Conservation Science News August 21, 2015

Focus of the Week Developing El Nino Could be Strongest on Record










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Focus of the Week– Developing El Nino Could be Strongest on Record; Global Warming Speed-Up


NOAA Elevated ocean surface temperatures in the eastern Pacific Ocean are a sign of El Niño.

Nature | News: Explainer

Developing El Niño could be strongest on record

Event could bring rain to drought-stricken California and dry conditions to Australia.

Chris Cesare 14 August 2015 Corrected: 14 August 2015 Nature doi:10.1038/nature.2015.18184

The El Niño weather pattern developing in the Pacific Ocean could eventually rank among the strongest on record, forecasters with the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said on 13 August. A strong El Niño — signalled by the periodic warming of ocean-surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific — can lead to heavy rain in parts of North America and drier-than-normal conditions in Australia, Indonesia and parts of India. NOAA says that there is an 85% chance that the current El Niño will last through the first few months of next year, with its strength peaking in November or December. Nature explains why this El Niño is unusual, and how it might affect weather around the world.

How does an El Niño form?

The weather pattern is the product of a complex dance between sea-surface temperatures and atmospheric conditions. Normally, trade winds from the east drive cold water from the depths of the eastern Pacific Ocean to the surface. But sometimes those winds weaken, causing the ocean surface to warm and heat the air above it. That warm air rises, and moves north and south from the equator — altering the high-altitude air currents along which storms tend to travel.

How do scientists forecast an El Niño?

Forecasters in the United States, Japan and Australia monitor sea-surface temperatures in the Pacific, paying particular attention to a region called Niño 3.4 in the eastern equatorial Pacific. They also track water temperatures below the ocean surface and the air pressure above, then feed this information into forecast models. If ocean-surface temperatures in the Niño-3.4 region are between 0.5 to 1 °C above average during a three-month window, NOAA declares a weak El Niño. Forecasters label an El Niño as strong if it exceeds the average by 1.5 °C. NOAA projects that the current event could produce temperatures that are 2 °C higher than average, or more. For comparison, the strongest El Niño on record occurred in 1997–98 and produced temperatures 2.3 °C above average.

What makes this El Niño different?

Two things. It started unusually early — in March instead of June. This could be because warm waters left over from last year’s weak El Niño gave it a head start, says Anthony Barnston, chief forecaster at the International Research Institute for Climate and Society at Columbia University in Palisades, New York. And this would be the second El Niño year in a row, following the weak El Niño that developed late last year, Barnston adds. A similar El Niño double-header happened between 1986 and 1988, but forecasters predict that the current El Niño will become stronger than either of those two events.

Could this end the drought in California?

El Niño could offer some relief to the US state, which is now in the fourth year of a historic drought. Forecasters say that there is a good chance that southern California will receive more rainfall than usual throughout the winter. In the past, very strong El Niños have also soaked the central and northern parts of the state. Still, “one season of above-normal rain and snow is very unlikely to erase four years of drought”, says Mike Halpert, deputy director of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland. According to a study published last month in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres1, California’s rain shortfall since the start of the current drought is roughly equal to the amount of rain the state would receive in a normal year.

What effects might El Niño have elsewhere?

El Niño is associated with higher atmospheric pressure in the western Pacific, which tends to produce sunny, dry weather in parts of Australia and Indonesia, says Barnston. The effects can spread all the way to India, which has experienced a relatively dry June and July. “They’re having a bad monsoon in India,” Barnston says. In Peru, where waters off the coast typically warm during El Niño, the government has declared a state of emergency because of concerns about heavy rain and mudslides.



The little boy [El Nino] and his changing faces

Nature Climate Change 5, 787 (2015) doi:10.1038/nclimate2790 Editorial Published online 17 August 2015

After a false start in 2014, this year is shaping up to host a strong El Niño event. The question is why were last year’s predictions of the natural phenomenon wrong? And what is the state of knowledge on the El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO)? All systems are go, with the much-anticipated El Niño event underway. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) forecast a >90% chance of the event continuing through the Northern Hemisphere winter and a strong chance (~80%) of continuing into the start of 20161. The strength of the event is unknown and after the failure to forecast last year (discussed in a Commentary by McPhaden2), there may be some reluctance to make strong statements. That doesn’t mean that all are shying away, a NASA climatologist is reported to have stated that a “Godzilla” event will happen3, with 1997/1998 being the last event worthy of this status….

…The El Niño phenomenon has been known for many years, but how much do we understand this natural variability of the climate system? In a web focus this month, ENSO Under Change (, we present a collection of pieces alongside a selection from the archives of Nature Climate Change, Nature, Nature Geoscience and Nature Communications. This body of work investigates how climate change is impacting on ENSO, and more specifically how it is affecting the severity and frequency of extreme ENSO events8. Although many people are familiar (particularly those who reside in countries affected) with the hydrological changes associated with the ENSO phenomenon, there are other, less-known effects. One of these is increases in cyclone intensity in the western Pacific9. The increase is thought to result from a shift in the location where the storms form — warm central Pacific waters. The shift away from land means the storms have more time in open water to gain strength before making landfall. Climate change is thought to play a role in storm frequency, with increased intensity storms expected. This could result in devastation of the communities in their path, although overall storm occurrence may decrease10. A sobering thought, as (at the time of writing) another storm, Typhoon Soudelor, is ramping up in the Western Pacific Ocean. Scientists are working towards understanding the dynamics at play in the Pacific Ocean, but as the climate changes we don’t have a stable baseline for comparisons. So let’s just consider what is happening now — current information (such as the SST anomalies shown above, which tell only a small part of the story) is that a strong event is underway. The impacts on communities is difficult to predict and only time will tell how extreme the event will become. If anything, the last year and the false start have just reminded us that we still have a lot to learn about this planet of ours.


Godzilla El Niño’ Plus Carbon Pollution Equals Global Warming Speed-Up

by Joe Romm Aug 17, 2015 8:00am

NASA oceanographer Bill Patzert called the intensifying El Niño, “Godzilla.” A NOAA research scientist called it “Bruce Lee” in July, and, by August, she said that what’s coming is “Supercalifragilisticexpealidocious.” Whatever you call it, the short-term burst of regional warming in the tropical Pacific (from the monster El Niño) combined with the strong underlying long-term global warming trend means that 2015 will easily be the hottest year on record — blowing past the record just set in 2014. And if the global temperature pattern repeats that of the last super El Niño (1997-1998), then 2016 could well top 2015 record. Here’s why. First, as a 2010 NASA study explained, the 12-month running mean global temperature tends to lag the temperature in the key Niño 3.4 region of the equatorial Pacific “by 4 months.” El Niño (and La Niña) are typically defined as positive (and negative) sustained sea surface temperature anomalies greater than 0.5°C across the central tropical Pacific Ocean’s Nino 3.4 region. More details here.

Second, in its monthly ENSO (El Niño Southern Oscillation) update released last week, NOAA reported, “All multi-model averages predict a strong event at its peak in late fall/early winter.” NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) went on to explain, “At this time, the forecaster consensus unanimously favors a strong El Niño, with peak 3-month SST departures in the Niño 3.4 region potentially near or exceeding +2.0°C.”……. Climatologist Kevin Trenberth has explained that “a global temperature increase occurs in the latter stages of an El Niño event, as heat comes out of the ocean and warms the atmosphere.” Over 90 percent of global heating goes into the oceans — and ocean warming has sped up recently. Trenberth has been expecting a jump of up to half a degree Fahrenheit, which could occur “relatively abruptly.” He told ClimateProgress back in April that it’s significant the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) “seems to have gone strongly positive” because that is “perhaps the best single indicator to me that a jump is imminent. The PDO is a “pattern of Pacific climate variability similar to ENSO in character, but which varies over a much longer time scale.” The PDO can remain in one phase almost exclusively for a decade or even longer, as this figure from NOAA’s August “Global Ocean Monitoring” report shows:

“Positive PDO has persisted 13 months since July 2014 and PDO index =1.5 in July 2015.” Via NOAA

Now compare the PDO chart with this NASA global temp chart update to include the record temperatures from July:

You can see that a negative PDO temporarily offsets the long-term global warming trend, whereas a positive PDO brings a “catch up” phase (see discussion here). That is one reason, Trenberth explains, that global temperatures seem to look more like a staircase than a ramp (a steadily-rising straight-line or linear trend).

The last time global temperatures jumped sharply, it was during an extended period of positive PDO, from 1992 and 1998, ending in the monster El Niño of 1997-1998, which set a new global temperature record by a wide margin. That became a high bar for later years to match, which cherry-picking climate science deniers used — with some success — to persuade conservative politicians and media outlets that global warming had paused or slowed down. In fact we have merely been in an extended period of the PDO negative phase, with only occasional switches to a mild positive phase. And that, coupled with some recent La Niñas, gave an appearance of a short-term slowdown in warming in some datasets. But the NASA chart highlights the fact there has been no actual slowdown in warming. Indeed the March study, “Near-term acceleration in the rate of temperature change” makes clear the only “pause” there has been was in the long-expected speed-up of global warming. The rate of surface warming should have started to accelerate in the past decade, rather than stay fairly constant. The authors warned that, by 2020, human-caused warming will move the Earth’s climate system into a regime of rapid multi-decadal rates of warming — with Arctic warming rising a stunning 1°F per decade by the 2020s. They project that within the next few years, “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.” That accelerated warming appears to starting now.


A comparison of sea surface temperatures between July 2015 and November 1997. Credit: NOAA

How This El Niño Is And Isn’t Like 1997

Posted on 7 August 2015 – a re-post from Climate Central by Andrea Thompson

It was the winter of 1997-1998 when the granddaddy of El Niños — the one by which all other El Niños are judged — vaulted the climate term to household name status. It had such a noticeable impact on U.S. weather that it appeared everywhere from news coverage of mudslides in Southern California to Chris Farley’s legendary sketch on “Saturday Night Live.” Basically, it was the “polar vortex” of the late ’90s. So it’s no wonder that it is the touchstone event that people think of when they hear that name. And naturally, as the current El Niño event has gained steam, the comparisons to 1997 have been increasingly bandied about. The most recent came this week in the form of an image from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that compares satellite shots of warm Pacific Ocean waters — a hallmark of El Niño — from this June to November 1997, when that El Niño hit its peak. On the one hand, the two are comparable given that 1997 was the strongest El Niño on record and, at the moment, the best science indicates that the current event could match or rival that one — at least in terms of ocean temperatures. But on the other hand, each El Niño event is its own beast, the product of conditions in the ocean and atmosphere, of climate and weather that are unique in that particular place and time. In the, albeit very short, modern record of El Niños, “we cannot find a single El Niño event that tracked like another El Niño event,” Michelle L’Heureux, a forecaster with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, said. Forecasters like L’Heureux cringe at comparisons because there’s no guarantee the impacts of one El Niño will be just like that of a previous one, even if they look broadly similar. And it’s those impacts — like potential rains in drought-stricken California — that most really care about.


Stormy Weather

El Niño is not, as Farley’s sketch had it, an individual storm, like a hurricane. Rather it is a shift in the background state of the climate brought about by the sloshing of warm ocean water from its normal home in the western tropical Pacific over to the east. That redistribution affects how and where ocean heat is emitted into the atmosphere, which can alter the normal patterns of winds and stormy weather in the region.

Those more local shifts can telegraph through the atmosphere and, in the case of the U.S., can alter the position of the jet stream over the country during the winter months, typically leading to wetter-than-normal conditions over the southern tier of states and warmer temperatures over the north. Those are the effects of El Niño very broadly speaking, though. Such teleconnections, as they are called, tend to be more reliable when the El Niño is a strong one.

Such was the case with both the strong events of 1997-1998 and 1982-1983. January and February 1998 were the wettest and warmest first two months to a year for the contiguous U.S. in the 104-year record at that time, according to NOAA. The position of the jet stream meant that some northern states saw temperatures up to 15 degrees above normal and both the Southeast and Southern California were awash in a series of storms.
In California, the rains were so unrelenting that they led to mudslides that caused houses to crumble off disintegrating cliffs and racked up hundreds of millions of dollars in damages….With California now five years into a debilitating drought that has led to the first statewide water restrictions in its history, some El Niño-fueled rains (if not the more damaging aspects) may be quite welcome right now.
But here’s the thing: Those two strong El Niños that saw heavy winter rains in California are only that, a sample of two. In science, that’s too small a pool to make any firm conclusions, L’Heureux said.


‘Not the Only Ball Game’

There are other factors, from the inherent chaos of the atmosphere, to other large-scale climate signals, that can potentially override any push provided by El Niño. This is exactly what happened with the El Niño of 2009-2010, which while it wasn’t as strong as 1997, was still significant. But other climate signals helped blunt its effects in the U.S., particularly in terms of temperatures, L’Heureux said. Events like that make forecasters cautious about comparing the current El Niño to 1997. (NOAA acknowledged as much by changing out the original image it used and noting that it did so to avoid confusion). “We think that the strength of [El Niño] is important,” L’Heureux said, but the exact strength it achieves is no guarantee of impacts similar to 1997, “and that’s simply because there’s other stuff going on,” she said. “El Niño is not the only ball game in town.”…. So where does that leave us in terms of looking ahead to what El Niño might bring this winter? We have an event that is looking more and more robust (when comparing June 2015 to June 1997, the broad ocean temperature patterns are very similar) and forecasting models are in pretty good agreement that that event will strengthen as we head towards winter and El Niño’s typical peak. But exactly when it will peak and what its final strength will be is still uncertain. Even more uncertain is what those other influences on U.S. weather will be. So what forecasters can say for now is that the likelihood of those typical El Niño impacts, including rains in Southern California, are higher, but exactly where those rains might fall isn’t yet known. One factor that may influence that is the remarkable pool of very warm waters that has been parked off the West Coast for a couple years now, a feature that was not present back in 1997. That feature could impact the typical changes El Niño brings to the jet stream, Daniel Swain, a PhD student in climate science at Stanford University, said in an email. It is possible that if the El Niño builds up enough strength, it could overcome that influence, though, he added “If El Niño really does make [it] into record territory during the coming winter, it’s hard to envision California not experiencing a wetter-than-average winter, at least to some degree,” he said. The only real guarantee that forecasters can make, though, is that this El Niño event “will evolve in its own way,” L’Heureux said. “It may be similar to certain past events,” but it won’t be exactly the same.



Update: Since Oct 2011, California missing 1-2+ years of rain. #cadrought
View image on Twitter

A Very Early Yet Highly Accurate Guide to This Coming Winter

By Eric Holthaus August 18, 2015

There’s a silver lining to all this talk of a super mega record-breaking Godzilla El Niño: The seasonal weather outlooks for this fall and winter will be some of the most accurate ever issued. Last spring I profiled what El Niño—a periodic warming of the tropical Pacific Ocean—means for 60 places across the globe. Now that the event is in full swing, we have an even better idea of how U.S. weather will be affected over the next nine months. That’s because El Niño acts like a heat engine that bends weather in a predictable pattern worldwide. Typically, the stronger El Niño is, the more predictable its influence. And this year’s event is on pace to be one of the strongest ever recorded. By some measures, it already is. “We’re correct more than the usual proportion of the time when there’s an El Niño,” said Tony Barnston, chief forecaster at the International Research Institute for Climate and Society, in a video statement. Barnston and his team—which actually invented successful El Niño prediction—recently issued an astounding forecast that essentially locks in a strong El Niño through next spring. Globally, it’s now virtually certain that 2015 will be the hottest year in history.
That’s a pretty remarkable thing to be able to say with more than four months of the year remaining. Last week data from NASA and the Japan Meteorological Agency confirmed that last month was the hottest July on record, joining every month so far this year except February and April as the warmest ever measured, according to calculations from Japan. As of mid-August, the Pacific Ocean had configured itself into an unprecedented temperature pattern, with record-setting warm water stretching from the equator all the way northward to Alaska. Thanks to the pattern’s expected persistence, we can already piece together a pretty good guess of the implications—months ahead of time. So, without further ado, Here’s what to expect this winter:

Will California get some drought relief?

To answer everyone’s question, yes, this winter will likely bring above-normal rainfall to California. To answer a related question, no, it won’t end the drought. After a record-breaking four-year stretch, California has racked up a mind-boggling rainfall deficit: San Francisco is more than 31 inches behind—meaning this winter would have to feature a year and a half of extra rainfall during the six-month rainy season to break even. That very likely won’t happen, and even if it did, flooding and mudslides would create an even bigger problem than another year of drought would. What’s more, there’s an especially big caveat this winter. Current temperatures off the West Coast are already far warmer than anything ever measured. The placement of that huge mass of warm water—cutely called “the blob” by local scientists—tends to work against heavy rainfall in California, and it’s a big reason why the drought has been so bad there the last couple of years.
This’ll be an epic battle between dueling masses of warm water (El Niño vs. “the blob”) all winter long on the high seas of the North Pacific (and in the atmosphere above it), but as of now, it looks like California will indeed get some desperately needed rain—enough to matter, just not enough to end the drought….



