Conservation Science News November 15, 2013

Focus of the WeekDrought in California; What Typhoon Haiyan Tells Us about Adaptation; Oyster Reefs Protect Shoreline in SF Bay









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Focus of the Week– Drought in California; What Typhoon Haiyan Tells Us about Adaptation; Oyster Reefs Protect Shoreline in SF Bay


1-California on course for driest year on record

Peter Fimrite Updated 10:27 am, Sunday, November 10, 2013

Thirsty California may get a smidgen of rain this coming week, but it is not likely to change what, so far, has been the driest calendar year in recorded history. No rain at all fell in San Francisco in October and only 3.95 inches has fallen since Jan. 1, the smallest amount of precipitation to date since record keeping began 164 years ago, according to the National Weather Service. Things can still change, but the storm predicted to roll in Monday and Tuesday has already petered out, according to forecasters, who are expecting only sprinkles, if that. “It’s absolutely dry,” said Bob Benjamin, a National Weather Service forecaster. “We just went through October where there was no measurable precipitation in downtown San Francisco. That’s only happened seven times since records started.” The previous record dry year was in 1976, when 5.57 inches of rain fell in San Francisco over the 311 days between Jan. 1 and Nov. 7. Meteorologists use San Francisco as a benchmark because it has the longest consecutive rainfall record in the state, going back to 1849-50…..


….”We’ve never had any year dryer through October,” said Null, adding that there is no reason to get panicky with two months left in the year. Making predictions based on rainfall through October is, he said, “like giving the final score of the Giants game after eight innings.” Looking up at the perpetually blaring sun is nevertheless giving water managers reason to be downcast. The state’s reservoirs are all well below their normal carrying capacity, according to Arthur Hinojosa, the chief of hydrology and flood operations for the California Department of Water Resources. …

….The dry weather is also extending the fire season. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection has responded to 6,439 fires this year, almost 2,000 more fires than during an average year, said Battalion Chief Julie Hutchinson. That doesn’t include fires on federal land like the Rim Fire, which burned 400 square miles in and around the Stanislaus National Forest and Yosemite National Park. “We’ve seen about a 39 percent increase in activity compared to an average year,” Hutchinson said. “There have been more fires and more frequent fires, which is due to the lack of rainfall and the dryness. We also saw a significant number of fires statewide in higher elevation timber stands, which you normally don’t see. That’s because of the lack of snowfall.”….




Obama Administration’s National Drought Resilience Partnership to Help Communities Prepare for Drought November 15, 2013

As part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, the Obama Administration today announced an interagency
National Drought Resilience Partnership
to help communities better prepare for future droughts and reduce the impact of drought events on livelihoods and the economy. Responding to requests from communities, businesses, and farmers and ranchers, the National Drought Resilience Partnership will make it easier to access Federal drought resources, and will help link information such as monitoring, forecasts, outlooks, and early warnings with longer-term drought resilience strategies in critical sectors such as agriculture, municipal water systems, energy, recreation, tourism and manufacturing.   In its first year, the Partnership will focus on creating a new, web-based portal to ease access to Federal agency drought recovery resources, hosting more frequent regional drought outlook forums that provide access to experts and locally relevant information, supporting the coordination of a national soil moisture monitoring network to help improve monitoring and forecasting drought conditions, and identifying a single point of contact for the public. In collaboration with local, state and regional governments, the Partnership will also undertake a pilot project in a western area hard hit by drought to create a local-scale drought resilience plan that could be applied in other areas.   



2What a deadly typhoon in the Philippines can tell us about climate adaptation

By Brad Plumer, Washington Post Published: November 12 at 12:29 pm

The massive typhoon that devastated the central Philippines over the weekend was deadly for a host of complex reasons — accidents of geography, a growing population, poor infrastructure. And, to a lesser extent, global warming may have factored in.

An aerial view shows damaged houses on a coastal community after Typhoon Haiyan hit Iloilo province in the central Philippines.  (Raul Banias for Reuters)

It’s that last one that’s getting all the attention this week, as the latest round of U.N. climate negotiations opened in Warsaw on Monday. The delegate from the Philippines, Naderev Saño, gave an emotional speech arguing that Typhoon Haiyan was “a sobering reminder to the international community that we cannot afford to procrastinate on climate action.” But what does this mean, exactly? There are all sorts of things that Typhoon Haiyan highlighted about the difficulties that poorer countries such as the Philippines will face in dealing with natural disasters as the world warms. Here’s a partial rundown:


1) The Philippines has become increasingly vulnerable to typhoons for lots of reasons — and climate change is only one angle here.

Thanks to basic geography, the Philippines has long been one of the most storm-ravaged places on Earth, with about 8 to 9 typhoons making landfall each year, on average. The warm waters surrounding the island nation help fuel strong tropical cyclones, and there are few natural barriers to slow the storms down or break them up. Those tropical cyclones appear to have become increasingly deadly in recent years — since 2004, the Philippines has experienced five storms that have each killed more than 1,000 people, not including Haiyan. In a report last year, the Philippines Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) argued that typhoons were becoming more destructive over the past 20 years. But the reasons given were multifaceted. Climate change may be playing a supporting role in that longer-term trend: One 2008 study (pdf) in Nature found that the very strongest typhoons in the northwest Pacific appeared to have become somewhat more intense since 1981 — by about 20 mph, on average — as the oceans have warmed. That said, detecting a trend in tropical cyclones over time is notoriously difficult — and attributing a single storm like Haiyan to climate change is even harder. On the other hand, sea levels around the Philippines have also risen by half an inch in the past 20 years, faster than the global average. That can intensify the risk of storm surges, which reportedly reached 15 to 20 feet in Haiyan’s case. But climate is just a small part of a much more complex tale. One crucial factor for the rise in destruction: The Philippines population keeps expanding in high-risk coastal areas. As the AP’s Seth Borenstein reports, the city of Tacloban, which got hit hardest by Haiyan, has nearly tripled in population over the past four decades. Nearly 40 percent of the country now live in large, storm-prone coastal cities. Even if the typhoons weren’t changing at all, many more people are now in harm’s way. Poverty and shoddy construction have also combined to make storms especially lethal. “About one-third of Tacloban’s homes have wooden exterior walls,” reports Borenstein. “And 1 in 7 homes have grass roofs, according to the census office.” Even a weaker storm than Haiyan would have caused plenty of havoc. The DENR also notes that the deforestation of mangroves has removed a natural barrier that can blunt the impact of storms. What’s more, as my colleague Max Fisher reports, extremely poor infrastructure and a weak central government has hindered the disaster response in the Philippines. Only 22 percent of the nation’s roads are paved. Aid workers have struggled to reach the affected areas. The list goes on.


2) Typhoons aren’t the only natural disaster the Philippines has to worry about. This map from the DENR shows just how many different climate-related risks the Philippines could face in the years ahead:

There’s no simple story here: The northern parts of the country could see more intense rainfall events. The central Luzon area could face a higher risk of typhoons, as the oceans heat up, increasing the “speed limit” for storms. Meanwhile, western Mindanano could face greater risk of drought due to both rising temperatures and El Niño events. Add it all up, the U.N. ranks the Philippines as the third-most vulnerable country in the world to climate change, thanks to a combination of natural exposure and poverty. “Owing to their proximity to the sea,” a recent report notes, “island states are particularly exposed to the natural hazards of cyclones, flooding and sea level rise.” But the precise risks are often difficult to pinpoint — and that makes preparation even harder. Many climate models still have trouble making predictions at a very fine-grained, regional level. And typhoons are especially difficult to forecast: While the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change thinks it’s “likely” that tropical cyclones will get stronger as the oceans warm, it’s less clear how the frequency of storms will change in the years ahead (they may even become less frequent).


3) Adaptation can help, but it’s not always enough. Many countries have managed to reduce their exposure to natural disasters over the years by implementing detailed adaptation plans. If climate change does increase the risk of natural disasters in the years ahead, then those plans will become increasingly important. Bangladesh, for instance, has steadily reduced the number of deaths from tropical cyclones since the 1970s through early-warning systems, shelters and evacuation plans, and building coastal embankments. India has also stepped up its defenses: In 1999, a cyclone hit the state of Odisha and killed 10,000 people (see map). This year, a similar-sized cyclone, Phailin, hit the same region — but only 44 people died. There were a lot of reasons for that, but some credit goes to improved weather forecasting and a mass evacuation plan that moved nearly 1 million people to safety before the storm hit. The Philippines, for its part, is still struggling with disaster preparation and response. Early reports suggest that early storm warnings didn’t reach everyone in afflicted areas such as Tacloban. And the hard-hit city was wholly unprepared for a massive storm surge.

