Conservation Science News March 13 2015

Focus of the Week
Fresh Water Shortages

1ECOLOGY, BIODIVERSITY, RELATED

2CLIMATE CHANGE AND EXTREME EVENTS with special DROUGHT section

3ADAPTATION and HOPE

4- POLICY

5- RENEWABLES, ENERGY AND RELATED

6-
RESOURCES and REFERENCES

7OTHER NEWS OF INTEREST 

8IMAGES OF THE WEEK

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


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

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

 

 

Focus of the Week– Fresh Water Shortages

 

 

Water stress and climate change. Illustration: Giulio Frigieri

 

Why fresh water shortages will cause the next great global crisis

Last week drought in São Paulo was so bad, residents tried drilling through basement floors for groundwater. As reservoirs dry up across the world, a billion people have no access to safe drinking water. Rationing and a battle to control supplies will follow

 

Robin McKie, science editor theguardian.UK Saturday 7 March 2015 19.05 EST Last modified on Sunday 8 March 2015 16.12 EDT

 

Water is the driving force of all nature, Leonardo da Vinci claimed. Unfortunately for our planet, supplies are now running dry – at an alarming rate. The world’s population continues to soar but that rise in numbers has not been matched by an accompanying increase in supplies of fresh water. The consequences are proving to be profound. Across the globe, reports reveal huge areas in crisis today as reservoirs and aquifers dry up. More than a billion individuals – one in seven people on the planet – now lack access to safe drinking water.

 

Last week in the Brazilian city of São Paulo, home to 20 million people, and once known as the City of Drizzle, drought got so bad that residents began drilling through basement floors and car parks to try to reach groundwater. City officials warned last week that rationing of supplies was likely soon. Citizens might have access to water for only two days a week, they added. In California, officials have revealed that the state has entered its fourth year of drought with January this year becoming the driest since meteorological records began.

 

At the same time, per capita water use has continued to rise. In the Middle East, swaths of countryside have been reduced to desert because of overuse of water. Iran is one of the most severely affected. Heavy overconsumption, coupled with poor rainfall, have ravaged its water resources and devastated its agricultural output. Similarly, the United Arab Emirates is now investing in desalination plants and waste water treatment units because it lacks fresh water. As crown prince General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan admitted: “For us, water is [now] more important than oil.”

 

The global nature of the crisis is underlined in similar reports from other regions. In south Asia, for example, there have been massive losses of groundwater, which has been pumped up with reckless lack of control over the past decade. About 600 million people live on the 2,000km area that extends from eastern Pakistan, across the hot dry plains of northern India and into Bangladesh, and the land is the most intensely irrigated in the world. Up to 75% of farmers rely on pumped groundwater to water their crops and water use is intensifying – at the same time that satellite images shows supplies are shrinking alarmingly.

 

The nature of the problem is revealed by US Geological Survey figures, which show that the total amount of fresh water on Earth comes to about 2,551,100 cubic miles. Combined into a single droplet, this would produce a sphere with a diameter of about 170 miles. However, 99% of that sphere would be made up of groundwater, much of which is not accessible. By contrast, the total volume from lakes and rivers, humanity’s main source of fresh water, produces a sphere that is a mere 35 miles in diameter. That little blue droplet sustains most of the people on Earth – and it is under increasing assault as the planet heats up.

 

Changing precipitation and melting snow and ice are already altering hydrological systems in many regions. Glaciers continue to shrink worldwide, affecting villages and towns downstream. The result, says the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change, is that the fraction of global population experiencing water scarcity is destined to increase throughout the 21st century. More and more, people and nations will have to compete for resources. An international dispute between Egypt and Ethiopia over the latter’s plans to dam the Nile has only recently been resolved.

 

In future, far more serious conflicts are likely to erupt as the planet dries up. Even in high latitudes, the one region on Earth where rainfall is likely to intensify in coming years, climate change will still reduce water quality and pose risks due to a number of factors: rising temperatures; increased levels of sediments, nutrients, and pollutants triggered by heavy rainfall; and disruption of treatment facilities during floods. The world faces a water crisis that will touch every part of the globe, a point that has been stressed by Jean Chrétien, former Canadian prime minister and co-chair of the InterAction Council. “The future political impact of water scarcity may be devastating,” he said. “Using water the way we have in the past simply will not sustain humanity in future.”

 

More on water and drought below…

 

 

 

‘Miracle’ expansion of California coastal sanctuaries

By Carolyn Lochhead SF Chronicle Updated 8:50 pm, Thursday, March 12, 2015

WASHINGTON – After more than a decade of effort by California lawmakers, the Obama administration gave final approval Thursday to a giant expansion of two marine sanctuaries off the coast north of San Francisco that will protect one of the planet’s most prolific ocean ecosystems. The Gulf of the Farallones and Cordell Bank national marine sanctuaries will more than double to become an area nearly the size of Connecticut. The protected area will now extend north to the waters off Mendocino County. The area around the Farallon Islands was first protected in 1981 for its rich bird and sea life. The 2,220-square-mile expansion to the north and west covers ocean where an unusual upwelling of cold water, driven by winds, brings nutrients to shallow coastal areas. That in turn encourages intense plankton blooms, reefs and sponges that provide food for fish, marine mammals such as endangered whales, turtles and birds, including the largest seabird colony on the U.S. mainland. It is one of four such areas in the world. “This protects the food source for the existing sanctuaries,” said Richard Charter, a senior fellow with the nonprofit Ocean Foundation. “This is the base of the food chain.”
Long-sought goal
The final administrative approval came after two legislative near misses by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and former Rep. Lynn Woolsey, a Petaluma Democrat, who repeatedly tried to protect the area through an act of Congress. The plan had nearly unanimous local support but faced national opposition from the oil and gas industry, which will be barred from exploring the area under the federal designation. Woolsey started the effort in 1998 and engineered House passage in 2008. Boxer got a companion version through the Senate Commerce Committee in 2009 and 2012, but it failed to reach final passage. When Woolsey retired in 2012, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco asked her if she had any parting wishes. “I said, ‘I want this Sonoma coast national marine sanctuary to be signed into law,'” Woolsey said in a telephone interview from her home in Petaluma. Pelosi made the request to President Obama and ensured that the administration followed up. “Nancy was the one who brought it home,” Woolsey said.
Proud moment for Boxer
Boxer said she considers the expansion one of her top legacies as she heads into retirement in less than two years. “It includes the entire Sonoma County coastline, and anyone who’s driven up the coast knows it takes your breath away,” Boxer said. “It also preserves part of the Mendocino coastline forever.” That includes a permanent ban on oil and gas drilling, discharges from cruise ships and other vessels, and any disturbance of the seabed by mining, Boxer said. The administration announced its proposal in late 2012 and held seven jammed local hearings conducted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Last-minute objections from national Coast Guard officials worried about access to the area threatened to delay the project past the end of Obama’s second term, but they were ultimately resolved, Woolsey said. Gulf of the Farallones Superintendent Maria Brown said the agency had received more than 1,300 comments on the proposal and that public reaction was overwhelmingly supportive. Woolsey said the public comments improved the plan by leading to an expansion of the sanctuaries farther up the Mendocino coastline.
Big Oil battle
The administrative action skirts resistance by the oil and gas industry and Republicans who, according to Woolsey, shut down attempts to protect the area legislatively after taking over the House majority in 2010. Rep. Jared Huffman, the San Rafael Democrat who succeeded Woolsey, said getting any environmental protection laws through the current Congress is a long shot. “I’m glad the administration stepped up and used its authority as prior administrations, both Republican and Democrat, have done,” Huffman said. “The whole California coast has been in the crosshairs of oil and gas development for a long time.” The expansion of the Farallon and Cordell sanctuaries arrives nearly on the one-year anniversary of Obama’s use of the Antiquities Act to declare national-monument status for 1,600 acres of coastline abutting the sanctuaries.
‘War on nature’
Charter said the expansion of the sanctuaries also protects the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary to the south. “If one were to drop a few offshore drilling rigs off Point Arena, which has been in the works for a long time, one could easily contaminate all three sanctuaries and everything that lives in them,” Charter said. “It’s ironic that against the backdrop of this war on nature that we’re seeing in the U.S. Congress right now, we are able to suddenly pull off this long-sought result of permanent protection for this spectacular piece of coast,” Charter said. “That is just a miracle.”

Bottom of Form

 

How rivers creep, flow to shape landscapes over time

March 9, 2015 University of Pennsylvania

Most models predict that rivers only transport sediment during conditions of high flow and, moreover, that only particles on the surface of the river bed move due to the force of the flowing water above. But using a custom laboratory apparatus, a new study shows that, even when a river is calm, sediment on and beneath the river bed slowly creeps forward…Most models predict that rivers only transport sediment during conditions of high flow and, moreover, that only particles on the surface of the river bed move due to the force of the flowing water above. But using a custom laboratory apparatus, a new study led by Jerolmack shows that, even when a river is calm, sediment on and beneath the river bed slowly creeps forward. The study’s new model of sediment transport — involving both the motion of surface grains pushed by flowing water and the creep beneath the surface resulting from interactions among particles — may substantially improve geologists’ abilities to predict erosion rates and landscape evolution over time and could also help inform future civil engineering projects.

 

Morgane Houssais, Carlos P. Ortiz, Douglas J. Durian, Douglas J. Jerolmack. Onset of sediment transport is a continuous transition driven by fluid shear and granular creep. Nature Communications, 2015; 6: 6527 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms7527

 

Hunting, birdwatching boosts conservation action, study finds

Posted: 10 Mar 2015 04:38 AM PDT

What inspires people to support conservation? A new study provides one simple answer: bird watching and hunting. The contributions of individuals who identified as both bird watchers and hunters were evident: on average, this group was about eight times more likely than non-recreationists to engage in conservation.…This survey of conservation activity among rural landowners in Upstate New York considered a range of possible predictors such as gender, age, education, political ideology, and beliefs about the environment. All other factors being equal, bird watchers are about five times as likely, and hunters about four times as likely, as non-recreationists to engage in wildlife and habitat conservation. Both bird watchers and hunters were more likely than non-recreationists to enhance land for wildlife, donate to conservation organizations, and advocate for wildlife-all actions that significantly impact conservation success. The contributions of individuals who identified as both bird watchers and hunters were even more pronounced. On average, this group was about eight times more likely than non-recreationists to engage in conservation. ….”Managers often discuss direct and indirect links between wildlife recreation and conservation,” said study co-author Dr. Lincoln Larson, now at Clemson University. “Our findings not only validate this connection, but reveal the unexpected strength of the conservation-recreation relationship.”

The study, published in the Journal of Wildlife Management, speaks to wildlife agency managers. Findings could assuage concerns about diminishing support for conservation in the United States and its historic ties (both socially and economically) to hunting, an activity that has been declining for decades. “Our results provide hope for wildlife agencies, organizations, and citizens concerned about conservation,” offers study co-author Dr. Ashley Dayer of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. “Bird watchers, a group not traditionally thought of as a constituency by many wildlife management agencies, have real potential to be conservation supporters, if appropriate mechanisms for them to contribute are available.”…

 

Caren Cooper, Lincoln Larson, Ashley Dayer, Richard Stedman, Daniel Decker. Are wildlife recreationists conservationists? Linking hunting, birdwatching, and pro-environmental behavior. The Journal of Wildlife Management, 2015; DOI: 10.1002/jwmg.855

 

Epoch-defining study pinpoints when humans came to dominate planet Earth

Posted: 11 Mar 2015 01:04 PM PDT

The human-dominated geological epoch known as the Anthropocene probably began around the year 1610, with an unusual drop in atmospheric carbon dioxide and the irreversible exchange of species between the New and Old Worlds, according to new research.

 

Rescued sea lions recuperated at the Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach, Calif., last month. In a normal January, animal rescuers will find about 20 to 40 stranded sea lions. This year they reported 250. Credit Kendrick Brinson for The New York Times

Starving Sea Lions Washing Ashore by the Hundreds in California

By JACK HEALY NY Times March 13, 2015

Animal rescuers are reporting five times more sea lion rescues than normal. Experts suspect unusually warm waters are driving mothers away to look for food, leaving pups to swim from home….Experts suspect that unusually warm waters are driving fish and other food away from the coastal islands where sea lions breed and wean their young. As the mothers spend time away from the islands hunting for food, hundreds of starving pups are swimming away from home and flopping ashore from San Diego to San Francisco…Many of the pups are leaving the Channel Islands, an eight-island chain off the Southern California coast, in a desperate search for food. But they are too young to travel far, dive deep or truly hunt on their own, scientists said. This year, animal rescuers are reporting five times more sea lion rescues than normal — 1,100 last month alone. The pups are turning up under fishing piers and in backyards, along inlets and on rocky cliffs. One was found curled up in a flower pot.