A Powerful El Niño in 2015 Threatens a Massive Coral Reef Die-off

By Rob Painting August 12, 2015

Key Points:

  • A powerful El Niño event continues to strengthen in the Pacific Ocean. During El Niño the poleward transport of warm surface water out of the tropics slows down dramatically and generally results in anomalous short-term heating of the tropical ocean – home to the world’s coral reefs).
  • Because of the long-term warming of the oceans by industrial emission of greenhouse gases, the temporary surge in tropical sea surface temperatures associated with El Niño now threatens large-scale coral bleaching episodes – times when the maximum summer water temperatures become so warm that coral die in large numbers.

The powerful El Niño now forming, combined with the ongoing ocean warming, suggests that we are likely to see a mass coral bleaching episode that approaches, or exceeds, the worldwide bleaching that came with the Super El Niño years of 1982/1983 and 1997/1998. The 1997/1998 Super El Niño saw 16% of the world’s coral bleach, the largest die-off ever observed, and some of this coral has never recovered…









CREDIT: Courtesy the Global Footprint Network Carbon is just part of a system we all draw on.



Happy Earth Overshoot Day! We’ve Now Used All Our Resources For The Year.

by Samantha Page Aug 13, 2015 12:32pm

On this day in August 2015, humans have used an entire year’s worth of the Earth’s natural resources, according to the Global Footprint Network. Calling it Earth Overshoot Day, the group celebrates — or, rather, notes — the day by which people have used more natural resources, such as fish stocks, timber, and even carbon emissions, than the Earth can regenerate in a single year. It’s basically a balance sheet for global accounting. “We can overuse nature quite easily,” Mathis Wackernagel, president of the Global Footprint Network, told ThinkProgress. “When you start to spend more than you earn, it does not become immediately apparent. But, eventually, you go bankrupt.”

It’s a simple idea, really. “If a sea lion eats a fish, that fish is not available for me to eat,” Wackernagel said. But this philosophy works for carbon, as well. (And it’s usually people using up the natural resources, not sea lions).n The balance sheet helps show that our carbon footprint is linked to other natural resources, such as cropland and forest. Land can be used as forest, which absorbs carbon, or pavement, which does not. If we want to continue to emit carbon, we need to have areas that absorb it more quickly. “It’s all a question of priorities, in some ways,” Wackernagel said. And while our deficit spending of natural resources has improved on many fronts, the group found, carbon emissions are getting worse. These findings are consistent with data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which announced in May that Earth surpassed the 400 parts per million (ppm) mark for the average concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide for the first time since record-keeping began [According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), 400.83 parts per million (ppm) was the average concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide in March. This news from NOAA marks the first time that the entire planet has surpassed the 400 ppm benchmark for an entire month.] ….


CREDIT: Courtesy the Global Footprint Network



The Tree of Life may be a bush

Posted: 18 Aug 2015 12:35 PM PDT

New species evolve whenever a lineage splits off into several. Because of this, the kinship between species is often described in terms of a ‘tree of life,’ where every branch constitutes a species. Now, researchers have found that evolution is more complex than this model would have it, and that the tree is actually more akin to a bush.


Environmental impacts of land use have been underestimated

Posted: 11 Aug 2015 06:19 AM PDT

Environmental impacts of land use have been widely assessed in recent years. In particular, carbon footprints of food and bioenergy production have been studied. Environmental impact assessments are used in decision-making of public authorities, industry and individuals. Surprisingly, environmental impacts of land use have been underestimated in the majority of the life cycle assessment studies, according to a recent study….


Sampo Soimakallio, Annette Cowie, Miguel Brandão, Göran Finnveden, Tomas Ekvall, Martin Erlandsson, Kati Koponen, Per-Erik Karlsson. Attributional life cycle assessment: is a land-use baseline necessary?
The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, 2015; DOI: 10.1007/s11367-015-0947-y



Trail camera footage from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife shows seven wolves living in Siskiyou County, across the Oregon border. (California Department of Fish and Wildlife)

First wolf pack in decades spotted in Northern California

By Jeff Barnard | AP August 20 at 3:47 PM

California has its first wolf pack since the state’s last known wolf was killed in 1924. State and federal authorities announced Thursday that a trail camera captured photos earlier this month of two adults and five pups in southeastern Siskiyou County. They were named the Shasta pack for nearby Mount Shasta. The pack was discovered four years after the famous Oregon wondering wolf OR-7 first reached Northern California. Karen Kovacs of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife said it was an amazing accomplishment for wolves to establish in Northern California just 21 years after wolves were reintroduced in the Northern Rockies. Those wolves eventually migrated into Oregon and Washington before reaching California and are protected by federal and state endangered species acts.



Growers with grasslands on their property have a new reason to leave that land untouched [not converted to development].

Grasslands protocol opens another carbon market for farmers

By Robert Parkhurst | Published: August 10, 2015

On July 22, the Climate Action Reserve, a non-profit organization that creates offset standards and serves as one of the offset registries for California’s cap-and-trade program, approved a new protocol that rewards farmers for avoiding the conversion of grasslands to cropland. The new “grasslands protocol” highlights a growing trend in agriculture: farmers being paid for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Earlier this summer, the California Air Resources Board approved a new protocol for rice growers, representing the first-ever crop-based carbon standards in a compliance market. That protocol allows rice farmers to earn extra revenue for reducing methane emissions in their operations. And just last year, the American Carbon Registry implemented a new standard that rewards farmers who reduce emissions by applying compost to their fields.

Preserving grasslands benefits air, land and water

Conversion of grasslands to croplands leads to the release of the carbon that is stored in the soil – carbon which, in many cases, has taken decades to accumulate. By keeping grasslands as grasslands, carbon stays in the soil and out of the atmosphere. But preserving grasslands doesn’t just reduce emissions, it also provides the opportunity to conserve wildlife habitats such as prairie grasslands, home to at-risk species like the lesser prairie-chicken and greater sage-grouse. Other types of grasslands ripe for conservation contain steep terrain, so preserving it reduces erosion that could otherwise lead to water pollution.

New revenue potential for marginal lands

The grasslands protocol focuses on marginal lands, which are often the least productive areas of cropland. This includes steep lands, which are more erodible, and lands with less fertile soils, which would require larger fertilizer applications to be productive. Even though farmers lose the opportunity to convert land for production, the protocol provides them with a guaranteed revenue source. To create this revenue stream, farmers typically work with carbon credit experts to monitor and report on the status of their lands, thereby earning a credit that can later be sold in a carbon market. Government funding for conservation efforts has historically been unpredictable, so carbon markets provide new opportunities for farmers to earn extra income for conservation activities. The largest of these markets are the California and Quebec cap-and-trade markets, where credits are purchased by companies that are required to reduce their emissions, such as energy companies and electric utilities.

Opportunities to earn multiple credits

In addition to revenue from keeping carbon in the soil, this protocol allows farmers the ability to develop multiple credits on a single piece of land. In other words, a farmer who preserves his or her grasslands in a way that also creates habitat for a threatened or endangered species has the potential to generate two separate credits and thereby two sources of revenue….



Diversity provides stability among animals in the wild

Posted: 13 Aug 2015 04:45 AM PDT

Why some species of plants and animals vary more in number than others is a central issue in ecology. Now researchers have found an important finding to answer this question: Individual differences have a positive and stabilizing effect on the number of moths. Species with varying color drawing are generally more numerous and fluctuate less in number from year to year. This could help to explain why some insect species in some years are very abundant pests and cause substantial damage in agriculture and forestry.


Forsman, P.-E. Betzholtz, M. Franzen. Variable coloration is associated with dampened population fluctuations in noctuid moths. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2015; 282 (1808): 20142922 DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2014.2922



Distribution of species by kingdom. Credit: CoML

How many species on Earth? About 8.7 million, new estimate says

August 24, 2011 Census of Marine Life (from 2011)

Eight million, seven hundred thousand species (give or take 1.3 million). That is a new, estimated total number of species on Earth — the most precise calculation ever offered — with 6.5 million species found on land and 2.2 million (about 25 percent of the total) dwelling in the ocean depths.
Announced today by Census of Marine Life scientists, the figure is based on an innovative, validated analytical technique that dramatically narrows the range of previous estimates. Until now, the number of species on Earth was said to fall somewhere between 3 million and 100 million. Furthermore, the study, published by PLoS Biology, says a staggering 86% of all species on land and 91% of those in the seas have yet to be discovered, described and catalogued.

Says lead author Camilo Mora of the University of Hawaii and Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada: “The question of how many species exist has intrigued scientists for centuries and the answer, coupled with research by others into species’ distribution and abundance, is particularly important now because a host of human activities and influences are accelerating the rate of extinctions. Many species may vanish before we even know of their existence, of their unique niche and function in ecosystems, and of their potential contribution to improved human well-being.” “This work deduces the most basic number needed to describe our living biosphere,” says co-author Boris Worm of Dalhousie University. …To now, the best approximation of Earth’s species total was based on the educated guesses and opinions of experts, who variously pegged the figure in a range from 3 to 100 million — wildly differing numbers questioned because there is no way to validate themWhen applied to all five known eukaryote* kingdoms of life on Earth, the approach predicted:

  • ~7.77 million species of animals (of which 953,434 have been described and cataloged)
  • ~298,000 species of plants (of which 215,644 have been described and cataloged)
  • ~611,000 species of fungi (moulds, mushrooms) (of which 43,271 have been described and cataloged)
  • ~36,400 species of protozoa (single-cell organisms with animal-like behavior, eg. movement, of which 8,118 have been described and cataloged)
  • ~27,500 species of chromista (including, eg. brown algae, diatoms, water moulds, of which 13,033 have been described and cataloged)

Total: 8.74 million eukaryote species on Earth.

(* Notes: Organisms in the eukaryote domain have cells containing complex structures enclosed within membranes. The study looked only at forms of life accorded, or potentially accorded, the status of “species” by scientists. Not included: certain micro-organisms and virus “types,” for example, which could be highly numerous.)…


Catastrophic invertebrate extinction in Hawai’i, and globally

Posted: 10 Aug 2015 02:24 PM PDT

A team of researchers recently published the first rigorous assessment of extinction of invertebrates in Hawai`i. In a companion study the team addressed invertebrate extinction globally. Based on their findings, the researchers show that the suspected biodiversity crisis is real and stressed the need to include assessments of invertebrates in order to obtain a more realistic picture of the current situation, known widely as the ‘sixth mass extinction.’…



CREDIT: Shutterstock

Meat-Eaters Are The Number One Cause Of Worldwide Species Extinction, New Study Warns

by Natasha Geiling Aug 17, 2015 1:39pm

A meat-inclusive diet often comes with a side of environmental caveats, including livestock’s contribution to global warming, its contribution to deforestation, and the stress it places on a bevy of increasingly precious resources, from water to land. Now, a group of researchers want to add another concern to the meat-eater’s plate: worldwide species extinction. According to a recent study published in Science of the Total Environment by researchers at Florida International University in Miami, livestock production’s impact on land use is “likely the leading cause of modern species extinctions” — a problem the researchers think will only get worse as population growth increases the global demand for meat.
The study is particularly interesting to scientists because research linking livestock’s relationship to biodiversity loss has been lacking, Gidon Eshel, a geophysicist at Bard College who was not involved in the study, told Science.
….They found that of the areas expected to have the greatest conversion of land use for agriculture — from forest to land dedicated to livestock production — 15 were in “megadiverse” countries that have the greatest diversity of species.
The study concludes that in the 15 “megadiverse countries,” land used for livestock production will likely increase by 30 to 50 percent — some 3,000,000 square kilometers (about 741 million acres).

….Several studies have suggested that the Earth is currently in the midst of the sixth mass extinction, caused largely by human activities. Animals are hunted and sold for trade, climate change is disrupting migration and mating patterns, extreme weather is threatening animal populations, and deforestation is fragmenting crucial habitat. But all of those causes, Machovina and his colleagues claim, pale in comparison to the threat of habitat loss driven by demand for meat, which the study claims “will cause more extinctions than any other factor.” And though meat consumption in the United States has fallen steadily since peaking in the 1970s, meat consumption worldwide continues to rise, driven by technological advancements, liberalized trade, and growing economies. Livestock production is also an incredibly important source of economic security for millions of the world’s poor, providing stable income for 987 million around the world. Machovina and his colleagues do suggest some mitigation efforts that could curb the loss of biodiversity from meat production — namely, eat less meat. The study says that in order to limit the worst biodiversity losses, the average diet should get no more than 10 percent of its calories from meat, and that pork, chicken, and fish are less resource-intensive options for meat eaters. But while meat production can have a negative impact on species biodiversity and climate change,
it’d be unwise to quit meat production altogether, Clayton Marlow, a grassland ecologist at Montana State University, Bozeman, told Science. He argues that the real issue facing biodiversity loss isn’t the expansion of meat production, but the expansion of urban sprawl, which takes away land that could potentially be used for agricultural production



Record numbers of whales are showing up along the California coastline with fishing line tangled around their blubbery bodies, in a trend that’s bedeviled fishermen, environmentalists and state…

Entangled whales worry fishermen, environmentalists

By Rachel Swan SF Chron August 19, 2015 Updated: August 19, 2015 9:10pm

Record numbers of whales are showing up along the California coastline with fishing line tangled around their blubbery bodies, in a trend that’s bedeviled fishermen, environmentalists and state regulators alike. The entanglements happen when whales run into gear that commercial fishermen use to catch Dungeness crab or other crustaceans. The “line” is a thick rope extending from a buoy on the ocean surface to a heavy trap — or “pot” — on the ocean floor. Whales run into the rope while chasing prey along the coastline, and it gets caught in their mouths. “The whales move where the food is, and they’re feeding, so they’ll have their mouths open,” said Peggy Stap, executive director of Marine Life Studies, a conservation group in Moss Landing. She’s seen whales struggle to eat with line running through their mouths. In some cases, Stap said, the line tangles around their fins and impedes them from swimming. In one instance in September, Stap said, a fisherman set up 600 feet of line and spot prawn traps in a part of Monterey Bay where humpbacks were feeding. One whale got tangled and marooned, bound by the rope to 25 spot prawn traps and two mud anchors, Stap said. She led the rescue team that disentangled it….. Among the ideas on the table is a pilot program that would increase the number of crab pots on each fishing line, thereby decreasing the number of lines in the water. Another idea is to create a better logging system to keep track of how much gear is in the water. Many entanglements happen when whales run into broken line or derelict traps that fishermen have long forgotten, Monsell said. Representatives of several conservation groups — including Earthjustice, Oceana and the Center for Biological Diversity — proposed those reforms, and others, in a letter to state officials in April…. Stap stressed that fishermen are not the bad guys. “They’re trying to do their job and earn a living, and they don’t want the whales entangled any more than we do,” she said. Collins, the retired fisherman, said he will attend the meeting Thursday, even though he’s wary of attempts to regulate the fishing industry. “We love the whales,” Collins said. “But we also like making a living, and feeding people Dungeness crab.”


Another dead whale washes up on Pacifica beach Aug. 2 2015 [**download app from Point Blue and partners to help save whales from ship strikes- Whale Alert]



Songbirds make mysterious altitude changes during nighttime migratory flights

Posted: 12 Aug 2015 05:04 PM PDT

Many songbirds travel long distances during their annual migrations, and it makes sense for them to do everything they can to conserve their energy during these journeys. Researchers have guessed that, for this reason, they might pick an altitude with favorable winds and stick with it. But the scientists behind a new study were surprised to find that the thrushes actually made mysterious altitude adjustments over the course of their nighttime migratory flights.… A new mystery has been discovered in the migratory behavior of birds! Many songbirds travel long distances during their annual migrations, and it makes sense for them to do everything they can to conserve their energy during these journeys. Researchers have guessed that, for this reason, they might pick an altitude with favorable winds and stick with it rather than climbing and descending repeatedly, but there has been little data to back this up. In a study forthcoming in The Auk: Ornithological Advances presenting the first full-altitude flight data for migrating songbirds, Melissa Bowlin of the University of Michigan-Dearborn and her colleagues used radio transmitters to track the altitudes of migrating Swainson’s Thrushes (Catharus ustulatus) and were surprised to find that the thrushes actually made repeated altitude adjustments of more than 100 meters over the course of their nighttime migratory flights. The reasons for these altitude changes are not clear, but the researchers have a few theories….She speculates that the birds could be responding to the lights of cities or the rising thermals they create, adjusting to small localized changes in atmospheric conditions, or using some navigation strategy we don’t yet understand. In any case, something more is going on that simply minimizing energy use, and better understanding the altitude patterns of birds’ flights could eventually help us reduce threats such as collisions with skyscrapers and communications towers….


Melissa S. Bowlin, David A. Enstrom, Brian J. Murphy, Edward Plaza, Peter Jurich, James Cochran. Unexplained altitude changes in a migrating thrush: Long-flight altitude data from radio-telemetry. The Auk, 2015; 132 (4): 808 DOI: 10.1642/AUK-15-33.1



Pentagon grants $2 million to save birds

Taxpayers foot bill for sage grouse habitat preservation

August 20, 2015 Cheryl Chumley

Saving the sage grouse has become a matter of Pentagon concern. The Pentagon has set aside $2 million of taxpayer dollars for state and federal officials in Nevada to save the habitat of a species of bird, the greater sage grouse. The grant was formally approved by the Pentagon’s Military Services’ Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration Program, the Associated Press reported. The funds will be used to save 11,000 acres of sage grouse habitat that’s been threatened in part by an airspace program run by the Defense Department, the Hill said…

Male elephant seals use ‘voice recognition’ to identify rivals

Posted: 12 Aug 2015 12:12 PM PDT

Male elephant seals compete fiercely for access to females during the breeding season, and their violent, bloody fights take a toll on both winners and losers. These battles are relatively rare, however, and a new study shows that the males avoid costly fights by learning the distinctive vocal calls of their rivals. When they recognize the call of another male, they know whether to attack or flee depending on the challenger’s dominance status.….


