, a behavior not observed before or since in orcas.) And a research group led by Jaime Jahncke, a marine biologist with Point Blue Conservation Science, observed another previously unidentified pod of five killer whales during a research cruise in July 2013, directly west of the continental shelf near the Farallon Islands. The whales looked similar to Transients but members of the pod did not fit any of the photo-IDs for California. With the continued discovery and potential identification of new ecotypes, efforts to protect and restore these populations become both more illuminating and more challenging….

     

    Delist gray wolf from threatened and endangered list? Panel issues report on science
    (February 7, 2014) — As the Endangered Species Act celebrated its 40th anniversary at the end of 2013, its administrative agency, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, was mired in controversy. At issue was a proposal to remove the gray wolf (Canis lupus) from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and add the Mexican gray wolf (Canis lupus baileyi). … > full story

    New plant species a microcosm of biodiversity
    (February 7, 2014) — Biologists working in the Andes mountains of Ecuador have described a new plant species, a wild relative of black pepper, that is the sole home of an estimated 40-50 insect species, most of which are entirely dependent on this plant species for survival. This discovery is part of a larger project which focuses on the influence of plant-produced chemical compounds on biodiversity. … > full story

     

    Poaching threatens savannah ecosystems

    EurekAlert (press release)

     - ‎February 12, 2014‎

           

    White rhinoceros may be extinct in twenty years with the current poaching rates. The loss of this megaherbivore is in itself a tragedy, but it may also have tremendous effects on the ecosystems they now live in. The white rhino (Ceratotherium simum

     

    Continued decline of African forest elephants, study shows
    (February 12, 2014) — New data from the field in Central Africa shows that between 2002 and 2013, 65 percent of forest elephants were killed. They are being poached, for their ivory, at a shocking 9 percent per year. … > full story

     

    Great tit can remember other birds’ food hideaways for up to 24 hours
    (February 12, 2014) — Birds that hoard food for a rainy day better be sure that there are no great tits around to spy on where they hide their reserve of seeds and nuts. Biologists found that great tits can remember the position of such hideaways up to 24 hours after seeing it cached. Interestingly, even though great tits share this mental ability with well-known hoarders such as crows and jays, they do not store up food themselves. … > full story

     

    Coffee growing: More biodiversity, better harvest
    (February 10, 2014)Bees, birds and bats make a huge contribution to the high yields produced by coffee farmers around Mount Kilimanjaro — an example of how biodiversity can pay off. This effect has been described as result of a study now published in the “Proceedings of the Royal Society B”. It has been conducted by tropical ecologists of the University Würzburg Biocenter, jointly with colleagues from the LOEWE Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (BiK-F, Frankfurt/Main) and the Institute for experimental Ecology of the University of Ulm. A large amount of coffee is grown on Kilimanjaro, the East African massif almost 6000 meters high. The most traditional form of cultivation can be found in the gardens of the Chagga people. Hhere the sun-shy coffee trees and many other crop plants thrive in the shade of banana trees and other tall trees. However, the largest part of the coffee is grown on plantations. Usually, the plantations still feature a large number of shade trees. But these are progressively being chopped down because of the increasing replacement of “conventional coffee varieties, which rely on shade, by varieties that tolerate lots of sun and are more resistant to fungi,” explains Professor Ingolf Steffan-Dewenter, a tropical ecologist at the University of Würzburg’s Biocenter. This crop intensification is expected to result in higher yields. The plantation harvests might however stagnate: If there are only few shade trees left, the habitat may become unsuitable for the animal species that pollinate the coffee, eat pests, and thereby help to improve the yield.… > full story

     
     
     

    Hacking the environment: Bringing biodiversity hardware into the open
    (February 11, 2014) — New technologies are changing the way we collect biodiversity data, providing low-cost and customizable alternative to expensive proprietary data loggers and sensors. A new article describes the construction of a data-logger using the Arduino platform in the hope of encouraging the adoption of new data collection technologies by biodiversity scientists and fostering new collaborations with both electronics hobbyists and electronical engineers. … > 
    full story

       

    Yellowstone Park May Have Bison Slaughtered By The Hundreds

    By Laura Zuckerman Feb 11 (Reuters) – Yellowstone National Park managers are considering a plan that would ship hundreds of bison to slaughter if largee.

     
     

     

    ABC and 200 Organizations Request Federal Feral Cat Management Policy

    February 11, 2014

    In a letter to Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, American Bird Conservancy and 200 organizations joined together to request that each agency within the Department develop a formal policy for the removal of feral cat colonies on public lands. Tasked with protecting America’s natural resources, it is incumbent upon the Department to establish a formal policy that recognizes the consequences of feral cats, a non-native invasive species, and imposes an effective management strategy.
    The Wildlife Society and Society for Conservation Biology have also petitioned the Secretary for action on this critical conservation issue.

     

    The Leopold Legacy

    As the National Park Service prepares to celebrate its 100th anniversary, the “Leopold Report” of 50 years ago remains influential, but much has also changed.

    By Tom Persinger Winter 2014 American Forests


    Aldo Leopold’s shack. Credit: Tom Persinger First protected in 1864, Yosemite became one of the first U.S. national parks in 1890. Currently, more than 3.7 million people visit each year. Credit: Arturo Yee

    The shack I stand looking at on this cold winter day was once a run-down chicken coop on an abandoned farm on the Wisconsin River. But, in 1935, this place would become Aldo Leopold’s weekend family retreat, living laboratory and the site where he would write one of America’s most enduring environmental masterpieces, “A Sand County Almanac.” It is also the land that would shape each of his children’s lifelong pursuits and passions. Aldo Starker Leopold, Aldo’s oldest son, commonly called Starker, was already a young man by the time the Leopold family began their work to restore the farm to conditions resembling the days before its collapse from over-farming. Even so, his time and effort there would prove foundational. In this place, Starker cleared brush, planted pines, built the outhouse affectionately referred to as ”The Parthenon” and worked in his father’s living laboratory as they experimented with ways to manage wildlife. Starker would use these experiences and others to go on to a distinguished career as professor at University of California, Berkeley, author, forester, zoologist, conservationist and — perhaps most significantly — creator of the document that would shape over 50 years of National Park Service policy. So, my visit this morning to Leopold’s shack and through the Leopold Pines is a visit to hallowed ground. And it is the beginning of my journey to uncover more about how the document this place inspired has shaped the course of land management history.

    THE LEOPOLD REPORT: PRESERVING WILDERNESS The report that would become one of the most significant in National Park Service history was born of a public relations disaster. In 1962, Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall tasked Starker Leopold with addressing the issue of wildlife population control in national parks. Udall’s request was formed in response to the public outcry brought upon by park personnel killing over 4,000 elk in Yellowstone National Park in the winter of 1961….. “Revisiting Leopold” offers what it calls the precautionary principle as a tool moving forward in the face of that uncertainty. It “requires that stewardship decisions reflect science-informed prudence and restraint.” Moving forward is never easy, and moving forward into the unknown can be paralyzing without the toolset and method with which to do so. Toward its end, “Revisiting Leopold” offers a few steps toward the effective implementation of its policy recommendations.

    • The NPS should undertake a major, systematic and comprehensive review of its policies, despite the risk and uncertainty that this effort may entail.
    • NPS will need to significantly expand the role of science in the agency.
    • Expanded scientific capacity must be interdisciplinary as well as disciplinary.
    • NPS should establish a standing Science Advisory Board.
    • NPS must also expand its capacity to manage natural and cultural resources efficiently across large-scale landscapes.
    • NPS should function as a scientific leader in documenting and monitoring conditions of the park system.
    • NPS managers must be supported with the necessary funds and personnel.

    Considering the size and scope of NPS operations, it will be interesting to see how these recommendations are utilized to guide and develop future policy decisions. A leaner, more efficient organization is desirable, but could be difficult to achieve considering the current lack of financial support. Equally interesting to see will be if these recommendations prove to have the same staying power and long-term vision as Leopold’s initial report…..

     

     

    Point Blue
    in the news:

     

    Marin Snapshot: STRAW founder Rogers helps connect students with natural world

    Marin Independent Journal 

    February 9, 2014 

           

    Laurette Rogers of Terra Linda is the founder and program director of Students and Teachers Restoring a Watershed – STRAW – part of Point Blue Conservation Science (the former Point Reyes Bird Observatory)…. The goal is to connect students with the natural world by helping repair the environment….