But it’s also worth noting that even better preparation and infrastructure isn’t always a panacea — particularly in the face of especially large storms. Many of those who did receive warnings before Haiyan hit simply had nowhere to go, thanks to the nation’s far-flung island geography. What’s more, hours before Haiyan hit, Philippine authorities managed to move 800,000 people to sturdier evacuation centers — churches or schools. Yet many of those structures couldn’t withstand the storm’s ferocity.

“Sometimes, no matter how much and how carefully you prepare, the disaster is just too big,” Zhang Qiang, an expert on disaster mitigation at Beijing Normal University, told the AP.


4) Where will the money come from for adaptation?
There are two key questions that always come up at international climate talks like the one now going on in Warsaw. First, how will the world cut its carbon emissions to slow global warming? And second, where will the money come from to help poorer states prepare for its effects? The second question is likely to get more attention in the wake of Haiyan.

Consider, again, the Philippines. The country’s officials estimate that each typhoon season already knocks about 2 percent off GDP each year — basic reconstruction is already a struggle, let alone building infrastructure to prepare for worse disasters in the future. The Philippines’ stated position is that wealthy countries should pitch in to help with the latter. This is always a contentious issue in global talks. Developing countries like the Philippines argue that the big emitters should help pay for climate adaptation — after all, nations such as the United States and Europe and China were the ones who put all that carbon in the atmosphere. (The United States is already sending emergency aid in the wake of Haiyan, $20 million so far, as is Britain and Australia, but this is usually considered a separate conversation.) Wealthier nations, for their part, often argue that it’s difficult to disentangle how much, exactly, they owe here. After all, as we’ve seen above, the devastation from Haiyan is only partly due to climate change. Things like poor construction and shoddy infrastructure played a major role here. How do you separate out all those responsibilities? How do you assess blame for climate change specifically?

Those debates have often bogged down climate talks — and even when differences do get resolved, the money isn’t always forthcoming. Back in 2009, the world’s developed countries pledged $30 billion in climate aid, which would rise over time. But a recent report from Oxfam found that most developed countries have yet to make any concrete plans to follow through. “We have received no climate finance to adapt or to prepare ourselves for typhoons and other extreme weather we are now experiencing,” Saño told the Guardian. “It cannot be a way of life that we end up running always from storms.”



3- 2 million oysters in bay begin restoration effort

Researchers documented a 30 percent reduction in wave energy at the site compared with a control area

By Peter Fimrite Updated 8:14 am, Friday, November 15, 2013

Volunteer Kristina Sawyer (right) and Stephanie Kiriakopolos inspect Olympia oyster beds on a man-made reef near the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. Photo: Michael Short, The Chronicle

Two million native oysters have settled on man-made reefs in San Francisco Bay over the past year, marking the first major success in an effort to bring back a species ravaged by human excess, researchers said Thursday.

The reefs, made of mesh bags filled with discarded shells from Drakes Bay Oyster Co., are part of the most comprehensive experiment ever attempted to bring back the nearly extinct Olympia oyster and restore its long-lost reef habitat. “We’re seeing a lot of oysters,” said Chela Zabin, a wetsuit-clad UC Davis biologist, as she headed into the bay mud to return 60 Olympias that her team of scientists had collected the previous day and studied in the lab overnight. “We’re now seeing a second generation of oysters settling on the first, which is what you want to see.” The five-year, $2 million effort, led by the California Coastal Conservancy, is part of the San Francisco Bay Living Shorelines Project, which is testing a variety of oyster and eelgrass restoration projects and assessing their impacts on wildlife, wave action and shoreline erosion. The 1-acre shell-mound reef in San Rafael near the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge – and another one south of the San Mateo Bridge in Hayward – are attempts by scientists, including researchers from UC Davis and San Francisco State University, to figure out whether a natural protective barrier can be combined with habitat restoration to protect the shoreline and minimize problems caused by sea-level rise. “Our hope is that this will be a self-sustaining reef,” said Marilyn Latta, the project manager for the Living Shorelines Project and the California State Coastal Conservancy. “To see 2 million oysters in one site in one year shows the potential for this to be successful. I’m already getting calls from cities and counties who would like to do this to protect their shorelines.”

Coastal Conservancy project manager Marilyn Latta is interviewed by a news crew near the bay in San Rafael. Photo: Michael Short, The Chronicle

Oysters once legion

Besides the huge increase in native oysters, Latta said, wave action has been reduced and more fish, invertebrates and birds have been seen hanging around the reefs. It is the first major success in a 15-year effort by conservation groups, the aquaculture industry and state and federal agencies to bring back the native oysters, which were once an integral part of the American Indian diet and a staple during the Gold Rush. The Living Shorelines Project, which is borrowing techniques previously used on the East Coast and Gulf Coast, is the largest oyster restoration effort attempted on the West Coast. Olympia oysters, known scientifically as Ostrea lurida, once blanketed subtidal regions from Southern California to southeastern Alaska. The shells were abundant in the many American Indian middens discovered around the bay, some dating back 4,000 years.

Beds picked clean

The tiny mollusks, about the size of a 50-cent piece, were a delicacy during the Gold Rush. The Hangtown Fry was created, according to one legend, by a condemned man who ordered the two most expensive items he knew of at the time – oysters and eggs – for his last meal. In 1893, Olympia oyster beds covered a total of 8,033 acres in Newport Bay, Elkhorn Slough, San Francisco Bay and Humboldt Bay, according to a recent study published in the scientific journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Almost a half-million oysters per acre once crowded together along the bay floor, according to the report. By 1911, the native oyster beds in the Bay Area were gone, scoured clean by ravenous San Franciscans. The oysters that people now eat along the West Coast, including those grown commercially in Drakes and Tomales bays, are Pacific oysters, natives of Japan that are incapable of reproducing naturally in this climate.

A Black Oyster Cracker stands on a rock crusted with oyster shells on the shoreline in San Rafael. Photo: Michael Short, The Chronicle

Other beneficial effects

The large crop of native oysters on nearby reefs is a promising sign for several reasons, Latta said. For one, oysters clean the water by filter feeding. A single oyster can filter up to 30 gallons of water a day, removing nitrogen and other pollutants. The other reason is that the oyster beds, or reefs, provide habitat for myriad fish, crabs and other creatures. There has already been a marked increase in juvenile Dungeness crab, bay shrimp and rock crab in the test area, she said. More birds, including black oyster catchers, great egrets and great blue herons, have also been seen, indicating an increase in the number of fish at the site. The oysters will not be available for human consumption or fishing, researchers said, adding that they would not be safe to eat because of bay pollution. Researchers documented a 30 percent reduction in wave energy at the site compared with a control area. That, she said, is a clear indication that the reefs can be effective barriers and might someday be useful in helping protect shoreline communities during storms. “We are thrilled to see this level of native oysters at the site and to see all of the other species there,” Latta said. “It’s an indication that it is healthy habitat and that we are bringing back some ecosystem functions that they can thrive on.”

Not all smooth sailing

Obstacles still remain, however. Recovery of Olympias has thus far been hampered by silty bay mud left over from the Gold Rush, pollution and a voracious alien whelk snail known as the Atlantic oyster drill. The gluttonous snail, introduced to the area in shipments of Atlantic oysters, drills into the shells of oysters and sucks out the insides. Latta said the biological reefs that researchers are building will help them figure out the best way to restore San Francisco’s long-lost bay ecosystem, which sustained humans for thousands of years – then was wiped out in one century. “That is our hope,” she said. “It’s a very innovative time. We’re developing new data that may affect policy in the future.”

Online resources: The website for the San Francisco Bay Living Shorelines Project is at

Peter Fimrite is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: Twitter: @pfimrite






Bacteria may allow animals to send quick, voluminous messages
(November 11, 2013) — Twitter clips human thoughts to a mere 140 characters. Animals’ scent posts may be equally as short, relatively speaking, yet they convey an encyclopedia of information about the animals that left them. Researcher now show that the detailed scent posts of hyenas are, in part, products of symbiotic bacteria, microbes that have a mutually beneficial relationship with their hosts. … > full story


Buried leaves reveal precolonial eastern U.S. forests and guide stream restoration
(November 13, 2013) — Sediment behind milldams in Pennsylvania preserved leaves deposited just before European contact that provide a glimpse of the ancient forests, according to a team of geoscientists, who note that neither the forests nor the streams were what they are today. …

U.S. census shows that by 1840, tens of thousands of milldams existed in the mid-Atlantic region. About 10,000 of these were in Pennsylvania. In Lancaster County, estimates were one dam for every mile of stream. The abundance of dams in the area altered the landscape dramatically, according to the researchers.We expected to see evidence for single stream channels that meandered back and forth across the valley bottom landscape for millennia, ” they wrote. “Instead, we found that most of the valley bottoms at the time of European contact were dominated by wetland ecosystems with numerous small, stable ‘anastomosing’ streams.” These branching and reconnecting streams were far different from the steep-banked meandering streams that, since the dams were breached, now cut through the silt deposits created by the dams….full story


Scientists accidentally kill world’s oldest animal at age 507


 – ‎1 hour ago‎


The oldest animal ever known lived from 1499 until the day researchers cracked its shell open, killing it in the process. Ming, an ocean quahog from the species Arctica islandica, was initially thought to be a record-setting 402 years old.