Color changing sand fleas flummox predatory birds

Posted: 12 Aug 2015 07:38 AM PDT

Sand fleas occupy the swash zone of sandy beaches where they are exposed to a range of visually-guided predators, including shorebirds and crabs. Now researchers have discovered that these fleas have a remarkable ability to change color in order to match dramatically different backgrounds.


Hummingbird tongue is really a tiny pump

Posted: 19 Aug 2015 07:36 AM PDT

Biologists have long believed that hummingbirds pick up floral nectar in the same way fluid rises in a capillary tube. However, researchers have now demonstrated that this long-held theory is wrong. Instead, they say, the tongue itself acts as a tiny pump.


Sediment dwelling creatures at risk from nanoparticles in common household products

Posted: 13 Aug 2015 04:42 AM PDT

Biologists highlight the risks posed to aquatic organisms when nanoparticles ‘transform’ on contact with water and as they pass from water to sediment and then into sediment dwelling organisms.








Atmospheric CO2- 401.3 for July 2015preliminary monthly average

Mauna Loa Observatory (NOAA-ESRL)

NOTE:  On May 10, 2013, NOAA & Scripps first reported daily averages that temporarily reached 400 ppm.

 Original CO2 data files dated:  Wednesday August 5, 2015 (NOAA)
Mauna Loa Observatory, Hawaii


CREDIT: Global temperatures in July vs. 1951-1980 average. Via NASA.

Hottest July On Record Keeps 2015 On Track To Crush 2014 For Hottest Year

by Joe Romm Aug 14, 2015 3:08pm

NASA reports this was the hottest July on record. So we are now in “bet the mortgage” territory that 2015 will be the hottest year in NASA’s 125-year temperature record. In fact, 2015 is likely to crush the previous record — 2014 — probably by a wide margin, especially since one of the strongest El Niños in 50 years is adding to the strong underlying global warming trend. Climate expert Dr. John Abraham updated this NASA chart to show how the first seven months of 2015 compares to the annual temperatures of previous years:

The gap between 2015 and all other years in that chart will grow since NOAA and many others project the current El Niño will keep growing stronger for many months. The soaring ocean temperatures in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific, which are characteristic of an El Niño, just keep climbing. As the journal Nature
reports, this El Niño “could be [the] strongest on record.” It is projected to peak in the winter and last into the spring of 2016. If the 2015-2016 El Niño does rival the 1997-1998 super El Niño, then just as 1998 crushed 1997 temperatures, we may see 2016 beat all the records set in 2015. Bottom Line: the warming trend that made 2014 the hottest calendar year on record is continuing. We appear to be in the midst of of the long-awaited jump in global temperatures….



A “hot shot” firefighting crew descends a scorched mountainside at the Cabin Fire in the Angeles National Forest on Saturday, north of Azusa, Calif. (David McNew/Getty Images)

This story has been updated.

With a stunning 7 million acres burned so far, the U.S. wildfire situation is looking dire

By Chris Mooney August 19 2015 Washington Post

Wildfires are exploding across the western United States, overstretching resources and, in some states, resulting in tragic consequences. Some 30,000 firefighters and additional support staff are now fighting fires across the United States — the biggest number mobilized in 15 years, according to the U.S. Forest Service. And it’s still not enough. Two hundred members of the military are being called up to help further — they will be trained and deployed within just a few days — as are Canadian firefighting forces. There’s even some talk of potentially needing to draw on resources from Australia and New Zealand, which has been done before in a pinch. And no wonder: Five states are now battling more than 1o large wildfires — California is contending with 16, Idaho 21, Montana 14, Oregon 11 and Washington 17. Most terrifying, perhaps, is the Soda Fire, which has scorched 283,686 acres in Idaho, burning up ranches, killing wild horses, even generating an alarming fire whirl recently. Fire whirls, or “firenadoes,” form when heat from the wildfire causes air to rise rapidly and can develop into a full, fiery tornado-like whirl. The total acres burned so far in 2015 is now a staggering 7.1 million, with currently burning fires accounting for over 1 million of that total. “This is the earliest the number of national acres burned has been more than 7 million in the past 20 years,” notes the National Interagency Coordination Center — although the center acknowledges that 5 million of those acres burned in Alaska earlier this year….



Smoke and Fire Map: August 15, 2015




 303 PM PDT SAT AUG 15 2015





ILULISSAT, GREENLAND – JULY 24: The village of Ilulissat is seen near the icebergs that broke off from the Jakobshavn Glacier on July 24, 2013 in Ilulissat, Greenland. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

One of the world’s fastest melting glaciers may have just lost its biggest chunk of ice on record

By Chelsea Harvey Wash Post August 19, 2015

While examining satellite images of Greenland’s massive Jakobshavn glacier over the weekend, members of the Arctic Sea Ice Forum noticed something odd: Between August 14 and August 16, it appeared as though a huge chunk of ice — which some guessed might be the largest ever observed — broke away from the glacier’s face.  Members of the forum estimate that the total area of ice lost from the edge of the glacier (that is, the area lost when looking at the top surface of the glacier from above, using the satellite images) was around 12.5 square kilometers, or nearly five square miles, according to a post on the Arctic Sea Ice Blog, which is operated by ice enthusiast Neven Curlin. If correct, this would be one of the largest such chunks of ice ever to split from the glacier. “Calving,” which is when ice breaks away from the edge of a glacier or ice sheet and tumbles into the water, is not unusual for this area in Greenland. A combination of rising air and sea temperatures in the Arctic have made calving events more severe in recent decades, and in fact, the Jakobshavn glacier is one of the fastest flowing glaciers in the world, meaning it bleeds ice into the ocean at one of the highest rates of any ice sheet on Earth. As of 2012, the glacier was pouring out ice at a speed of 150 feet per day, nearly three times its flow rate in the 1990s. But last weekend’s event was big enough to turn heads, and the Arctic Sea Ice Blog post suggested that this incident might be the biggest calving event on record.  However, some scientists aren’t so sure — and their doubt highlights some key uncertainties in human interpretations of ice calving events. “Overall, I don’t think that they really can nail the ‘largest’ [calving event] or not,” wrote Richard Alley, a glaciologist at Pennsylvania State University, in an email to the Post. According to Alley, the time resolution on the satellite images, which are spaced by a full day, is poor enough that the ice loss could have occurred in several smaller events rather than one large one. Alley adds, “I wouldn’t get too excited on this, even though it is not good news.” However, Jason Box, a glaciologist with the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, says he wouldn’t rule out the possibility that this calving event is the largest to occur. And Eric Rignot, a principal scientist and ice expert at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, says that whether or not the event is the largest on record, he’s “struck by the sheer size of this calving event,” which he says is evidence that the glacier is continuing to retreat at “galloping speed.”….



1,800 years of global ocean cooling halted by global warming

Posted: 17 Aug 2015 10:20 AM PDT

Prior to the advent of human-caused global warming in the 19th century, the surface layer of Earth’s oceans had undergone 1,800 years of a steady cooling trend, according to a new study. The results also indicate that the coolest temperatures occurred during the Little Ice Age — a period that spanned the 16th through 18th centuries and was known for cooler average temperatures over land….



On warmer Earth, most of Arctic may remove, not add, methane

Posted: 17 Aug 2015 08:08 AM PDT

The majority of Arctic soil, thanks to methane-hungry bacteria, may actually be able to absorb methane from the atmosphere as temperatures rise, new research suggests. In addition to melting icecaps and imperiled wildlife, a significant concern among scientists is that higher Arctic temperatures brought about by climate change could result in the release of massive amounts of carbon locked in the region’s frozen soil in the form of carbon dioxide and methane. Arctic permafrost is estimated to contain about a trillion tons of carbon, which would potentially accelerate global warming. Carbon emissions in the form of methane have been of particular concern because on a 100-year scale methane is about 25-times more potent than carbon dioxide at trapping heat.
However, new research led by Princeton University researchers and published in The ISME Journal in August suggests that, thanks to methane-hungry bacteria, the majority of Arctic soil might actually be able to absorb methane from the atmosphere rather than release it. Furthermore, that ability seems to become greater as temperatures rise….The researchers found that Arctic soils containing low carbon content — which make up 87 percent of the soil in permafrost regions globally — not only remove methane from the atmosphere, but also become more efficient as temperatures increase….although it’s too early to claim that the entire Arctic will be a massive methane “sink” in a warmer world, the study’s results do suggest that the Arctic could help mitigate the warming effect that would be caused by a rising amount of methane in the atmosphere….



An Adélie penguin gets ready to dive into the Ross Sea in Antarctica. (Hannah Joy-Warren)

The melting of Antarctica is bad news for humans. But it might make penguins pretty happy.

By Chris Mooney August 13

A new scientific study suggests that the waters around the forbidding ice continent of Antarctica might, in the future, support growing amounts of biological life — but that this will happen for a reason that turns out to be pretty bad news for humans. The study, just out in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, found that marine microorganisms called phytoplankton — the foundation of the oceanic food chain — tend to thrive for a surprising reason: the dramatic loss of ice from the continent’s ice shelves and ice sheet. The melting ice, say three Stanford University researchers led by oceanographer Kevin Arrigo, is releasing a great deal of iron into the ocean — a nutrient that phytoplankton need to grow. And because ice shelves are melting so fast — and are expected to melt even faster in the future — “rates of phytoplankton productivity are likely to increase as well,” the paper says. That will be good news for the many forms of life that rely on phytoplankton — first krill and other sea organisms, such as fish, and then the mammals and birds that feed upon those, including penguins and whales. “The phytoplankton are the base of the entire southern ocean food web,” says Arrigo. “Without them you’ve got no krill, you’ve got no seals and whales and penguins.”
Thus, the same phenomenon that could drive sea level rise around the world might ultimately also result in some pretty happy penguins. If that messes with your emotions, rest assured you’re not the only one — all of this is quite new for humanity. Other research, to be sure, has uncovered different mechanisms by which climate change actually seems to threaten penguins — so this new study is a rare positive finding for the birds in what can often look like a sea of negative ones. The result is also not exclusive to penguins, of course — it would apply to all organisms ultimately dependent on phytoplankton as the base of the food chain.
The researchers reached their conclusions through satellite analysis of Antarctic coastal “polynyas,” or areas of open water encircled by sea ice. Polynyas form as winds blow the ice apart, or as warm water wells up from below, and they tend to persist for many years. There are 46 of them around Antarctica, ranging in size from several hundred square kilometers to several thousand, Arrigo explains…..

Using satellite images, the researchers analyzed the chlorophyll content of each polynya — basically, its greenness, as seen from space — and then sought to find factors in the surrounding environment that could help account for just how teeming with life it was. Environmental factors considered included sea surface temperatures, the width of continental shelves beneath the polynyas, and the proximity to Antarctic ice shelves known to be losing a lot of mass — and thus, pouring a great deal of freshwater into the oceans. And that’s what led to the big, unexpected new result. “By far the most important factor was how fast nearby glaciers were melting,” says Arrigo. “That was a real surprise to us.” Indeed, in statistical terms, ice melt explained more than half the variability in how much chlorophyll was detected, by satellite analysis, in a given polynya. “Sixty percent of the productivity in these polynyas was explained by that one variable, how fast these glaciers are melting,” Arrigo continues. “That’s important because the rate of melting in these glaciers seems to be accelerating.” The ancient ice contains a lot of iron, possibly because of eons spent sliding across land or bedrock, or because of similarly vast time periods accumulating the contents of winds and precipitation, which can carry iron from far afield. And iron is a nutrient that phytoplankton need to feed — precisely why iron fertilization of the oceans is one popular “geoengineering” idea for counteracting global warming. It would lead to greater blooms of algae and phytoplankton that would, in turn, pull more carbon out of the atmosphere as they grow. Or so goes the thinking, anyway. There has been considerable controversy over iron fertilization. But now, it looks as if melting ice sheets may be conducting a similar experiment of their own off the Antarctic coast….



Melting glaciers feed Antarctic food chain

Posted: 11 Aug 2015 11:03 AM PDT

Nutrient-rich water from melting Antarctic glaciers nourishes the ocean food chain, creating feeding ‘hot spots’ in large gaps in the sea ice, according to a new study…. New research finds that iron stored in the region’s glaciers is being shuttled by melting water to open areas of the ocean, called polynyas, where it stimulates growth of phytoplankton, ocean algae that form the base of the marine food chain. Krill and fish thrive on phytoplankton, and these smaller animals support penguins, seals and whales that feed and breed in the polynyas that ring the Antarctic coast, according to new research. Increased melting of Antarctic glaciers in the coming decades, which scientists say could occur as a result of climate change, could cause a spike in the amount of iron in the polynyas, according to the new study. The increased iron could boost phytoplankton in these open areas, potentially providing more food for the entire food chain, suggests the new study accepted for publication in Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, an American Geophysical Union journal….


Kevin. R. Arrigo, Gert L. van Dijken, Aaron Strong. Environmental controls of marine productivity hot spots around Antarctica. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, 2015; DOI: 10.1002/2015JC010888




IPCC 2013

How The EPA And New York Times Are Getting Methane All Wrong

by Joe Romm Aug 20, 2015 11:43am

Pretty much every recent news article you’ve read about the global warming impact of methane compared to carbon dioxide is wrong. Embarrassingly, everyone from the Environmental Protection Agency itself to the New York Times and Washington Post and Wall Street Journal continue to use lowball numbers that are wrong and outdated. In fact, as we’ll see, they are doubly outdated. Here, for instance, is the New York Times from Tuesday: “Methane, which leaks from oil and gas wells, accounts for just 9 percent of the nation’s greenhouse gas pollution — but it is over 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide, so even small amounts of it can have a big impact on global warming.”

Here is the EPA’s own news release from Tuesday on its on its proposed new methane rule: “Methane, the key constituent of natural gas, is a potent GHG with a global warming potential more than 25 times greater than that of carbon dioxide.” In fact, two years ago the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported in its definitive Fifth Assessment of the scientific literature (big PDF here) that methane is 34 times stronger a heat-trapping gas than CO2 over a 100-year time scale, so its long-term global-warming potential (GWP) is 34. That is a nearly 40 percent increase from the IPCC’s previous estimate of 25. The global-warming potential of methane compared to CO2 over 20 years and 100 years, with and without climate-carbon feedbacks (cc fb). Via IPCC [see above]. If you think that the 20-year GWP (86) might actually be more relevant in a world where we are only decades away from crossing points of no return for key climate impacts, you aren’t alone. The fact is the 100-year potential has been used in part because scientists have been focused on the long-term warming impact — and the year 2100 is an endpoint for much analysis. But after ignoring the scientists for 25 years, the world really needs to worry that we are likely to cross dangerous tipping points long before then, including the irreversible loss of enough ice on Greenland and Antarctica to raise sea levels perhaps 40 feet or more. And although the 100-year GWP is by far the most widely used, the IPCC itself drops this mini-bombshell in their 2013 report:

There is no scientific argument for selecting 100 years compared with other choices (Fuglestvedt et al., 2003; Shine, 2009). The choice of time horizon is a value judgement since it depends on the relative weight assigned to effects at different times.

Again, there is no scientific reason to pick the 100-year GWP over the 20-year GWP. …..As of July, EPA’s own web page “Understanding Global Warming Potentials,” stated, “Methane (CH4) is estimated to have a GWP of 28-36 over 100 years.” You can then click on a link for the next sentence, “(Learn why EPA’s U.S. Inventory of Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks uses a different value.)” There you will learn: The EPA considers the GWP estimates presented in the most recent IPCC scientific assessment to reflect the state of the science. In science communications, the EPA will refer to the most recent GWPs. The GWPs listed above are from the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report, published in 2014. Oops. I guess EPA doesn’t consider Tuesday’s news release OR the accompanying “fact sheet” OR its “Proposed Rule” that sets new methane standards for “new and modified sources in the oil and gas industry” to be “science communications” — since every single one of those EPA publications uses “25.” EPA explains its GHG inventory uses “25” because the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) “guidelines now require the use of the GWP values for the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report, published in 2007.” That is pretty strange of the UNFCCC — but no excuse for EPA to use a number it knows is wrong in any other venue. Sadly, the EPA’s mistake now propagates throughout the media.

  • Washington Post: “As a greenhouse gas, methane is 25 times as potent as carbon dioxide in trapping heat in the atmosphere.”
  • USA Today: “Methane — a potent greenhouse gas 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide at trapping atmospheric heat — is a contributor to global warming.”
  • Wall Street Journal: “Methane has a warming effect on the planet more than 20 times greater than carbon dioxide, according to the EPA.”