     

     

     

    El Niño may make 2014 the hottest year on record

    20:00 10 February 2014 by Michael Slezak For similar stories, visit the Climate Change Topic Guide

    Hold onto your ice lollies. Long-term weather forecasts are suggesting 2014 might be the hottest year since records began. That’s because climate bad-boy El Niño seems to be getting ready to spew heat into the atmosphere. An El Niño occurs when warm water buried below the surface of the Pacific rises up and spreads along the equator towards America. For nine months or more it brings rain and flooding to areas around Peru and Ecuador, and drought and fires to Indonesia and Australia. It is part of a cycle called the El Niño-Southern Oscillation. ….Previous predictions have relied on full climate models. Rather than using this traditional approach, Armin Bunde of Justus Liebig University in Giessen, Germany, and his colleagues looked at the strength of the link between air temperature over the equator and air temperature in the rest of the Pacific. The records showed that, in the year before each El Niño, the two regions became more closely linked, meaning their temperatures became more similar than at other times. The team also found that, once these atmospheric links reached a critical strength, around 75 per cent of the time an El Niño developed within a year (PNAS, doi.org/rdn). “There is certainly a correlation between the cooperative mode in the atmosphere that we measure and the onset of an El Niño event,” says Bunde. Nobody knows why. Now they say the threshold was crossed in September 2013. “Therefore, the probability is 0.76 that El Niño will occur in 2014,” says Bunde. In other words, there is a 76 per cent chance of an El Niño this year. As a result of climate change 2014 is likely to be one of the hottest years on record. If El Niño does develop this year, it will make 2014 even hotter – maybe the hottest ever, says Cai. But since El Niño normally straddles two calendar years, it might give 2015 that title. “It is possible, but not a sure thing. It can be tipped over either way by other variability.”

    An increasing number of climate models are now predicting El Niño this year too. It is unclear whether it will be an extreme El Niño like the 1998 event, which is thought to have killed tens of thousands. But Cai thinks an extreme El Niño is unlikely because longer-term variability in the Pacific’s weather is suppressing it.

     

    Meeting the eye-witnesses of ocean change
    (February 12, 2014)Scientists are developing a model that links ecosystem changes triggered by ocean acidification and climate change with their economic and societal
    consequences.
    Members of the German research network BIOACID (Biological Impacts of Ocean Acidification) are developing a model that links ecosystem changes triggered by ocean acidification and climate change with their economic and societal consequences. Workshops and interviews with stakeholders from the Norwegian fishing industry and tourism sector, the government and environmental organisations help them to identify key aspects for their assessment. During the past ten years, scientists have learned a lot about the effects of ocean acidification on marine ecosystems. It has become obvious that with rising carbon dioxide emissions from human activities, oceans absorb larger amounts of this greenhouse gas and become more acidic. The increase of acidity, rising water temperatures and other stressors may alter marine ecosystems dramatically — with consequences for economy and society. Do stakeholders of the economic sectors which depend on the sea already observe signs of ocean change? Which are their most urgent questions towards science? Within the framework of the German research network BIOACID (Biological Impacts of Ocean Acidification), scientists from the University of Bremen investigated stakeholders’ state of knowledge and identified focal points for further research. Between March and November 2013, they held workshops and interviewed more than 30 Norwegian fishers, representatives from fishing associations, aquaculture, tourism, environmental organisations and governmental agencies. They aim to develop a model that yields insights into the overall impacts of ocean change for ecosystems and the services they provide to human societies. “Taking a systems view can help to analyse socio-economic impacts of ocean acidification and find ways to mitigate them and adapt to them,” Dr. Stefan Gößling-Reisemann, researcher at the Sustainability Research Center (artec) at the University of Bremen explains. … > full story

     

    **Ocean acidification and warming in the Norwegian and Barents Seas: impacts on marine ecosystems and human uses – stakeholder consultation report

     
     
     

    Credit: NOAA

    Climate models show carbon emission mitigation could slow Arctic temperature increases

    Monday, January 27, 2014

    NOAA-led research using climate model projections concludes the Arctic climate will continue to show major changes over the next decades, but that carbon emission mitigation could slow temperature changes in the second half of the century, according to a paper published by AGU’s Earth’s Future.

    We are already seeing and should expect to see continued dramatic changes in the Arctic, where temperature increases are occurring faster than in the mid-latitudes due to greenhouse gases combined with multiple local physical feedbacks,” said James Overland, Ph.D., the lead author from NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory. “But we can potentially slow the rate of climate change in the second half of the century if we mitigate global carbon emissions.”… Climate model projections show an Arctic-wide end-of-century temperature increase of +13 Celsius in late fall and +5 Celsius in late spring if the status quo continues and current emissions increase without a mitigation scenario. In contrast, the mean temperature projection would be +7 Celsius in late fall and +3 Celsius in late spring by the end of the century if a mitigation scenario to reduce emissions is followed, concludes the paper titled, “Future Arctic Climate Changes: Adaptation and Mitigation Timescales.”

    fisheries, vegetation and wildlife. Arctic sea ice volume has already While models show that mitigation could slow the changes in temperature, changes that are expected to continue include additional months of open water in the Arctic Ocean, ever earlier snow melt, further loss of permafrost, increased economic access, and dramatic impacts on ecological systems, including decreased by 75 percent since the 1980s. The mean Arctic temperature is 1.5 Celsius higher today than it was for the period from 1971-2000, double the warming that has occurred in the lower latitudes.

     

    Arctic Autumns On Track To Warm A Staggering 23°F [by end of century], NOAA Warns

    By Joe Romm on February 13, 2014 at 5:02 pm

    “Climate models show carbon emission mitigation could slow Arctic temperature increases.” That is NOAA’s glass-is-half-full-of-ice headline for a new study that finds we are on track for mind-boggling Arctic warming this century. Since that “dog bites man” headline is essentially self-evident, the story didn’t get much pick up. NOAA buried the bombshell lede: Climate model projections show an Arctic-wide end-of-century temperature increase of +13° Celsius [23°F!] in late fall and +5° Celsius [9°F] in late spring if the status quo continues and current emissions increase without a mitigation scenario. …

     

     

    Arctic marine mammals are ecosystem sentinels
    (February 13, 2014) — As the Arctic continues to see dramatic declines in seasonal sea ice, warming temperatures and increased storminess, the responses of marine mammals can provide clues to how the ecosystem is responding to these physical drivers. … > full story

     

    Reindeer counteract certain effects of climate change
    (February 13, 2014)

    One of the consequences of a warmer climate can be that lowland and southern plants migrate higher up in the mountains. Ecologist Elina Kaarlejärvi shows in her thesis that reindeer, voles and hare can prevent these invasions. Elina Kaarljeärvi concludes that climate warming does not always automatically lead to increased plant biomass, invasions of new species and shrubification in tundra, opposite to previous predictions.

     

    A colony of thick-billed murres on Kippaku, northwest Greenland. Historically, overharvest has been the largest threat to Arctic biodiversity, but with few exceptions, overharvest is no longer a primary threat to Arctic biodiversity. The marked decrease in populations of Thick-billed murres in Greenland is one of the worst remaining examples. Credit: Knud Falk

    Arctic Biodiversity Under Serious Threat from Climate Change

    Feb. 14, 2014 — Climate change caused by human activities is by far the worst threat to biodiversity in the Arctic. Some of these changes are already visible. Unique and irreplaceable Arctic wildlife and landscapes are crucially at risk due to global warming caused by human activities according to a new report prepared by 253 scientists from 15 countries. “An entire bio-climatic zone, the high Arctic, may disappear. Polar bears and the other highly adapted organisms cannot move further north, so they may go extinct. We risk losing several species forever,” says Hans Meltofte of Aarhus University, chief scientist of the report. From the iconic polar bear and elusive narwhal to the tiny Arctic flowers and lichens that paint the tundra in the summer months, the Arctic is home to a diversity of highly adapted animal, plant, fungal and microbial species. All told, there are more than 21,000 species. Maintaining biodiversity in the Arctic is important for many reasons. For Arctic peoples, biodiversity is a vital part of their material and spiritual existence. Arctic fisheries and tourism have global importance and represent immense economic value. Millions of Arctic birds and mammals that migrate and connect the Arctic to virtually all parts of the globe are also at risk from climate change in the Arctic as well as from development and hunting in temperate and tropical areas. Marine and terrestrial ecosystems such as vast areas of lowland tundra, wetlands, mountains, extensive shallow ocean shelves, millennia-old ice shelves and huge seabird cliffs are characteristic to the Arctic. These are now at stake, according to the report. “Climate change is by far the worst threat to Arctic biodiversity. Temperatures are expected to increase more in the Arctic compared to the global average, resulting in severe disruptions to Arctic biodiversity some of which are already visible,” warns Meltofte. .. full story

     

    Arctic Biodiversity Assessment: http://www.caff.is/publications/doc_download/229-arctic-biodiversity-assessment-2013-policy-summary-english

     

     

    New maps reveal locations of species at risk as climate changes
    (February 10, 2014)

    In research published today in the journal Nature, CSIRO and an international team of scientists revealed global maps showing how fast and in which direction local climates are shifting. This new study points to a simpler way of looking at climatic changes and their likely effects on biodiversity.

