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Conservation Science News April 12, 2013

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Highlight of the Week


Yes, Climate Change Is Worsening U.S. Drought — NOAA Report Needlessly Confuses The Issue

Posted: 12 Apr 2013 09:32 AM PDT

NOAA has issued a report on a small part of the recent brutal droughts that have hit the United States over the past few years. The report “An Interpretation of the Origins of the 2012 Central Great Plains Drought” is needlessly confusing, problematic scientifically, and already leading to misleading headlines.

Dr. Kevin Trenberth, head of the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, has sent to reporters a Commentary on the report, which I repost below. He concludes:

This report has some useful material in it describing aspects of the drought in 2012 in the central US. But it is quite incomplete in many respects, and it asks the wrong questions.  Then it does not provide very useful answers to the questions that are asked.

Indeed, it seems odd to do a 44-page report on the drought in the Central Great Plains (in the spring and summer of 2012) when so much of the Great Plains — and Southwest — has also been in a brutal extended drought that continues to this day.







Measuring microbes makes wetland health monitoring more affordable, says researcher
(April 9, 2013)
Wetlands serve as Earth’s kidneys. They filter and clean people’s water supplies while serving as important habitat for many species, including iconic species like cattails, cranes and alligators. Conventional ecosystem health assessments have focused on p
opulations of these larger species. However, the tiny, unseen creatures in the wetlands provided crucial indicators of the ecosystems’ health in a study by University of Missouri Associate Professor of Engineering Zhiqiang Hu and his team…..Tiny, unseen wetland creatures provided crucial indicators of the ecosystems’ health in a new study. Using analysis of the microbiological health of wetlands is cheaper and faster than traditional assessments, and could lead to improvements in harnessing natural processes to filter human’s wastewater. …Microbes form the base of the wetland food chain and nutrient cycle, so the health of their populations reverberates through the ecosystem,” said Hu. “However, analyzing their populations was once too difficult. Now, advances in microbial analysis allow us to more easily and accurately identify the species present in soil or water samples. This could become a vital tool to complement other forms of wetland health evaluation.” Hu’s team, led by former MU doctoral student Atreyee Sims, found that a higher ratio of certain microbes, known as archaea, to bacteria was a good sign of a healthy ecosystem. When a few species of bacteria dominated the samples, the wetland was probably contaminated and unhealthy from the ground up, Sims concluded….full story


Environmental change triggers rapid evolution
(April 9, 2013) — Environmental change can drive hard-wired evolutionary changes in animal species in a matter of generations. A new study overturns the common assumption that evolution only occurs gradually over hundreds or thousands of years.
Instead, researchers foun
d significant genetically transmitted changes in laboratory populations of soil mites in just 15 generations, leading to a doubling of the age at which the mites reached adulthood and large changes in population size. The results have important implications in areas such as disease and pest control, conservation and fisheries management because they demonstrate that evolution can be a game-changer even in the short-term…Although previous research has implied a link between short-term changes in animal species’ physical characteristics and evolution, the Leeds-led study is the first to prove a causal relationship between rapid genetic evolution and animal population dynamics in a controlled experimental setting….Professor Benton said: “The traditional idea would be that if you put animals in a new environment they stay basically the same but the way they grow changes because of variables like the amount of food. However, our study proves that the evolutionary effect — the change in the underlying biology in response to the environment — can happen at the same time as the ecological response. Ecology and evolution are intertwined,” he said. … > full story


Early warning signs of population collapse
(April 10, 2013) — Spatial measurements of population density could reveal when threatened natural populations are in danger of crashing. Researchers describe a new way to predict the risk of collapse, based on variations in population density in neighboring regions. … > full story



The fisher (Martes pennanti) is a cat-sized carnivore found in coniferous and mixed conifer and hardwood forests across Canada and in four regions of the United States, including New England, the Great Lakes, the northern Rockies, and the Pacific Northwest. Now a candidate species for listing under the Endangered Species Act, fishers in California are falling victim to rodenticides used on illegal marijuana crops scattered throughout the state’s public and tribal lands. (Credit: John Jacobson/Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife)

Silent Forests? Rodenticides on Illegal Marijuana Crops Harm Wildlife

2013 Spring — March 17, 2013 Wildlife Society News By Mourad W. Gabriel, Greta M. Wengert, J. Mark Higley, Shane Krogan, Warren Sargent, and Deana L. Clifford

Another mortality signal on the radio collar of a fisher (Martes pennanti) pulses on a wet spring morning, and fear of a repeat of the previous spring’s mortalities looms in the backs of our minds. Hoopa tribal biologists scramble to recover the fisher quickly so that a necropsy can be performed to determine cause of death. The field crew reports back that the fisher is not dead but lethargic and lurching on the ground when it attempts to seek cover from approaching biologists. A conference call among researchers, a wildlife pathologist, and a veterinary toxicologist follows to determine the next course of action. Unfortunately, the consensus is humane euthanization. Though testing is ongoing, this is likely the sixth monitored fisher in California that has died from second-generation anticoagulant rodenticide (SGAR) toxicosis since 2009. Linking SGARs to multiple deaths of a rare forest carnivore has been an alarming discovery. Even more unsettling: We’ve learned that these deaths appear to be linked to illegal marijuana cultivation on community and public lands — a finding that raises serious concerns for the health of many species of wildlife including fishers, an Endangered Species Act candidate…..