Oops! And “double oops” for the Wall Street Journal. Memo to media: Next time, check Wikipedia. Or the top climate scientists on the planet. The bottom line is that methane is a superpotent greenhouse gas [86 times stronger a heat trapping gas than CO2 over 20 years and 34 times stronger over a 100-year time scale]— especially over the medium-term, a timeframe of growing concern to scientists. The media needs to start getting its facts straight, especially since we know that methane leaks from the entire natural gas lifecycle from fracking to combustion significantly undercut or eliminate any meaningful climate benefit from the fracking boom
(see my 2014 post “By The Time Natural Gas Has A Net Climate Benefit You’ll Likely Be Dead And The Climate Ruined”).



Photo: Loren Elliott, The Chronicle Oyster shuckers Ethan Thompson (left) and Koky Delgado work at Hog Island Oyster Company’s restaurant at the Ferry Building Marketplace in San Francisco, Calif., on Thursday, July 16, 2015. Oysters are sent straight from aerated tanks in Marshall to the San Francisco restaurant most days.

Oyster farmers worried as climate change lowers ocean pH

By Lizzie Johnson SFChon August 14, 2015 Updated: August 15, 2015 8:20am

Long before scientists and shellfish companies were aware of what was happening, a silent killer began devastating California’s oyster industry. About 10 years ago, baby oysters, or spat, began to die at an alarming rate. Farms along the West Coast lost more than half of their bivalves before they reached maturity, creating a shortage of seed. That deficit hit Hog Island Oyster Co. in Marshall especially hard. So owners Terry Sawyer and John Finger began collaborating with UC Davis’ Bodega Marine Laboratory to figure out what was plaguing the water in Tomales Bay, their backyard. After more than two years of tests, they have a better understanding of the condition afflicting West Coast oysters, mussels and clams. But there is trouble ahead for California’s shellfish industry as it faces the threat of species extinction. “We are talking about something that’s going to happen in my lifetime and my children’s lifetime,” said Tessa Hill, an associate professor of geology at UC Davis. “We are going to see dramatic changes in terms of what animals can be successful on the California coast because of ocean acidification.” That culprit, ocean acidification, is the caustic cousin of climate change, and it shifts the chemistry of ocean water, making it harder for oysters to grow. That’s because about 30 percent of the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere is absorbed by the ocean, causing pH levels to plummet and making the water more acidic. The more pollution in the air, the more carbon dioxide the ocean absorbs.

Larval stage stunted

The hostile conditions stunt the growth of oysters in the larval stage, making it difficult to build their fragile calcium carbonate shells. If acidification doesn’t kill them outright, an increased susceptibility to disease and predators often will. The stress also weakens many small oysters, so it takes them longer to reach reproductive age. “It’s definitely scary,” said Zane Finger, who runs the Marshall oyster farm for his father, John. “If you’re doing any kind of job that depends on the environment, whether it’s farming on land or farming in the water, it can be uncertain. Things are changing, and it makes me nervous about the future of this business.” Oyster growers in Oregon were the first to sound the alarm 10 years ago on ocean acidification. Whiskey Creek Shellfish Hatchery, based in Oregon’s Netarts Bay, and Oregon State University were among the first to work together and publish research on the phenomenon. They established the link between acidification and the collapse of oyster seed production….


Are marine organisms evolving to protect their young in response to ocean acidification?

Posted: 12 Aug 2015 08:05 AM PDT

Marine organisms living in acidified waters exhibit a tendency to nurture their offspring to a greater extent than those in more regular conditions. Scientists have found that polychaete worms located around volcanic vents in the Mediterranean grow and develop their eggs within the protection of the family unit — in contrast to closely-related species that release them into the water column to fend for themselves….



Researchers install low-cost enclosures for studying potential impacts of rising sea levels. Credit: Dr. Julia Cherry, University of Alabama

Flooding’s impact on wetlands measurable via low-cost approach

Posted: 17 Aug 2015 06:01 AM PDT

Scientists designed a new, on-site method for studying potential impacts rising sea levels can have on vital wetlands, said a researcher who led a study describing the modifiable apparatuses….


Julia A. Cherry, George S. Ramseur, Eric L. Sparks, Just Cebrian. Testing sea-level rise impacts in tidal wetlands: a novelin situapproach. Methods in Ecology and Evolution, 2015; DOI: 10.1111/2041-210X.12441



This Sept. 27, 2013 image provided by NOAA Fisheries shows thousands of walruses hauling out on a remote barrier island in the Chukchi Sea near Point Lay, Alaska. (AP Photo/NOAA Fisheries, Stan Churches)

Walruses in the Arctic are running out of sea ice this year — again

By Chelsea Harvey August 12 2015 Washington Post

Last September, the remote community of Point Lay on Alaska’s North Slope became the focus of headline news when a staggering 35,000 walruses crowded onto the shore nearby. And now, some scientists are saying a similar event could happen this summer — in fact, any time now.  Last year’s gathering, scientists explained, had a worrying explanation. Walruses prefer to spend their time hanging out on the Arctic sea ice, which allows them a resting place in the open ocean where food is abundant. In the summer, when sea ice begins to melt, walruses typically follow the retreating ice north and migrate back south again when the ice refreezes in the fall. But last year, sea ice in the Chukchi sea (which lies between Alaska and Russia) got down to such low levels — an increasingly common occurrence as climate change dramatically reshapes the Arctic — that tens of thousands of walruses in the area were forced to drag themselves onto the Alaskan shore in search of rest, a behavior known as “hauling out.” And this year, ice is already low enough again that it’s looking like another haul-out may be imminent.

While experts caution that it’s still too early to tell for sure whether it will happen, they’re keeping a close eye on walrus activity in the Arctic, for now. And government scientists are already preparing for the possibility.

Of particular concern is waning sea ice in the Chukchi sea’s Hanna Shoal region, a prime walrus feeding ground northwest of Barrow, AK. Historically, enough sea ice has persisted in the Hanna Shoal area throughout the summer, even while the ice melts away further south, to allow the walruses to stick around and feed throughout the warmer months. For the past eight summers, however, climate change has taken its toll on the region: Sea ice in the area has melted away to little or nothing by the end of the summer, destroying the floating haven the walruses usually rely on this time of year. In fact, last year’s haul-out was by no means the first time it’s happened. Since 2007, walruses have hauled out every year except for 2008 and 2012, in groups of up to 20–30,000. And now, advisories from the National Weather Service in Anchorage, AK are warning that sea ice in the favored Hanna Shoal region may be gone within a matter of days. “Sea ice floes remaining over the Hanna Shoal region are expected to be destroyed by wind and wave action along with the moderate sea surface temperatures in the region by Wednesday,” the service forecast. If this happens, walruses in the region may be forced to move south to the Alaskan coast, just as they did last year…..


Greenland ice sheet’s winds driving tundra soil erosion, study finds

Posted: 12 Aug 2015 10:19 AM PDT

Strong winds blowing off the Greenland Ice Sheet are eroding soil and vegetation in the surrounding tundra, making it less productive for caribou and other grazing animals, carbon storage and nutrient cycling, a study finds. 


Developing models for predicting carbon levels in Central African forests based on measuring only 5% of all trees

Posted: 17 Aug 2015 05:56 AM PDT

Researchers are developing models for predicting carbon levels in Central African forests based on measuring only 5% of all trees. In addition to being a lot more effective, their work is also revealing for the first time in Central Africa the key role played by “hyperdominant” species for storing forest carbon….


Wind is blowing China’s air pollution ‘straight across’ to the US West Coast

Barbara Tasch Published 1:23 pm, Sunday, August 16, 2015

A new study links the increase in ozone precursor emissions in Asia to increased levels of ozone over the US’s West Coast. In the study, published Monday, a team of six researchers from US and Dutch universities found that ozone concentrations over China increased by about 7% between 2005 and 2010 and that ozone traveling in the air from China has reached the western part of the US, challenging the reduction of ozone levels there. China’s meandering pollution likely offset the 2005-10 reduction in ozone that had been expected following US policies aimed at reducing emissions, by roughly 43%, the researchers found. Over that period, the US government put in place emission-reducing measures and curbed the production of ozone-forming nitrogen oxides by 20% on the West Coast, according to Wageningen University. Yet that did not improve the quality of the air especially in terms of ozone reduction.

And the increased air pollution in Asia might be at least partly to blame…. When levels of ozone are high in the lower atmosphere (this type of ozone is referred to as “bad ozone,” or ground-level ozone) they have dangerous effects on human health and are a main component of smog. High levels of ground-level ozone act as a greenhouse gas, contributing to pollution and climate change. (“Good ozone,” on the other hand, is a natural component of the Earth’s upper atmosphere and helps protect us from the sun’s harmful UV rays.) The researchers say this shows that the fight against increasing ozone levels and climate change must be global. “Local measures to improve air quality certainly help, but the real solution lies in a global strategy,” Verstraeten said. The study concluded that “air quality and regional climate change mitigation policies could eventually have limited impact if not considered in a global context, at least for free-tropospheric O3 and its precursors.



Global warming lethal to baby lizards: Nests become heat traps

Posted: 19 Aug 2015 05:33 AM PDT

The expected impact of climate change on North American lizards is much worse than first thought. A team of biologists has discovered that lizard embryos die when subjected to a temperature of 110 degrees Fahrenheit even for a few minutes. They also discovered a bias in previous studies, which ignored early life stages such as embryos. Embryonic lizards are immobile and cannot cool off when surrounding soil becomes hot…..



The ‘End of the high seas’, or we watch the seas die

August 17, 2015 European Association of Geochemistry

Even optimistic estimates for what might be achieved at December’s Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris will not be enough to save the world’s coral reefs, according to a Plenary session analysis presented at the Goldschmidt conference in Prague. Speaking to the world’s major gathering of geochemists, Professor Peter F Sale (University of Windsor, Canada) spelled out the stark choice facing climate scientists in the run-up to the Paris conference. The stated aim for the COP21 climate conference is to limit a temperature increase to less than +2C by the end of the century. According to Professor Sale: “Even if Paris is wildly successful, and a treaty is struck, ocean warming and ocean acidification are going to continue beyond the end of this century.” He continued: “This is now serious; I find it very unlikely that coral reefs as I knew them in the mid-1960s will still be found anywhere on this planet by mid-century. Instead, we will have algal-dominated, rubble-strewn, slowly eroding limestone benches. I see little hope for reefs unless we embark on a more aggressive emissions reduction plan. Aiming for CO2 at 350ppm, or a total warming of around 1C is scientifically defendable, and would give reefs a good chance; a number of coral reef scientists have called for this. A goal of stabilising CO2 at less than 350ppm is also environmentally cautious. Getting to +2 degrees Celsius or so, overshooting along the way, is unwise, self-defeating, and may have far more serious consequences than are dreamed of by politicians happily negotiating minimalist responses to climate change. “As well as CO2 emissions, we must also deal with our other insults to the oceans. We have lost 90% of our commercial fish biomass since the 1940’s, we are polluting coastal waters, and the great majority of marine protected areas are not being protected. Either we agree limits, which means the end of the’ high seas’, or we let large parts of the seas die.” Professor Sale summarised: “Knowing what we are doing, do we have the ethical right to eliminate an entire ecosystem from this planet? It’s never been done before. But watching as our actions lead to the loss of all coral reefs on the planet is like removing all rainforests. I don’t believe we have that right.” Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, Coordinating Lead Author of section on ‘The Ocean’ within the latest IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report, said: “We need to wake up to the idea that business as usual, even clever taxation schemes, will not act fast enough to reduce global emissions. This is a global emergency, which requires us to decarbonise within the next 20 years, or face temperatures that will eliminate ecosystems like coral reefs, and indeed many systems that humans depend on.“”At the same time, dealing with non-climate stresses will be vitally important — we must buy time by building resilience in Earth’s biological systems, given that even more stringent activities will still result in much warmer and more acidic oceans, than today.” Coral expert, Professor John (Charlie) Veron, former chief scientist of the Australian Institute of Marine Science commented: “The extreme gravity of the current predicament is now widely acknowledged by reef and climate scientists. They also accept that only drastic action starting now will prevent wholesale destruction of reefs and other similarly affected ecosystems. Should humanity not be successful in preventing these threats from becoming reality no amount of management or expenditure will save future generations from the consequences of our failed guardianship.”



The 1C Milestone: From Here to There and (Hopefully) Back Again

Posted on 10 August 2015 by Rob Honeycutt

There’s long been a troubling disconnect in climate science communication where we discuss the temperature charts we see from all the surface station data sets and the importance of keeping global mean surface temperature below 2C. This creates a challenge for anyone who wants to understand where we currently are relative to a 2C rise in temperature over preindustrial times. For the average person, who might just now becoming interested in the climate change issue, how are they to comprehend this? How can we make the communication of this critical data point more clear and concise? How do we make it more relevant to the issue of climate change?


Baselining and Anomalies

It’s important to understand that all the data sets are estimations of global mean temperature. We have multiple international groups all independently looking at the question of global temperature. Each have their own methods, and each have their strengths and limitations. And we also have hybrid estimates that attempt to combine different methods to improve on coverage and give a more accurate answer. The surface temperature data sets (GISS, NOAA, HadCRUT4, Berkeley Earth and Cowtan & Way) are presented on different baselines and thus give us different relative temperature anomaly figures which are not specifically related to the 2C limit. For instance, HadCRUT4 baselines to 1961-1990, whereas GISS data baselines to 1951-1980. These baseline periods merely establish a zero axis for the data. Changing the baseline does not change the data, it only changes where the zero axis falls. (Tamino has a great explanation of this here.) There is no perfect answer to the true global mean temperature of earth, but that’s rather inconsequential since we are primarily interested in understanding the change in global temperature.  To make things even more confusing for the climate newby we have many tools out there that enable us to adjust the baseline we’re looking at. All the data sets publish their data relative to a set baseline, but for researchers it can be important to test differing baselines to reveal aspects of warming. For a newby it just makes things all the more confusing, and can easily play into the hands of people for whom confusion is a desired outcome.


The 2C Limit

The 2C limit has been established and agreed to as the point beyond which we do not know what consequences may occur in terms of earth systems feedbacks. In the words of the late Dr. Stephen Schneider, “We know that there are probably hundreds of tipping points. We don’t know precisely where they are. Therefore you never know which ones you’re crossing when. All you know is that as you add warming, you cross more and more of them. (link)” We know that the last interglacial period, the Eemian, peaked at a global mean temperature that was about 2C over the Holocene preindustrial temperature. Warming beyond that holds a great deal of uncertainty. While the 2C limit is somewhat of an arbitrary figure, it’s still extremely important in terms of creating effective policy responses to the challenge of global warming. Dr. Stefan Rahmstorf explains it very well at Real Climate, where he states, “Climate policy needs a ‘long-term global goal’ (as the Cancun Agreements call it) against which the efforts can be measured to evaluate their adequacy. 

People relate to and respond to simple round figures. If you’re a man trying to watch his weight, the morning you wake up to see the scale tip over 200 lbs is likely quite a shocking thing, regardless of whether it’s only half a pound over the previous morning. Clear round figures can have an enormous effect on us. Setting goals and understanding where one is relative to those goals is also an important aspect of human motivation. It’s an important tool for achievement most eloquently exemplified in JFK’s words, “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.” Clear words, a clear goal. Remember, when those words were spoken, only 5 out of 10 US rocket launches had been successful, and the idea of putting a man into one of those must have seemed insane. But a mere 8 years later, in 1969, we watched Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon. Words and goals can be incredibly powerful.


Connecting the Dots

The disconnect is that all of our surface station data sets are expressing their anomalies as a figure off of differing mid-20th-century baselines, yet we’re also discussing a 2C limit that is a baseline over a preindustrial (1800’s) average. New Scientist took up this question, with the help of SkS author Dr. Kevin Cowtan, for their article published last week, titled Halfway to Hell (figure above). Using 1850-1899 as a preindustrial baseline, we are this year just cresting the 1C mark over preindustrial temperature. So, in terms of a transient climate response, we are half way toward 2C… It would be impossible to shut down every fossil fuel source of energy in the next few weeks or months. We are going to continue emitting CO2 over the near term. The challenge is, how fast can we make this important transition to a carbon-free global economy in order to avoid the worst consequences? Glen Peters of CICERO does a very good job of explaining the challenge we face (h/t rustneversleeps). In his lecture titled A Journey from 5C to 2C, on the question of whether we can avoid the 2C limit, he says, “Yes, but only in the models.” Get used to it. We are nearly certain to tip the scales past the 2C limit, but that doesn’t mean all is lost. That doesn’t mean give up. It means we need to work hard today to get policies in place that can help drive what’s required to aggressively address this critical issue.
As Dr. Peters points out, on top of the action and innovation required to transition to zero emissions, within a few short decades we’re also going to require technology that does not exist today that will allow us to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. Gasser et al 2015 (Nature Communications 6; doi:10.1038/ncomms8958), also suggests we will need negative emissions in order to stay under 2C. It bears noting that only the RCP2.6 emissions scenario gives us a reasonable chance of avoiding 2C, and that by a 66% likelihood. As of now, we are still on the RCP8.5 emissions pathway. The challenge we face is made even greater by the fact that the solution requires a near complete shutdown of an industry that, to borrow from Dylan Thomas, does not want to go gentle into that good night. Rather than Thomas viewing his aging father’s inevitable passing, the “rage” we face is a strapping, powerful industry of whom we must ask (or demand) to lay down and pass on for the good of humanity. We are standing in front of a Goliath of our own creation saying, “Thanks for all the fantastic energy, but you have to die now.” In spite of the enormity of what we face, I am an eternal optimist. I believe in humanity. I believe in our ingenuity, our resilience, our capacity for creativity, and our abundant motivation to accomplish astoundingly insurmountable tasks. Passing this 1C milestone is a strong wake up call we need to heed. Baselining the surface station data sets to preindustrial helps everyone understand where we are relative to the all important 2C limit.