     
     
     

    As climate change unfolds over the next century, plants and animals will need to adapt or shift locations to track their ideal climate. “The maps show areas where plants and animals may struggle to find a new home in a changing climate and provide crucial information for targeting conservation efforts,” CSIRO’s Dr Elvira Poloczanska said. The study analyzed 50 years of sea surface and land temperature data (1960-2009) and also investigated two future scenarios for marine environments (‘business as usual’ and a 1.75°C temperature increase). The new maps show where new thermal environments are being generated and where existing environments may disappear. “The maps show us how fast and in which direction temperatures are shifting, and where climate migrants following them may hit barriers such as coastlines. Our work shows that climate migration is far more complex than a simple shift towards the poles,” ecological geographer with the project Kristen Williams said. “Across Australia, species are already experiencing warmer temperatures. In terrestrial habitats, species have started to seek relief by moving to higher elevations, or further south. However, some species of animals and plants cannot move large distances, and some not at all.”….

    Speed and direction of climate shifts over the past 50 years in Australia.Credit: Image courtesy of CSIRO Australia

     

     

     

    Warming pause due ‘to winds’

    GRAHAM LLOYD
    The Australian
    February 10, 2014 12:00AM

    THE pause in global warming — in which average global surface temperatures have not increased for more than a decade — is real but can be explained by stronger trade winds in the Pacific Ocean, says a landmark paper published today in Nature Climate Change. The paper claims the strong trade winds that pushed heat deeper into the ocean explained why climate models had not matched the physical observations on global temperatures, a key area of dispute between climate scientists and sceptics….

     

    Recent intensification of wind-driven circulation in the Pacific and the ongoing warming hiatus

    Matthew H. England, et al, Nature Climate Change(2014) doi:10.1038/nclimate2106 Published online 09 February 2014

    Abstract

    ReferencesAuthor informationSupplementary information

    Despite ongoing increases in atmospheric greenhouse gases, the Earth’s global average surface air temperature has remained more or less steady since 2001. A variety of mechanisms have been proposed to account for this slowdown in surface warming. A key component of the global hiatus that has been identified is cool eastern Pacific sea surface temperature, but it is unclear how the ocean has remained relatively cool there in spite of ongoing increases in radiative forcing. Here we show that a pronounced strengthening in Pacific trade winds over the past two decades—unprecedented in observations/reanalysis data and not captured by climate models—is sufficient to account for the cooling of the tropical Pacific and a substantial slowdown in surface warming through increased subsurface ocean heat uptake. The extra uptake has come about through increased subduction in the Pacific shallow overturning cells, enhancing heat convergence in the equatorial thermocline. At the same time, the accelerated trade winds have increased equatorial upwelling in the central and eastern Pacific, lowering sea surface temperature there, which drives further cooling in other regions. The net effect of these anomalous winds is a cooling in the 2012 global average surface air temperature of 0.1–0.2 °C, which can account for much of the hiatus in surface warming observed since 2001. This hiatus could persist for much of the present decade if the trade wind trends continue, however rapid warming is expected to resume once the anomalous wind trends abate.

     

    Eider duck population declining in Arctic as polar bears devour eggs

    An Arctic duck is at risk because polar bears have developed a newfound appetite for their eggs, scientists say.

    Dreamstime Image –The Eider duck populations in Nunavut and Nunavik, Que., are declining partly because the bears have been eating more of their eggs, which are laid on the southern coasts of Baffin Island and Southampton Island.

    By: Anita Li Staff Reporter, Published on Wed Jan 25 2012

    An Arctic duck is at risk because polar bears have developed a newfound appetite for their eggs, scientists say. The eider populations in Nunavut and Nunavik, Que., are declining partly because the bears have been eating more of their eggs, which are laid on the southern coasts of Baffin Island and Southampton Island. “The bears were essentially eating every single egg on the island(s),” said Samuel Iverson, a field researcher with Environment Canada. “We are seeing just major nest depredation.” Over the past three decades, climate change has caused sea ice to disappear, making it more difficult for polar bears to hunt for seals, their primary prey. To compensate, the bears have been raiding eider nests for food. “These bears might be energy-deficient and more willing to consume resources, which before, weren’t very important to them, but now are piquing the bears’ interest in a way that they haven’t in the past,” he said. “The number of colonies where we saw this happening was much higher than anybody has ever recorded before.” But eating a diet of eggs isn’t enough to sustain the polar bear population in the long-term, Iverson added…..

     

    A female polar bear with two cubs raids an island colony of common eider ducks in Nunavut. Photo by Steve Marson.

    Climate change becomes a rapid, unplanned survival experiment for animal species

    Elizabeth Harball, E&E reporter ClimateWire: Friday, February 7, 2014

    … climate change is like a massive, unplanned experiment, one that may be too fast and strange for some species to survive it. Some animals are already in the middle of it. As Arctic ice shelves melt, polar bears are ransacking seabird nests to sustain themselves. Migrating geese are exploring valuable but previously unseen real estate, due to melting permafrost…. “For most bears, over 95 percent of their energetic needs are met by ringed seals and bearded seals,” polar bear expert Andrew Derocher, of the University of Alberta’s Department of Biological Sciences, said in an email. According to Derocher, hundreds of bears that once spent most of their lives on ice are now confined to land during the summer, forcing them to seek out new food sources. A study published this week found bears have increasingly turned to bird eggs in a last-ditch effort to fatten up.
    Since the 1980s, researchers concluded, bear raids on colonies of two different bird species in northern Quebec have increased sevenfold. Unlike foxes, the birds’ usual predators in the region, polar bears swim to islands that host large colonies of nesting birds and proceed to tromp through and eat massive quantities of eggs, said Sam Iverson, lead author of the study and a Ph.D. candidate at Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario. “When bears came on, we generally saw a total reproductive failure on colonies,” Iverson said. “With less ice, more frequent visits by bears is an increasing problem.” Iverson doubts this shift in bear diets will threaten the species he studied with extinction — other colonies exist in Maine and Europe — but he does expect significant local population declines. However, species with more limited habitat, like some seabirds, may not be so lucky, he said. Even unluckier are the polar bears, as bird eggs are unlikely to make up for the species’s inability to access seals.Our energetics modeling suggest that birds cannot make a meaningful contribution to a polar bear population,” Derocher said. “To the individual bear, the energy return might be meaningful, but you can’t feed [more than] 2,000 bears on bird eggs.”….

     

    But there are some winners as the climate shifts — at least for now. In the northern regions of Alaska, a habitat newly created by climate change is driving a game of musical chairs among visiting geese. What is likely a combination of rising temperatures, more powerful storm surges, sea-level rise and land subsidence has transformed portions of Alaska’s Arctic Coastal Plain. Thawing permafrost near the ocean shore has given way to expanses of short-leafed, salt-tolerant plant species. They are forming salt marshes that more closely resemble a golf green than the Arctic tundra — habitat that happens to be perfect for black brant geese.