 

Honey, I shrunk the ants: How environment controls size

Posted: 11 Mar 2015 05:12 AM PDT

Until now scientists have believed that the variations in traits — such as our height, skin color, tendency to gain weight or not, intelligence, tendency to develop certain diseases, etc., all of them traits that exist along a continuum — were a result of both genetic and environmental factors. But they didn’t know how exactly these things worked together. By studying ants, researchers have identified a key mechanism by which environmental (or epigenetic) factors influence the expression of all of these traits, along with many more.

 

Sardines netted off of Astoria await storage, ice, then processing on the deck of a sardine boat. (Photo by Ross William Hamilton/The Oregonian)

Pacific fishery managers approve new forage fish restrictions

By Kelly House | The Oregonian/OregonLive The Oregonian on March 10, 2015 at 12:08 PM, updated March 10, 2015 at 12:14 PM

Pacific coast fishery managers on Tuesday made a landmark decision to protect species at the bottom of the ocean food chain. The Pacific Fishery Management Council, which regulates the fishing industry in federal waters off California, Oregon and Washington, voted during a meeting in Vancouver to ban all new forage fisheries unless fishermen who want to start one can prove they can do so without harming the ecosystem. Forage fish, or baitfish, are small species such as sardines, smelt and krill that are a vital food source for larger fish, marine mammals and birds. Marine conservation groups lauded the decision as a major win for an ecosystem struggling to respond to a host of pressures including fishing, climate change and ocean acidification. “This is a great step for ocean health,” said Paul Shively, who leads the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Pacific Ocean conservation efforts. Existing fisheries for Pacific sardine, anchovies and other forage fish will not be affected under the new rules, but hundreds of species that are currently unregulated, such as saury and sand lance, will gain protections.
Although the rules only apply to federal waters between three miles and 200 miles offshore, Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission is expected to craft similar rules restricting new fisheries in state-regulated near shore waters.
The new rules are the council’s first act under a new management style that encourages managers to make decisions with the health of the entire ecosystem in mind, rather than with a focus on individual species. “It’s a real paradigm shift in how we look at fisheries management,” Shively said. News that Pacific sardine populations have collapsed so deeply they may be unfishable this year underscore the need for increased protections, said Ben Enticknap, a senior scientist for Oceana. Ripple effects from the collapse are already being blamed for impacts on other species. For example, a lack of food sources including sardines has been implicated in the mass starvation of sea lions in California this year. “By protecting the health of our ocean ecosystem, the council is getting out in front of a crisis before it happens,” Enticknap said. Unlike larger species that are typically sold for human consumption, forage fish are often turned into fishmeal for use at fish farms or turned into fish oil. When left in the water, they help bolster populations of predator species such as salmon and rockfish by offering them something to eat. For that reason, an international scientific task force estimated in 2012 that a forage fish left in the water is worth twice as much as one brought up in a fisherman’s net. The new policy won’t take effect until the National Marine Fishery Service approves it, a process that could take several months. The national agency will also craft language to limit the amount of restricted species fishermen can accidentally bring up in their nets while fishing for approved species.

 

 

RDA’s Wheat Data Interoperability working group is building an integrated wheat information system.
Credit and Larger Version

Developing infrastructure for data sharing around the world

NSF-supported organization coordinates US participation in global data-sharing and infrastructure-building effort

March 9, 2015 NSF

How can we support agricultural productivity around the world? How can we develop public health models that leverage social data, health data and environmental data? What are best practices to ensure the stewardship of research data today and tomorrow? Solutions to these and other critical challenges are being advanced through the sharing and exchange of research data. To increase data sharing and overcome the critical challenges associated with making data accessible, an international group of leaders in the data community joined together in 2013 to form the Research Data Alliance (RDA). With support from the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), the European Commission and the Australian government, RDA has grown in just two years from a core group of committed agencies to a community that now comprises more than 2,600 members from more than 90 countries, all dedicated to pragmatically removing the barriers to data sharing and raising awareness of those challenges among regions, disciplines, and professions. NSF supports U.S. participation in RDA as part of a grant to promote coordination and develop infrastructure for data sharing

 

Non-hooked birds: how to avoid seabird bycatch in the Mediterranean?

Posted: 10 Mar 2015 10:19 AM PDT

Night setting; bird scaring lines; weighted branchlines that sink rapidly; fish offal and bait covered on board so it doesn’t attract seabirds to the boats; deck lights kept at the minimum level, and discards not thrown back into the sea. These are some of the best strategies to avoid seabird bycatch in longline fisheries in the Mediterranean, according to researchers.

 

Four oil palm plantations connected to the same company are proposed for Peru’s northern Amazon
Photograph: David Hill/David Hill

Palm oil firms in Peru plan to clear 23,000 hectares of primary forest

March 7th, 2015

Companies in Peru are planning to clear more than 23,000 hectares of primary rainforest in the northern Amazon in order to cultivate oil palm, according to NGOs. Operations on two plantations called Maniti and Santa Cecilia which would involve clearing more than 9,300 hectares of primary forest could start imminently following a recent government decision. “We’ve done an extensive analysis of satellite images of the project area and conclude that 84.6% of Maniti and Santa Cecilia is primary forest,” says a media statement from the Association for the Conservation of the Amazon Basin (ACCA), in Peru, and the Amazon Conservation Association (ACA), in the US. “That means deforesting 9,343 hectares – almost 13,000 football pitches – of primary forest!” The companies involved in Maniti and Santa Cecilia, Islandia Energy and Palmas del Amazonas, are both receiving “technical and financial support” from Palmas del Espino, the leader in Peru’s oil palm industry and part of the country’s powerful Romero Group. While the area under oil palm cultivation in Peru is much less than neighbouring Ecuador and Colombia, or other countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia, expansion in recent years has been dramatic. The national and some regional governments have taken steps to promote and incentivise cultivation and almost 1.5 million hectares have been identified as potentially suitable, leading some people to see oil palm as now one of the biggest threats to the Peruvian Amazon.

 

 

More than two million migratory birds were killed in Cyprus last autumn to feed an illicit taste for the delicacy on the Mediterranean island, a conservationist group said Monday
More than two million migratory birds killed in Cyprus

March 9, 2015 phys.org

More than two million migratory birds were killed in Cyprus last autumn to feed an illicit taste for the delicacy on the Mediterranean island, a conservationist group said Monday. The survey by Birdlife Cyprus was carried out in the key season between September and October and estimates the number of birds indiscriminately trapped in nets or with limesticks. The group said its surveillance showed “a dramatic situation of this illegal activity sadly taking place,” with the number of mist nets used almost doubling in 2014 from the year before. It found some 16 kilometres (10 miles) of net supports active during autumn and more than 6,000 limesticks were reported from enforcement agencies and other non-governmental organisations. Limesticks are twigs covered in a sticky substance that instantly trap birds that alight onto them, leaving them to dangle helplessly. “With these trapping levels for autumn 2014, BirdLife Cyprus estimated that over two million birds could have been killed across the whole of Cyprus,” said Birdlife, the most since it began monitoring the activity 13 years ago. Such methods are used to catch blackcaps and song thrushes, much sought after delicacies that fetch up to 80 euros ($86) for a dozen at Cypriot restaurants.The Game and Fauna Service, in charge of the fight against poaching in Cyprus, says the illegal trade is worth about 15 million euros a year….

 

Tiny glassy snails discovered in caves of Northern Spain

Posted: 10 Mar 2015 07:52 AM PDT

Two new species of tiny subterranean snails enrich the biodiversity of Northern Spain. Zospeum vasconicum and Zospeum zaldivarae belong to a group of blind, diaphanous snails known to inhabit caves from Northern Spain to the Dinaric Alps of former Yugoslavia. The two new rare snail species inhabit moist, muddy cave walls.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Satellite images show how Arctic ponds have slowly decreased in size since 1948. Credit: Image courtesy of Christian Andresen / UTEP

Ponds are disappearing in the Arctic

March 12, 2015

Ponds in the Arctic tundra are shrinking and slowly disappearing, according to a new study by University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) researchers. More than 2,800 Arctic tundra ponds in the northern region of Alaska’s Barrow Peninsula were analyzed using historical photos and satellite images taken between 1948 and 2010. Over the 62-year period, the researchers found that the number of ponds in the region had decreased by about 17 percent, while pond size had shrunk by an average of one-third. “The 17 percent is a very conservative estimate because we didn’t consider ponds that had divided, or split into two ponds,” explained Christian Andresen, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow at UTEP who led the study. “Some ponds are elongated and as they shrink over time, they can be divided into two or more smaller ponds.” The study, which has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences, was conducted by Andresen and Associate Professor of Biological Sciences Vanessa Lougheed, Ph.D.

The team points to warming temperatures and encroaching plants as one of the reasons the ponds are disappearing. As temperatures rise, nutrient-rich permafrost — a frozen layer of soil — thaws, releasing nutrients into ponds and enhancing plant growth.
“Plants are taking over shallow ponds because they’re becoming warm and nutrient-rich,”
Andresen said. “Before you know it, boom, the pond is gone.”
Andresen worries that the geomorphology of the region’s landscape will change if these small bodies of water continue to shrink.
“The role of ponds in the arctic is extremely important,” he said. “History tells us that ponds tend to enlarge over hundreds of years and eventually become lakes; ponds shape much of this landscape in the long run, and with no ponds there will be no lakes for this region.”
Ponds in the Barrow Peninsula also serve as a major food source and nesting habitat for migratory birds, including certain waterfowl on the threatened species list, such as the spectacled eider (Somateria fischeri) and Steller’s eider (Polysticta stelleri). If the aquatic system continues to shift toward a drier community, their vital summer feeding and nesting grounds could disappear, affecting the future of these and many other migratory species.

Christian G. Andresen, Vanessa L. Lougheed. Disappearing Arctic tundra ponds: Fine-scale analysis of surface hydrology in drained thaw lake basins over a 65 year period (1948-2013).. Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences, 2015; DOI: 10.1002/2014JG002778

 

Low-oxygen impacts on West Coast groundfish, research shows

Posted: 11 Mar 2015 01:05 PM PDT

Low-oxygen waters projected to expand with climate change create winners and losers among deep-dwelling groundfish, new research shows. Some species are adapted to handle low-oxygen conditions such as those increasingly documented off the West Coast, while the same conditions drive other species away….Generally the number of fish species declines with oxygen levels as sensitive species leave the area, said Aimee Keller, a fisheries biologist at the Northwest Fisheries Science Center and lead author of the new paper. But a few species such as Dover sole and greenstriped rockfish appear largely unaffected. “One of our main questions was, ‘Are there fewer species present in an area when the oxygen drops?’ and yes, we definitely see that,” Keller said. “As it goes lower and lower you see more and more correlation between species and oxygen levels.” Deep waters off the West Coast have long been known to be naturally low in oxygen. But the new findings show that the spread of lower oxygen conditions, which have been documented closer to shore and off Washington and California, could redistribute fish in ways that affect fishing fleets as well as the marine food chain. The lower the oxygen levels, for example, the more effort fishing boats will have to invest to find enough fish. “We may see fish sensitive to oxygen levels may be pushed into habitat that’s less desirable and they may grow more slowly in those areas,” Keller said.

 

Aimee A. Keller, Lorenzo Ciannelli, W. Waldo Wakefield, Victor Simon, John A. Barth, Stephen D. Pierce. Occurrence of demersal fishes in relation to near-bottom oxygen levels within the California Current large marine ecosystem. Fisheries Oceanography, 2015; 24 (2): 162 DOI: 10.1111/fog.12100

 

CREDIT: Shutterstock

Rate Of Climate Change To Soar By 2020s, With Arctic Warming 1°F Per Decade

by Joe Romm Posted on March 10, 2015 at 11:50 am Updated: March 10, 2015 at 12:14 pm

New research from a major national lab projects that the rate of climate change, which has risen sharply in recent decades, will soar by the 2020s. This worrisome projection — which has implications for extreme weather, sea level rise, and permafrost melt — is consistent with several recent studies. The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) study, “Near-term acceleration in the rate of temperature change,” finds that by 2020, human-caused warming will move the Earth’s climate system “into a regime in terms of multi-decadal rates of change that are unprecedented for at least the past 1,000 years.” In the best-case scenario PNNL modeled, with atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations stabilizing at about 525 parts per million (the RCP4.5 scenario), the four-decade warming trend hits 0.45°F (0.25°C) per decade. That means over a 4-decade period, the Earth would warm 1.8°F (4 x 0.45) or 1°C (4 x 0.25). This is a faster multi-decadal rate than the Earth has seen in at least a millennium. Because of Arctic amplification, the most northern latitudes warm two times faster (or more) than the globe as a whole does. As this figure from the study shows, the rate of warming for the Arctic is projected to quickly exceed 1.0°F (0.55°C) per decade…..Such rapid Arctic warming would be ominous for several reasons.