Significant breath [CO2] from streams, rivers

Posted: 12 Aug 2015 07:40 AM PDT

Running streams are key sources of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, but why is it so? An international team of researchers has now published the answer….


Up to 30 percent less precipitation in the Central Andes in future

Posted: 17 Aug 2015 08:09 AM PDT

Seasonal water shortages already occur in the Central Andes of Peru and Bolivia. By the end of the century, precipitation could fall by up to 30% according to an international team of researchers. In a first for this region, the team compared current climate data with future climate scenarios and data extending back to pre-Inca times.


Cormorant-like seabirds, known as shags are pictured. Credit: Richard Bardgett

Worsening wind forecasts signal stormy times ahead for seabirds

August 18, 2015 University of Edinburg

Stronger winds forecast as a result of climate change could impact on populations of wild animals, by affecting how well they can feed, a study of seabirds suggests. Research into a common UK coastal seabird showed that when winds are strong, females take much longer to find food compared with their male counterparts. Researchers expect that if wind conditions worsen — as they are forecast to do — this could impact on the wellbeing of female birds, and ultimately affect population sizes. In many seabird species, females are smaller and lighter than males, and so must work harder to dive through turbulent water. They may not hold their breath for as long, fly so efficiently nor dive as deeply as males. The latest results suggest that in poor weather conditions, this sex difference is exaggerated. Researchers from the University of Edinburgh, the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) and British Antarctic Survey carried out their two-year study into cormorant-like birds, known as shags, on the Isle of May National Nature Reserve in south-east Scotland. Small tracking devices were attached to the legs of birds and measured how long they foraged for fish in the sea. Scientists found that when coastal winds were strong or blowing towards the shore, females took much longer to find food compared with males. The difference in time spent foraging became more marked between the sexes when conditions worsened, suggesting that female birds are more likely to continue foraging even in the poorest conditions…..


Sue Lewis, Richard A. Phillips, Sarah J. Burthe, Sarah Wanless, Francis Daunt. Contrasting responses of male and female foraging effort to year-round wind conditions. Journal of Animal Ecology, 2015; DOI: 10.1111/1365-2656.12419


Wild boars are gaining ground [in Europe]

Posted: 12 Aug 2015 07:37 AM PDT

The wild boar population in Europe is growing. However, the reasons for this growth were not yet clear. Scientists have now found that climate change plays a major role. The number of wild boars grows particularly after mild winters, suggesting that food availability is a decisive factor….










Visitors along the recessed shores of Beal’s Point in California’s Folsom Lake State Recreation Area. A new study has found that inevitable droughts in California were made worse by global warming. Credit Damon Winter/The New York Times

Climate Change Intensifies California Drought, Scientists Say


Global warming caused by human emissions has most likely intensified the drought in California by roughly 15 to 20 percent, scientists said Thursday, warning that future dry spells in the state are almost certain to be worse than this one as the world continues to heat up. Even though the findings suggest that the drought is primarily a consequence of natural climate variability, the scientists added that the likelihood of any drought becoming acute is rising because of climate change. The odds of California suffering droughts at the far end of the scale, like the current one that began in 2012, have roughly doubled over the past century, they said. “This would be a drought no matter what,” said A. Park Williams, a climate scientist at Columbia University and the lead author of a paper published by the journal Geophysical Research Letters. “It would be a fairly bad drought no matter what. But it’s definitely made worse by global warming.” The paper echoes a growing body of research that has come to similar conclusions, but scientists not involved in the work described it as more thorough than any previous effort, because it analyzed nearly every possible combination of data on temperature, rainfall, wind speed and other factors that could be influencing the severity of the drought. The research, said David B. Lobell, a Stanford University climate scientist, is “probably the best I’ve seen on this question.“….


Contribution of anthropogenic warming to California drought during 2012–2014 Geophysical Research Letters. Accepted manuscript online: 20 August 2015 DOI: 10.1002/2015GL064924

ABSTRACT: A suite of climate datasets and multiple representations of atmospheric moisture demand are used to calculate many estimates of the self-calibrated Palmer Drought Severity Index, a proxy for near-surface soil moisture, across California from 1901–2014 at high spatial resolution. Based on the ensemble of calculations, California drought conditions were record-breaking in 2014, but probably not record-breaking in 2012–2014, contrary to prior findings. Regionally, the 2012–2014 drought was record-breaking in the agriculturally important southern Central Valley and highly populated coastal areas. Contributions of individual climate variables to recent drought are also examined, including the temperature component associated with anthropogenic warming. Precipitation is the primary driver of drought variability but anthropogenic warming is estimated to have accounted for 8–27% of the observed drought anomaly in 2012–2014 and 5–18% in 2014. Although natural variability dominates, anthropogenic warming has substantially increased the overall likelihood of extreme California droughts.







There Will be Floods

What will happen when the floods hit drought-parched California?

By Heather Mack on 17 Aug 2015 1 comment

After four years of a near-biblical dry spell, it’s hard to think of California ever getting wet again. The entire state is scorching — literally, in the 118,000 acres engulfed in flames. But just last week climatologists announced that the “Godzilla El Niño” could drench California this winter. Droughts often end in floods. That may sound like a welcome respite, but it will almost certainly hurt: Going from drought to flood is one of the toughest switches to make. Californians shouldn’t count on El Niño to cure the drought: It doesn’t reliably deliver rain to the state. But sooner or later the water will come. Then the only thing we’ll need to worry about more than figuring how to drive in anything resembling an actual “winter” is whether our state will sink and wash away. For starters, it’s clear that cities … overflowing storm drains, submerged freeways, and a collapsed bridge after a few days of rain last month. And anyone living in an urban area during those few seconds it rained last winter can recall many a road either underwater or covered in slippery mud. But California’s farmland is just as vulnerable to destruction. “Dealing with droughts and floods are issues within each other,” says Wendell Gilgert, a soil ecologist at Petaluma-based nonprofit Point Blue Conservation [Science]. “They are one and of the same.” What does he mean by that? Well, think of that scene in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly when superhot (and I mean almost dying of heatstroke) Clint Eastwood tries to gulp down a canteen full of water before Tuco warns him that “too much isn’t good for him.” California is about like Eastwood’s body right now — drought has degraded soils, killed crops, and turned public opinion against farmers just when they most need help to shift production practices. The first issue may be the most serious. The dry weather has desiccated topsoil, turning spongy organic material into dust in some places, and baking dirt into impermeable bricks in others. Poor soil means poor root systems, which equals loose, almost sand-like dirt that can’t absorb water in a useful way. Moreover, degraded soils can’t absorb water well, meaning the water will simply rush through a field, rather than steadily seep through healthy soil and recharge the groundwater supply. But while some have suggested farmers and ranchers switch over to drip irrigation or even abandon agriculture altogether, that could actually make things worse. Drought-shaming the people who grow our food isn’t the solution, Gilgert says. Instead, he sees the drought as an opportunity to help farmers and ranchers shift their production systems.


Managing soil for water extremes

Across California, farmers, ranchers, and scientists are coming together to develop solutions to climate-based issues on farmland. While the very idea of climate change initially raised the hackles of some conservative ranchers, the drought has helped align the interests of policymakers looking for climate fixes and farmers dealing with the dirt on the ground.
In fact, some of the most innovative, sustainable and downright optimistic solutions to drought and floods are happening not in complex conversations about geoengineering or rethinking food, but in rethinking the ranches and farms themselves.
“Whether or not you believe in climate change, you definitely believe in the drought,” said Craig McNamara, a central valley rancher and president of the California State Board of Food and Agriculture.
McNamara and Gilgert both say that planning for a future of weather more volatile has brought about a paradigm shift in the way farmers, ranchers and scientists manage soil and water. Gilgert and his team work with ranchers and the Natural Resources Conservation Districts to “re-water” California through rangeland restoration efforts like soil-building (in the form of compost amendments) and sustainable ground cover.
“We work with ranchers who are either reactive or proactive,” says Gilgert.
Reactive would be waiting until disasters like droughts or floods strike to take any action. It would mean digging deeper into the ever-dwindling groundwater table rather than trying to restore it. It would mean kowtowing to the pressure from drought shaming, or selling livestock rather than figuring out how to keep grass-fed cattle a reality. Proactive would be learning how to work with the land’s natural carbon cycles and factoring in the reality of extreme weather. For some, this translates to leaving more residual dry matter on pasture and grazing cattle in smaller groups to allow soil carbon to build up before the plants are all eaten.
Gilgert says farmers shouldn’t be ripping out the crops that are being called out as water hogs. He was astonished to read a recent op-ed in his county newspaper that suggested the state’s rice fields be removed because they require flooding to grow properly.
“We do something like that, do you know what happens?” Gilgert says. “We lose all of the birds and insects that use that as a flyway. We lose the biodiversity of the area. That only makes the soil weaker and less resistant to droughts and flooding.”
Diversity, not absence, of plants is key, Gilgert says. And it’s not just crops.

“If you can build a plant community and shift to perennials, legumes and a lot of other things, then you have a lot more buffering to extremes in weather and climate.”

More types of vegetation mean more types of root systems that can hold nutrient-dense soil. That soil, in turn, can retain water in times of scarcity and soak it up like a sponge (instead of a kleenex) in times of excess.


Capturing floods underground

Properly controlled flooding in farmland can relieve the pressure from a swollen river and restore the groundwater.

Don Cameron runs Terranova Ranch near Fresno, in the epicenter of Droughtville: the San Joaquin Valley. Cameron doesn’t see floods as something to fear. Rather, he wholeheartedly embraces it. His ranch and neighboring ranches are part of a water-capturing experiment. “Our goal is to take floodwater out of Kings River and recharge farmlands,” says Cameron, who grows about 25 different crops with a mix of organic and conventional methods. The project, about 20 years in the making, aims to transform floodwater into groundwater. Farmers will build berms and hedgerows around fields and between crops: When the floods come, water should rush into fields and then seep down into the aquifer. Cameron and his neighbors are experimenting with flooding all sorts of crops: vineyards, nut trees, cotton, and even a few dairy farms. “We feel, with climate change, that we are going to see more periods of extreme weather,” says Cameron. “All storage types are really important, including above-ground storage like dams. But those are difficult and time consuming and expensive, and we figure we can get more benefits with a recharge project.” Not everyone has embraced the idea. There was even some movement toward legislation to prevent farmers and ranchers from flooding, Cameron says. Some people think Californian agriculture should rely only on drip irrigation instead, but that doesn’t recharge groundwater.


Farmers are important water managers

Flooded rice field in California Robert Couse-Baker

Gilgert says it’s shortsighted to brush off agriculture as the culprit in drought and flood instability. As he pointed out, there is lower density of human beings on the average ranch than in our wilderness areas. We need those people there to manage that land in the most climate-friendly way possible. “Ranching is a near-indigenous culture and lifestyle at this point in California,” he says. “If you take ranchers off the land, what do you think is going to happen to our rangelands?” If you think that removing a farm means an automatic return to self-sustaining wilderness, think again. Life cycles of land are evolutionary, and after a hundred years of agriculture, ranching and farming is the default of large swaths of California. The land depends on a form of stewardship. So, think of ranchers and farmers as our caretakers, but ones who must adhere to the adage of learning their history. “If you don’t recognize that California in the summertime is a desert, those kinds of short-sighted, reactive ideas like we talked about are not going to support you,” says Gilgert. “And it won’t support the 38 million who live here.”



The dried-up Guadalupe River in San Jose in July. (Jim Gensheimer / Associated Press)

Another 2 or 3 years of drought? Report looks at what it might mean

By Peter H. King
contact the reporter

Should the current drought extend for another two or three years, most California cities and much of the state’s agriculture would be able to manage, but the toll on small rural communities dependent on well-water and on wetlands and wildlife could be extensive. That was the assessment of a new study from the Public Policy Institute of California, released late Tuesday. Bearing the ominous title “What If California Drought Continues,[Point Blue’s Dr. Nat Seavy is a co-author]
the report cautions that “it would not be prudent to count on El Nino to end the drought.”
Ellen Hanak, director of the PPIC Water Policy Center and a co-author of the study, said: “This drought is serving as a stress test for California’s water management systems. Californians have worked hard to limit its impacts, but the experience has also revealed major gaps in our readiness to cope with the droughts we expect in the future.”

While the drought’s impacts have been felt across California, the study finds that, in general, urban regions — benefiting from improvements in efficiencies, conservation, water management practices and other by-products of previous droughts — stand out as a “bright spot.” “California’s cities and suburbs — home to 95 percent of California’s population and an even higher share of economic activity — have become,” the study observes, “considerably more resilient since the 1987-92 drought, despite the addition of more than eight million residents since that time.” Compared to urban California, it says, “farmers are more vulnerable, but they are also adapting.” With the fallowing of extensive acreage — land mainly used for field crops such as rice — and increased pumping of groundwater, the farm sector in general has managed to maintain productivity in the more lucrative tree and vine crops. “The greatest vulnerabilities,” the PPIC forecast suggests, “are in some low-income rural communities where wells are running dry and in California’s wetlands, rivers, and forests, where the state’s iconic biodiversity is under extreme threat.” An extended drought, according to the study, would threaten extinction in the wild for 18 native species of fish and higher rates of mortality among migratory waterfowl. “California was unprepared for this environmental emergency,” the report asserts, “and is now struggling to implement stopgap measures.” The study was funded by the California Water Foundation. In addition to Hanak, the report lists several California scientists and analysts as co-authors. Their collective analysis, they write, “is informed by wide-ranging data sources and by conversations with officials, business, and stakeholders on the frontlines of drought management.”


NASA Groundwater Subsidence Report: Drought Causing Valley Land to Sink

Progress Report: Subsidence in the Central Valley, California

August 19, 2015
Other news From the Department of Water Resources:

As Californians continue pumping groundwater in response to the historic drought, the Department of Water Resources today released a new NASA report showing land in the San Joaquin Valley is sinking faster than ever before, nearly two inches per month in some locations. “Because of increased pumping, groundwater levels are reaching record lows—up to 100 feet lower than previous records,” said Department of Water Resources Director Mark Cowin. “As extensive groundwater pumping continues, the land is sinking more rapidly and this puts nearby infrastructure at greater risk of costly damage.” Sinking land, known as subsidence, has occurred for decades in California because of excessive groundwater pumping during drought conditions, but the new NASA data shows the sinking is happening faster, putting infrastructure on the surface at growing risk of damage. NASA obtained the subsidence data by comparing satellite images of the Earth’s surface over time. Land near Corcoran in the Tulare basin sank 13 inches in just eight months—about 1.6 inches per month. One area in the Sacramento Valley was sinking approximately half-an-inch per month, faster than previous measurements. NASA also found areas near the California Aqueduct sank up to 12.5 inches, with eight inches of that occurring in just four months of 2014.

…..In response to the new findings, and as part of an ongoing effort to respond to the effects of California’s historic drought, the Governor’s Drought Task Force has committed to working with affected communities to develop near-term and long-term recommendations to reduce the rate of sinking and address risks to infrastructure. This action builds on the historic Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, enacted by Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. in September 2014, which requires local governments to form sustainable groundwater agencies that will regulate pumping and recharge to better manage groundwater supplies. “Groundwater acts as a savings account to provide supplies during drought, but the NASA report shows the consequences of excessive withdrawals as we head into the fifth year of historic drought,” Director Cowin said. “We will work together with counties, local water districts, and affected communities to identify ways to slow the rate of subsidence and protect vital infrastructure such as canals, pumping stations, bridges, and wells.” The Department of Water Resources is also launching a $10 million program to help counties with stressed groundwater basins to develop or strengthen local ordinances and conservation plans. This funding comes from the statewide Water Bond passed last year, and applications for funding will be posted in the coming days. This year’s budget passed in July also enables streamlined environmental review for any county ordinance that reduces groundwater pumping. NASA will also continue its subsidence monitoring, using data from the European Space Agency’s recently launched Sentinel-1 mission to cover a broader area and identify more vulnerable locations. The report, Progress Report: Subsidence in the Central Valley, California, prepared for DWR by researchers at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA’s) Jet Propulsion Laboratory, is available here: NASA Subsidence Report





In the years before the drought began, Australia carried out a giant reset of its water rights. First, the government put a cap on the total amount of water available for farmers. Then, farmers received shares of that total supply. Martin Benik/Corbis

In Search Of A Drought Strategy, California Looks Down Under

August 19, 2015 4:40 PM ET Dan Charles NPR

… Think about Australia. It’s drier than California even in normal years, and recently, it suffered through a truly epic drought, longer and deeper than California’s. Australia survived, though. It came through that drought “with no discernible decline in the quality of life!” says David Feldman, professor of policy, planning and design at the University of California, Irvine. “I think there’s a lesson there.” Feldman and some of his colleagues have taken several trips to Australia in recent years, trying to figure out what that lesson might be. It’s an increasingly popular destination, in fact, for Californians who are seeking answers to burning drought questions. “Australia is seen as a model that has prevailed, and has created a kind of resiliency,” Feldman says. The Australian accomplishment that most impressed Feldman was the level of public awareness about the country’s water situation, especially in cities like Melbourne. “On the billboards, there were actually postings about the level of water remaining in the city’s reservoirs,” he says. Australians now treasure their water in a way that most Californians still don’t, Feldman says. In Melbourne, in recent years, the average person has been using just half as much water as the average person in LA. You don’t see nearly as many of those green, grassy lawns.