‘Saving our Fish’ needs more than ban on discarding
(November 10, 2013) — Banning the practice of throwing unmarketable or over-quota fish back into the sea is just one of the measures needed to deliver sustainable fisheries, according to new research. … > full story

Tracking young salmon’s first moves in the ocean
(November 8, 2013) — Basic ocean conditions such as current directions and water temperature play a huge role in determining the behavior of young migrating salmon as they move from rivers and hit ocean waters for the first time, according to new research. How the fish fare during their first few weeks in the ocean has a profound impact on species’ ability to survive into adulthood. … > full story

An albacore tuna tagged off the coast of Gipuzkoa had managed to cover a record distance when recaptured in Venezuela
(November 8, 2013) — 6,370 kilometers across the Atlantic Ocean. That is the vast distance, as the crow flies, which has been covered by an albacore tuna tagged and released into the sea off a Gipuzkoan locality, 20 km to the north of Donostia-San Sebastian in October 2006. The specimen has recently been caught by Venezuelan fishermen just off the coast of their country. This is a record distance. … > full story



Soybeans grown into corn stalks in a no-till field in Union County, Iowa (USDA)

No-till farming is on the rise

November 10 2013 Washington Post Here’s a fascinating trend in U.S. agriculture that’s been going on for the past few decades. It’s the dramatic rise … of no-till farming. Plowing and tillage are major sources of soil erosion around the world. What’s more, churning up all that soil can release a significant amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. “No-till farming” sounds pretty dull at first. The term basically describes ways to grow crops each year without disturbing the soil through tillage or plowing. But it’s an important idea. Plowing and tillage are major sources of soil erosion around the world — they were key factors behind the Dust Bowl in the 1930s. What’s more, churning up all that soil can release a significant amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, helping to warm the planet. So, since the 1980s, more and more American farmers (and policymakers) have started taking no-till farming seriously. In the United States, no-till farming is now growing at a pace of about 1.5 percent per year, according to the Department of Agriculture. In 2009, about 35.5 percent of the country’s cropland had at least some no-tillage operations — though only 10 percent were full-time no-till operations. (The rest involve a selective use of no-till or a mix of techniques.)



Volunteers join scientists in finding out who gets rid of cow dung
(November 8, 2013) — With more than a billion cows around the world, an immense amount of dung is produced each day. Most of these droppings will evidently disappear, as the world is still green rather than brown. Now a team of scientists have joined forces with local volunteers to find out who decomposes the most of it in Finland, Northern Europe. … > full story


Staying alive in the high and dry
(November 5, 2013) — New research published this week sheds light on how desert plants gain nutrients they desperately need — even in the driest circumstances. … > full story


Endangered limpets (sea snail) change sex to improve their chances of survival
(November 12, 2013) — The Ribbed Mediterranean Limpet is one of the most endangered invertebrates of the Mediterranean Sea and is classed as being in danger of extinction. Researchers have discovered their reproductive strategy, consisting in changing sex from male to female and vice versa, which improves their ability to adapt to changes in their environment. … > full story


An Accidental Cattle Ranch Points the Way in Sustainable Farming

Jim Wilson/The New York Times The ranch’s goal is to help reverse the trend of lower levels of carbon in soil, a worldwide issue that coincides with the growth of greenhouse gas emissions in the air.

By STEPHANIE STROM  Published: November 11, 2013

PESCADERO, Calif. — When Tom Steyer first learned that his wife, Kat Taylor, wanted to sell beef from the cattle herd on their ranch here, he rolled his eyes. Mr. Steyer is the founder of Farallon Capital, one of the largest hedge funds in the world with some $20 billion under management for universities, foundations and some of the country’s wealthiest people — and he was sure beef was a lousy business investment, particularly on a small scale. “Practically every year since 1865 has been a bad year for beef,” he said, only somewhat in jest. “And Katherine” — virtually everyone else calls her Kat — “knew nothing about selling beef.” Mr. Steyer may have made billions of dollars for his investors before retiring this year, but he would have lost money betting against Ms. Taylor and Leftcoast Grassfed, the brand name of the Steyer-Taylor beef. While Ms. Taylor says, modestly, that it is hard to know how profitable the business is, her husband said it had outperformed his expectations. “We could sell 10 times the amount we raise, in 10 minutes,” he said. The couple did not set out to raise prime grass-fed beef at TomKat Ranch, which sprawls across some 1,800 acres in this rural community near the ocean off Highway 1. The plan was to create a model conservation project, demonstrating ways to improve soil health, use solar energy and conserve water. “This wasn’t about cows,” Ms. Taylor said. But once cows became part of the plan to restore the land, it was not too long before TomKat also became an agricultural project, one that the couple hope will help develop sustainable farming practices that can be put to use far beyond Pescadero. “Think of the ranch as a huge science experiment,” Mr. Steyer said. “Can you raise animals sustainably? Can the land become the carbon sink that it once was? Can you demonstrate a way of doing agriculture, raising food, that doesn’t damage the environment?” Since his retirement, Mr. Steyer has stepped up his work on environmental causes, creating a national campaign to oppose the Keystone XL pipeline and spending heavily to support candidates around the country whose credentials on environmental issues mesh with his goals. No statistics are available on the size of the market for grass-fed beef. But in a sign of the growing interest in it, the Agriculture Department this fall began publishing a monthly report on prices for such meat in partnership with the Wallace Center, part of a network of nonprofit groups established by the Rockefellers that work on food issues…..

Jim Wilson/The New York Times Kat Taylor, an owner of the TomKat Ranch in California, and Jeremiah Stent, who manages the ranch.



Mid-nineteenth century Chinese maps controlled water and directed labor
(November 14, 2013) — A sequence of twelve maps from the mid-nineteenth century reveal that they were accurate enough for planning and executing middle-sized water control projects for the department of Dengchuan in southwest China. … > full story






Scientists warn of hot, sour, breathless oceans

By SETH BORENSTEIN, AP Science Writer Updated 4:30 pm, Wednesday, November 13, 2013 WASHINGTON (AP) — Greenhouse gases are making the world’s oceans hot, sour and breathless, and the way those changes work together is creating a grimmer outlook for global waters, according to a new report Wednesday from 540 international scientists. The world’s oceans are getting more acidic at an unprecedented rate, faster than at any time in the past 300 million years, the report said. But it’s how this interacts with other global warming impacts to waters that scientists say is getting them even more worried. Scientists already had calculated how the oceans had become 26 percent more acidic since the 1880s because of the increased carbon in the water. They also previously had measured how the world’s oceans had warmed because of carbon dioxide from the burning of coal, oil and gas. And they’ve observed that at different depths the oceans were moving less oxygen around because of the increased heat. But together “they actually amplify each other,” said report co-author Ulf Riebesell, a biochemist at the Geomar Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research in Germany. He said scientists are increasingly referring to the ocean’s future prospects as “hot, sour and breathless.”
The 26-page report released by the United Nations and several scientific research organizations brings together the latest ocean science on climate change, stemming from a major conference of ocean scientists last year.

For example off the U.S. Pacific coast, the way the ocean is becoming stratified and less mixed means lower oxygen in the water, and the latest studies show that means “80 percent more acidification than what was originally predicted,” said study co-author Richard Feely of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration‘s Pacific Marine Environmental Lab in Seattle. And computer models predict that the American northwest coast will be hit harder because of the combined change than other places, Feely said. The theory is that species like squid can only live in waters at certain temperature, acidity and oxygen levels, and the sweet spots where the factors combine are getting harder to find, Feely and Riebesell said. The world ocean pH already has gone from 8.1 to 8.0 — it’s considered a 26 percent increase in acidity because scientists measure hydrogen ions for this. But computer models predict the world will hit 8.0 in the next 20 years to 30 years and 7.9 in about 50 years, Riebesell said. At those levels shells of some mollusks, like clams and mussels, start corroding, he said. “This is another loss that we’re facing,” Riebesell said. “It’s going to affect human society.


