Conservation Science News Mar 3 2016

March 3, 2016

Focus of the Week
The Mystery of the Expanding Tropics; Tracking the 2C Limit











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Focus of the WeekThe Mystery of the Expanding Tropics; Tracking the 2C Limit



In their study, Lu and his colleagues found that climate models generally forecast that the outer edge of the Hadley cell will shift because of global warming. But the models predict a much slower rate of tropical expansion than has been seen so far — which has led researchers to suspect that something else is going on.

The mystery of the expanding tropics

As Earth’s dry zones shift rapidly polewards, researchers are scrambling to figure out the cause — and consequences.

Olive Heffernan 02 February 2016 PDF Nature 530, 20–22 (04 February 2016) doi:10.1038/530020a

….Cities that currently sit just outside the tropics could soon be smack in the middle of the dry tropical edge. That’s bad news for places like San Diego, California. “A shift of just one degree of latitude in southern California — that’s enough to have a huge impact on those communities in terms of how much rain they will get,” explains climate modeller Thomas Reichler of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. Since Fu and his colleagues announced their discovery1 in 2006, many scientists have investigated the tropical bloating and tried to decipher its cause. Explanations range from global warming to ozone depletion or natural cycles that will reverse in the future. And there is little agreement on how quickly the border of the tropics is shifting: estimates run from less than half a degree of latitude per decade to several. At the more extreme end, the change in climate would be like moving London to the position of Rome over the course of a century2, 3, 4, 5. The problem is compounded by lack of consensus on how to define the tropics, which makes it hard for scientists to agree on the extent of the changes.


Nevertheless, researchers investigating this phenomenon agree that it is real. “There’s a big need to be concerned about this issue,” says climate scientist Chris Lucas at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology in Melbourne. That’s because of the possible impacts: some of the world’s most fertile fishing grounds could disappear, global grain production could shrink and biodiversity could suffer….

Some of the changes in the tropics could be a result of global warming. Reichler investigated that possibility in a study6 led by Jian Lu, an Earth systems scientist now at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Washington. Working with Gabriel Vecchi, a climate scientist with NOAA in Princeton, New Jersey, the researchers looked at climate forecasts to see how warming might affect an atmospheric circulation pattern called the Hadley cell, which transports heat from the warmer parts of Earth towards the cooler regions (see ‘Bulging waistline’).


As part of the Hadley cell, warm, moist air soars skywards above the Equator and cool, dry air tumbles towards Earth at about 30 ° latitude in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. That downward limb of the Hadley cell helps to create some of the driest deserts on the planet, such as the Kalahari in southern Africa and the Sahara in northern Africa, and it is one of the most common measures of the boundary between the tropics and the drier subtropics. In their study, Lu and his colleagues found that climate models generally forecast that the outer edge of the Hadley cell will shift because of global warming. But the models predict a much slower rate of tropical expansion than has been seen so far — which has led researchers to suspect that something else is going on. ….


On land, biodiversity is also potentially at risk. This is especially true for the climate zones just below the subtropics in South Africa and Australia, on the southern rim of both continents. In southwestern Australia, renowned as one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots, flowers bloom during September, when tourists come to marvel at some of the region’s 4,000 endemic plant species. But since the late 1970s, rainfall there has dropped by one-quarter. The same is true at South Africa’s Cape Floristic Province, another frontier known for its floral beauty. “This is the most concrete evidence we have of tropical expansion,” says Steve Turton, an environmental geographer at James Cook University in Cairns, Australia.


Turton worries that the rate of change will be too rapid for these ecosystems to adapt. “We’re talking about rapid expansion that’s within half or a third of a human lifetime,” he says. In the worst-case scenario, the subtropics will overtake these ecologically rich outposts and the hotter, drier conditions will take a major toll.…..


But that long wait for an answer will be no comfort for the residents of cities such as Santiago, San Diego and Melbourne, and for the billions of others who live near the boundary between the tropics and subtropics. “We need to understand this issue,” says Lucas, “to have a sustainable civilization there.”







Tracking the 2°C Limit – January 2016

By Rob Honeycutt & Skeptical Science posts: 17 February 2016


January gave us yet another record anomaly in the GISS data, coming in at 1.13C. If we apply this to our preindustrial baseline that puts the monthly anomaly at 1.382C.
(Click here for a full size version of the graph.)….


From posted comments:

  • Rob – thanks so much for this. I’ve been hunting for a couple days now, trying to determine the anamoly of this January’s temp. compared to the “pre-industrial” baseline for an article I may write for Huffington.(It’s a bit frustrating with all the different baselines that the different organizations use).  So, to be clear, it is 1.38 C, correct?  I am coming from the angle that Paris issued the “intention” to keep warming at or below 1.5C and, though it is only a single month, and probably an El Nino fueled “precursor”, it nonetheless takes us quite close to that boundary.
  • Rob Honeycutt at 06:19 AM on 19 February, 2016 dagold… The 12mo average is probably a better number (1.13°C). And even that will probably fall back down close to 1°C over the coming few years. I’d say, rough guess, not counting heat in the pipeline, we’re about half way to 2°C.  Problem is, like driving a large heavy vehicle at highway speeds, you have a lot of momentum and just can’t stop on a dime. We need to give ourselves a lot of room to slow down if we want to stay below 2°C.







    Biodiversity Critical to Maintaining Healthy Ecosystems

    Released: 1/15/2016 12:12:31 PM USGS

    Researchers have found clear evidence that biological communities rich in species are substantially healthier and more productive than those depleted of species.
    … Scientists have long hypothesized that biodiversity is of critical importance to the stability of natural ecosystems and their abilities to provide positive benefits such as oxygen production, soil genesis, and water detoxification to plant and animal communities, as well as to human society…. Although theoretical studies have supported this claim, scientists have struggled for the past half-century to clearly isolate such an effect in the real world. This new study does just that. “This study shows that you cannot have sustainable, productive ecosystems without maintaining biodiversity in the landscape,” said Grace. The scientists used data collected for this research by a global consortium, the Nutrient Network, from more than a thousand grassland plots spanning five continents. Using recent advances in analytical methods, the group was able to isolate the biodiversity effect from the effects of other processes, including processes that can reduce diversity., Using these data with “integrative modeling”–integrating the predictions from multiple theories into a single model—scientists detected the clear signals of numerous underlying mechanisms linking the health and productivity of ecosystems with species richness. “The ability to explain the diversity in the number of species is tremendously important for potential conservation applications,” said Grace. “The new type of analysis we developed can predict how both specific management actions (such as reduction of plant material through mowing or increase in soil fertility through fertilization), as well as shifts in climate conditions, may alter both productivity and the number of species.” According to Debra Willard, Coordinator for the USGS Climate Research & Development Program, “These results suggest that if climate change leads to reduced species or genetic diversity, which is a real possibility, that then could lead to a reduced capacity for ecosystems to respond to additional stresses.” As an indication of the global awareness of this issue, the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services was recently created to help policy-makers understand and address problems stemming from the global loss of biodiversity and degradation of ecosystems. The article, “Integrative modeling reveals mechanisms linking productivity and plant species richness,” is available online in the journal NATURE.

    James B. Grace, et al, Integrative modelling reveals mechanisms linking productivity and plant species richness, Nature 529, 390–393, (21 January 2016) doi:10.1038/nature16524 Published online 13 January 2016


    Benefits associated with the reduction of mercury emissions far outweigh industry cost

    Posted: 16 Feb 2016 12:20 PM PST

    After a review of the recent scientific literature, researchers concluded that the benefits associated with the reduction of mercury emissions far outweigh the cost to industry.


    Fulmars (Fulmarus glacialis) spend most of their time on the open sea, where they feed on fish, crustaceans and other food near the surface. Thus, they can easily confuse litter with food. Credit: Tycho Anker-Nilssen/NINA

    Fulmars contaminated more by food than microplastics

    Posted: 17 Feb 2016 06:13 AM PST

    Contrary to previous belief, new research has shown that microplastics are not a significant source of environmental pollutants in fulmars. Seabirds ingest most of these pollutants through food, the researchers concluded….“We found no significant differences in the pollutant concentrations in birds that had eaten a lot of plastic, compared to birds that had less plastic in their stomachs. Plastic is apparently not a major source of environmental pollutants in these birds,” Herzke concludes…ince seabirds are top predators, they ingest environmental pollutants from all stages of the food chain. High contaminant levels could have a number of negative effects on seabirds, and among other things lead to hormonal disturbances and thinner eggshells. “That the plastic does not increase the birds’ pollutant load is obviously good news in an otherwise bleak reality for most of our seabirds,” Tycho Anker-Nilssen adds. But the scientists are far from acquitting plastic. “We cannot exclude the possibility that plastic may transfer some environmental pollutants to the birds. But, now we know that it does so to a far lesser degree than the fulmars’ prey, says Anker-Nilssen. In addition, the plastic takes up space in the stomach, and may thus cause the birds to starve to death.” Although this study was directed specifically towards seabirds, the scientists believe that the results may have relevance for other vertebrates.


    Dorte Herzke, Tycho Anker-Nilssen, Therese Haugdahl Nøst, Arntraut Götsch, Signe Christensen-Dalsgaard, Magdalene Langset, Kirstin Fangel, Albert A. Koelmans. Negligible Impact of Ingested Microplastics on Tissue Concentrations of Persistent Organic Pollutants in Northern Fulmars off Coastal Norway. Environmental Science & Technology, 2016; 50 (4): 1924 DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.5b04663



    J.J. Reed, foreground, and Sonny Mitchell, both fisheries technicians with the Karuk Tribe, search for Coho salmon that they spotted in Aikens Creek the day before on Wednesday December 8, 2015, near Orleans, Calif. After years of wrangling over water rights and the removal of several dams on the Klamath River between farmers, ranchers and Indian tribes, a bill in Congress missed the December 31st deadline. Randy Pench

    Coalition moving to demolish Klamath River dams without Congress’s assent

    • States seeking to remove four hydroelectric dams
    • Controversy over habitat restoration, water remains unsettled
    • California water bond money could be used

    Congress has adjourned for another year without approving agreements that would have reshaped how people used water in the Klamath River system. The groups who signed off on the accord — once enemies — are frustrated that lawmakers didn’t share their spirit of compromise. Ryan Sabalow The Sacramento Bee

    By David Siders and Ryan Sabalow February 2, 2016 Sac Bee

    Federal officials and the states of California and Oregon said Tuesday they will press forward with plans to demolish four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River, despite resistance from Congress.

    The announcement comes after a set of demolition, water-sharing and habitat restoration agreements stalled in Washington. By separating dam removal from a broader pact, the states and power company that owns the dams, Portland, Ore.-based PacifiCorp, will seek to move forward with their own funding – and without congressional approval. …


    High-tech river studies reveal benefits of habitat restoration for fish

    Posted: 01 Feb 2016 07:40 AM PST

    An emerging research method to gauge the benefits of stream restoration for salmon and other native fish is revealing improvements in fish numbers, survival and reproduction in key rivers across the Pacific Northwest, according to a new research paper describing the approach, known as intensively monitored watersheds.


    Major storm events play key role in biogeochemistry of watersheds

    Posted: 01 Feb 2016 07:39 AM PST

    Heavy weather events cause an inordinate amount of organic material to bypass headwater systems, say researchers, pushing them downstream into larger rivers and coastal waters and inland basins — with profound implications for water quality through the watershed.



    Photo by Sam Beebe / Ecotrust from:

    How ‘more food per field’ could help save our wild spaces

    Posted: 28 Jan 2016 12:19 PM PST

    Increased farm yields could help to spare land from agriculture for natural habitats that benefit wildlife and store greenhouse gases, but only if the right policies are in place. Conservation scientists call on policymakers to learn from working examples across the globe and find better ways to protect habitats while producing food on less land.
    Agricultural expansion is a leading cause of wild species loss and greenhouse gas emissions. However, as farming practices and technologies continue to be refined, more food can be produced per unit of land — meaning less area is needed for agriculture and more land can be ‘spared’ for natural habitats. While this may sound like good news for nature, conservation scientists warn that, without the right policies, higher farm yields could be used to maximise short-term profits and stimulate greater demand, resulting in less wilderness and more unnecessary consumption and waste. Now, leading conservationists writing in the journal Science are calling on policymakers to harness the potential of higher-yield farming to spare land for conservation, instead of solely producing more food and profit. By minimising the footprint of farming in this way, vital land could be spared for maintaining and restoring the rapidly dwindling natural world. The authors describe a series of “land-sparing mechanisms” that link yield increases with habitat protection, such as land-use zoning and smart subsidy schemes, along with real-world examples that show how they can work — from India to Latin America.
    They write that replicating these mechanisms elsewhere depends on “the political will to deliver strong environmental governance.”…. Previous research from Cambridge and elsewhere has shown sparing land for nature by producing more food per field is the “least worst option” for both biodiversity and greenhouse gas emissions, says co-author Andrew Balmford, Cambridge professor of conservation science.

    “Sparing tracts of land as natural habitat is much better for the vast majority of species than a halfway house of lower-yielding but ‘wildlife-friendly’ farming, and we have recently shown that in the UK land spared through high-yield farming could even sequester enough greenhouse gases to mitigate the UK’s agricultural emissions*,” said Balmford. However, Phalan says that policies to encourage higher farm yields need to avoid the ‘rebound effect’. First identified by William Jevons in 1865 — when he noticed more efficient engines increased rather than reduced coal use, as engines were put into more widespread use — the rebound effect for higher yields could see food prices drop, encouraging greater consumption, more food waste and even more conversion of habitats to farmland….”Making space for nature is largely a question of societal and political priorities,” said Phalan. “The challenge is less whether it’s possible to reconcile farming and conservation, than whether those with power are willing to make it a priority.”


    *A study published in Nature Climate Change earlier this month suggests that if the UK increased farm yields in line with what experts believe is possible, and turned spared land into forest and wetland, the resulting carbon ‘sink’ could balance out the nation’s agricultural emissions by 2050 — in line with government targets.


    B. Phalan, R. E. Green, L. V. Dicks, G. Dotta, C. Feniuk, A. Lamb, B. B. N. Strassburg, D. R. Williams, E. K. H. J. z. Ermgassen, A. Balmford. How can higher-yield farming help to spare nature?
    Science, 2016; 351 (6272): 450 DOI: 10.1126/science.aad0055



    Using acoustic data, researchers identified and mapped the calls of diverse marine mammal species in fish spawning grounds on Georges Bank, including (from top right, clockwise): blue (snout only is pictured), humpback, orca, fin, dolphin, sei, pilot, sperm, and minke. Credit: Jordan Beckvonpeccoz (with input from Purnima Ratilal and Nicholas C. Makris)

    Whales dine with their own kind: Predators feed in species-specific hotspots

    Posted: 02 Mar 2016 10:56 AM PST

    Researchers have found that as multiple species of whales feast on herring, they tend to stick with their own kind, establishing species-specific feeding centers
    along the 150-mile length of Georges Bank….


    Delin Wang, Heriberto Garcia, Wei Huang, Duong D. Tran, Ankita D. Jain, Dong Hoon Yi, Zheng Gong, J. Michael Jech, Olav Rune Godø, Nicholas C. Makris, Purnima Ratilal. Vast assembly of vocal marine mammals from diverse species on fish spawning ground. Nature, 2016; DOI: 10.1038/nature16960



    Scripps researcher Lindsay Bonito holding a yellowfin tuna.

    Credit: Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego

    Toxic pollutants found in fish across the world’s oceans

    Posted: 28 Jan 2016 04:43 AM PST

    A new global analysis of seafood found that fish populations throughout the world’s oceans are contaminated with industrial and agricultural pollutants, collectively known as persistent organic pollutants (POPs). The study also uncovered some good news: concentrations of these pollutants have been consistently dropping over the last 30 years…..


    Lindsay T. Bonito, Amro Hamdoun, Stuart A. Sandin. Evaluation of the global impacts of mitigation on persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic pollutants in marine fish. PeerJ, 2016; 4: e1573 DOI: 10.7717/peerj.1573


    California’s commercial Dungeness crab season to stay closed


    Landscape pattern analysis reveals global loss of interior forest

    Posted: 28 Jan 2016 08:38 AM PST

    Between 2000 and 2012, the world lost more forest area than it gained, according to researchers who estimated a global net loss of 1.71 million square kilometers of forest — an area about two and a half times the size of Texas. Furthermore, when researchers analyzed patterns of remaining forest, they found a global loss of interior forest — core areas that, when intact, maintain critical habitat and ecological functions.….Access the full text of the article at



    A comprehensive study reveals trends in the occurrence and causes of multiple mortality events in bats as reported globally for the past 200 years, shedding new light on the possible factors underlying population declines. (Stock image)

    Credit: © Vitalii Hulai / Fotolia

    Decades of bat observations reveal uptick in new causes of mass mortality

    Posted: 20 Jan 2016 08:15 AM PST

    Reports of bat deaths worldwide due to human causes largely unique to the 21st century are markedly rising, according to a new analysis. Collisions with wind turbines worldwide and the disease white-nose syndrome in North America lead the reported causes of mass death in bats. These new threats now surpass all prior known causes of bat mortality, natural or attributed to humans…..



    Without humans in the region to clear trees for building materials, heating, cooking, and agriculture, the forest began to reclaim that territory, providing, literally, more fuel for fires. (Stock image) Credit: © uwimages / Fotolia

    The aftermath of 1492: Study shows how Native American depopulation impacted ecology

    Posted: 25 Jan 2016 12:57 PM PST

    Among the Pueblo Indians of northern New Mexico, disease didn’t break out until nearly a century after their first contact with Europeans, following the establishment of mission churches in the seventeenth century, a team of researchers has shown. The depopulation was so extreme it led to changes in forest fires in the region, they say….


    Ecotourism, natural resource conservation proposed as allies to protect natural landscapes

    Posted: 26 Jan 2016 01:22 PM PST

    If environmentalists want to protect fragile ecosytems from landing in the hands of developers — in the US and around the globe — they should team up with ecotourists, according to a study. Environmentalists often fear that tourists will trample all over sensitive natural resource areas, but tourism may bring the needed and only economic incentives to help drive conservation, said an author of the study.

    Point Blue STRAW photo

    A green view through a classroom window can improve students’ performance

    Posted: 22 Jan 2016 02:09 PM PST

    High school students perform better on tests if they are in a classroom with a view of a green landscape, rather than a windowless room or a room with a view of built space, according to new research….


    Neighborhood watch and more: How reed warblers watch out when there’s a cuckoo about

    Posted: 22 Jan 2016 05:34 AM PST

    A study of reed warbler behavior reveals for the first time that in assessing the risks posed by cuckoos the birds combine information from multiple sources. An ‘information highway’ provides one set of clues and personal encounters another. Only when both add up, do the birds take defensive action.


    This is a zebra finch. Credit: Rachel Muheim / Lund University

    The magnetic compass of birds is affected by polarized light

    Posted: 26 Jan 2016 08:09 AM PST

    The magnetic compass that birds use for orientation is affected by polarized light. This previously unknown phenomenon was discovered by researchers at Lund University in Sweden.


    Rachel Muheim, Sissel Sjöberg, Atticus Pinzon-Rodriguez. Polarized light modulates light-dependent magnetic compass orientation in birds. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2016; 201513391 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1513391113


    Small birds prefer flying in company

    Posted: 01 Feb 2016 05:50 AM PST

    Until now, scientists had observed that some large birds are sociable among each other. However, a new study has confirmed that this unique characteristic can also be seen among smaller birds such as the Eurasian siskin, a bird which is able to form bonds that last for a number of years as well as travel long distances in the company of these birds. This intimacy may favor reproduction in addition to facilitating the process of adjusting to a new place….