Protected wildlife areas are ‘welcome mats’ for UK’s bird newcomers
(April 10, 2013) — A new study shows that bird species which have colonized the UK in recent decades breed initially almost exclusively in nature reserves and other areas specially protected for wildlife. … > full story


Spring rains bring life to Midwest granaries but foster Gulf of Mexico ‘Dead Zone’
(April 9, 2013) — The most serious ongoing water pollution problem in the Gulf of Mexico originates not from oil rigs, as many people believe, but rainstorms and fields of corn and soybeans a thousand miles away in the Midwest. An expert on that problem — the infamous Gulf of Mexico “Dead Zone” — today called for greater awareness of the connections between rainfall and agriculture in the Midwest and the increasingly severe water quality problems in the gulf. … > full story



‘Sustainable fishing’ certification too lenient and discretionary
(April 10, 2013) — The certification of seafood as “sustainable” by the nonprofit Marine Stewardship Council is too lenient and discretionary, a study by a consortium of researchers has found. … > full story

Great white sharks scavenging on dead whales
(April 10, 2013) — Biologists have explored the behaviors of Great white sharks scavenging on dead whales in South Africa. The team documented as many as 40 different sharks scavenging on a carcass over the course of a single day, revealing unique social interactions among sharks. … > full story

Research enables fishermen to harvest lucrative shellfish on Georges Bank
(April 10, 2013) — New scientific understanding of toxic algal blooms on Georges Bank, along with an at-sea and dockside testing protocol, has allowed fishermen to harvest ocean quahogs and surf clams in these offshore waters for the first time in more than two decades. The Georges Bank surf clam and ocean quahog fishery has an estimated annual value of -15 million. … > full story



Researchers help unlock pine beetle’s Pandora’s box
(April 5, 2013) — A paper detailing the newly created sequencing of the mountain pine beetle’s genome will be gold in the hands of scientists trying to stem the beetle’s invasion into eastern forests. … > full story

New live bi-ocular animations of two oceans now available
(April 5, 2013) — NOAA’s GOES-13 and GOES-15 weather satellites sit 60 degrees apart in a fixed orbit over the eastern and western U.S., respectively, providing forecasters with a look at the movement of weather systems in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The GOES Project announced the creation of satellite animations of both GOES-13 and GOES-15 to show continuous views of both oceans, with conjoined images reminiscent of binoculars. … > full story



New Jersey rebuilding bayside beaches crucial to birds

The Journal News | April 7, 2013

Red knots and other shore birds land on Delaware Bay beaches by the hundreds of thousands each May, gorging themselves on horseshoe crab eggs to fatten up for the second half of their arduous 10,000-mile migration to Canada…..


Smart solutions to a worsening water crisis
(April 10, 2013) — Innovative policies and new technologies that reduce water waste are helping countries across the Middle East and North Africa deal with chronic water shortages. …
Those a
dvances spring from the simple idea that preventing water loss is effectively the same as giving parched countries new sources of water. This view gained widespread credibility in the wake of an IDRC-supported research program designed to assess how the so-called “water demand management” approach could ease the region’s water crisis…. arlier, governments had seen big, costly projects such as dams, canals, and salt-water desalination plants as the solution to water scarcity. By the mid-1990s, the megaproject approach was widely viewed as a poor response to a water crisis worsened by population growth and climate change. However, the “demand management” alternative to developing new supplies of water — for example, reducing the amount of water used, wasted, or even needed — remained unproven….full story

Research holds revelations about an ancient society’s water conservation, purification
(April 9, 2013) — New research at the ancient Maya site of Medicinal Trail in northwestern Belize is revealing how populations in more remote areas — the hinterland societies — built reservoirs to conserve water and turned to nature to purify their water supply. … > full story


Goosefish capture small puffins over deep water of Northwest Atlantic
(April 10, 2013) — A recent study has shown that bottom-dwelling goosefish, also known as monkfish, prey on dovekies, a small Arctic seabird and the smallest member of the puffin family. To understand how this deep-water fish finds a shallow-feeding bird in offshore waters, researchers looked at when, where, and how these animals were most likely to be in the same place at the same time. … > full story


Scientists use islands to gauge rainfall’s effect on landscapes
(April 10, 2013) — Researchers have used volcanic islands to measure how rainfall sets the pace of landscape formation. …

Remote coral reefs can be tougher than they look: Western Australia’s Scott Reef has recovered from mass bleaching
April 5, 2013) — Isolated coral reefs can recover from catastrophic damage as effectively as those with nearby undisturbed neighbors, a long-term study by marine biologists has shown. Scott Reef, a remote coral system in the Indian Ocean, has largely recovered from a catastrophic mass bleaching event in 1998, according to the study. … > full story

The Snakelocks Anemone, a marine species prized in cooking, has been bred for the first time in captivity
(April 5, 2013) — Researchers have managed to breed for the first time in captivity a marine animal known as the snakelocks anemone and have also begun breeding a species of sea cucumber although this process is still in its initial stages. Both species have great culinary potential and possess excellent nutritional properties. … > full story


New chart shows the entire topography of the Antarctic seafloor in detail for the first time
(April 9, 2013) — Reliable information on the depth and floor structure of the Southern Ocean has so far been available for only few coastal regions of the Antarctic. Scientists have for the first time succeeded in creating a digital map of the entire Antarctic seafloor. … > full story

Urban grass might be greener, but that doesn’t mean it’s ‘greener’
(April 9, 2013) — New research explores how efforts to keep urban lawns looking green and healthy might negate the soil’s natural ability to store atmospheric toxins. … > full story





Ocean nutrients a key component of future change, say scientists
(April 10, 2013) — Variations in nutrient availability in the world’s oceans could be a vital component of future environmental change, according to a new review paper. … > full story



Arctic Sea Ice: The Death Spiral Continues

Posted: 11 Apr 2013 11:22 AM PDT

The story of the decade is the collapse of Arctic sea ice and its impact on our extreme weather (see “CryoSat-2 Confirms Sea Ice Volume Has Collapsed“).