  • First, it would likely speed up the already staggering rate of loss of Arctic sea ice.
  • Second, if, as considerable recent research suggests, Arctic amplification has already contributed to the recent jump in extreme weather, then the next few decades are going to be utterly off the charts.
  • Third, such rapid Arctic warming implies that the rapidly-melting Greenland ice sheet — already made unstable by human-caused warming — is likely to start disintegrating even faster, which in turn will push sea level rise higher than previously estimated, upwards of six feet this century.
  • Fourth, such rapid warming would serve to accelerate the release of vast amounts of carbon from defrosting permafrost — the dangerous amplifying carbon cycle which has already been projected to add up to 1.5°F to total global warming by 2100.

There is, of course, “internally generated variability” in the Earth’s climate system — which has been linked to variability in the Pacific Ocean — that can cause the rate of warming to slow down or speed up for a decade (and occasionally longer). That was the point of a February study on what has mistakenly been called the “hiatus” in global warming. That hiatus was in fact merely an apparent slowdown in the rate of warming, primarily found in the U.K. Met Office’s dataset. But the Met Office uses the Hadley temperature record, which excludes the Arctic (!) — the very place on the planet that has been warming the fastest. When scientists incorporated Arctic warming into the Met/Hadley record using other data sources (such as the satellites), the slowdown all but vanished. With 2014 setting the record for warmest year, NASA (and NOAA) data make crystal clear that there was no actual pause even in the rate of warming… NASA temperature data how neither a recent “pause” in surface temperature warming or even been a significant change in trend. The new study makes clear that the only “pause” there has been was in the long-expected acceleration of warming. That is, while the rate of global warming has been roughly constant for the last few decades, it should have started to speed up (see chart below). But multiple studies, include this latest one, say that we should expect a speed up very soon. The new study notes that when the “variability-driven” apparent slowdown ends, “we also show that there is an increased likelihood of accelerated global warming associated with release of heat from the sub-surface ocean and a reversal of the phase of decadal variability in the Pacific Ocean.”

Here is what has happened so far — and what we can expect if we keep taking little or no action to reduce carbon pollution (the RCP8.5 scenario):

Global rates of decadal temperature change over 40-year periods. Results are shown for: central climate assumptions (thick solid line), range due to uncertainty in aerosol forcing (grey shading), and range due to uncertainty in climate sensitivity (blue shading). The outer bounding cases are shown as dotted lines. The thin solid black line shows the historical rate of change using the HADCRU4 observational data. The vertical dashed line indicates 2014. Via PNNL.

This chart shows that the observed decadal warming rate (temperature rise per decade) has been constant for the past decade in the Met/Hadley record. While this is within the range of model uncertainty, the study suggests it [warming rate] should have kept increasing. Many recent studies project that will happen very soon — and indeed it may already have started. In the do-little RCP8.5 scenario, the rate of warming post-2050 becomes so fast that it is likely to be beyond adaptation for most species — and for humans in many parts of the world. The warming rate in the central case hits a stunning 1°F per decade — Arctic warming would presumably be at least 2°F per decade. And this goes on for decades. No rational civilization would ever risk anything like that happening. Nor would they even risk the “moderate” warming of the RCP4.5 case. So let’s not!

 

 

Rough seas. Credit: CSIRO

Small eddies produce global effects on climate change

Posted: 10 Mar 2015 07:53 AM PDT

The increasing strength of winds over the Southern Ocean has extended its ability to absorb carbon dioxide, effectively delaying the impacts of global warming. New research found the intensifying wind over that ocean increased the speed and energy of eddies and jets. The increased movement and overturning of these eddies and jets has accelerated the carbon cycle and driven more heat into the deep ocean. …. “Considering the Southern Ocean absorbs something like 60% of heat and anthropogenic CO2 that enters the ocean, this wind has a noticeable effect on global warming,” said lead author Dr Andy Hogg from the Australian National University Hub of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science. “To put this in some kind of context, if those small scale eddies did not increase with wind stress then the saturation of carbon dioxide in the Southern Ocean sink would occur twice as rapidly and more heat would enter our atmosphere and sooner.” Despite having one of the most powerful currents in the world in the form of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, eddies dominate the circulation of the Southern Ocean. Until this research, a major uncertainty around the future impacts of climate change was whether the eddy field would change with stronger winds or whether it would remain static. Using satellite observations the study has given the first direct evidence that the Southern Ocean eddy field has increased in recent decades and that this increase can be attributed to the increase in winds around the Southern Ocean. The intensification of winds in the Southern Ocean is a result of both the depletion of ozone and global warming’s affects on the Southern Annular Mode (SAM). The SAM is a measure of the position of a belt of westerly winds that circle Antarctica….”If the winds continue to increase as a result of global warming, then we will continue to see increased energy in eddies and jets that will have significant implications for the ability of the Southern Ocean to store carbon dioxide and heat,” said Dr Hogg. “Remarkable as it seems these relatively small eddies and jets are doing the heavy lifting in the ocean driving heat into the Southern Ocean and slowing the impacts of global warming.”

 

Andrew McC. Hogg, Michael P. Meredith, Don P. Chambers, E. Povl Abrahamsen, Chris W. Hughes, Adele K. Morrison. Recent trends in the Southern Ocean eddy field. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, 2015; 120 (1): 257 DOI: 10.1002/2014JC010470

 

 

Combined Arctic ice observations show decades of loss

March 3rd, 2015

It’s no surprise that Arctic sea ice is thinning. What is new is just how long, how steadily, and how much it has declined. University of Washington researchers compiled modern and historic measurements to get a full picture of how Arctic sea ice thickness has changed. The results, published in The Cryosphere, show a thinning in the central Arctic Ocean of 65 percent between 1975 and 2012. September ice thickness, when the ice cover is at a minimum, is 85 percent thinner for the same 37-year stretch. “The ice is thinning dramatically,” said lead author Ron Lindsay, a climatologist at the UW Applied Physics Laboratory. “We knew the ice was thinning, but we now have additional confirmation on how fast, and we can see that it’s not slowing down.” The study helps gauge how much the climate has changed in recent decades, and helps better predict an Arctic Ocean that may soon be ice-free for parts of the year.

 

 

Friction means Antarctic glaciers more sensitive to climate change than we thought

Posted: 10 Mar 2015 07:52 AM PDT

A new study finds that incorporating Coulomb friction into computer models increases the sensitivity of Antarctic ice sheets to temperature perturbations driven by climate change.

 

 

Hidden greenhouse emissions revealed in new report

Posted: 10 Mar 2015 06:14 AM PDT

Former wetlands that have been drained and which are currently used for forestry and agriculture give off 11.4 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalents. That can be compared with Sweden’s total emissions of 57.6 million tons (when the land use sector is not included). But in Sweden’s report to the Climate Convention, emissions from drained peatland are not visible since they are included with forest growth. New report from the Swedish Board of Agriculture shows the way The report Emissions of Greenhouse Gases from Peatland shows that drained peatlands should be restored into wetlands so as to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Studies of greenhouse gas emissions from drained peatlands that are used for forestry production show that nutrient-rich, well-drained areas of land release more greenhouse gases than nutrient-poor, wetter grounds do….estoring drained ground to wetland reduces the release of both carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide from the ground. Although the release of methane will increase in the long term, the decrease of carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide will be greater which means that, all in all, greenhouse gas emissions from the ground will be reduced. “Because a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions is now urgently needed, restoring wetlands is an effective environmental measure,” says Åsa Kasimir….

 

How drowsy microbes in Arctic tundra change to methane-makers as permafrost thaws

March 4th, 2015

As the Arctic warms, tons of carbon locked away in Arctic tundra will be transformed into the powerful greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane, but scientists know little about how that transition takes place. Now, scientists looking at microbes in different types of Arctic soil have a new picture of life in permafrost that reveals entirely new species and hints that subzero microbes might be active. Such information is key to prepare for the release of gigatons of methane, which could set Earth on a path to irreversible global warming. Appearing in today’s issue of Nature, the study will help researchers better understand when and how frozen carbon might get converted into methane. The results suggest how microbes survive in the subzero temperatures of permafrost. “The microbes in permafrost are part of Earth’s dark matter. We know so little about them because the majority have never been cultivated and their properties are unknown,” said microbiologist Janet Jansson of the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. “This work hints at the life strategies they use when they’ve been frozen for thousands of years.”

 

 

Gray whale off the coast of Baja. Photo by Joe McKenna via Creative Commons

Whales on the Wrong Side of the World

by Carl Zimmer March 12, 2015

In May 2010, a whale showed up on the wrong side of the world. A team of marine biologists was conducting a survey off the coast of Israel when they spotted it. At first they thought it was a sperm whale. But each time the animal surfaced, the more clearly they could see that it had the wrong anatomy. When they got back on land, they looked closely at the photographs they had taken and realized, to their shock, that it was a gray whale. This species is a common sight off the coast of California, but biologists had never seen one outside of the Pacific before. Aviad Scheinin, one of the marine biologists on the survey, posted the news on the web. “Nice Photoshopping,” someone replied.

Three weeks later, Scheinin got one more bit of news about the whale. It was photographed off the coast of Spain, having traveled 1864 miles. Then it disappeared.

After three years, a second gray whale appeared off the coast of Namibia in 2013. Comparing photographs, scientists could see that it was a different animal than the one that visited Israel. After lingering along the coast of Namibia for a month, the whale vanished. These two sightings have left whale experts startled. In an interview with the Orange County Register, one scientists compared the feeling to walking down a street in California and seeing a giraffe.

But according to a new study, these two whales may be a hint of the new normal. Gray whales may be poised to move into the Atlantic, because we’re opening a path for them through the Arctic. But it’s not an unprecedented invasion. To some extent, it’s a case of history repeating itself. California’s gray whales give birth each winter in the lagoons of the Baja Peninsula. Then they migrate up the west coast to the Arctic for the summer. They power these tremendous migrations–the longest of any mammal–by ramming their mouths into the sea floor and filtering out tiny crustaceans from the sediment. When they rise back up to the ocean’s surface, they bring with them wide muddy plumes.

Aside from the California population, the only other known population of gray whales is a small group of animals on the western side of the Pacific. But scientists have had hints for a long time that gray whales might once have lived in the Atlantic as well…..

These findings suggested that gray whales once lived in both the Atlantic and Pacific. That’s the case today for other filter-feeding whales (known as baleen whales). Species such as humpback whales and fin whales split into Atlantic and Pacific populations a couple million years ago and have remained distinct ever since. Scientists suspected that gray whales spread across both oceans millions of years ago. Later the planet has cooled, creating an icy Arctic that formed a barrier between the two populations. The gray whales of the eastern Pacific would migrate as far north as they could manage before reaching the ice, and then head back south. Presumably the Atlantic gray whales had a similar migration. Isolated for millions of years, the gray whales of the two oceans might well have evolved into different species. If that were true, then whalers must have driven the Atlantic gray whale species to extinction, while sparing the Pacific one.

To explore the mystery of these whales further, a team of researchers has taken a fresh look at the fossils of Atlantic gray whales. Instead of just observing the anatomy of the bones, the scientists probed them for ancient DNA. They also measured the amounts of carbon isotopes in the bones to determine their age. The fossils ranged in age from just a few hundred years old to over 50,000 years old.

The scientists were able to use all this information to draw a family tree of gray whales, showing how Atlantic and Pacific gray whales were related to each other.
They could also estimate how long ago the branches split apart.

The gray whale’s tree turned out to be different from those of other baleen whales. The Atlantic and Pacific populations of gray whales are not a pair of ancient, distantly related lineages. Instead, the Atlantic gray whales are actually made up of at least four different lineages. And each of the Atlantic branches is most closely related to a different branch of Pacific gray whales.

In other words, Pacific gray whales have periodically swum across the Arctic Ocean and into the Atlantic and established populations that survived for millennia. The scientists can identify several waves of immigration. One took place about 79,000 years ago, and then three others happened more recently, between about 10,000 and 5,000 years ago.

The timing of these colonizations is telling: the whales appear to have moved into the Atlantic whenever it was warm enough for them to get through. Between 135,000 and 70,000 years ago, the climate was so warm that the Bering Strait was open year-round, giving gray whales access to the Arctic Ocean. Once these gray whales got to the Atlantic, they then endured until at least 5,000 years ago.

Then a new ice age began. Glaciers grew, sea levels dropped, and gray whales could no longer get across the Arctic. Sixty thousand years passed before the ice age ended with a sudden burst of warmth. And that’s when new waves of gray whales came into the Atlantic. The Arctic then cooled somewhat, closing the door once more. Now we are warming the Arctic again by releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. If history is any guide, global warming in decades to come may open up the Arctic for Pacific gray whales, some of whom may wander off their regular migrations and end up in the Atlantic. These gray whales will encounter an ocean far different from the ocean their cousins arrived in thousands of years ago. They will have to deal with busy shipping lanes where they may get killed in collisions, along with oil drilling and industrial fishing operations. On the other hand, the authors of the new study predict that the gray whales will have lots of good habitat to live in. As sea levels rise, there will be more shallow shelves where the whales can scoop up mud to find food. Today, a gray whale outside the Pacific seems like a case of Photoshopping. Soon, however, we may be photoshopping a whole ocean of whales.