    Juan Carlos Senar, Jeff Kew, Allison Kew. Do Siskins have friends? An analysis of movements of Siskins in groups based on EURING recoveries. Bird Study, 2015; 62 (4): 566 DOI: 10.1080/00063657.2015.1089836



    What Does a Parrot Know About PTSD?
    [MUST READ- very moving]

    By CHARLES SIEBERT NY Times Magazine January 31 2016

    An unexpected bond between damaged birds and traumatized veterans could reveal surprising insights into animal intelligence
    It’s one of those unlikely natural outcomes of the so-called anthropocene, the first epoch to be named after us: the prolonged confinement of intelligent and social creatures, compelling them to speak the language of their keepers. And now, in yet another unlikely occurrence, parrots, among the oldest victims of human acquisitiveness and vainglory, have become some of the most empathic readers of our troubled minds. Their deep need to connect is drawing the most severely wounded and isolated PTSD sufferers out of themselves. In an extraordinary example of symbiosis, two entirely different outcasts of human aggression — war and entrapment — are somehow helping each other to find their way again…. Animal-assisted therapy is hardly a novel prescription, having been employed at least since the 18th century, when the York Retreat for the mentally ill opened in England in 1796 and began allowing patients to roam the outside grounds among farm animals. At his office in Vienna, Sigmund Freud regularly had his chow Jofi on hand during psychoanalysis sessions to reassure and relax his patients, allowing them to open up more readily. The U.S. military used dogs as early as 1919 as a therapeutic aid in the treatment of psychiatric patients at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington. Still, what distinguishes the mutually assuaging bond that the veterans and parrots are forming at Serenity Park is the intelligence — at once different from ours and yet recognizable — of the nonhuman part of the equation.

    There is abundant evidence now that parrots possess cognitive capacities and sensibilities remarkably similar to our own. Alex, the now-deceased African gray parrot studied for years by his longtime companion, Dr. Irene Pepperberg, a psychology professor, is regularly held up as the paragon of parrot intelligence. His cognitive skills tested as high as those of a 5-year-old child. He mastered more than 100 words, grasped abstract concepts like absence and presence (Alex excelled at the shell game) and often gave orders to and toyed with the language of researchers who studied him, purposely giving them the wrong answers to their questions to alleviate his own boredom. Alex was also given to demonstrating what we would characterize in ourselves as ”hurt feelings.” When Pepperberg returned to Alex one morning after a three-week absence, he turned his back on her in his cage and commanded, ”Come here!”… Though the avian cerebrum possesses only the tiniest nub of the structures associated with mammalian intelligence, recent studies of crows and parrots have revealed that birds think and learn using an entirely different part of their brains, a kind of avian neocortex known as the medio-rostral neostriatum/hyperstriatum ventrale.
    In both parrots and crows, in fact, the ratio of brain to body size is similar to that of the higher primates, an encephalization quotient that yields in both species not only the usual indications of cognitive sophistication like problem-solving and tool use but also two aspects of intelligence long thought to be exclusively human: episodic memory and theory of mind, the ability to attribute mental states, like intention, desire and awareness, to yourself and to others.

    Nature, in other words, in a stunning example of parallel or convergent evolution, found an entirely other and far earlier path to complex cognition: an alien intelligence that not only links directly back to minds we’ve long believed to be forever lost to us, like the dinosaurs’, but that can also be wounded, under duress, in the same ways our minds can. In one recent psychiatric study conducted at Midwest Avian Adoption and Rescue Services, a parrot sanctuary and rehabilitation facility in Minnesota, a captive-bred male umbrella cockatoo who had been ”exposed to multiple caregivers who were themselves highly unstable (e.g. domestic violence, substance abuse . . . addiction)” was given a diagnosis of complex PTSD. ”When examined through the lens of complex PTSD,” Dr. Gay Bradshaw, a psychologist and ecologist and an author of the study, wrote, ”the symptoms of many caged parrots are almost indistinguishable from those of human P.O.W.s and concentration-camp survivors.” She added that severely traumatized cockatoos ”commonly exhibit rapid pacing in cage, distress calls, screams, self-mutilation, aggression in response to . . . physical contact, nightmares . . . insomnia.”

    Veterans, of course, share similar psychological scarring, but whenever I asked any of them how it is that the parrots succeed in connecting where human therapists and fellow group-therapy members can’t, the answer seemed to lie precisely in the fact that parrots are alien intelligences: parallel, analogously wounded minds that know and feel pain deeply and yet at a level liberatingly beyond the prescriptive confines of human language and prejudices….

    Lindner said she thinks that, using conventional measures of improvement for veterans suffering trauma — the ability to stay clean and sober; keeping up with their case-manager appointments; reuniting with family; finding gainful employment, and so on — the veterans who have been working with the parrots are doing better than those who spend time working at the garden.

    ”There’s definitely something different going on at this place,” Lindner said. ”We know that what’s preserved across species, all vertebrates truthfully, is the ability to feel compassion. As for birds and humans, we both have sympathetic nervous responses. We react the same way to trauma on the physiological level and in terms of the reparative nature of compassion and empathy. That’s what is doing the healing. That’s what is bringing the broken halves together. We don’t know what the actual healing factor is, but I believe that it has to do with mental mirroring. That the parrots get what the veterans are going through and, of course, the veterans get them, too, because, hey, they are all pretty much traumatized birds around here.”…


    Breeding birds use alligators to protect nests from raccoons, opossums

    Posted: 02 Mar 2016 03:17 PM PST

    Breeding birds that nest above alligators for protection from mammalian predators may also provide a source of food for the alligators living in the Everglades, Florida, according to a new study




    Photo by Dave Strauss,

    The Language of Sparrows

    How Bird Songs Are Evolving To Compete With Urban Noise

    by Kim Todd on January 20, 2016 BAY NATURE MAGAZINE

    Lobos Creek trailhead in the Presidio looks wild. Flushed orange monkey flower, sage, and coyote bush spill over re-created sand dunes. Nearby, the creek empties into the ocean. But close your eyes. A water truck pulls up to a stop sign with a mechanical whine. Car engines growl, foghorns moan, a distant airplane whirs. The noise, which never stops even though it’s barely 7 a.m., makes it clear you’re in the middle of the city. In the parking lot, a white-crowned sparrow perches at the top of an evergreen tree next to a pickup truck and sings, launching a quick patter: whistle, buzz, two-part trill, and a scattering of notes. It’s music familiar to city dwellers, even if they couldn’t name it. The song is key to the white crown’s survival, helping him attract a mate and defend the territory around his nest, warning off other males with his vocal vigor. But the notes are almost drowned out as a bus sighs to a halt. Thanks to recent restoration efforts, the bird is surrounded by plants, such as lupine, that evolved here over centuries, along with the sparrow. But there is no restoring the silence, and the noise grows year by year. What will it take for white crowns like this one to survive in this new soundscape? What will it take to be heard?In the past ten years or so, there has been mounting evidence of how human noise is affecting these birds,” says Luther. Not just birds, he adds, but other animals, too. Studies in the developing field of “acoustic ecology” show whales, crickets, and frogs altering their behavior in response to man-made sounds.
    While some flee the cacophony, others adjust their internal clocks. Along a river near the Madrid airport, nightingales and European goldfinches sing earlier in the morning before the roar of the planes starts up. In Sheffield, England, robin redbreasts in noise-cluttered areas have started to sing at night. The whole “dawn chorus” has moved away from dawn. And others, like the white-crowned sparrows, are changing their tunes. Bay Area white-crowned sparrows are famous in ornithological circles for their flexible songs. Like many songbirds, white crowns develop dialects specific to certain areas, the way a California drawl in Humboldt County differs from one in Los Angeles. But their dialects are so distinct, the boundaries so sharp, they have become a subject of choice for researchers studying song learning and evolution. As early as the 1960s, researchers found that San Francisco resident white crowns sound markedly different from those in Marin, just a few miles away. In the East Bay, white crowns in Tilden Park sang different songs than those in Richmond or ones that lived by the Bancroft Library, replacing a trill with a buzz, or swapping out a jumble of whistles. Scientists charted ten dialects in parts of the Bay Area and tracked patterns shifting as a bird became bilingual or a migrant singing a new variation passed through. But now a new pattern is being carved out. As Luther props up a wooden sparrow on a stick near a saddle between sand dunes, at a spot where a male guards a nest, he is taking 50 years of white-crowned sparrow studies in a fresh direction, gauging the impact of the increasingly noisy city on bird songs….




    Name That Tune!  BAY NATURE MAGAZINE
    Listen to the songs, both past and present, of San Francisco’s white-crowned sparrows using our beautiful interactive map — and see if you can make out the differences in dialects over time!





    New species of bird discovered in India, China by international team of scientists

    Posted: 20 Jan 2016 11:15 AM PST

    A new species of bird has been described in north-eastern India and adjacent parts of China by a team of scientists. The bird has been named the Himalayan Forest Thrush, Zoothera salimalii.




    Photo: Leah Millis, The Chronicle Adrian Covert, a policy director for the Bay Area Council pictured next to wetlands he wants restored near Point Isabel Regional Shoreline Jan. 13, 2015 in Richmond, Calif. A proposed ballot measure in all nine … more

    1st-ever parcel tax to restore San Francisco Bay headed to voters

    By Peter Fimrite Updated 8:00 pm, Wednesday, January 13, 2016

    A first-of-its-kind ballot measure that would use a parcel tax to pay for a suite of wetlands and habitat restoration projects on San Francisco Bay will be put before voters in all nine Bay Area counties, a government authority decided Wednesday. The unprecedented move by the San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority is an attempt to bring back some of the historic marshlands that once ringed the bay — and to shore up bay communities against expected sea level rise in future decades. The authority, a special district formed by the state in 2009, agreed to ask voters on June 7 to approve a $12-a-year parcel tax for 20 years to fund clean water projects, pollution prevention programs and the restoration of some 35,000 acres of wetlands along the bay. The district’s governing board, which includes representatives of every region in the Bay Area, approved the ballot measure by a 6-0 vote at a meeting in Oakland, with the South Bay position vacant. “It is a once in a generation opportunity to support a restoration of the bay,” said Adrian Covert, policy director for the Bay Area Council, which supports the measure. “By harnessing nature, we can improve the bay ecosystem for our children while also making the Bay Area one of the most climate-resilient regions on Earth. This is our opportunity to do something big.”…. The proposed initiative, which is also supported by Save The Bay, Silicon Valley Leadership Group and Ducks Unlimited, would raise $500 million over 20 years for a host of projects, including efforts to clean trash, decrease pollution and harmful toxins, improve water quality and restore fish, bird and wildlife habitat.

    Improved shoreline access and flood control would also be funded, but the largest portion of the tax would go toward the restoration of thousands of acres of tidal marshes on former hay fields in the North Bay, salt ponds in the South Bay and diked-off areas from the Petaluma River to Santa Clara. Two-thirds of the combined voters in Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano, Sonoma and San Francisco counties would have to approve the measure, a difficult task that supporters believe may be eased by a booming tech economy and a liberal, environmentally inclined populace. …The restoration goal remains well shy of the 350,000 acres of bay wetlands that conservationists believe existed before the Gold Rush, but ecologists believe 100,000 acres of marshland around the bay would be enough to create a healthy, self-sustaining ecosystem. Tidal marshes are vital to migratory birds and various rodents, fish and invertebrates, according to conservationists. The Bay Area lost about 85 percent of the marshlands when they were drained, dried out for farmland or paved over for urban development in the 19th and 20th centuries. It was a catastrophe for shorebirds and rodents like the salt marsh harvest mouse. The primary landing areas for thousands of migrating waterfowl along the Pacific Flyway were cut off. Today, there are only about 35,000 acres of wetlands, tidal mudflats and shallow ponds left around San Francisco Bay. They are home to about 1 million shorebirds every year. The abundant food and habitat in wetland areas also help sustain commercial fisheries, like herring. A concerted effort has been made over the past two decades to improve the situation. Large swaths of former hay fields, salt ponds and abandoned military bases have been restored in the Napa and Suisun areas, along the Petaluma River and in the South Bay. Some 30,000 acres of shoreline flats once owned by salt manufacturers Leslie and Cargill are ready to be restored, but bay advocates say there is no money available to do the job. Wren said the San Francisco area now gets about $5 million a year in water quality improvement funds from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, considerably less than other major projects such as Chesapeake Bay, the Great Lakes, Puget Sound and the Florida Everglades. But it isn’t only wildlife that ballot measure proponents are worried about. Bay marshlands filter out pollutants, sequester carbon and act like giant sponges, protecting communities, roadways and businesses from flooding. Flooding is a critical issue given that a 2011 study predicted that the tidal marshes of San Francisco Bay would virtually disappear within a century if the sea rises as high as some scientists predict. The study, by Point Blue Conservation Science, said the rising sea would eliminate 93 percent of the bay’s tidal wetlands if carbon emissions continue unchecked and the ocean rises 5.4 feet, as predicted by scientists under a worst-case scenario. Areas closest to the Golden Gate, including Richardson Bay in Marin County and much of the East Bay coastline, were the most vulnerable, the study said….


    Sonoma County leaders support June regional tax measure to support restoration

    March 3 2016 Santa Rosa Press Democrat (via Maven)

    Sonoma County supervisors on Tuesday voiced strong support for a first-ever regional ballot measure this June seeking a $12 parcel tax increase. It would generate $500 million over the next 20 years for all nine Bay Area counties to pay for wetland and wildlife habitat restoration projects in the San Francisco Bay.  Though the San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority, an independent agency spearheading the initiative, has power to place the tax increase on the June ballot, Bay Area counties are required to call a special election on behalf of the agency.  …



    Sylvia McLaughlin talks about her experiences as a co-founder of the Save the Bay organization at home in Berkeley, Calif., on Monday, Oct. 24, 2011. McLaughin, 94, and two friends formed the group to stop radical development plans for the Bay. (Kristopher Skinner/Staff)

    She saved the bay 

    SF CHRONICLE EDITORIAL An Appreciation  Fri Jan 22 2016

    As you gaze out on the waters of our beloved San Francisco Bay today, take a moment to thank Sylvia McLaughlin and her friends for the view.  McLaughlin, who died Tuesday at her Berkeley home at the age of 99, was the last of three women who founded Save the Bay in 1961. That’s when Berkeley had plans to fill its wetlands with garbage, and other cities had plans to dike, drain, pave over and reduce the bay from a magnificent estuary to a sliver of a shipping channel. McLaughlin and her two East Bay friends, Kay Kerr and Esther Gulick, mobilized. With the graciousness that characterized many women of that generation, McLaughlin worked to remind residents of the bay’s beauty and the threats to it.  “They asked people to send in $1, and they saved the bay,” said Jane Morrison, 96, a former KNBR radio public affairs director. In so doing, they launched the first mass environmental movement in history, said UC Berkeley Professor Emeritus Richard A. Walker. Today, efforts are afoot to significantly increase bay-lands restoration as a buffer against sea-level rise. What better better tribute to McLaughlin’s legacy than to join that cause? 




    Marbled murrelet
    Brachyramphus marmoratus

    Photos: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service; 1-R. Lowe; 2-Gus Van Vliet


    One of the birds you might see flying overhead in the Headwaters Forest Reserve is Marbled murrelet. What might it be doing there?

    (a.) Flying low, on the lookout for rotting tree trunks that might contain its favorite delicacy, termites.

    (b.) Looking for a fork in a tree branch where it can build its nest with mud and sticks.

    (c.) Flying among the trees looking for dead tree branches to carry back to the coast, to build nests.

    (d.) Commuting up to 50 miles away to the sea to dive for fish and bring them back to their young, nesting in the trees.

    (e.) Auditioning for “America’s Next Top Murrelet” on the All Birds All The Time cable network.

    Keep reading for answer below






    It’s official: 2015 ‘smashed’ 2014’s global temperature record. It wasn’t even close

    By Chris Mooney and Joby Warrick January 20 at 3:00 PM Washington Post

    Last year shattered 2014’s record to become the hottest year since reliable record-keeping began, two U.S. government science agencies announced Wednesday in yet another sign that the planet is heating up.
    2015’s sharp spike in temperatures was aided by a strong El Nino weather pattern late in the year that caused ocean waters in the central Pacific to heat up. But the unusual warming started early and steadily gained strength in a year in which ten of 12 months set all-time records, scientists said. The new figures, based on separate sets of records kept by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, could fuel debate over climate change in an election year in which the two main political parties remain divided over what to do about global warming and, indeed, whether it exists. “2015 was by far the record year in all of the temperature datasets that are based on the instrumental and surface data,” said Gavin Schmidt, director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies at NASA, which made the announcement jointly with NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “It really underlines the fact that the planet really is still warming, there is no change in the long term global warming rate, and we know why that is,” he said. NASA reported that 2015 was officially 0.23 degrees Fahrenheit (0.13 degrees Celsius) hotter than 2014, the prior record year, a sharp increase for a global temperature record in which annual variation is normally measured in the hundredths of a degree. NOAA’s figures showed slightly greater warming, of about 0.29 degrees Fahrenheit (0.16 degrees C) hotter than 2014….



    Global Temperature in 2015 (pdf)

    James Hansen et al January 19, 2016






    January 2016 was Earth’s hottest month yet, with the most unusually warm temperatures concentrated in the Arctic. NASA

    Earth Kicks Off 2016 With the Most Abnormally Warm Month Ever Measured

    By Eric Holthaus

    It would be hard to top 2015—a year unlike any other in human history—but 2016 seems to be giving it a shot. According to the latest data from NASA, issued over the weekend, January was the planet’s most unusually warm month since we started measuring temperature in 1880. No other month in the preceding 1,633 months has deviated this far from what was once considered “normal.” Data independently produced by Japan’s Meteorological Agency confirmed that last month was the hottest January on record globally. Last month broke the all-time January record by the widest margin of any month on record, a full one-third of a degree ahead of last year’s record pace. That means the planet is already on track for an unprecedented third straight year of record-setting temperatures.

    There’s a single major reason that this global temperature spike is happening right now: The current El Niño is now officially the most intense ever measured, at least by the most common definition. But humans are also playing a major role, especially in the Arctic, where El Niño’s influence is limited…..


    The increase in regional average temperatures around the world when global average temperatures reach 2°C above pre-industrial levels. Credit: From authors’ Nature paper, Allowable CO2 emissions based on regional and impact-related climate targets

    How a 2°C rise means even higher temperatures where we live

    Posted: 20 Jan 2016 11:15 AM PST

    New research has quantified the change in regional extremes in a world where global average temperatures have risen by two degrees Celsius.
    Regions around the Arctic may have passed a 2°C temperature rise as far back as 2000 and, if emissions rates don’t change, areas around the Mediterranean, central Brazil and the contiguous United States could see 2°C of warming by 2030.

    This is despite the fact that under a business as usual scenario the world is not expected to see global average temperatures rise by 2°C compared to preindustrial times until the 2040s. New research published in Nature led by Prof Sonia Seneviratne from ETH Zurich with researchers from Australia’s ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science (ARCCSS) has quantified the change in regional extremes in a world where global average temperatures have risen by 2°C.

    The research shows worldwide warming extremes over land generally exceed the rise in this scenario, in some cases by as much as 6°C. “We even see starkly different rates of extreme warming over land even when global average temperatures reach just 1.5°C, which is the limit to the rate of warming agreed to at the Paris talks,” said lead author Prof Seneviratne.

    “At 1.5°C we would still see temperature extremes in the Arctic rise by 4.4°C and a 2.2°C warming of extremes around the Mediterranean basin.”…. The researchers also note the paper did not take into account unexpected changes in the climate system.

    “What this research cannot take into account are abrupt climate shifts known colloquially as “tipping points”,” said ARCCSS co-author Dr Markus Donat.

    “We have no way of knowing when our climate may change abruptly from one state to another meaning we could potentially see even greater regional variation than these findings show.”


