Conservation Science News January 31, 2014

Focus of the WeekCalifornia Drought—climate change, past megadroughts, birds, what works and what we can do









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The items contained in this update were drawn from,, SER The Society for Ecological Restoration,,,, The Wildlife Society NewsBrief, and other sources as indicated.  This is a compilation of information available on-line, not verified and not endorsed by Point Blue Conservation Science.  
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Focus of the Week– California Drought—climate change, past megadroughts, birds, what works and what we can do





Leading Scientists Explain How Climate Change Is Worsening California’s Epic Drought

By Joe Romm on January 31, 2014 at 9:15 am

Scientists have long predicted that climate change would bring on ever-worsening droughts, especially in semi-arid regions like the U.S. Southwest. As climatologist James Hansen, who co-authored one of the earliest studies on this subject back in 1990, told me this week, “Increasingly intense droughts in California, all of the Southwest, and even into the Midwest have everything to do with human-made climate change.” Why does it matter if climate change is playing a role in the Western drought? As one top researcher on the climate-drought link reconfirmed with me this week, “The U.S. may never again return to the relatively wet conditions experienced from 1977 to 1999.” If his and other projections are correct, then there may be no greater tasks facing humanity than 1) working to slash carbon pollution and avoid the worst climate impact scenarios and 2) figuring out how to feed nine billion people by mid-century in a Dust-Bowl-ifying world.

Remarkably, climate scientists specifically predicted a decade ago that Arctic ice loss would bring on worse droughts in the West, especially California. As it turns out, Arctic ice loss has been much faster than the researchers — and indeed all climate modelers — expected. And, of course, California is now in the death-grip of a brutal, record-breaking drought, driven by the very change in the jet stream that scientists had anticipated. Is this just an amazing coincidence — or were the scientists right? And what would that mean for the future? Building on my post from last summer, I talked to the lead researcher and several other of the world’s leading climatologists and drought experts.

First, a little background. Climate change makes Western droughts longer and stronger and more frequent in several ways, as I discussed in my 2011 literature review in the journal Nature:….

precipitation patterns are expected to shift, expanding the dry subtropics. What precipitation there is will probably come in extreme deluges, resulting in runoff rather than drought alleviation. Warming causes greater evaporation and, once the ground is dry, the Sun’s energy goes into baking the soil, leading to a further increase in air temperature. That is why, for instance, so many temperature records were set for the United States in the 1930s Dust Bowl; and why, in 2011, drought-stricken Texas saw the hottest summer ever recorded for a US state. Finally, many regions are expected to see earlier snowmelt, so less water will be stored on mountain tops for the summer dry season.


I labeled this synergy Dust-Bowlification. The West has gotten hotter thanks to global warming, and that alone is problematic for California. “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,” climatologist Kevin Trenberth explained to me via email, during a drought. “No wonder wild fires have increased! So climate change undoubtedly affects the intensity and duration of drought, and it has consequences. California must be very vigilant with regard to wild fires as the spring arrives.”


Climate change undoubtedly affects the intensity and duration of drought, and it has consequences. And then we have the observed earlier snow melt, which matters in the West because it robs the region of a reservoir needed for the summer dry season — see “US Geological Survey (2011): Global Warming Drives Rockies Snowpack Loss Unrivaled in 800 Years, Threatens Western Water Supply” and “USGS (2013): Warmer Springs Causing Loss Of Snow Cover Throughout The Rocky Mountains.” As climatologist and water expert Peter Gleick noted to me, quite separate from the impact of climate change on precipitation, “look at the temperature patterns here, which are leading to a greater ratio of rain-to-snow, faster melting of snow, and greater evaporation. Those changes alone make any drought more intense.”


But what of the possibility that climate change is actually contributing to the reduction in rainfall? After all, as Daniel Swain has noted, “calendar year 2013 was the driest on record in California’s 119 year formal record, and likely the driest since at least the Gold Rush era.” Trenberth explained that, according to climate models, “some areas are more likely to get drier including the SW: In part this relates a bit to the “wet get wetter and dry get drier” syndrome, so the subtropics are more apt to become drier. It also relates to the expansion and poleward shift of the tropics.”

Back in 2005, I first heard climatologist Jonathan Overpeck discuss evidence that temperature and annual precipitation had started to head in opposite directions in the U.S. Southwest, which raises the question of whether we are at the “dawn of the super-interglacial drought.” Overpeck, a leading drought expert at the University of Arizona, warned “climate change seldom occurs gradually.”


What’s going on in the Southwest is what anthropogenic global warming looks like for the region. In a major 2008 USGS report, Abrupt Climate Change, the Bush Administration (!) warned:
“In the Southwest, for example, the models project a permanent drying by the mid-21st century that reaches the level of aridity seen in historical droughts, and a quarter of the projections may reach this level of aridity much earlier.” In 2011 US Senate testimony, Overpeck stated:

There is broad agreement in the climate science research community that the Southwest, including New Mexico, will very likely continue to warm. There is also a strong consensus that the same region will become drier and increasingly snow-free with time, particularly in the winter and spring. Climate science also suggests that the warmer atmosphere will lead to more frequent and more severe (drier) droughts in the future. All of the above changes have already started, in large part driven by human-caused climate change.

Overpeck told me this week, “because I think the science only gets stronger with time, I’ll stick to my statements that you quote.” He added, “what’s going on in the Southwest is what anthropogenic global warming looks like for the region.”


Beyond the expansion and drying of the subtropics predicted by climate models, some climatologists have found in their research evidence that the stunning decline in Arctic sea ice would also drive western drought — by shifting storm tracks.

“Given the very large reductions in Arctic sea ice, and the heat escaping from the Arctic ocean into the overlying atmosphere, it would be surprising if the retreat in Arctic sea ice did *not* modify the large-scale circulation of the atmosphere in some way,” Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University, told me this week. “We now have a healthy body of research, ranging from Lisa Sloan’s and Jacob Sewall’s work a decade ago, to Francis’s more recent work, suggesting that we may indeed be seeing already this now in the form of more persistent anomalies in temperature, rainfall, and drought in North America.”



Back in 2004, Lisa Sloan, professor of Earth sciences at UC Santa Cruz, and her graduate student Jacob Sewall published an article in Geophysical Research Letters, “Disappearing Arctic sea ice reduces available water in the American west” (subs. req’d). As the news release at the time explained, they “used powerful computers running a global climate model developed by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) to simulate the effects of reduced Arctic sea ice.” And “their most striking finding was a significant reduction in rain and snowfall in the American West.”


“Where the sea ice is reduced, heat transfer from the ocean warms the atmosphere, resulting in a rising column of relatively warm air,” Sewall said. “The shift in storm tracks over North America was linked to the formation of these columns of warmer air over areas of reduced sea ice in the Greenland Sea and a few other locations.” Last year, I contacted Sloan to ask her if she thought there was a connection between the staggering loss of Arctic sea ice and the brutal drought gripping the West, as her research predicted. She wrote, “Yes, sadly, I think we were correct in our findings, and it will only be worse with Arctic sea ice diminishing quickly.” This week, Sewall wrote me that “both the pattern and even the magnitude of the anomaly looks very similar to what the models predicted in the 2005 study (see Fig. 3a).” Here is what Sewall’s model predicted in his 2005 paper, “Precipitation Shifts over Western North America as a Result of Declining Arctic Sea Ice Cover“:


Figure 3a: Differences in DJF [winter] averaged atmospheric quantities due to an imposed reduction in Arctic sea ice cover. The 500-millibar geopotential height (meters) increases by up to 70 m off the west coast of North America. Increased geopotential height deflects storms away from the dry locus and north into the wet locus


“Geopotential height” is basically the height above mean sea level for a given pressure level. The “500 mb level is often referred to as the steering level as most weather systems and precipitation follow the winds at this level…. This level averages around 18,000 feet above sea level and is roughly half-way up through the weather producing part of the atmosphere called the troposphere.”

Now here is what the 500 mb geopotential height anomaly looked like over the last year, via NOAA:


Look familiar? That is either an accurate prediction or one heck of a coincidence. The San Jose Mercury News described what was happening in layman’s terms:

… meteorologists have fixed their attention on the scientific phenomenon they say is to blame for the emerging drought: a vast zone of high pressure in the atmosphere off the West Coast, nearly four miles high and 2,000 miles long, so stubborn that one researcher [Swain] has dubbed it the “Ridiculously Resilient Ridge.” Like a brick wall, the mass of high pressure air has been blocking Pacific winter storms from coming ashore in California, deflecting them up into Alaska and British Columbia, even delivering rain and cold weather to the East Coast. This high pressure ridge is forcing the jet stream along a much more northerly track. Sewall told me that multiple factors are driving drought in California:

There are, of course, caveats. This is one year, the model studies were looking at averages of multiple decades (20 or 50 years). There are other factors besides the Arctic ice that influence storm tracks; some preliminary work suggests that a strong El Nino overwhelms any influence of the ice. In El Nino “neutral” times (such as recently), the ice impact can have more of an effect.

And for this year, it looks like ice may well be having more of an effect.
The geopotential height anomaly looks very much like what the models predicted as sea ice declined. The storm track response also looks very similar with correspondingly similar impacts on precipitation (reduced rainfall in CA, increased precipitation in SE Alaska). While other factors play an influence, the similarity of these patterns certainly suggests that we shouldn’t discount warming climate and declining Arctic sea ice as culprits in the CA drought.


NOAA and Prof. Jennifer Francis of Rutgers have more recently shown that the loss of Arctic ice is boosting the chances of extreme US weather.

…this extremely distorted and persistent jet stream pattern is an excellent example of what we expect to occur more frequently as Arctic ice continues to melt.

Francis told me this week that “the highly amplified pattern that the jet stream has been in since early December is certainly playing a role in the CA drought. The extremely strong ridge over Alaska has been very persistent and has caused record warmth and unprecedented winter rains in parts of AK while preventing Pacific storms from delivering rain to CA,” she explained. “But is this pattern a result of human-caused climate change, or more specifically, to rapid Arctic warming and the dramatic losses of sea ice? It’s very difficult to pin any specific weather event on climate change, but this extremely distorted and persistent jet stream pattern is an excellent example of what we expect to occur more frequently as Arctic ice continues to melt.”

While there is no doubt that climate change is making droughts more intense, the specific connection the loss of Arctic ice is emerging science, and some, like Trenberth, are skeptical that the case has been made.


Whether or not there is a proven link to the loss of Arctic ice, Senior Weather Channel meteorologist (and former skeptic) Stu Ostro has been documenting “large magnitude ridges in the mid-upper level geopotential height field” lasting as long as many months that “have been conspicuous in the meteorology of extreme weather phenomena.” Ostro gave a talk last year (with Franics), and as Climate Desk summarized, “Ostro’s observations suggest that global warming is increasing the atmosphere’s thickness, leading to stronger and more persistent ridges of high pressure, which in turn are a key to temperature, rainfall, and snowfall extremes and topsy-turvy weather patterns like we’ve had in recent years.”


The climate is changing. “All of our weather is now, and increasingly in the future, influenced by climate change,” Gleick wrote me. “The question about attribution (i.e., is this drought caused by climate change) is, of course, the wrong question — easy for deniers to dismiss because it is not easy to show unambiguous links to some kinds of individual events.” What is especially worrisome is that climate change has only just started to have an impact on Western droughts. We’ve only warmed 1.5°F in the past century. Absent strong climate action, we are on track to warm 10°F over the next century!


We continue to dawdle even though scientists have been warning us of what was coming for decades. Hansen himself co-authored a 1990 study, “Potential evapotranspiration and the likelihood of future drought,” which projected that severe to extreme drought in the United States, then occurring every 20 years or so, could become an every-other-year phenomenon by mid-century.


So we should listen to Hansen’s current warnings. In 2012 he warned in the NY Times of a return to Dust Bowls, writing, “over the next several decades, the Western United States and the semi-arid region from North Dakota to Texas will develop semi-permanent drought … California’s Central Valley could no longer be irrigated. Food prices would rise to unprecedented levels.” Hansen repeated those concerns in an email to me this week, noting that the current drought “will break, of course, likely with the upcoming El Nino, but as long as we keep increasing greenhouse gases, intense droughts will increase, especially in the Southwest. Rainfall, when and where it comes will tend to be in more intense events, with more extreme flooding. These are not speculations, the science is clear.”


How long can these droughts last? They have lasted for decades in the distant past, and one 2010 study warned that we could see “an unprecedented combination” of multi-decade droughts “with even warmer temperatures.” Drought researcher Aiguo Dai was quoted in a 2012 NCAR news release for a 2012 study warning, “The U.S. may never again return to the relatively wet conditions experienced from 1977 to 1999.” This week I asked him, “Do you still stand by that statement?” He replied:

Yes, I still stand by that statement. The model projections have not changed. To the extent we can trust the CMIP [Coupled Model Intercomparison Project] model projections, I still think the U.S. will experience increased risk of drought in the coming decades. What has been happening during recent years in the central and western U.S. is very consistent to what I have been predicting: both the natural variability (IPO [Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation]) and human-induced climate change will increase the risk of drought over these regions for the next 1-2 decades. After that, the IPO may switch to a positive phase that normally would bring more rain over the U.S. regions, but by that time the human-induced warming have over-dominate the natural variability, with the U.S. regions still in drier conditions (compared with the 1980s-1990s).