Expert assessment: Ocean acidification may increase 170 percent this century
(November 13, 2013) — In a major new international report, experts conclude that the acidity of the world’s ocean may increase by around 170 percent by the end of the century bringing significant economic losses. People who rely on the ocean’s ecosystem services — often in developing countries — are especially
A group of experts have agreed on ‘levels of confidence’ in relation to ocean acidification statements summarising the state of knowledge. The summary was led by the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme and results from the world’s largest gathering of experts on ocean acidification ever convened. The Third Symposium on the Ocean in a High CO2 World was held in Monterey, California (September 2012), and attended by 540 experts from 37 countries. The summary will be launched at the UNFCCC climate negotiations in Warsaw, 18 November, for the benefit of policymakers. Experts conclude that marine ecosystems and biodiversity are likely to change as a result of ocean acidification, with far-reaching consequences for society. Economic losses from declines in shellfish aquaculture and the degradation of tropical coral reefs may be substantial owing to the sensitivity of molluscs and corals to ocean acidification. One of the lead authors of the summary, and chair of the symposium, Ulf Riebesell of GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel said: “What we can now say with high levels of confidence about ocean acidification sends a clear message. Globally we have to be prepared for significant economic and ecosystem service losses. But we also know that reducing the rate of carbon dioxide emissions will slow acidification. That has to be the major message for the COP19 meeting.One outcome emphasised by experts is that if society continues on the current high emissions trajectory, cold water coral reefs, located in the deep sea, may be unsustainable and tropical coral reef erosion is likely to outpace reef building this century. However, significant emissions reductions to meet the two-degree target by 2100 could ensure that half of surface waters presently occupied by tropical coral reefs remain favourable for their growth. Author Wendy Broadgate, Deputy Director at the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme, said: “Emissions reductions may protect some reefs and marine organisms but we know that the ocean is subject to many other stresses such as warming, deoxygenation, pollution and overfishing. Warming and deoxygenation are also caused by rising carbon dioxide emissions, underlining the importance of reducing fossil fuel emissions. Reducing other stressors such as pollution and overfishing, and the introduction of large scale marine protected areas, may help build some resilience to ocean acidification.”

The summary for policymakers makes 21 statements about ocean acidification with a range of confidence levels from “very high” to “low.” These include:

Very high confidence

  • Ocean acidification is caused by carbon dioxide emissions from human activity to the atmosphere that end up in the ocean.
  • The capacity of the ocean to act as a carbon sink decreases as it acidifies
  • Reducing carbon dioxide emissions will slow the progress of ocean acidification.
  • Anthropogenic ocean acidification is currently in progress and is measurable
  • The legacy of historical fossil fuel emissions on ocean acidification will be felt for centuries.

High confidence

  • If carbon dioxide emissions continue on the current trajectory, coral reef erosion is likely to outpace reef building some time this century.
  • Cold-water coral communities are at risk and may be unsustainable.
  • Molluscs (such as mussels, oysters and pteropods) are one of the groups most sensitive to ocean acidification.
  • The varied responses of species to ocean acidification and other stressors are likely to lead to changes in marine ecosystems, but the extent of the impact is difficult to predict.
  • Multiple stressors compound the effects of ocean acidification.

Medium confidence

  1. Negative socio-economic impacts on coral reefs are expected, but the scale of the costs is uncertain.
  2. Declines in shellfisheries will lead to economic losses, but the extent of the losses is uncertain.
  3. Ocean acidification may have some direct effects on fish behaviour and physiology.
  4. The shells of marine snails known as pteropods, an important link in the marine food web, are already dissolving.


Climate Change Is Messing With Rainfall Across The Entire Planet

By Ari Phillips on November 12, 2013 at 4:04 pm

The redistribution of rainfall predicted by climate change modeling is playing out in real life, a new study by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has found. The research, published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is the first study to find the signal of climate change in global precipitation shifts across land and sea. According to The Australian, large-scale studies to date have overlooked the 77 percent of global rainfall that occurs over the oceans. The initial change has resulted in wet areas, such as the tropics, becoming wetter, while drier regions such as deserts have become more arid. The effect is expected to worsen as climate change continues to worsen. According to the study, greenhouse gasses affect the distribution of precipitation through two mechanisms. Increasing temperatures that are expected to make wet regions wetter and dry regions drier (thermodynamic changes) and changes in atmospheric circulation patterns will push storm tracks and subtropical dry zones toward the poles. “Both these changes are occurring simultaneously in global precipitation and this behavior cannot be explained by natural variability alone,” said lead author Kate Marvel. “External influences such as the increase in greenhouse gases are responsible for the changes.” The study also found that ozone depletion had played a significant role in the movement of atmospheric circulation patterns toward the poles. Marvel and colleagues reviewed more than 30 years of data, including NASA satellite information and rain gauge measurements, in an effort to overcome the complications of the local nature of rainfall patterns and natural precipitation phenomena such as El Nino. The paper says new rainfall patterns are one of the most significant potential consequences of climate change because water is the most important natural resource and many societal and natural impacts of climate change will depend on the response to changes to the hydrological cycle.


‘Missing heat’ discovery prompts new estimate of global warming: Arctic warming fast
(November 13, 2013) — Scientists say they have found “missing heat” in Earth’s climate system, casting doubt on suggestions that global warming has slowed or stopped over the past decade. The new research shows that the Arctic is warming at about eight times the pace of the rest of the planet. … > full story


Climate Adaptation Strategies are Limited by Outdated Legal Interpretations 

Developing new laws or amendments to older ones that rely on resilience theory, adaptive management, and managing uncertainty is an important, though perhaps long-range, goal. But, change is happening on the ground in our public lands today and managers need rules and standards to apply that are relevant, sensible, cognizant of today’s realities, and already extant. This can be accomplished in many cases by reexamining and reinterpreting existing law. In many cases, adhering to existing regulatory interpretations unnecessarily circumscribes agencies’ range of management options in the face of rapid ecological change. Regulatory reinterpretation is certainly not a wholesale or permanent solution, but it is a necessary beginning. Craig (2010) and Doremus (2010) have each provided useful principles intended to guide future legislation, many of which could be put to use at the agency level in determining how best to reinterpret statutes to meet the realities of climate change as well as legal obligations … It is essential that the highest officials of each land management agency do the work of analyzing and determining what their agency’s interpretation of relevant statutes will be in light of climate change.


Report on climate change depicts a planet in peril

Climate change will disrupt not only the natural world but society, posing risks to resources and fomenting conflict, panel says.

By Tony Barboza LA Times November 11, 2013, 9:30 p.m.

Climate change will disrupt not only the natural world but also society, posing risks to the world’s economy and the food and water supply and contributing to violent conflict, an international panel of scientists says. The warnings came in a report drafted by the United Nations-backed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The 29-page summary, leaked and posted on a blog critical of the panel, has been distributed to governments around the world for review. It could change before it is released in March. “We see a wide range of impacts that have already occurred … on people, ecosystems and economies,” said Chris Field, a scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science and co-chairman of the group writing the report. “Looking into the future, we see increasing risks that are more pervasive and more severe with greater amounts of climate change.” Field and an IPCC spokesman confirmed the authenticity of the draft. “This is a close-to-final work in progress,” Field said. The report describes a planet in peril as a result of the human-caused buildup of greenhouse gases since the Industrial Revolution, where glaciers are shrinking and plants and animals have shifted their ranges in response to rising temperatures. As global warming continues through the 21st century, many species will face greater risk of extinction, marine life will shift toward the poles and seawater will grow more acidic, the report says. By 2100, hundreds of millions of people in coastal areas will be flooded or displaced by rising sea levels. The arid subtropics will have less fresh water, leading to more competition for resources. The global food supply is also at risk, with yields of wheat, rice, corn and other major crops projected to drop by as much as 2% each decade for the rest of the century, even as demand rises. Among the other risks forecast in the report: extreme heat waves that will be especially deadly in urban areas, where a growing population will also contend
with severe storms, flooding and drought.
Rural areas will cope with less drinking and irrigation water and less productive farming. Global surface temperature has risen about 1.5 degrees since 1880 as greenhouse gases have accumulated in the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels, industrial activity, agriculture and deforestation. Cutting emissions could ease the rate of change, but not until the second half of the century, the report says. The report “brings this issue home and it shows us why it’s important,” said Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist at Texas Tech University who did not contribute to the assessment. “The reason we care about climate change is because it affects us: It affects our food, our water, our health, our roads, buildings and infrastructure and our natural environment….