Bottom of Form

 

 

 

NOAA Announces Arrival Of El Niño, 2015 Poised To Beat 2014 For Hottest Year

by Joe Romm Posted on March 5, 2015

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has announced that the long-awaited El Niño has arrived. NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center says we now have “borderline, weak El Niño conditions,” and there is a “50-60% chance that El Niño conditions will continue” through the summer. An El Niño is “characterized by unusually warm ocean temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific,” as NOAA has explained. That contrasts with the unusually cold temps in the Equatorial Pacific during a La Niña. Both are associated with extreme weather around the globe (though a weak El Niño like this will tend to have a muted effect). El Niños tend to set the record for the hottest years, since the regional warming adds to the underlying global warming trend. La Niña years tend to be below the global warming trend line. If even a weak El Niño does persist through summer, 2015 will almost certainly top 2014 as the hottest year on record. But there is a good chance it will do so in any case (unless a La Niña forms). After all, 2014 was the hottest year on record even though there was no official El Niño during the year. It’s just hard to stop the march of human-caused global warming — without actually sharply cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

Significantly, because 1998 was an unusually strong “super El Niño,” and because we haven’t had an El Niño since 2010, it appeared for a while (to some) as if global warming had slowed — if you cherry-picked a relatively recent start year (and ignored the rapid warming in the oceans, where 90 percent of human-caused planetary warming goes). In fact, however, several recent studies confirmed that planetary warming continues apace everywhere you look.

And that was before 2014 set the record for the hottest year. In January, Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies, tweeted, “Is there evidence that there is a significant change of trend from 1998? (Spoiler: No.)” He attached this chart:

The latest NASA temperature data make clear that not only has there been no “pause” in surface temperature warming in the past decade and a half, there hasn’t even been a significant change in trend.

The very latest research suggests that we are about to enter a multiyear period of rapid warming. Fasten your seatbelts.

 

 

Population increases flood and drought threat to cities

As cities worldwide expand to cope with rising populations, scientists predict a huge increase in urban land vulnerable either to flooding or drought by 2030.

By Tim Radford
LONDON, 11 March, 2015 − Many of the great coastal cities of America, Asia and Africa will be at increased risk of damaging floods − even without the increasing effects of climate change. And there will be problems with the other extreme, as scientists also predict that the urban area exposed to drought would double by 2013. Burak Güneralp, a geographer at Texas A&M University, and colleagues report in the journal Global Environmental Change that by 2030 almost 5 billion people will live in cities, and coastal urban areas will spread out over danger zones of low elevation. In 2000, about 30% of global urban land – 200,000 square kilometres – was in high-frequency flood zones. By 2030, this will have risen to 40%, or 700,000 square kilometres. And there could also be a growth in the urban extent of drylands 500,000 square kilometres. So the city regions vulnerable to flood would increase 2.7 times, while the area exposed to drought would double.

The report’s authors says that disasters due to water-related hazards – floods, droughts and windstorms − made up nearly 90% of the 1,000 most catastrophic events between 1900 and 2006 − and because of increasing urbanisation, economic losses have soared. In the 20 years from 1992-2012, flood and drought hazards caused $600 billion in damage, and in 2013, floods and drought accounted for more than a quarter of all global insured losses.

The message from the authors to tomorrow’s urban planners is: watch where you build new developments or permit new settlement. “Potential future changes in the extent and layout of urban areas are typically ignored in resilience planning for these cities” “Urban areas exposed to flood and drought hazards will increase considerably due to the sheer increase in their extents, primarily by socioeconomic forces,” Dr Güneralp says. “In particular, coastal megacities will house a majority of the urban populations, and they will increasingly be hubs of significant economic activity in the coming decades. “Yet potential future changes in the extent and layout of the urban areas are typically ignored in resilience planning for these cities.”…

 

Changing global patterns of urban exposure to flood and drought hazards

Burak Güneralpa, , , İnci Güneralpa, Ying Liub

Global Environmental Change
Volume 31, March 2015, Pages 217–225

Highlights

• Knowing where cities will grow is important to understand how their exposure to hazards changes.

• We present first-ever estimates of changing exposure of urban land to floods and droughts due to urban expansion from 2000 to 2030.

• Emerging coastal metropolitan regions in Africa and Asia will have larger areas exposed to flooding than those in developed countries.

• Even without climate change, extent of urban areas exposed to floods and droughts would at least double by 2030.

Abstract

The studies that quantify the human and economic costs of increasing exposure of cities to various natural hazards consider climate change together with increasing levels of population and economic activity, but assume constant urban extent. Accurate estimates of the potential losses due to changing exposure of cities, however, require that we know where they will grow in the future. Here, we present the first-ever estimates of the changing exposure of urban infrastructure to floods and droughts due to urban land expansion from 2000 to 2030. The percentage of the global urban land that lies within the low elevation coastal zone (LECZ) increases only slightly to 13% by 2030; nonetheless, this corresponds to a 230% increase in the amount of urban land within the LECZ (from 71,000 km2 to 234,000 km2). In 2000, about 30% of the global urban land (i.e., nearly 200,000 km2) was located in the high-frequency flood zones; by 2030, this will reach 40% (i.e., over 700,000 km2). The emerging coastal metropolitan regions in Africa and Asia will be larger than those in the developed countries and will have larger areas exposed to flooding. The urban extent in drylands will increase by nearly 300,000 km2, reaching almost 500,000 km2. Overall, without factoring in the potential impacts from climate change, the extent of urban areas exposed to flood and drought hazards will increase, respectively, 2.7 and almost 2 times by 2030. Globally, urban land exposed to both floods and droughts is expected to increase over 250%. There are significant geographical variations in the rates and magnitudes of urban expansion exposed to floods or droughts or both. Several policy options exist to safeguard urban infrastructure from flood and drought hazards. These range from directing development away from flood- or drought-prone zones to large-scale adoption of “green infrastructure” (or “eco-efficient infrastructure”). Decisions, taken today on managing urban growth in locations exposed to these hazards, can make a big difference in mitigating likely losses due to floods and droughts in the near future.

 

Rapid coastal population growth may leave many exposed to sea-level rise

March 11, 2015 PLOS

The number of people potentially exposed to future sea level rise and associated storm surge flooding may be highest in low-elevation coastal zones in Asia and Africa, according to new projections published March 11, 2015 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Barbara Neumann from Kiel University, Germany, and colleagues. Many coastal areas are densely populated and exposed to a range of coastal hazards, including sea level rise. As coastal population density and urbanization continue to increase, researchers are investigating how coastal populations may be affected by potential environmental impacts at global and regional scales in the future. Based on four different sea-level and socioeconomic scenarios, the authors of this study assessed future population changes by the years 2030 and 2060 in the low-elevation coastal zone and estimated trends in exposure to 100-year coastal floods. From the scenario-based projections, the researchers estimated that the number of people living in the low-elevation coastal zone, as well as the number of people exposed to flooding from 100-year storm surge events, was highest in Asia. China, India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Viet Nam had the largest numbers of coastal population per country and accounted for more than half of the total number of people living in low-elevation coastal zones, both now and in the future scenarios. However, Africa was estimated to experience the highest future rates of population growth and urbanization in the coastal zone, particularly in Egypt and sub-Saharan countries in West and East Africa. While the authors’ research method does not explicitly consider possible population displacement or out-migration due to factors such as sea level rise, the results highlight countries and regions with a high degree of potential exposure to coastal flooding, and also help to identify regions where policies and adaptive planning for building resilient coastal communities are essential.

 

Barbara Neumann, Athanasios T. Vafeidis, Juliane Zimmermann, Robert J. Nicholls. Future Coastal Population Growth and Exposure to Sea-Level Rise and Coastal Flooding – A Global Assessment. PLOS ONE, 2015; 10 (3): e0118571 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0118571

 

 

Snow is trucked in on March 7, 2015, for the ceremonial Iditarod start in Anchorage, Alaska. Photo by David Hulen/Twitter

Baked Alaska

If the Last Frontier is the canary in the climate coal mine, we’re in trouble.

By Eric Holthaus Slate March 12, 2015

Earlier this winter, Monica Zappa packed up her crew of Alaskan sled dogs and headed south, in search of snow. “We haven’t been able to train where we live for two months,” she told me.

Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula, which Zappa calls home, has been practically tropical this winter. Rick Thoman, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Alaska, has been dumbfounded. “Homer, Alaska, keeps setting record after record, and I keep looking at the data like, Has the temperature sensor gone out or something?Something does seem to be going on in Alaska. Last fall, a skipjack tuna, which is more likely to be found in the Galápagos than near a glacier, was caught about 150 miles southeast of Anchorage, not far from the Kenai. This past weekend, race organizers had to truck in snow to the ceremonial Iditarod start line in Anchorage. Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska tweeted a photo of one of the piles of snow with the hashtag #wemakeitwork. But it’s unclear how long that will be possible. Alaska is heating up at twice the rate of the rest of the country—a canary in our climate coal mine. A new report shows that warming in Alaska, along with the rest of the Arctic, is accelerating as the loss of snow and ice cover begins to set off a feedback loop of further warming. Warming in wintertime has been the most dramatic—more than 6 degrees in the past 50 years. And this is just a fraction of the warming that’s expected to come over just the next few decades. Of course, it’s not just Alaska. Last month was the most extreme February on record in the Lower 48, and it marked the first time that two large sections of territory (more than 30 percent of the country each) experienced both exceptional cold and exceptional warmth in the same month, according to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. All-time records were set for the coldest month in dozens of Eastern cities, with Boston racking up more snow than the peaks of California’s Sierra Nevada. A single January snowstorm in Boston produced more snow than Anchorage has seen all winter. The discrepancy set off some friendly banter recently between the Anchorage, Boston, and San Francisco offices of the National Weather Service. Alaska is at the front lines of climate change. This year’s Iditarod has been rerouted—twice—due to the warm weather. The race traditionally starts in Anchorage, which has had near-record low snowfall so far this winter. The city was without a single significant snowstorm between October and late January, so race organizers decided to move the start from the Anchorage area 360 miles north to Fairbanks. But when the Chena River, which was supposed to be part of the new route’s first few miles, failed to sufficiently freeze, the starting point had to move again, to another location in Fairbanks….

 


Seven giant craters have now been discovered in remote regions of Russia. Photograph: Vasily Bogoyavlensky/AFP/Getty Images AFP in Moscow

Russian scientists say climate change to blame for mysterious Siberia craters

The seven holes discovered are not the work of aliens or meteorites, but rather explosions of methane accumulated as underground ice melts

Thursday 12 March 2015 13.14 EDT Last modified on Thursday 12 March 2015 13.51 EDT

Russian scientists have now discovered seven giant craters in remote Siberia, a geologist told AFP on Thursday, adding that the mysterious phenomenon was believed to be linked to climate change. The discovery of an enormous chasm in a far northern region known to locals as “the end of the world” in July last year prompted speculation it had been caused by a meteorite or even aliens. A YouTube video of the hole went viral and a group of scientists was dispatched to investigate…. “Footage allows us to identify minimum seven craters, but in fact there are plenty more,” he said. All of the craters have been discovered in the remote, energy-rich Yamalo-Nenetsky region in north-western Siberia. Scientists say that rather than aliens or meteorites, the holes are caused by the melting of underground ice in the permafrost, which has possibly been sped up by rising temperatures due to global warming.
“The phenomenon is similar to the eruption of a volcano,” said Bogoyavlensky.

As the ice melts, methane gas is released, which builds up pressure until an explosion takes place, leading to the formation of a crater. The scientists are still trying to estimate what danger, if any, is posed by the holes. Methane is extremely flammable and at least one of the craters is situated near an exploited gas deposit….

 

Is the tasty blue crab’s natural range creeping north?

Posted: 06 Mar 2015 03:17 PM PST

avid Johnson was standing in a salt marsh tidal creek north of Boston, Mass., when he scooped up a blue crab, Callinectes sapidus, 80 miles north of its native range. The northern migration of this commercially important species, Johnson says, could be yet another sign of climate change. Then a scientist at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) Ecosystems Center, Johnson recently published his observations in the Journal of Crustacean Biology. The historic northern limit of this species of crab (also called Atlantic blue or Chesapeake blue) is Cape Cod, Mass. They typically weren’t found in the Gulf of Maine due to its cold Canadian waters. From 2012 to 2014, however, scientists and resource managers observed blue crabs as far north as northern Maine and Nova Scotia, Canada. Johnson hypothesizes that warmer ocean temperatures in 2012 and 2013, which were 1.3°C higher than the previous decade’s average, allowed the crabs to move north. “Climate change is lowering the thermal barriers that kept species from moving toward the poles,” he says. “Climate change presents a challenge not only for ecologists, but for fisheries managers as commercially important species shift their ranges in response to warming oceans.”