Finally, a 2009 NOAA-led paper warned that, for the Southwest and many semi-arid regions around the world, “the climate change that is taking place because of increases in carbon dioxide concentration is largely irreversible for 1,000 years after emissions stop.” Impacts that should be expected if we don’t aggressively slash carbon pollution “are irreversible dry-season rainfall reductions in several regions comparable to those of the ‘dust bowl’ era.”


When the climate changes, it ain’t gonna change back.



California drought: Past dry periods have lasted more than 200 years, scientists say

By Paul Rogers San Jose Mercury News Posted:   01/25/2014 04:21:50 PM PST |

A boat dock is nowhere near the low water level at the Stevens Creek Reservoir in Cupertino, Calif., on Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014.


California’s current drought is being billed as the driest period in the state’s recorded rainfall history. But scientists who study the West’s long-term climate patterns say the state has been parched for much longer stretches before that 163-year historical period began. And they worry that the “megadroughts” typical of California’s earlier history could come again.

Through studies of tree rings, sediment and other natural evidence, researchers have documented multiple droughts in California that lasted 10 or 20 years in a row during the past 1,000 years — compared to the mere three-year duration of the current dry spell. The two most severe megadroughts make the Dust Bowl of the 1930s look tame: a 240-year-long drought that started in 850 and, 50 years after the conclusion of that one, another that stretched at least 180 years.

We continue to run California as if the longest drought we are ever going to encounter is about seven years,” said Scott Stine, a professor of geography and environmental studies at Cal State East Bay. “We’re living in a dream world.”

California in 2013 received less rain than in any year since it became a state in 1850. And at least one Bay Area scientist says that based on tree ring data, the current rainfall season is on pace to be the driest since 1580 — more than 150 years before George Washington was born. The question is: How much longer will it last?

A megadrought today would have catastrophic effects. California, the nation’s most populous state with 38 million residents, has built a massive economy, Silicon Valley, Hollywood and millions of acres of farmland, all in a semiarid area. The state’s dams, canals and reservoirs have never been tested by the kind of prolonged drought that experts say will almost certainly occur again.

Stine, who has spent decades studying tree stumps in Mono Lake, Tenaya Lake, the Walker River and other parts of the Sierra Nevada, said that the past century has been among the wettest of the last 7,000 years.
Looking back, the long-term record also shows some staggeringly wet periods. The decades between the two medieval megadroughts, for example, delivered years of above-normal rainfall — the kind that would cause devastating floods today. The longest droughts of the 20th century, what Californians think of as severe, occurred from 1987 to 1992 and from 1928 to 1934. Both, Stine said, are minor compared to the ancient droughts of 850 to 1090 and 1140 to 1320. What would happen if the current drought continued for another 10 years or more? Without question, longtime water experts say, farmers would bear the brunt. Cities would suffer but adapt….



Prolonged drought forces birds from Central Valley fields

By Edward Ortiz January 31, 2014 Sacramento Bee

On a typical January in the Sacramento Valley, the rice fields are ankle-deep in water – and full of birds that use them for food and shelter. This year, however, lack of rain and limited access to allocated water has forced rice growers to leave fields dry. The result: Waterfowl are changing where and how they congregate and when they fly. South of Sacramento, in the San Joaquin Valley, scientists have seen a significant drop in the number of migratory waterfowl. Almost all of the 550,000 acres of rice planted in the state is in the Sacramento Valley – where farmers keep rice fields flooded in the winter as much to create “surrogate wetlands” for birds as to decompose rice straw. That flooding is considered crucial to waterfowl, given that only 3 percent of the state’s historic wetlands remain, the rest displaced by farmland and urban growth. Nearly 7 million waterfowl and 300,000 shorebirds annually visit the Sacramento Valley, a key stop on the Pacific Flyway. A majority of the food they eat comes from rice fields. “The few places that have water – they have birds,” said rice grower Tom McClellan. “But you’re not seeing a great number of birds.” The effect of the drought is most telling in the western part of the Sacramento Valley, where McClellan farms. He has not been able to replenish his fields with water. When drought conditions take hold, the federal Bureau of Reclamation looks to rice decomposition water for additional supplies. When that happens, as it has this year, water cannot be diverted to McClellan’s farm from the federally controlled Sacramento River. Whatever water is found on his property is water that already existed in storage drains, he said. As a result, many of the 1,500 acres that McClellan farms in Sacramento and Sutter counties are now dry. …Studies have shown that when rice field burning was replaced with flooding in the 1990s, the change had a positive effect on waterfowl. “We saw an increase in the winter body weight of many duck species,” said Greg Yarris, wildlife biologist … [Central Valley Joint Venture]. “Birds that have higher weight have higher survival weights and will reproduce at higher rates come spring.”

Disease rates also plummet when weights are higher, he said. How the drought is affecting bird populations in the Sacramento Valley is still unclear. The state Department of Fish and Wildlife is conducting its annual midwinter survey of birds in the Sacramento Valley and expects to release results in the first week of February, said Melanie Weaver, an environmental scientist with the department.

Currently, the only thing that is known for sure is that a dry spring will affect bird breeding, Weaver said. “If there is no rain going into summer – that would be bad,” said Weaver. “It doesn’t mean that ducks are going to disappear from the landscape. We’ve had drought cycles before and they’ve gone through that.”

“But less water means that hens do not have an area to take their broods, or ducklings,” she said. “They don’t have a safe place to molt.”……

California drought lessons – what works, what doesn’t

Ellen Hanak and Jay Lund SF Chronicle Published 4:51 pm, Sunday, January 26, 2014


California is now officially in a drought emergency, and the signs are bleak: record-low flows in many rivers and streams, shrinking reservoirs and mountain snowpack at just one-fifth of normal. The governor’s declaration of drought won’t reverse these trends, but it does increase the state’s flexibility to help manage available supplies and reduce hardships for some communities. Past droughts show us that this crisis is not only a challenge, but also an opportunity for making California’s water system better able to support its cities, farms and environment. The challenge is to avoid making hasty decisions that provide some short-term relief at a much higher long-term cost.


During the longest recent drought, 1987 to 1992, California’s water managers fell prey to this temptation when deciding how much water to export from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. Water was pumped from the delta to supply cities and farms at record-high levels, dramatically changing flow and salinity conditions, and favoring the proliferation of invasive species that compete with native species for food and habitat. Notably, the overbite clam, which strips plankton from the western delta, became widespread during the drought. These invasions helped set the stage for the dramatic declines of delta smelt and other native fish species that have plagued the management of this system ever since.

Grants for drilling

Another example of imprudent crisis management comes from the most recent drought, from 2007 to 2009, when federal aid to San Joaquin Valley farmers came in the form of grants to drill more wells. Groundwater is often valuable during droughts, but in places that are already severely over-tapped, additional pumping can cause significant harm. In this case, excessive pumping during the drought accelerated the sinking of lands near major infrastructure, damaging the California Aqueduct, a key artery in the state’s water system.

Fortunately, California has also gotten it right in some important ways during past droughts. The drought in 1977 – before now, the single driest year on record – led to widespread urban water conservation and spurred the creation of a water market, in which those who have relatively ample supplies can lease water to those who don’t. Agencies within the federal Central Valley Project traded among themselves that year, and the Legislature subsequently passed a series of laws to facilitate trading more broadly. The state led the way in developing this market as the 1987-92 drought unfolded, reducing the costs of water shortages to cities, farms and wildlife refuges. That drought also saw the launch of the California Urban Water Conservation Council, a collaborative effort among the state’s urban water agencies to manage demand and reduce per capita water use over the longer term.

Protecting communities

The 1987-92 drought also spurred broader thinking about making communities more drought-resistant, and in subsequent years numerous investments have occurred in groundwater storage, new surface storage in local reservoirs, reuse of highly treated recycled wastewater, and even desalination. Local Bay Area agencies have also invested to interconnect their systems so that they can help one another during emergencies.

Without all these measures, California would be facing a much more serious water crisis today. Indeed, Southern California cities and suburbs are in relatively good shape despite a third year of dry weather, thanks to systematic attention to reducing water use and diversifying supply sources.

So, how can we leverage this current drought to address short-term emergency needs while making our water system more resilient? One priority is improving the water market. Opaque and shifting trading rules and cumbersome approval procedures diminished the effectiveness of the market during the 2007-09 drought. The current drought emergency offers an opportunity to focus high-level state, federal and local agency attention on how to simplify trading rules without compromising protection for the environment and others who might be harmed by water trading.

Another priority is to prevent irreparable harm to our overtaxed groundwater basins. Instead of freely spending tax dollars on new irrigation wells that will exacerbate the problem, agencies might better spend those funds on needy communities affected by the reduced agricultural activity that is unavoidable in a major drought.

And last, but not least, officials need to make balanced decisions about allocating water to cities, farms and the environment. As part of this effort, we should be prepared to use public funds to purchase additional water to support habitat for fish and wildlife.

California’s leaders – and all Californians – are facing a major challenge, but this is not the first time we’ve faced a drought, and it won’t be the last. It’s time, once again, to roll up our sleeves and make sure we don’t let a good crisis go to waste. Managing this crisis well will help ensure that the next one is less critical.

Online: To read more about the California drought, go to

Ellen Hanak is a senior fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California and Jay Lund is director of the Center for Watershed Sciences at UC Davis and adjunct fellow at PPIC. Jeffrey Mount, a PPIC senior fellow, also contributed to this commentary.


What We Can Do

Water is a critical part of California’s way of life. Our economy, our environment and our day-to-day lifestyle need water to flourish.  But our water is limited–especially this year. The lack of rain and snow mean that our water supply will be challenged to meet the state’s needs.  Conservation will help us stretch the water that we do have.  California is suffering from a drought so we cannot afford to waste any water.  The good news is there are lots of simple ways to reduce the amount of water that we use at home, both inside and outside.  If we all work together, we can make a difference for California’s future.

* Follow our easy tips both indoors and outdoors and start saving water every day. 

* Tour the California Urban Water Conservation Council’s interactive H2ouse to learn more ways to save water indoors and outdoors!

Calculate Your Water Use at Home

Use our handy calculator to find out how much water you use inside and outside each day!

Saving Water, INDOORS

It’s easy to save water at home. Learn new ways to conserve indoors and outdoors. Water is essential to each of us every day. But it’s a limited resource, so we all need to rethink the way we use water on a daily basis. By following these water-saving tips inside your home, you can help save water every day:

Laundry Room

  • Use the washing machine for full loads only to save water and energy
  • Install a water-efficient clothes washer Save: 16 Gallons/Load 
  • Washing dark clothes in cold water saves water and energy, and helps your clothes retain their color.


  • Run the dishwasher only when full to save water and energy.
  • Install a water- and energy-efficient dishwasher.  Save: 3 to 8 Gallons/Load.
  • Install aerators on the kitchen faucet to reduce flows to less than 1 gallon per minute. 
  • When washing dishes by hand, don’t let the water run. Fill one basin with wash water and the other with rinse water.
  • Dishwashers typically use less water than washing dishes by hand.
  • If your dishwasher is new, cut back on rinsing. Newer models clean more thoroughly than older ones.
  • Soak pots and pans instead of letting the water run while you scrape them clean.
  • Use the garbage disposal sparingly. Instead, compost vegetable food waste and save gallons every time.
  • Wash your fruits and vegetables in a pan of water instead of running water from the tap.
  • Don’t use running water to thaw food.   Defrost food in the refrigerator.
  • Keep a pitcher of drinking water in the refrigerator instead of running the tap.
  • Cook food in as little water as possible. This also helps it retain more nutrients.
  • Select the proper pan size for cooking. Large pans may require more cooking water than necessary.
  • If you accidentally drop ice cubes, don’t throw them in the sink. Drop them in a house plant instead.
  • Collect the water you use while rinsing fruit and vegetables. Use it to water house plants.


  • Install low-flow shower heads. Save: 2.5 Gallons
  • Take five minute showers instead of 10 minute showers. Save:  12.5 gallons with a low flow showerhead, 25 gallons with a standard 5.0 gallon per minute showerhead.
  • Fill the bathtub halfway or less. Save: 12 Gallons
  • When running a bath, plug the bathtub before turning on the water. Adjust the temperature as the tub fills.
  • Install aerators on bathroom faucets. Save: 1.2 Gallons Per Person/Day
  • Turn water off when brushing teeth or shaving. Save: Approximately 10 Gallons/Day
  • Install a high-efficiency toilet. Save: 19 Gallons Per Person/Day Read more about toilets.
  • Don’t use the toilet as a wastebasket.
  • Be sure to test your toilet for leaks at least once a year.
  • Put food coloring in your toilet tank. If it seeps into the bowl without flushing, there’s a leak. Fix it and start saving gallons.
  • Consider buying a dual-flush toilet. It has two flush options: a half-flush for liquid waste and a full-flush for solid waste.
  • Plug the sink instead of running the water to rinse your razor and save up to 300 gallons a month.
  • Turn off the water while washing your hair and save up to 150 gallons a month.
  • When washing your hands, turn the water off while you lather.
  • Take a (short) shower instead of a bath. A bathtub can use up to 70 gallons of water.