    Sonia I. Seneviratne, Markus G. Donat, Andy J. Pitman, Reto Knutti, Robert L. Wilby. Allowable CO2 emissions based on regional and impact-related climate targets. Nature, 2016; DOI: 10.1038/nature16542



    Climate scientists worry about the costs of sea level rise

    Posted on 2 March 2016 by John Abraham

    As humans add greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, it not only warms the planet, but also raises the oceans. Ocean waters are rising for a number of reasons including thermal expansion of water (as water warms, it expands to a larger volume), as well as ice melt which then flows as liquid into the ocean. My next post will cover four recent studies that quantify how much ocean levels will rise in the future. However, here I will focus on the economic costs of rising seas. A paper was just published by Drs. Boettle, Rybski and Kropp that dealt with this question. The authors of this study note that if you are concerned about societal and economic costs, the rate of sea rise isn’t the entire story. Much of the damage is caused by extreme events that are superimposed on a rising ocean. Damage is highly nonlinear with sea rise.  To explain this, let’s think about flooding. Consider a river that has a dike system capable of confining a rise of water up to six feet. Such a system would have little or no economic/societal damage for “floods” up to six feet, but just one more foot of water rise would put the waters over the dike and could cause significant losses. So what really matters is, do events overshoot some level that commences damage? How does this relate to climate change? Well as we warm the planet we are raising the baseline level of water from which extremes happen. Second, we are making some extreme weather events more likely. To measure the changes to extreme events in the future, the authors use a statistical method to estimate economic losses from coastal flooding. Using Copenhagen and other locations as test cases, they found that economic losses double when water rises only 11 cm. They also find that the costs rise faster than sea level rise itself. So, if we expect a linear increase in sea level over the next century, we should anticipate costs that increase more rapidly.

    The authors also look at what are called “tail events” of storm surges. These are unusual events that can cause a large fraction of losses. Superstorm Sandy is an example; the storm surge from that event was very extreme and cause more loss than the combination of many smaller storm surge events.

    I asked the authors why this study is important. They told me,

    While there is considerable progress in the understanding and projections of future sea level rise, there is little understanding about the damage costs from coastal floods which are expected to intensify with sea level rise. Most work focuses on case studies and there was no general understanding. Due to limited funds for adaptation it is very valuable to have a transferable and comparable approach for any coastal region….


    Ecosystems pulling apart as some plants shift habitats, possibly adapting to climate change


     – ‎Feb 9, 2016‎


    A UCLA-led study examining whether plant species in California have shifted to higher elevations, possibly in response to climate change, discovered that non-native plants are moving fastest, altering and potentially damaging ecosystems. The research, led by UCLA professor Jon Christensen, also showed significantly less movement by species that grow only in California, suggesting that these endemic species may have the hardest time adapting to the challenges of climate change.

    “We see different kinds of species moving at different rates, and that raises the concern that California’s ecosystems are unraveling,” said Christensen, an adjunct assistant professor of history and a member of the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability. “Native species may face not only a changing climate, but also competition from invasive species which are moving more quickly.”

    It’s concerning that some endemic species, like giant sequoias, and many native species, like redwoods, show little to no sign of shifting as their local habitats change, the researchers said. Their analysis showed that 15 percent of plant species in California are creeping higher. However, 27 percent of non-native species are on the move, compared to 15 percent of native species and just 12 percent of endemic species, according to their study, “Altitudinal shifts of the native and introduced flora of California in the context of 20th-century warming,” which appeared Jan. 22 in the journal of Global Ecology and Biogeography….


    Adam Wolf et al. Altitudinal shifts of the native and introduced flora of California in the context of 20th-century warming,
    Global Ecology and Biogeography (2016). DOI: 10.1111/geb.12423


    Dan Kitwood—Getty Images Waves crash into each other off the sea front in Dawlish on February 8, 2014 in Devon, England.

    Study: Man-made heat put in oceans has doubled since 1997

    By SETH BORENSTEIN Jan. 18, 2016 11:02 AM EST

    WASHINGTON (AP) — The amount of man-made heat energy absorbed by the seas has doubled since 1997, a study released Monday showed. Scientists have long known that more than 90 percent of the heat energy from man-made global warming goes into the world’s oceans instead of the ground. And they’ve seen ocean heat content rise in recent years. But the new study [published in Nature Climate Change], using ocean-observing data that goes back to the British research ship Challenger in the 1870s and including high-tech modern underwater monitors and computer models, tracked how much man-made heat has been buried in the oceans in the past 150 years. The world’s oceans absorbed approximately 150 zettajoules of energy from 1865 to 1997, and then absorbed about another 150 in the next 18 years, according to a study published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change.
    To put that in perspective, if you exploded one atomic bomb the size of the one that dropped on Hiroshima every second for a year, the total energy released would be 2 zettajoules. So since 1997, Earth’s oceans have absorbed man-made heat energy equivalent to a Hiroshima-style bomb being exploded every second for 75 straight years.

    “The changes we’re talking about, they are really, really big numbers,” said study co-author Paul Durack, an oceanographer at the Lawrence Livermore National Lab in California. “They are nonhuman numbers.” Because there are decades when good data wasn’t available and computer simulations are involved, the overall figures are rough but still are reliable, the study’s authors said. Most of the added heat has been trapped in the upper 2,300 feet, but with every year the deeper oceans also are absorbing more energy, they said. But the study’s authors and outside experts say it’s not the raw numbers that bother them. It’s how fast those numbers are increasing.

    “After 2000 in particular the rate of change is really starting to ramp up,” Durack said.

    This means the amount of energy being trapped in Earth’s climate system as a whole is accelerating, the study’s lead author Peter Gleckler, a climate scientist at Lawrence Livermore, said.
    Because the oceans are so vast and cold, the absorbed heat raises temperatures by only a few tenths of a degree, but the importance is the energy balance, Gleckler and his colleagues said. When oceans absorb all that heat it keeps the surface from getting even warmer from the heat-trapping gases spewed by the burning of coal, oil and gas, the scientists said.
    The warmer the oceans get, the less heat they can absorb and the more heat stays in the air and on land surface
    , the study’s co-author, Chris Forest at Pennsylvania State University, said….



    Peter J. Gleckler, Paul J. Durack, Ronald J. Stouffer, Gregory C. Johnson, Chris E. Forest. Industrial-era global ocean heat uptake doubles in recent decades. Nature Climate Change, 2016; DOI: 10.1038/nclimate2915



    Antarctica could be headed for major meltdown

    February 23, 2016 University of California Los Angeles UCLA

    In the early Miocene Epoch, temperatures were 10 degrees warmer and ocean levels were 50 feet higher — well above the ground level of modern-day New York, Tokyo and Berlin. Now a geochemist reports finding striking similarities between climate change patterns today and millions of years ago….

    Earth is warming 50x faster than when it comes out of an ice age

    Posted on 24 February 2016 by dana1981

    Recently, The Guardian reported on a significant new study published in Nature Climate Change, finding that even if we meet our carbon reduction targets and stay below the 2°C global warming threshold, sea level rise will eventually inundate many major coastal cities around the world.

    20% of the world’s population will eventually have to migrate away from coasts swamped by rising oceans. Cities including New York, London, Rio de Janeiro, Cairo, Calcutta, Jakarta and Shanghai would all be submerged.

    The authors looked at past climate change events and model simulations of the future. They found a clear, strong relationship between the total amount of carbon pollution humans emit, and how far global sea levels will rise. The issue is that ice sheets melt quite slowly, but because carbon dioxide stays in the atmosphere for a long time, the eventual melting and associated sea level rise are effectively locked in. As a result, the study authors found that due to the carbon pollution humans have emitted so far, we’ve committed the planet to an eventual sea level rise of 1.7 meters (5.5 feet). If we manage to stay within the 1 trillion ton carbon budget, which we hope will keep the planet below 2°C warming above pre-industrial levels, sea levels will nevertheless rise a total of about 9 meters (30 feet). If we continue on a fossil fuel-heavy path, we could trigger a staggering eventual 50 meters (165 feet) of sea level rise. Predicting how quickly sea levels will rise is a challenge. However, two other studies just published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that the Antarctic ice sheet could melt more quickly than previously thought, and thus contribute to relatively rapid sea level rise. Over the past century, global sea level has risen faster than at any time in the past two millennia, and most of the recent sea level rise is due to human-caused global warming. Several feet of sea level rise this century is likely, with a possibility of 5 feet or more….


    Climate change: Ocean warming underestimated

    Posted: 25 Jan 2016 12:59 PM PST

    To date, research on the effects of climate change has underestimated the contribution of seawater expansion to sea level rise due to warming of the oceans. A team of researchers has now investigated, using satellite data, that this effect was almost twice as large over the past twelve years than previously assumed. That may result in, for example, significantly increased risks of storm surges….Until now, it was assumed that sea levels rose an average of 0.7 to 1.0 millimeters a year due to this “thermometer effect.” According to the new calculations, however, the ocean’s expansion contributed with about 1.4 millimeters a year — in other words, almost twice as much as previously assumed. “This height difference corresponds to roughly twice the volume from the melting ice sheets in Greenland,” says Dr. Rietbroek. In addition, the sea-level rise varies strongly due to volume expansion in various ocean regions along with other effects. According to the research team’s calculations, the Philippines hold the record with about 15 millimeters a year, while the levels are largely stable on the West Coast of the United States — because there is hardly any ocean warming in that region….


    Roelof Rietbroek, Sandra-Esther Brunnabend, Jürgen Kusche, Jens Schröter, Christoph Dahle. Revisiting the contemporary sea-level budget on global and regional scales. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2016; 201519132 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1519132113


    2014 – 2015 Pacific Anomalies Science and Technology-

    El Nino and the Blob: view workshop videos here (see especially the second and last talks in the morning).


    • 9:40-‐10:00 Canada: Richard Dewey, Ocean Networks Canada and University of Victoria
    • 11:30-‐12:00 The 2015-16 El Niño: Mike McPhaden, NOAA PMEL



    Warming Ocean May Bring Major Changes for U.S. Northeast Fishery Species

    NOAA Fisheries Service Releases First Regional Climate Vulnerability Assessment

    February 4, 2016

    NOAA scientists released the first multispecies assessment of just how vulnerable U.S. marine fish and invertebrate species are to the effects of climate change. The study examined 82 species that occur off the Northeastern U.S., where ocean warming is occurring rapidly. Researchers found that most species evaluated will be affected, some species are highly vulnerable to changes in abundance and/or distribution, and that some are likely to be more resilient to changing ocean conditions than others.

    The study appears in PLOS ONE, an online scholarly science journal…. “Our method identifies specific attributes that influence marine fish and invertebrate resilience to the effects of a warming ocean and characterizes risks posed to individual species,” said Jon Hare, a fisheries oceanographer at NOAA Fisheries’ Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC) and lead author of the study. “This work will help us better account for the effects of warming waters on our fishery species in stock assessments and when developing fishery management measures.”

    The study is formally known as the Northeast Climate Vulnerability Assessment and is the first in a series of similar evaluations planned for fishery species in other U.S. regions. Conducting climate change vulnerability assessments of U.S. fisheries is a priority action in the NOAA Fisheries Climate Science Strategy.  Similar assessments are now underway for the Bering Sea and California Current Ecosystems.

    The 82 Northeast species evaluated include all commercially managed marine fish and invertebrate species in the Northeast, a large number of recreational marine fish species, all marine fish species listed or under consideration for listing on the federal Endangered Species Act, and a range of ecologically important marine species…..


    School of Jacks. Credit: © ead72 / Fotolia

    Rising carbon dioxide emissions pose ‘intoxication’ threat to world’s ocean fish

    Posted: 20 Jan 2016 11:15 AM PST

    Researchers have found that carbon dioxide concentrations in seawater could reach levels high enough to make fish ‘intoxicated’ and disoriented many decades earlier than previously thought, with serious implications for the world’s fisheries. UNSW Australia researchers have found that carbon dioxide concentrations in seawater could reach levels high enough to make fish “intoxicated” and disoriented many decades earlier than previously thought, with serious implications for the world’s fisheries. The UNSW study, published in the journal Nature, is the first global analysis of the impact of rising carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels on natural variations in carbon dioxide concentrations in the world’s oceans.

    Our results were staggering and have massive implications for global fisheries and marine ecosystems across the planet,” says lead author, Dr Ben McNeil, of the UNSW Climate Change Research Centre. “High concentrations of carbon dioxide cause fish to become intoxicated — a phenomenon known as hypercapnia. Essentially, the fish become lost at sea. The carbon dioxide affects their brains and they lose their sense of direction and ability to find their way home. They don’t even know where their predators are.

    We’ve shown that if atmospheric carbon dioxide pollution continues to rise, fish and other marine creatures in CO2 hotpots in the Southern, Pacific and North Atlantic oceans will experience episodes of hypercapnia by the middle of this century — much sooner than had been predicted, and with more damaging effects than thought.

    “By 2100, creatures in up to half the world’s surface oceans are expected to be affected by hypercapnia.”…


    Ben I. McNeil, Tristan P. Sasse. Future ocean hypercapnia driven by anthropogenic amplification of the natural CO2 cycle. Nature, 2016; 529 (7586): 383 DOI: 10.1038/nature16156




    Scientists on a research cruise in the central equatorial Pacific collected seafloor sediments showing that nutrient cycling in one part of the ocean may affect another region far away. Here, a researcher from Georgia Institute of Technology checks out newly retrieved mud. Credit: Pratigya Polissar/Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory

    With climate, fertilizing oceans could be zero-sum game

    Posted: 27 Jan 2016 11:14 AM PST

    Scientists plumbing the depths of the central equatorial Pacific Ocean have found ancient sediments suggesting that one proposed way to mitigate climate warming — fertilizing the oceans with iron to produce more carbon-eating algae — may not necessarily work as envisioned….


    K. M. Costa, J. F. McManus, R. F. Anderson, H. Ren, D. M. Sigman, G. Winckler, M. Q. Fleisher, F. Marcantonio, A. C. Ravelo. No iron fertilization in the equatorial Pacific Ocean during the last ice age. Nature, 2016; 529 (7587): 519 DOI: 10.1038/nature16453


    How ocean acidification and warming could affect the culturing of pearls

    Posted: 20 Jan 2016 08:57 AM PST

    Pearls have adorned the necklines of women throughout history, but some evidence suggests that the gems’ future could be uncertain. Increasingly acidic seawater causes oyster shells to weaken, which doesn’t bode well for the pearls forming within. But the mollusks might be more resilient to changing conditions than previously thought.


    New research helps solve the riddle of the ocean carbon conundrum

    Posted: 01 Mar 2016 08:47 AM PST

    Initially, the fact that the oceans are absorbing a significant amount of the carbon dioxide we pump into the atmosphere by burning biomass and fossil fuels would appear to be a good thing. However, as more carbon dioxide dissolves into the oceans, it changes the pH of the seawater (a process called ocean acidification), making it difficult for some marine life to survive…..



    The Blob as captured in NOAA imaging in 2014. 

    The Blob’ Disrupts What We Think We Know About Climate Change, Oceans Scientist Says

    By Judith Lavoie • Saturday, January 23, 2016 – 12:30

    Deep in the northeast Pacific Ocean, The Blob is acting strangely. When the abnormally warm patch of water first appeared in 2013, fascinated scientists watched disrupted weather patterns, from drought in California to almost snowless winters in Alaska and record cold winters in the northeast. The anomalously warm water, with temperatures three degrees Centigrade above normal, was nicknamed The Blob by U.S climatologist Nick Bond. It stretched over one million square kilometres of the Gulf of Alaska — more than the surface area of B.C. and Alberta combined — stretching down 100-metres into the ocean. And, over the next two years that patch of water radically affected marine life from herring to whales. Without the welling-up of cold, nutrient-rich water, there was a dearth of krill, zooplankton and copepods that feed herring, salmon and other species.

    “The fish out there are malnourished, the whole ecosystem is malnourished,” said Richard Dewey, associate director for science with Ocean Networks Canada, speaking at Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre in Sidney on Thursday. A change of three degrees is an “extraordinary deviation — something you would expect to happen once in a millennium,” he said. Pink salmon returned last year, after two years in the ocean, weighing about half their usual weight, sea lion pups, seabirds and baleen whales had difficulty finding adequate food, but jellyfish thrived. Now, after more than two years of disruption to marine ecosystems, it looks as if The Blob is dissipating, said Dewey, who has studied the phenomenon since it appeared. Cold winter storms, that have been absent for almost three years allowing the anomaly to develop, swept across the Gulf of Alaska in November and December, finally dispersing the warm surface waters. But, as oceanographers try to predict what will happen next, Dewey believes it is too early to pronounce the death of The Blob…..”Maybe it is going to happen now every 10 years, or maybe every 20 years and that will be a major change,” he said. Among other effects is the reduced absorption of carbon dioxide by a warm ocean, opposed to a cold ocean….

    Cold water absorbs CO2 and warm water puts it back into the atmosphere. The Blob has stopped a considerable amount of CO2 from being absorbed by the ocean and that accelerates global warming,” said Dewey, who estimates that, over two years, the rate of CO2 absorbed by the ocean has been reduced by five per cent because of The Blob….

    The cause of The Blob was not an accumulation of warm water, but a lack of cooling because of a weak Aleutian low — the low pressure system with winds that usually mix the surface water of the north Pacific with the cold, nutrient-rich water from below — Dewey explained. In September 2012, after massive cyclones, there was the lowest sea ice pack ever recorded in the Arctic and, with more ocean exposed, heat was absorbed into the Arctic Ocean.

    “It delayed the freezing of the Arctic. The Arctic vortex was very weak and small, so there was no northern boundary to the jet stream and [that allows] the jet stream to go into huge meanders,” Dewey said. And a wandering jet stream means wacky weather. “The Blob is not driving the weather, the weather is driving The Blob,” Dewey said. The first group to notice that something odd was happening in 2013 were surfers off Jordan River, who experienced poor surfing conditions, he said.

    Next were the skiers and operators of ski resorts, who in 2013/14 were painfully aware that conditions were not normal. In some areas, runs or even entire resorts closed because of lack of snow.

    Then there were the gardeners in areas such as Vancouver Island who were picking garden-ripened tomatoes from June until November 2014 and mowing their lawns from December until February.

    So, with The Blob’s power, at least temporarily, dissipating, the question for many is what happens next and whether the last two years are a symptom of climate change. It could be an indication of what climate change will look like, with large-scale shifts in weather patterns, said Dewey, pointing out that The Blob was not anticipated by climatologists because it did not fit into existing climate models.

    “Climate change may look like a whole new model we haven’t seen before,” Dewey said.

    “It could be we’re getting a glimpse into what the future might hold.”



    What happened to our big El Niño?

    Experts say there’s still time — and hope — for lots of rain

    By Kurtis Alexander SF Chronicle February 10, 2016

    February wasn’t supposed to be like this. Winter held promise of biblical rains, driven by a strong El Niño that would relieve California of its crushing drought. Instead, it has barely rained a drop this month, record heat has descended on the Bay Area, and there’s no sign of a storm anytime soon. “It’s half of February that’s on track to be dry. This is not what you want to see if you’re trying to have a wetter-than-average winter and spring and reinvigorate the hydrology,” said Mike Anderson, state climatologist with California’s Department of Water Resources. “This is much different than what we’ve seen in past El Niño events.” Anderson and other climate experts caution that it’s too soon to call this year’s El Niño a bust. Even California’s wettest winters have had prolonged dry periods, and the nearly two months that remain in the rainy season could still deliver. The current dry spell — with its record high temperatures for Tuesday’s date of 70 degrees at Oakland International Airport, 76 degrees in San Jose and 85 degrees in Santa Cruz — is the result of high pressure off the California coast that is diverting Pacific storms well to the north. This high-pressure pattern has been common during the drought. However, El Niño had its characteristic effect of pushing the storm track southward and ensuring California a healthy dose of rain — at least until this month. The storm track is now pushing storms toward Canada. “It definitely brings us back to what we saw during the past four years, and it’s not what you want to see during one of your three wettest months,” Anderson said. The past seven days have been bone dry in the Bay Area. National Weather Service models don’t show any rain in the forecast for at least another week. For comparison, the longest dry spell in February 1998, during an El Niño winter that wreaked havoc on California, was just three days, according to the National Weather Service. The longest rainless period in February during the monster 1982-83 El Niño was four days. Neither year saw more than 10 days without rain during the month. Daniel Swain, a climate researcher at Stanford University, said the success of the wet season doesn’t hinge on February. “It’s not to say the dry spell is great news from a drought perspective, but the fact that’s it’s dry for a week or two amid a wet winter is neither surprising or concerning,” Swain said. The high-pressure system that’s preventing rain, Swain said, is not likely to stick around. Swain, who has studied the pattern as much as anyone over the past four years and famously coined it the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge, said the atmospheric mass, while widespread, probably won’t out-compete El Niño. “Historically, these strong El Niños have had strong finishes,” he said. “That’s often what ends up happening in the end.”