Scientists nearing forecasts of long-lived wildfires
(November 14, 2013) — Scientists have developed a new computer modeling technique that offers the promise, for the first time, of producing continually updated daylong predictions of wildfire growth throughout the lifetime of long-lived blazes. The technique combines detailed computer simulations with newly available satellite observations. … > full story


Snow melts faster under trees than in open areas in mild climates
(November 13, 2013) — Researchers have found that tree cover actually causes snow to melt more quickly in warm, Mediterranean-type climates around the world. Alternatively, open, clear gaps in the forests tend to keep snow on the ground longer into the spring and summer. … > full story


Warming climate puts trout in jeopardy.
NPR Nov 14 2013 In the mountain streams of the American West, the trout rules. People don’t just catch this fish; they honor it. And spend lots of money pursuing it. But some western trout may be in trouble.


Island biodiversity in danger of total submersion with climate change
(November 13, 2013) — Island ecosystems constitute the most biodiverse regions in the world, holding a large number of endemic flora and fauna. Islands are also under direct threat of predicted sea level rises, with gloomy prognoses predicting large areas submerged, whole islands sinking and up to 11 percent islands inundated. A new study looks at three scenarios to estimate the risks posed by global change to island ecosystems. … > full story


A Jolt to Complacency on Food Supply

Josh Haner/The New York Times Trials of drought-resistant durum wheat varieties at the International Center for Maize and Wheat Improvement in Mexico.

By JUSTIN GILLIS NY TIMES Published: November 11, 2013

At the beginning of 2012, the Agriculture Department projected the largest corn crop in the country’s history. But then a savage heat wave and drought struck over the summer. Plants withered, prices spiked, and the final harvest came in 27 percent below the forecast. The situation bore a striking resemblance to what happened in Europe in 2003, after a heat wave cut agricultural production for some crops by as much as 30 percent and sent prices soaring. Several researchers concluded that the European heat wave was made more likely by human-caused climate change; scientists are still arguing over the 2012 heat blast in the United States. Whatever their origin, heat waves like these give us a taste of what could be in store in a future with global warming.

Among those who are getting nervous are the people who spend their lives thinking about where our food will come from. “The negative impacts of global climate change on agriculture are only expected to get worse,” said a report earlier this year from researchers at the London School of Economics
and a Washington think tank, the Information Technology and & Innovation Foundation. The report cited a need for “more resilient crops and agricultural production systems than we currently possess in today’s world.” This may be the greatest single fear about global warming: that climate change could so destabilize the world’s food system as to lead to rising hunger or even mass starvation. Two weeks ago, a leaked draft of a report by the United Nations climate committee, known as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, suggested that the group’s concerns have grown, and that the report, scheduled for release in March in Yokohama, Japan, is likely to contain a sharp warning about risks to the food supply. The tone is strikingly different from that of a report from the same group in 2007, which discussed some risks, but saw global warming as likely to benefit agriculture in many important growing regions. ….



‘Tiger stripes’ underneath Antarctic glaciers slow the flow
(November 8, 2013) — Researchers have discovered that most resistance to the movement of glaciers over the underlying bedrock comes from narrow, high-friction stripes that lie within large, extremely slippery areas underneath the glacier. These stripes are thought to govern the speed at which Antarctic glaciers are moving. … > full story

NOAA: Contiguous U.S. had cooler than average October with near-average precipitation

Alaska had its warmest October on record; Drought improved in parts of the Great Plains and Intermountain West; and drought conditions developed in the Northeast

The average temperature for the contiguous U.S. during October was 53.6°F, 0.6°F below the 20th century average – the 37th coolest October on record for the Lower 48. Below-average temperatures were widespread across the West, while the Northeast was warmer than average. The October national precipitation total was 2.23 inches, 0.12 inch above the 20th century average. Above-average precipitation in the central United States was counterbalanced by below-average precipitation along both coasts. This monthly summary from NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center is part of the suite of climate services NOAA provides to government, the business sector, academia, and the public to support informed decision-making….


Amazon rainforest more able to withstand drought than previously thought
(November 14, 2013) — New research suggests that the Amazon rainforest may be more able to cope with dry conditions than previously predicted. Researchers used a computer model to demonstrate that, providing forest conservation measures are in place, the Amazon rainforest may be more able to withstand periods of drought than has been estimated by other climate models. … > full story


South Florida Faces Ominous Prospects From Rising Waters

Shannon Kaestle/The Miami Herald, via Associated Press
Storm clouds swirled over downtown Miami last month as Tropical Storm Karen headed toward the Florida Panhandle. By 2100, the sea level could rise five or six feet, or more, threatening the city.

By NICK MADIGAN NY TIMES Published: November 10, 2013

MIAMI BEACH — In the most dire predictions, South Florida‘s delicate barrier islands, coastal communities and captivating subtropical beaches will be lost to the rising waters in as few as 100 years.

Angel Valentin for The New York Times During high tide last week, water covered an intersection in Miami Beach.

Further inland, the Everglades, the river of grass that gives the region its fresh water, could one day be useless, some scientists fear, contaminated by the inexorable advance of the salt-filled ocean. The Florida Keys, the pearl-like strand of islands that stretches into the Gulf of Mexico, would be mostly submerged alongside their exotic crown jewel, Key West. “I don’t think people realize how vulnerable Florida is,” Harold R. Wanless, the chairman of the geological sciences department at the University of Miami, said in an interview last week. “We’re going to get four or five or six feet of water, or more, by the end of the century. You have to wake up to the reality of what’s coming.” Concern about rising seas is stirring not only in the halls of academia but also in local governments along the state’s southeastern coast. The four counties there — Broward, Miami-Dade, Monroe and Palm Beach, with a combined population of 5.6 million — have formed an alliance to figure out solutions. Long battered by hurricanes and prone to flooding from intense thunderstorms, Florida is the most vulnerable state in the country to the rise in sea levels. Even predictions more modest than Professor Wanless’s foresee most of low-lying coastal Florida subject to increasingly frequent floods as the polar ice caps melt more quickly and the oceans surge and gain ground. Much of Florida’s 1,197-mile coastline is only a few feet above the current sea level, and billions of dollars’ worth of buildings, roads and other infrastructure lies on highly porous limestone that leaches water like a sponge. But while officials here and in other coastal cities, many of whom attended a two-day conference onclimate change last week in Fort Lauderdale, have begun to address the problem, the issue has gotten little traction among state legislators in Tallahassee…..


Super typhoon Haiyan a preview of calamities to come

by Chera Amlag and Roger Rigor · November 10, 2013 ·

With 10,000 people feared dead, the latest typhoon to hit the Philippines is a sure sign it’s time for real action on climate change.

The past few years have seen an alarming increase in both the number and intensity of typhoons hitting the island nation of the Philippines. Super typhoon Haiyan was the latest to hit last Friday at 4:30 a.m. with maximum winds of at least 170 miles per hour, 3.5 times more forceful than hurricane Katrina. Typhoon Haiyan has been dubbed by international climatologists as the most powerful storm to ever hit land. Haiyan is the fourth typhoon to hit the Philippines in the span of less than a year, galvanizing the claims that climate change is ravaging a country still recovering from the devastation less than a month ago of one of the most destructive earthquakes in years. In December 2012, at Doha, Qatar, then Philippine representative to the 18th United Nations Climate Change Conference, Naderev “Yeb” Saño, made a stirring andemotional appeal to the gathering of nations on how climate change is affecting underdeveloped countries like the Philippines…..

A satellite photo shows Typhoon Haiyan approaching the Philippines on November 7th. (Photo via Japan Meteorological Agency)




National Geographic Maps Our Coastline After We Melt All Earth’s Ice, Raising Seas Over 200 Feet

By Joe Romm on November 10, 2013 at 12:13 pm

Homo sapiens sapiens, the species with the ironic name, is not known for long-term thinking. So if the prospect of Sandy-level storm surges happening every year (!) in a half century or so isn’t enough to get us to stop using the atmosphere as an open sewer for carbon pollution, then the prospect we are going to melt all of the Earth’s landlocked ice and raise sea levels more than 200 feet over the next couple of millenna or so ain’t gonna do the trick. Still, National Geographic has been one of the few major magazines to consistently warn the public about the risks posed by unrestricted carbon pollution. And who better to be alarmed about how we are going to destroy the nation’s geography than National Geographic? Unsurprisingly, the deniers and confusionists, including Bjorn Lomborg himself, have suggested that somehow Nat Geo’s concern is misplaced. Sadly, it isn’t. The best science suggests that on our current CO2 emissions path, by 2100 we could well pass the tipping point that would make 200+ feet of sea level rise all but unstoppable — though it would certainly take a long time after 2100 for the full melt-out to actually occur. That said, the text on Nat Geo’s graphic is a little confusing and has the unfortunate effect of suggesting that we would need 22°F of global warming to melt all the ice on the planet, when that’s not what the paleoclimate record suggests…..