That merits the latest monthly update of sea ice volume by creative tech guru Andy Lee Robinson showing that “death spiral” is the right visual metaphor:

Many experts now say that if recent volume trends continue we will see a “near ice-free Arctic in summer” within a decade. And that may well usher in a permanent change toward extreme, prolonged weather events “such as drought, flooding, cold spells and heat waves.

It will also accelerate global warming in the region, which in turn will likely accelerate both the disintegration of the Greenland ice sheet as well as the release of the vast amounts of carbon currently locked in the permafrost, which in turn will likely add 0.4°F – 1.5°F to total global warming by 2100.

For more on the death spiral, here’s Peter Sinclair’s latest video, featuring an interview with Walt Meier of the National Snow and Ice Data Center:

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In Sign of Warming, 1,600 Years of Ice in Andes Melted in 25 Years

By JUSTIN GILLIS Published: April 4, 2013

Both images: Lonnie G. Thompson/Ohio State University The Qori Kalis glacier in Peru, a tongue of ice extending down a valley from the mighty Quelccaya ice cap, has been melting rapidly. Pull the slider with your mouse to compare a picture taken in 1978, left, with one taken in 2011.

Glacial ice in the Peruvian Andes that took at least 1,600 years to form has melted in just 25 years, scientists reported Thursday, the latest indication that the recent spike in global temperatures has thrown the natural world out of balance. .. The evidence comes from a remarkable find at the margins of the Quelccaya ice cap in Peru, the world’s largest tropical ice sheet. Rapid melting there in the modern era is uncovering plants that were locked in a deep freeze when the glacier advanced many thousands of years ago. Dating of those plants, using a radioactive form of carbon in the plant tissues that decays at a known rate, has given scientists an unusually precise method of determining the history of the ice sheet’s margins. Lonnie G. Thompson, the Ohio State University glaciologist whose team has worked intermittently on the Quelccaya ice cap for decades, reported the findings in a paper released online Thursday by the journal Science. The paper includes a long-awaited analysis of chemical tracers in ice cylinders the team recovered by drilling deep into Quelccaya, a record that will aid scientists worldwide in reconstructing past climatic variations.

Such analyses will take time, but Dr. Thompson said preliminary evidence shows, for example, that the earth probably went through a period of anomalous weather at around the time of the French Revolution, which began in 1789. The weather presumably contributed to the food shortages that exacerbated that upheaval. “When there’s a disruption of food, this is bad news for any government,” Dr. Thompson said in an interview. Of greater immediate interest, Dr. Thompson and his team have expanded on previous research involving long-dead plants emerging from the melting ice at the edge of Quelccaya, a huge, flat ice cap sitting on a volcanic plain 18,000 feet above sea level. …

Throughout the Andes, glaciers are now melting so rapidly that scientists have grown deeply concerned about water supplies for the people living there. Glacial meltwater is essential for helping Andean communities get through the dry season. In the short run, the melting is producing an increase of water supplies and feeding population growth in major cities of the Andes, the experts said. But as the glaciers continue shrinking, trouble almost certainly looms. Douglas R. Hardy, a University of Massachusetts researcher who works in the region, said, “How much time do we have before 50 percent of Lima’s or La Paz’s water resources are gone?”


When It Rains, It Pours: Study Confirms Climate Change Will Keep Driving More Intense Precipitation

Posted: 07 Apr 2013 07:15 AM PDT

Climate change will bring more and more extreme precipitation events this century. A new study from NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center confirms what climate scientists have long been saying about climate change’s effect on the hydrological cycle. If you are not familiar with this term, you are certainly familiar with what it describes. As the sun warms the earth, water evaporates from oceans, lakes, and rivers, which then form clouds that produce rain and snow. More evaporation happens when the ocean
the air is warmer, which has been happening steadily for some time. The NOAA study, published in Geophysical Research Letters, found that extreme precipitation events will become more intense this century as the globe continues to warm. Extra moisture expected from that warming will be the dominant factor fueling this increase in extreme precipitation, with a 20 to 30 percent more precipitation in the Northern Hemisphere by 2099.
The paper looked at three factors that go into the maximum precipitation value possible in any given location: moisture in the atmosphere, upward motion of air in the atmosphere, and horizontal winds. The team examined climate model data to understand how a continued course of high greenhouse gas emissions would influence the potential maximum precipitation. While greenhouse gas increases did not substantially change the maximum upward motion of the atmosphere or horizontal winds, the models did show a 20-30 percent increase in maximum moisture in the atmosphere, which led to a corresponding increase in the maximum precipitation value.