     February’s balmy weather has turned a wetter-than-average rain year for much of Northern California into a slightly drier-than-normal one. Through Monday, San Francisco had received 13.9 inches of rain since July 1, or 93 percent of average, and Sacramento had seen 9.4 inches, or 77 percent of average.

    Snowpack in the Sierra was at 102 percent of average as of Tuesday, though most of the big reservoirs fed by the snow remain emptier than normal for this time of year.
    National Weather Service forecaster Steve Anderson said there’s hope that a wet system brewing in the northern Pacific will provide some relief by the middle of next week.
    “It’s abnormally dry for February, but the rainy season isn’t over,” he said. “The pattern coming down from the Gulf of Alaska may beat down the ridge of high pressure that’s over us now. That will allow the jet stream to dive farther south and bring the storm track to where it normally is in the winter.”


    Extreme tornado outbreaks have become more common, says study

    Posted: 02 Mar 2016 03:17 PM PST

    Most death and destruction inflicted by tornadoes in North America occurs during outbreaks — large-scale weather events that can last one to three days and span huge regions. Now, a new study shows that the average number of tornadoes in these outbreaks has risen since 1954, and that the chance of extreme outbreaks — tornado factories like the one in 2011 — has also increased.



    Beekeepers using a smoker to calm colonies before transferring them to another crop near Columbia Falls, Me. Plants that depend on pollination make up 35 percent of global crop production volume with a value of as much as $577 billion a year. Credit Adrees Latif/Reuters

    Decline of Species That Pollinate Poses a Threat to Global Food Supply, Report Warns

    By JOHN SCHWARTZ NY Times February 26, 2016

    Many pollinator species are facing extinction, including some 16 percent of vertebrates like birds and bats, according to the document…. The birds and the bees need help. Also, the butterflies, moths, wasps, beetles and bats. Without an international effort, a new report warns, increasing numbers of species that promote the growth of hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of food each year face. The first global assessment of the threats to creatures that pollinate the world’s plants was released by a group affiliated with the United Nations on Friday in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The summary will be posted online Monday. Pollinators, including some 20,000 species of wild bees, contribute to the growth of fruit, vegetables and many nuts, as well as flowering plants. Plants that depend on pollination make up 35 percent of global crop production volume with a value of as much as $577 billion a year. The agricultural system, for which pollinators play a key role, creates millions of jobs worldwide. Many pollinator species are threatened with extinction, including some 16 percent of vertebrates like birds and bats, according to the document. Hummingbirds and some 2,000 avian species that feed on nectar spread pollen as they move from flower to flower. Extinction risk for insects is not as well defined, the report notes, but it warned of “high levels of threat” for some bees and butterflies, with at least 9 percent of bee and butterfly species at risk. The causes of the pressure on these creatures intertwine: aggressive agricultural practices that grow crops on every available acre eliminate patches of wildflowers and cover crops that provide food for pollinators. Farming also exposes the creatures to pesticides, and bees are under attack from parasites and pathogens, as well.

    Climate change has an effect, as well, especially in the case of bumblebees in North America and Europe, said Sir Robert Watson, vice chairman of the group and director of strategic development at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia. A warming world changes the territories of plants and pollinators, and changes the plants’ time of flowering, as well, leading to a troubling question, posed by Dr. Watson: “Will the pollinators be there when the flowers need them?”…


    Impact of climate change on food production could cause over 500000 extra deaths in 2050

    Posted: 02 Mar 2016 05:45 PM PST

    Climate change could kill more than 500,000 adults in 2050 worldwide due to changes in diets and bodyweight from reduced crop productivity, according to new estimates. The research is the strongest evidence yet that climate change could have damaging consequences for food production and health worldwide….


    Climate Change Impact on American Pika using Improved Species Distribution Models

    Species distribution models (SDMs) are used to project the impact of climate change on species’ ecological niches, but often paint an overly simplistic picture that is limited to climate-occupancy interactions. In this new study, Oregon State University scientists used more complex modeling to research the impact of climate change on the American pika. The study incorporated climate, gene flow, habitat configuration, and microhabitat complexity to build separate SDMs for pika populations inhabiting eight U.S. National Park Service units, a distribution that represents pika variety across the U.S. The results displayed highly variable occupancy patterns across the western U.S., suggesting important local-scale differences in the realized niche of the American pika. The study also found that habitat composition and connectivity were among the most influential variables in predicting pika occupancy for all study areas. This is an important result because SDMs rarely include these two variables, stressing the importance of including fine-scale factors when assessing current and future climate impacts on species’ distributions.


    Climate vulnerability of California’s Terrestrial Vegetation

    James H. Thorne, et al. Information Center for the Environment, UC Davis. January 2016

    This new report has been published by the California Department of Fish and Game. See more on the webpage for the State Wildlife Action Plan.



    Science, Tech & Health / Earth, Environment & Sustainability | February 11, 2016 GRAPHIC: The projected melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets throughout future millennia produce an average sea-level rise illustrated on the left. In the center, the impact of global deformation – prompted by the conversion of ice to seawater – adds to rising sea levels. At right, both long-term projections combine to show projected sea level rise around the globe in 10,000 years. (Courtesy of Nature Climate Change)

    The climate ahead

    Thursday, February 18, 2016

    To view the full Nature Climate Change report “Consequences of 21st Century Policy for Multi-Millennial Climate and Sea-Level Change,” visit:

    The damaging climate consequences of carbon emissions will grow and persist for millennia without a dramatic new global energy strategy, according to a new set of research-based climate change scenarios developed by an international team of scientists. Rising global temperatures, ice field and glacial melting and rising sea levels are among the climatic changes that could ultimately lead to the submergence of coastal areas that are home to 1.3 billion people today, according to the report, published online by the journal Nature Climate Change. The findings, the authors write, hold implications for policy makers because the projections reveal the intractability of a climate change across millennia. This long view, they note, should add urgency to efforts to significantly curb carbon emissions within the next few decades, not gradually across the remainder of the 21st century. “This long-term view shows that the next few decades offer a brief window of opportunity to minimize large-scale and potentially catastrophic climate change that will extend longer than the entire history of human civilization thus far,” the team concluded in its report “Consequences of 21st Century Policy for Multi-Millennial Climate and Sea-Level Change.” The new projections are based on leading research into contemporary and historical climate data, but also new scientific reconstructions of the only comparable period in human history: the last Ice Age.

    “What our analysis shows is that this era of global warming will be as big as the end of the Ice Age. And what we are seeing is a massive departure from the environmental stability civilization has enjoyed during the last 10,000 years of its development.”
    BC paleo-climatologist Jeremy Shakun.

    “This is the most comprehensive look at global climate in the past, present and future,” said Boston College paleo-climatologist Jeremy Shakun, a co-author of the report. “What our analysis shows is that this era of global warming will be as big as the end of the Ice Age. And what we are seeing is a massive departure from the environmental stability civilization has enjoyed during the last 10,000 years of its development.” The international team of co-authors, led by Peter Clark of Oregon State University, generated new scenarios for temperature rise, glacial melting, sea-level rise and coastal flooding based on state-of-the-art climate and ice sheet models. Under the most conservative scenario, the researchers used a projected global output of 1,280 billion tons of carbon across the next few centuries, far below estimated reserves of at least 9,500 billion tons. The projected consequences at this level of carbon emissions include:

    • Global average temperature increase will exceed the recognized “guardrail” limit of 2 degrees Celsius.
    • Melting of glaciers and the massive ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica will combine for a rise in sea levels of 25 meters, or about 80 feet.
    • Coastal submersion could displace as many as 1.3 billion people worldwide, a number that now accounts for approximately 19 percent of the world’s population.
    • As many as 25 “megacities” around the world could see rising oceans force at least 50 percent of their populations from their homes and businesses….

    Bird in the hand: Professor Simon Griffith and one of his zebra finches. Photo: Macquarie University

    Climate change will remove birds’ control over hatching eggs: study

    February 3, 2016 Peter Hannam Environment Editor, The Sydney Morning Herald

    It’s an odd quirk of nature that birds – even chickens – typically lay just one egg a day, and many species rely on all the eggs in the clutch hatching on the same day. Parent birds control incubation by modifying the temperature that triggers embryo development, which is one way that species ensure roughly synchronous hatching. However, climate change – particularly the increase in the frequency and intensity of heatwaves – will take some of that control away from birds, causing some eggs to hatch earlier than others, according to new research published in the
    Royal Society Open Science
    journal on Wednesday



    Credit: Aldina Franco, University of East Anglia

    Diverse migration helps birds cope with environmental change

    Posted: 26 Jan 2016 05:57 AM PST

    Migratory birds that are ‘set in their ways’ could be more vulnerable to environmental impacts, according to new research. Many species of migratory birds are in decline as a result of human impacts such as climate change and habitat loss. New research reveals why some species are more vulnerable than others……. species that migrate to a more diverse range of winter locations during their non-breeding season — such as White Storks, Marsh Harriers and Reed Warblers — are less likely to suffer population decline. However species that tend to ‘funnel’ into smaller areas during the winter — such as Turtle Doves and Wood Warblers — have been more vulnerable to declining numbers, caused by human impacts.

    Lead researcher Dr James Gilroy from UEA’s School of Environmental Sciences said: “Birds are well-known for their remarkable long-distance migrations, often involving extreme feats of navigation and endurance. Unfortunately, many migratory birds are in decline, and there is an urgent need to understand what determines their vulnerability to human impacts. We wanted to know whether ‘migratory diversity’ — the variability of migratory behaviour within species — plays a role in determining their population trends.”

    The research team studied the migration patterns of 340 bird species in relation to their status across Europe over the last two decades (1990-2012). Dr Gilroy said: “We found that the species which scatter across wider areas in the non-breeding season have been more resilient, whereas those that converge along narrower routes, and hence occupy smaller wintering areas, have been more likely to decline.

    “This suggests that these species may be particularly vulnerable to impacts like habitat loss and hunting in their non-breeding ranges. Species that spread across wider wintering areas, by contrast, might have a greater chance of reaching safe habitats in at least some parts of their range.” The research team also found that species classed as ‘partial migrants’ — meaning that their populations include both migratory individuals and others that remain in the breeding area all year round — were less likely to decline than fully migratory species, or even those that are fully resident….


    James J. Gilroy, Jennifer A. Gill, Stuart H. M. Butchart, Victoria R. Jones, Aldina M. A. Franco. Migratory diversity predicts population declines in birds. Ecology Letters, 2016; DOI: 10.1111/ele.12569


    How do mushrooms contribute to global warming?

    Posted: 29 Jan 2016 06:07 AM PST

    Global warming is increasing with each day that passes and the poles begin to thaw. New research shows that fungi in Alaska begin to adapt to high temperatures, speeding up their metabolism, growing and reproducing at a faster pace.


    Timely action needed to meet climate targets

    Posted: 21 Jan 2016 06:31 AM PST

    The Paris Agreement of the UN climate change conference is deemed a historic step for climate protection, but its success depends on rapid implementations. The consequences of delaying global carbon dioxide emission reductions for the climate and the world oceans are assessed in a new study by climate physicists…. As long as emissions continue to increase, this future peak warming increases much faster than observed warming, namely 3 to 7.5 times as fast. “Short-term variations in the current warming rate could distract us from the urgency of the problem,” says Patrik Pfister, lead author of the study. Due to the inertia of the Climate System and the long atmospheric lifetime of CO2, “delaying emission reductions by 10 years causes an additional increase in peak warming of 0.3 to 0.7°C,” Pfister continues. In 10 years without global reductions, a 2.5°C target will have become about as ambitious as the 2°C target is today. Little time remains to initiate reductions, if the Paris Agreement is to be met…. Following the atmospheric warming, the ocean also warms globally and expands in the process. This thermal expansion is a major contributor to sea level rise, and increases drastically while emission reductions are delayed. “Until emission reductions start, the long-term thermal expansion increases even 7 to 25 times as fast as the now observed thermal expansion,” Pfister cites from the study. A decade of delay in global emission reductions increases the long-term sea level rise by a total of roughly 0.4 to 1.2 meters, depending on the achievable rate of emission reductions. “For islands and coastal cities, the timing and rate of global emission reductions is therefore of existential importance,” says Pfister. Furthermore, ongoing emissions also cause ocean acidification, with substantial impacts on marine ecosystems. For example, the acidification diminishes the extent of of ocean areas that provide ideal chemical conditions for the growth of tropical coral reefs. A near-complete loss of such areas becomes imminent if emission reductions are delayed by few years to decades, again depending on the achievable reduction rate. “The results of our study underscore the urgency of action,” says Thomas Stocker, co-author of the study and past Co-Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. “With every decade of delaying global emission reductions, we lose roughly 0.5°C of climate target,” Stocker remarks. This means that the most ambitious targets already become unachievable within the next few years.



    Patrik L Pfister, Thomas F Stocker. Earth system commitments due to delayed mitigation. Environmental Research Letters, 2016; 11 (1): 014010 DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/11/1/014010



    CREDIT: AerisWeather

    Why Big Blizzards In Winter Don’t Disprove Global Warming

    by Joe Romm Jan 22, 2016 8:40 am

    Another epic blizzard threatens 50 million people on the East Coast, with a bulls-eye on Washington DC. And leading climatologists again explain how human-induced climate change, especially warming-fueled ocean temperatures, are super-charging the amount of moisture in the atmosphere the storm will dump on us….. Besides upwards of two feet of snow and high winds over a 36-hour period, coastal regions can also expect some record storm surges. I asked two of the country’s top climatologists, Michael Mann and Kevin Trenberth, to comment on the role climate change has on this latest superstorm, which is forecast to break records. Mann, Director of Penn State’s Earth System Science Center, explained: “There is peer-reviewed science that now suggests that climate change will lead to more of these intense, blizzard-producing nor’easters, for precisely the reason we’re seeing this massive storm — unusually warm Atlantic ocean surface temperatures (temperatures are in the 70s off the coast of Virginia).” When you mix extra moisture with “a cold Arctic outbreak (something we’ll continue to get even as global warming proceeds),” as Mann points out, “you get huge amounts of energy and moisture, and monster snowfalls, like we’re about to see here.”

    Mann’s bottom line: While critics like to claim that these massive winter storms are evidence against climate change, they are actually favored by climate change. Trenberth, former head of the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, agrees: “At present sea surface temperatures are more the 3F above normal over huge expanses (1000 miles) off the NE coast and water vapor in the atmosphere is about 10 to 15% higher as a result. Up to half of this can be attributed to climate change.“…



    (Photo: Alex Wong, Getty Images)

    Battered East Coast begins digging out from deadly blizzard

    Doyle Rice and John Bacon, USA TODAY 11:02 p.m. EST January 24, 2016

    The sun came out, travel bans slowly lifted, and the great dig-out of 2016 was in full force Sunday across much of the East after a brutal, record-setting snowstorm paralyzed much of the region…..

    The snowstorm was the biggest ever recorded for three cities — Baltimore (29.2 inches), Allentown, Pa. (31.9) and Harrisburg, Pa. (34), the National Weather Service said. New York City picked up 26.8 inches of snow, missing its all-time record by one-tenth of an inch.


    Sea surface temperature anomalies off the East Coast on Jan. 22, 2016.

    The blizzard of 2016 was influenced by manmade global warming

    By Andrew Freedman January 27, 2016

    The blizzard of 2016 was an exceptional storm that broke all-time snowfall records in multiple locations. Yet for many people it hit, this storm was not a complete shock; a string of severe winter storms have slammed the East Coast in recent years. This could be random chance, since the atmosphere does tend to unleash more major winter storms during some decades compared to others. Or it could be due to another factor: Manmade global warming could be tilting the scale in favor of exceptional snowfall outcomes. Many scientists are beginning to suspect that this is the case.

    In New York’s Central Park, for example, the 26.8 inches of snow was just one-tenth of an inch shy of tying the all-time record for the biggest snowstorm at that location, and greater than the city typically receives in an entire winter. But it was also the sixth top-10 snowstorm to hit the city since the year 2000. And the record of 26.9 inches was set recently — in 2006…..

    El Niño

    In addition to global warming, there is the large role that El Niño plays in these storms, too.

    Severe snowstorms are about twice as likely to occur in the Northeast and Southeast during El Niño winters compared to years when there is no El Niño or La Niña present in the Pacific Ocean, Lawrimore said.
    “It is to be determined the role that factors such as ocean surface temperatures, the influence of El Niño, conditions in the Arctic, and other factors have had on the severity of this week’s snowstorm,” he said. Right now, a record-strong El Niño is in the process of peaking in the tropical Pacific, altering weather patterns worldwide. This made the blizzard of 2016 more likely to occur, even if global warming influenced its severity.

    Gulf Stream slowdown?

    A more novel idea of what’s behind the increase in blockbuster East Coast snowstorms is the slowing down of the Gulf Stream current, which is formally known as the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC). Studies show that the Gulf Stream may be slowing down due in part to glacier melt runoff from Greenland. This freshwater is less dense than the salty waters of the North Atlantic, and it tends to sit on the surface of the sea, rather than sinking to deeper depths as denser, saltier waters do in this area. The AMOC involves the northward movement of warm, salty water in the upper layers of the Atlantic, as well as the southward return flow of cold, dense water in the deep Atlantic. It is sometimes known as the “Global Conveyor Belt.” …According to Stefan Rahmstorf, scientist with Germany’s Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research who has studied the Gulf Stream slowdown, the weakening of this current has favored the development of unusually mild waters off the East Coast. Meanwhile, it has also created a cold pool of water south of Greenland. This cold pool sticks out on climate maps, since it’s the only area that was significantly cooler than average during the record warm year in 2015. Writing for the climate science blog RealClimate, Rahmstorf said the slowdown of the Gulf Stream could set the East Coast up for more years with extreme winter storms, since it favors the continuation of warmer than average waters just off the coast.



    Eating less meat might not be the way to go green, say researchers

    January 19 2016

    Reduced meat consumption might not lower greenhouse gas emissions from one of the world’s biggest beef producing regions, new research has found. The finding may seem incongruous, as intensive agriculture is responsible for such a large proportion of global greenhouse gas emissions. According to research by University of Edinburgh, Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) and Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa), reducing beef production in the Brazilian Cerrado could actually increase global greenhouse gas emissions. The findings were published in the journal Nature Climate Change. Lead author Rafael Silva, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of Mathematics, explains: “Much of Brazil’s grassland is in poor condition, leading to low beef productivity and high greenhouse gas emissions from cattle. However, increasing demand for meat provides an incentive for farmers to recover degraded pastures. This would boost the amount of carbon stored in the soil and increase cattle productivity. It would require less land for grazing and reduce deforestation, potentially lowering emissions.” While grasslands are not as effective as forests at storing carbon, Brazilian grass — mostly Brachiaria genus — has a greater capacity to do so than grass found in Europe, due to its long roots. High quality grasslands will cause more carbon to be stored in the soil, which will lead to a decrease in CO2 emissions. Grassland improvement involves chemical and mechanical treatment of the soil, and use of better adapted seeds along with calcium, limestone and nitrogen fertilisers. Most Brazilian grassland soils are acidic, requiring little nitrogen. In the case of the Brazilian Cerrado, reduced meat consumption could remove the incentive for grassland improvement and therefore lead to higher emissions. The researchers worked out that if demand for beef is 30% higher by 2030 compared with current estimates, net emissions would decrease by 10%. Reducing demand by 30% would lead to 9% higher emissions, provided the deforestation rates are not altered by a higher demand. However, if deforestation rates increase along with demand, emissions could increase by as much as 60%….