 

 

Climate change: why the Guardian [UK] is putting threat to Earth front and centre

March 6, 2015

As global warming argument moves on to politics and business, Alan Rusbridger explains the thinking behind our major series on the climate crisis. Journalism tends to be a rear-view mirror. We prefer to deal with what has happened, not what lies ahead. We favour what is exceptional and in full view over what is ordinary and hidden. Famously, as a tribe, we are more interested in the man who bites a dog than the other way round. But even when a dog does plant its teeth in a man, there is at least something new to report, even if it is not very remarkable or important. There may be other extraordinary and significant things happening – but they may be occurring too slowly or invisibly for the impatient tick-tock of the newsroom or to snatch the attention of a harassed reader on the way to work . . . . For the purposes of our coming coverage, we will assume that the scientific consensus about man-made climate change and its likely effects is overwhelming. We will leave the sceptics and deniers to waste their time challenging the science. The mainstream argument has moved on to the politics and economics. The coming debate is about two things: what governments can do to attempt to regulate, or otherwise stave off, the now predictably terrifying consequences of global warming beyond 2C by the end of the century. And how we can prevent the states and corporations which own the planet’s remaining reserves of coal, gas and oil from ever being allowed to dig most of it up. We need to keep them in the ground.

  • 2C: There is overwhelming agreement – from governments, corporations, NGOs, banks, scientists, you name it – that a rise in temperatures of more than 2C by the end of the century would lead to disastrous consequences for any kind of recognised global orde
  • 565 gigatons: “Scientists estimate that humans can pour roughly 565 more gigatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by mid-century and still have some reasonable hope of staying below 2C,” is how McKibben crisply puts it. Few dispute that this idea of a global “carbon budget” is broadly right.
  • 2,795 gigatons: This is the amount of carbon dioxide that if they were burned would be released from the proven reserves of fossil fuel – ie the fuel we are planning to extract and use.

You do not need much of a grasp of maths to work out the implications. There are trillions of dollars worth of fossil fuels currently underground which, for our safety, simply cannot be extracted and burned. All else is up for debate: that much is not.

 

 

Social science research has shown that the 97% consensus pie chart is a very effective way to convince people – especially conservatives – about climate change. Source: Skeptical Science

Consensus and geoengineering – how to convince people about global warming

Social scientists are debating how best to shift public opinion on global warming

Dana Nuccitelli Tuesday 10 March 2015 09.00 EDT The Guardian

Everyone agrees that global warming has become a polarized issue. Liberals tend to view themselves as being on Team Human-Caused Global Warming is a Problem, and conservatives tend to view themselves on Team No It’s Not. Convincing people to change their beliefs and leave their cultural group is a challenge with any polarized subject.When it comes to climate change, the scientific evidence falls squarely behind the first team, and so the question becomes how we reduce the polarization that makes so many people culturally identify with second team. That’s a question social scientists have been grappling with for years.

One suggested approach involves consensus messaging – telling people about the 97% expert consensus on human-caused global warming. People tend to badly underestimate the expert consensus on this issue, and research has shown that communicating the 97% consensus makes people more likely to accept the scientific reality of human-caused global warming and the need to do something about the threats it poses.

Expert Consensus is a Gateway Belief

A new study by social scientists at Princeton, Yale, and George Mason universities goes further yet to suggest that perception of the expert consensus is a “gateway belief” that opens people to the acceptance of other important concepts. “increasing public perceptions of the scientific consensus causes a significant increase in the belief that climate change is (a) happening, (b) human-caused and (c) a worrisome problem. In turn, changes in these key beliefs lead to increased support for public action. In sum, these findings provide the strongest evidence to date that public understanding of the scientific consensus is consequential.”

The study illustrates “the gateway belief model” in the following figure.

The Gateway Belief Model. Photograph: PLOS ONE

In the study, the scientists asked people to rate their beliefs about these key issues before and after being told about the 97% expert consensus. The results validated the model. Subjects’ perceived expert consensus increased dramatically, and their belief in climate change, its human causation, concern about it, and support for public action all increased as well.The increase in concern about climate change is a key result. Most people, including a majority of Republicans, support taking action to slow global warming. But they view it as a low priority, so they don’t mind when policymakers fail to take action. Hence there’s no penalty for climate denial in Congress, whereas there’s a big financial reward from the fossil fuel industry for delaying climate action. That calculation won’t change until people view tackling global warming as a higher priority. This study suggests that consensus messaging may help people grasp the importance of the problem. The gateway belief model makes sense because people don’t have the time to learn about every important issue, so we often defer to the experts. As shown by a 2013 study led by Stephan Lewandowsky, when in doubt about scientific facts, people are likely to use consensus among domain experts as a heuristic to guide their beliefs and behavior.

Dan Kahan at Yale is also a social scientist, and has argued that consensus messaging is “counterproductive” and “deepens polarization.” However, both Lewandowsky’s research and this new study find that consensus messaging “neutralizes the effect of worldview” because “Republican subjects responded particularly well to the scientific consensus message.” Especially when they saw it in pie chart form. Kahan prefers to reduce polarization about climate change by telling people about geoengineering. He’s run experiments in which subjects read a fictional article about new technologies to offset global warming by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and reflecting sunlight into space. After reading the fictional article, conservatives become more likely to accept the science behind human-caused global warming, and so polarization is reduced.

The problem, as Andy Skuce notes in detail at Skeptical Science, is that the fictional article bears little resemblance to the realities of geoengineering. The technologies are described as “more effective than enactment of emissions restrictions” and would “spare consumers and businesses from the heavy economic costs associated with the regulations necessary to reduce atmospheric CO2 concentrations”.

In reality, proposed geoengineering technologies are generally very expensive, would require international cooperation and regulation, and are extremely risky. As Skuce notes, even the scientists who are among the biggest advocates for geoengineering research agree that the technologies entail high risks, and their implementation should only be considered in the event that we first fail to mitigate global warming through carbon pollution reductions and have become desperate to slow rapid climate change.

Use the Brakes, not the Airbags

If the Earth’s climate were a car, right now we’re already driving dangerously fast and accelerating. Carbon pollution cuts would be the brakes, and geoengineering would be the airbags. Kahan’s experiment tells people that we don’t need to use the brakes because the airbags will protect us, and we can have fun going fast in the meantime.
What Kahan has shown is that when presented with a fictional silver bullet solution to climate change, those with an ideological opposition to real solutions (like making polluters pay for their carbon emissions) become more willing to accept climate science realities. As with many previous studies, it confirms that much of the rejection of human-caused global warming stems from ideological opposition to the proposed solutions, rather than actual doubts about the science.

Kahan believes that telling people that scientists are studying geoengineering may still reduce polarization for some groups. He notes that different communications approaches will work for different people,

I believe professional communicators must use the data that I and others develop in lab studies and apply their own judgment about how the mechanisms involved should inform their work

In short, we have data indicating that if we tell people the experts agree we need to put on the climate brakes, more will accept that reality. And telling people that scientists are also working on an airbag system may also make more people accept the dangers that we face.

 

Sonoma County’s Climate Change Vulnerabilities

By Bruce Robinson March 12, 2015 KRCB North Bay Public Media

Limiting the extent of climate change remains a priority for Sonoma County. But we should be preparing to live with it, too. A new report examines the hazards that need to be addressed. Deanne DiPietro, another co-author of the Climate Ready Sonoma County report, is a climate change scientist with the California Landscape Conservation Cooperative [in partnership with Point Blue Conservation Science and UC Davis]. She hopes that this new document will help people to be more pro-active and feel a bit more hopeful about the future. Work is now getting started on a second phase of this project, which is expected to take another two years.  Lisa Micheli of Pepperwood Preserve describes what will come next. The full Climate Ready Sonoma County report is posted online here (with the sources, a 78 page pdf). Information about the Regional Climate Adaptation Forum can be found here.

 

 

 

DROUGHT

 

 


 

NASA’s Soil Moisture Mapper takes first ‘SMAPshots’

Posted: 10 Mar 2015 02:50 PM PDT

Fresh off the recent successful deployment of its 20-foot (6-meter) reflector antenna and associated boom arm, NASA’s new Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) observatory has successfully completed a two-day test of its science instruments.

 

 

Photo: Michael Macor / The Chronicle The Delta-Mendota Canal, a 117-mile aqueduct to replace water in the San Joa quin River, snakes through the Central Valley near Firebaugh (Fresno County).

Tap California’s innovators to develop water policies

By George Miller March 6, 2015 Opinion SF Chronicle

George Miller represented Contra Costa and Solano counties in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1975 to 2015. To comment, submit your letter to the editor at www.sfgate.com/submissions.

After 40 years of working on California water issues, it sometimes feels to me as if we haven’t learned anything. When I began my congressional career in 1975, powerful San Joaquin Valley agricultural interests were planning new dams and a new water facility in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. Environmental needs were ignored, and enormous subsidies encouraged wasteful and environmentally damaging water use. As I left the Congress in January, despite some important steps forward — including enactment of the Central Valley Project Improvement Act — all of these challenges continued. Federal water priorities are still being set in response to the demands of politically connected irrigators. Billions of taxpayer dollars have been spent on dams and canals to serve a small fraction of the state’s economy, with little consideration of the needs of most Californians and the environment. Four decades ago, the environmental and fishing communities did not yet have a seat at the water policy table. Today, they are being intentionally excluded from key policy debates. The drought gripping California and the West should force us to face the new reality of water policy. The policies of the past century won’t work in a future where we will face continued population growth and the effects of climate change.

Federal decision-makers need to acknowledge what most experts know: The era of building big dams that cause ecological havoc and cannot pay for themselves is over. Instead, we need to use existing technology and invest in innovations to generate the water we need at a price we can afford. The roadblocks to adoption of a 21st century water policy are not caused by federal law, but by bureaucratic inertia and political pressure from beneficiaries of the status quo. Twenty years ago, for example, Congress authorized programs that convert wastewater into clean water. Yet the proposed 2016 federal budget devotes less than 2 percent of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s $1.1 billion budget to water recycling. Federal policy is mired in early 20th century thinking, in contrast with evolving thinking in Sacramento. Last year, Gov. Jerry Brown’s Water Action Plan pointed the way to sustainable water policies, including long overdue groundwater-management legislation. Voters passed a water bond to finance groundwater clean up, water recycling, conservation and — it is hoped — modern water storage rather than traditional dams. These developments show the promise of a new direction.

Here are the cornerstones of an affordable, sustainable water policy:

  • Reduce reliance on the delta and increase local solutions: State and federal agencies must reduce reliance on the delta. That’s already state policy. Our environment and economy will be stronger when users are less reliant on this overworked ecosystem. Progress is being made here. Los Angeles, under the leadership of Mayor Eric Garcetti, plans to cut use of imported water by 50 percent by 2024. Many cities are refocusing on local sources, recognizing that conservation is our largest source of new water and that our ocean outfalls represent the next “river” for California to tap into. (Together, those outfalls dump more water than the combined flows of the Tuolumne, Merced and Stanislaus rivers.) These local sources will be more reliable in the future than over-allocated rivers that are subject to intensifying drought cycles.
  • Embrace credible economics: Huge water projects and water subsidies aren’t just environmentally damaging, they also represent flawed economic policies that harm the taxpayer and California’s economy. Smarter water sources are cheaper as well as greener. A more business-oriented approach will point to sustainable solutions that benefit the entire state, creating more jobs on farms, in our cities and in salmon-fishing communities.
  • Support agricultural modernization: Some farmers have made strides toward water efficiency, but we need to do much more because agriculture uses 80 percent of California’s water. We can build more sustainable agricultural communities by increasing efficiency; managing groundwater; cleaning up pollution that leaves rural communities without drinkable water; and avoiding an overemphasis on permanent, drought-susceptible crops, like almonds.
  • Develop restoration programs, not environmental rollbacks:
    Decades of antiquated water management have helped drive the San Francisco Bay-Delta ecosystem to its lowest level ever. Yet a few cynical interests are attempting to use the drought to weaken environmental laws. Sacrificing our environment wouldn’t end water shortages, but it could shut down the salmon fishery, endanger millions of migratory wildfowl and eliminate tens of thousands of jobs. Our natural resources need emergency restoration programs to help them survive droughts — not rollbacks that could lead to extinction of species and impoverished communities.
  • Adopt a 58-county approach: Rather than policies dominated by a few agricultural counties, California needs a 58-county water policy that meets the needs of the Bay Area, North Coast fishermen, South Coast cities, delta towns and Central Valley farmers. California and Congress should no longer pursue “water grab” policies that take one region’s water to benefit another. The best way to craft new policies is to involve all California interests, rather than pursue another generation of back-room water deals.

Ours is widely recognized as the nation’s most innovative state — a global leader in entertainment, high technology and renewable energy. It’s time that our water policies tapped into that creativity to use water-management strategies that ensure a thriving future for California’s economy and environment.