A week into UN talks, adaptation cash becomes a ‘red line’ for developing countries.
Daily Climate The failure of rich countries to fulfill a $100 billion promise to help poorer countries adapt to climate change has become a major block at the halfway mark of the United Nations talks now underway in Poland.


Typhoon Haiyan overshadows UN climate talks.
November 11, 2013 AP WARSAW, Poland (AP) — The devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan cast a gloom over U.N. climate talks Monday as the envoy from the Philippines broke down in tears and announced he would fast until a “meaningful outcome is in sight.” Naderev “Yeb” Sano’s emotional appeal was met with a standing ovation at the start of two-week talks in Warsaw where more than 190 countries will try to lay the groundwork for a new pact to fight global warming. U.N. climate chief Christiana Figueres also made reference to the “devastating impact” of the typhoon in her opening speech, and urged delegates to “go that extra mile” in their negotiations. Scientists say single weather events cannot conclusively be linked to global warming. Also, the link between man-made warming and hurricane activity is unclear, though rising sea levels are expected to make low-lying nations more vulnerable to storm surges. Nevertheless, extreme weather such as hurricanes often prompt calls for urgency at the U.N. talks. Last year, Hurricane Sandy’s assault on the U.S. East Coast and Typhoon Bopha’s impact on the Philippines were mentioned as examples of disasters the world could see more of unless it reins in the greenhouse gas emissions that scientists say are warming the planet. “We can fix this. We can stop this madness. Right now, right here,” Sano told delegates in Warsaw….


Typhoon in Philippines Casts Long Shadow Over U.N. Talks on Climate Treaty


Published: November 11, 2013

The typhoon that struck the Philippines produced an outpouring of emotion on Monday at United Nations talks on a global climate treaty in Warsaw, where delegates were quick to suggest that a warming planet had turned the storm into a lethal monster. Olai Ngedikes, the lead negotiator for an alliance of small island nations, said in a statement that the typhoon, named Haiyan, which by some estimates killed 10,000 people in one city alone, “serves as a stark reminder of the cost of inaction on climate change and should serve to motivate our work in Warsaw.” Naderev Saño, the chief representative of the Philippines at the conference, said he would stop eating in solidarity with the storm victims until “a meaningful outcome is in sight.” “What my country is going through as a result of this extreme climate event is madness; the climate crisis is madness,” Mr. Saño said. “We can stop this madness right here in Warsaw.” His declaration, coupled with the scope of the disaster, moved many of the delegates to tears. Yet scientists remain cautious about drawing links between extreme storms like this typhoon and climate change. There is not enough data, they say, to draw conclusions about any single storm. “Whether we’re seeing some result of climate change, we find that impossible to find out,” said Kerry A. Emanuel, an atmospheric scientist at M.I.T. Scientists largely agree that it appears that storms will become more powerful as the climate changes. Dr. Emanuel helped write a 2010 study, for example, that forecast that the average intensity of hurricanes and typhoons — different names for the same phenomenon — would increase by up to 11 percent by the end of the century. Typhoon Haiyan, with winds of at least 140 miles an hour, was considered one of the strongest storms to make landfall on record. “The data suggests that things like this will be more frequent with global warming,” said James P. Kossin, an atmospheric scientist at the National Climatic Data Center. Dr. Emanuel said that as the planet warms because of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases, the difference between sea and air temperatures increases. It is this difference that fuels these kinds of cyclonic storms. “As you warm the climate, you basically raise the speed limit on hurricanes,” he said. As with Hurricane Sandy last year in the United States, powerful storm surges contributed to the deaths and destruction in the Philippines. And Dr. Kossin and others noted that one of the impacts of climate change — an overall rise in sea levels — is sure to worsen storm surges. While factors like wind speed, storm track, geography and the timing of tides affect the height and extent of a surge and the damage it causes, a higher sea level baseline will lead to a higher surge. “When you strip everything else away, we’re seeing a general rise in sea level,” Dr. Kossin said. “There’s no question that storm surge is going to be compounded.” The effect of climate change on storms in the Pacific is especially difficult to study, scientists said, because no governments fly research planes into storms there to gather data. In the Atlantic, the United States government regularly sends reconnaissance flights into hurricanes, but the last regular flights into Pacific typhoons — also by American aircraft — occurred more than a quarter of a century ago. “Since then, we’ve been pretty much blind,” Dr. Emanuel said. Instead, researchers have to rely on remote sensing data from satellites that essentially detect the degree of cloud cover, and use pattern-recognition software and algorithms to come up with estimates of storm intensity. Dr. Kossin used that data in a 2008 study of the Pacific that found “that the strongest storms are getting stronger,” he said….



Trying to build a better bridge between climate science and policy

Coleen Jose, E&E reporter Published: Friday, November 8, 2013

There is a wide gap between climate science and the adaptive policies that put preparation and management into place, says a report published today in the journal Science. Climate adaptation is increasingly becoming a key focus in U.S. and international policy circles, due in large part to the recent rise in climate-induced events, such as wildfires, droughts and intensifying storms. The topic has become an important and emerging theme in scientific research. The inherent challenge is transforming research into sound policy. “It’s like one hand clapping until we work with local officials who can further advise whether or not to do X, Y or Z,” said Philip Mote, a co-author of the paper and director of the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute at Oregon State University. Along with a growing number of scientists, Mote and the authors of “Hell and High Water: Practice-Relevant Adaptation Science” urge scientific research to deliver information in a decision-ready context and say that failing to do so will make it more difficult, if not impossible, to prepare for the impacts of climate change. Emerging adaptation science should identify the cost, feasibility, social acceptance, tradition and other factors to better inform decisionmakers, the study says, adding that to “close a usability gap, scientific information must fit into existing contexts.” In addition to local efforts on the ground, policy hinges on this year’s executive order detailing a national Climate Action Plan. As of last Friday, another executive order established the Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience to advise the Obama administration on how the federal government can respond to the needs of communities at the forefront of climate change impacts. “We’ll partner with communities seeking help to prepare for droughts and floods, reduce the risks of wildfires, protect the dunes and wetlands that pull double duty as green space and as storm barriers,” President Obama said in June, upon introducing the Climate Action Plan.

There is a limited but growing number of states and cities that are developing and have adopted plans, the study noted. The researchers outlined a number of strategies to adopt, from prioritizing adaptation funding and establishing climate information services at the national and international levels to creating a national institute. The institute would guide climate preparedness and collaborate with existing agencies, such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, for adaptation in priority sectors or challenges. Additionally, the institute could mirror the geographic distribution and function of the National Institutes of Health, the paper says. It would only be a part of the larger picture, said Mote, adding that the “goal is to have an optimal line that would connect with regional institutions that are responsive to needs on the ground.” Separate studies also published this week in a special issue of the Ecological Society of America’s journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment aim similarly at both scientists and policymakers. More than 50 ecological scientists condensed reports they produced for the U.S. National Climate Assessment set for release next year. “The central paradox is that as climate change increases and effects become more evident, the need for adaptation will become more apparent,” said Bruce Stein, lead author of one of the studies detailing climate preparedness and director of the Climate Change Adaptation National Advocacy Center of the National Wildlife Federation. “The options are going to vary from place to place,” he said. “It’s about getting people to think about what climate adaptation means in their particular context.”



Food waste: national campaign aims to stop the rot by 2020

The Guardian

 – ‎November 12, 2013


The report highlights where and why food waste is happening at each stage of the UK supply chain; what actions are being taken to tackle food waste in each sector and what more can be done in the future to drive the positive environmental, economic and ..




Majority of red-state Americans believe climate change is real, study shows

The Guardian

 – ‎Nov 14, 2013‎


A vast majority of red-state Americans believe climate change is real and at least two-thirds of those want the government to cut greenhouse gas emissions, new research revealed on Wednesday.