A bigger challenge lies outside the cities. The biggest use of water by far, in both Australia and in California, is irrigation on farms. Agriculture is a huge industry in both places. Some water experts say the single most important thing that Australia did was to create a new way of allocating that irrigation water. The old system in Australia looked a lot like the one that’s still in place in California. If you were a farmer, and owned irrigated fields, you had the right to use a certain amount of water either from wells or nearby rivers. “It was seen as something that would just come to your property. It was joined to the land,” says Tom Rooney, the founder of an Australian water trading company called WaterFind. But in the years before the drought began, Australia carried out a giant reset of its water rights. First, the government put a cap on the total amount of water available for farmers. Then, farmers received shares of that total supply. Each farmer got a share of the Australian water supply. It’s similar to the way stockholders own shares of a publicly traded company. And those water shares are no longer tied to any particular piece of land. “Just like you have a title for your property, we have got a title for water,” says Rooney. And just as people can buy and sell shares in a company, people in Australia can buy and sell shares of the nation’s water supply.
So when the drought hit, reducing the total amount of water available, this market became a valuable way to distribute this scarce resource. Farms that were growing the most valuable crops were willing to pay more for water. They bought more shares. As the water price increased, other farmers found that selling their water shares was more profitable than growing a crop with it. The end result: more efficient use of the country’s water, and less economic pain.
Richard Howitt, an economist at the University of California, Davis, has been pushing for greater use of water markets in California. “The idea was very heretical a few years ago. I can remember being disinvited from meetings for saying it,” he says.
Now, in part because of the Australian example, it’s gaining ground, he says. California probably won’t adopt something as radical as Australia’s national water market, Howitt says. But it already is getting more common for farmers to trade water in California. And he thinks people will be ready to adopt reforms that at least make it much easier to carry out such transactions.
Rooney must think so. His company, WaterFind, which played a key role in creating water markets in Australia, now is setting up an American
subsidiary based in Sacramento.



Frankie Gutierrez, an arborist with the city of Palo Alto, waters magnolia trees near the Lucie Stern Community Center in Palo Alto, Calif., Thursday, Aug. 13, 2015. As Californians and the communities they live in cut back water use and let lawns turn brown, arborists and state officials are worrying about a potentially dangerous ripple effect: City trees going neglected and becoming diseased or even collapsing. (Patrick Tehan/Bay Area News Group)

Drought sets up ’emergency situation’ for California’s trees

By Lisa M. Krieger Mercury News Posted:   08/16/2015 04:04:09 PM PDT11 Comments | Updated:   about 5 hours ago

The rush to save water is claiming legions of unintended casualties — California’s trees. Specimens that have stood tall and strong for decades are stressed and dying because of the drought, as Californians turn off spigots to comply with Gov. Jerry Brown’s mandatory conservation measures. All over the state — in yards, on median strips and along freeways — ghostly sheaves of brown leaves will be an enduring symbol of the drought, long after winter rains resume. Their loss will reduce habitat, shade and property values, experts say. “It’s an emergency situation. These trees are everywhere, all around us, and are suffering,” said Rhonda Berry, president of Silicon Valley’s urban forestry nonprofit Our City Forest. She is particularly alarmed by the death of stately coastal redwoods in San Jose’s Bramhall Park and elsewhere around the South Bay. So many trees are dying in the fourth year of this historic drought that some cities have begun delivering truckloads of water in an effort to save them. In Palo Alto, where groundwater is pumped out during basement excavations, the discarded water is collected in the city’s 2,700-gallon water truck and then used to irrigate trees. At the state Capitol, where the lawn went brown after the governor’s executive order requiring 25 percent cutbacks in urban water use, gardeners are mulching and irrigating nearly 1,000 trees, including a historic grove planted in 1897 with saplings from famous Civil War battlefields. “A lot of people are turning off water to lawns, which is putting mature trees in danger,” said Cindy Blain of the nonprofit California ReLeaf, which is partnering with the state’s Save Our Water conservation program to urge residents to set up alternative watering systems for trees once they turn off their regular sprinklers. When a decision was made not to use precious city water to irrigate trees at Danville’s Eugene O’Neill National Historic Site and John Muir National Historic Site in Martinez, preservation arborist Keith Park turned to the past for solutions. He’s using 19th century wells installed by Muir, a famed naturalist, to water the site’s 30 thirsty peach trees. At the O’Neill property, Park is relying on spring water stored in redwood tanks built by the famed writer. “It’s less than it used to be, but it is better than nothing,” Park said. Palo Alto is urging homeowners to add “soaker hoses” to the drip tubing around trees, then add 3 to 4 inches of mulch to retain moisture. “We’re seeing trees starting to turn color at least a month ahead of schedule,” said city arborist Dave Dockter. It is not just an urban problem. According to the U.S. Forest Service, the drought has already killed more than 12.5 million trees in California’s forests. Hardest hit along the Sierra’s western slopes are pine trees, especially Jeffrey, lodge pole, ponderosa, sugar and white bark varieties. In the rocky canyons of the state’s Central Coast, the rare Santa Lucia fir shows elevated death rates. Even centuries-old giant sequoia trees in Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks are suffering, with more foliage dying than usual in 2014 and 2015 because of a lack of moisture, said Dana Dierkes, spokeswoman for the parks. The current drought is already reshaping landscapes, favoring chaparral over woodland, said Patrick McIntyre of UC Davis, who manages biodiversity data for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. His research shows that areas that have experienced the greatest water stress since the 1930s are seeing the largest decline in the density of large trees, with losses of up to 50 percent in the Sierra Nevada highlands, the Southern and Central Coast Ranges and parts of Northern California….


Watering trees during the drought

You can protect your trees by giving supplemental water. Crawford says that, for most trees, 80 percent of their roots are concentrated in the top foot of soil, so make sure water penetrates the soil 6 to 12 inches deep below the tree’s canopy; irrigating more deeply than that doesn’t provide much of a benefit.

  • Water in the cool morning hours to minimize evaporation, using the methods below for landscape and street trees. Note that the amount and frequency of watering varies depending on the size and species of the tree, so the following are general recommendations.
  • Newly planted trees: These trees need 10 to 15 gallons of water two to three times a week for the first year whether there’s a drought or not.
  • Mature landscape trees (more than 1 year old): Once a month, saturate the soil a foot deep under the canopy. It’s best to set up drip irrigation, a soaker hose or an oscillating sprinkler to run for 20 for 30 minutes.
  • Mature street trees: Much of the root systems may be covered by concrete or other paving, so it can be hard to reach the area under the canopies. During drought, water these trees once a month using a hose at a very slow flow — so that water doesn’t run off — for 20 minutes. Or you can drill a hole in a 5-gallon bucket, let it drain onto the exposed soil under the canopy, and refill enough times to give the tree 15 gallons of water. For smaller trees, you might opt to use a slow-release watering bag, such as a Treegator (

Resources – For more information on caring for trees, check the following websites.


Davey Tree Expert Co.:

Friends of the Urban Forest:

Trees are Good:



California’s drought will cost $2.74 billion in 2015

Christian Science Monitor August 18, 2015 SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California’s ongoing drought will cost the economy in the most populous US state an estimated $2.74 billion in 2015 and lead to the loss of 10,000 seasonal farm jobs, despite overall health in the state’s agricultural sector, researchers said. Agricultural economists at the University of California, Davis, said the drought, entering its fourth year, would impact the state more in 2015 than in 2014, when the total cost to the economy was estimated to be $2.2 billion. “If a drought of this intensity persists beyond 2015, California’s agricultural production and employment will continue to erode,” said co-author Josue Medellin-Azuara, a water economist with the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences…The loss to California’s agricultural industry alone in 2015 is estimated at $1.84 billion, but when taking account the ripple effects to the entire economy, the total is closer to $2.74 billion, the university said. Still, the economists pointed out that California’s agricultural economy is growing despite the drought….







Coastal flooding from a high tide event in Majuro, Republic of the Marshall Islands, March 2014. Credit: Alison Kelen

Pacific Islands’ climate ‘storybook’ tracks value of early warning

August 18, 2015 NOAA

A new Pacific Islands Climate Storybook details community experiences in addressing the impacts of a changing climate in Pacific Island countries. The storybook reflects broad community engagement over a two-year period and incorporates experiential knowledge and scientific data.  With emphasis on the vital need for climate early warning, the stories highlight the use of or need for climate services to increase community resilience to a changing climate. In American Samoa, for example, lessons learned from a devastating drought considerably lessened the impacts of a later, even more severe drought. Constant monitoring of regional climate information and a public prepared to mitigate the risks made a striking difference.  Because of early warnings, Manus residents in Papua New Guinea were ready to move uphill when an extremely rare, huge swell flooded their island. In Vanuatu, a guidebook and innovative animation are translating science from climate early warning systems into useable strategies for farmers and others especially vulnerable to climate variability. Planting taro deeply, for instance, allows roots to better reach water reserves. Removing all but two of the young shoots from parent banana trees and replanting them in different areas helps reduce water demands in the soil.
The stories are an outcome of an extensive dialog process that joined those developing climate products and services for the Pacific Islands with those who will actually use the information to plan and adapt. With support provided through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the project was developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) working closely with the Pacific Island Meteorological Services and numerous other partner organizations across the Pacific and beyond.


Guiding Principles for Climate Services in the Pacific Islands (from the Storybook)

  • Focus on the transformation of information by placing content in a form that is easily understood and readily accessible, aggregating and customizing it so that is specific to sector and locale, and linking it to local knowledge and terminology.
  • Ground product and services development and delivery in the iterative co-production of knowledge’ at multiple levels to ensure that science and services are appropriately and successfully brought to bear on relevant problems and questions.
  • Implement integrated program planning and product development by directing attention to the alignment and coordination of activities needed to minimize gaps and overlaps and to support robust and sustained capacity development in the region.

From the Pacific Islands Climate Services Forum held in Suva, Fiji 21-25 January 2013



MacArthur Foundation vows to push climate solutions, starting with $50M pledge to green groups

August 20, 2015 climatewire

The charitable foundation known for its annual “genius grants” is deepening its commitment to addressing climate change…. The largest first-round grant, $20 million, will be shared by the Nature Conservancy and Environmental Defense Fund to foster political engagement on climate change and to build new constituencies and coalitions for “durable action on climate policy in the U.S.,” according to a foundation press release. Officials with the two organizations said the $20 million would help advance a 1-year-old partnership focused on building pragmatic, nonpartisan solutions to climate change….



Lebanon’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Abed el-Lateef Daryan was among the Muslim leaders who signed the declaration on climate change on Tuesday August 18, 2015. Here, he is seen gesturing during a ceremony for his appointment in Beirut on August 10, 2014. Mohamed Azakir/Reuters

Islamic Leaders Issue Sweeping Climate Change Declaration: ‘How Will We Face Our Lord and Creator?’

By Zoë Schlanger 8/18/15 at 2:15 PM

Muslim leaders and experts from 20 countries emerged from talks in Istanbul on Tuesday with an eight-page declaration urging Islam’s 1.6 billion followers to recognize and take action against the threat of climate change, Reuters reports.

The declaration, signed by 60 leaders, including the Grand Muftis of Uganda and Lebanon, takes an urgent tone on the moral obligation of corporations, political leaders and all Muslims to protect Earth. “We are in danger of ending life as we know it on our planet,” the statement says, according to The Guardian. “This current rate of climate change cannot be sustained, and the earth’s fine equilibrium (mīzān) may soon be lost.” The statement adds, “What will future generations say of us, who leave them a degraded planet as our legacy? How will we face our Lord and Creator?” The statement follows a papal encyclical, issued by Pope Francis in June that urged action on climate change and condemned a consumerist, growth-at-all-costs culture for corrupting the “integral ecology” of Earth…


Can an Islamic climate change declaration inspire 1.6B Muslims?

Lisa Friedman, E&E reporter ClimateWire: Monday, August 17, 2015

Islamic leaders from around the globe tomorrow will unveil a declaration calling on the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims to embrace climate change action as part of their religious duty. Activists gathering in Istanbul for the event said that just as Pope Francis declared climate change essential to the Catholic faith, they hope Islamic religious scholars can inspire Muslim communities to make the issue a priority. “Islam is very strong on environmental protection,” said Wael Hmaidan, director of Climate Action Network International, who is helping to organize the declaration. “From the Quran to the hadiths [sayings attributed to the Prophet Muhammad], it really says it is a human responsibility … that we are tasked with protecting creation and it is part of our duties as Muslims,” he said. Leaders will be carrying that message when the Islamic Climate Change Declaration is formally unveiled at the conclusion of a two-day symposium organized by Islamic Relief Worldwide, the Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences, and GreenFaith. In addition to emphasizing the Quran’s teachings on environmental protection and the role that Islam can play in addressing climate change, it is expected to call on wealthy countries to “drastically” reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help vulnerable nations grapple with climate impacts….



The OWL viewer shows a bike path in Marin County now…and with three feet of sea level rise. Credit: Here. Now. Us.

A Device to Visualize Your Climate Change Future
ScienceFriday July 31 2015

Research out this week shows that globally, 40 percent of adults have never heard of climate change. Among the 60 percent of humanity in the know, perceptions about climate change risk vary. The Yale Project on Climate Change Communication’s Anthony Leiserowitz joins guest host Manoush Zomorodi to explain why, when it comes to climate change education worldwide, it’s not “one size fits all.” Plus, how do you move a community from climate change awareness…to action? Marin County, California, is experimenting with a new augmented reality viewer (called an OWL) to help residents visualize—and plan for—sea level rise. KQED science reporter Daniel Potter shares his experience trying out the OWL device.



Glass Paint: Secret to Keeping Metal Roofs Cool on Sunny Days

White paint is popping up on more rooftops to keep buildings cool on sunny days, but a new glass-based option could offer a longer-term fix.

By Wendy Koch, National Geographic PUBLISHED August 16, 2015

New York and other cities see a climate fix in white paint, which is coating more rooftops as way to cool buildings and cut energy use. They may soon have another option: paint made of glass. Scientists have created a glass paint that can bounce sunlight off metal roofs and keep them at air temperature. This is no minor feat. The sun can heat metal surfaces so much that playground slides or stadium bleachers can become too hot to use. The new paint has another potential upside. Since it’s almost completely inorganic—a mixture of silica, the main ingredient in glass, and silicon rubber—it doesn’t degrade in ultraviolet light and can last much longer than typical polymer-based coatings. “It’s almost like painting a rock on top of your metal. And this is going to last not tens of years but maybe hundreds of years,” says Jason Benkoski, senior scientist at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. He presented his team’s work Sunday at a conference of the American Chemical Society in Boston…..








Natural gas being burned off at a plant in Texas. New rules on methane, expected to be proposed as early as Tuesday, could create a tougher regulatory scheme on the nation’s fossil fuel production. Credit Spencer Platt/Getty Images

U.S. Is Set to Propose Regulation to Cut Methane Emissions


WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is expected to propose as soon as Tuesday the first-ever federal regulation to cut emissions of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming, by the nation’s oil and natural-gas industry, officials familiar with the plan said on Monday. The proposed rule would call for the reduction of methane emissions by 40 to 45 percent over the next decade from 2012 levels, the officials said. The proposal was widely expected, after the Environmental Protection Agency
said in January that it was working on such a plan. The new rules are part of Mr. Obama’s broad push for regulations meant to cut emissions of planet-warming gases from different sectors of the economy. This month, Mr. Obama unveiled the centerpiece of that plan, a regulation meant to cut emissions of carbon dioxide by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030, a move that could transform the way the nation produces and consumes electric power. The new rules on methane could create a tougher regulatory scheme on the nation’s fossil fuel production, particularly on the way that companies extract, move and store natural gas….


Hillary Clinton Breaks From Obama on Arctic Oil Drilling

By Eric Holthaus August 18, 2015

In recent weeks, the Arctic has surged to the fore of climate politics. And on Tuesday, Hillary Clinton kept it in the spotlight by breaking with President Obama to declare herself against Arctic oil drilling. Coming just one day after the Obama administration gave final approval for Royal Dutch Shell to begin drilling for oil in the Chukchi Sea, off Alaska’s northwest coast, Clinton’s statement is “her first major break with President Obama over environmental policy,”
according to the Washington Post. It’s also a smart campaign move. Clinton, who has emphasized climate change action as a core campaign pledge from the day she announced her presidential run, has been losing ground in the polls lately to Bernie Sanders, who’s been attacking her on global warming. In July she was heckled at a town hall-style campaign event in New Hampshire for an inelegant response to a question on the Keystone XL pipeline. Though an improvement on Obama’s climate record, her first detailed policy proposals on climate change were underwhelming. Tuesday’s statement is consistent with a leftward Clinton tilt on issues where the left position is actually fairly popular….