 

 

SSJID [South San Joaquin Irrigation District] caps water deliveries for first time

By John Holland Fresno Bee March 11, 2015 

For the first time ever, drought has forced the South San Joaquin Irrigation District to cap water deliveries. Its board voted 5-0 Tuesday for a 36-inch limit for farmers who irrigate about 55,000 acres around Escalon, Ripon and Manteca with water from the Stanislaus River. The allotment is far better than in many areas – the Merced Irrigation District and parts of the West Side expect zero river water this year – but it still could mean challenges for SSJID growers accustomed to plenty. “To my knowledge, we have never had an inch limit, so this is new business for us,” General Manager Jeff Shields said. About half of the farmers use more than 36 inches in a typical year, he said, but many have wells to supplement the river supply. The water will be delivered over an irrigation season that starts Sunday and will end Sept. 30…

 

Photo: John A. Benson, EBMUD

Reservoirs for East [SF] Bay water users near 38-year lows

By Steve Rubenstein March 10, 2015 Updated: March 10, 2015 6:20pm

Continued drought has lowered the level of reservoirs around the state, including EBMUD’s Camanche Reservoir. Levels at Sierra reservoirs that supply water for 1.3 million East Bay customers are as low as they’ve been in nearly 40 years, and it could take a miracle to make them better before the onset of the long dry season, officials were told Tuesday. The East Bay Municipal Utility District reservoirs contain less than half the water they usually do at this time of year. By summer, levels are expected to be about what they were during 1977, when back-to-back nearly dry winters had restaurants serving water by request only and backyard gardens resembling the Mojave. “Even if we were to get in a miracle March, we’re trending to be very dry,” Eileen White, manager of water operations, told solemn-faced agency board members at a meeting in downtown Oakland. “We no longer have to ask if it’s a wet or dry year. Now we have to ask, how dry?” On Tuesday, there were 11 inches of snow on the ground at Caples Lake in the Sierra, where the district does its measuring. The average for mid-March is 73 inches. The district’s snowpack in the Mokelumne Basin, at 17 percent of normal, is even worse than that of the overall Sierra snowpack, which is 19 percent of normal, district analysts told the board. Although no rationing plans are in place, the district is pondering a 15 percent voluntary reduction….

 

 

The Southwestern Water Wars

How Drought Is Producing Tensions in Texas

By RICHARD PARKERMARCH 13, 2015 NY TIMES The Opinion Pages | Op-Ed Contributor

WIMBERLEY, Tex. — “WE don’t want you here,” warned the county commissioner, pointing an accusatory finger at the drilling company executives as 600 local residents rose to their feet. “We want you to leave Hays County.”

Normally, my small town is a placid place nestled in the Texas Hill Country, far from controversy, a peaceful hour’s drive west of Austin. Pop. 2,582, Wimberley was founded as a mill town on a creek. Today it’s part artist colony, part cowboy town known for its natural beauty and its cool, clear springs and rivers that wind through soaring cypress trees. But these are not normal times. The suburbs of Austin close in every year. Recently, the suburb of Buda and developers enlisted a company from faraway Houston to drain part of the Trinity Aquifer, the source of the Hill Country’s water. An old-fashioned, Western-style water war has erupted. Across Texas and the Southwest, the scene is repeated in the face of a triple threat: booming population, looming drought and the worsening effects of climate change.
And it is a story that has played out before. It was in the Southwest that complex human cultures in the United States first arose. Around A.D. 800, the people called the “Ancient Ones” — the Mimbres, Mogollon, Chaco and other Native American cultures — flourished in what was then a green, if not lush, region. They channeled water into fields and built cities on the mesas and into the cliffs, fashioning societies, rituals and art.
Then around 1200 they all disappeared. Or so the legend goes. In reality, these cultures were slowly and painfully extinguished. The rivers dried. The fields died. The cities were unsustainable as drought stretched from years to decades, becoming what scientists today call a megadrought. Parts of these cultures were absorbed by the Pueblo and Navajo people; parts were simply stamped out
.

By the time the Spanish arrived in the 16th century, so had, finally, the rain. The American, German and Polish settlers who came to Texas in the 19th century found a rich landscape, flush with water. “I must say as to what I have seen of Texas,” wrote Davy Crockett, “it is the garden spot of the world.” And so it remained, punctuated by only two long droughts.

One, at the dawn of the 20th century, wreaked ecological havoc on the overgrazed Hill Country. The second stretched from the late 1940s to the late 1950s and is still known as the drought of record. When it released its grip, a new era of feverish dam and canal building ensued in Texas, just as it already had in much of the Southwest. A dearth of rainfall, after all, is a fact in the cycle of life here. Rains come when the equatorial current of El Niño appears, and they stay stubbornly away when its twin, La Niña, reverses the course. Those grand dams and canals seemed likely to suffice. But again, these are not normal times. Arizonans are in their 10th year of drought, despite an uptick in rainfall during last year’s monsoon season because of a single storm on a single day. And while it has been a cool, damp winter here, the clear waters of the Blanco River still look low. Officially, more than half of Texas’ 269,000 square miles are plagued by drought. Conservatively, this would make for the fifth consecutive year of drought in Texas. Meanwhile, today, the average American uses 100 gallons of water a day.

So the race to engineer a new solution is underway, and Wimberley finds itself squarely in the path. The drilling here would rely on a few landowners, whose land is beyond any water conservation district. Exploiting this gap in the patchwork of Texas water laws, the Houston company would pump five million gallons a day out of the Trinity Aquifer to the Austin suburbs of Buda and Kyle. Other cities are following suit. San Antonio has begun a controversial and costly initiative to pump water from beneath exurban Burleson County, 42 miles away. Over the objections of rural Texans and the concern of city dwellers facing a nearly 20 percent water-bill hike, this solution will cost $3.4 billion. It is being managed by San Antonio Water Systems, which everyone calls by its acronym, SAWS.

As a result of such plans, ranchers, farmers and rural people face the prospect of running dry. Politically and financially weaker, small towns are no match for big cities and corporations. Yet aquifers have many who rely on them; the Trinity stretches from San Antonio to Dallas. Rare species of darters and salamanders live above it, and blind catfish inside its caverns.
Then there is the Southwest’s never-ending population boom. Texas is home to four of the 10 fastest-growing cities in the United States. Expanding cities like Phoenix, Tucson and Las Vegas are exhausting Lake Meade — and eyeballing aquifers and pipelines from other states. Californians are preparing that most expensive solution of all: desalinating water from the Pacific Ocean.
Maybe engineering will, indeed, save us. But can we overcome a megadrought?

Scientists believe the megadroughts of the Medieval Era are likely to return to the South Plains and the Southwest soon — in this century, according to a recent NASA study. This time, though, the natural drought will be compounded by climate change — a hotter, drier atmosphere that evaporates rain before a drop strikes the ground.

This phenomenon is known as virga, and like drought itself it is cruel. Majestic thunderheads still arise on the distant horizon, but when they arrive they bring only dry lightning and thunder. No rain. Perhaps the great cultures of the American Southwest will survive when the virga comes this time, but most assuredly, the last ones did not.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Southwest U.S. has much to lose as climate change continues its grip and escalates across the basin. Photo credit: Shutterstock

Can Climate Action Plans Combat Megadrought and Save the Colorado River?

Gary Wockner | March 9, 2015 10:43 am | Comments
Gary Wockner, PhD, is executive director of the Save The Colorado River Campaign. Contact Gary@SaveTheColorado.org

If a city’s water supply is threatened by climate change, should that city enact a strong climate action plan? I believe the answer is yes, but few cities throughout the Colorado River basin are moving forward aggressively to address climate change even though the threat is increasing every year. Two of the largest reservoirs in the U.S.—Lakes Mead and Powell along the Colorado River—continue to lose water and are now less than half full with no prediction that the trend will change direction. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which manages the reservoirs, and many scientific studies by independent researchers have reached the same conclusion: human overuse of the river and the likely impacts of climate change could have a profound negative impact on the amount of water flowing down the Colorado River and its ability to supply water for 40 million people. A recent newspaper article discussing this issue was titled, “Climate change or just bad luck?” In the last 15 years, about 20 percent less water has flowed in the river compared to the 40 years prior. This river flow, which comes from snow falling in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming, is at historic lows already. Climate change is predicted to lower the snow and river flows by 8.5 percent or more. A recent study by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration used the term “megadrought” to describe what could be coming for the Colorado River basin if climate change is not abated.

In this quagmire, several cities in the Southwest U.S. that use water out of the Colorado River are enacting “Climate Action Plans” to reduce their carbon emissions. A few of those plans are highly ambitious and propose to reduce carbon emissions to zero. Several others have less lofty goals but are moving in the right direction. Here’s a quick summary of some of the cities’ plans in the seven Colorado River basin states:

Colorado: Several cities have aggressive plans including Fort Collins, Boulder and Aspen.

  • Fort Collins proposes to get to 100 percent renewables by 2050.
  • Aspen proposes an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
  • Boulder enacted a “climate action plan tax,” and is in the process of “municipalizing” its utility to achieve an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
  • Denver’s plan to reduce emissions is minimal, but the city has embarked on a lengthy “Climate Adaptation Plan.”

Utah:

New Mexico:

Wyoming:

  • No traceable climate action plans are occurring in the Colorado River basin area of this heavy oil, gas and coal extraction state.

Nevada:

  • Las Vegas is likely one of the first cities that may be hit by the impacts of climate change as the water levels in Lake Mead continue to drop. The city has committed to a smaller 30 percent reduction in its carbon footprint by 2030.

Arizona:

Southern California:

  • San Diego has an ambitious goal of 100 percent renewable energy by 2035. Los Angeles has a goal of a 35 percent reduction by 2030.
  • In addition to these cities, a number of cities across the basin and especially in Southern California signed on to the MCPA goal for a 7 percent reduction by 2012.

The Southwest U.S. has much to lose as climate change continues its grip and escalates across the basin. The list above is a cursory summary—local groups and governments likely have far more detail—but this post should help begin a broader discussion about the role cities can play in the climate-water nexus across the Colorado River basin. If “megadrought” is on the horizon, the leadership in cities like Boulder, Fort Collins and San Diego show that a “mega-response” is the smart path forward.

 

 

UK seeks to offer climate adaptation services to vulnerable nations

Ed Davey launches new initiative that could see the Met Office help with forecasting in Africa or Kew Gardens advise on plant resilience

By Jessica Shankleman 12 Mar 2015

Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey has today launched a government initiative that aims to outsource the UK’s climate adaptation expertise to developing countries that are most vulnerable to extreme weather events caused by rising temperatures. Davey is today meeting with representatives from the Met Office and a number of government departments, including Defra and the Foreign Office, in a bid to put together a package of support mechanisms that the UK could offer to developing countries for free. The initiative is still in early stages, but BusinessGreen understands Davey was keen to set the wheels in motion on the idea before the general election. The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) said examples of where the UK could help, include the Met Office improving seasonal forecasting in Africa, or the Environment Agency expanding its Climate Ready Support Service overseas to offer advice and information to businesses, the public sector and other organisations on adapting to climate change. Royal Botanic Gardens Kew meanwhile could offer advice on building up the resilience of plants and crops, while the UK’s insurance industry could also play a role in helping countries prepare for worsening floods. “The UK is a global leader in tackling climate change and the major threat it poses to our prosperity and security,” said Davey in a statement. “With the crunch climate talks in Paris just months away, the world needs every ounce of expertise and effort available if we are to limit temperature rises and avoid the worst impacts of climate change. “That is why I want to bring together the UK’s wide-ranging climate service expertise so we can assist other nations in dealing with the impacts of climate change.”

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Florida Officials Banned From Using Term ‘Climate Change’

March 8th, 2015

Officials in Florida have been banned from using the terms “climate change” and “global warming” in official communications, according to a report published by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting on Sunday.  Former officials and employees from the state Department of Environmental Protection told FCIR that they were warned not to used the terms in their work after Gov. Rick Scott (R) took office in 2011.  “We were told not to use the terms ‘climate change,’ ‘global warming’ or ‘sustainability,'” Christopher Byrd, who served as an attorney in the DEP from 2008 to 2013, told FCIR. “That message was communicated to me and my colleagues by our superiors in the Office of General Counsel.”  Kristina Trotta, a former DEP employee in Miami, said her boss told her not to used the terms “climate change” or “global warming” during a 2014 staff meeting.

 

Keystone XL oil pipeline: What you need to know about the dispute

March 6th

One of the biggest environmental controversies of the Obama administration got locked up in Congress again this week, when the Republican-controlled Senate failed to override President Obama’s recent veto of legislation that would have forced a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline.

From the halls of Congress to courthouses in heartland states, the project has created a stark divide. Critics believe the planned 1,179-mile pipeline undermines efforts to slow climate change and could threaten a crucial aquifer. On the other hand, construction of the pipeline would undoubtedly create jobs. But what then?

With debate over the pipeline nearing its peak, here’s some background:

 

What is the Keystone XL pipeline?