Warming since 1950s partly caused by El Niño?
(November 13, 2013) — A natural shift to stronger warm El Niño events in the Pacific Ocean might be responsible for a substantial portion of the global warming recorded during the past 50 years, according to new research. …
“Our modeling shows that natural climate cycles explain at least part of the ocean warming we’ve se
en since the 1950s,” said Dr. Roy Spencer, a principal research scientist in UAH’s Earth System Science Center and the new study’s lead author. “But we also found that because the globe has had more frequent La Niña cooling events in the past 10 or 15 years, they are canceling out some of the effects of global warming.”full story

Climate misinformer: Roy SpencerSkeptical Science‎ Climate Misinformer: Roy Spencer. Dr. Roy Spencer is a principal research scientist for the University of Alabama in Huntsville, as well as the U.S. Science Team 






Waste could help fuel low carbon energy and transport
(November 11, 2013) — In a time when society – and nature itself – are threatened by climate change, it seems fair to ask: Does recycling still matter? Two Swedish scientists say it does. … > full story


Better batteries through biology? Modified viruses boost battery performance
(November 13, 2013) — Researchers find a way to boost lithium-air battery performance, with the help of modified viruses. … > full story

Threats to our clean water: Impacts to human and marine environments
(November 11, 2013) — Despite the abundance of water on our planet, it remains a precious and sought after life sustaining resource. Without the technology to provide safe, clean water to the masses, the general public would be consuming massive amounts of deadly bacteria daily. This is a case of the natural environment endangering humans. However, this can go both ways. Every year humans endanger the lives of millions of marine animals by (accidentally) contaminating their water with oil. Oil spills dump thousands of tons of oil into the ocean every year affecting many species of animals. … > full story


A 459-foot tall solar tower, surrounded by thousands of reflecting mirrors, is one of three towers about to go online at BrightSource Energy’s Ivanpah solar project in east San Bernardino County. Intense radiation from the mirrors, aimed at a boiler on top of the tower, is melting the feathers of some birds flying through the project, which could also occur at BrightSource’s proposed Palen plant east of the Coachella Valley. / Desert Sun file photo

California solar power plants singeing bird feathers


 – ‎Nov 10 2013‎


IN THE MOJAVE DESERT, Calif. — The picture is unsettling and disturbing. A small bird, barely the size of a human hand, had its wings reduced to a web of charred spines. No longer able to keep aloft, the bird was found on the ground after it had flown through the intense heat of a solar thermal project soon to go online in the California desert. The photograph, taken at BrightSource Energy’s Ivanpah plant in east San Bernardino County, has raised the stakes for a similar project in Riverside County. Months from final state and federal approvals, the Palen solar thermal power system could put two 750-foot-tall solar towers and thousands of reflecting mirrors near two of the region’s key wildlife refuges and stopping points for birds migrating along the Pacific Flyway. The project is roughly 50 miles from both the Salton Sea to the southwest and the Cibola National Wildlife Refuge in Arizona to the southeast.

“A migrating bird has to be in top form, having the flight feathers in really good shape,” said Kimball L. Garrett, ornithology collections manager at the Museum of Natural History of Los Angeles County, who has not seen the picture from Ivanpah, but has long been concerned about bird deaths at large solar projects. “If some of its flight feathers are damaged, what does that mean for the rest of the bird’s migration?” he said. “It weakens feathers. These are things people don’t study because — how can you?” Trying to estimate how many birds could be injured or killed at large-scale solar projects, and what might be done to prevent mortalities — has become a pressing concern for solar developers and environmental agencies as these projects multiply across California.

An injured northern rough-winged swallow found on Colosseum Road at the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System. / Courtesy BrightSource Energy Inc

What the commission wants to know

The four key questions from the California Energy Commission about BrightSource Energy’s proposed Palen solar project:
1. Are incidental take permits available or necessary under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the state Fully Protected Species Act, and at what point would such permits be required for the incidental deaths of any species covered by the laws?
2. Based on available evidence in the official record, what should the commission conclude about the likely or potential magnitude of avian mortality at the project and what measures should be used to weigh the impact?
3. Should the Energy Commission require the project to take additional steps to avoid avian mortality, including possible curtailment, if project operations were to result in excessive bird deaths.
4. What modifications should be made to ensure public transparency of a technical advisory committee that will formulate and monitor plans to minimize bird deaths.
Source: The California Energy Commission,

The laws

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act: Originally passed in 1918 and now covering 1,026 species, the federal law prohibits anyone from pursuing, hunting, taking, capturing or killing any migratory bird covered by the law, unless allowed by regulations. The law does not allow for incidental takes, that is, the unintentional killing of species as the result of a lawfully permitted project.
The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act: Passed in 1940, the federal law prohibits any “take” of bald or golden eagles, or their parts, nests or eggs, alive or dead, without a permit.
Fully Protected Species Act: This state law predates the California Endangered Species Act. It covers 37 species, including 11 bird species and prohibits any incidental take “except for collecting these species for necessary scientific research and relocation of the bird species for the protection of livestock.”
Sources: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and California Department of Fish and Wildlife,


Proposed desalination plant could harm ocean environment, report says

Los Angeles Times

 – ‎November 10, 2013‎


A proposed seawater desalination plant in Huntington Beach could significantly harm parts of the Southern California ocean environment unless substantial changes are made in its design and operation, according to the staff of the state Coastal Commission.



Japan starts up offshore wind farm near Fukushima. Associated Press Japan switched on the first turbine at a wind farm 20 kilometers (12 miles) off the coast of Fukushima on Monday, feeding electricity to the grid tethered to the tsunami-crippled nuclear plant onshore.


New invention ‘harvests’ electricity from background radiation.
London Daily Mail Engineers at Duke University have designed a breakthrough gadget that ‘harvests’ background microwave radiation and converts it into electricity, with the same efficiency as solar panels. The development raises exciting possibilities such as recharging a phone wirelessly and providing power to remote locations that can’t access conventional electricity.



Forests could face threat from biomass power ‘gold rush’

The Guardian

 – ‎ November 11 2013


The Environment Agency estimates that biomass-fired electricity generation, most of which involves burning wood pellets, can cut greenhouse gas emissions by up to 90% compared with coal-fired power stations.







Green Infrastructure Strategic Agenda

The US EPA has released an updated Green Infrastructure Strategic Agenda and has created a greenstream listserv featuring updates on green infrastructure publications, training, and funding opportunities. If you’re interested in joining, send an email to


Institute For Tribal Environmental Professionals

Host institutions needed for summer interns working on climate or air quality





Impacts of Sea Level Rise on National Parks  November 14, 2013 10:00-11:00am PST NOAA
Climate change and sea level rise will challenge National Park efforts to protect natural and cultural resources and to provide visitor access and recreational opportunities.  Learn how several national parks are addressing these challenges.

Click here, for more information






Eleventh Annual Workshop: Habitat Conservation Planning from Tahoe to the Bay

November 20, 2013, Ulatis Community Center, Vacaville  Speakers and Presentations

The Conservation Planning Partners is an ad-hoc association of eight County and Sub-county scale Habitat Conservation Plans and Natural Community Conservation Plans.

County and sub-county scale Habitat Conservation Plans and Natural Community Conservation Plans are in preparation or being implemented in a number of counties in the San Francisco Bay Area and the Sacramento Region.  These plans provide a means for the conservation of endangered species and contribute to the ir recovery, while allowing appropriate, compatible growth and development in the metropolitan areas.


The Future of the Concrete Channel

Thursday 21 November 2013, UC Berkeley

Ubiquitous in the urban landscape, concrete channels embody a mid-20th-century attitude of subduing nature and maximizing developable land.  Yet these optimistically-engineering structures have proven hard to maintain, and society increasingly regrets the loss of riparian ecosystems and the opportunity for human recreation and renewal once offered by the natural streams.  As concrete channels inevitably age and reach the end of their design lives, river managers confront the question of what to do with this deteriorating infrastructure?  Can the channels be rebuilt or modified to pass floods increasing due to urbanization and climate change?  Or is this an opportunity to implement alternative approaches that restore valuable functions of natural rivers?  …..  The conference will wrap up with an exhibition of Concrete Channel Art.  ….For more information and to register, please visit the conference website:


The Great Basin: A Landscape Under Fire

Dec 9-10, University of Nevada, Reno

(Secretary Jewell invited keynote speaker)


Introducing Green Infrastructure for Coastal Resilience
December 12, 2013

9:30am – 4:30 pm David Brower Center, Kinzie Room 741 Allston Way Berkeley, CA 94710

Registration: To register, click here. Registration is limited to 41 participants and is expected to fill fast. The deadline to register is December 6, 2013.  