     


    Longer ice-free seasons increase the risk of nest depredation by polar bears for colonial breeding birds in the Canadian Arctic



    Samuel A. Iverson et al+ Author Affiliations

    Published 5 February 2014 doi: 10.1098/rspb.2013.3128 Proceedings of the Royal Society B 22 March 2014 vol. 281 no. 1779 20133128

    Abstract: Northern polar regions have warmed more than other parts of the globe potentially amplifying the effects of climate change on biological communities. Ice-free seasons are becoming longer in many areas, which has reduced the time available to polar bears (Ursus maritimus) to hunt for seals and hampered bears’ ability to meet their energetic demands. In this study, we examined polar bears’ use of an ancillary prey resource, eggs of colonial nesting birds, in relation to diminishing sea ice coverage in a low latitude region of the Canadian Arctic. Long-term monitoring reveals that bear incursions onto common eider (Somateria mollissima) and thick-billed murre (Uria lomvia) nesting colonies have increased greater than sevenfold since the 1980s and that there is an inverse correlation between ice season length and bear presence. In surveys encompassing more than 1000 km of coastline during years of record low ice coverage (2010–2012), we encountered bears or bear sign on 34% of eider colonies and estimated greater egg loss as a consequence of depredation by bears than by more customary nest predators, such as foxes and gulls. Our findings demonstrate how changes in abiotic conditions caused by climate change have altered predator–prey dynamics and are leading to cascading ecological impacts in Arctic ecosystems.

     

    Missing monsoon lead to ‘years without a summer’
    (February 13, 2014) — Why do cold, rainy summers in Europe follow intense volcanic eruptions in the tropics? A research team may have found the answer: volcanic emissions in the atmosphere block sunlight and can thereby affect the amount of precipitation in other parts of the world. … > full story

     

    Flood waters ‘could last for months.’ BBC Groundwater levels are so high in some parts of the U.K. that flooding is likely to persist for weeks or even months, experts say. A scientist with the British Geological Survey said levels were likely to keep rising even if there was no more rain as so much water was soaking through the soil.

     

    Met Office: Evidence ‘suggests climate change link to storms’

    BBC News 

    February 8, 2014

           

    Climate change is likely to be a factor in the extreme weather that has hit much of the UK in recent months, the Met Office’s chief scientist has said.

     

    Lion Tamarins versus climate change Scientific American February 10, 2014

    Ecologically speaking, humans maintain a pretty broad niche. We can adapt to live just about anywhere. Most other species aren’t that lucky. Take the four species of lion tamarins, for example. Many tamarin populations are currently stuck in small pockets of forest, surrounded by developed land.

     

    ADAPTATION: Israel is creating a water surplus using desalination

    Julia Pyper, E&E reporter ClimateWire: Friday, February 7, 2014

    Part four of a four-part series. Read parts one,
    two and three.

    SEDE BOQER, Israel — In the land of milk and honey, water has always been in short supply. Researchers here have linked temperature rise and drought to migration patterns across this arid region dating back to biblical times. Now, for the first time in its history, Israel is on track to experience a water surplus. Israel, a largely arid country with a history of few natural resources, is experiencing a clean technology boom. This series explores how it is becoming a global market leader. The tricky part is scaling up the chemistry and reducing the cost of separating salt from seawater. The first major desalination plant in Israel opened in the southern city of Ashkelon in 2005. Since then, four more large-scale seawater desalination plants have come online, with additional capacity in the pipeline. In the span of a decade, desalination has come to produce about 40 percent of Israel’s water supply. On its current trajectory, Israel will have access to more than 600 million cubic meters of desalinated water per year by 2015, which amounts to more than half the country’s total freshwater needs. Desalination has led to a resource revolution in Israel, said Shlomo Wald, chief scientist at the Ministry of Energy and Water Resources. “Now, Israel isn’t always dependent on the mercy of God to give us rain,” he said…..

     

     

    Central Valley farmers face higher costs, tough choices

    California drought a ‘train wreck’ for Central Valley farms

    By David Perlman SF Chronicle February 8, 2014

    California’s great Central Valley aquifer and the rivers that feed it, already losing water in the changing climate, are now being drained because of the drought, leaving water levels at their lowest in nearly a decade.
    Water experts say many farmers who depend on the huge water source beneath the valley for irrigation will have to resort to pumping water from ever deeper levels at greater costs, even as they plant crops on fewer and fewer acres as more of their land is gobbled up for development.
    The combination of climate change, growth and groundwater depletion spells a train wreck,” said James Famiglietti, a water resource expert and director of the UC Center for Hydrologic Modeling at UC Irvine.
    The aquifer holds water that runs into the valley from three great river systems – the Sacramento, the San Joaquin and the Tule Lake basins. It is the state’s major source of stored water and is primarily used for agriculture. But over the past two years, it has lost nearly 8 million acre-feet of the precious resource, Famiglietti’s research center reported last week.
    “That’s equivalent to virtually all of California’s urban and household water use each year,” he said…..As water has been sucked more deeply from the aquifer, it has caused severe new land subsidence in many parts of the valley, Famiglietti’s report notes. The shifting land has caused sidewalks in many small valley towns to crack and casings to buckle on the wells that are being dug for more pumping.

    The report comes just as the Department of Water Resources announced last week that it will be cutting off all deliveries from the State Water Project to local agencies and contractors serving 25 million people and 750,000 acres of farmland, a decision that is bound to put more pressure on pumping water from the Central Valley aquifer. To estimate the aquifer’s changing water levels, the Irvine center receives monthly gravity maps from a pair of twin orbiting satellites named Grace, for Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment. The satellites carry instruments that can sense minute variations in Earth’s gravitational pull caused by changing features of the land below. They detect – at least roughly – changes in the gravity of the Central Valley aquifer as its water content diminishes – both from pumping and from decreases in water from the great river basins that feed it. Launched in 2002, the satellites are expected to end their working lives within a year or two, and NASA and its international partners are planning a new mission to succeed the Grace spacecraft.

     

    Online: More coverage at www.sfgate.com/drought.

     

    California drought similar to historic drought in Texas
    (February 10, 2014) — The worst drought ever to hit California could rival the historic 2011 drought that devastated Texas, says a Texas A&M University professor. … > full story

     

    U.S. Southwest irrigation system facing decline after four centuries
    (February 12, 2014)Communal irrigation systems known as acequias that have sustained farming villages in the arid southwestern United States for centuries are struggling because of dwindling snowmelt runoff and social and economic factors that favor modernism over tradition, a new study finds.
    The results reflect similar changes around the world, where once isolated communities are becoming integrated into larger economies, which provide benefits of modern living but also the uncertainties of larger-scale market fluctuations. The study appears in the journal Global Environmental Change. Acequias evolved in the Middle East and Roman Empire and were introduced into the Americas by Spanish colonizers in the early 1600s. The term acequia refers to both communities of farmers as well as engineered irrigation canals that carry snowmelt-driven runoff to farm fields as a way for the agricultural communities to share a scarce resource in arid regions. The acequias system, which is common in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado, provides a model of communal ownership that governs water rights, distribution, disputes and other issues. … > full story

     

    North [SF] Bay wringing out after wet weekend

    Kale Williams SF Chronicle Updated 8:16 am, Monday, February 10, 2014

    (02-10) 08:15 PST SAN FRANCISCO — The Bay Area is drying out after a powerful weekend storm dropped large amounts of rain, especially in the North Bay. Mount Tamalpais was the big winner, receiving 20.86 inches of rain since Friday. Monte Rio, near Guerneville in Sonoma County, came in a close second with 20.17 inches, said Steve Anderson, a forecaster with the National Weather Service. Santa Rosa received a healthy dousing with 5.48 inches, bringing the total for the season to just over 9 inches, or 40 percent of average for this time of the rain year. The city was at only 12 percent of average as of Thursday. Rainfall totals dropped off sharply south of the Golden Gate, with San Francisco receiving 2.67 inches, Oakland clocking in at 1.27 inches and San Jose receiving only about a quarter of an inch…..