Debate Heats Up Over Bill That Would Cut State Gas Use In Half

August 12, 2015 9:54 PM


Umatac Coral Reef Ambassadors program in Guam teaches you to be advocates for the health of coral reefs. Credit: Humåtak Community Foundation.

LOS ANGELES ( — A bill that aims to halve gasoline consumption from cars and trucks in California by 2030 has spurred a contentious debate between environmentalists and representatives of the automobile and oil industries.

As the Clean Energy and Pollution Reduction Act of 2015, or SB 350, makes its way through the California State Assembly before a final vote in the next few weeks, both sides have recently ramped up their public relations efforts.

Proponents of the bill, authored by Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, and Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, say it will improve air quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by mandating carmakers sell more gas-efficient vehicles and by improving public transportation options. Reduced tailpipe emissions would also be a boon for public health, they say, and more efficient vehicles will help consumers save money at the pump. “Our focus is very clear: to put more money in the people’s pockets so they can save. Who wouldn’t want to save on gasoline?” De Leon said. “Who wouldn’t want to drive farther on a gallon of gasoline?” But the bill’s opponents claim it will impose fees on drivers of old cars that don’t conform to the state’s new standards. What’s more, opponents fear it will lead to “gas rationing” and dramatically raise fuel prices for consumers….



Australia Sets Emissions Goal, but Climate Scientists Say It Falls Short



China’s Carbon Dioxide Emissions May Have Been Overstated by More Than 10%

By CHRIS BUCKLEY August 19, 2015 NY Times

A study finds that the low quality of coal in China, containing less carbon, and its inefficient use means less carbon dioxide was emitted than previously estimated….


The World’s Hot Spot

AUG. 19, 2015 Thomas L. Friedman NY Times

Here’s my bet about the future of Sunni, Shiite, Arab, Turkish, Kurdish and Israeli relations: If they don’t end their long-running conflicts, Mother Nature is going to destroy them all long before they destroy one another. Let me point out a few news items you may have missed while debating the Iran nuclear deal. On July 31, USA Today reported that in Bandar Mahshahr, Iran, a city adjacent to the Persian Gulf, the heat index soared to 163 degrees “as a heat wave continued to bake the Middle East, already one of the hottest places on earth. ‘That was one of the most incredible temperature observations I have ever seen, and it is one of the most extreme readings ever in the world,’ AccuWeather meteorologist Anthony Sagliani said in a statement. “While the temperature was ‘only’ 115 degrees, the dew point was an unfathomable 90 degrees. … The combination of heat and humidity, measured by the dew point, is what makes the heat index — or what the temperature actually feels like outside.” Then we saw something we’ve not seen before: An Iraqi government was sacked over its failure to deliver air conditioning. Two weeks ago, the prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, abolished all three vice-presidential posts and the office of deputy prime minister and proposed sweeping anti-corruption reforms after weeks of street protests over the fact that the government could supply electricity for air-conditioning for only a few hours a day during weeks of 120-degree temperatures. As The Times’s Anne Barnard reported on Aug. 1, the heat issue in Iraq “has even eclipsed war with the Islamic State. The prime minister … declared a four-day weekend to keep people out of the sun … and ordered an end to one of the most coveted perks of government officials: round-the-clock power for their air-conditioners. … Several thousand people — workers, artists and intellectuals — demonstrated Friday evening … in the center of Baghdad, chanting and carrying signs about the lack of electricity and blaming corruption for it. … Some men stripped to their shorts and lay down in the street to sleep, a strong statement in a modest society. … The protest was unusual in that it did not appear to have been called for by any major political party.”


On Feb. 19, 2014, The Associated Press reported from Iran: “The first cabinet decision made under Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, wasn’t about how to resolve his country’s nuclear dispute with world powers. It was about how to keep the nation’s largest lake from disappearing. Lake Oroumieh, one of the biggest saltwater lakes on earth, has shrunk more than 80 percent to … (nearly 400 square miles) in the past decade, mainly because of climate change, expanded irrigation for surrounding farms and the damming of rivers that feed the body of water, experts say. ” ‘The lake is gone. My job is gone. My children are gone. Tourists, too,’ said Mozafar Cheraghi, 58, as he stood on a dusty platform that was once his bustling teahouse.” Francesco Femia and Caitlin Werrell run the indispensable Center for Climate and Security in Washington that tracks these trends.


They noted that the South Asia scholar Michael Kugelman recently observed “that in Pakistan more people have died from the heat wave than from terrorism this year. We would emphasize that there shouldn’t be a competition between ‘terrorism’ and ‘climate stress,’ but that the resources spent on the former vastly outstrip the latter.” They added, “A 2011 study from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) found strong evidence that winter precipitation decline in the Mediterranean littoral and the Middle East from 1971 to 2010 was likely due to climate change, with the region experiencing nearly all of its driest winters since 1902 in the past 20 years.” Finally they noted: “The social contract between governments and their publics is being stressed by these extreme events, and that matters are only likely to get worse, given climate projections for many of these places. … Governments that are responsive to publics in the face of these stresses are likely to strengthen the social contract, while those who are unresponsive are likely to weaken it. And for the most part, we’re seeing inadequate responses.

Indeed, see Syria: Its revolution was preceded by the worst four-year drought in the country’s modern history, driving nearly a million farmers and herders off the land, into the cities where the government of Bashar al-Assad completely failed to help them, fueling the revolution. All the people in this region are playing with fire. While they’re fighting over who is caliph, who is the rightful heir to the Prophet Muhammad from the seventh century —


Sunnis or Shiites — and to whom God really gave the holy land, Mother Nature is not sitting idle. She doesn’t do politics — only physics, biology and chemistry. And if they add up the wrong way, she will take them all down.

The only “ism” that will save them is not Shiism or Islamism but “environmentalism” — understanding that there is no Shiite air or Sunni water, there is just “the commons,” their shared ecosystems, and unless they cooperate to manage and preserve them (and we all address climate change), vast eco-devastation awaits them all.




The Weight of the World

Can Christiana Figueres persuade humanity to save itself?

By Elizabeth Kolbert New Yorker August 24, 2015 issue

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, or U.N.F.C.C.C., has by now been ratified by a hundred and ninety-five countries, which, depending on how you count, represents either all the countries in the world or all the countries and then some. Every year, the treaty stipulates, the signatories have to hold a meeting—a gathering that’s known as a COP, short for Conference of the Parties. The third COP produced the Kyoto Protocol, which, in turn, gave rise to another mandatory gathering, a MOP, or Meeting of the Parties. The seventeenth COP, which coincided with the seventh MOP, took place in South Africa. There it was decided that the work of previous COPs and MOPs had been inadequate, and a new group was formed—the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action, usually referred to as the A.D.P. The A.D.P. subsequently split into A.D.P.-1 and A.D.P.-2, each of which held meetings of its own. The purpose of the U.N.F.C.C.C. and of the many negotiating sessions and working groups and protocols it has spun off over the years is to prevent “dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.” In climate circles, this is usually shortened to D.A.I. In plain English, it means global collapse. The Framework Convention on Climate Change is overseen by an organization known as the Secretariat, which is led by a Costa Rican named Christiana Figueres. Figueres is five feet tall, with short brown hair and strikingly different-colored eyes—one blue and one hazel. In contrast to most diplomats, who cultivate an air of professional reserve, Figueres is emotive to the point of disarming—”a mini-volcano” is how one of her aides described her to me. She laughs frequently—a hearty, ha-ha-ha chortle—and weeps almost as often. “I walk around with Kleenex,” another aide told me. Figueres, who is fifty-nine, is an avid runner—the first time I met her, she was hobbling around with blisters acquired from a half marathon—and an uninhibited dancer. Last fall, when her office was preparing for the twentieth COP, which was held in Lima, she and some of her assistants secretly practiced a routine set to Beyoncé’s “Move Your Body.” At a meeting of the Secretariat staff, which numbers more than five hundred, they ripped off their jackets and started to jump, jump, jump. Figueres works out of a spacious office in Bonn, in a building that used to belong to the German parliament. On the wall by her desk there’s a framed motto that reads, “Impossible is not a fact, it is an attitude.” On another wall there’s a poster showing the Statue of Liberty waist-high in water, and on a third a black-and-white photograph of Figueres’s father, José, who led the Costa Rican revolution of 1948. He served as President of the country three times, pushed through sweeping political and social reforms, and abolished Costa Rica’s army as a stay against dictatorship. Figueres grew up partly in the President’s House and partly on her father’s farm, which he called La Lucha sin Fin—”the struggle without end.”… To understand how the fate of the planet came to be entrusted to a corps of mostly anonymous, mid-level diplomats, you have to go back to the nineteen-eighties, when the world confronted its first atmospheric crisis….


Then she turned her attention to money. “Where capital goes over the next fifteen years is going to decide whether we’re actually able to address climate change and what kind of a century we are going to have,” she said. She urged all those present to take this into account when making their own investment decisions, and to do so publicly: “What we truly need is to create a ‘surround sound’ where, no matter what sector you turn to, there is a signal saying, ‘Folks, we are moving toward a low-carbon economy. It is irreversible; it is unstoppable. So get on the bandwagon.’ “….


Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s goal of cutting carbon emissions between 26 and 28 percent from 2005 levels by 2030 was immediately criticized as inadequate. Bottom of Form





New paper shows that renewables can supply 100% of all energy (not just electricity)

By michael sweet & Skeptical Science posts: 20 August 2015

A new paper: 100% clean and renewable wind, water, and sunlight (WWS) all-sector energy roadmaps for the 50 United States by Jacobson et al 2015 describes the wind, solar and other renewable technologies needed to supply all the energy used in the USA That is all the energy, not just the electricity. They find that using wind to generate 50% of energy, solar photovoltaic (PV) for 38%, concentrated solar power (CSP) for 13% and a combination of hydro, geothermal, tide and wave power for the remainder (5%) allows all energy in the USA to be supplied at a lower cost than using fossil fuels. (The total is over 100% as extra power is required to stabilize the power grid because the wind does not always blow and the sun does not always shine)….


Solar cell efficiency could double with novel ‘green’ antenna

Posted: 18 Aug 2015 05:57 AM PDT

The use of solar energy in the US is growing, but panels on rooftops are still a rare sight. They cost thousands of dollars, and homeowners don’t recoup costs for years. But scientists may have a solution. Researchers report the development of a unique, ‘green’ antenna that could potentially double efficiencies of certain solar cells and make them more affordable. These antennas are made with biological and non-toxic materials that are edible in theory, one researcher said….


CREDIT: Sherri Kaven/Lucid

It’s Not A Pipe Dream: Clean Energy From Water Pipes Comes To Portland

by Katie Valentine Aug 13, 2015 8:00am

It’s a renewable energy source, but hydropower has its pitfalls. Its dams can kill fish and other marine life and majorly disrupt habitat, and they can also end up emitting significant amounts of greenhouse gases — a side effect that many of hydro’s fellow renewable energy sources, including wind and solar, don’t share. But there’s one place with near-constant running water that can be tapped for energy without causing environmental problems: cities’ drinking water pipes. LucidEnergy, a Portland, Oregon-based startup that launched in 2007, is starting to capture the energy of water pipes, beginning with a pilot project in Riverside, California and now with a full-scale project in Portland.

Gregg Semler, president and CEO of LucidEnergy, said his team originally went into the business of hydropower by looking at ways to capture energy from streams. But they soon realized that it was difficult to predict the flow of a stream, and that generating hydropower could be environmentally degrading. Pipes, on the other hand, are existing-man made infrastructure, so equipping them to be power producers doesn’t present any environmental concerns. They also pump water daily at a fairly constant rate, which allows for a consistent flow of energy. “What’s really interesting about Lucid is this is a new source of energy that’s never really been tapped into before,” Semler said. “You take the best of hydroelectricity and put it in the pipe.”


Researchers are removing a greenhouse gas from the air while generating carbon nanofibers like these (credit: Stuart Licht, Ph.D)

‘Diamonds from the sky’ approach to turn CO2 into valuable carbon nanofibers

Decreasing CO2 to pre-industrial-revolution levels is the goal

August 19, 2015

A research team of chemists at George Washington University has developed a technology that can economically convert atmospheric CO2 directly into highly valued carbon nanofibers for industrial and consumer products — converting an anthropogenic greenhouse gas from a climate change problem to a valuable commodity, they say. The team presented their research today (Aug. 19) at the 250th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS). “Such nanofibers are used to make strong carbon composites, such as those used in the Boeing Dreamliner, as well as in high-end sports equipment, wind turbine blades and a host of other products,” said Stuart Licht, Ph.D., team leader. Previously, the researchers had made fertilizer and cement without emitting CO2, which they reported. Now, the team, which includes postdoctoral fellow Jiawen Ren, Ph.D., and graduate student Jessica Stuart, says their research could shift CO2 from a global-warming problem to a feed stock for the manufacture of in-demand carbon nanofibers. Licht calls his approach “diamonds from the sky.” That refers to carbon being the material that diamonds are made of, and also hints at the high value of the products, such as carbon nanofibers…..


Turning CO2 emissions into plastic with algae? It may not be as crazy as it sounds

Niina Heikkinen, E&E reporter

ClimateWire: Monday, August 17, 2015

From polyester shirts, plastic milk jugs and PVC pipes to the production of high-grade industrial ethanol, the contribution of the chemical feedstock ethylene can be found just about everywhere around the globe. But ethylene’s ubiquity as a building block in plastics and chemicals masks an underlying environmental cost. The cheap hydrocarbon is made using petroleum and natural gas, and the way it is produced emits more carbon dioxide than any other chemical process. As concerns about levels of CO2 in the atmosphere have grown, some scientists have been experimenting with ways to make ethylene production more green. At the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), researchers are finding unexpected success with the help of cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae. Jianping Yu, a research scientist with NREL’s Photobiology Group, is leading a team of researchers who are working with these organisms. In his lab, they have been able to make ethylene directly from genetically modified algae. The researchers were able to accomplish this by introducing a gene that coded for an ethylene-producing enzyme — effectively altering the cyanobacteria’s metabolism. This allows the organisms to convert some of the carbon dioxide normally used to make sugars and starches during photosynthesis into ethylene. Because ethylene is a gas, it can easily be collected. Making ethylene doesn’t require many inputs, either. The basic requirements for cyanobacteria are water, some minerals and light, and a carbon source. In a commercial setting, CO2 could come from a point source like a power plant, Yu said.

If this alternative production method becomes efficient enough, it could potentially replace steam cracking, the energy-intensive method currently used to break apart petrochemicals into ethylene and other compounds. Because the algae take in three times the CO2 to produce a single ton of ethylene, the process acts as a carbon sink. That would be a significant improvement over steam cracking, which generates between 1 ½ and 3 tons of carbon dioxide per ton of ethylene, according to the researchers’ own analysis. The captured ethylene gas can then be transformed for use in a wide range of fuels and products. “I think it’s better to turn CO2 into something useful,” Yu said, comparing the approach to other methods of carbon capture. “You don’t have to pump CO2 into the ground, and [the products] will last for many years.”….


CalTrout Convenes Greenhouse Gas Monitoring Workshop

July 28, 2015

California Trout is working with key partners to implement Sierra-wide greenhouse gas research and restoration grant. This past Monday, CalTrout convened a workshop in Bean Meadow to provide training on greenhouse gas (GHG) monitoring. The workshop was part of a larger project CalTrout is spearheading that aims to quantify GHG in Sierra meadows and to document how restoration of meadows contributes to mitigation of potential impacts from a changing climate. Approximately 20 people joined in the workshops, including those involved with the newly formed (and still forming) Sierra Meadow Restoration, Research Partnership and key partners involved with the broader effort to restore ecological integrity of meadows throughout the Sierra Nevada. The recent grant from CDFW will allow California Trout, with an array of partners, to lead a new multi-organizational effort to create a standard quantification protocol for measuring greenhouse gas dynamics in Sierra Nevada meadows. This effort evolved out of ongoing conversations among a broad coalition of groups, academic institutions and agencies working to support conservation in the Sierra. These groups include Sierra Foothill Conservancy; American Rivers; Sierra Streams Institute; Spatial Informatics Group – Natural Assets Laboratory; South Yuba River Citizens League; Truckee River Watershed Council; University of Nevada, Reno; University of California, Merced; University of California, Davis; California State University, Chico; Tahoe National Forest; and, Sequoia National Forest. Eventually, as a result of this project and the support of the CA Dept. of Fish & Wildlife, the Sierra Meadow Restoration Research Partnership will develop a tool to measure and credit carbon sequestration associated with restoring meadows throughout the Sierra Nevada mountain range. The partnership will coordinate with groups working throughout the Sierra with the goal of increasing ecological resilience and recovering species and habitat associated with alpine meadow systems – all while capturing climate-disrupting emissions on a meaningful scale.