Most Californians think that they use more water indoors than outdoors.  Typically, the opposite is true.  In some areas, 50% or more of the water we use daily goes on lawns and outdoor landscaping.  There are lots of ways to save water at home, but reducing the water you use outdoors can make the biggest difference of all.  Here are a few easy ways to change the way you use water outside your home.

Know the Basics

  • Water early in the morning or later in the evening when temperatures are cooler.   Save: 25 gallons/each time you water
  • Check your sprinkler system frequently and adjust sprinklers so only your lawn is watered and not the house, sidewalk, or street. Save: 15-12 gallons/each time you water
  • Choose a water-efficient irrigation system such as drip irrigation for your trees, shrubs, and flowers. Save: 15 gallons/each time you water.
  • Water deeply but less frequently to create healthier and stronger landscapes.
  • Put a layer of mulch around trees and plants to reduce evaporation and keep the soil cool. Organic mulch also improves the soil and prevents weeds. Save: 20-30 gallons/each time you water/1,000 sq. ft.
  • Plant drought-resistant trees and plants. Save: 30- 60 gallons/each time you water/1,000 sq. ft

Don’t Overwater

One easy way to cut down how much water you use outdoors is to learn how much water your landscaping actually needs in order to thrive.  Overwatering is one of the most common mistakes people make.  To understand how much water your landscaping really needs, learn more about evapotranspiration (ET) here.  For Southern California residents, try this easy watering calculator to help determine how much you should be watering outside.  

Get Smart

If you really want to be a sophisticated water user, invest in a weather-based irrigation controller—or a smart controller. These devices will automatically adjust the watering time and frequency based on soil moisture, rain, wind, and evaporation and transpiration rates.  Check with your local water agency to see if there is a rebate available for the purchase of a smart controller.  

Know Your Climate

One way to save water outdoors is to plant the right plants for your climate. Here are some tools to help you learn how to be a water-wise gardener:

Outdoor Cleanup

Water is often a go-to tool for outdoor clean-up jobs.   

  • Use a broom to clean driveways, sidewalks and patios. Save: 8-18 gallons /minute.
  • Wash cars/boats with a bucket, sponge, and hose with self-closing nozzle. Save: 8-18 gallons/minute.
  • Invest in a water broom.  If you have to use water to clean up outside, a water broom will attach to your hose but uses a combination of air and water pressure to aid cleaning. Water brooms can use as little as 2.8 gallons per minute (gpm) to remove dirt, food spills, leaves, and litter from concrete and asphalt while a standard hose typically uses 5 to 20 gpm.

Click here for more information ways to save water outdoors. For more information on water-wise sprinklers, visit Sprinklers 101.


Build a Beautiful Water-Wise Garden

See gardening tips and photo galleries with interactive garden and plant images.


Upfront: Fifty shades of graywater
(became legal in Marin County in 2011)

Drought solutions flooding in as agencies take action by Peter Seidman January 30 2014 Pacific Sun

….. According to the newly created WaterNow website, “Today’s best opportunities are at the beginning and the end of the water use cycle. Source water landscapes—watersheds—provide enormously important services capturing, storing, filtering and releasing water for downstream consumption. Ensuring the health of this green infrastructure is vital for water quality and supply. Once potable water has reached our homes and businesses, there are major opportunities for conserving and reusing this expensive resource that we are only now, and slowly, beginning to employ.” ……Promoting methods to use graywater, for instance, is a major part of the WaterNow rollout in Marin….The WaterNow goals to promote sustainable water use and technologies fall into two broad categories: restoring and maintaining watershed land in the state and promoting what WaterNow calls “urban water use.” That includes recycling and reusing water. It also involves reducing the amount of potable water used for irrigations and other outdoor purposes. In Marin that outdoor use accounts for about 60 percent of the total supply….


A major focus of the WaterNow strategy for Marin focuses on increasing the use of graywater, which is the wastewater that doesn’t include serious contaminants. Baths, showers and clothes washers generate graywater. Wastewater from toilets, kitchen sinks and dishwashers is called blackwater. Graywater can be used to irrigate. Considering the large amount of water used outdoors, graywater could become a valuable water source in the Marin district. ….Promoting the use of graywater can stretch a water supply, essentially creating a new supply source, but more mundane strategies also can make a big difference. Dan Carney, conservation manager at the district, says customers with large yards can meet a 25-percent reduction target just by turning off their outdoor irrigation systems and watering manually. He notes, however, that many customers don’t have large yards, or any yards. “But a lot of people,” he notes, “still have older toilets, and changing to a high-efficiency toilet can sometimes cut a flush in half.” That, along with installing a high-efficiency showerhead “can get to 20 to 25 percent right there.”





North American monarch butterfly migration falls to record lows, report says

The number of monarch butterflies wintering in Mexico has plunged to its lowest level since studies began in 1993.

(Marco Ugarte/ AP ) –

By Joshua Partlow, Wednesday, January 29, 12:55 PM Washington Post MEXICO CITY — One of North America’s most dazzling natural phenomena, the annual winter migration to central Mexico by millions of monarch butterflies from the northern United States and Canada, has shrunk to record lows and is danger of ending, environmentalists from across the continent said Wednesday. The monarch migration has been documented in books and movies and attracts thousands of tourists to a nature preserve about 100 miles west of Mexico City. The black-and-orange butterflies hang from the trees there like shaggy beards….


Exporting the Colorado River to Asia, through hay
National Geographic News

As the West suffers long-term drought, experts look for ways to save water while still supporting local farmers. Alfalfa, once a reliable and local crop, has become a global commodity. But the fact that the Colorado River is fueling the export boom has some western water advocates worried. … Virtual Water Exports When Robert Glennon, a water policy expert at the University of Arizona and author of the book Unquenchable: America’s Water Crisis and What to Do About It, first learned that the U.S. was exporting alfalfa crops that had been grown with the very limited western irrigation water, his reaction was “utter disbelief.” Glennon crunched some numbers and figured that in 2012, roughly 50 billion gallons of western water—enough to supply the annual household needs of half a million families—were exported to China. Not literally bottled up and shipped, but embedded in alfalfa crops grown with irrigation water. And that’s just to China, which still trails Japan and the United Arab Emirates as a top destination for American alfalfa… But what troubles Glennon, and others who obsess over the West’s water woes, is the growing trend of shipping hay overseas. “What’s new here is that hay is a forage crop, and the exports are coming from the West, where water is scarce.” Daniel Putnam is quick to defend alfalfa and other forage crops, which he studies carefully as an agronomist at the University of California, Davis’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. “Alfalfa has become a whipping boy because people don’t understand it, and undervalue it,” said Putnam. Alfalfa may sell for cheap, he said, but people don’t consider the value it provides by supporting the local dairy industry; by supplying a regular, year-round income as a “cash crop” for farmers; and by contributing to wildlife, since alfalfa fields are favored by migratory birds… Critics argue that the water itself, available to farmers at a fraction of true market value, is a form of indirect subsidy.

….On top of the demand spike, a staggering trade imbalance between China and the U.S. creates an incredible advantage for any American producer to ship anything at all to China, even bulky, heavy bales of hay. For every two container ships that bring those iPods and T-shirts to California ports from China, one goes back empty. As a result, “it costs less today to ship a ton of alfalfa from Long Beach to Beijing than it does to ship it from the Imperial Valley in California to the Central Valley,” explains Glennon. All of this leads to alfalfa and hay exports that have more than doubled since 1999 and increased by 60 percent since 2007, with the biggest increases by far being in shipments to China and the United Arab Emirates. For instance, in 2007, China imported just 2,400 metric tons of hay. By 2012, that had increased over 200 times to more than 485,000 metric tons. And in a paper Putnam presented earlier this month, he predicts another 50 percent growth over the previous year’s volume in 2013. Putnam also anticipates that Saudi Arabia will soon, like the U.A.E., restrict alfalfa growth, which would cause another big spike in overseas demand. Today, at least 12.5 percent of alfalfa grown in western states is exported, and in some areas like California’s Imperial Valley—just across the Colorado River from Yuma County—that figure grows to a full 50 percent….


….Glennon insists that the right policies could protect farmers and keep places like Yuma and the Imperial Valley wet and productive, without sending Colorado River water overseas. He points to research done by Mike Ottman of the University of Arizona, which shows that alfalfa farmers are actually getting less product in the summer months for the same amount of water spent. Ottman explains that the typical alfalfa farms in the Southwest have eight cuttings, or harvests, a year, and that the last four of these, during the scorching summer months, yield about half as much product. But alfalfa is incredibly resilient, and the perennial crop survives just fine if it isn’t watered for a few months. Putnam has researched this practice, as well as so-called “deficit irrigation”—where the crops get less water than they’d need for maximum growth—and the crops fare just fine in the long term after a dry spell. This has Glennon thinking of some creative conservation and efficiency solutions. “There’s a lot of water being wasted growing alfalfa in the summer,” he said. “The farmers do it because they don’t have anything else to do with the water, and because they fear they’ll lose their rights to it if they don’t keep using it. That’s a rule that could be changed.Glennon proposes a “temporary suspension of summertime irrigation of alfalfa,” combined with changes in policy that would encourage farmers to sell limited volumes of their righted water to the highest bidder, probably cities or industries.


Bones of a previously unknown species prove to be one of the oldest seabirds
(January 30, 2014) — Fossils discovered in Canterbury, New Zealand reveal the nature of one of the world’s oldest flying seabirds. Thought to have lived between 60.5 and 61.6 million years ago, the fossil is suggested to have formed shortly after the extinction of dinosaurs and many marine organisms. … > full story


One good tern deserves another: Low-power, remote monitoring of island birds cuts bills
(January 24, 2014) — A new report reveals details of an energy-efficient system for monitoring wild birds that reduces power consumption without significantly compromising image quality. … > full story

Bluebirds struggle to find happiness on island paradise
(January 27, 2014) — A recent study shows that Eastern bluebirds in Ohio differ in a variety of ways from their relatives in Bermuda. … > full story

Common crop pesticides kill honeybee larvae in the hive
(January 27, 2014) — Four pesticides commonly used on crops to kill insects and fungi also kill honeybee larvae within their hives, according to new research. Scientists also found that N-methyl-2-pyrrolidone — an inert, or inactive, chemical commonly used as a pesticide additive — is highly toxic to honeybee larvae. … > full story


Nine Steps to Save Waterways and Fisheries Identified by Researchers

Jan. 31, 2014 — The key to clean waterways and sustainable fisheries is to follow nine guiding principles of water management, says a team of Canadian researchers…. Fish habitats need ecosystems that are rich in food with places to hide from predators and lay eggs, according to the framework published today in the journal Environmental Reviews. Humans have put key freshwater ecosystems at risk because of land development and the loss of the vegetation along rivers and streams….With more pressure on Canada’s freshwater ecosystems, Richardson and his colleagues wanted to create a framework of evidence-based principles that managers, policy makers and others could easily use in their work. “It’s a made in Canada solution, but the principles could be applied anywhere in the world,” he says. Healthy freshwater ecosystems are shrinking and reports suggest that the animals that depend on them are becoming endangered or extinct at higher rates than marine or terrestrial species, says Richardson. Humans also depend on these ecosystems for basic resources like clean drinking water and food as well as economic activity from the natural resource sector, tourism and more.

The components of a successful management plan include:

  1. Protect and restore habitats for fisheries
  2. Protect biodiversity as it enhances resilience and productivity
  3. Identify threats to ecosystem productivity
  4. Identify all contributions made by aquatic ecosystems
  5. Implement ecosystem based-management of natural resources while acknowledging the impact of humans
  6. Adopt a precautionary approach to management as we face uncertainty
  7. Embrace adaptive management — environments continue to change so research needs to be ongoing for scientific evidence-based decision making
  8. Define metrics that will indicate whether management plans are successful or failing
  9. Engage and consult with stakeholders
  10. Ensure that decision-makers have the capacity, legislation and authority to implement policies and management plans.