     

    Service to Release Endangered Winter Chinook Salmon to the Sacramento River February 10

    US Fish and Wildlife Service Sacramento February 7, 2014 – Approximately 193,000 broodyear 2013 winter Chinook salmon reared at Livingston Stone National Fish Hatchery (NFH) in Shasta City, Calif., will be released Monday, February 10 into the Sacramento River at the Caldwell Park boat launch (river mile 299) in Redding, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today. Releases generally are timed to coincide with periods of rainfall, which increases flow and turbidity of rivers, enhancing survival of the fish as they make their way to the ocean. Although this is a record dry year in California this release will occur coincident to the storm hitting northern California this weekend to take advantage of the resultant increased flow and turbidity in the river.  Hatchery staff plans to release the fish at dusk at Caldwell Boat Launch. …

     

    Sacramento rainfall record for date set; Folsom Lake rises over 2 feet

    By Tillie Fong
    tfong@sacbee.com Published: Sunday, Feb. 9, 2014 – 1:18 pm

    Downtown Sacramento beat the record for the most rain in a 24-hour period for the date on Saturday, posting 1.29 inches.The previous record for Feb. 8 of 1.17 inches was set in 1985.

     

    Eight Reasons for Optimism on Climate Change

    Truth-Out 

    February 9, 2014

           

    By Michael Northrop

    Climate change could have a crushing effect on the global economy, according to a recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the Nobel-Prize-winning committee of climate scientists from around the world. But there are reasons for hope, if we act quickly. Here are eight signs that it’s still possible to turn things around and create a low-carbon future.

    1. We already know how to engineer zero-carbon buildings.These buildings generate at least as much energy as they consume. Developers like K.B. Homes have been building them in multiple states during the past several years. Experts estimate that more than 200 of these buildings have been built in the United States during the past five years. Within a few more, many thousands of these buildings will come online. California is requiring that all new residential buildings be net-zero in terms of emissions by 2020 and all new commercial buildings be net-zero by 2030. Other states are enacting tax credits to create incentives for similar building techniques.Net-zero buildings are just one example of a much larger trend nationwide toward energy efficiency. The Energy Information Agency, which tracks U.S. emissions, has shrunk its estimates of future energy use by buildings every year since 2005. The EIA’s projections for energy consumed by buildings in 2030 are now 40 percent lower than what they forecasted eight years ago.

    2. We are finally entering the age of the electric car. Rules enacted during President Obama’s first term are ramping up the average fuel efficiency of passenger cars—from 30.5 to 54.5 miles per gallon between 2013 and 2025—and boosting the market for electric cars. Eight automobile companies have 14 electric vehicles available in the U.S. market. Sales of these vehicles nearly doubled in 2013.

    3. We are using more renewables, and less coal, than ever before. Wind power development reached a new record in 2012: In the United States, we added 13,000 megawatts and invested $25 billion. Solar has also had two breakout years in a row. Installed solar in the United States more than doubled in 2012 to 7,000 megawatts, and grew by its largest margin ever in 2013 to more 10,000 megawatts by end of the third quarter, despite the low cost of natural gas Meanwhile, it’s more affordable than ever to install solar: The cost of panels has declined by 60 percent since the beginning of 2011. We have also finally learned how to finance solar, through mechanisms like solar leases that take away upfront installation costs as well as feed-in tariffs that allow purchasers of renewable energy equipment to receive a set price for the energy they put back into the grid.

    4. States are showing that it’s possible to make policies that both cut carbon emissions and create jobs. California has already rolled out its cap-and-trade program to rein in carbon emissions. At the end of June, the governors of California, Oregon, and Washington and the premier of British Columbia announced that they intend to get the ball rolling on a clean energy program that will bring a million new jobs to the region. That program will reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by 80 percent or more.

    5. Cities are facing the consequences of climate change and taking action. In the months since Superstorm Sandy, a growing chorus of mayors is leading American cities to prepare for climate change and become more resilient in the face of storms and sea-level rise. New York City has helped drive this effort with a plan for protecting its infrastructure and citizens. It has also commissioned a study to examine how best to reduce its carbon emissions by 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

    6. The president is ready to take action, at home and internationally. Barack Obama’s Treasury Department has announced that it will no longer contribute money coal-fired power plants funded by the World Bank. Meanwhile, Obama has put together a coalition of other nations willing to make the same commitment, including critical funders and board members of the World Bank. The Obama White House and State Department are also actively working with China and India to negotiate an agreement to prevent the use of hydrofluorocarbons, greenhouse gases that are more than 1,000 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. Here in the United States, since President Obama announced his new climate plan last June, the EPA has begun making rules for carbon pollution from power plants. The plan also lays out several other big-ticket actions to increase energy efficiency in large trucks and trailers and reduce emissions of methane, another especially powerful greenhouse gas.

    7. China wants clean air and clean energy. Emissions from coal plants kill 1.2 million people per year in China, according to the World Health Organization. Air pollution from coal-fired power plants has become a political liability for the country’s leadership and is driving a widespread call for change. Just five years ago, Chinese officials said the country’s carbon emissions would not begin dropping until 2030. Analysts at Citibank now predict that Chinese coal emissions are likely to peak this decade. This is not soon enough to rescue the climate, and many people are hoping to find ways to cut coal use even faster in China, as the country rapidly develops renewable energy. Not only is China now the largest manufacturer and exporter of solar and wind equipment; it is now installing these technologies at home much faster than anyone else. China built 10,000 megawatts of new solar in 2013, and will add another 12,000 megawatts in 2014, according to projections—much larger amounts than industry insiders anticipated even a year ago.

    8. Renewable energy is on the rise around the world. Renewable sources will produce more power than natural gas and twice as much as nuclear by 2016, according to the International Energy Agency. For example, even Saudi Arabia, a nation synonymous with oil, is building 54,000 megawatts of new renewables for domestic energy consumption. Germany aims to get 80 percent of its power from renewables by 2050. Already, 25 percent of its grid is renewable.Germany’s renewable energy legislation has become a model for governments around the world. Nearly 100 governments, including China, India, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia, 20 European nations, and a large number of regional and local governments worldwide, have enacted some version of the German feed-in tariffs.

    These are major milestones, and this is an important moment. We are a long way from solving the climate problem, but the threads of success are coming together. We need to find a way to seize these opportunities, reduce our emissions, and dramatically expand the low-carbon economy during the next few years.

     

    Olympians speak out on climate change as Sochi warms up

    USA TODAY

     - ‎February 12, 2014‎

           

    More than 100 winter Olympians, led by Americans, have signed a petition urging world leaders to fight climate change as balmy weather creates slushy conditions at the Sochi Games.

     

     

     

     

    Why global water shortages pose threat of terror and war
    February 9, 2014 London Observer

    From California to the Middle East, huge areas of the world are drying up and a billion people have no access to safe drinking water. US intelligence is warning of the dangers of shrinking resources and experts say the world is ‘standing on a precipice’ ….

     

     

    Sens. Feinstein, Boxer propose emergency drought legislation
    February 12 2014 SF Chronicle

    Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer proposed emergency drought legislation Tuesday as Democrats scrambled to counter GOP charges that trying to save rivers and fish during California’s historic drought is destroying the nation’s chief source of fruits and vegetables.

     

    Obama to unveil drought aid package to California during trip to Fresno

    By Jessica Calefati Posted:   02/14/2014

    SACRAMENTO — When President Obama visits Fresno this afternoon to discuss California’s historic drought, he will open the federal government’s checkbook and make tens of millions of dollars in aid available to struggling farmers and communities.

    Obama will unveil a $183 million aid package that includes money for ranchers in California who have lost livestock, communities that are running out of water and farmers that need help conserving scarce water resources. U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the president aims to deliver a “message of hope” to Californians and assure them that the federal government will do all it can to alleviate stress brought on by the drought. “We’re trying to send a very specific message to producers that we are here to help to the extent that we can,” Vilsack said. Starting in April, Central Valley ranchers will be able to apply for $100 million in livestock disaster assistance funding that was approved by Congress in the 2014 Farm Bill. They can use the money to replace livestock who have died or purchase feed. Normally, it takes more than a year for rachers to get access to those relief funds, Vilsack said.