Percent maximum daily precipitation difference (2071-2100) – (1971-2000). (Photo credit: NOAA)


They looked at possible changes in winds that could offset increased water vapor, but found that those changes would be too small. We already know that specific events cannot be said to be directly caused by climate change, but as Kevin Trenberth puts it, “All weather events are affected by climate change because the environment in which they occur is warmer and moister than it used to be.” And we know that NOAA’s projections have already started to become the reality: a study in Nature
found that several of the last decade’s extreme weather events would not have occurred without climate change. The study’s authors hope that this will allow water managers, engineers, and infrastructure planners to better identify risks and mitigate potential disasters. National reports like this are valuable not only because funds for flood risk prevention studies are often attacked in Congress, but because climate impacts are often ignored, forcibly, at the state level. South Carolina buried an important report on climate impacts. North Carolina made it illegal to consider the latest climate science when preparing coastal regions for sea level rise.

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Climate Change Keeps Expanding Canada’s Unprecedented Epidemic Of Forest-Destroying Beetles

By Jeff Spross on Apr 11, 2013 at 3:51 pm

Since the late 1990s, climate change has driven a massive expansion of forest-destroying Mountain Pine Beetles in Canada, delivering the country one of the worst ecological disasters in its history. The insects are not technically invasive, and until recently they existed in a natural balance with their environment; killing off older trees and making room for new growth. But as a new documentary chronicles, climate change eliminated many of the natural limits on the beetles’ geographic spread and their rate of reproduction.


Scientists seek sea urchin’s secret to surviving ocean acidification
(April 9, 2013) — Ocean research reveals rapid evolutionary adaptations to a changing climate. Genetic variation is the key to this ability to deal with higher acidity. … > full story

Trouble in penguin paradise? Research analyzes Antarctic ice flow
(April 9, 2013) — A student researcher has discovered that a good way to monitor the environmental health of Antarctica is to go with the flow — the ice flow, that is. It’s an important parameter to track because as Antarctica’s health goes, so goes the world’s. … > full story


Feelin’ queasy? More air turbulence over Atlantic

By RAPHAEL SATTER Associated Press Posted:   04/10/2013 02:35:08 AM PDT

LONDON—Tourists, exchange students, masters of the financial universe and other business travelers: It’s time to buckle up. More pollution is likely to mean bumpier flights for trans-Atlantic travelers, researchers say, predicting increased turbulence over the North Atlantic as carbon dioxide levels rise. University of East Anglia climate expert Manoj Joshi said scientists have long studied the impact of the carbon-heavy aviation industry on climate change but he took a new tack. “We looked at the effect of climate change on aviation,” he said. In a paper published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change, Joshi and colleague Paul Williams ran a climate simulation that cranked up the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to twice its pre-industrial level—roughly 50 percent more than now. Williams said they ran a series of turbulence-predicting algorithms for the North Atlantic winter period and compared the results to pre-industrial rates.

Queasy fliers need read no further.

Williams said the results showed a 10-to-40 percent increase in the median strength of turbulence and a 40-to-170 percent increase in the frequency of moderate-or-greater turbulence. He described the latter as shaking that is “strong enough to force the pilot to switch on the seat-belt sign, knock over drinks, and make it difficult to walk.”

The explanation is that some models predict that global warming will draw the jet stream further north,

creating more of the vertical wind shear that causes turbulence.

Joshi said choppier skies might prompt pilots to reroute their flights. But the North Atlantic is a busy place for air travel, with an average of 960 flights a day last week, according to aviation data companies masFlight and OAG. Pilots interviewed by The Associated Press said—in such a crowded air corridor—planes were just as likely to simply power through.

“You just got to grin and bear it,” said Steven Draper, a retired airline pilot and a spokesman for the British Airline Pilots Association. Although there’s no clear evidence of rougher skies just yet, Draper did say he’d seen worse weather—like storms—near the end of his career.

“My experience was that they were increasing in intensity and frequency,” he said. ….


Wine-growing regions may shift from climate change

Top regions may be too hot by 2050 – but coast, mountains could thrive

By David Perlman SF Chronicle April 11, 2013

Winegrowers in California and around the world will be forced to move their vineyards to cooler environments within the next few decades as climate change causes temperatures to rise, conservation biologists say in a study to be published this week. Think Yellowstone Pinot Noir or Chateau Yukon Cabernet.

Not that those are likely new venues for high-end premium grapes, but a new analysis warns that the world’s warming climate will put new strains on water supplies for vineyard irrigation. And without adequate planning, the scientists warned, any movement to the north by grape growers into critical habitat will pose new threats to wildlife.

The analysis by a team of international researchers, to be published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, indicates that California’s coastal vineyards are least likely to be at risk because of their proximity to the Pacific Ocean, which moderates California’s coastal climate.

But in the Central Valley, as well as in the world’s warmer grape-growing regions, water supplies will be heavily stressed as growers are forced to compete for irrigation water with other crop growers, said Lee Hannah, a biologist and climate specialist with Conservation International who led the study.

At the current rate of climate change, by 2050 vineyard owners could be pushing into California regions that are now considered unsuitable for wine growing, like the higher slopes of the Sierra and the northern redwood forests, Hannah said.

Only careful planning will ward off conflicts between winegrowers and wildlife defenders, said Rebecca Shaw, a climate policy analyst with the Environmental Defense Fund.

The “Yellowstone-Yukon corridor” is a typical region that is currently “unsuitable” for wine growing, but where vineyards could become widespread in the next 40 years, according to the scientists’ analysis.

Wine is made in the Yellowstone area now, and some farmers grow grapes there, but Montana’s eight licensed wineries specialize in making wines mostly from cherries, rhubarb, blueberries, pears and other fruits, according to the Montana Commerce Department.