These recommendations are based on nine principles of ecology:

  1. Acknowledge the physical and chemical limits of an ecosystem
  2. Population dynamics are at work and there needs to be a minimum number of fish for the population to survive
  3. Habitat quantity and quality are needed for fish productivity
  4. Connecting habitats is essential for movement of fish and their resources
  5. The success of freshwater species is influenced by the watershed
  6. Biodiversity enhances ecosystem resilience and productivity
  7. Global climate change affects local populations of fish
  8. Human impacts to the habitat affect future generations of fish
  9. Evolution is important to species survival


Nicolas W.R. Lapointe, et al. Principles for ensuring healthy and productive freshwater ecosystems that support sustainable fisheries. Environmental Reviews, 2013; 1 DOI: 10.1139/er-2013-0038



Rainforests in Far East shaped by humans for the last 11,000 years
(January 24, 2014) — New research shows that the tropical forests of South East Asia have been shaped by humans for the last 11,000 years. The rain forests of Borneo, Sumatra, Java, Thailand and Vietnam were previously thought to have been largely unaffected by humans, but the latest research suggests otherwise. … > full story

Farming salmon on land is possible, project suggests

Future of fisheries may not require fish to ever see the ocean

Courtesy of J. Armstrong/University of Washington

By Evelyn Boychuk CBC News January 6, 2014

As its name implies, the Atlantic salmon has always been seen as an ocean dweller. But the Canadian fishing industry is on the verge of being able to grow this saltwater fish anywhere – including, hypothetically, in the prairie provinces. The Namgis closed containment facility on Vancouver Island is the first salmon farm in North America to grow Atlantic salmon on a commercial scale in a completely land-based aquaculture system. Read the full article here.



First New Species of River Dolphin Discovered in a Century

January 24, 2014 National Geographic 

A suspected new river dolphin species has emerged in Brazil, and scientists warn that it is highly endangered. River dolphins (also known as botos) are among the rarest, and most endangered, dolphins in the world. Three of the four known species are listed as “threatened” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The discovery of a wholly new species—the first such find in a century—is thus exciting news for biologists and conservation officials….





Helping Restore Hamilton Wetland from the Ground Up

by Eric Simons on January 24, 2014 Bay Nature

Give it a decade or two and the former Hamilton Airfield will be one of the most magnificent outdoor spaces in the Bay Area: several hundred acres of upland, lowland and tidal marsh habitat, dotted with oak and buckeye, bursting with toyon and snowberry, carved by tidal channels, and bordered by a trail and viewing stations. But right now it is really a very magnificent amount of dirt. Buried under 5.6 million square yards of dredged mud, the land that was once a military airport lies in undulating brown rows, stretching out from suburban housing development to the water’s edge. In a few months, the levee separating the mud from the Bay will be breached, allowing the tides to once again wash the marsh. But again, right now, extraordinarily high-potential dirt. …. These are “restoration polygons,” precise instructions for what plants to stick in the ground where. Each 214-square-foot restoration polygon consists of 16 plants, each plant in the polygon arranged in a certain spatial orientation with notes on depth and composition of substrate that McWhorter can return to to learn about what causes things to succeed or fail in replanting.

The precision is useful, not just scientifically but because on this Friday the job of implementing the polygons fell to several dozen reasonably enthusiastic middle schoolers from Hamilton School and Todd Adams’ 7th grade science class. This might be one of the cooler elements of the entire project: Several thousand of the 60,000 plants intended to go into the ground will arrive there via the hands of young Marin residents as part of the Students and Teachers Restoring a Watershed Program, part of Point Blue Conservation Science. STRAW has been working on restoration projects around Marin for two decades, and helping at Hamilton for the last few years. Emily Allen, a project manager who joined the program as a STRAW intern about 10 years ago, knows the value of a decade. When she first started, she says, her coworkers would say, “There’s this big restoration project at Hamilton and someday you’ll get to see it.” Allen remembers thinking, “Yeah, right.” Now, the restoration project is underway, and Allen is the one telling her charges to dream big. “One of the kids was like, ‘It’s a wasteland out here’,” Allen says. “But I said, ‘Can you imagine it in 10 years?'” Most of the kids can. Their delight at being out of school doesn’t entirely hide the fact that the kids can connect to watersheds and wetlands in a fundamental way. Many of them live nearby, many of them have explored the area in its previous incarnations. Friday morning, as the students walked out to the restoration site, one boy broke away to tell Allen that he remembered building rock forts on the old airfield. Allen said she intended to shepherd about 1,000 plants into the ground over the course of a few high-activity weeks, with 400 students from second to seventh grade involved in the planting. “We could just be a restoration crew,” she says. “But the STRAW idea is to let the kids have a real project, and make that real connection to their community.”….




MUIR BEACH: Restoration Complete

Redwood Creek, which starts on the slopes of Mount Tamalpais and empties into the Pacific Ocean, has now been restored to its natural floodplain at Muir Beach. It’s time to see the major improvements to the landscape—and visitor amenities. More >>











Sea Stars, formerly referred to as “starfish”, have which of the following characteristics:

(a) Multiple arms (5-24)
(b) Regenerate two new arms for every one that has been lost
(c) Hundreds of tube feet per arm
(d) Hundreds of small eyes all over their body
(e) A mouth located on the bottom side of the central disk
(f) All of the above
(g) a, c, and e

See answer at bottom






Human cause of global warming is near certainty, UN reports

30 January 2014 – Global warming is unequivocal, human influence has been the dominant cause since the mid-20th century, and atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, already at levels not seen in at least 800,000 years, will persist for many centuries, the final version of the latest United Nations report on climate change warned today. “Continued emissions of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and changes in all components of the climate system,” according to the report, which finalizes a summary of findings by the UN-backed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued in September, outlining a litany of threats from the melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets to rising oceans to extreme weather events such as cyclones and heat waves. “Limiting climate change will require substantial and sustained reductions of greenhouse gas emissions,” it stresses, using the term “extremely likely” for human causality since the mid-20th century, meaning there is a 95 to 100 per cent probability that humankind, and not naturally occurring phenomena, are to blame, a 5 percent increase from the 90 to 100 per cent “very likely” probability of if the IPCC’s last report in 2007. Even if emissions of global warming carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are stopped, most aspects of climate change will persist for many centuries. “This represents a substantial multi-century climate change commitment created by past, present and future emissions of CO2,” the report warns. “Human influence has been detected in warming of the atmosphere and the ocean, in changes in the global water cycle, in reductions in snow and ice, in global mean sea level rise, and in changes in some climate extremes,” it says. “This evidence for human influence has grown since AR4 (the last IPCC report). It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.” ….


The Hockey Stick Lives: Canadian Arctic Warming Unprecedented In 120,000 Years

By Joe Romm on January 27, 2014 at 5:09 pm

Recent warming has been unprecedented in speed, scale, and cause. Last year, we reported on a study that found the rate of warming since 1900 is 50 times greater than the rate of cooling in the previous 5000 years, which threatens to destroy the stable climate that enabled civilization. The warming is so fast that it’s easy to forget how cold it used to be just a few decades ago, which is the point of a recent Climate Central analysis and the awesome xkcd cartoon based on it. We’ve known for a while that the Arctic — which is warming at twice the rate of Earth as a whole — is now warmer than it has been in at least 2000 years. As a National Center for Atmospheric Research study found in 2009:

Arctic temperatures in the 1990s reached their warmest level of any decade in at least 2,000 years, new research indicates. The study, which incorporates geologic records and computer simulations, provides new evidence that the Arctic would be cooling if not for greenhouse gas emissions that are overpowering natural climate patterns. That is one long hockey stick. But now a new study led by UC Boulder Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research Associate Director Gifford Miller takes things way, way back:
Average summer temperatures in the Eastern Canadian Arctic during the last 100 years are higher now than during any century in the past 44,000 years…. Since radiocarbon dating is only accurate to about 50,000 years and because Earth’s geological record shows it was in a glaciation stage prior to that time, the indications are that Canadian Arctic temperatures today have not been matched or exceeded for roughly 120,000 years, Miller said. “The key piece here is just how unprecedented the warming of Arctic Canada is,” said Miller…. “This study really says the warming we are seeing is outside any kind of known natural variability, and it has to be due to increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.” A video explaining the study can be found here. This research answers the key question of whether recent warming exceeded that of the highest temperatures following the end of the last Ice Age:…



‘Natural’ engineering offers solution against future flooding

January 28, 2014 Science Daily

Back-to-nature flood schemes which use the land’s natural defenses to slow river flow and reduce flooding could be a cost-effective way of tackling one of the biggest problems facing the UK today.


The schemes — which include capturing flow upstream to prevent floods downstream where they are likely to have a greater impact on infrastructure and homes — have been trialled as part of a five-year research project by experts from Newcastle University in partnership with the Environment Agency.

Using Belford Burn in Northumberland as a demonstration, the team have shown that by changing and hindering the natural flow pathways within a small catchment system, it is possible to manage the amount of run-off from the land. This reduces the risk of flooding in low-lying areas and also cuts down on pollution by preventing phosphorus and nitrates from being washed off the land. Published this month in the academic journal Science of the Total Environment, the findings were presented last week at the House of Commons Office of Science and Technology to inform the Government’s Environment White Paper. Research lead, Dr Mark Wilkinson, who carried out the work while at Newcastle University and is now based at the James Hutton Institute in Aberdeen, said: “Climate projections for the UK suggest that total rainfall during winter months will continue to rise and with it the risk of flooding. What we have shown at Belford is that by employing so-called ‘soft engineering solutions’ to restrict the progress of water through a catchment — disconnecting fast-flow pathways and adding storage — we have been able to reduce the risk of flooding in the lower areas and, most importantly, in the town. Belford is not unique and there are many other areas around the UK where these solutions could make a significant impact and potentially protect peoples’ homes from some of the more severe flooding we are seeing at the moment.”


Strategies for Natural Flood Management (NFM)

Natural Flood Management aims to reduce the downstream maximum water height of a flood — the peak — or delay the arrival of the flood peak downstream, increasing the time available to prepare. This is done by restricting the progress of water through a catchment and relies on one, or a combination of four key mechanisms which work with the environment to provide a sustainable solution to the problem:

  • Storing water such as ponds, ditches and field attenuation bunds
  • Increasing soil infiltration through the creation of ‘infiltration zones’ to help water get into the soil at certain locations, for example tree belts.
  • Slowing water by increasing resistance to its flow, for example planting in the floodplain or riverside woodland
  • Redirecting the water by channelling it away from the main flow into temporary water storage areas or buffer zones to hold the water back until the flood peak drops or restoring river meanders. This increases the length of the river and decreases its slope, slowing down the flow

Costing around £200,000, the Belford scheme was installed after a study of the area suggested the cost of a full conventional flood defence scheme for the town would cost in the region of £2.5 m


“The situation in Belford is typical of many rural towns around the UK that are at risk of flooding,” explains Dr Paul Quinn, based in the School of Civil Engineering and Geosciences at Newcastle University. “It is a town with a long history of flooding but the floods tend to be short-lived — albeit severe — and only tend to affect a small number of properties. A feasibility study concluded that traditional flood defenses were not suitable because of the high-cost, lack of space for flood walls and banks and the relatively small number of properties involved.” Just five months after the feasibility report was published, the July 2007 storm hit the North of England and ten homes and businesses in Belford were flooded. It was after this event the Newcastle University demonstrator project was launched. “One of the main reasons why the Belford scheme has been such a success is because we’ve had the support of the community and local landowners behind us,” explains Dr Quinn, who has since carried out a second Catchment Management Scheme at Netherton Burn, Northumberland. “There is no single solution to flooding — no ‘silver bullet’ — but what the Belford scheme has shown us is what can be achieved with local support and a thorough understanding of the land and the local environment.”

M.E. Wilkinson, P.F. Quinn, N.J. Barber, J. Jonczyk. A framework for managing runoff and pollution in the rural landscape using a Catchment Systems Engineering approach. Science of The Total Environment, 2014; 468-469: 1245 DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2013.07.055


Reducing Climate Risks with Natural Infrastructure

January 29, 2014 This report from The Nature Conservancy draws on experience from nine case studies in California and makes a compelling case for conservation as an effective tool to reduce risks of a changing climate. the main conclusions are that green infrastructure:

  1. can provide cost-effective flood and coastal protection.
  2. has been demonstrated successfully in a wide variety of settings.
  3. can be designed to adapt to changing conditions.
  4. provides multiple benefits.
  5. can inspire strong local support.

The report was written by consultant Jim Downing along with Louis Blumberg and Eric Hallstein, and produced by Nancy Crowley in the TNC marketing department. The California State Coastal Conservancy, the Landscape Conservation Collaborative and Pacific Gas and Electric joined with TNC in providing financial support for the project. We released the report in December and shared it with the President’s Taskforce on Climate Preparedness for initial meeting on Tuesday and with the Natural Resources Agency as it collects input on its draft Safeguarding California Plan. Please share it widely.


Climate study projects major changes in vegetation distribution by 2100

Date: January 30, 2014 Source: University of Arkansas, Fayetteville


An international research team led by Song Feng, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Arkansas, used a scenario projecting an annual 3- to 10-degree increase in Celsius temperatures by 2100 to calculate that climate types will change in 46.3 percent of the global land area. That scenario is referred to by climate scientists, according to Song, as “business as usual” because it assumes that “what we continue to do today we will do in the future, meaning that there will be no significant measures to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions that are warming the planet,” he said.