    R. de Oliveira Silva, L. G. Barioni, J. A. J. Hall, M. Folegatti Matsuura, T. Zanett Albertini, F. A. Fernandes, D. Moran. Increasing beef production could lower greenhouse gas emissions in Brazil if decoupled from deforestation. Nature Climate Change, 2016; DOI: 10.1038/nclimate2916


    When a snowshoe hare stands out against its background, it’s more vulnerable to predators. A new study details just how disastrous this mismatch can be. L. Scott Mills research photo 

    Climate change may be deadly for snowshoe hares

    by Sarah Zielinski

    2:00pm, January 26, 2016

    One of the predicted consequences of climate change is that in areas that regularly get snow, that precipitation will arrive later in the winter and melt earlier in the spring. While that may be great for people who hate to shovel, it’s a problem for animals that change their camouflage to match the seasons, such as the snowshoe hare of North America. Because these animals don’t have control over when they change from dun brown to snowy white, if snow comes later or melts earlier, they may be ill-dressed for the weather. Scientists had suspected that this mismatch could have disastrous repercussions for the animals — and possibly entire species — but they had little data to back that up.
    Now a new study has quantified the consequences for the snowshoe hare and discovered just how deadly standing out can be. nMarketa Zimova of North Carolina State University in Raleigh and colleagues tracked the fates of 186 radio-collared snowshoe hares at two sites in Montana over three years. They used that data to calculate the cost of a mismatch between coat color and the background landscape. Their study appears January 21 in Ecology Letters.

    Snowshoe hares are all brown in the summer and all white in the winter. The transition between the two colors, though, doesn’t happen overnight: The animals go through some period of being a mix of brown and white and don’t completely match the landscape. Also, the timing of the molt isn’t consistent from hare to hare, so some may stand out more than others. This transition period can be deadly because predators, such as lynx and coyote, can much more easily spot their prey.

    In the new study, a snowshoe hare that matched its background had about a 96 percent probability of surviving from week to week, the researchers calculated. That probability dropped to 92 percent when hares had a roughly 60 percent mismatch between coat color and background, and to 89 percent when hare color and landscape were completely mismatched.

    Those findings mean that a snowshoe hare that completely mismatched its background had a 7 percent lower probability of weekly survival than did one that completely blended in, Zimova and colleagues say. For now, that’s not such a big deal. On average, each hare experienced less than a week of mismatch. But mismatches could have big consequences later in the century, as snows arrive later and later and spring melts come earlier and earlier. By 2100, the team predicts, the snowshoe hares could experience as many as eight weeks of mismatch, which could lead to a steep population decline.
    But there are two ways that the animals might survive the coming change, the researchers note. Individual hares might have enough wiggle room in when they molt that they can adapt to the changes in snow cover — there’s some evidence that this might occur in the spring, though not in fall. Or there might be enough genetic variability among snowshoe hares that the population could evolve the timing of molting. That would let the hares keep up with the changing climate. But scientists can’t predict whether either of these routes will be able to save the snowshoe hares.



    Rice farms like the one shown above in California as well as in Arkansas and Mississippi are getting involved in carbon offset projects, which could become a trend for U.S. farmers. Photo courtesy of California Water Service.

    Rice growers on the front lines of U.S. carbon markets

    Niina Heikkinen, E&E reporter ClimateWire: Wednesday, January 20, 2016

    Dan Hooks isn’t one to take chances with his rice crop, but that hasn’t stopped him from being a pioneer of sorts.
    The Arkansas native is one of a small group of rice farmers in the United States who are changing the way they grow their crops to cut back on methane emissions from their fields. In exchange, they will be eligible for the first-ever carbon credits for crops through California’s cap-and-trade program.
    “We’re looking for whatever dollar improvement we can make,” Hooks said. “We farmers tend to be hard to convince to change things unless there is a reward.”
    So far, the American Carbon Registry has listed three rice cultivation offset projects involving 21 rice growers in California, Arkansas and Mississippi. Their collective 22,000 acres of farmland make up just shy of 1 percent of the total 2.5 million acres devoted to rice in the United States.
    That is a small fraction of growers. But supporters of the carbon credits like Robert Parkhurst, director of agriculture greenhouse gas markets for the nonprofit group Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), say rice is just the beginning. In the coming years, a rising number of U.S. growers will likely become eligible for adopting practices that both cut emissions and help farmers use resources like water and fertilizer more efficiently, he said.
    “We figured out how to execute on renewable energy; agriculture is the next frontier. That’s what makes it so cool and exciting,” Parkhurst said. “I think we are seeing a real convergence of opportunities for the agricultural sector to take their sustainability up another level.”

    ‘Like taking a few steps into a pool’

    Starting last November, the California Air Resources Board (ARB) began accepting projects under the new rice protocol. Credits will likely become available for purchase in the next few months, Parkhurst said.

    Rice farmers who are able to document methane emissions reductions from their paddies will be eligible to receive carbon credits. They can make those reductions by implementing one of three management approaches: planting seeds into dry soil, a process known as dry seeding; draining water from fields early; or using an alternate wetting and drying planting method. Farmers must also have at least two years of baseline data on soil types, crops and fallow time to show the practice has been in place.

    ….”It’s like taking a few steps into a pool. We’re not asking them to take a cannonball off the deep end. At some point they will go all the way in,” he said.

    Rice only a slice of methane emissions

    But EPA data show that even universal rice farmer participation wouldn’t make much of dent in overall methane emissions.
    Altogether, the methane from U.S. rice farms accounted for 8.3 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent in 2013. That is a small fraction of the 630 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent produced by the country as a whole, according to U.S. EPA’s “Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2013.”

    The broader benefit of rice farmer credits will be that they will pave the way for two new protocols under development: one that focuses on nitrogen fertilizer and a second on reducing grassland conversion to farmland.

    ….He and his colleagues are focusing on creating a protocol that would reduce nitrogen fertilizer use on just two crops — corn and almonds. According to EPA, the application of nitrogen fertilizers on agricultural soils is responsible for 74 percent of the country’s nitrous oxide emissions.
    “We are designing the protocol to be modular so then when the research on nitrous oxide emissions is completed, it can be added into the protocol without completely having to rewrite it,” Parkhurst said. “It took more than two years for the ARB to adopt the rice protocol, and if it takes that long for every crop, it would be a long time before we have the entire agriculture sector covered.”

    Is the science there?

    ….Parkhurst said EDF focused on gaining offsets for rice before other agricultural crops because the farmers were among the most progressive in their thinking on environmental issues. Scientists also have a good sense of how different farming practices affect methane emissions, which helped in the development of standards for evaluating emissions reductions.

    But for Bruce Linquist, an assistant cooperative extension specialist at the University of California, Davis, the move to gain credits for methane reductions from rice is a bit ahead of the science.
    To date, much soil methane research has been on small plots of half an acre to an acre where scientists have been able to measure how a certain level of soil moisture correlates to emissions. The picture gets much more complicated as the field size increases because different parts of the same field could release different amounts of methane, he said.
    Fields are also very different from each other, some are flat and some are sloped so water can saturate one part, and the [other] part is dry. How do you measure and quantify that? It’s a big challenge,” Linquist said.
    Because researchers don’t yet have a reliable way to quantify methane emissions at a field level, Linquist said he has been critical of the efforts to generate carbon credits for methane, at least right now.

    “To be honest, I don’t know how they will be able to accurately predict it,” he said. “I would suggest it’s gone a bit fast.”

    ‘We saw the savings’

    Some of the seeding approaches also are raising questions.
    Draining fields early, for example, might not have much of an impact on methane emissions. The approach is designed to reduce the amount of time that the rice field is in an oxygenless or anaerobic state so that methane-producing microbes will produce less of the gas. While that may help somewhat, overall emissions at the end of the growing cycle tend to be low at that point, Linquist said.
    Even if other approaches like dry seeding or alternate wetting and drying do reduce methane, they can also cause additional risks for farmers
    . Rice plants are very sensitive to dry conditions that can make the plants more susceptible to weeds, disease and destroyed crops. Advocates, though, point out that the rice protocols are based on nearly a century of data from fields in multiple states using modeling that has been tested around the world.

    For Hooks, the experience so far has gone smoothly. He is currently growing two fields, one 26 acres and the other 28 acres, using the alternate wetting and drying method.
    “We actually had good success with it,” he said. “We saw the savings from the water, it made sense to keep going.
    Hooks noted that when he first heard about carbon credits, they were worth half of what they are today.

    “Looking forward four to five years, that value could change and get a little more enticing later on,” he said.






    California snowpack shrinks to below-average levels

    Los Angeles Times | March 1, 2016 | 1:57 PM

    After a promising start to winter, California’s snowpack has shrunk to below-average levels, causing state water officials today to redouble their calls for water conservation. The statewide snowpack stood at only 83% of average for March 1, officials said….



    Animation of an atmospheric river storm that occurred on Jan. 28 through 30, bringing half an inch to an inch of rain to many locations in central and southern California. Credit: University of Wisconsin/CIMSS.

    Study: Atmospheric river storms can reduce Sierra snow

    NASA March 2, 2016

    A new study by NASA and several partners has found that in California’s Sierra Nevada, atmospheric river storms are two-and-a-half times more likely than other types of winter storms to result in destructive “rain-on-snow” events, where rain falls on existing snowpack. Those events increase flood risks in winter and reduce water availability the following summer. The study, based on NASA satellite and ground-based data from 1998 through 2014, is the first to establish a climatological connection between atmospheric river storms and rain-on-snow events. Partnering with NASA on the study were UCLA; Scripps Institution of Oceanography, San Diego; and the Earth System Research Laboratory, Boulder, Colorado. Atmospheric rivers are narrow jets of very humid air that normally originate thousands of miles off the West Coast, in the warm subtropical Pacific Ocean. When the warm, moist air hits the Sierra Nevada and other high mountains, it drops much of its moisture as precipitation. Only 17 percent of West Coast storms are caused by atmospheric rivers, but those storms provide 30 to 50 percent of California’s precipitation and 40 percent of Sierra snowpack, on average. They have also been blamed for more than 80 percent of the state’s major floods….


    Drought in Eastern Mediterranean worst of past 900 years

    Posted: 01 Mar 2016 02:41 PM PST

    A new study finds that the recent drought that began in 1998 in the eastern Mediterranean Levant region, which comprises Cyprus, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, and Turkey, is likely the worst drought of the past nine centuries….


    What California can learn from Australia’s 15-year millennium drought 

    by Stuart White, Andrea Turner & Joanne Chong, The Conversation AU, Feb 26, 2016

    California has experienced, over the past few years, its most severe drought on record. In response to worsening conditions, Governor Jerry Brown announced the first ever statewide mandatory reduction in urban water use in April 2015. This calls on Californians to reduce their use of potable (safe for drinking and food preparation) urban water by 25% from pre-drought levels. Californians are meeting the mandate. California is entering its fifth consecutive year of drought, with many areas experiencing “exceptional” drought levels. While rain and snowfall have improved recently, water storages remain low and the long-term drought signal has not changed. US agencies have turned to Australia to learn how urban water utilities and water agencies might best respond to drought. In particular, there is keen interest in the experience of Australian cities during the worst drought on record: the “millennium” drought that lasted 15 years from 1997 until it officially ended in 2012.

    In a report prepared for Californian water agencies, we have reflected on some of the key lessons from the millennium drought experience to assess opportunities for California.

    Water efficiency, the quiet achiever…

    The millennium drought affected mostly southeastern Australia, producing major declines in winter rainfall. …. In Australia, urban water efficiency was the quiet achiever. These measures included changing washing machines, toilets, cooling towers, shower heads, taps and industrial processes to do more with less. In many locations in Australia, water efficiency provided the cheapest, quickest and most effective contribution to managing demand during the drought. Without it, many cities and towns would have run out of water. California could benefit from long-term structural changes in water use by implementing similar efficiency measures.

    World-leading innovation

    Australia survived the drought by demonstrating world-leading innovation and water planning and management. …However, more can be done in California, as shown by our research. Australia made much larger, comprehensive investments in water conservation and efficiency involving households, businesses and local governments. These investments helped cities cope with the millennium drought and also reduce vulnerability to future droughts. Another strategy for California is to ensure any infrastructure options – dams, desalination plants or recycling capacity – are flexible.

    This means applying a strategy of “readiness to construct”, which involves identifying the best options and putting in place the arrangements to start at short notice, but stopping short of contractually committing to construct until needed. This has the potential to save a lot of money and prevent “stranded assets”. The New South Wales government adopted this strategy for its proposed Sydney desalination plant on Botany Bay. However, that was overturned and the contract signed when dam levels were above 50% and rising. The result was a A$1.9 billion (US$1.4 billion) stranded asset and a plant that is still in mothballs.

    Missed opportunities

    During Australia’s millennium drought, there were many innovations but also missed opportunities. Examples include recycling waste water from commercial buildings, factories and sports fields, and recovering water from the sewage system for recycling….Although attention to innovative and cost-effective water solutions and water efficiency quickly subsided after the drought, the technical and practical knowledge from the Australian water industry’s response to drought provides many key lessons for California’s response.

    This research was conducted in collaboration with the US Alliance for Water Efficiency and the Pacific Institute and several Australian urban water utilities and agencies.



    Photo: Justin Sullivan, Getty Images A firefighter monitors a backfire as he battles the King Fire on Sept. 17, 2014, in Fresh Pond (El Dorado County), east of Sacramento.

    Drought’s harm ravaging forests, researchers find

    By Peter Fimrite February 1, 2016 Updated: February 2, 2016 5:45pm

    Worsening drought conditions may be doing more damage to forests in California and throughout the West than their ecosystems can handle, causing a spiral of death that could have a devastating impact, a U.S. Forest Service study concluded Monday. The 300-page report, “Effects of Drought on Forests and Rangelands in the United States,” outlines how hotter, drier and more extreme weather will spark massive insect outbreaks, tree and plant die-offs, bigger and more costly wildfires, and economic impacts to timber and rangeland habitat. “There are growing concerns that extreme precipitation events, droughts and warmer temperatures will accelerate tree and shrub death,” said report co-author Toral Patel-Weynand, the Forest Service’s director of sustainable forest research. “In addition to that, we obviously have impacts on timber, seed production, water and recreational activities.” The study — by 77 scientists from the Forest Service, universities, non-governmental organizations and national labs — seeks to bring together years of peer-reviewed research and provide the best science to forest and rangeland managers as they grapple with the effects of climate change on the 193 million acres of national forest. There are 21 million acres in California’s 18 national forests. “Our forests and rangelands are national treasures, and because they are threatened, we are threatened,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. “Every region of the country is impacted by the direct and indirect effects of drought conditions and volatile weather patterns.” ….


    A photograph of a farmer showing his affected plot due to drought in Karnataka, India, 2012. Credit: Pushkarv/Wikipedia

    Severe drought no longer caused just by nature

    February 2, 2016

    Scientists at the University of Birmingham are calling on drought researchers and managers around the world to consider both human activity and natural phenomena in their battle to preserve increasingly scarce global water supplies. The experts say that severe droughts experienced recently in countries such as China, Brazil and the United States can no longer be seen as purely natural hazards. Changes to the way people use the water and the landscape contribute to extreme water shortages. The University’s Water Science Research Group is leading key researchers from 13 organisations in eight countries to redefine how the world should study and tackle drought. The researchers propose broadening the definition of drought to include water shortage caused and made worse – or sometimes improved – by human activity. Drought research should no longer view water availability as a solely natural, climate-imposed phenomenon and water use as simply a socio-economic issue. It should, instead, more carefully consider the complex interactions between nature and society.

    The current California drought has severely affected the state’s environment and economy. Storing water in reservoirs and extracting groundwater increase evaporation and decrease groundwater levels, making the drought worse. It demonstrates how strongly water and society are intertwined during drought periods….

    Anne F. Van Loon et al. Drought in the Anthropocene, Nature Geoscience (2016). DOI: 10.1038/ngeo2646



    While nearly all of California is expected to be above average in terms of season-to-date precipitation after this weekend’s Southern California storm, only the northern 2/3 of the state is above average for the full season to date. (NOAA via WRCC)

    El Niño remains among strongest ever recorded, but California impacts (so far) a bit different than anticipated

    Reminder: when it comes to El Niño, strength matters.

    Daniel Swain on February 1, 2016 • 524 Comments

    The prospect of an El Niño event in the Pacific Ocean always generates quite a bit of interest in California. This attention largely stems from the fact that two of California’s wettest years on record—1982-1983 and 1997-1998—occurred during the strongest El Niño years in living memory. The popular perception that El Niño always brings a lot of water to the Golden State, though, is not particularly accurate.  The reality is a bit more nuanced: particularly strong El Niño events exert a powerful influence upon the atmosphere over the northeastern Pacific Ocean, and really do have a tendency to enhance the storm track in a way that favors greatly enhanced precipitation across the entire state of California. But more middling weak to moderate events don’t have nearly as pronounced an effect, and in many cases don’t meaningfully affect the odds of seeing wetter or drier than average conditions in California. The main reason for this nonlinear effect is that other periodic oceanic and atmosphere oscillations (other than El Niño) still play a major role in California’s winter weather, and unless El Niño is powerful enough to consistently outweigh all of them, the net effect can swing either way. The key message here: strong El Niño events are the ones to watch out for from a California weather perspective, and it’s reasonable to expect that such events greatly increase the odds of wet conditions throughout the state.

    How is the present El Niño different from other big ones in the past 40 years?

    …well, depending on the exact metric, the present El Niño is either the strongest or among the strongest events in the observed record going back to at least 1950. Ocean temperatures in the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean—the most traditional measure of El Niño’s amplitude—have been at or above their record highest values for at least several months now. So despite assertions to the contrary, the 2015-2016 El Niño is not “a bust” by any means. But absolute sea surface temperatures don’t always tell the whole story. While the present El Niño is indeed among the strongest ever recorded, the atmospheric response to the warm ocean temperatures this year has been a bit different than we have observed during other big historical events. Over the northeastern Pacific, El Niño acts to deepen the semi-permanent Gulf of Alaska low while simultaneously strengthening (and, literally, straightening) the jet stream over the eastern Pacific Ocean. This enhanced and “more zonal” (i.e. more west-to-east) jet stream is what tends to bring increased winter precipitation to California (and, sometimes, even the Pacific Northwest) during strong El Niño years. These atmospheric effects occur due to a fairly complex chain of events that link the tropics to the mid-latitude atmosphere. Warmer than usual ocean temperatures in the eastern tropical Pacific increase thunderstorm activity there, which pumps vast quantities of heat into the upper atmosphere. This tropically warm air at upper levels eventually flows northward and descends back toward the surface of the Earth in the subtropics (at a latitude roughly equivalent to that of Hawaii). This enhanced “Hadley circulation” during El Niño years increases the temperature differential between the warm tropics and cool Gulf of Alaska, which is what causes the jet stream to strengthen over the East Pacific.