    Ranchers and farmers will both have access to $5 million in U.S. Agriculture Department funds to implement water conservation programs, reduce wind erosion on drought-impacted fields and improve the acess of livestock to water. Another $10 million will go to farmers and ranchers in other drought-impacted states for the same purpose. Projects to stabilize dry stream banks will get $5 million in federal funds, and small community water districts set to run out of water in the next 60 to 120 days will be able to apply for a total of $3 million in grants. Vilsack said Obama is also committed to helping individuals and families feeling the drought’s pain. The president will make $60 million in Agriculture Department funds available to food banks in California’s driest towns, and students who qualify for free and reduced price lunch during the school year will be able to eat meals at 600 locations in drought-stricken areas this summer.

     

    States explore green banks to reduce risk of clean energy projects

    Daniel Lippman, E&E reporter ClimateWire: Monday, February 10, 2014

    After funding fiascos like Solyndra and facing constant political attacks on government clean energy investments, renewable energy advocates are now zeroing in on so-called green banks to finance clean energy projects and to get states to cut fossil fuel use. To that end, the Coalition for Green Capital has launched the Green Bank Academy to begin teaching interested states how to move toward a green bank model pioneered by Connecticut and more recently New York. “There are major financing gaps in almost all clean energy markets, and you know something has to give, since the whole subsidy-based develop-deployment model of the last decade is really probably collapsing, and not only are generous subsidies under widespread threat of attack, but in fact they’ve already been severely downsized,” said Mark Muro, a senior fellow and director of policy for the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution. Federal support for clean tech is dropping sharply, declining to a projected $11 billion in 2014 compared with $44 billion in 2009, the year of the stimulus package, according to a Brookings paper. A green bank is essentially a quasi-government agency that uses a small amount of taxpayer or ratepayer dollars and leverages that money to lure in private capital to invest in energy efficiency or clean tech projects; low-cost loans are often used to achieve the banks’ objective. The goal is to reduce the risk of these energy projects to encourage private finance to step in….

     

    New Poll: Most Republicans Want To Regulate Carbon Pollution

    By Ryan Koronowski on February 12, 2014

    And the vast majority of Americans believe the U.S. should take action to reduce global warming, regardless of any perceived cost to the economy.

     

     

     

     

     

    Mechanism of crude oil heart toxicity on fish revealed from oil spill research
    (February 13, 2014) — While studying the impact of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill on tuna, a research team discovered that crude oil interrupts a molecular pathway that allows fish heart cells to beat effectively. The components of the pathway are present in the hearts of most animals, including humans. … > full story

     

    A new way to measure energy efficiency that counts what you use the energy for Fast Company

    Instead of grading buildings on how much energy they use, engineering consultancy Buro Happold has come up with a more nuanced measure of energy efficiency: whether every bit of energy consumed is being put to good use. …

     

     

    Plastic shopping bags make a fine diesel fuel
    (February 12, 2014) — Plastic shopping bags, an abundant source of litter on land and at sea, can be converted into diesel, natural gas and other useful petroleum products, researchers report. The conversion produces significantly more energy than it requires and results in transportation fuels — diesel, for example — that can be blended with existing ultra-low-sulfur diesels and biodiesels. … > full story

     

    Drought threatens California’s hydroelectricity supply, but solar makes up the gap. San Jose Mercury News
    Despite last week’s showers, the lack of rain in California this winter is having a dire impact on the rivers and reservoirs that power the state’s hydroelectricity plants.

     

     

    Are wind farms changing Europe’s climate?
    (February 11, 2014) — The development of wind farms in Europe only has an extremely limited impact on the climate at the continental scale, and this will remain true until at least 2020. These are the main conclusions of a new study. … > full story

     

     

    1. RESOURCES and REFERENCES

     
     

    American Security Project Takes on the National Security Challenges of Climate change

    National Security and Climate Change

    February 11, 2014

    Today, members of the American Security Project’s Consensus for American Security, Brigadier General Stephen Cheney, USMC (Ret.) and Rear Admiral Dr. David Titley, USN (Ret.), are visiting Pittsburgh, PA as part of a nationwide tour with the goal of educating the American public on the risks of climate change in light of national security. BGen Stephen Cheney, USMC (Ret.) said, “the debate regarding climate change is no longer one about existence – but one about action. This debate must consider critical areas like national security and foreign relations, in addition to the environment.”
    Key factors regarding climate security include:

    -        Climate change poses a clear threat to U.S. homeland security

    -        Global threats as a result of climate change include climate refugees, resource conflict, and reduced food production

    -        Climate change acts as an accelerant of instability and a threat multiplier

    -        Current military forces can act as effective risk managers

    -        Steps are being put into place in order to mitigate the damage of climate change

    ASP Senior Fellow, Andrew Holland, stated, “We are past the time for a false debate about causes. It is now time for a debate about action. We know that the military is planning for climate change – it is time for the rest of the country to do so as well. “In addition to a public event at Washington & Jefferson College, ASP will be conducting meetings at The University of Pittsburgh, in addition to a podcast at the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh and a dinner with the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2754.

    Find out more at www.NationalSecurityandClimateChange.org

    The events will be broadcasted over social media at: @NatSecClimate #PittClimate –

     

     

    WEBINARS:

    Please note that webinar space is limited.

    California Dept of Fish and Wildlife CLIMATE COLLEGE- Year 2- Marine Focus- starts Mon Feb. 10th 2 pm PT (7 part lecture series)

    The California Department of Fish and Wildlife will hold the second iteration of its Climate College in the spring of 2014, this time focusing on the state’s marine resources and featuring tribal perspectives on marine ecosystem management….:  http://www.dfg.ca.gov/Climate_and_Energy/Climate_Change/Climate_College/

     

     

    Vulnerability Assessment for Focal Resources of the Sierra NevadaFebruary 12, 2014 12:00-1:00pm PST
    Chrissy Howell, US Forest Service, and Jessi Kershner, EcoAdapt, will present results of focal resource vulnerability assessments from the Sierra Nevada and discuss broader impacts and next steps for adaptation implementation. Click here for more information on this CA LCC project. To join the online meeting.

    1. Click here

    2. If a password is required, enter the meeting password: calcc

    3. Call-in number: 1-866-737-4154

    4. Passcode: 287 267 0

     

     

     

     

     

    UPCOMING CONFERENCES:

     
     

    California Drought Forum, planned for February 19-20, in Sacramento, California

    We would like to invite you to the California Drought Forum, planned for February 19-20, in Sacramento, California.  The Forum is being co-organized and co-sponsored by the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) and California partners.

     

     

    Fostering Resilience in Southwestern Ecosystems: A Problem Solving Workshop
    February 25-27, 2014
    Tucson, Arizona
    This workshop will focus on answering urgent questions such as: How do managers “build resilience”
    when ecosystems are undergoing rapid change? What are our options when megafires remove huge swaths of forests not well adapted to this disturbance? Click here for more information or to register

     

     

    Climate-Smart Conservation  NWF/NCTC ALC3195 

    March 4-6, 2014 Sacramento State University – Modoc Hall. Sacramento, CA 3 days /no tuition for this class.

    The target audience includes conservation practitioners and natural resource managers working at multiple scales to ensure the ongoing effectiveness of their work in an era of climate change. This course is based on a forthcoming guide to the principles and practice of Climate-Smart Conservation. This publication is the product of an expert workgroup on climate change adaptation convened by the National Wildlife Federation in collaboration with the FWS’s National Conservation Training Center and other partners (see sidebar). …Register online at http://training.fws.gov . In partnership with staff from National Wildlife Federation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey, National Park Service, Environmental Protection Agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Forest Service, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Conservation Society, The Nature Conservancy, EcoAdapt, Geos Institute, and Point Blue Conservation Science.

    Contact for Registration Questions: Jill DelVecchio at 304/876-7424 or jill_delvecchio@fws.gov  

    Contact for Content Questions: Christy Coghlan at 304/876-7438 or christy_coghlan@fws.gov

     

    Communicating Climate Change: Climate Engagement Strategies and Problem Solving

    San Francisco Bay NERR  March 4, 2014 Contact: Heidi Nutters, 415-338-3511 -or-
    Elkhorn Slough NERR   March 6, 2014
    Contact: Virginia Guhin, 831-274-8700  Please read the details carefully as this 1-day training is being offered in two locations!

    Sponsored by: Elkhorn Slough and San Francisco Bay Coastal Training Programs Instructor: Cara Pike, TRIG’s Social Capital Project/Climate Access

     

    Soil Science Society of America ecosystems services conference–abstracts are now being invited and are due by 12/1/2013.