Matthiasson in the barrel room at Silenus Vintners, where he produces his wine.

In Australia, Hannah said, many grape growers are already expanding their vineyards southward into Tasmania, where cooler climates previously have inhibited full ripening, but where global warming is making the region a better fit for wine.

And in South Africa, winegrowers are planning moves to higher altitudes for their expanded vineyards, Hannah said.

In Napa, noted wine consultant Steve Matthiasson, who produces wine from his family vineyard, called the new analysis “a great report.”

“I agree with it. It’s right on,” he said. “It’s time we think hard about it so we growers can move out of the abstract. Remember, grapes are very adaptable. Even now they’re growing grapes in the Coachella Valley, where it’s really hot.” One way growers can adapt to global warming, Matthiasson said, is to start planning now to use less water for irrigation by planting drought-tolerant rootstocks and by irrigating longer but less frequently so “root zones” go deeper. Vineyard rows can also be shifted to allow leaves to give more protection to ripening grapes, he said.



Limiting greenhouse gas emissions from land use in Europe
(April 10, 2013) — New research estimates future land use emissions for the European Union, showing that Europe could potentially reduce greenhouse gas emissions from land use by more than 60 percent by 2050. ..

The new estimates, which are based on an integrated modeling framework that combines information about population, economics, and land use and land productivity, show that Europe could potentially reduce greenhouse gas emissions from land use by more than 60% by 2050. The study showed that the biggest mitigation potential lies in cutting emissions from agriculture such as livestock production, as well as in managing forests effectively to increase their role as a carbon sink….full story

Think the Planet Isn’t Warming? Check the Ocean

Apr 11, 2013 05:11 AM ET // by Kieran Mulvaney

A recent article in The Economist stated that “over the past 15 years air temperatures at the Earth’s surface have been flat while greenhouse-gas emissions have continued to soar.” The Economist went to great lengths to point out that “the mismatch between rising greenhouse-gas emissions and not-rising temperatures … does not mean global warming is a delusion.” But the piece was predictably lauded by climate skeptics as “further evidence” of the case against climate change.

Except that … it wasn’t. As The Economist piece itself pointed out, this wasn’t an argument that “global warming has ‘stopped.‘” The past two decades have been the hottest in recorded history; of the nine hottest years on record, eight have come since 2000. The question, though, is why the year-on-year/decade-on-decade increase appears to have been somewhat less in the past 10 to 15 years, given the ongoing increase in atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations.

To which there are several answers.

First, the smaller the temporal time scale, the more the short-term fluctuations, forcings and feedbacks — from aerosol emissions to La Niña events — can distort the bigger picture. Over a longer scale, the evidence is increasing that the rate of warming is probably unprecedented in over 11,000 years.

Second, The Economist article, and the skeptic narrative that has absorbed it, focuses on what is known as “climate sensitivity,” which is how much surface warming the planet will experience in response to a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations relative to pre-Industrial Revolution levels. (Those pre-industrial levels were approximately 280 ppm; a doubling therefore would be roughly 560 ppm. Present levels are closing in on 397 ppm.)

But, as climate blogger Joe Romm points out, climate sensitivity is but one factor in determining how much the planet will warm in the future; another hugely important one is the extent to which CO2 concentrations will actually increase, and present trends suggest they will blow past 560 ppm and wind up closer to 1,000 ppm. Additionally, while climate sensitivity estimates are greatly influenced by short-term feedbacks such as sea ice extent and water vapor, they do not factor in “slow” feedbacks, such as the release of methane as a result of tundra melt. Nor do they consider the non-linearity of such feedbacks – i.e. the fact that they may become significant relatively suddenly.

Third, the data referred to by The Economist suggest that climate sensitivity may be at the very low end of projected estimates of between 2 degrees Celsius and 4.5 degrees Celsius. If that indeed does prove to be the case, then that’s obviously good news. But, as Zeke Hausfather pointed out in a post at the Yale Forum on Climate Change and the Media: “A world with a relatively low climate sensitivity — say in the range of 2 °C — but with high emissions and with atmospheric concentrations three to four times those of pre-industrial levels is still probably a far different planet than the one we humans have become accustomed to. And it’s likely not one we would find nearly so hospitable.”

Finally, and most importantly, there is plenty of reason to suspect that climate sensitivity isn’t lower than expected; because, critically, discussions of climate sensitivity tend to focus on surface warming of the planet; but several recent studies have shown that in fact an increasing amount of warming is taking place beneath the surface, in the ocean depths.

Ninety percent of warming goes into heating, not the land or the atmosphere, but the ocean; two recent papers, in 2012 and earlier this year, showed that approximately 30 percent of recent ocean warming has been taken up by waters below depths of 700 meters (about 2,300 feet), where few measurements had previously taken place. That was reinforced by a European study, published earlier this week, which, according to Reuters, found “that the oceans took up more warmth from the air around 2000. That would help explain the slowdown in surface warming but would also suggest that the pause may be only temporary and brief … Lead author Virginie Guemas of the Catalan Institute of Climate Sciences in Barcelona said the hidden heat may return to the atmosphere in the next decade, stoking warming again.”