Keystone XL pipeline routeIts genesis was in the early 2000s, when oil prices rose and the extraction of petroleum from the remote tar sands in northern Canada became lucrative. Oil companies needed a quick way to transport the oil to refineries on the Gulf Coast, and they argue that a pipeline is the quickest, cheapest, safest way. TransCanada Corp., a Calgary-based energy infrastructure firm, hopes to extend a 36-inch-wide pipeline 1,179 miles from Alberta, Canada, to Steele City, Neb. The company estimates it will cost about $8 billion and will transport 830,000 barrels of oil each day to refineries in Texas.

Keystone XL is the last of four phases of a larger Keystone pipeline system.

 

EU outlines its carbon reduction goal for 2030. Photo: AFP

Europe submits UN climate pledge, urges US, China to follow

March 7, 2015

The European Union on Friday submitted its formal promise on how much it will cut greenhouse gas emissions to the United Nations ahead of climate change talks starting in November and called on the United States and China to follow its lead. The European Union is the first major economy to agree its position before the talks in Paris aimed at seeking a new worldwide deal on global warming. “We expect China, the United States and the other G20 countries in particular to follow the European Union and submit their contributions by the end of March,” Miguel Arias Canete, climate and energy Commissioner, told reporters after a meeting of EU environment ministers in Brussels. French Energy Minister Segolene Royal said Europe was taking up its responsibilities as host of the 2015 Paris climate conference, which begins on Nov. 30. “A very important step was taken today,” she said. “This is a decisive, historic stage.”

 

AMANA IMAGES INC. / ALAMY

Nature Climate Change | Editorial

The global risk landscape

Nature Climate Change 5, 175(2015) doi:10.1038/nclimate2565 Published online 25 February 2015

Initiatives aimed at preserving or enhancing the state of the environment are created in a broad political landscape influenced by, among other things, perceived risks. We take a brief look at this risk landscape in the run up to Paris 2015. The proverb ‘may you live in interesting times’ certainly applies to the twenty-first century so far. The choices ahead, and perhaps particularly some that will take place in the next year, could determine the extent to which the proverb does — as traditionally applied — foretell of a cursed situation. In the next year, the development of the climate agreement hoped for in Paris and new sustainable development objectives have the potential to make real progress in tackling climate change and poverty, respectively. However, the relative priority given to these processes will inevitably be influenced by other events that are unfolding on the world stage.

Davos, the annual conference of the World Economic Forum (WEF) is a meeting involving business leaders, politicians and diplomats with the self-stated aim of improving the state of the world through public–private cooperation. Critics argue that it is really just a talking shop for the privileged elite. But however you feel about the power relations as they stand, it is difficult to imagine that bringing together so many influencers does not lend the event some, well, influence. One of the interesting outputs from the WEF that informs the attendees of the Davos conference and has gained wider influence is the Global Risks report, which is now on its tenth annual volume (http://www.weforum.org/risks). The report attempts to highlight the most significant long-term (next ten years) risks faced by society worldwide. It is based on a survey of the WEF’s stakeholder community, which includes ‘leading’ decision-makers from business, academia and the public sector — in its latest incarnation this included 896 respondents. In this respect, the report can be viewed as a snapshot (the 2015 survey period included July–September 2014) of the aggregate concerns of key influencers, as well as a report about actual risks in the world. Of course, we hope that these two things are not entirely independent but the report is interesting from both perspectives.

 

Risk is reported as a measure of impact and likelihood, with those factors that are deemed to pose a high impact and to be likely to occur representing the greatest risk. Five categories of risk are reported: economic, environmental, geopolitical, societal and technological. Environmental risks — for example, extreme weather events, biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse — therefore have to jostle for position with economic and security risks. So where do environmental risks sit within the minds of these influential people? For the cynical among us we would expect them to be low, concerning perhaps but trumped by risks that are perceived to be more immediate and/or convenient. The actual picture is complex, but environmental risks have moved up the hierarchy in recent years so that in the 2015 report extreme weather events are deemed one of the most likely risks to society, although their impact is judged to be relatively low. The top risks in terms of their combined likelihood/impact scores are interstate conflict, failure of climate change adaptation, water crisis and unemployment or underemployment. By this measure, two of the top risks worrying survey respondents are closely related to environmental change. Last year climate change was up in this ‘top list’ but in 2015 it has been reclassified as a trend, rather than a risk in and of itself. A trend is defined in the report as “a long-term pattern that is currently taking place and that could contribute to amplifying global risks and/or altering the relationship between them”. Looking back over the history of this report it is possible to chart the top concerns back to 2007. As you might expect with the timing of the financial crisis, economic risks featured most highly from 2007 but environmental factors started to take a growing share of the top risk list from 2011 onwards. The most notable change in 2015 is the re-emergence of interstate conflict as the top risk.

 

The WEF report shows that the influencers surveyed have growing concerns about environmental risks, with those closely related to climate change high in the overall risk hierarchy. There is also an acknowledgement that little progress has been made to date. Unfortunately two of the trends identified, increasing national sentiment and weakening of international governance do not bode well for an international climate agreement, and the apparent re-emergence of interstate conflict seems to bear out these concerns. The risk landscape therefore provides a mixed outlook for Paris 2015, and it seems that success will depend on a high level of international trust and cooperation at a time when they are in dwindling supply.

 

    

Kaanapali Beach, Maui, Hawaii.CREDIT: flickr/ Randy Robertson

Here’s Another Thing To Love About Hawaii

March 11, 2015

Hawaii is on track to pass legislation this year requiring the state to go 100 percent renewable by 2040. Earlier this month, committees in the Hawaii House and Senate both unanimously recommended bills that would raise the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) from the current target of 70 percent by 2030 to the ultimate goal of 100 percent by 2040. Hawaii has had an RPS since 2001, and right now the state gets just over 21 percent of its power from renewable sources — a 12 percent increase in just six years. This is huge for our state’s future. “Even our utility is saying we can hit 65 percent by 2030, so 100 percent is definitely doable,” Sen. Mike Gabbard (D), sponsor of the Senate bill, SB 2181, and chair of Hawaii’s Energy and Environment Committee, told ThinkProgress. “This is huge for our state’s future. Each year, we spend $3 to $5 billion importing fossil fuels to power our economy. Our electricity bills are roughly three times the national average.”

 

 

 

 

Plan for [Farallones and Cordell Bank ]marine sanctuary expansion set to move forward Thursday

BY MARY CALLAHAN THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
March 11, 2015, 12:25PM
For those closely tracking the progress of expansion plans for Gulf of the Farallones and Cordell Bank national marine sanctuaries, a heads-up: The formal federal notice is marked for publication on Thursday. Posting of the final rule in the Federal Register triggers a 45-day congressional review period after which newly drawn sanctuary boundaries and regulations for the adjoining sanctuaries off the North Coast go into effect – extending federal protections along a stretch of coastline from Bodega Head to Point Arena and Manchester Beach, and more than doubling the combined area of the sanctuaries. The notice, however, includes a provision delaying by an additional six months the effective date for sewage discharge regulations as they apply to the U.S. Coast Guard, which raised last-minute concerns about its ability to operate in the sanctuaries because of limited storage in some of its vessels. The six-month delay also provides time during which the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will work with the Coast Guard to resolve other concerns about flexibility for live-fire training exercises in sanctuary waters, as well as other issues the agency recently brought up. The Coast Guard is the chief enforcement body for national marine sanctuaries, in addition to handling search and rescue, drug interdiction, surveillance and other functions. But while sanctuary rules provide exemptions for Department of Defense activities deemed essential to the nation’s defense, they don’t apply to the Coast Guard, an arm of the Department of Homeland Security. The unresolved issues have been a sticking point for weeks, stalling publication of the expansion plans for about six weeks. The public and any stakeholders will have an opportunity to comment on any future solutions negotiated by NOAA and the Coast Guard, NOAA said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In this July,10, 2011 file photo, oil-fouled islands and a sheen on the water are seen downstream of an Exxon Mobil crude pipeline that broke beneath the Yellowstone River. In the last year, oil spills have continued to contaminate great North American rivers, including Yellowstone. CREDIT: AP Photo/Julie Jacobson

We Keep Spilling Oil Into America’s Greatest Rivers

March 10, 2015

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a grave warning about the Mississippi River on Saturday. Because of an oil spill, it said, the cultural landmark is in “imminent and substantial danger” of being contaminated. The oil spill came from a train carrying 103 cars of Bakken crude oil from North Dakota. On Thursday afternoon, 17 cars of that train derailed in northern Illinois, each carrying approximately 30,000 gallons of crude. EPA officials aren’t sure how much oil has spilled, but noted that a seasonal wetland has already been affected. The river, one of its tributaries, and the Upper Mississippi National Wildlife and Fish Refuge are all in danger of contamination, the agency said. This isn’t the first time in recent months that one of North America’s most powerful and historic rivers have been threatened by oil. In the last year, the Mississippi, the Yellowstone, the Missouri, and the Ohio Rivers have been contaminated because of oil train derailments, barge crashes, and pipeline spills. Here are some of the more significant incidents.

 

 

New carbon accounting method proposed

Posted: 10 Mar 2015 07:48 AM PDT

Established ways of measuring carbon emissions can sometimes give misleading feedback on how national policies affect global emissions. In some cases, countries are even rewarded for policies that increase global emissions, and punished for policies that contribute to reducing them. “We have developed a new method that provides policy makers with more useful information, in order to set national targets and evaluate their climate policies,” says Astrid Kander, Professor in Economic History at Lund University, and lead author of the study, published in the latest issue of Nature Climate Change.
Consumption-based accounting, also known as carbon footprints, has been suggested as an alternative to today’s production-based accounting. With carbon footprints, each country must account for all emissions that are caused by its final consumption — regardless of where the goods were produced. This has been called a fairer way of measuring emissions, potentially avoiding so-called carbon leakage, where rich, developed countries can reduce their domestic emissions by shifting carbon-intensive production abroad. The new study, a collaboration between researchers in Sweden, Norway and Australia, demonstrates that carbon footprints do not credit countries for cleaning up their export industries. It also punishes countries with more carbon efficient technology than their trading partners for engaging in trade, even if trading leads to a more carbon efficient allocation of production resources, and hence contributes to reducing emissions globally. The new measure is therefore based on consumption-based carbon footprints, but adjusts for technology differences between countries in their export sectors

 

 

SolarCraft workers install solar panels on the roof of a home in San Rafael, Calif. According to a report by the Solar Foundation, the solar industry employs more workers than the coal-mining industry. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Utilities wage campaign against rooftop solar

March 7, 2015

Three years ago, the nation’s top utility executives gathered at a Colorado resort to hear warnings about a grave new threat to operators of America’s electric grid: not superstorms or cyberattacks, but rooftop solar panels. If demand for residential solar continued to soar, traditional utilities could soon face serious problems, from “declining retail sales” and a “loss of customers” to “potential obsolescence,” according to a presentation prepared for the group. “Industry must prepare an action plan to address the challenges,” it said. The warning, delivered to a private meeting of the utility industry’s main trade association, became a call to arms for electricity providers in nearly every corner of the nation. Three years later, the industry and its fossil-fuel supporters are waging a determined campaign to stop a home-solar insurgency that is rattling the boardrooms of the country’s government-regulated electric monopolies. The campaign’s first phase—an industry push for state laws raising prices for solar customers—failed spectacularly in legislatures around the country, due in part to surprisingly strong support for solar energy from conservatives and evangelicals in traditionally “red states.” But more recently, the battle has shifted to public utility commissions, where industry backers have mounted a more successful push for fee hikes that could put solar panels out of reach for many potential customers.

 

 

You Can Now Invest In Solar Bonds Through Your Retirement Account

March 10, 2015

Investing in solar energy through a retirement account just got easier, thanks to a new initiative. Major solar provider SolarCity announced Monday that it was partnering with securities and investment firm Incapital to allow Americans to invest in Solar Bonds through their IRAs or financial advisers. Solar Bonds, which were created by SolarCity in 2014, are a way for Americans to invest in solar through a bond structure, rather than buying stock in a company. Bonds are similar to a loan made to a company which is paid back to the investor, with interest, over time, and are typically considered less risky than stocks. Before SolarCity’s new partnership, people interested in purchasing Solar Bonds had to go through SolarCity; now, they can do it through the financial company that manages their retirement account. The bonds start at $1,000 and have maturities of up to 15 years and annual interest as high as 5.45 percent.

 

 

 

 
 

New on the CA Climate Commons: Rangelands and Climate Change
Climate change and rangeland scientists, ranchers, and land managers have developed scenarios to address a primary management question: How can we maintain viable ranchland and their ecosystem services in light of future integrated threats? The scenarios represent alternative futures of climate/land use/hydrological change for the Central Valley, surrounding foothills, and most of the southern Inner Coast Range. The project scientists have developed a new article to facilitate use of these rangeland scenarios “How to Use the Threat Assessments on California Rangelands Maps to Inform Land Use Decisions.”