The scenario has been adopted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and calls for moderate to strong warming in the middle and high latitudes of the northern hemisphere and weaker warming in the tropics and the southern hemisphere. “Climates are associated with certain types of vegetation,” Feng said. “If the surface continues to get warmer, certain native species may no longer grow well in their climate, especially in higher latitudes. They will give their territory to other species. That is the most likely scenario.” Feng and colleagues in the United States and Asia published their findings in the January issue of the journal Global and Planetary Change, in a study titled “Projected climate regime shift under future global warming from multi-model, multi-scenario CMIP5 simulations.”….


Song Feng et al. Projected climate regime shift under future global warming from multi-model, multi-scenario CMIP5 simulations. Global and Planetary Change, January 2014


Savanna vegetation predictions best done by continent
(January 30, 2014) — A “one-size-fits-all” model to predict the effects of climate change on savanna vegetation isn’t as effective as examining individual savannas by continent, according to new research. … > full story



New NASA laser technology reveals how ice measures up
(January 28, 2014) — A new photon-counting technique will allow researchers to track the melt or growth of Earth’s frozen regions. … > full story


Disappearing Snow Increases Risk of Collapsing Ice Shelves in Antarctica

Jan. 30, 2014 — A number of floating ice shelves in Antarctica are at risk of disappearing entirely in the next 200 years, as global warming reduces their snow cover. Their collapse would enhance the discharge of ice into the oceans and increase the rate at which sea-level rises. A rapid reduction of greenhouse gas emissions could save a number of these ice shelves, researchers at Utrecht University and the British Antarctic Survey say in a new paper published today in the Journal of Glaciology.


Back in 1995 and 2002, two floating ice shelves in the north of the Antarctic Peninsula (Larsen A and B) suddenly collapsed — each event occurred in a matter of weeks.

Dr Peter Kuipers Munneke, the paper’s lead author, said: “This was a spectacular event, especially when you imagine the size of these ice shelves, which are several hundreds of metres thick, and have been in place for over 10,000 years.” The team of researchers suspected that the disappearance of the snow layer on top of the ice shelves could be an important precursor for shelf collapse. Their calculations confirm this hypothesis, and show that many more ice shelves could disappear in the next 200 years. The scientists believed the snow layer plays an important role in regulating the effect of meltwater lakes on the ice shelves. As long as the snow layer is sufficiently thick and cold, all meltwater can sink into the snow and refreeze. But in a warmer climate, the amount of meltwater increases, and the snow layers become thinner. As a result, meltwater can no longer refreeze and forms large lakes on the surface of the ice shelves. The water drains through cracks and faults, causing them to widen until they become so wide and deep that the entire ice shelf disintegrates. After their collapse, ice shelves can no longer provide resistance to the flow of the glaciers previously feeding them. As a result, the glacier flow accelerates significantly, contributing to an increase in sea-level rise…..full story


Sea level variations escalating along eastern Gulf of Mexico coast
(January 29, 2014) — Around the globe, sea levels typically rise a little in summer and fall again in winter. Now, a new study shows that, from the Florida Keys to southern Alabama, those fluctuations have been intensifying over the past 20 years. … > full story


Ocean acidification is already driving changes in Northwestern marine ecology

Cally Carswell | Jan 22, 2014 09:00 AM

For a time, Pseudolithophyllum muricatum was king of the kelp forest understory around Tatoosh Island, a rocky blip of land off the northwestern tip of the Olympic Peninsula. In experimental “bouts” staged there by famed ecologist Bob Paine that pitted the crusty, milky red algae against other species of coralline algae it lived amongst, P. muricatum “won” almost 100 percent of the time, growing more abundantly than any of its competitors. Its edge was its especially thick crust, which allowed it to slip over the lip of its more thinly crusted neighbors and overtake them. In 2012, Sophie McCoy, a doctoral candidate at the University of Chicago, collected samples of P. muricatum from Tatoosh Island and compared them with samples Paine had collected in the 1980s. Her samples were only half as thick as his. Now, by repeating Paine’s experimental plant battles, McCoy has shown that P. muricatum has indeed lost its competitive edge. “It’s now winning only about a quarter of the time,” she says. “It loses to basically everybody some of the time. That’s a huge change.” The cause of this paradigm shift? Most likely, says McCoy, it’s the downward creep of the ocean’s pH, caused in large part by the vast amounts of carbon dioxide the ocean has absorbed since humans began burning fossil fuels. This phenomenon, known as ocean acidification, was once described by former National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration chief Jane Lubchenco as the “equally evil twin” of climate change. The waters that lap Tatoosh Island are already experiencing pH creep at a rate 10 times faster than models predicted. Combine that fact with the decades of detailed ecological data collected there by Paine and his disciples, and you’ve got an ideal place to study the ecological consequences of changing ocean chemistry….


Hurricane Sandy May Be a Blessing for Tiny Piping Plover

Jan. 28, 2014 — The piping plover, a threatened shorebird, is expected to capitalize on new habitat created by Hurricane Sandy on hard-hit Long Island, N.Y. The storm created wider sandy beaches, the plover’s … full story

Warmer winters may be pushing raptors northward
(January 29, 2014) — Research shows that several raptor species appear to be responding to warmer winters by shortening their annual migration by as much as seven or eight kilometers (four to five miles) per year. … > full story


POINT BLUE and partners’ new publication:


Antarctic Climate Change: Extreme Events Disrupt Plastic Phenotypic Response in Adélie Penguins

Amélie Lescroël, Grant Ballard, David Grémillet, Matthieu Authier, David G. Ainley

Abstract: In the context of predicted alteration of sea ice cover and increased frequency of extreme events, it is especially timely to investigate plasticity within Antarctic species responding to a key environmental aspect of their ecology: sea ice variability. Using 13 years of longitudinal data, we investigated the effect of sea ice concentration (SIC) on the foraging efficiency of Adélie penguins (Pygoscelis adeliae) breeding in the Ross Sea. A ‘natural experiment’ brought by the exceptional presence of giant icebergs during 5 consecutive years provided unprecedented habitat variation for testing the effects of extreme events on the relationship between SIC and foraging efficiency in this sea-ice dependent species. Significant levels of phenotypic plasticity were evident in response to changes in SIC in normal environmental conditions. Maximum foraging efficiency occurred at relatively low SIC, peaking at 6.1% and decreasing with higher SIC. The ‘natural experiment’ uncoupled efficiency levels from SIC variations. Our study suggests that lower summer SIC than currently observed would benefit the foraging performance of Adélie penguins in their southernmost breeding area. Importantly, it also provides evidence that extreme climatic events can disrupt response plasticity in a wild seabird population. This questions the predictive power of relationships built on past observations, when not only the average climatic conditions are changing but the frequency of extreme climatic anomalies is also on the rise.



Changing Climate In Argentina Is Killing Penguin Chicks

January 30, 2014 4:00 PM NPR 4 min 1 sec

Magellanic penguins strut their stuff on the rocky shoreline of Argentina’s Punta Tombo, home to the largest colony of the birds in the world. Craig Lovell/Corbis

There’s a patch of seashore along the coast of Argentina where hundreds of thousands of penguins make their home. It’s called Punta Tombo . Dee Boersma, a conservation biologist at the University of Washington, has been going there for 30 years, and she’s discovered that a changing climate is killing those penguins……


It wasn’t until around 2010 that Boersma figured out the real problem: Punta Tombo was experiencing bigger, stronger and wetter rainstorms. “When you get three years in a row where lots of chicks die because they get wet, it hits you pretty hard,” she says now. Now, you might be wondering: Penguins swim. They love the water. They live in cold places, like the Antarctic. And now they’re dying of hypothermia after a heavy rain? How can that be? “You have to really know penguins to understand why,” says Boersma. “Chicks are covered in down. Their juvenile plumage … doesn’t even really come in to protect them at all until they are older than 40 days. So until they get some of their juvenile plumage, they’re not waterproof — at all.” And local weather records show that things had been changing for years. “There’s more rainfall,” Boersma says, “and more of these severe storms and that’s what can kill penguin chicks — if the storm comes when they are more vulnerable.”

And they are more vulnerable. Here’s why: Usually, the penguins hatch their young at the same time, over the course of about two weeks in December. But now, for some reason that still eludes Boersma, the birds are hatching over a six-week period. So the period of time when chicks are vulnerable to storms has stretched out. Moreover, the hatch is now taking place later in the year — at a time when there are more storms in Patagonia. The penguins are struggling with this new climate. In one year, half the hatchlings died in storms. On a few occasions, chicks have also died from heat waves. As Boersma points out, even as storms are getting bigger and more frequent, summertime heat waves are more common too. She notes that these effects are predicted by climate scientists. Warmer air temperatures mean not only hotter weather but more evaporation from the Atlantic, which puts more moisture in the air and thus creates wetter storms. “It’s these climate change events that penguins didn’t have in the past,” says Boersma, with an urgency born of living with these creatures for almost half her life. “And it’s not like penguins can adapt.”….. Boersma published this week in the journal PLoS One. She’s planning more visits to Punta Tombo. Now she’s got herself a real house to live in there. As for the trailer — it’s now on exhibit in a natural history museum just down the road from the colony.

Recordings of the Punta Tombo penguins used in our radio story come from the Radio Expedition archive at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.



Sensitivity of carbon cycle to tropical temperature variations has doubled
(January 26, 2014) — The tropical carbon cycle has become twice as sensitive to temperature variations over the past 50 years, new research has revealed. The research shows that a one degree rise in tropical temperature leads to around two billion extra tons of carbon being released per year into the atmosphere from tropical ecosystems, compared with the same tropical warming in the 1960s and 1970s. … > full story



The Great Lakes Go Dry: How One-Fifth Of The World’s Fresh Water Is Dwindling Away

By Joanna M. Foster on January 28, 2014 at 11:23 am

….The Great Lakes, which contain one-fifth of the world’s above-ground fresh water supply, are sometimes referred to as America’s “northern coast.” As communities along the rest of the nation’s shorelines brace for rising waters brought by climate change, however, and spend billions on replacing sand swept out to sea in storms, the communities of the Great Lakes find themselves with more and more sand and less and less water. ….As the lake retreats, some people blame the Army Corps of Engineers for dredging projects that widen channels leading out of Lake Michigan. Others wonder if the watershed can no longer support the 40 million people in the U.S. and Canada who now rely on the lakes for their drinking water. Increasingly, scientists believe that climate change is driving the warming waters and setting up a new regime in the Great Lakes that may lead to lower lake levels and a permanently altered shoreline. Ever since the 1990s, Lake Michigan has been predominantly below its long-term water level average, and trending downwards. Water levels plummeted precipitously in the late 1990s, after a strong El Niño event warmed up the waters. “That event drastically increased water temperatures,” explained Drew Gronewold, a physical scientist at NOAA’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL). “Over the course of just one year, water temperatures went up by 2.5 degrees Celsius. That’s huge. And the cycle is reinforcing; one really warm year led to more than a decade of dropping lake levels.” As the lake warms, it’s changing the water levels, as well. Most evaporation on the Great Lakes occurs in the fall when the lake is still warm from the summer, but the air has turned cold and dry. When the water is warmer than usual, the peak evaporation season begins earlier and lasts longer into the early winter. Warmer water also leads to less ice formation and fewer days of ice cover. ….




New Studies Needed to Predict How Marine Organisms May Adapt to the Future’s Acidic Oceans

Jan. 28, 2014 — The world’s oceans are becoming more acidic, changing in a way that hasn’t happened for millions of years. But will marine organisms from tiny coccolithophores to king crabs change along with the … full story



Its great lake shriveled, Iran confronts crisis of water supply. January 31, 2014 NY Times

Iran is facing a water shortage potentially so serious that officials are making contingency plans for rationing in the greater Tehran area, home to 22 million, and other major cities around the country.



During Drought, Pop-Up Wetlands Give Birds a Break

Audio Report by Lauren Sommer for KQED Radio’s QUEST Northern California on Jan 27, 2014

Migratory birds stop at flooded rice fields at the Cosumnes River Preserve in the Central Valley. (Photo: Nancy Crowley/The Nature Conservancy)

California’s severe drought is taking a toll on wildlife around the state. Millions of birds migrate through this time of year, but the waterways and wetlands they rely on are largely dry. In the Sacramento Valley, one environmental group is working with farmers and citizen scientists to provide some help by creating temporary “pop-up” wetlands. Winter is always a busy bird season at Douglas Thomas’s rice farm in Olivehurst, California, about 40 miles north of Sacramento. “Those fields behind there will fill with geese,” he says. “It’s just so loud. You can’t sleep at night. The first couple nights are pretty rough and I’m actually cussing them even though I love them.” On a recent winter morning, Thomas watches as a young bald eagle dives at some 3,000 snow geese floating in the rice fields. “As soon as they start getting here, this is what I sit and do,” he says “I keep my binoculars in my truck.”

The orange areas show where migratory birds are likely to be on March 17 in the Central Valley, based on citizen science data from eBird. The blue shows available water. Scientists used a series of these maps to look for areas where wetlands are lacking. (Source: Cornell eBird, Point Blue Conservation Science, The Nature Conservancy)

The birds come here because Thomas keeps his rice fields flooded in December and January. The water decomposes the rice straw leftover from last year’s harvest.