Judge Slams Obama Administration Over Fracking In California

April 9, 2013 SAN FRANCISCO -– A federal judge struck a major blow against fracking in California this week, ruling that the government was wrong to allow energy companies to drill for oil on 2,700 acres of public land without first considering environmental impacts. The Bureau of Land Management’s assessment of the land “did not adequately consider the development impact of hydraulic fracturing techniques,” wrote U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Grewal in a decision made public on Monday that sided with environmental groups that sued the BLM.

The land in question sits atop the Monterey Shale, a formation of sedimentary rock stretching beneath much of Central California, which the U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates contains more than 15 billion barrels of oil. But the oil can only be reached through hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, an invasive process that injects vast amounts of water, sand and chemicals to create cracks in the rock and force the oil to the surface.Before auctioning off mineral rights to the land in 2011, BLM was required to analyze potential environmental consequences. The agency’s 125-page report, however, characterized fracking as “not relevant to the analysis of impacts … because the reasonable foreseeable development scenario anticipates very little (if any) disturbance to the human environment.” Based on this, BLM declared that drilling into federal lands would create “no significant environmental impact” and signed off on the leases.

A coalition of environmental groups, including the Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club, sued BLM over the auction, arguing that fracking threatened significant detrimental effects on water quality and on endangered species. Judge Grewal sided with the plaintiffs, charging that the government didn’t take fracking sufficiently into account. “Rather than engaging in this reality by at least considering what impact might result from fracking on the leased lands, whatever its ultimate conclusion, BLM chose simply to ignore it, asserting that ‘these issues are outside the scope of this … [environmental analysis] because they are not under the authority or within the jurisdiction of the BLM,” the judge wrote. “If not within BLM’s jurisdiction, then whose?”….


California Senate Panel Approves Bill to Regulate Fracking
The Sacramento Bee, 4/10/13
A bill to more tightly regulate the drilling process called hydraulic fracturing cleared a Senate committee Tuesday. Fracking, as the extraction technique is commonly called, has become a flash point for environmental advocates as the process has become more commonplace in recent years. California is in the incipient stages of regulating fracking, which involves shooting a mix of chemicals, sand and water deep underground.


Americans Are Slowly Reprioritising Their Environmental Concern

April 12, 2013
Joshua S Hill

….Two years ago I wrote an article entitled ‘Americans Characteristically Uninformed About Climate Change‘ in the wake of that years’ Environmental poll. When asked “How much do you personally worry about global warming?” those who worried “a great deal” and “fair amount” had reached an almost all-time low of 51% of respondents. The lowest had been a response of only 50% in 1998, compared with 72% two years later.This year, respondents in the 2013 Environmental poll were asked the same question, and the continuing growth in concern has continued. 2012 showed 55% were worrying “a great deal” and “a fair amount” while this year that number has jumped up to 58%. They aren’t great numbers, but they are growing numbers.

Image Credit: Gallup

More specifically, 33% of Americans worry about global warming “a great deal,” 25% worry “a fair amount,” 20% “only a little,” and 23% “not at all.” That last number is somewhat terrifying, and somewhat representative of a continuing segment of the American population’s attitudes towards global warming, and the environment as a whole…..


Unhappy Returns: Climate Change’s Big Tax on Americans

Mindy Lubber, Ceres Date: 09 April 2013 Time: 05:06 PM ET

Mindy Lubber is the president of Ceres, a non-profit organization mobilizing business leadership on climate change. She contributed this article to LiveScience’s Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

Crop losses. Floods. Wildfires. Climate change and extreme weather are fundamentally changing the United States, and American taxpayers are paying a huge, and growing, cost. The U.S. Government Accountability Office warned in February that climate change is a “significant financial risk to the federal government.” It threatens everything — not just federal lands and buildings, but food, flood and crop insurance, and disaster relief. And who pays for all of this? We do, the American taxpayers — a threat to the government’s wallet is a threat to our own bottom line. Here are several examples of the escalating costs Americans are already bearing.

Food Taxpayers subsidize the federal crop insurance program that was created during the 1930s Dust Bowl to protect farmers against crop losses. Today, we’re experiencing another devastating drought, and federal crop insurance losses have tripled in the past three years to $16 billion in payouts for 2012. That’s a cost of $51 a year for every man, woman and child in America.

And these costs are likely to continue — the latest numbers from the U.S. Drought Monitor show nearly 67 percent of the contiguous U.S. is now experiencing some level of drought.

Floods The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is staggering under massive losses after Superstorm Sandy, which triggered more than 115,000 new claims in just the first two weeks after the storm.

Although NFIP collects about $3.5 billion a year in premiums, the amount of claims the agency has paid out has exceeded the amount collected in four of the past eight years, leading to increased borrowing by the federal government (in other words, taxpayers) to fill the gap. Last year’s losses in Sandy’s wake are expected to approach $8 billion. That’s $25 for every American. [How Sandy Compares to the Worst US Natural Disasters] Keep in mind, that figure doesn’t even include the $50 billion of disaster relief that Congress approved in January for Sandy-impacted states. And with sea levels rising and storm surges reaching further inland because of climate change, risks to coastal communities and costs to taxpayers will continue to rise….

Senate OKs Sally Jewell as New Interior Secretary
Los Angeles Times, 4/10/13 The Senate approved REI Chief Executive Sally Jewell Wednesday as the new secretary of the Interior by a vote of 87 to 11. Jewell, 58, had faced tough questioning by some Senate Republicans during her confirmation hearing in early March. But in comparison to some Obama Cabinet nominees, she sailed through the committee and full Senate votes.