    …..this year, the Hadley cell has actually strengthened a bit more than expected.
    The descending air on its northern side has occurred closer to California, which means that the enhanced temperature differential is occurring farther to the north than during previous big El Niño events. Subtropical ridging between Hawaii and California has been more pronounced, and the El Niño-strengthened jet stream has set up shop primarily across Northern California and even the Pacific Northwest, rather than Southern California.
    From a global climate perspective, this is a relatively minor detail; if you happen to live in Los Angeles, though, it makes all the difference in the world. The net effect so far in 2015-2016: Northern California and the Pacific Northwest have gotten soaked, while Southern California has been left pretty dry (with a few notable exceptions). …

    Some thoughts regarding the bigger picture

    Finally, there has been considerable discussion lately regarding why the atmospheric response to El Niño this year has been different than historically observed (and also than foreseen by some of the flagship seasonal forecast models). It’s impossible to ignore the fact that global temperatures in late 2015 and early 2016 have reached their highest levels in recorded human history. Part of this very recent warming is likely due to our record El Niño event, but the rest is pretty clearly attributable to the long-term warming trend associated the with human emission of greenhouse gases. While global mean temperature doesn’t directly affect El Niño teleconnections, per se, the Earth hasn’t been warming in a spatially uniform way. This year in particular, the subtropics and the polar regions have been especially warm relative to other parts of the world. It is possible that this spatial pattern of warming may be playing a role in the particular atmospheric configuration that has resulted from the 2015-2016 El Niño event….



    The Role of Snowpack, Rainfall, and Reservoirs in Buffering California Against Drought Impacts

    USGS, CA Water Science Center
    California’s vast reservoir system, fed by annual snow- and rainfall, plays an important part in providing water to the State’s human and wildlife population. There are almost 1,300 reservoirs throughout the State, but only approximately 200 of them are considered storage reservoirs, and many of the larger ones are critical components of the Central Valley and State Water Project facilities. Storage reservoirs capture winter precipitation for use in California’s dry summer months. In addition to engineered reservoir storage, California also depends on water “stored” in the statewide snowpack to significantly augment the State’s water supply as it melts slowly over the course of the summer.

    The Role of Storage Reservoirs

    Of the State’s almost 200 storage reservoirs, about a dozen major reservoirs hold about half of the water stored in California’s reservoirs (Dettinger and Anderson, 2015). Each of these major reservoirs is multipurpose, and operated to meet environmental mandates, including providing flows and cold water storage for anadromous fish….

    Snow & Reservoirs

    Snowpack plays an important role in keeping California’s reservoirs full. Winter and spring snowpack typically melt gradually throughout the year, flowing into and refilling reservoirs. Snowpack accounts for the bulk of California’s water source and storage, as early spring snowpack “contains about 70% as much water, on average, as the long-term average combination of the major and ‘other’ reservoirs” (Dettinger and Anderson, 2015).….In April 2015, the California Department of Water Resources measured the snow water content as essentially zero. Because the April snow water content helps recharge surface reservoir storage during the spring and summer months, a snow water deficit results in storage reservoirs—depleted throughout the year—to go without crucial refilling. Dettinger and Anderson determined that reservoir replenishment in winter 2015 was only about 9% of normal. Thus in 2015, California’s major reservoirs—which are important tools to manage water supply through drought conditions—did not receive the snowpack runoff necessary to refill them after three years of drought. The authors state, “The current challenge to statewide water managers is less the lack of water in the reservoirs and much more the lack of water in snowpack that normally would be expected to melt soon and replenish our reservoirs.” Unfortunately, due to the expected consequences of climate change, the lack of snow storage experienced in the current drought could become more the norm than the exception in years to come.

    Rain, Soils, & Reservoirs

    Rainfall is another essential water source. It replenishes water in soils, groundwater, streams, lakes, and reservoirs alike. During droughts, dry soils absorb and store a substantial amount of water in the watersheds above reservoirs, preventing rainfall from flowing into and refilling reservoirs.

    USGS scientists Alan Flint and Lorraine Flint recently analyzed the current drought conditions for two of California watersheds—the Feather and Tuolumne. The Feather and Tuolumne watersheds flow into the Oroville and Don Pedro Reservoirs, respectively. They examined the dry soil in the watersheds, seeking to estimate the rainfall needed to recover them from the drought. Although intense rain could cause enough runoff to be generated without the soil moisture deficit being corrected, Flint and Flint determined that significant rainfall would first be needed to fill the current soil moisture deficit. … …One concept scientists use to understand soil water deficit is the climatic water deficit (CWD). This indicator is calculated as potential evapotransipiration (the amount of water used by plants), minus actual evapotranspiration, and reflects the loss of water in the soil, as well as the soil-water deficit accumulated throughout the year as a result of landscape vegetation demands. Water-year 2015 accumulated between 125% and 400% greater CWD than baseline over about 90% of the state….

    Climatic water deficit (CWD) accumulated through water-year 2015 as a percent of the baseline CWD (average year for 1951-1980). Source: Updated from Flint and others, 2013.


    Low water levels are visible behind the Folsom Dam at Folsom Lake on August 19, 2014 in El Folsom, California. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

    Reservoirs In Drought-Stricken California Dump Billions Of Gallons Of Water In Case Of Storms

    March 2, 2016 2:47 PM SACRAMENTO (CBS SF) — Some of drought-stricken California’s biggest reservoirs are regularly releasing billions of gallons of water – much of it going into San Francisco Bay – and keeping only partial capacity under water rules developed in the 19th century, according to a report.
    KQED reported that a handful of reservoirs, including Folsom Lake, are releasing water to maintain empty space to guard against flooding during winter storms.

    Folsom Lake reached 60 percent of its capacity only last month after dropping to 17 percent capacity in October of last year. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency rules mandate that Folsom Lake can only by 60 percent full during winter, as average storm could send a huge amount of water into the reservoir, according to the report. The empty space works as a buffer to guard against flooding, which would affect hundreds of thousands of people in the Sacramento area, while putting the dam itself at risk of failure. Flood control rules for western states were created in the 19th century, research meteorologist Dr. Marty Ralph told KQED. “And yet here we live in the 21st century with its special and new needs: greater population and a changing climate,” Ralph said….



    Study documents drought’s impact on redwood forest ferns

    Posted: 01 Feb 2016 09:28 AM PST

    The native ferns that form a lush green understory in coastal redwood forests are well adapted to dry summers and periodic droughts, but California’s current prolonged drought has taken a toll on them. A comprehensive study of water relations in native ferns, conducted during one of the worst droughts in California’s recent history, shows that extreme conditions have tested the limits of drought tolerance in these plants.

    Nick Blom looks over almond trees in Modesto. He’s a volunteer in an experiment run by UC Davis that could offer a partial solution to California’s perennial water shortages. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

    Researchers test a possible drought solution by flooding an almond farm

    Geoffrey Mohan
    LA Times January 20, 2016

    The El Niño rainstorm had already turned Nick Blom’s almond orchard into a quagmire. Still, he wheeled open the lid of a massive irrigation pipe. Fifteen minutes later, a gurgling belch heralded a gush of water that surged over the lip of the pipe and spread across five acres of almond trees. Blom is neither crazy nor self-destructive. He’s a volunteer in an experiment run by UC Davis that could offer a partial solution to California’s perennial water shortages, and in the process, challenge some long-standing tenets of flood control and farming in the Central Valley. The first notion that could be washed away is that the abundant rains spawned by the El Niño currents in the Pacific Ocean should be banked behind new or enlarged reservoirs. Instead, researchers believe they should pour that water onto fields and let it replenish groundwater overdrafted by farmers and cities during the state’s five-year drought.
    That hypothesis, however, runs counter to how many growers care for their trees in winter, how irrigation districts operate, how water rights are managed, and how state and federal authorities have controlled floods for a century. Each will have to expand their notion of how to use water for the greater good so they can smooth out the state’s wild swings between drought and abundance, researchers say.
    So they started small Tuesday — three, five-acre plots southwest of Modesto, on the 1,300 acres Blom farms with his father, Nick Sr. and brother, Pete.
    “We can build more reservoirs and we can raise the dams of reservoirs, but that’s a very costly undertaking,” said UC Davis hydrologist Helen Dahlke. “Basically we’re trying to make use of the system that has been in place 40 or 50 years, when most farmers irrigated their fields using surface water, by just letting water run onto fields, and down a furrow.”
    Gravity did most of the work Tuesday, as storm runoff flowed down irrigation canals and forced its way up and over the lip of Blom’s pipe. What Blom didn’t use will flow downstream to other farms and eventually back to the Tuolumne River, which joins the San Joaquin River nearby
    Hydrologists, plant scientists and others will monitor the fields to see how the water flows through the coarse soil below Blom’s feet, and what effect it will have on the trees and their roots. Water could spur more fungal diseases, for instance. But it also could drown out worms and mites that can damage crops, said Roger Duncan, agricultural extension director for Stanislaus County.
    Researchers also will check to see if the flood water washes contaminants, such as the nitrogen from fertilizers and naturally occurring salts, into the groundwater. They’ll also compare yields on three fields treated different ways: leaving the trees’ fate to the weather, adding the normally small amount of winter irrigation, and pouring out several extra feet of water. Blom said he seldom irrigates over the winter, and gets about 2,200 pounds of almonds per acre….


    South Africa’s Drought Leads to Job Cuts, Surging Food Prices

    Bloomberg News Feb 25, 2016

    South Africa’s worst drought in more than a century is taking its toll on the economy as farms cut jobs and the cost of producing food surged.








    Tom Lovejoy seen at a forest fragment of Amazon rainforest on Dec. 31, 2015. (Photo by Harvey Locke)

    The solution to climate change that has nothing to do with cars or coal

    Washington Post

    February 11 2016


    …. Of all the components of the recent Paris accord on climate change, the one that probably got the least attention but could have the most immediate potential involves the world’s forests. ….
    In a section some hailed as historic, the document endorsed a United Nations mechanism for wealthier nations to pay developing countries like Brazil for reducing deforestation. Trees are good at keeping carbon out of the air, and simply preserving the planet’s vast forests is a straightforward way to get a huge head start on the business of slowing climate change. But that effort grows tougher every day. After years of progress, deforestation rates have increased recently in Brazil, and deforestation continues apace across much of the global tropics. The economic forces of agriculture and trade remain too strong to resist. Calls for saving rainforests have a long history, but including forests as a core part of the global climate solution is “very very recent,” said Naoko Ishii, CEO of the Global Environment Facility, an international body that invests in restoring tropical forests. “Without taking care of the forests, it’s going to be just impossible to achieve the Paris agreement.”…. In fact, recent estimates suggest as much as a third of climate emissions could be offset by stopping deforestation and restoring forest land — and that this solution could be achieved much faster than cuts to fossil fuels.

    Forests are a crucial “carbon sink,” living engines for absorbing and storing carbon. Tropical forests store the most carbon of all, and no tropical forest on Earth is bigger than the Amazon. It accounts for about half of all the carbon these forests store. But the Brazilian Amazon has lost nearly a fifth of its forest cover already — and the forest left behind also suffers because it is more fragmented and less continuous….Net greenhouse gas emissions due to tropical deforestation and forest degradation are about 8 to 15 percent of the global total, which doesn’t sound like that much. But a recent study in Nature Climate Change found that stopping deforestation could nonetheless be a huge piece of the climate solution. That’s because if tropical deforestation stopped, not only would those emissions go away, but on top of that, forests would start stowing away a significant part of the carbon from our fossil fuel emissions. “One could reduce total CO2 emissions by about 30 percent, just working in the land sector,” said Phil Duffy, president of the Woods Hole Research Center. “And that’s a lot.”.. Moreover, stopping deforestation could buy precious time to ratchet down fossil fuel emissions. “It’s very hard to suddenly convert everyone to electric cars, and power generation is gradually changing, but it’s going to take decades,” said Paul Salaman, CEO of the Rainforest Trust. “But tropical deforestation can literally be stopped point blank with commitment of countries.”… The forests section of the recent Paris climate agreement wasn’t one of the most noted or debated sections. And it wasn’t as strong as some would have liked. But the mere fact that it was there was a landmark, Lovejoy said.

    “Happily, forests are now part of the way the whole climate agenda is put together,” he said, even though “it may have been only a couple of paragraphs in Paris.” The key change in tone may simply reflect the huge ambition of the Paris agreement – and its citation of the seemingly unattainable 1.5 degree temperature target in particular. With goals like these, it’s becoming clear that the solution to climate change isn’t any one thing. It’s an all-hands-on-deck moment….




    Windmills stand in a snow covered field near Wellsburg, Iowa, U.S., on Sunday, Jan. 31, 2016. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

    Why the U.S. is cutting carbon emissions no matter what happens with the Supreme Court

    By Chris Mooney February 17 2016 Wash Post

    Last week, the Supreme Court threw U.S. and international climate policy into turmoil by freezing President Obama’s Clean Power Plan while it is being challenged before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. But matters took a turn over the weekend with the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, whose absence from the high court could mean that the plan will ultimately survive. “If Scalia’s seat remains vacant when the Clean Power Plan reaches the high court, a 4-4 vote would result in an automatic affirmance of the D.C. Circuit’s decision on the rule,” says Jack Lienke, an attorney with the Institute for Policy Integrity at the New York University School of Law, by email. “We can’t know what the D.C. Circuit will decide, but supporters of the Clean Power Plan are optimistic — both because the D.C. Circuit panel, unlike the Supreme Court, denied motions to stay the rule and because the three-judge panel includes two Democratic appointees.” So last week the Clean Power Plan seemed to be severely threatened – but now, not as much. Despite this roller-coaster, though, one thing has not changed — the power sector in the U.S. is transforming in a way that will make the generation of electricity much less carbon-intensive in the future, the precise thing that the plan aims to achieve anyway. This is not a legal development, and not really a political one either. It is, in substantial part, a business decision.

    Two recent sets of new data underscore this reality. The first, recently highlighted by the American Wind Energy Association, involves where the U.S. is adding new electricity generating capacity. In 2015, AWEA’s and other recent data suggest, wind led the way with 8.6 gigawatts (or billion watts) of new added capacity. Solar photovoltaics added 7.3 gigawatts (much of that on individual rooftops) and, in third place, came natural gas with 6 gigawatts. The wind industry says another 9.4 gigawatts, meanwhile, are currently under construction, and 4.9 gigawatts on top of that are “in advanced stages of development.” Thus, the two biggest growth sectors for U.S. power are both renewable. Coal, by contrast, saw 14 gigawatts of plant retirements in 2015….



    World is embracing clean energy, says expert

    Posted: 01 Feb 2016 09:30 AM PST

    An expert argues that investment in renewable electricity now outstrips that in fossil fuels, and that increasing numbers of policies to improve the efficiency of energy use and to make energy systems more flexible are pointing to a global momentum in the adoption of sustainable energy systems.


    Land management could help wildlife beat the challenges brought by climate change

    January 20, 2016

    Land management could help wildlife beat the challenges brought by climate change. The harmful effects of climate change on wildlife habitats can been counteracted by localised land management, a new research paper has suggested. Scientists from the University of Exeter have suggested that habitats could be controlled through various focused practices to help ‘buffer’ species against the worst effects of continued climate change.
    The research team, based at the Environment and Sustainability Institute (ESI) at the University’s Penryn Campus in Cornwall, acknowledge that some species can adapt to changing conditions to meet new challenges, such as moving to cooler habitats as temperatures rise. However, the team believe that mankind can provide crucial assistance to species across the globe by manipulating the nearby region to suit the needs of the local wildlife…. “What we have shown in this paper is that, by managing the land in a smarter way, we can help species adapt and survive despite the problems associated with climate change. And these are all things that can be done on a local level, and so could be acted upon in a relatively short space of time.” The team considered the effects of climate change across the globe, and how it affected the local wildlife. They suggest that localised landscape management can be used to offset the adverse impacts on biodiversity to changes in temperature, water availability and sea-level rise. Some of the techniques suggested include altering the topography of a local area, as manipulating vegetation structure can alter the temperature and moisture conditions to allow organisms to thrive. The scientists also suggest ensuring coastal systems have sufficient sediment supplies and space to allow landward migration to take place….


    Owen Greenwood1, Hannah L. Mossman2, Andrew J. Suggitt1, Robin J. Curtis1 and Ilya M. D. Maclean1,*
    Using in situ management to conserve biodiversity under climate change. Journal of Applied Ecology, DOI: 10.1111/1365-2664.12602 Article first published online: 19 JAN 2016


    Since the dawn of agriculture, the world’s soils are estimated to have lost billions of metric tons of carbon to the atmosphere. Researchers are now looking at ways to recarbonize the global soil pool using methods such as cover cropping, no-till farming, and enriching the soil with biochar. One of their chief goals: mitigating climate change. © David Chapman/Alamy Stock Photo

    Healthy Ground, Healthy Atmosphere: Recarbonizing the Earth’s Soils

    Environmental Health Perspectives; Volume 124, Issue 2 February 2016

    DOI:10.1289/ehp.124-A30 PDF Version (2.8 MB)

    Nancy Averett
    writes about science and the environment from Cincinnati, OH. Her work has been published in Pacific Standard, Audubon, Discover, E/The Environmental Magazine, and a variety of other publications.

    On a bright October morning Dave Brandt tromps through the middle of his central Ohio wheat field. The grain was harvested months ago, but there isn’t an inch of bare dirt anywhere. Instead, more than 10 varieties of plants, including crimson clover, pearl millet, and Austrian winter peas, form a “cover crop cocktail” that stretches all the way to the road bordering his property. “This will be here all winter,” Brandt says. “And in the spring, we’ll plant corn right into this.” Brandt hasn’t tilled his soil since 1972, when he rented his first 600 acres of farmland to grow wheat, corn, and soybeans. And by keeping plants on his land in various stages of growth and decomposition, Brandt appears to have increased the amount of carbon in his soil over the years. One study estimated that total organic carbon in the top foot of Brandt’s soil increased by 10% after six years of no-till, 35% after 20 years, and 61% after 35 years.1 (The data on which this estimate was based were not peer reviewed.) Overall, Brandt’s soil stored, or sequestered, an estimated average 960 kg of carbon per hectare per year.1 With figures like those, soil scientists and climate researchers believe that returning carbon to the soil on a large scale could help mitigate climate change. The world’s terrestrial carbon stores—the combined amount of carbon in soil and in plant matter—are much greater than the amount of carbon in the atmosphere: 3.12 trillion metric tons in the top meter of soil versus 780 billion metric tons in the atmosphere, by one estimate.2 Before the dawn of agriculture, there was even more carbon in the global soil pool—an estimated 55–78 billion additional metric tons,3 and the world’s plant biomass held still more, much of it lost to land use changes.2

    That’s why Rattan Lal, one of world’s preeminent soil scientists and director of the Carbon Management and Sequestration Center (C-MASC) at The Ohio State University, has called for recarbonizing the world’s soils.2 Doing so, Lal says, “would be a truly win–win–win situation.” In addition to carbon sequestration, increasing carbon in soil has many other co-benefits: increased water storage in soil, increased length of the growing season, cooling of the ground via evapotranspiration, recharging groundwater aquifers, keeping springs and rivers flowing in the dry season. Soil itself filters water, reduces flooding, and provides a water reserve for plants in times of drought.

    Lal believes food security is an especially important co-benefit. By one estimate, about 24% of total global land area shows evidence of impaired productivity,4 and each year some 1–2.9 million hectares is degraded so badly that it becomes unsuitable for farming.5 Increasing population levels, predicted to reach 9.2 billion by 2050, will place more pressure on the world’s farmlands to produce enough food.6

    Lal has calculated that increasing organic carbon in the soil surrounding plant roots by 1 ton per hectare per year can increase grain production by 32 million tons per year.7,8 “This is especially important for small landholders of sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and the Caribbean,” he says….Ultimately, there is no single practice—cover crops, no-till, biochar, or anything else—that is universally applicable to all the soils in the world. The overall strategy, Lal says, must be to create a positive soil carbon budget so that the input of carbon in soil exceeds the losses by erosion, decomposition, and leaching. But that’s not enough, either. “Even if carbon sequestration is a win–win solution, in terms of climate change mitigation it remains a finite solution,” says agronomist Dominique Arrouays, scientific coordinator for the GlobalSoilMap project. “It should not prevent us from reducing fossil fuel emissions.”,….