Normally, at the end of January, “we would let our water go and start trying to dry our fields out because the lake that’s in front of us has to be dry enough to drive a tractor in it and then we’ve got to seed it,” he says But not this year. Thomas is leaving water on his fields a little longer as part of an experimental project with The Nature Conservancy, designed to provide extra habitat for the birds when they need it most. Thomas’s farm is in the middle of the Pacific Flyway, a vast migration route that stretches from the Arctic to South America. The Central Valley is a key pit stop for millions of birds along the way. “California is really the linchpin of the Pacific Flyway,” says Nature Conservancy scientist Mark Reynolds. “Many of these species breed in the high Arctic and are coming down to spend the wintertime in southern latitudes.” Some birds, like snow geese, spend the winter in California. Others only stop briefly before continuing hundreds of miles south. “It’s like stopping on a road trip so anywhere that they can find habitat and find things to eat to put on fat for their journey, they’ll stop,” he says.

But wetlands aren’t as abundant as they once were. Ninety percent of the Central Valley’s historic wetlands have been filled in and dry years like this one make it even tougher. “Many of these

water bird species on the flyway have had long-term declining population trends,” Reynolds says. Reynolds wanted to know where and when the birds need wetlands, so he turned to an app called e-Bird. Birders have used it to report tens of thousands of bird sightings, creating a detailed data set. “What it gives us that we’ve not really had before is for many, many species, we now can look week-by-week at arrival patterns in California,” Reynolds says. In places that lack wetlands, the Nature Conservancy asked rice farmers to put up bids, pricing out how much it would cost to keep their fields flooded.


The group is paying farmers to create about 10,000 acres of these temporary wetlands in February and March. The bidding process is secret, but bids came in both above and below $45 per acre, the payments some farmers get from federal conservation programs. Thomas says his cost is largely labor. “It’ll push back our planting cycle,” he says. “We can’t get into our fields earlier. So we’re putting harder, longer hours on our tractor and our crew. We’re taking a greater risk doing this.” Thomas will keep two-to-four inches of water on his fields for four weeks. The water level is tailored for shorebirds, like long-billed dowitchers, sandpipers, and godwits. Nature Conservancy economist Eric Hallstein says the payments help offset the farmers’ risks and are a cost-effective way to create habitat. “The traditional model in conservation – it’s actually to permanently buy a piece of property or an easement,” Hallstein says. “It’s very expensive, prohibitively expensive. And also, we don’t want to displace farmers from that property.” Douglas Thomas sees a more personal upside. “Northern pintail is my favorite bird,” he says. “It’s such a graceful, amazing creature. And that we’re part of that annual cycle, that’s a neat, special thing.” By April, his fields will be dry and the birds will be on their way back north.



Birds Find An Unlikely Resting Place In Drought-Stricken California

By Joanna M. Foster on January 28, 2014

The Nature Conservancy is teaming up with rice farmers in the Central Valley to create temporary wetlands exactly where migratory birds need it most.



California drought has ranchers selling cattle

AP News | Jan 27, 2014

AROMAS, Calif. (AP) — In January, business at the 101 Livestock Market’s cattle auction on California’s Central Coast is usually slow. The busy season is normally in June or July, when ranchers have had time to fatten their animals for weeks on spring grasses. This year, however, business is bustling, with packed pens of moaning cattle and cowboys standing on tip-toe to get a glance at their potential prizes.

Because of historically dry conditions, California’s soil moisture — a key ingredient for the forage that cattle graze on — is low throughout the state. With feed costs high and weeks of dry weather in the forecast, ranchers are already selling off parts of their herds as normally green grazing pastures have turned brown. “We’re in the drought now, so a lot of these are going back to Texas,” said rancher and auction house co-owner Monty Avery, gesturing to a pen packed full of cows. “We usually sell about 100-150 animals per week. Now we’re seeing 800-1,000 per week, so the volume’s jumped up.”

Gov. Jerry Brown has formally proclaimed a drought in California, a move that codified what farmers and ranchers in the state had known for weeks. The U.S. Drought Monitor has said there are “extreme drought” conditions in central and northern California, where much of the state’s ranching is located….



California drought: communities at risk of running dry in 100 days

Kurtis Alexander SF Chronicle Updated 8:51 am, Thursday, January 30, 2014

A discarded tire is seen stuck in the exposed lake bed of the Almaden Reservoir which is experiencing extremely low water levels due to the ongoing drought, in San Jose. Photo: Michael Short, The Chronicle

Plant restoration as seen at the Wildlife Refuge, on Friday Jan. 11, 2013, is well on it’s way after being planted seven years ago in San Joaquin Co., Calif. Some 1,600 acres of former farmland at the confluence of the Tuolumne and San Joaquin rivers near Modesto are being restored to its natural state as a floodplain. Riparian vegetation and bird habitat are being restored at Dos Rios Ranch, which is right across the river from another former ranch called Three Amigos, that has already been restored and is now known as the San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge. Photo: Michael Macor, The Chronicle


It is a bleak roadmap of the deepening crisis brought on by one of California’s worst droughts – a list of 17 communities and water districts that within 100 days could run dry of the state’s most precious commodity. The threatened towns and districts, identified this week by state health officials, are mostly small and in rural areas. They get their water in a variety of ways, from reservoirs to wells to rivers. But, in all cases, a largely rainless winter has left their supplies near empty. In the Bay Area, Cloverdale and Healdsburg in Sonoma County are among those at risk of running out of water, according to the state. The small Lompico Water District in the Santa Cruz Mountains is also on the list. Others could be added if the dry weather lingers.

“These systems all are experiencing challenges meeting customer need, and those challenges are exacerbated by drought conditions,” said Matt Conens, a spokesman for the California Department of Public Health. The health department is looking to help the communities in several ways, Conens said. In some areas, new wells will be dug. In others, water may be hauled in. In some cases, smaller water systems will be connected with larger ones.

Drought emergency

The state’s offer to provide assistance follows Gov. Jerry Brown‘s declaration of a drought emergency this month, which gives state agencies expanded powers and the flexibility to intervene.

In the mountain town of Lompico in Santa Cruz County, the creek that provides the community with water has run dry, while three wells that tap an underground aquifer aren’t drawing as much as usual.

The water district has required its 1,200 or so customers to scale back water use by 30 percent to preserve what little water it has, but officials aren’t sure the conservation targets are realistic.

“Here’s the problem: We live in the Santa Cruz Mountains. People don’t have lawns. They don’t have gardens. How are they going to conserve 30 percent?” said Lois Henry, president of the Lompico Water District board. The district has begun exploring opportunities to expand its supplies, perhaps upgrading wells or working with a neighboring water district. But the options are costly and could take time – quandaries that Henry expects to discuss with the state. In Healdsburg, where the low-flowing Russian River threatens to undermine city wells, the mayor spoke with state officials this week about tapping additional wells in the nearby Dry Creek Valley, according to the city manager’s office. The city has the right to use the Dry Creek wells, but only for part of the year – and not until spring.

City Manager Marjie Pettus said lining up the additional water is a precautionary measure. Despite Healdsburg’s listing on the state’s most-vulnerable roster, she said, the city is not at risk of running dry.

“We do not anticipate having any difficulty meeting demand,” she said. Healdsburg was one of the first cities in the North Bay to enact mandatory conservation measures, imposing rules on homes and businesses last week. People can water landscaping only on certain days, while washing cars and filling swimming pools are prohibited. Willits, in Mendocino County, is also on the state’s list – and it, too, has declared a water shortage and passed mandatory conservation measures. City leaders said the move is a bid to keep the two reservoirs that provide city water from running dry in the spring should the drought persist.

‘Preparing for worst’

“While we are hoping for the best, we want to be proactive in preparing for the worst,” said City Manager Adrienne Moore. A weather system rolling through the Bay Area this week is bringing some needed rain, but not enough of it. Until Wednesday, most of the state had seen little or no rainfall this month, setting up California for a third consecutive dry rainy season. The Bay Area has seen less than 10 percent of the rainfall it ordinarily sees by this point in the season, and forecasters say rain would have to fall every day through May – and heavily – to bring conditions back to normal. In addition to the Bay Area districts, the systems and communities in danger run from Kern County to the south through the Sierra Nevada foothills to the north. The districts at risk serve from 39 to 11,000 residents.

Communities at risk

State public health officials have identified 17 towns and water districts that could run out of water within 100 days if nothing is done to enhance their supplies:

  • Shaver Lake Heights Mutual Water Company (Fresno County)
  • Sierra Cedars Community Services District (Fresno County)
  • Bass Lake Water Company (Madera County)
  • Whispering Pines Apartments (Mariposa County)
  • Boulder Canyon Water Association (Kern County)
  • Cypress Canyon Water System (Kern County)
  • Lake Of The Woods Mutual Water Company (Kern County)
  • Camp Condor (Kern County)
  • Jackson Valley Irrigation District (Amador County)
  • City of Willits (Mendocino County)
  • Redwood Valley Community Water District (Mendocino County)
  • Brooktrail Township Community Services District (Mendocino County)
  • Washington Ridge Conservation Camp (Nevada County)
  • Ophir Gardens (Placer County)
  • Lompico Water District (Santa Cruz County)
  • City of Cloverdale (Sonoma County)
  • City of Healdsburg (Sonoma County)



Jay Lund and Ellen Hanak: Resistance is futile — 10 inevitable water changes [in California]

Posted January 11, 2014 at 6 p.m. “Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt” — anonymous

Water policy in California has always been about making and resisting change. The gold mining period, the growth of agriculture and cities, and today’s environmental priorities all led to fundamental changes in water and land management, law and regulation. These changes were driven by environmental degradation and the evolution of California’s economic structure and societal priorities. Change has rarely happened quickly, and it has usually been controversial….California water policy and management will need to prepare for these seeming inevitabilities and find solutions that support a strong economy and a healthy environment, while easing transitions for vulnerable groups. Here is our list of 10 changes to come:

1. Parts of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta will permanently flood….

2. Reduced diversions of water from the Delta also seem inevitable….

3. The Tulare Basin and San Joaquin River regions will have less irrigated agriculture. ….

4. Urban areas will use less water per capita, reuse more wastewater and capture more stormwater. ….

5. Some native species will become unsustainable in the wild despite protective efforts. ….

6. Funding for water system solutions will become even more local and regional. ….

7. State and federal regulations will increasingly drive water management. ….

8. Groundwater in many agricultural areas will be increasingly contaminated by nitrate. ….

9. California’s groundwater will become more tightly and formally managed. ….

10. The Salton Sea will be largely abandoned by humans, fish and waterfowl. ….

Most of these changes will be accompanied by prolonged angst, as well as studies, controversies and expense. After all, the details of how each change is managed are worth millions of dollars to individual stakeholder groups. Forward-looking adaptive actions are likely to reduce the pain and improve the prospects for water supporting the kind of society, economy and environment that Californians desire. That will require facing change head on and planning for the inevitable, rather than wishfully thinking that California can avoid change.



Big Dam Turnaround: In the latest twist in society’s love-hate relationship with dams, the structures could serve as engineered resilience to climate change.

Shasta Dam, California ©

@VirginiaGewin Freelance science journalist

January 27, 2014 — It’s official: Last year was Australia’s hottest on record. As temperatures go up Down Under, so do concerns about how to keep rivers cool in a warming world. Ironically, the soundest solution could mean tapping into what has long been considered a pollutant. Until recently, scientists only studied how cold water releases from dams can send a thermal shock to downstream aquatic species — impacting fish growth and reproduction. But, not long from now due to the changing climate, what was a thermal shock could be a cool splash of relief, as dam managers increase efforts to mimic the timing and quantity of natural stream flows. A growing trickle of evidence, including a 2013 report [PDF] from Australia’s National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility, suggests that dams can provide engineered resilience to climate change — if we can figure out how to dial in a suitable temperature. It’s a strategy dam managers around the world are exploring. Dams have, unquestionably, altered stream ecology — and have long been vilified for blocking fish migrations. But the deep reservoirs of dammed water do something free-flowing rivers can’t: stratify so that the cooler layers settle to the bottom, blanketed by the lower density, sun-kissed surface waters. And most dams, especially those in Australia, are built to release water from the chilliest lower levels. Australia is feeling the heat sooner than most. Melbourne’s average annual number of days above 35 C (95 F) are expected to increase — from nine days currently to 26 by 2070 — meaning, among other things, Australia’s native freshwater fishes face an uncertain future. “We don’t have a lot of room to play with here in Australia because the continent is generally flat, so fish can’t easily swim up in altitude to find cooler water,” says Jamie Pittock, an international expert on the sustainable management of water at Australian National University in Canberra…..


These Backpacks For Cow Farts Reduce Climate Change And Generate Power

Bovine farts are powerful enough to power your refrigerator. The trick, which this gear nicely solves, is capturing the gas that is passed.