NWRA Welcomes Sally Jewell as the Next Secretary the Interior

Washington, D.C.–The National Wildlife Refuge Association today expressed its strong support for Sally Jewell as the next Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior following the Senate’s confirmation of her nomination last night.  Jewell’s appreciation for the outdoors and wildlife as well as her extensive knowledge of the economic benefits of our natural resources will bring a unique perspective in the President’s cabinet.

“We are extremely pleased by the Senate’s confirmation of Sally Jewell to be the 51st Secretary of the Interior and look forward to working closely with her to grow our nation’s commitment to wildlife conservation at a landscape level, in places such as the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area in Florida, the Silvio Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge in the Connecticut River watershed and Cache River National Wildlife Refuge in Arkansas.” said David Houghton, President of the National Wildlife Refuge Association. “She will undoubtedly be an excellent spokesperson for the President’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative and will continue to bring attention to our nation’s great public lands.”

Jewell has earned national recognition for her management skills of the nearly $2 billion outdoor equipment company, REI. This expertise makes her uniquely qualified to lead an agency with hundreds of millions of acres of lands where Americans go to enjoy outdoor recreation.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Wildlife Refuge System is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. The sun literally never sets on its 150 million acres spanning 560 units from Guam to Puerto Rico.  Over 40 million annual visitors contribute over $4.2 billion in economic output and over 34,000 jobs from recreation-related spending. National wildlife refuges and their recreational opportunities is part of a growing industry in the United States. Jewell’s leadership at the helm of the Department of Interior comes at a crucial time.

“Sally Jewell has been  a leader in the outdoor recreation industry using innovative strategies to protect and restore wildlife habitat throughout the Pacific Northwest and across the country; as Secretary of the Interior, she will have an opportunity to articulate and implement a larger conservation vision for the nation.” said Houghton.  “We look forward to working with her to further the goals and mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Wildlife Refuge System.”



California’s Secret To Green Jobs And A Thriving Clean Economy? It’s Policy.

Posted: 10 Apr 2013 11:59 AM PDT

California utilities to get a third of their power from renewable sources, the country’s most aggressive clean energy standard (AP Photo)

By Jorge Madrid via EDF

California has a thriving clean economy. In fact, the Golden State boasted more green jobs in clean energy and transportation last year than the other top 4 states combined, according to a new report by Environmental Entrepreneurs. Here are some more highlights:

Innovation: The state is a hub for clean energy innovation. Clean technology patents grew by 26 percent in the past 2 years, outpacing the country and the rest of the world. It is the “undisputed leader in solar technology patents” according to, with totals greater than the cumulative solar patents of the next eight highest states.

Energy Generation: Total renewable energy generation has grown 28 percent between 2007 and 2011 and wind energy has doubled during this same period. Earlier this month, the state broke its own record for solar power — over 15,394 megawatt-hours of power to the grid, enough for every Californian to keep a 100-watt bulb lit for four hours. Not to be outdone, the state also surpassed 4-gigawatts of wind power — similar to what California’s two nuclear plants can churn out at full power, or enough to momentarily supply over 2.5 million homes……



How is Tom Steyer
different than the Koch Brothers?

San Francisco Chronicle (blog) ‎- April 10 2013

Billionaire San Francisco hedge fund manager/friend of President Obama Tom Steyer. As Comrade Marinucci has told us, Steyer is targeting ..





Beyond Bathtub: Modeling and Responding to Sea Level Rise and Shoreline Change

This is a follow-up message from the Beyond Bathtub: Modeling and Responding to Sea Level Rise and Shoreline Change
workshop hosted at the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project, December 19, 2012, in Costa Mesa, CA. We are happy to announce the agenda, summary report and the presentations from the day are online and ready for viewing! Please visit the Beyond Bathtub workshop webpage for the resources – we have also enclosed the summary report with this message for your convenience. Where appropriate we also updated information to reflect developments since the workshop. To pique your interest, please find below the table of contents for this report.



North Pacific LCC Announces Two Requests for Proposals (RFPs)

The North Pacific Landscape Conservation Cooperative (NPLCC) announces the release of two separate funding opportunities:
Funding Announcement #1 
The NPLCC, the Northwest Climate Science Center and the Alaska Climate Science Center, joined hands and pooled resources to support the development of climate change science and information relevant to the adaptation and management of subsistence/cultural resources.  Funding Announcement #1, found here, provides descriptions of eligible projects and application details.  This action is included in the NPLCC Science/TEK Strategy Implementation Plan as Focused Activity #5.  Applications are due to on 5/9/13 by 5:00 p.m. PDT.
Funding Announcement #2
The NPLCC is also releasing a second funding opportunity, found here.  Funding Announcement #2 implements for 4 additional actions which are included in the recently adopted NPLCC Science/TEK Strategy Implementation Plan under Focused Activities 2 and 4.  Descriptions of eligible projects and application details are included in this second funding announcement.  Applications are due to on 5/6/13 by 5:00 p.m. PDT.
To learn more about the NPLCCNorthwest Climate Science Center, and Alaska Climate Science Center, please visit their web sites.Please share this information with anyone in your organization who may be interested in submitting proposals in response to either of these announcements. If you have questions, please contact NPLCC Staff at: Mary Mahaffy –, or  John Mankowski –



Modeling potential range shifts under a changing climate: A case study
Wednesday, April 17, 1:00-2:30 PM Eastern


Description: Climate change, and its potential impact on species distributions, has moved to the forefront of concerns among wildlife managers. Current speculation in Virginia centers on how species will respond to changing climate in the coming century. We used dynamically downscaled climate models to generate change scenarios in the mid and late 21st century. We used that information, along with available species occurrence information, to build predictive spatial models for a select group of species. Our results suggested that the impact of climate change will vary across the landscape. The resulting species distribution models provide information for wildlife managers on how climate changes may result in shifting distributions in Virginia. We also provide some basic suggestions to managers in using the information produced and in incorporating climate change into their decision making.


