Conservation Science News Feb 13 2015


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










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Focus of the Week


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

February 12, 2015 The Earth Institute at Columbia University


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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




Megadroughts’ predicted to ravage the Southwest

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


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


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


Current drought unrelated

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

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


Tree-ring records

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








High seas fishing ban could boost global catches, equality

February 12, 2015 University of British Columbia

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


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



Urban pollinators get the job done

Posted: 12 Feb 2015 12:45 PM PST

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


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



This image shows Haiti. Credit: Timothy Townsend

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

February 12, 2015 University of California – Santa Barbara

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




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

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

Posted: 05 Feb 2015 09:31 AM PST

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


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

Panama protects wetlands from construction boom

10 February 2015 BBC News

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




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

Posted: 06 Feb 2015 09:51 AM PST

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




CREDIT: Courtesy of Center For Biological Diversity

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

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

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



Strange newfound fanged frog gives birth to live tadpoles

By David Perlman SF Chronicle February 9, 2015

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


A new species of hummingbird?

Posted: 12 Feb 2015 09:23 AM PST

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





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

Posted on 9 February 2015 by dana1981

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

Ecosystem Changes Amplifying Global Warming

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

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

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

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

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

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

Changes Happening Sooner than Expected

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

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



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

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

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



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

February 2015 USGS WERC

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


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


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

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

Ecosphere Feb 12 2015

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


James H. Thorne, R. M. Boynton, Lorraine E. Flint, and Alan L. Flint 2015. The magnitude and spatial patterns of historical and future hydrologic change in California’s watersheds. Ecosphere 6:art24–art24.

Carbon release from ocean helped end the Ice Age

Posted: 11 Feb 2015 10:20 AM PST

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


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

Posted: 09 Feb 2015 10:07 AM PST

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



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

Global Warming May Boost Dead Zones in Oceans

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

February 10, 2015 |By Niina Heikkinen and ClimateWire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Suzanne Goldenberg Tuesday 10 February 2015 15.22 EST

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

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

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

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

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

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



(Photo: Kayana Szymczak, Getty Images)

Buried in Boston? Blame it on climate change — maybe

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

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

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










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

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

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

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SMAP satellite to measure soil moisture from space

February 13, 2015

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


Storm not nearly enough to bust California drought

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

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

Reservoirs down

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

Warmest year

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







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

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

San Francisco, California | February 04, 2015

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

The report can be found at



Agricultural Movement Tackles Challenges of a Warming World

February 5, 2015 by lisa palmer

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

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



CREDIT: AP Photo/University of Mississippi, Nathan Latil

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

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

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

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




Want to save the planet? Neighbors better allies than family

Posted: 11 Feb 2015 05:29 AM PST

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

Key findings:

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

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

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

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










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

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

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

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

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

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


McGlade, C & Ekins, P. (2015) The geographical distribution of fossil fuels unused when limiting global warming to 2C. Nature,



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

Climate Is Big Issue for Hispanics, and Personal


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

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



State pledges to stop oil firms from tainting aquifers

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

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

February deadline

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



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

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

By Marianne Lavelle The Daily Climate Feb. 2, 2015

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






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

Unusual String Of Bottlenose Dolphin Deaths Linked To BP Oil Spill

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

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


High efficiency concentrating solar cells move to the rooftop

Posted: 05 Feb 2015 09:31 AM PST

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


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

Posted: 09 Feb 2015 10:07 AM PST

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


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

By David R. Baker February 10, 2015 SF Chronicle

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

by Joe Romm Posted on February 12, 2015

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












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

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

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

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

Cost: Nominal fee for lunch

Online registration will be available soon at  

Questions: Ellen Cross, CHARG Facilitator 510.316.9657


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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


INVITATION TO PARTICIPATE  Abstract submission deadline is 1 November 2014 


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



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

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

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



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

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

Click here for more information.




22nd annual conference

California Society for Ecological Restoration (SERCAL)

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

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




First San Joaquin River Restoration Program Science Symposium

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




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

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

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


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

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




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


Science Collaborative Projects

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

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

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


Science Transfer Projects

·       Proposals are due March 27

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

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


All questions about these funding opportunities should be submitted to  For additional information, please visit


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



TomKat Ranch Conservation Ranching Fellowship 2015

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




Public Policy Institute of California’s Water Policy Center










Energy drinks significantly increase hyperactivity in schoolchildren, study finds

Posted: 09 Feb 2015 06:50 AM PST

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


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

Posted: 11 Feb 2015 05:40 PM PST

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


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

Posted: 09 Feb 2015 01:11 PM PST

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


What’s next in diets: Chili peppers?

Posted: 08 Feb 2015 12:27 PM PST

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


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

Posted: 10 Feb 2015 02:04 AM PST

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


Dogs know that smile on your face

Posted: 12 Feb 2015 10:16 AM PST

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













Ellie Cohen, President and CEO

Point Blue Conservation Science (formerly PRBO)

3820 Cypress Drive, Suite 11, Petaluma, CA 94954

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


Point Blue—Conservation science for a healthy planet.


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