January 28, 2014

Argentine researchers are using special backpacks made for cows to capture cow belches and turn them into power while fighting climate change. The cows are each hooked up to tubes that carry flatulence away from the cow’s digestive system and store the gas in a balloon-like bag on their backs. Since their belches are mostly made up of methane–the main component of natural gas–the contents of the backpack can be converted into energy that can actually be used. Is it time for a war on cows? A cow can produce up to 300 liters of methane a day, which is enough to keep a refrigerator running for the same amount of time. While cattle aren’t likely to replace standard power plants anytime soon (read: ever), the power could be useful for people living off-grid. “We believe that today it could be used in areas where conventional energy is not available,” Guillermo Berra, the scientist working on the project at Argentina’s National Institute of Agricultural Technology, told the BBC. Argentina might be a good candidate for that type of alternative power, since the country has more than 50 million cows in rural areas (more cows, in fact, than people in the country). But the biggest benefit of the technology, if it takes off beyond the researchers’ experiments, is the potential to help curb climate change…..










Jekyll And Hyde: The Two Sides Of Obama’s Energy Strategy

By Joe Romm on January 28, 2014 at 10:39 pm

CREDIT: C-SPAN In his State of the Union address on Tuesday, President Obama once again tried to reconcile the split personality of his energy policy.

On the one hand, the President clearly stated his Dr. Jekyll commitment to cutting carbon pollution and fighting climate change. But not before he pushed his Mr. Hyde expansion of domestic fossil fuel production, starting early in the speech, where he touted this success: “More oil produced at home than we buy from the rest of the world –- the first time that’s happened in nearly twenty years.” And he repeated this theme when he began the energy and climate part of his speech: The all-of-the-above energy strategy I announced a few years ago is working, and today, America is closer to energy independence than we’ve been in decades…. It’s not just oil and natural gas production that’s booming; we’re becoming a global leader in solar, too. Finally, he touted his climate policy: “Over the past eight years, the United States has reduced our total carbon pollution more than any other nation on Earth. But we have to act with more urgency -– because a changing climate is already harming western communities struggling with drought, and coastal cities dealing with floods. That’s why I directed my administration to work with states, utilities, and others to set new standards on the amount of carbon pollution our power plants are allowed to dump into the air. The shift to a cleaner energy economy won’t happen overnight, and it will require tough choices along the way. But the debate is settled. Climate change is a fact. And when our children’s children look us in the eye and ask if we did all we could to leave them a safer, more stable world, with new sources of energy, I want us to be able to say yes, we did.”

The climate passage is great. It shows that he is committed to using the power he has to cut carbon pollution without waiting for Congress to act. But it is surprising that he stuck with his “all of the above” framing — given that just one week ago the leaders of pretty much every major environmental organization in the country sent him a letter saying this approach is fundamentally incompatible with his climate policy….


The New Farm Bill: Yet Again, Not Ready for Climate Change

Mother Jones

Jan 31 2014


Written by

Tom Philpott


Wouldn’t you push for a robust, climate change-ready agriculture—one that stores carbon in the soil, helping stabilize the climate while also making farms more resilient to weather extremes?


What The New Farm Bill Means For Energy And The Environment

By Katie Valentine on January 29, 2014

Conservation programs, renewable energy, and agriculture are all affected by this year’s Farm Bill.


Wilderness Act Turns 50; Local Celebration Plans Underway

(Martinez News-Gazette, 01/28/14)
The Wilderness Act continues to protect pure lands with the yearly possibility of new designations. Currently, California focus areas of the Wilderness Society are the Sierra Nevada, the San Gabriel Mountains and the California Desert. In California, there are 25 national parks, 18 national forests, 270 state parks and beaches and over 15 million acres of BLM lands.

The Extraordinary Climate And Environmental Legacy Of Henry Waxman

By Ryan Koronowski on January 30, 2014 at 4:29 pm

Following 40 years of sustained fighting on behalf of human health, the environment, and a livable climate, Congressman Henry Waxman (D-CA) announced on Thursday that he would retire from Congress after this year…..


Lord Stern: I should have been fiercer in climate change review

The Guardian January 23, 2014

Global temperatures are set to be 4-5C higher in the next century and governments are fooling themselves if they think this will only have a modest impact on their economies, says Stern….


Accidents surge as oil industry takes the train. NY TIMES

The transport of domestic oil by rail has increased rapidly in recent years, because of the lack of pipeline capacity. The trains often travel through populated areas, leading to concerns among residents over the hazards they can pose, including spills and fires.


Final State Water Action Plan released: Outlines California’s near- and long-term water priorities

Maven’s Notebook January 27, 2014 ….”As California experiences one of the driest winters on record, the California Natural Resources Agency, the California Environmental Protection Agency, and the California Department of Food and Agriculture released the final California Water Action Plan, laying out goals and vision for the next five years. The plan will guide state efforts to enhance water supply reliability, restore damaged and destroyed ecosystems, and improve the resilience of our infrastructure…. The Governor’s proposed 2014-15 budget lays a solid fiscal foundation for implementing near-term actions for the plan, recommending $618.7 million in funding for water efficiency projects, wetland and watershed restoration, groundwater programs, conservation, flood control, and integrated water management…. Final revisions to the draft plan, released in October, include an expanded section on drought response and a new effort focused on better management of Sierra Nevada headwaters that helps water storage and quality, and ecosystems. Public comment on the draft plan made it clear that California must better understand the economic and ecological harm of sustained dry weather. The Governor’s proposed budget would provide $472.5 million in Proposition 84 funds to the Department of Water Resources (DWR) for integrated regional water management. The bond funds would leverage local and federal investment in projects that reduce demand, build supply, and offer additional benefits such as wildlife habitat and flood management. The budget also placed immediate emphasis on water and energy use efficiency and wetlands and coastal watershed restoration to further support the resiliency of water supply and ecosystems during this dry weather period.

The governor’s budget also would allow DWR to better monitor the groundwater resources that provide more than one-third of California’s supplies in dry years, and supports the development of a state backstop for sustainable groundwater management practices by the State Water Resources Control Board, should local efforts to do so not materialize…. Key actions identified in the Plan include:

  • Make conservation a California way of life.
  • Increase regional self-reliance and integrated water management across all levels of government.
  • Achieve the co-equal goals for the Delta.
  • Protect and restore important ecosystems.
  • Manage and prepare for dry periods.
  • Expand water storage capacity and improve groundwater management.
  • Provide safe water for all communities.
  • Increase flood protection.
  • Increase operational and regulatory efficiency.
  • Identify sustainable and integrated financing opportunities.

The report is available here.


Bay Area Democrats, Central Valley GOP clash over water

Carolyn Lochhead SF Chronicle Updated 10:41 pm, Wednesday, January 29, 2014

 Washington — Republican leaders are expected to pave the way for House consideration as early as next week of a bill to halt the restoration of the San Joaquin River and send water south to Central Valley farms. The move by GOP Reps. Devin Nunes of Tulare, Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield and David Valadao of Hanford (Kings County) infuriated Bay Area Democrats, who noted that the bill would do nothing for communities, mostly in Northern California, that the state says are on the verge of running out of water. It also evoked the wrath of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat who has often broken with her party to secure more water for Central Valley farms. The GOP lawmakers introduced the Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley Emergency Water Delivery Act on Wednesday, just two days after their 11th-hour effort to insert a drought policy rider into the giant five-year farm bill was rejected by the House and Senate agriculture committees. “My constituents are suffering from drought conditions severely exacerbated by erroneous federal regulations,” Valadao said in a statement announcing the bill. The bill is expected to bypass committee consideration and go directly to the House floor. Lawmakers are considering a fast-track procedure that requires assent of two-thirds of the House and is usually reserved for noncontroversial bills. Given staunch Democratic opposition, use of the procedure would all but ensure its defeat. Rep. Jared Huffman, a San Rafael Democrat who sits on the water subcommittee that normally would consider such legislation, called the maneuver “pure political theater” that would allow Republicans to blame Democrats for its failure, which he said “will play really well in the deep-red part of the San Joaquin Valley.” Huffman, whose district includes the North Coast, noted that the Sonoma County towns of Healdsburg and Cloverdale and Willits in Mendocino County are on a state list of communities that have less than 100 days of water remaining.

Marin County organic dairies are getting “hammered,” he said, because organic milk requires local, organic grass, and pastures are dry, he said. “Forage losses are now at 100 percent in most of Marin County.” The Republicans’ bill would permanently repeal the effort to reconnect the San Joaquin River to San Francisco Bay, which requires increased releases from the Friant Dam east of Fresno. It would also cap water allocations for environmental restorations at 800,000 acre-feet from the current 1.2 million acre-feet….


Global Warming Battle Is Over Market Share, Not Science

By Barry Ritholtz, Bloomberg January 27, 2014  Last week, the New York Times reported that venerable Dow Jones Industrial Average component Coca-Cola Co. was awakening to the impact of climate change on its business. The increase in unpredictable weather, droughts, floods and other climate-related events was disrupting the company’s product supply. Some of their “essential ingredients” are now under threat. Global warming, according to the article, is being seen “as a force that contributes to lower gross domestic products, higher food and commodity costs, broken supply chains and increased financial risk.” This debate is no longer about whether global warming is real (it is) or whether humans are the most likely cause (you are), but rather, some very interesting and different questions that might be more professionally relevant to finance: How is this going to affect business? What are the investing consequences? Who will be the financial winners and losers of climate change? Investors should be considering this as a fight over market share, not a scientific debate…..






New Paper on Developing Local Renewable Energy
January 29, 2014 Climate Protection Campaign

The Climate Protection Campaign has just released “Local Energy Resources Development – Planning Concepts.” It is a living document intended to help stimulate a growing conversation about local energy resource development enabled by Sonoma Clean Power. The document describes the Climate Protection Campaign’s vision, approach, and other thoughts about the best ways to advance a local clean energy economy. “Planning Concepts” also presents several potential programs that Sonoma Clean Power might initiate…..

China installed record amounts of solar power in 2013. But coal is still winning. January 31, 2014 Washington Post

In 2013, China added at least 12 gigawatts of solar capacity – 50 percent more than any country has ever built in a single year. Impressive. But let’s also put this in context….


Put a plastic bag in your tank: Converting polyethylene waste into liquid fuel
(January 27, 2014) — Researchers in India have developed a relatively low-temperature process to convert certain kinds of plastic waste into liquid fuel as a way to reuse discarded plastic bags and other products. … > full story

Electrical current sensors harvest wasted electromagnetic energy
(January 27, 2014) — Electricity is the lifeblood of modern cities. It flows at every moment and everywhere to power up everything from home appliances which improve our comfort and convenience, to services like transportation, building, communication and manufacturing that are essential to our daily life. To ensure a reliable operation of power grids and a proper delivery of electricity to where it needs to be, it is crucial to have a loyal guard to keep watch on the activities of electricity transport. As technology advances, the safety, reliability and availability of electrical engineering assets and public utilities can now be guarded by one tiny chip of electrical current sensors. … > full story


One step closer to low cost solar cells
(January 27, 2014) — The dwindling resources for conventional energy sources make renewable energy an exciting and increasingly important avenue of research. However, even seemingly new and green forms of energy production, like silicon-based solar cells, are not as cost effective as they could be. Scientists are now investigating solar cells based on organic materials that have electrodes both flexible and transparent, enabling the fabrication of these solar cells at a low cost. … > full story


Oil drilling on US Arctic coast put on ice. AP January 30, 2014 Oil companies’ rush to find reserves off Alaska’s Arctic shores suffered a setback on Thursday after Shell said it would suspend its operations in the region — and possibly withdraw for good. Shell is the main company to have purchased leases for oilfields off Alaska’s Arctic shores, but its attempts to drill have been halting due to technical and legal hurdles.


Actually, Electric Cars Are Good for the Planet

By Will Oremus January 27 2014

Here’s a news flash, courtesy of tech blog the Verge: “Electric cars won’t save the planet.” The argument, based on a policy analysis from a civil engineering professor at North Carolina State University, hinges on two points.

First, passenger vehicles account for only about 20 percent of U.S. emissions today. So even if they all ran on fairy dust, we’d still be polluting the air in plenty of other ways. And second, electric cars don’t run on fairy dust: Most of them run on power from the U.S. electricity grid, a lot of which comes from burning coal and natural gas (for now, anyway). Both of these things are true, and it’s also true that electric cars on their own won’t save the planet. True, but trivial—and, all in all, a lazy and counterproductive thing to say. Of course electric cars on their own won’t save the planet. Who on Earth would disagree with that? At the risk of belaboring the point, here is a brief partial list off the top of my head of other things that won’t save the planet…. “It’s not that there’s no emissions benefit from electric drive vehicles,” the paper’s author, Joseph DeCarolis, told me in a phone interview. “It’s that there’s all this other stuff going on in this larger energy system that effects overall emissions.” As is often the case, the headlines don’t match what the study actually says. …



Towards a Sustainable School Cafeteria

[about my sister’s work in NYC!]