    More than Carbon Depletion

    Conventional agriculture practices don’t just deplete organic carbon levels; they can also reduce the amount of micronutrients in soil. Plants draw minerals toward the soil surface as they grow—on bare soil, these minerals are more readily lost through soil leaching and erosion.37,38 There is evidence that, as a result, plants growing in this soil—and the livestock that eat the plants—may contain lower amounts of the vitamins and trace minerals necessary for optimum human health.37,39 his is a potential problem, given that an estimated 2 billion people around the world are deficient in at least one of the 21 micronutrients that are essential for plant, human, and livestock health.40 Zinc deficiency—which kills an estimated 800,000 people a year and causes problems such as growth retardation and metabolic disorders in thousands of others—is the best documented.37 The most severe deficiencies happen in developing countries, where large segments of the population do not have access to a varied diet.37





    How ‘Third Way’ Technologies Can Help Turn Tide on Climate

    In a Yale Environment 360 interview, Australian scientist and author Tim Flannery explains how the development of technologies that mimic the earth’s natural carbon-removing processes could provide a critical tool for slowing global warming.

    by richard schiffman October 26 2015
    Massive seaweed farms that suck carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and counteract ocean acidification. The widespread adoption of carbon fiber technology that extracts CO2 from the air and turns it into cars and other industrial products. Concrete manufacturing that is carbon-negative rather than the energy-guzzling Portland cement used today. And giant chiller boxes installed in Antarctica that super-freeze the already frigid air there, producing “CO2 snow” that can be sequestered in the continent’s massive ice sheet. These and other ideas represent what Australian scientist Tim Flannery calls “third way technologies” — safe methods to reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide levels that could be adopted in concert with large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Flannery, former head of the Australian Climate Commission, lays out these ideas in his latest book, Atmosphere of Hope. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, he explains that unlike risky geoengineering schemes, these approaches “strengthen Earth’s own self-regulatory system by drawing C02 out of the atmosphere in ways the planet naturally does already.” Flannery, who says he is heartened by the increasingly widespread adoption of wind and solar power, believes that if the world community can develop third way technologies quickly enough and harness the political and economic will to apply them at scale, there may yet be light at the end of the climate tunnel….


    How ‘Natural Geoengineering’ Can Help Slow Global Warming

    An overlooked tool in fighting climate change is enhancing biodiversity to maximize the ability of ecosystems to store carbon. Key to that strategy is preserving top predators to control populations of herbivores, whose grazing reduces the amount of CO2 that ecosystems absorb.

    by oswald j. Schmitz 25 Jan 2016: Analysis

    As natural wonders go, perhaps the most awe-inspiring is the annual migration of 1.2 million wildebeest flowing across East Africa’s vast Serengeti grassland. …. we almost [lost them] in the mid-20th century when, decimated by disease and poaching, their numbers crashed to 300,000. The consequences of that collapse were profound. Much of the Serengeti ecosystem remained ungrazed. The accumulating dead and dried grass in turn became fuel for massive wildfires, which annually burned up to 80 percent of the area, making the Serengeti an important regional source of carbon dioxide emissions….The wildebeest decline and recovery taught a valuable lesson, not only in how easy it is to loose an iconic animal species, but, more importantly, how the loss of a single species can have far-reaching ramifications for ecosystems — and the climate. Mounting evidence from ecological science is showing that one or a few animal species can help determine the amount of carbon that is exchanged between ecosystems and the atmosphere. It’s not that any single animal species by itself has a huge direct effect on the carbon budget. Rather, as the wildebeest case shows, by being an integral part of a larger food chain the species may trigger knock-on effects that grow through the chain to drive significant amounts of carbon into long-term storage on land or in the ocean….Natural ecological processes already offer many reliable and safe ways to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. Currently, natural processes — such as photosynthesis by tropical trees and marine phytoplankton, and CO2 absorption by ocean waters — remove and store more than half of the carbon emissions generated by human activities. With thoughtful environmental stewardship there is the promise of doing more, and doing it in more environmentally friendly ways. However, doing more requires a sea change in mindset. It entails conflating the climate issue with another environmental issue of global proportions — biodiversity conservation…But there is hope and opportunity to reverse the decline of top predators and restore their populations. The clearest example is the story of the sea otter Recovering sea otters to historic levels even just along the thin stretch of coastline from Vancouver Island to the western edge of the Aleutian Islands has created the potential to absorb and store 6 to10 percent of the annual carbon released from fossil fuel emissions in British Columbia, according to a study published in the journal Ecosystems….


    Center for Carbon Removal

    From Bruce Riordan Feb 2 2016

    New initiative of the Berkeley Energy & Climate Institute (BECI) focused on “igniting action to develop and implement strategies for removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.” The center’s research and analysis aims to shift market conditions to accelerate biological strategies like forest and rangeland carbon sequestration, as well as chemical/physical approaches like direct-air capture and carbon-negative materials. Look at the CCR fact sheets and other info to see why Executive Director Noah Deich and staff view carbon removal as a critical complement to comprehensive GHG reduction and adaptation work. Check out the #REMOVEON campaign to join the conversation….









    The Court Blocks Efforts to Slow Climate Change

    By THE EDITORIAL BOARD NY Times February 11, 2016

    The Supreme Court’s extraordinary decision on Tuesday to temporarily block the Obama administration’s effort to combat global warming by regulating emissions from power plants was deeply disturbing on two fronts.

    It raised serious questions about America’s ability to deliver on Mr. Obama’s pledge in Paris in December to sharply reduce carbon emissions, and, inevitably, about its willingness to take a leadership role on the issue. And with all the Republican-appointed justices lining up in a 5-to-4 vote to halt the regulation before a federal appeals court could rule on it, the court also reinforced the belief among many Americans that the court is knee-deep in the partisan politics it claims to stand above. While the court’s action was not a ruling on the merits of the case, it will delay efforts to comply with the regulation and sends an ominous signal that Mr. Obama’s initiative, known as the Clean Power Plan, could ultimately be overturned. The Clean Power Plan, announced by the Environmental Protection Agency last August, requires states to make major cuts in greenhouse gas emissions from their electricity producers, which chiefly use older coal-fired power plants, over the next few years. These plants produce more carbon emissions than any other source, and cutting them is the backbone of Mr. Obama’s larger goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions over all by at least 26 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.

    The rule is based on the Clean Air Act — which, as the court has already made clear in multiple cases, gives the federal government broad authority to regulate a range of pollutants, including carbon emissions from power plants. Mr. Obama is using that authority here. And while the plan sets out aggressive state-by-state goals, it is carefully designed to give states the time and flexibility to meet them. It’s inevitable that some, perhaps many, older coal-fired plants will close; but states can also convert to cleaner-burning natural gas, build renewable-energy sources, like wind and solar, or enter into regional “cap and trade” programs that allow them to buy and sell permits to pollute.

    Efforts like these are broadly popular: A clear majority of Americans, including many Republicans, agree that global warming is or will soon be a serious threat. Nearly two-thirds said they would support domestic policies limiting carbon emissions from power plants.

    But flexibility, a generous time frame for compliance and public opinion were not enough to sway 27 states that sued to stop what they call a “power grab” by the federal government and Mr. Obama’s “war on coal.” Many of these states depend heavily on coal-fired plants for their power and many are run by Republican governors, who either willfully disbelieve well-established climate science or find it politically impossible to take steps necessary to reduce emissions. They also refuse to recognize that, rule or no rule, the nation’s energy landscape is already changing, with coal-fired power plants gradually but inexorably succumbing to cheaper natural gas and the emergence of renewable energy sources.

    The justices could easily have waited. Last month, a unanimous panel of the federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., sided with the administration and refused to block the Clean Power Plan from taking effect. It set an expedited briefing schedule in order to resolve the case well before any significant action is required from the states. Normally, the Supreme Court allows this process to play out. But time and again, this court has shown itself to be all too eager to upset longstanding practice or legal precedent.

    Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. often complains that the court is unfairly viewed as just another political branch. He said so again in an interview just last week, arguing that the nomination process creates the impression that justices are little more than party loyalists. “When you have a sharply political, divisive hearing process, it increases the danger that whoever comes out of it will be viewed in those terms,” he said. But, he insisted, “We don’t work as Democrats or Republicans.” If the court wants to be perceived as acting in a judicial capacity, and not as an arm of the conservatives, it has a funny way of showing it.



    Does Australia’s retreat from climate change research signal a global trend?

    The Australian federal science agency responsible for climate change research is shifting its focus, asserting that climate change is proven and therefore needs no more research. Does this make sense, and is it a sign of things to come?

    By Jason Thomson, Staff February 9, 2016 Christian Science Monitor

    Australia’s federal science research agency has announced deep cuts to its climate-change research arm, prompting reaction from scientists across the globe. The move, based on the belief that climate change is proven and so requires no further research, represents a shift in Australian government policy. Going forward, the country will instead focus on climate change mitigation, adaptation, and commercial ventures. While the international scientific community has reacted with almost universal dismay to the announcement by Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), a fundamental question remains: does this represent the start of a broader shift, or is Australia an outlier?…


    The gutting of CSIRO climate change research is a big mistake

    Posted on 10 February 2016 by John Abraham

    Last week, surprise news shocked the world’s scientific community. One of the most prestigious and productive scientific organizations is slashing hundreds of jobs, many related to climate change research. The organization, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO for short) is simply put, one of the best in the world. It rivals well-known groups like NASA, NOAA, and the Hadley Centre for its contributions to climate science.
    What does CSIRO do that is so special? Many things. For instance, they are world leaders in measuring what is happening to the planet. Their research includes ocean-going vessels and other instrumentation that measure the chemistry and temperature of the ocean; they help track where human-emitted carbon dioxide is going, how heat is building up in the oceans, and what is happening with the general health of the ocean biosystem.
    CSIRO is also a modeling superpower. Their climate models form the backbone of our understanding of what changes have happened and what changes will happen because of human greenhouse gases.

    But they also have deepened our knowledge about extreme weather. They’ve provided insights regarding how droughts, heat waves, and floods will change in the future.

    All of these contributions are important not only for the understanding that they provide but also because this knowledge helps us plan for the future. If you want to know what we can do to mitigate or adapt to climate change, you need this information. But according to CSIRO chief executive, Larry Marshall, CSIRO should shift focus. Here is the key statement he made last week:

    Our climate models are among the best in the world and our measurements honed those models to prove global climate change. That question has been answered, and the new question is what do we do about it, and how can we find solutions for the climate we will be living with?

    Are you kidding me? What kind of backward logic is this? From the reports I’ve read, something like 350 positions will be cut from CSIRO with the heaviest cuts (over 100) coming from the climate research groups. How can you predict how to adapt if you don’t know what you are going to adapt to? This doesn’t make sense…



    New Methane Emission Rules Proposed by Interior Department


    The Obama administration on Friday proposed a new rule aimed at curbing emissions of planet-warming methane from oil and gas drilling on public land. It would force companies to use equipment to capture leaked gas and raise the costs they pay for extracting fuel on government property. The draft regulation, proposed by the Interior Department, is the latest step by President Obama to use his executive authority to clamp down on the fossil fuel emissions that contribute to climate change, and to make it more expensive for oil, gas and coal companies to mine and drill on public land. It follows last week’s controversial move by the Interior Department to halt new leases for coal mining on public lands, and to reform the government’s program for leasing federal lands to coal companies with an eye to raising their costs. It also comes as the administration has particularly targeted emissions of methane, a chemical contained in natural gas that is about 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide. The Obama administration wants to cut methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 40 to 45 percent from 2012 levels by 2025….



    Porter Ranch gas leak permanently sealed, state officials declare

    Los Angeles Times | February 18, 2016 | 10:13 AM

    State officials announced today that the massive natural gas leak near Porter Ranch has been permanently sealed. The four-month leak released an estimated 80,000 metric tons of methane and other chemical compounds, and now ranks as the worst natural gas leak in U.S. history….


    S.E.C. Is Criticized for Lax Enforcement of Climate Risk Disclosure

    New York Times‎ – Jan 24 2016


    Holdouts at Oregon refuge say they will surrender

    Los Angeles Times | February 10, 2016 | 10:26 PM

    The four remaining occupants of a remote wildlife refuge in eastern Oregon indicated that they would probably surrender to the FBI on Thursday morning.

    The announcement comes after the FBI moved in to closely surround them, signaling a possible conclusion to the 40-day armed occupation….




    Susan Walsh/AP Photo

    Supreme Court hands victory to environmentalists, federal regulators

    The US Supreme Court ruled on Monday that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission could continue with a power-saving strategy called ‘demand response.’

    By Christina Beck, Staff January 26, 2016 CSMONITOR

    The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) may employ a regulation strategy that reduces energy use and could save consumers money. That strategy, called “demand response,” is a way of reducing energy use by paying attention to the natural rhythms of the market. Because consumer demand for electricity comes in waves, energy companies that use demand response strategies are able to encourage lower energy use by reducing costs for consumers who decrease their usage at peak times. The FERC established this strategy in 2011, when it issued FERC Order 745 to regulate demand response as a market mechanism. Power suppliers took issue with the order, which can trim profit margins in an industry that is already contracting…


    Climate adaptation: Hold atmosphere in trust for all

    Robert Costanza Nature 529, 466m (28 January 2016) doi:10.1038/529466c

    We, the undersigned, call on the V20 — the 20 countries that are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change — to take the lead in creating an ‘atmospheric trust’ that establishes community property rights over the atmospheric commons ( The V20 could use this trust as a legal instrument to…[subscription required]


    Governor, activists at odds on coast panel 

    By Laurel Rosenhall CALMATTERS  Feb 1 2016 SF Chron

    In 1976, a year into his first term as governor, Jerry Brown signed a bill that came to be seen as one of the strongest environmental protection laws in the country. The California Coastal Act limited development along the 1,100-mile shoreline and guaranteed public access to the beach.  Yet just two years later, Brown had become frustrated with the commission tasked with upholding the coastal act. He made headlines in 1978, calling the commissioners “bureaucratic thugs.”  It was an early indication of Brown’s complicated relationship with the environmental movement, a dynamic that still shapes his job as governor. Weeks after returning from global climate-change talks in Paris that positioned Brown as an international environmental leader, the fourth-term Democrat is now facing the wrath of environmentalists at home, thanks to a new drama unfolding on the Coastal CommissionConservation advocates have been critical of the decisions made by Brown’s appointees to the commission, who have voted in favor of projects environmentalists opposed. Now they are furious that the commission is holding a vote next week to dismiss Executive Director Charles Lester. They view Lester as an environmental guardian and say commissioners appointed by Brown are trying to oust Lester to make the coastal agency more amenable to development. ….The governor appoints four of the 12 members of the Coastal Commission, with the others named by the two legislative leaders. Lester and the commissioners he reports to are not commenting before the Feb. 10 vote. …Brown’s evolution from an environmental visionary 40 years ago to a fiscal watchdog today has put his legacy at risk, Blank said.  “No one is going to remember his skills as an accountant. It’s sad but true. But people will remember driving the California coast (as the result of) Jerry Brown’s signature in 1976,” Blank said. “I hope they don’t remember it as Jerry Brown’s destruction in 2016.” …


    Microbeads in Ocean

    January 27, 2016

    President Obama signed a bipartisan bill that prohibits selling and distributing products containing microbeads. Personal care products such as the shampoo, facial cleanser and even toothpaste you use at home can contribute to a massive plastic pollution problem. We talk with Anna Cummins, Executive Director of The 5 Gyres Institute, who explains the dangers of these plastic “microbeads” that enter the ocean and threaten aquatic life, as well as humans.

    Everyday Action: Check the labels of the personal care products you use in your home and stop using products containing polyethylene or polypropylene microbeads. Send any products with microbeads to 5 Gyres to help bring awareness to this important issue. We invite you to watch this extremely important video podcast. A new Thank You Ocean Report will be posted approximately every two weeks. You can subscribe to the podcasts in iTunes or on YouTube.



    The Kochs Are Plotting A Multimillion-Dollar Assault On Electric Vehicles 

    by Peter Stone, Huffington Post, Feb 18, 2016

    The oil and gas industry may have thought it had killed the electric car, but sales — boosted by generous government subsidies — rose dramatically between 2010 and 2014, and energy giants are worried the thing may have come back to life.  Time to kill it again.  A new group that’s being cobbled together with fossil fuel backing hopes to spend about $10 million dollars per year to boost petroleum-based transportation fuels and attack government subsidies for electric vehicles, according to refining industry sources familiar with the plan.
    A Koch Industries board member and a veteran Washington energy lobbyist are working quietly to fund and launch the new advocacy outfit.

    Koch Industries, the nation’s second-largest privately held corporation, is an energy and industrial conglomerate with $115 billion in annual revenues that is controlled by the multibillionaire brothers — and prolific conservative donors — Charles and David Koch. James Mahoney, a confidante of the brothers and member of their company’s board, has teamed up with lobbyist Charlie Drevna, who until last year helmed the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, for preliminary talks with several energy giants about funding the new pro-petroleum fuels group…



    Here’s What Super Tuesday Voters Think About Climate Change

    —By Jeremy Schulman

    | Tue Mar. 1, 2016 1:31 PM EST

    ….Last year, the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication released a nationwide study of Americans’ attitudes toward climate science and policy. In many states—especially the large bloc of Southern states voting on Tuesday—the results were not particularly encouraging.

    According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, scientists are 95 percent certain that human activities are responsible for most of the dramatic warming since the 1950s. But according to Yale’s estimates, that opinion is shared by less than half of adults in Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Wyoming. …Overall, just 48 percent of adults in the Super Tuesday states accept the scientific consensus….






    Fossil fuel use must fall twice as fast as thought to contain global warming – study

    Available carbon budget is half as big as thought if global warming is to be kept within 2C limit agreed internationally as being the point of no return, researchers say.
    Climate News Network reports

    Tim Radford for Climate News Network, part of the Guardian Environment Network

    Thursday 25 February 2016 06.06 EST Last modified on Thursday 25 February 2016 09.28 EST

    Climate scientists have bad news for governments, energy companies, motorists, passengers and citizens everywhere in the world: to contain global warming to the limits agreed by 195 nations in Paris last December, they will have to cut fossil fuel combustion at an even faster rate than anybody had predicted. Joeri Rogelj, research scholar at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria, and European and Canadian colleagues propose in Nature Climate Change that all previous estimates of the quantities of carbon dioxide that can be released into the atmosphere before the thermometer rises to potentially catastrophic levels are too generous.

    Instead of a range of permissible emissions estimates that ranged up to 2,390 bn tons from 2015 onwards, the very most humans could release would be 1,240 bn tons.


    Photo: Connor Radnovich, The Chronicle
    High gas prices at a gas station in San Francisco, California, on Monday, July 13, 2015. Gas prices in California have spiked by 50 cents since Thursday.

    Cheap oil 101: U.S. may have finally moved beyond ’70s turmoil

    By Thomas Lee SF Chronicle January 21, 2016 Updated: January 21, 2016 9:32pm

    Conventional wisdom tells us that when gas gets expensive, people freak out and we suddenly care more about the environment and clean energy. Conversely, when gas gets really cheap, we buy another Hummer and blissfully resume our fossil-fueled lives. But something seems to have changed. Since 2014, the price of crude oil has dropped from a high of $100 per barrel to below $30 this week. And yet during this period, 200 countries, including the United States and China, signed a historic agreement in Paris to cut greenhouse gases. Sales of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles hit a healthy 115,000 new car deliveries last year. More than 20 states, including California, have now embraced cap-and-trade systems to limit carbon emissions….