A workshop sponsored by the San Francisco Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve and NOAA Coastal Services Center.  Green Infrastructure incorporates the natural environment and constructed systems that mimic natural processes in an integrated network that benefits nature and people. A green infrastructure approach to community planning helps diverse community members come together to balance environmental and economic goals. This day-long workshop will include a morning introductory course and afternoon panels by local experts. Who Should Attend: City and county officials, Engineers, Floodplain managers, Landscape Architects, NGO’s, Planners, and other Decision Makers involved in Coastal Management Issues 

This workshop is being developed in partnership by the San Francisco Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve and NOAA Coastal Services Center. In addition, an advisory committee have provided feedback on the training including participants from: San Francisco Estuary PartnershipBay Area Ecosystems Climate Change ConsortiumSan Francisco Bay Conservation and Development CommissionCalifornia Coastal Conservancy and the Bay Institute. Questions? Contact Heidi Nutters,, 415-338-3511 Feel free to forward this message to others who might be interested. 


Introduction to Geographic Information Systems (GIS) January 17-18, 2014, 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Elkhorn Slough Coastal Training Program and Center for Integrated Spatial Research at the University of California, Santa Cruz Registration fee: $500 Instructor: Barry Nickel, Director of the Center for Integrated Spatial Research

This course is an introduction to the concepts and application of Geographic Information Systems (GIS). The course presents conceptual and practical discussions of the analysis of spatial information with the addition of exercises using the ESRI ArcGIS suite of applications. The class is designed to provide a basic introduction to GIS including spatial data structures and sources, spatial tools, spatial data display and query, map generation, and basic spatial analysis using ArcGIS software. It is the foundation for the rest of the classes offered in our GIS series.

Course Format: Approximately 50% lecture and 50% lab exercise. Please Note – There is a lot of information presented in this workshop in a short amount of time. We will maintain a fast pace, so please be prepared.


Date CHANGED! : Rangeland Coalition Summit 2014 January 21-22, 2014  Oakdale, CA  Please note that the dates have been changed for the 9th Annual California Rangeland Conservation Coalition Summit to be hosted at the Oakdale Community Center. Mark your calendar for January 21-22, 2014, more details will be coming soon! The planning committee will have a conference call on September 11 at 9:00 AM to start planning for the event. If you are interested in serving on the planning committee or being a sponsor please contact Pelayo Alvarez:


Communicating Climate Change: Effective skills for engaging stakeholders, partners and the public

Sponsored by: Elkhorn Slough and San Francisco Bay Coastal Training Programs

Presenter: Cara Pike, TRIG’s Social Capital Project/Climate Access 

San Francisco Bay NERR                               or                                         Elkhorn Slough NERR

 February 4, 2014                                                                                         February 6, 2014

Contact: Heidi Nutters, 415-338-3511                                                   Contact: Virginia Guhin, 831-274-8700


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:



North 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 415-945-1475


99th Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America
Sacramento, California  August 10-15, 2014

Call for Proposals– Symposia, Organized Oral Sessions, and Organized Poster Sessions

Deadline for Submission: September 26, 2013




CA NRCS Announces Assistance for Catastrophic Fire Recovery

DAVIS, Calif., Oct. 18, 2013—The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) today announced that applications will be accepted to assist private landowners in California affected by wildfires in the last 18 months. Financial assistance for implementing conservation practices may be available through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Applications for this initiative can be submitted for primary consideration and ranking through Nov. 15, 2013


Proposal Deadline: 3 December 2013 – Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Grants 2014

The United States Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act established an annual, competitive grants program to support projects that promote the conservation of neotropical migratory birds and their habitats in the United States, Canada, Latin America and the Caribbean. Because our Website was not available during the U.S. Federal government shutdown, the deadline for applying to the NMBCA program has been extended, and proposals are now due no later than 3 December 2013. All applications must be submitted through, a process that requires an active “Dun and Bradstreet number” (DUNS) and active registration in the “System for Award Management” (SAM).




National Audubon Society: Policy Director for California, based in San Francisco or Sacramento.

Climate Protection Campaign Director of Development and Communications– Santa Rosa, CA (Sonoma County)

WHSRN (Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network) Director







Learning How to Die in the Anthropocene

By ROY SCRANTON NY Times Opinion THE STONE November 10, 2013, 3:00 pm 285 Comments

Civilizations have marched blindly toward disaster because humans are wired to believe that tomorrow will be much like today.

I. Driving into Iraq just after the 2003 invasion felt like driving into the future. ….

…..And today, with recovery still going on more than a year after Sandy and many
 arguing that the Eastern seaboard is no more prepared for a huge weather event than we were last November, it’s clear that future’s not going away. This March, Admiral Samuel J. Locklear III, the commander of the United States Pacific Command, told security and foreign policy specialists in Cambridge, Mass., that global climate change was the greatest threat the United States faced — more dangerous than terrorism, Chinese hackers and North Korean nuclear missiles. Upheaval from increased temperatures, rising seas and radical destabilization “is probably the most likely thing that is going to happen…” he said, “that will cripple the security environment, probably more likely than the other scenarios we all often talk about.” Locklear’s not alone. Tom Donilon, the national security adviser, said much the same thing in April, speaking to an audience at Columbia’s new Center on Global Energy Policy. James Clapper, director of national intelligence, told the Senate in March that “Extreme weather events (floods, droughts, heat waves) will increasingly disrupt food and energy markets, exacerbating state weakness, forcing human migrations, and triggering riots, civil disobedience, and vandalism.” On the civilian side, the World Bank’s recent report, “Turn Down the Heat: Climate Extremes, Regional Impacts, and the Case for Resilience,” offers a dire prognosis for the effects of global warming, which climatologists now predict will raise global temperatures by 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit within a generation and 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit within 90 years. Projections from researchers at the University of Hawaii find us dealing with “historically unprecedented” climates as soon as 2047. The climate scientist James Hansen, formerly with NASA, has argued that we face an “apocalyptic” future. This grim view is seconded by researchers worldwide, including Anders LevermannPaul and Anne Ehrlich,Lonnie Thompson and manymanymany others.

This chorus of Jeremiahs predicts a radically transformed global climate forcing widespread upheaval — not possibly, not potentially, but inevitably. We have passed the point of no return. From the point of view of policy experts, climate scientists and national security officials, the question is no longer whether global warming exists or how we might stop it, but how we are going to deal with it.


II.There’s a word for this new era we live in: the Anthropocene. This term, taken up by geologistspondered by intellectuals and discussed in the pages of publications such as The Economist and the The New York Times, represents the idea that we have entered a new epoch in Earth’s geological history, one characterized by the arrival of the human species as a geological force. The Nobel-Prize-winning chemist Paul Crutzen coined the term in 2002, and it has steadily gained acceptance as evidence has increasingly mounted that the changes wrought by global warming will affect not just the world’s climate and biological diversity, but its very geology — and not just for a few centuries, but for millenniums. The geophysicist David Archer’s 2009 book, “The Long Thaw: How Humans are Changing the Next 100,000 Years of Earth’s Climate,” lays out a clear and concise argument for how huge concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and melting ice will radically transform the planet, beyond freak storms and warmer summers, beyond any foreseeable future.

The Stratigraphy Commission of the Geological Society of London — the scientists responsible for pinning the “golden spikes” that demarcate geological epochs such as the Pliocene, Pleistocene, and Holocene — have adopted the Anthropocene as a term deserving further consideration, “significant on the scale of Earth history.” Working groups are discussing what level of geological time-scale it might be (an “epoch” like the Holocene, or merely an “age” like the Calabrian), and at what date we might say it began. The beginning of the Great Acceleration, in the middle of the 20th century? The beginning of the Industrial Revolution, around 1800? The advent of agriculture?….



Dogs likely originated in Europe more than 18,000 years ago, biologists report
(November 14, 2013) — Wolves likely were domesticated by European hunter-gatherers more than 18,000 years ago, and gradually evolved into dogs that became household pets, biologists report. … > full story


Early uses of chili peppers in Mexico
(November 13, 2013) — Chili peppers may have been used to make spicy beverages thousands of years ago in Mexico. … > full story


Microbiome changed by gluten increases incidences of type 1 diabetes
(November 13, 2013) — Research has shown that the intestinal microbiome plays a large role in the development of type 1 diabetes. … > full story

















Ellie Cohen, President and CEO

Point Blue Conservation Science (formerly PRBO)

3820 Cypress Drive, Suite 11, Petaluma, CA 94954

707-781-2555 x318  | Follow Point Blue on Facebook!


Point Blue—Conservation science for a healthy planet.


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