Challenges and opportunities with shrub restoration in the Great Basin: Climate adaptation and planting techniques

Great Basin LCC Webinar- August 25: Speaker: Matt Germino, Great Basin LCC / US Geological Survey

Shrubs are ecosystem foundation species in most of the Great Basin’s landscapes. Most of the species, including sagebrush, are poorly adapted to the changes in fire and invasive pressures that are compounded by climate change. This presentation will give an overview of challenges and opportunities regarding restoration of sagebrush and blackbrush, focusing on climate adaptation, selection of seeds and achieving seeding and planting success. Results from Great Basin LCC supported research on seed selection and planting techniques will be presented




California Climate Change Symposium 2015

Using Climate Science to Plan for a Resilient Future August 24-25, 2015   Sacramento Convention Center 

IPCC, Cal Natural Resources Agency, Cal EPA


  • Facilitate the production, adoption and application of climate science with respect to California policy and local governance
  • Provide a forum for sharing recent science and practical applications relevant to climate change impacts and vulnerability
  • Foster the translation of regional climate change research into policy solutions
  • Expand support for climate science research with applications to California’s environment, public health and economy
  • Facilitate collaboration across scientific research fields and public policy silos


Economics of Soil Health Sept. 21-22, Washington DC

Join us Sept. 21-22, 2015 for a workshop exploring the economics of soil health. Farm Foundation, NFP and USDA’s Economic Research Service are collaborating on this workshop, which will be in the First Floor Auditorium of the ERS Building, Patriot’s Plaza 3, 355 E Street SW, Washington, D.C.
The workshop will be a policy-oriented discussion of existing research on the economics of soil health, and will identify and prioritize evolving areas of research. What are the private benefits of soil health, and are incentives aligned for farmers to make rational decisions about their soil in the short and long run? What are the public benefits of soil health? What environmental benefits are likely to result from the adoption of soil health practices, and how can we model or quantify them?
This workshop will be a valuable opportunity to network with other economists and researchers working on the economics of soil health. Program details and registration information are available on the Farm Foundation website:


State of the San Francisco Estuary Conference – September 17-18, 2015 Oakland, California

The deadline for the early-bird registration rate is August 20thEvery two years, the Partnership brings a focus on the management and ecological health of the San Francisco Bay-Delta Estuary.  The State of the Estuary Conference showcases the latest information about the Estuary’s changing watersheds, impacts from major stressors, recovery programs for species and habitats, and emerging challenges.  The early-bird registration deadline in August 20th


Climate-Smart Conservation – Southern California September 23, 2015

Are you interested in how climate change might impact your work? Interested in integrating climate change into your planning and management activities? Curious to know how others are integrating climate change science into planning and projects? On September 23rd The San Diego Management & Monitoring Program and the San Diego Climate Science Alliance are hosting a symposium of Climate-Smart Conservation case studies from the coast of Southern California. Speakers from across the region will present cutting edge efforts to collaboratively support integration of climate change effects into natural resource management. Presentations will be followed by a roundtable discussion highlighting additional local efforts to integrate climate considerations into management actions. Learn more


The Wildlife Society 22nd Annual Conference
October 17-21, 2015 Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

The Wildlife Society’s Annual Conference is one of the largest gatherings of wildlife professionals, students and supporters in North America.  More than 1,500 attendees gathered to learn, network and engage at our 2014 Annual Conference in Pittsburgh, PA…


Drought Symposium 15- tentatively scheduled for Oct 20-21, So CA

This October, CalCoast™ and its allies in government, academia, and the private sector (including Strategic Advocacy Partners) will hold “Drought Symposium 15,” tentatively scheduled for Oct 20-21. We have been scouting sites in Ontario, CA; San Diego, CA; and Orange County. A call for presentations will be circulated soon, but if you have an idea for a presentation or (better yet) a whole panel (90 mins), please send a message to Steve Aceti at and John Helmer at If your organization is interested in becoming a sponsor or exhibitor for Drought Symposium 15, please send a message to Gracie Parisi, CalCoast’s COO, at If you know of any conflicts with other events this October 20-21, please let us know. And stay tuned!



2015 Southwest Climate Summit  November 2-3, 2015 Holiday Inn Capital Plaza Sacramento, CA
Join us for the 2015 Southwest Climate Summit when we’ll promote Climate-Smart Conservation by bringing together managers and scientists from across the Southwest to:

  • Discover emerging climate science
  • Explore adaptive management application
  • Share Climate-Smart Conservation results 
  • Discuss management and policy responses

The California LCC, Southwest Climate Science Center, USDA Southwest Climate Hub, Great Basin LCC, and Desert LCC are hosting the Summit to foster sharing of lessons learned and collaboration across the Southwestern landscape. Click here for more information.


Grand Challenges in Coastal & Estuarine Science: Securing Our Future 8 – 12 November, 2015 Oregon Convention Center | Portland, Oregon
Registration for the CERF 23rd Biennial Conference is now open! The CERF 2015 scientific program offers four days of timely, exciting and diverse information on a vast array of estuarine and coastal subjects. Presentations will examine new findings within CERF’s traditional scientific, education and management disciplines and encourage interaction among coastal and estuarine scientists and managers. Plus, there are plenty of workshops, field trips, and special events to get involved with that will make this conference one you won’t want to miss.


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.



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


Point Blue Conservation Science: Institutional Philanthropy Directorfor other jobs at Point Blue, see here.

The Director of Institutional Philanthropy (Director) will be responsible for securing foundation and agency funding for priority programs, and managing all aspects of Point Blue’s foundation relations to advance our innovative climate-smart conservation science strategies. Reporting to the Chief Advancement Officer, the Director will collaborate with the Chief Science Officer, Group Directors, and other organizational leaders on the development and planning of strategic initiatives, assist staff scientists in the production of technical proposals and reports, write foundation proposals and reports, and support the advancement staff in written communications to major donors…


Sonoran Joint Venture Coordinator

The Sonoran Joint Venture (SJV) Coordinator (vice Robert Mesta, who retired recently) is now out on USA Jobs!  It is currently out under Merit Promotion, open only to current, career or career-conditional Department of Interior employees.  Please share this widely and with those you may know would be a great fit to help support and lead the joint venture, its award winning team, great Board, and outstanding bi-national partnership for migratory bird conservation. This is one great opportunity for the right individual.  Send us your best.

Chief Executive Officer search for the Catalina Island Conservancy

Santa Catalina Island is one of eight islands off the coast of southern California. Located 19 miles off the coast and a highly visible part of ocean views between Los Angeles and Orange county, Catalina Island has long been an enticing destination to both mainland visitors and residents—especially boaters, since line-of-sight navigation is possible and the relative proximity makes for a pleasant excursion by sail or power. As the third largest landmass in the Channel Islands group, Catalina supports a complex Mediterranean ecosystem… The Catalina Island Conservancy (Conservancy), an independent, California 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, was formed in 1972 to protect and restore the natural and cultural resources of Santa Catalina Island and to make them available for public recreation, education, and enjoyment. …


TreePeople CEO Los Angeles, CA

TreePeople is seeking a collaborative and results-oriented leader to join its passionate, dedicated and capable staff to empower Angelenos to take action toward a sustainable future. Working in partnership with Founder and President, Andy Lipkis, the CEO will report to the Board of Directors and is responsible for the overall successful operation and performance of TreePeople. As forecasts show a changing future coming for Los Angeles complete with more severe storms and extended periods of drought, this is an opportunity to lead TreePeople during this critical time to help strengthen and position the organization for greater impact. Please find the position description attached for your reference. You can also access it on our website at I encourage you to share this information with anyone you feel might be a match for this exciting opportunity.  I would welcome having a conversation with you if that might be helpful in your thinking of potential candidates.




2016 California Sea Grant’s State Fellows Program: Now accepting applications

The State Fellows Program provides a unique educational opportunity for graduate students at California higher education institutions who are interested both in marine resources and in the policy decisions affecting those resources in California. Modeled after the highly successful national Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship Program, the State Fellows Program provides an opportunity to acquire “on the job” experience in the planning and implementation of marine and/or coastal resource policies and programs in the state of California. The program matches highly motivated and qualified graduate students and recent graduates with “hosts” in State or Federal agencies in California for a 12-month paid fellowship. This year, 23 fellowships are available, including new opportunities with the Office of Lt. Governor Newsom, NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service – Southwest Fisheries Science Center, and Southern California Coastal Water Research Project (SCCWRP). The full request for applications with guidelines and host position descriptions are available here.


The [CA State] Coastal Conservancy
is pleased to announce a new round of competitive grants to fund multi-benefit watershed restoration and ecosystem protection projects. These grants will be funded by the Proposition 1 Water Bond approved by California voters last fall. The proposal solicitation is on our website and applications are due September 30, 2015.

CDFW Now Accepting Proposals for Proposition 1 Restoration Grant Programs

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is now accepting proposals for restoration projects that further the objectives of the California Water Action Plan (CWAP). For Fiscal Year (FY) 2015-2016, a total of $31.4 million in Proposition 1 funds will be made available through CDFW’s two Proposition 1 Restoration Grant Programs. The Watershed Restoration Grant Program will fund up to $24 million in projects of statewide importance outside of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, while the Delta Water Quality and Ecosystem Restoration Grant Program will fund up to $7 million in projects that specifically benefit the Delta….Approved by California voters in November 2014, Proposition 1 provides funds to implement the three broad objectives of the CWAP: establishing more reliable water supplies, restoring important species and habitat, and creating a more resilient, sustainably managed water resources system (water supply, water quality, flood protection and environment) that can better withstand inevitable and unforeseen pressures in the coming decades. The FY 2015-2016 Proposal Solicitation Notice, application instructions and other information about the Restoration Grant Programs are available at Proposals must be submitted online at The deadline to apply is Wednesday, Sept. 16 at 4 p.m.








A Conversation on Climate Change with Conservation International’s M. Sanjayan

M. Sanjayan, Zach Dorfman | Ethics & International Affairs | August 12, 2015

Right-click here to download.

In late June, Ethics & International Affairs senior editor Zach Dorfman sat down with M. Sanjayan, senior scientist at Conservation International, at the Aspen Ideas Festival to discuss our climate-changed world, and why—on some days at least—he’s hopeful about our environmental future.

…..ZACH DORFMAN: Sanjayan is currently executive vice president and senior scientist at Conservation International. He is also the host of the television series EARTH: A New Wild, produced by National Geographic Television and Passion Pictures. Sanjayan is also a Clinton Global Initiative senior advisor, a Catto Fellow at the Aspen Institute, and a member of National Geographic Society’s Explorer’s Council. Sanjayan has appeared on numerous programs on the Discovery Channel, CBS, and the BBC, among other outlets. He has published peer-reviewed works in journals like: Nature, Science, and Conservation Biology. Sanjyan holds a Master’s degree from the University of Oregon and a doctorate from the University of California at Santa Cruz. Let’s begin. You’ve written that nature conservation is necessary and essential for the persistence and improvement of human life on our planet. What do you mean by that? Should we refocus our conservation efforts around the effects of environmental degradation on human life?

M. SANJAYAN: First of all, thanks for interviewing me.

When you’re in a place like where we are now, which is so close to nature, it’s very easy to fall into the trap to think that nature’s something pristine and beautiful in faraway places, something relatively untrammeled. And that it’s our job for a higher moral purpose, or a sense of responsibility and stewardship to the planet—and to future generations—to protect it. I think it’s valuable and youthful to do, but I don’t think it’s going to change the majority of people’s minds. If you think of it just in that way it’ll always be a niche and not really a movement. If you really want people to embrace the idea of environmentalism and embrace the idea of saving nature, then it really has to relate to how it will also help save themselves. For me, understanding our own nature and seeing ourselves as part of nature means that the reasons for saving nature then become in our enlightened self-interest…..



Scientists get tool to mark online climate science media coverage and it’s not a rusty teaspoon

August 14, 2015 Guardian UK

A new project has already scored the “scientific credibility” of climate science stories on CNN, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Guardian and Daily Telegraph.
Using the Climate Feedback tool, scientists have started to diligently add detailed annotations to online content and have those notes appear alongside the story as it originally appeared
. If you’re the writer, then it’s a bit like getting your homework handed back to you with the margins littered with corrections and red pen. Or smiley faces and gold stars if you’ve been good. The scientists also give each story a grade for its “scientific credibility”. Articles appearing on CNN, The Telegraph (UK), The Guardian, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times have already been through the Climate Feedback ringer (they even had a crack at the Pope’s recent encyclical on climate change). Some stories have come out with solid endorsements. Others, not so much. The scientists looked at a recent story in the UK’s Daily Telegraph under the headline “Earth heading for ‘mini ice-age’ within fifteen years“. Six climate scientists have analyzed the article and they estimate its overall scientific credibility to be ‘low’ to ‘very low’. Ooof. Frowny face…



(Design by Hanson Cheng, RISD)

Designs Thread Sustainability Into NYC Climate Museum Ideas

By Jen Kinney | July 31, 2015

Picture a science museum. Do you see taxidermy dioramas and dinosaur skeletons amid dim lighting? Or a family-friendly center, with gaggles of children and messy, interactive exhibits? Now picture a museum about climate change. What does that look like? If Miranda Massie has her way, we’ll know by 2020. Massie is the founder of the Climate Museum Launch Project, and she wants to build the world’s biggest, most ambitious climate museum in Manhattan or Brooklyn — with doors opening by the end of this decade. Massie conceived the project after Hurricane Sandy, an event that opened many New Yorkers’ eyes to a watery future. But Massie, a former public interest lawyer, says the museum won’t just be about grim predictions; it will serve as a forum to educate the public about the problem and inspire them with potential solutions….Tate’s students designed museum buildings that were themselves solutions: Think the museum as infrastructure. For the purposes of the assignment, Tate and her co-professor, landscape architect Nadine Gerdts, assigned a vacant plot of land in Lower Manhattan that was once a marsh and is now highly susceptible to flooding. (An actual site has not been selected yet.) One student proposed to build a cavernous stormwater catchment system beneath the building. Another proposed a smaller footprint and returned the rest of the site to wetlands. Many of the designs include solar panels, some incorporated urban farms, and all were sensitive to energy loads and orientation. Siwei Shen’s design placed a high school on the site that shared facilities with the museum. Many of the students incorporated other uses too: labs for environmental research, a farmers’ market, even housing….Massie has said she wants the museum to be a hub for activism and involvement. Following the lead of Hong Kong’s Jockey Club Museum of Climate Change — the only climate change museum in the world currently — visitors may be asked to make pledges about reducing their environmental impact, or be invited to volunteer their time to environmental causes.She has also said that exhibitions will likely be temporary, not permanent, to reflect ever-evolving scientific discovery. While she and her board work to secure funding and a permanent location, they may open an interim museum in an existing building. Massie attended two early reviews of the RISD students’ work and a final presentation — and may have walked away with some added inspiration to see the project realized. “I think they just blew her mind,” says Tate.


A thin ribbon of flexible electronics can monitor health, infrastructure

Posted: 17 Aug 2015 05:54 AM PDT

A new world of flexible, bendable, even stretchable electronics is emerging from research labs to address a wide range of potentially game-changing uses. Over the last few years, one team of chemists and materials scientists has begun exploring military applications in harsh environments for aircraft, explosive devices and even combatants themselves.


For Evolving Brains, a ‘Paleo’ Diet Full of Carbs

AUG. 13, 2015  NY Times

Researchers say that the addition of tubers and other starchy foods to ancient hearths helped contribute to human brain development…


Drinking coffee daily may improve survival in colon cancer patients

Posted: 17 Aug 2015 01:12 PM PDT

Regular consumption of caffeinated coffee may help prevent the return of colon cancer after treatment and improve the chances of a cure, according to a new, large study that reported this striking association for the first time.


Listening to music improves recovery after surgery and should be available to everyone having an operation, experts say

Posted: 12 Aug 2015 05:04 PM PDT

Listening to music before, during, or after a surgical procedure is beneficial to patients and can significantly reduce pain and anxiety, and decrease the need for pain medication, according to the most comprehensive review of the evidence so far, involving almost 7000 patients.


Curcumin and turmeric: Improving the therapeutic benefits by enhancing absorption and bioavailability

Posted: 12 Aug 2015 10:42 AM PDT

Few natural products have demonstrated the range of protective and therapeutic promise as have turmeric and its principal bioactive components, the curcuminoids.  Success in translating this potential into tangible benefits has been limited by inherently poor intestinal absorption, rapid metabolism, and limited systemic bioavailability. Seeking to overcome these limitations, food ingredient formulators have begun to employ a variety of approaches to enhance absorption and bioavailability. Turmeric and its main bioactive components — curcumin, desmethoxycurcumin and bisdemethoxycurcumin — have many biological effects including anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antitumor, antibacterial, and antiviral activities. Turmeric traditionally has been consumed in fat-based sauces, such as in a fat-rich yellow curry. …









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Ellie Cohen, President and CEO

Point Blue Conservation Science (formerly PRBO)

3820 Cypress Drive, Suite 11, Petaluma, CA 94954

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Point Blue—Conservation science for a healthy planet.


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