 

 

WEBINARS:


Enhancing the Climate Resilience of America’s Natural Resources, Wed 25 March 2015, 10-11:30 PT
Mariel Murray, White House Council on Environmental Quality
Dr. Mark L. Shaffer, Ph.D., U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
For more information and to register, go to: https://nctc.adobeconnect.com/safeguarding03252015/event/event_info.html

If you have any questions regarding the Safeguarding webinar series, please contact: Shayna Carney, shayna_carney@fws.gov

 

Western Governors’ Drought Forum Webinar Series

Registration is open for the Western Governors’ Drought Forum Webinar Series, featuring regional experts on water and drought management. The Drought Forum Webinar Series will offer five in-depth discussions on topics that have arisen during the first six months of the Drought Forum, the Chairman’s Initiative of Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval. In addition to providing a closer examination of the emerging challenges in drought management, the webinars will enable the Drought Forum to reach a wider audience of those facing drought in the West. All of the Drought Forum webinars, as well as additional drought-related webinars, can be found on our Webinars page. Each of the five webinars will include a 40-minute panel discussion by three expert panelists, followed by a 20-minute opportunity for questions and discussion for all attendees. The remaining schedule:

  • March 11: “Tip of the Spear: The Horizon for Drought Data and Technology” examines how scientists use data to understand drought and help policymakers anticipate dry conditions. The moderator will be Tony Willardson, Executive Director of Western States Water Council. Panelists: Terry Fulp, Lower Colorado Regional Director, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation; Michael Strobel, Director, National Water and Climate Center, NRCS; Deke Arndt, Chief, Climate Monitoring Branch, NOAA/NCDC; Rebecca Moore, Engineering Manager, Google Earth Outreach & Earth Engine at Google. Register.
  • March 25: “Managing Forest Health for Water Resources” explains the latest science on forest management for water resource needs as well as best practices to add security to water portfolios.The moderator will be Ken Pimlott, California State Forester and Director of CAL FIRE. Panelists: Alan Hook, Project Manager, Santa Fe Municipal Watershed Management Plan and Water Resources Coordinator, City of Santa Fe; Marcos Robles, Conservation Science Specialist, The Nature Conservancy; Don Boucher, Project Manager, Ashland Forest Resiliency Stewardship Project, United States Forest Service. Register.
  • April 8: “One Size Doesn’t Fit All: Why Variation in Hydrology and Legal Structures means that Drought Looks Different across the West” will highlight how solutions tailored to the needs of specific communities can be utilized across the region. The moderator will be Jason King, Nevada State Engineer and the panel will include Sharon Megdal, Director of the Water Resources Research Center at the University of Arizona. We’ll be adding more panelists for this webinar, so check back for updates. Register.

All webinars start at 11 a.m. MT (10 AM PT). Register for a webinar now; we’ll remind you when it’s time to join.

 

 

 

UPCOMING CONFERENCES: 

 

Point Reyes Station, CA

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

 

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

 

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

 

INVITATION TO PARTICIPATE  Abstract submission deadline is 1 November 2014 

COME TO OUR HISTORIC SUMMIT 25-27 MARCH 2015

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

 

Regional-Sonoma County- climate adaptation forum set for April 8

Organized by the Santa Rosa-based North Bay Climate Adaptation Initiative, the Sonoma County Adaptation Forum will bring together individuals from across a spectrum of sectors and disciplines who are working on measures to ensure that Sonoma County …

 
 

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

 

16th Bay Area Conservation Biology Symposium
on May 2nd, 2015 Call for Abstracts & Opening of Registration

The Berkeley Chapter of the Society for Conservation Biology would like to announce the 16th Bay Area Conservation Biology Symposium on May 2nd, 2015. Since the 1990s, this one-day conference has showcased the pioneering conservation biology science by graduate students at Bay Area universities and researchers at local agencies and NGOs. Our theme for this year is “Bridging Boundaries for Effective Conservation,” which will foster discussion around connectivity across institutions, disciplines, research methods, and landscapes. We now welcome abstract submissions for oral presentations and posters. Please visit the Registration & Abstracts page to submit your abstract.

  • Abstract submission closes: March 14th
  • Decisions on submitted abstracts: March 30th
  • Early registration closes: April 18th

Please visit our website at www.bacbs2015.com for more information including plenary speakers, schedule, and directions. This event is sponsored by UC-Berkeley’s Dept. of Environmental Science, Policy, & Management. Questions? Email us at scb.berkeley@gmail.com.

 

 


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

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

Click here for more information.

 

 

22nd annual conference

California Society for Ecological Restoration (SERCAL)

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

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

 

 

First San Joaquin River Restoration Program Science Symposium

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

 

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

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

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

                                                         

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

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

 


December 13-18, 2015 San Francisco

Abstract Submissions are OPEN for the 21st Biennial. We are currently accepting abstract submissions for workshops, oral, speed and poster presentations for the 21st Biennial Society for Marine Mammalogy Conference, to take place in San Francisco from December 13-18, 2015.  The submission deadline is May 15th, 2015.  Workshops will be held on December 12-13th.

 

 


The 2016 Ocean Sciences Meeting will be held 21-26 February 2016 at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, located at 900 Convention Center Blvd., New Orleans, LA 70130. Cosponsored by AGU, ASLO, and TOS, the Ocean Sciences Meeting will consist of a diverse program covering topics in all areas of the ocean sciences discipline. The abstract submission site will open 15 July 2015; stay tuned for more details about how to be a part of the scientific program.

 

 

FUNDING

 

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

Science Transfer Projects

·       Proposals are due March 27

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

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

 
 

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

 

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

 

Rangeland Watershed Initiative Partner Biologist, Petaluma, CA

For more info: Breanna Owens, bowens@pointblue.org, Rangeland Watershed Initiative Coordinator

The Rangeland Watershed Initiative Partner Biologist is a Point Blue Conservation Science position in partnership with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) that will focus on providing value added delivery of wildlife conservation programs on working lands through Farm Bill and other federal and state funding programs. The Partner Biologist will actively participate with NRCS Field Conservationists, working lands producers, and other resource professionals in the development of ranch and farm conservation plans, including resources assessments, conservation practice design and implementation. In particular, they will seek to expand the adoption of prescribed rangeland and cropland management practices under NRCS Farm Bill habitat conservation programs. The Partner Biologist will also be involved with assessment and monitoring of conservation practices that have been applied on those working lands. This position will provide technical assistance with NRCS field conservationists to working lands producers whose primary focus is on the implementation of conservation in rangeland cropland, wetland, and riparian habitats. This position, dependent on funding, is intended to be a full time position for a 3-year term with benefits. The position will be located in the NRCS Petaluma Field Office, covering Sonoma and Marin Counties of California.

 

Climate Resiliency Specialist for the San Mateo County Office of Sustainability in Redwood City [CA]

San Mateo County is currently accepting applications for a Climate Resiliency Specialist for the San Mateo County Office of Sustainability in Redwood City. This is an exciting new position and we would appreciate your help in forwarding the announcement to others you are working with on issues related to Sea Level Rise and preparation for impacts due to climate change. Please follow the link and note the new closing date is 3/13/2015 – https://www.governmentjobs.com/jobs/1080042/climate-resiliency-specialist-open-and-promotional

 
 

Policy Campaign Manager- Save the Bay (San Francisco)

Help us recruit a seasoned professional to develop and manage winning issue advocacy campaigns for the region’s largest organization advocating for the Bay. Position details at:
http://www.savesfbay.org/work-save-bay#policy

 

 

 

 

 

  • OTHER NEWS OF INTEREST

     

     

‘God commanded’ family planning, says this Muslim leader in flood-ravaged Malawi.

For two villages in southern Malawi, climate change and contraception have become intertwined. So much so, that long-held cultural assumptions are starting to change. Public Radio International

 

 


Residential buildings in Wuhan in Hubei Province were shrouded in heavy smog last month. China’s environmental degradation is among the worst in the world. Credit Darley Shen/Reuters

China Blocks Web Access to ‘Under the Dome’ Documentary on Pollution

March 6, 2015

BEIJING — “Under the Dome,” a searing documentary about China’s catastrophic air pollution, had hundreds of millions of views on Chinese websites within days of its release one week ago. The country’s new environment minister compared it to “Silent Spring,” the landmark 1962 book that energized the environmental movement in the United States. Domestic and foreign journalists clamored to interview the filmmaker, a famous former television reporter, though she remained silent. Then on Friday afternoon, the momentum over the video came to an abrupt halt, as major Chinese video websites deleted it under orders from the Communist Party’s central propaganda department. The startling phenomenon of the video, the national debate it set off and the official attempts to quash it reflect the deep political sensitivities in the struggle within the Chinese bureaucracy to reverse China’s environmental degradation, among the worst in the world. The drama over the video has ignited speculation over which political groups were its supporters and which sought to kill it, and whether party leaders will tolerate the civic conversation and grass-roots activism that in other countries have been necessary to curbing rampant pollution.

 


Fred Singer appeared in the The Merchants of Doubt film, dismissing human’s role in causing climate change. Photograph: Sony Pictures/Rex Features

Climate sceptics attempt to block Merchants of Doubt film

Climate denier Fred Singer lobbied fellow sceptics to create a backlash, and proposed legal action, against the film that exposes industry’s role in manipulating US debate on climate change

Suzanne Goldenberg Wednesday 11 March 2015 06.34 EDT

On screen, the man widely regarded as the grandfather of climate denial appears a genial participant in a newly-released expose about industry’s efforts to block action on global warming. But behind the scenes, Fred Singer has lobbied fellow climate deniers to try to block the film, Merchants of Doubt, and raised the prospect of legal action against the filmmaker. “It’s exactly what we talk about in the film. It’s a product of a playbook which is to go after the messengers and attack and try and change the conversation, and try to intimidate, and it is very effective,” said Robert Kenner, the filmmaker. Since the film’s release, Kenner, and Naomi Oreskes, a Harvard professor and co-author of the book on which the documentary is based, have come under attack in climate denier blogs, and in email chains. The backlash appears to have been initiated by Singer, 90, a Princeton-trained physicist who has a cameo in the film. Singer dismisses the dangers of secondhand smoking. He also denies human activity is a main cause of climate change. “It’s all bunk. It’s all bunk,” a seemingly jovial Singer says in the film….

 

Merchants of Doubt film exposes slick US industry behind climate denial

 

Moderate Alcohol Consumption Increases Attractiveness

Mar. 9, 2015 — Consuming alcohol (equivalent to about a glass of wine) can make the drinker appear more attractive than when sober, according to new research. However, the effect disappears when more is … full story

Salt affects organs, even in absence of high blood pressure

Posted: 10 Mar 2015 01:00 PM PDT

Physicians have provided evidence that even in the absence of an increase in blood pressure, excess dietary sodium can adversely affect target organs, including the blood vessels, heart, kidneys and brain.

 

High levels of vitamin D is suspected of increasing mortality rates

Posted: 10 Mar 2015 07:52 AM PDT

The level of vitamin D in our blood should neither be too high nor to low. Scientists have now shown that there is a connection between high levels of vitamin D and cardiovascular deaths.

 

Move over Mozart: Study shows cats prefer their own beat

Posted: 10 Mar 2015 01:00 PM PDT

As more animal shelters, primate centers and zoos start to play music for their charges, it’s still not clear whether and how human music affects animals. Now, a study shows that while cats ignore our music, they are highly responsive to “music” written especially for them.

 

How human composting will change death in the city

By Katie Herzog on 9 Mar 2015

What we do with our dead can seem bizarre to outsiders. In a Tibetan tradition called sky burial, the deceased are cut into small pieces by a man known as the rogyapa, or “breaker of bodies,” and laid atop mountains to be picked apart by vultures. Later, the bones are collected and pulverized with flour and yak butter and fed to crows and hawks. Feeding your loved ones to the same birds who eat roadkill may seem morbid to those of us in the West, but in Tibet, it’s both sacrosanct (these birds are sacred in Buddhism) and practical (ever tried to dig a grave in frozen ground?). Tibet isn’t the only place with seemingly odd customs: In Madagascar, the bodies of the deceased are exhumed and sprayed with wine and perfume every few years. In Ghana, people are buried in coffins that represent their lives, so a fisherman might spend eternity in a box shaped like a carp and a farmer may spend it in a six-foot cob of corn. These rituals sound weird or even ghastly to us, from half a world away, but are any as bizarre — or as damaging — as what we do with the dead in America?

For most people in this country, there are two options after death: You are buried or you are burned. The costs, both environmental and financial, are significant, but we accept these options because they are all that we know. One Seattle architect wants to change this, to develop a form of body disposal that will both cost little and actually improve the environment. But before we get to that, let’s look at the current state of death in America.

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————

Ellie Cohen, President and CEO

Point Blue Conservation Science (formerly PRBO)

3820 Cypress Drive, Suite 11, Petaluma, CA 94954

707-781-2555 x318

 

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

 

Point Blue—Conservation science for a healthy planet.

 

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