Karen Moline, TruthAtlas Special Correspondent • Jan. 28, 2014 • Innovators, Special FeatureComments (0) • 131

Debby Lee Cohen showing second graders from PS 20 Manhattan how to make whiskers for styro hand-puppets; as a part of Cafeteria Culture’s “ARTS+ACTION, Make Change Messaging workshop.” Photo by Atsuko Quirk for Cafeteria Culture.

NEW YORK, NY–”It’s not easy being green,” sang Sesame Street’s Kermit the Frog. He may have been lamenting his skin color, but he could just have easily been lamenting the destruction of our environment and the unwitting hazards placed in front of our children. This hit home for 54-year-old New Yorker Debby Lee Cohen when she took her daughter Anna, now 12, to a climate-change exhibit at the Museum of Natural History in 2009. Anna stared at one diorama in particular–a polar bear sitting on a pile of trash. “When we got home, she told me she didn’t want to eat school lunches anymore, because she wanted to save the polar bears,” Debby Lee says. “It took me a year to realize she’d connected the Styrofoam trash in the diorama with what she was handed in the school cafeteria.”….














Webinar Recording Available: Metadata for Documenting and Sharing Geospatial Data

Click here to watch this webinar by Deanne DiPietro, CA LCC Data Manager, on what geospatial metadata is and why it is important for internal data management and climate-smart planning. A second webinar on creating FGDC standard metadata using ESRI’s Arc Catalog will be advertised soon. The previously advertised date has been postponed. Click here to access resources on this topic.


SF Bay State of the Estuary Conference Report



Lake Tahoe’s Pioneering Approach to
Regional Sustainability Planning

Congratulations to the Lake Tahoe Sustainability Collaborative, Tahoe Basin Partnership for Sustainable Communities, Tahoe Metropolitan Planning Organization (TMPO), and Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA) for the release of the Lake Tahoe Sustainability Action Plan. This is a major milestone for the Lake Tahoe Sustainable Communities Program.The Sustainability Action Plan is a toolkit for Tahoe Region agencies to consistently incorporate sustainability into all aspects of planning. Many cross-cutting sustainability strategies are addressed, including greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction, climate change adaptation and resilience, natural resource protection, community health, social equity, and economic prosperity. The plan empowers the community to participate by offering ideas to residents, businesses, schools, and visitors to reduce their own environmental impact and help implement the plan…




Thursday, February 6th at 3:30 p.m. ET to discuss Restore America’s Estuaries’ upcoming landmark blue carbon report which for the first time, documents the climate benefits of restoration efforts at-scale. The report will be released at 9:30 ET on the 6th. 


WHEN: Thursday, February 6, 2014 Time: 3:30 p.m. ET


HOW: To receive the webinar link and dial-in passcode, register here: To    Please note that webinar space is limited.


The webinar will feature two of the report’s authors: Dr. Steve Crooks (ESA) and Steve Emmett-Mattox (RAE) who will share information about the exciting results and national implications. The report: “Coastal Blue Carbon Opportunity Assessment for the Snohomish Estuary: The Climate Benefits of Estuary Restoration,” provides a much needed approach for determining blue carbon benefits of restoration in other geographic areas. More information on RAE’s Blue Carbon efforts, please check out our website. This report was a collaborative effort of Restore America’s Estuaries, Environmental Science Associates (ESA), EarthCorps, and Western Washington University and lead funding was provided by NOAA’s Office of Habitat Conservation, and additional support was provided by The Boeing Company and the Wildlife Forever Fund. We hope you can join us.


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….The course will describe California’s unique challenges and opportunities in managing its 1,100 miles of coastline, bays/estuaries, and marine protected areas under climate impacts.  It will also discuss case studies to show examples of responses to climate impacts. The second Climate College course will consist of a 7-part lecture series with the first class scheduled for 2pm on Monday, February 10th in the Resources Building Auditorium at 1416 9th Street, Sacramento.  Remaining classes are still being planned, and will be posted as they are confirmed.  We encourage all who are interested to participate either in person or via WebEx.  Please check this web page for future updates:


The Biology of Soil Compaction February 11, 2014
2PM Eastern / 11AM Pacific

Jim Hoorman Extension Educator, Cover Crops and Water Quality, The Ohio State University 

This webinar is presented by the USDA NRCS National Soil Health and Sustainability Team located at the East National Technology Support Center.  Join the Webinar  Save to Calendar 

Related Files  AEX-543-09 The Biology of Soil Compaction.pdf (1159Kb)



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






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.This two-day event will cover a range of critical drought topics, including current drought conditions, the outlook for continued drought, impacts and responses among different sectors, drought forecasting and monitoring, early warning information needs and resources, and opportunities to improve drought preparedness, resilience, and readiness. More details will be coming soon.  For now, please hold the dates, and we look forward to seeing you at the Forum.  

Anne Steinemann, Scripps Institution of Oceanography; University of California, San Diego; CIRES / NIDIS University of Colorado, Boulder



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). The course is designed to demystify climate adaptation for application to on-the-ground conservation. It will provide guidance in how to carry out adaptation with intentionality, how to manage for change and not just persistence, how to craft climate-informed conservation goals, and how to integrate adaptation into on-going work. Conservation practitioners and natural resource managers will learn to become savvy consumers of climate information, tools, and models. Register online at . 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  

Contact for Content Questions: Christy Coghlan at 304/876-7438 or



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

Most Americans accept the reality of climate disruption and climate impacts are beginning to act as a wake-up call for many. Engaging key stakeholders and the public in preparing for and reducing the risks from these impacts is essential.  This engagement requires approaches that recognize how people process risk, such as the importance of values, identities, and peer groups. Join environmental communication expert Cara Pike for an in-depth training in public engagement best practices for climate change. Participants will have an opportunity to design strategies for reaching and motivating target audiences, and be part of a unique problem-solving approach where a common public engagement challenge is tackled collaboratively.

Intended Audience:

Coastal resource managers, government staff, public engagement staff, outreach specialists and environmental interpreters

Workshop Format: This one-day workshop will be held in two locations, the registration fee is $60 for either, and includes your attendance in a follow-up webinar that will take place on March 19, 2014 more details to follow.  The fee also includes lunch and materials.

Important Registration and Payment Details Please note, you must pre-register, and we must receive your payment no later than 5 p.m. on February 10, 2013 for us to reserve a spot for you at the workshop. Your registration will not be completed without payment received by this date.  Please pay by credit card from this site or, if sending a check, make it payable to Elkhorn Slough Foundation. Mail to: Elkhorn Slough Foundation ATTN: Virginia Guhin 1700 Elkhorn Road Watsonville, CA 95076

Follow-up Webinar – March 19 from 10:00am-11:30am (for all workshop attendees) additional details will be emailed to registered attendees and shared at workshop.  This workshop is complementary to the February 4 and February 6 training (Communicating Climate Change: Effective skills for engaging stakeholders, partners and the public.)


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


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

By now we are all familiar with our collective role in polluting the planet, the ocean included. But we are also critical for the many potential solutions. Please join us for a morning of lively discussions about the many scales of problems and solutions, ranging from the small plastic nurdles to a state-size garbage patch, from the deep sea to the intertidal, from local policies to the international arena.  Discussions will occur around plenary sessions featuring internationally-recognized scientists, a research poster session, and exhibitry throughout the day.

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


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



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:






Point Blue Conservation Science is a renowned, award-winning non-profit working to reduce the impacts of accelerating changes in climate, land-use and the ocean on wildlife and people while promoting climate-smart conservation. At the core of our work is ecosystem science using long-term data to identify and evaluate both natural and human-driven changes over time. We work hand-in-hand with public and private natural resource managers from the Sierra to the sea and Alaska to Antarctica studying birds and ecosystems. Founded in 1965 as Point Reyes Bird Observatory, the organization has tripled in size over the last decade, and currently has a $10M annual budget with significant growth expected to continue. We seek a qualified CFO, who is passionate about our mission and vision, to join a team of 140+ scientists, informatics experts and educators.  

2015 NOAA Sea Grant John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship

California Sea Grant College Program is now seeking applications for the 2015 NOAA Sea Grant John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship.  Deadline: February 14, 2014

The Knauss Fellowship, established in 1979, provides a unique educational experience to graduate students who have an interest in ocean and coastal resources and in the national policy decisions affecting those resources. 


Western Rivers Conservancy Lands Director

Additional information regarding Olive Grove and Western Rivers Conservancy can be found on our websites.

Vegetation & Fire Ecologist Marin County– The Vegetation and Fire Ecologist will develop, plan, organize and administer the functions and activities of the Vegetation and Biodiversity Management Plan (VBMP) and associated Environmental Impact Report, in order to reduce fire fuels and protect the natural biodiversity of Marin County Parks. Closes 2/18/2014





Startling Number of Scientific Papers Disputed Human-Caused Global Warming …

Weather Channel January 23 2014

Despite searching just over a year’s worth of the scientific literature on global warming and climate change, one man’s exhaustive search could turn up only a single paper that dissented from the consensus view on the human causes of global warming….


Why Birds Attacked the Peace Doves in Rome

National Geographic

 – Jan 27 2014‎


The irony was too much: When Pope Francis and two children released two white “peace doves” at the Apostolic Palace in Vatican City on Sunday, the doves were immediately attacked by other birds, losing feathers and being driven away as a huge crowd 


300,000-year-old hearth found: Microscopic evidence shows repeated fire use in one spot over time
(January 27, 2014) — When did humans really begin to control fire and use it for their daily needs? Scientists discovered in the Qesem Cave, an archaeological site near present-day Rosh Ha’ayin, the earliest evidence — dating to around 300,000 years ago — of unequivocal repeated fire building over a continuous period. These findings help answer the question and hint that those prehistoric humans already had a highly advanced social structure and intellectual capacity. … > full story

Natural plant compound prevents Alzheimer’s disease in mice
(January 27, 2014) — A chemical that’s found in fruits and vegetables from strawberries to cucumbers appears to stop memory loss that accompanies Alzheimer’s disease in mice, scientists have discovered. In experiments on mice that normally develop Alzheimer’s symptoms less than a year after birth, a daily dose of the compound — a flavonol called fisetin — prevented the progressive memory and learning impairments. The drug, however, did not alter the formation of amyloid plaques in the brain, accumulations of proteins which are commonly blamed for Alzheimer’s disease. … > 
full story


Cannabis during pregnancy endangers fetal brain development
(January 27, 2014) — A current study by an international consortium of researchers shows that the consumption of Cannabis during pregnancy can impair the development of the fetus’ brain with long-lasting effects after birth. Cannabis is particularly powerful to derail how nerve cells form connections, potentially limiting the amount of information the affected brain can process. … > full story

Those Beads in Your Body Wash? They’re Harming Ecosystems


 – ‎Jan 26, 2014‎


Drug to reverse breast cancer spread in development
(January 25, 2014) — Researchers are developing a novel compound known to reverse the spread of malignant breast cancer cells. The vast majority of deaths from cancer result from its progressive spread to vital organs, known as metastasis. In breast cancer up to 12,000 patients a year develop this form of the disease, often several years after initial diagnosis of a breast lump. In a recent series of studies, researchers identified a previously unknown critical role for a potential cancer causing gene, Bcl3, in metastatic breast cancer. … > full story







Possible siting of extremely rare North Pacific Right Whale in Baja, likely seen off Farallon Islands National Wildlife Refuge in early January by Point Blue’s Ryan Berger—

American Cetacean Society–

….”The researchers at the Farallon Islands off San Francisco reported possibly seeing a right whale from a distance last month. “Point Blue Conservation Science” [formerly Point Reyes Bird Observatory that manages and does research on the Farallones reported on January 4, 2014 seeing a whale with a V-shaped blow near the Farallon Islands off San Francisco, but the whale was not seen again by other whale-watching operations further south.”


Pics from wildlife cams tell a story (30-pic gallery)

Posted on January 25, 2014 | By (Tom Stienstra)

A series of candid moments with mountain lions, bears and other wildlife, captured with trail cams this winter across the Bay Area and Northern California, show wildlife in a little-seen world where they think nobody is watching.

To get this mountain lion photo, it took five weeks after John Richards mounted a wildlife cam above Foothills Park, located on the Peninsula near Skyline. Photo by John Richards










Sea Stars, formerly referred to as “starfish”, have which of the following characteristics:

(g) a, c, and e

EXPLANATION: Sea stars do have multiple arms, and can regenerate arms when lost, but not two at a time. Some sea stars start with a smaller number of arms and grow more as they get older. Sea stars do have hundreds of tube feet on the bottom of each arm, but there are only two eyes per arm.

Sea Stars Photo Gallery
(National Geographic Website)

Exploring the Rocky Shores of the Southern Oregon Coast
(Oregon Website):

RELATED: Starfish Die-off: What’s Killing Sea Stars Along the California Coastline?
(Los Altos Patch, 01/03/14)
Starfish are mysteriously dying from a ‘sea star wasting disease’ and scientists aren’t sure whom or what to blame.


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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