    March 6-9, 2014 Sheraton Grand Hotel, Sacramento, CA Sponsored by the Ecological Society of America, American Geophysical Union, and US Geological Survey. More info is available here:  https://www.soils.org/meetings/specialized/ecosystem-services

     

    Cartographic Design for Geographic Information Systems (GIS)March 14-15, 2014, from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

    Center for Integrated Spatial Research at the University of California, Santa Cruz– The Elkhorn Slough Coastal Training Program

    Registration fee: $500 Teacher: Tim Norris, Cartography Consultant, PhD Candidate

     

    WATER RESOURCES MANAGEMENT  2014 Conference

    North (SF) Bay Watershed Association  Friday, April 11, 2014  NOVATO, CA  8:00 AM to 4:30 PM PDT

    The conference will bring together key participants from around the North Bay to focus on how we can work together to manage our water resources.

    Keynote Speakers

    • Mark Cowin, Director, CA Department of Water Resources
    • Jared Huffman, U.S. Congressman, California 2nd District
    • Felicia Marcus, Chair, State Water Resources Control Board

    For more information or questions contact: Elizabeth Preim-Rohtla North Bay Watershed Association nbwa@marinwater.org 415-945-1475

     

    EARTH DAY 2014

    Stanford experts from a range of disciplines will discuss the interconnections and interactions among humanity’s need for and use of climate, energy, food, water, and environmental resources. The day will feature key authors of the new Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on impacts, adaptation and vulnerability to climate change. Professor Chris Field, co-chair of IPCC Working Group II, and members of the Technical Support Group will provide an overview of their major findings. Stanford students and faculty will lead an interactive breakout session on key challenges associated with climate change. A faculty panel—representing WG I, WG II and WG III—will connect the dots by evaluating some of the ways in which decisions in one resource area can lead to tradeoffs or co-benefits in others. Finally a keynote speaker will consider the impacts, adaptation and vulnerability of climate change for the Bay Area, which has billions of dollars invested in shoreline development and infrastructure. Registration is free – required.

    Confirmed Speakers

    • Stacey Bent, Professor of Chemical Engineering; Director of the TomKat Center for Sustainable Energy
    • Noah Diffenbaugh, Associate Professor of Environmental Earth System Science; Senior Fellow at the Woods Institute for the Environment
    • Chris Field, Professor of Biology and of Environmental Earth System Science; Director of the Carnegie Institution Department of Global Ecology, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group II
    • Charles Kolstad, Senior Fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research and the Precourt Institute for Energy
    • Jon Krosnick, Professor of Communications and of Political Science
    • Katharine Mach, Carnegie Institution, Co-Director of Science, IPCC Working Group II Technical Support Unit
    • Michael Mastrandrea, Carnegie Institution, Co-Director of Science for IPCC Working Group II Technical Support Unit
    • Terry Root, Senior Fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment (Point Blue Science Advisory Committee member and former Board member)

     

    Southern Sierra Fire and Hydroclimate Workshop

    April 22-24, 2014 Yosemite Valley, CA

    This workshop is focused on developing an integrated view of the physical landscape, climate effects, hydrology and fire regimes of the Sierra Nevada.

     

    Sanctuary Currents Symposium; Marine Debris: How do you pitch in?
    Saturday April 26, 2014, University Center, California State University Monterey Bay

    Research Posters: Call for abstracts will occur in January.  Visit the Sanctuary Currents Symposium website for updates and information: Sanctuary Currents Symposium

     

    Scenario Planning toward Climate Change Adaptation (pdf) WORKSHOP May 6-8, 2014 NCTC, Shepherdstown, West Virginia

    This overview course will introduce the core elements of scenario planning and expose participants to a diversity of approaches and specific scenario development techniques that incorporate both qualitative and quantitative components.

     

    99th Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America
    Sacramento, California  August 10-15, 2014  http://www.esa.org/sacramento

     

    California Adaptation Forum 
    August 18-20, 2014
    .

    This two-day forum will build off a successful National Adaptation Forum held in Colorado in 2013. The attendance of many California leaders there underscored the need for a California-focused event, which will be held every other year to complement the biennial national conference.  To register go to:  https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/886364449

     

     

    JOBS:

     

    POINT BLUE: CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER

    Western Rivers Conservancy Lands Director

    Golden Gate Audubon is looking for a new Executive Director

    San Francisco Estuary Institute-ASC Executive Director Filing date: Sunday, February 16, 2014.

    Senior Project Manager:  Position open until filled. More information.

    Vegetation & Fire Ecologist Marin County- . Closes 2/18/2014

     

     

     

    BOOKS:

     


    ‘The Sixth
    Extinction,’ by Elizabeth Kolbert – San Francisco
    Chronicle



    San Francisco Chronicle Review by Mary Ellen Hannibal Updated 5:03 pm, Friday, February 7, 2014.

    “There is grandeur in this view of life,” concludes Charles Darwin in his opus “On the Origin of Species.” “… From so simple a beginning, endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved.” Darwin was right about many things, including the mechanism by which the plenitude of life we know as biodiversity came to thrive on this planet. Unfortunately for us, his picture of a continuously rich congregation of interacting species has hit a big roadblock. New Yorker staff writer Elizabeth Kolbert lays out the situation in “The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History.” The activities of Homo sapiens – that’s right, us – are reducing the volume and kinds of other life-forms on the planet at a rate and magnitude that earn our moment in time its own epochal designation. By 2016, it is expected that the inherently conservative Geological Society of London will make it official: We’re living in an Anthropocene of our own devising. In her elegant and quickly paced book, Kolbert reviews the history of the very concept of extinction, noting that neither Aristotle nor Pliny nor Linnaeus ever guessed there had been life-forms on Earth that no longer exist….

     

    ….It is not possible to overstate the importance of Kolbert’s book. Her prose is lucid, accessible and even entertaining as she reveals the dark theater playing out on our globe. It is enough for one book to cover the enormous swaths of scientific territory she does here. Still, I would have liked more reference and explanation of how this accelerated take-down of creatures causes even more negative effects than the immediate one of species loss. For example, here in North America, the loss of top predators (grizzly bears and wolves) exacerbates our current ecological woes. On the East Coast, superabundant deer are decimating forests and in some communities have to be culled by hunters. These deer also bring us proliferating ticks and Lyme disease. In the West, the lack of big teeth on the landscape actually has an impact on the water system, since the over-browsing deer and elk erode the banks of creeks and rivers, and pave the way for invasive plants to further degrade nature’s operations there. Finally, while there is probably no hope for many of the Earth’s creatures no matter what we do right now, we certainly can stem this extinction crisis. With any hope, Kolbert’s readers will not be able to sleep until we all do our part to protect habitat for our co-travelers through what Darwin rightly called Earth’s grandeur. As climate change forces species to adjust how and where they live, we can help them by protecting enough natural places for them to do so.

     

    Mary Ellen Hannibal is the author of “The Spine of the Continent: The Race to Save America’s Last, Best Wilderness,” and winner of Stanford’s Knight-Risser Prize in Western Environmental Journalism. E-mail: books@sfchronicle.com

     

     

    NY TIMES SUNDAY BOOK REVIEW

    Without a Trace –’The Sixth Extinction,’ by Elizabeth Kolbert

    By AL GORE FEB. 10, 2014

    Over the past decade, Elizabeth Kolbert has established herself as one of our very best science writers. She has developed a distinctive and eloquent voice of conscience on issues arising from the extraordinary assault on the ecosphere, and those who have enjoyed her previous works like “Field Notes From a Catastrophe” will not be disappointed by her powerful new book, “The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History.”

    Kolbert, a staff writer at The New Yorker, reports from the front lines of the violent collision between civilization and our planet’s ecosystem: the Andes, the Amazon rain forest, the Great Barrier Reef — and her backyard. In lucid prose, she examines the role of man-made climate change in causing what biologists call the sixth mass extinction — the current spasm of plant and animal loss that threatens to eliminate 20 to 50 percent of all living species on earth within this century. Extinction is a relatively new idea in the scientific community. Well into the 18th century, people found it impossible to accept the idea that species had once lived on earth but had been subsequently lost. Scientists simply could not envision a planetary force powerful enough to wipe out forms of life that were common in prior ages.