    Wind turbines provide energy for the residents of Samso Island, a Danish island that gets all its power from renewable sources. Photograph by Andrew Henderson, National Geographic Creative

    Why Solar and Wind Are Thriving Despite Cheap Fossil Fuels

    Low oil prices are rattling stock markets, but investors remain bullish on solar, wind, and other clean energy. Here are three reasons why.

    By Wendy Koch National Geographic PUBLISHED January 22, 2016

    The prolonged plunge in fossil fuel prices is rippling across the globe. Yet it’s barely put a dent in the booming market for clean energy, heralding perhaps a new era for wind and solar. Oil prices of less than $30 a barrel—the lowest in 12 years—have shaken stock markets and ravaged the budgets of major producers such as Russia and Saudi Arabia. Along with falling gas prices, they’ve slashed the profits of fossil fuel companies, which are delaying dozens of billion-dollar projects and laying off thousands of workers. In Texas, home to shale-rich oil deposits, once-crowded trailer parks that housed workers are now largely empty. But solar, wind, and other clean energy? They’re expanding. Last year, they attracted a record $329 billion in investment—nearly six times the total in 2004, according to a report this month by Bloomberg New Energy Finance or BNEF. Wind and solar also installed a record amount of power capacity. The clean energy revolution is not entirely immune to cheap oil, which has lowered prices at the pump. In the United States, where gas prices are now below $2 a gallon in many places, sales of SUVs rose last year while those for electric or fuel-sipping hybrid cars fell. “We’re not saying there’s no impact, but we’re not seeing a significant impact yet,” says Angus McCrone, BNEF’s chief editor. “There’s a lot of momentum behind clean energy.”
    He and other experts explain why:

  1. Prices have fallen as government incentives have risen….
  2. Demand has expanded, driven partly by public policy….
  3. Corporate and investor support is strong…..


(Pic: Lance Cheung/Flickr)

Solar panel costs set to fall 10% a year

Power from the sun could supply 20% of energy worldwide by 2027 on current technology trends, say UK researchers

By Megan Darby Last updated on 25/01/2016, 5:08 pm

Solar power costs are tumbling so fast the technology is likely to fast outstrip mainstream energy forecasts.
That is the conclusion of Oxford University researchers, based on a new forecasting model published in Research Policy.

Since the 1980s, panels to generate electricity from sunshine have got 10% cheaper each year. That is likely to continue, the study said, putting solar on course to meet 20% of global energy needs by 2027.
By contrast, even in its “high renewable” scenario, the International Energy Agency assumes solar panels will generate just 16% of electricity in 2050. Its widely cited future energy scenarios in previous years failed to predict solar’s rapid growth.
Mathematics professor Doyne Farmer, who co-wrote the paper, said the research could help to shape clean energy policy.
“Sceptics have claimed that solar PV cannot be ramped up quickly enough to play a significant role in combatting global warming,” he said.
“In a context where limited resources for technology investment constrain policy makers to focus on a few technologies… the ability to have improved forecasts and know how accurate they are should prove particularly useful.”…


California Narrowly Votes to Retain System That Pays Solar Users for Excess Power

By DIANE CARDWELL NY Times January 28, 2016

The California Public Utilities Commission agreed to retain a system that pays users of rooftop solar panels a retail rate for the electricity they return to the grid….


SolarReserve’s breakthrough Crescent Dunes solar tower with thermal storage has successfully generated electricity at its full 110 MW capacity.

Crescent Dunes 24-Hour Solar Tower Is Online

February 22nd, 2016 by Susan Kraemer 

With this milestone achieved, the CSP (Concentrated Solar Power) project has now passed the necessary test to begin full commercial operation under its 25-year Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with NV Energy to supply power well into the night for Las Vegas and other parts of Nevada. The molten salt receiver actually exceeded design expectations, SolarReserve CEO Kevin Smith told CleanTechnica. The heat transfer efficiency of the receiver is the key performance validation of SolarReserve’s patented solar thermal storage technology. “We are meeting 100% of our requirements so far. The technology has been fully proven,” said Smith. “There’s additional testing that our EPC; ACS Cobra has to do on the balance of the plant and once that is complete in the next few weeks, we start to ramp up our annual output.” Under the rollout plan with NV Energy, Crescent Dunes will now begin its official ramp-up over the coming year, with generation increasing gradually each month…


Going green can add value to your home.
January 27, 2016 Washington Post

What is going “green” worth in Washington home real estate? A new study conducted by national appraisal experts says energy improvements and resource-conserving efforts can be worth tens of thousands of dollars….


Todd Griffith shows a cross-section of a 50-meter blade, which is part of the pathway to the 200-meter exascale turbines being planned under a DOE ARPA-E-funded program. The huge turbines could be the basis for 50-megawatt offshore wind energy installations in the years ahead. Credit: Photo by Randy Montoya

Enormous blades could lead to more offshore energy in US [What about seabirds and other marine wildlife?Ellie]

Posted: 28 Jan 2016 10:32 AM PST

A new design for gigantic blades longer than two football fields could help bring offshore 50-megawatt (MW) wind turbines to the United States and the world. Sandia National Laboratories’ research on the extreme-scale Segmented Ultralight Morphing Rotor (SUMR) is funded by the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy program. The challenge: Design a low-cost offshore 50-MW turbine requiring a rotor blade more than 650 feet (200 meters) long, two and a half times longer than any existing wind blade. The team is led by the University of Virginia and includes Sandia and researchers from the University of Illinois, the University of Colorado, the Colorado School of Mines and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Corporate advisory partners include Dominion Resources, General Electric Co., Siemens AG and Vestas Wind Systems. “Exascale turbines take advantage of economies of scale,” said Todd Griffith, lead blade designer on the project and technical lead for Sandia’s Offshore Wind Energy Program.






    How to Communicate Successfully Regarding Nature-Based Solutions: Key Lessons

    December 1, 2015

    The Nature Conservancy, we are focused on incorporating nature-based solutions to adapt to a changing world for the benefit of nature and people. We can maximize our efforts to change policy and practice and implement projects on the ground by using research-driven messages and frames… The qualitative and quantitative results from this research are summarized and presented as communication recommendations in the report.


    Ocean Health Index

    The updated website is now the primary resource for Ocean Health Index (OHI) scientific information, open-source tools, and instruction. You can also view and access information about completed and in-progress assessments. You’ll also find our new publication about Best Practices based on our experiences with OHI assessments.  The website was designed and coded by NCEAS’ own Lauren Walker, and hosted by GitHub.






    Creating the Clean Energy Economy: Optimizing Community Choice March 4, 2016 San Jose, CA

    The Center for Climate Protection invites you to register to join us and spread the word about our second all-day Business of Clean Energy Symposium on March 4, 2016 in San Jose, CA. The purpose of the Symposium is to accelerate California’s shift to a clean energy economy. With a focus on the role of Community Choice Energy as a platform for innovation, the Symposium aims to assist current Community Choice programs and those considering a program to maximize the use of local, renewable energy as a means of modernizing our electric system and ushering in a fossil-free future Breakout sessions with panel discussions explore the process of creating Community Choice programs and how they boost local economies while enhancing sustainability and economic growth. Other presenters will discuss new disruptive technologies that will replace fossil fuel powered vehicles and appliances with more efficient and cleaner electric powered equivalents


    North Bay Watershed Association Conference

    The Future of Water is Now: Innovation, Integration, Adaptation April 22, 2016, Napa, CA

    General Information:  Registration:



    Society for Conservation Biology Bay Area Symposium
    Saturday May 7th, Stanford University, Palo Alto

    As a new [Stanford] chapter, we are thrilled to bring together world-class scientists, professionals, and students to discuss today’s newest work in conservation biology.  For over 15 years, the Conservation Biology Symposium has rotated among different Bay Area universities. This event creates a forum in which researchers from all backgrounds can share recent scientific findings and policy issues in conservation biology. While the event focuses on graduate and postdoctoral research, we welcome participants from all backgrounds. This an excellent opportunity for Bay Area students and faculty, as well as those working for government agencies, non-profit organizations, and private consulting firms to meet and exchange ideas.  This year, we are delighted to have Dr. Peter Kareiva, Dr. Michelle Marvier, and Dr. John Terborgh as keynote speakers. For more information, please visit the Speakers page tab. 

    There are two important deadlines coming up: 

    Abstract Submission: March 25. Want to present your research? Apply here

        Posters and oral presentations welcome.

    Event Registration: April 18.   Register to attend this year’s symposium. 



    SAVE THE DATE: 4th Ocean Climate Summit: Resilience through Climate-Smart Conservation May 17, 2016
    Fort Mason, San Francisco

    Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary and Greater Farallones Association

    Expert panels for the 2016 summit will address the common theme of Climate-Smart Conservation, and will specifically include:

    • State of the Science;
    • Implementing Climate-Smart Conservation;
    • Local Government Sea Level Rise Planning; and
    • Connecting San Francisco Bay and Outer Coast.

    Afternoon focus groups will convene to share lessons learned, encourage collaboration, and advise the sanctuary on climate-smart conservation. A networking poster reception highlighting Bay Area projects and programs focused on coastal climate change and ocean acidification will immediately follow. This year we are also pleased to partner with the California Landscape Conservation Cooperative on a Climate-Smart Conservation training to be held at Fort Mason the following day.


    Toward Sustainable Groundwater in Agriculture 2016: 2nd International Conference Linking Science and Policy
    June 28-30, 2016 Hyatt Regency by SFO Burlingame, CA

    Abstract Submission Deadline: January 15, 2016 UC Davis

    ….focus on the latest scientific, management, legal and policy advances for sustaining our groundwater resources in agricultural regions around the world. The conference will bring together agricultural water managers, regulatory agency personnel, policy and decision makers, scientists, NGOs, agricultural leaders, and consultants working at the nexus of groundwater and agriculture. The conference integrates across a wide range of topics specifically focused on this nexus: sustainable groundwater management, groundwater quality protection, groundwater-surface water interactions, the groundwater-energy nexus, agricultural BMPs for groundwater management and protection, monitoring, data collection/management/assessment, modeling tools, and agricultural groundwater management, regulation, and economics.

    Innovations on the Land: Managing for Change
     Sand County Foundation

    August 9-10 2016 Asilomar, CA

    For generations, landowners and land managers have honed the ability to adapt to change. But the changes farmers and ranchers face today are more rapid and wide ranging than ever before. Landowners must adapt to changing regulations, climate, technology and demands of food consumers, all while managing natural resources – the land, water and wildlife in their care. Sand County Foundation is proud to present “Innovations on the Land: Managing for Change.” This national symposium, August 9 & 10, 2016, will bring together the nation’s leading private landowner conservationists and leaders from academia, government and non-government organizations to exchange ideas and learn about the most innovative approaches to responsibly managing agricultural lands in the face of sweeping change. … Topics include environmental changes related to climate, water quality and quantity and soil health; economic and policy changes related to market dynamics and the Endangered Species Act; social changes relating to changing consumer desires and land ownership patterns. Symposium participants will put their learning to workin a half-day, facilitated session to develop a set of recommendations around U.S. agricultural policy. As the nation’s very best farmer and rancher conservationists, these men and women provide an authoritative viewpoint on how America can achieve its conservation objectives in an era of flat or declining funding. Following the symposium, a select subcommittee will develop a paper based on the outcomes of the work.



    2nd California Adaptation Forum  SEPTEMBER 7-8, 2016
    Renaissance Long Beach Hotel and Long Beach Convention Center

    The Local Government Commission and the State of California are proud to host the second California Adaptation Forum in the Fall of 2016. The two-day event will be the premiere convening for a multi-disciplinary group of 1,000+ decision-makers, leaders and advocates to discuss, debate and consider how we can most effectively respond to the impacts of climate change.

    The 2016 California Adaptation Forum will feature:

    • A series of plenaries with high-level government, community and business leaders
    • A variety of breakout sessions on essential adaptation topics
    • Regional project tours highlighting adaptation efforts in Southern California
    • Pre-forum workshops on tools and strategies for implementing adaptation solutions

    UC California Naturalist Conference, Sept 9-11, 2016


    2016 National Natural Areas Conference | October 18 – 20 |

    U.C. Davis (CA)


    Bay-Delta Science Conference  November 15-17, 2016, Sacramento, CA

    More information will be available in 2016, but mark your calendars now.  The call for abstracts for presentations and posters will be released in Spring 2016.


    2017 National Adaptation Forum
    Saint Paul, Minnesota May 9-11, 2017

    It’s official the 2017 National Adaptation Forum is headed for the Twin Cities!  That’s right, the Forum will take place in Saint Paul, Minnesota May 9-11, 2017! Visit the National Adaptation Forum website for more details. You can already learn about the location, accommodations and travel. Over the next 15 months we’ll update about the call for proposals, registration and other exciting news as it develops. Meanwhile, please save the date:    

    Who: You of course and all of your Adaptation colleagues

    What: The 3rd National Adaptation Forum

    When: May 9-11, 2017

    Why: Climate Change Adaptation can’t happen without you!

    Where: Saint Paul RiverCentre 




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


    UC Santa Cruz Conservation Scholars Program

    The Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program at UCSC exposes early-career college students to the field of environmental conservation through field research, leadership and professional training.
    Each year, we select 20 students from around the U.S. and its territories to participate in our two-year conservation leadership program. Our students represent a diverse spectrum of cultures and backgrounds, which helps to cultivate a unique and rewarding experience.


    Ocean Science Trust is Hiring a Fellow
    The Science Integration Fellow will work closely with the South Coast marine protected area (MPA) monitoring team to develop and share reporting products in the final year of the South Coast MPA Baseline Program. We’re looking for someone with expertise in science communications, science policy and mar…




    CA LCC request for place-based climate adaptation project 
    is coming soon!  Place-based projects are relevant to a specific geographic location and can lead to a climate adaptation action on-the-ground. Pre-proposals must be co-submitted by a collaborating natural resource manager and scientist. 
    Timelines will be fast! The request for proposals will be distributed in early March. Submission deadlines will be March 28th. We expect to have about $450,000 for up to four projects.

    To aid in developing pre-proposal concepts, please see below for example of previously funded place-based projects:


    CA Dept of Water Resources Prop. 1 IRWMP Draft Grant Guidelines
    Jan. 27, 2016

    The Proposition 1 draft guidelines for the 2016 Integrated Regional Water Management Grant Program are posted and available for public comment. The program provides funding for projects that support integrated water management. … The public comment deadline is Friday, March 18.









    Al Gore: The case for optimism on climate change [VIDEO]

    TED2016 · 25:20 · Filmed Feb 2016

    Al Gore has three questions about climate change and our future. First: Do we have to change? Each day, global-warming pollution traps as much heat energy as would be released by 400,000 Hiroshima-class atomic bombs. This trapped heat is leading to stronger storms and more extreme floods, he says: “Every night on the TV news now is like a nature hike through the Book of Revelation.” Second question: Can we change? We’ve already started. So then, the big question: Will we change? In this challenging, inspiring talk, Gore says yes. “When any great moral challenge is ultimately resolved into a binary choice between what is right and what is wrong, the outcome is foreordained because of who we are as human beings,” he says. “That is why we’re going to win this.”


    Breakthrough: Scientists detect gravitational waves, just as Einstein predicted 100 years ago

    Associated Press February 11, 2016

    In an announcement that electrified the world of astronomy, scientists said Thursday that they have finally detected gravitational waves, the ripples in the fabric of space-time that Einstein predicted a century ago. Scientists likened the breakthrough to the moment Galileo took up a telescope to look at the planets.
    The discovery of these waves, created by violent collisions in the universe, excites astronomers because it opens the door to a new way of observing the cosmos. For them, it’s like turning a silent movie into a talkie because these waves are the soundtrack of the cosmos.
    “Until this moment, we had our eyes on the sky and we couldn’t hear the music,” said Columbia University astrophysicist Szabolcs Marka, a member of the discovery team. “The skies will never be the same.”
    An all-star international team of astrophysicists used a newly upgraded and excruciatingly sensitive $1.1-billion instrument known as the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, or LIGO, to detect a gravitational wave from the distant crash of two black holes, one of the ways these ripples are created…


    California Coastal Commission fires executive director

    Los Angeles Times | February 10, 2016 | 9:43 PM

    For the first time in its 44-year history, the California Coastal Commission tonight fired its executive director — a decision made despite an overwhelming show of public support for the land use agency’s top official. The panel disclosed that it voted 7 to 5 in a private session to dismiss Charles Lester. Commissioners offered no public explanation. After announcing the vote, the panel gave Lester a few moments to speak and adjourned….


    One Year in American Junk Mail

    Jan 23 2016 Shaya Tayefe Mohajer [see infographic below in IMAGES of the Week]

    It arrives in the mailbox and often goes straight to the garbage. Here’s why it’s worth stopping the endless cycle. … The production, distribution, and disposal of all that junk mail creates more than 51 million metric tons of greenhouses gases annually, the emissions equivalent of more than 9.3 million cars.
    That’s more than all the cars registered in Los Angeles and New York City combined.

    There are ways to cut back on mailbox clutter. allows users to search for the catalogs that come to an address and opt to stop getting them or reduce the frequency. For example, if you only want to see the Crate and Barrel catalog for holiday shopping, you can opt to get only the seasonal publications. You will need to enter the customer number or key source code from a copy of the mailer at the website page.  Doing a little paperwork there and on sites such as and can reduce a lot of future paper clutter. Besides, the trees are more worth keeping around than the flood of marketing materials. Yale researchers estimate that since the dawn of humanity we have cut down half the trees on the planet, and there are about 3 trillion left—which leaves us with about 400 trees a person.  MORE WAYS YOU CAN:  Shrink Your Waste


    Leonardo DiCaprio producing climate change-themed young adult novel adaptation

    Film News

    February 2, 2016


    Leonardo DiCaprio is marrying his love of the environment and movies by producing an adaptation of climate change-themed novel The Sandcastle Empire….


    ‘BPA-free’ plastic accelerates embryonic development, disrupts reproductive system

    Posted: 01 Feb 2016 07:35 AM PST

    Companies advertise ‘BPA-free’ as a safer version of plastic products ranging from water bottles to sippy cups to toys. Yet a new study demonstrates that BPS, a common replacement for BPA, speeds up embryonic development and disrupts the reproductive system. The research is the first to examine the effects of BPA and BPS on key brain cells and genes that control organs involved in reproduction.


    No Flu? Thank El Niño
    January 26, 2016 LA Times

    Experts monitoring this year’s flu season have been asking why the state has recorded only three flu-related deaths since October. Two years ago by late January, influenza had claimed 146 Californians. Today’s decline points to El Niño, whose wet and warm conditions are not conducive for spreading contagion. Here’s why.













    A bizarre underwater is captured on camera for the first time by BBC filmmakers.


    Background image: © Cultura RM/Alamy



    One Year in American Junk Mail
    (Infographic: Lauren Wade)


















    One of the birds you might see flying overhead in the Headwaters Forest Reserve is the marbled murrelet. What might it be doing there?

    Answer: (d.) Commuting up to 50 miles away to the sea to dive for fish and bring them back to their young, nesting in the trees.

    SOURCE: “Marbled Murrelet – Brachyramphus marmoratus” (BLM California wildlife database)

    Murrelets have a unique nesting strategy that requires them to commute tens of miles inland … Nests have been found inland from the coast up to a distance of 50 miles in Washington State … During incubation of the egg, one adult sits on the nest while the other forages at sea. Every 24 hours at dawn they exchange incubation duties. Once hatched, the parents commute to the ocean, often several times per day, carrying back fish for their chick. But after only a month of doting, the chick is left to find its own way to sea.




Ellie Cohen, President and CEO

Point Blue Conservation Science

3820 Cypress Drive, Suite 11, Petaluma, CA 94954

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

Point BlueConservation science for a healthy planet.



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