    In the same way, and for many of the same reasons, many today find it inconceivable that we could possibly be responsible for destroying the integrity of our planet’s ecology. There are psychological barriers to even imagining that what we love so much could be lost — could be destroyed forever. As a result, many of us refuse to contemplate it. Like an audience entertained by a magician, we allow ourselves to be deceived by those with a stake in persuading us to ignore reality. For example, we continue to use the world’s atmosphere as an open sewer for the daily dumping of more than 90 million tons of gaseous waste. If trends continue, the global temperature will keep rising, triggering “world-altering events,” Kolbert writes. According to a conservative and unchallenged calculation by the climatologist James Hansen, the man-made pollution already in the atmosphere traps as much extra heat energy every 24 hours as would be released by the explosion of 400,000 Hiroshima-class nuclear bombs. The resulting rapid warming of both the atmosphere and the ocean, which Kolbert notes has absorbed about one-third of the carbon dioxide we have produced, is wreaking havoc on earth’s delicately balanced ecosystems. It threatens both the web of living species with which we share the planet and the future viability of civilization. “By disrupting these systems,” Kolbert writes, “we’re putting our own survival in danger.” The earth’s water cycle is being dangerously disturbed, as warmer oceans evaporate more water vapor into the air. Warmer air holds more moisture (there has been an astonishing 4 percent increase in global humidity in just the last 30 years) and funnels it toward landmasses, where it is released in much larger downpours, causing larger and more frequent floods and mudslides…..

     

    “People change the world,” Kolbert writes, and she vividly presents the science and history of the current crisis. Her extensive travels in researching this book, and her insightful treatment of both the history and the science all combine to make “The Sixth Extinction” an invaluable contribution to our understanding of present circumstances, just as the paradigm shift she calls for is sorely needed. Despite the evidence that humanity is driving mass extinctions, we have been woefully slow to adopt the necessary measures to solve this global environmental challenge. Our response to the mass extinction — as well as to the climate crisis — is still controlled by a hopelessly outdated view of our relationship to our environment. Fortunately, history is full of examples of our capacity to overcome even the most difficult challenges whenever a controversy is finally resolved into a choice between what is clearly right and what is clearly wrong. The anomalies Kolbert identifies are too glaring to ignore. She makes an irrefutable case that what we are doing to cause a sixth mass extinction is clearly wrong. And she makes it clear that doing what is right means accelerating our transition to a more sustainable world.

     

     

     

     

    Thinking Like a Planet: The Land Ethic and the Earth Ethic

    Environmental Philosopher Baird Callicott has recently published a new book entitled Thinking Like a Planet: The Land Ethic and the Earth Ethic, now available from Oxford University Press. In this book, Callicott develops a new moral philosophy that is capable of engaging the most urgent and otherwise intractable ethical concern of the first century of the new millennium: global climate change. He updates and expands Aldo Leopold’s land ethic to make it relevant to contemporary concerns with regard to climate change.

     

     

     

     

     

    1. OTHER NEWS OF INTEREST

     

    New York Times Op-Ed ‘The Dustbowl Returns’ Never Mentions Climate Change

    By Joe Romm on February 11, 2014 at 5:10 pm

    In yet another example of how the New York Times is mis-covering the story of the century, it published an entire op-ed on the return of the Dust Bowl with no mention whatsoever of climate change.

    It stands in sharp contrast to the coverage of the connection between climate change and extreme weather other leading news outlets and science journals. Consider the BBC’s Sunday article on the epic deluges hitting the UK, “Met Office: Evidence ‘suggests climate change link to storms’.” Consider the journal Nature, which back in 2011 asked me to write an article on the link between climate change and “Dust-bowlification” (the photo is by Dorothea Lange). As James Hansen told me two weeks ago, “Increasingly intense droughts in California, all of the Southwest, and even into the Midwest have everything to do with human-made climate change.” Climate change’s impact on Western drought has three components:

    1) Higher temperatures, which worsen any drought
    2) Declining snowpack, which reduces the summer dry season’s key reservoir
    3) Reduced precipitation in the region

    The first two are clearcut scientifically and the third is a long-standing prediction of climate scientists that appears to be coming true. Bizarrely, the NYT piece doesn’t ignore the fact that the temperatures have been incredibly warm, it just ignores any possible role of global warming in the “anomalous weather”: Normal winters here in Fresno, in the heart of California’s Central Valley, bring average highs in the 50s…. But not this year. Instead, early 2014 gave us cloudless skies and midday temperatures in the 70s. By the end of January, it seemed like April, with spring trees in full bloom. We fretted over the anomalous weather, to be sure. Fretted over the anomalous weather, to be sure sure, but tried to explain it — not so much. As climatologist Kevin Trenberth told me, “The extra heat from the increase in heat trapping gases in the atmosphere over six months is equivalent to running a small microwave oven at full power for about half an hour over every square foot of the land under the drought.” Seems worth a mention, no? Even more bizarrely, the NYT piece doesn’t ignore the decline in snowpack, once again it just ignores any role global warming might have played: Most Californians depend on the Sierra Nevada for their water supply, but the snowpack there was just 15 percent of normal in early February. This climate silence is particularly strange and disappointing since two days earlier, the Times posted a big piece on how climate change was warming the West and reducing snowpack. Heck, it was even headlined “The End of Snow?” Do the daily editors at the Times have no idea what the Sunday editors are doing — and no idea what carbon pollution is doing? Here is what the NY Times understood in the snow piece: The planet has warmed 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit since the 1800s, and as a result, snow is melting. In the last 47 years, a million square miles of spring snow cover has disappeared from the Northern Hemisphere…. The facts are straightforward: The planet is getting hotter. Snow melts above 32 degrees Fahrenheit…. Since 1970, the rate of winter warming per decade in the United States has been triple the rate of the previous 75 years … and this winter is already looking to be one of the driest on record — with California at just 12 percent of its average snowpack in January…..

    If this weren’t the story of the century, then this might be an amusing screwup. But, thanks to global warming, California could lose most if not all of its snowpack by century’s end, with temperatures soaring 10°F in the Central Valley. Worse, thanks to climate change, “The U.S. may never again return to the relatively wet conditions experienced from 1977 to 1999,” as a leading drought researcher reiterated last month. You simply can’t ignore those projections, particularly in a piece on Dust-Bowlification in California. Unless you are the New York Times…..

     

    We will fight them with mosquitoes: Historical evidence of biological weapons research in Nazi Germany
    (February 13, 2014) — Scientist finds historical evidence of biological weapons research in Nazi Germany. Researchers came to the conclusion that, although a major entomological institute was established to combat insect-borne diseases such as typhoid, it also carried out research into whether mosquitoes — which host malaria — could be used in biological warfare. … > full story

     

    New live-cell printing technology works like ancient Chinese woodblocking
    (February 10, 2014) — With a nod to 3rd century Chinese woodblock printing and children’s rubber stamp toys, researchers have developed a way to print living cells onto any surface, in virtually any shape. Unlike recent, similar work using inkjet printing approaches, almost all cells survive the process. … > full story

    San Francisco’s big 1906 earthquake was third of a series on San Andreas Fault
    (February 12, 2014) — Geologists have uncovered geologic evidence that supports historical narratives for two earthquakes in the 68 years prior to San Francisco’s devastating 1906 disaster. … > full story

     

     

    Valentine’s Day! Chocolate 101
    (February 12, 2014) — Here’s a brief look at where chocolate comes from, nutritional information, how it’s made, and the ingredients that make chocolate — whether milk, dark or white — a memorable treat. … > full story


     


    Love’s For the Birds: Global Great Backyard Bird Count Begins Today


    KQED (blog)

    February 14, 2014

           

    It’s time for the annual bird-lovers to give a Valentine to their fine-feathered friends: the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) runs from February 14–17, 2014! You don’t have to leave home and you don’t even have to be an expert bird-watcher to participate.

     

     

     

    1. IMAGES OF THE WEEK

     

    Thursday, Feb 6, 2014 re: California Pineapple Express (Atmospheric River):

     

     

     

    By David Horsey |  LA Times

     

     

     

     

     

    ————

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