Demonstration of Our Coast-Our Future by Kelley Higgason, Gulf of the Farallones NMS, and Michael Fitzgibbon, PRBO

Join us for a Webinar on April 23 1:00 pm- 2:00pm EDT
Space is limited.
Reserve your Webinar seat now at:
Description: Our Coast–Our Future (OCOF) provides San Francisco Bay Area planners and managers with online maps and tools to help understand, visualize, and anticipate vulnerabilities to sea level rise and storms. OCOF provides a variety of information and tools needed to plan for changing Bay Area shorelines including: seamless Digital Elevation Model (DEM) at 2 meter horizontal resolution; 25 cm increment sea level rise projections between 0 – 2 meters with a 5 meter extreme; storm scenarios using the Coastal Storm Modeling System (CoSMoS); and interactive maps overlaying infrastructure and ecosystem vulnerabilities. Scenarios and decision support tools are currently available for the North-central California coast and are anticipated to be available for San Francisco Bay by Summer 2014. This webinar will provide information on how these products were created as well as give a live demonstration of their capabilities. Learn more at


Managing for resilience in the face of climate change: a scientific approach to targeted oyster restoration in San Francisco Bay and Elkhorn Slough, California“.  Wed April 17 Time: 10 am – 3 pm

By an interdisciplinary team from the California Coastal Conservancy, UC Davis and the National Estuarine Research Reserves at San Francisco Bay and Elkhorn Slough that began in late 2011

Location: State Coastal Conservancy, 11th floor conf room, 1330 Broadway, Oakland CA 94618 (steps from 12th St. BART and meter and lot parking)

Remote participation:  We encourage all participants to attend in person if at all possible, in order to have the best discussion.  For those who must attend remotely, please use the conference line (audio) and Go To Meeting link (powerpoints) below.

1.  Please join my meeting. Meeting ID: 327-017-026

2.  Join the conference call: 1-888-232-3870 Passcode: 226167#


Scenario Planning (Pilot Offering!): July 15-19, 2013

Course & Class Name: Scenario Planning toward Climate Change Adaptation : FWS-2013-0715-NCTC ALC3194 

Scenario planning is a valuable decision support method for integrating irreducible and uncontrollable uncertainties into climate change adaptation and other planning in natural resource management. This overview course will introduce the core elements of scenario planning and expose participants to a diversity of approaches and specific scenario development techniques that incorporate both qualitative and quantitative components. Participants will learn how scenario planning can be integrated into planning frameworks and be complementary with other decision support methods. This course will provide participants with the skills needed to assess the appropriateness of scenario planning for their needs, and identify the resources and expertise needed to conduct a scenario planning exercise that will meet established objectives. The course is developed in partnership with the Wildlife Conservation Society and the U.S. Geological Survey.


Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment: August 27-29, 2013

Course & Class Name: Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment : FWS-2013-0827-NCTC ALC3184 

This course is based on January 2011 publication “Scanning the Conservation Horizon – A Guide to Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment” ( The guidance document is a product of an expert workgroup on climate change vulnerability assessment convened by the National Wildlife Federation in collaboration with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station, National Park Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, and the Department of Defense Legacy Resource Management Program. This course is designed to guide conservation and resource management practitioners in two essential elements in the design of climate adaptation plans. Specifically, it will provide guidance in identifying which species or habitats are likely to be most strongly affected by projected changes; and understanding why these resources are likely to be vulnerable. Vulnerability Assessments are a critical tool in undertaking any climate change planning or implementation.

Registration Information:

Important Note on registering! All participants will automatically be added to a waitlist, from which we are enrolling. 

Department of Interior (DOI) Employees  and those with a DOI Learn account (and have taken a course through DOI before).

Please register through DOI Learn






Understanding the Life of Lithium Ion Batteries in Electric Vehicles

Apr. 10, 2013 — Scientists today answered a question that worries millions of owners and potential owners of electric and hybrid vehicles using lithium-ion batteries: How long before the battery pack dies, leaving a sticker-shock bill for a fresh pack or a car ready for the junk heap? Their answer, presented here at the 245th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), being held in New Orleans this week, may surprise skeptics. “The battery pack could be used during a quite reasonable period of time ranging from 5 to 20 years depending on many factors,” said Mikael G. Cugnet, Ph.D., who spoke on the topic. “That’s good news when you consider that some estimates put the average life expectancy of a new car at about eight years.”

Cugnet explained that the lifespan depends mainly on the battery’s temperature, state of charge and charge protocol. Battery performance begins to suffer as soon as the temperature climbs above 86 degrees Fahrenheit. “The higher the temperature, the lower the battery service life,” he said. “A temperature above 86 degrees F affects the battery pack performance instantly and even permanently if it lasts many months like in Middle East countries.” Cugnet also recommended that electric vehicle (EV) owners pay attention to how much their battery is charged, another factor in a battery’s longevity. He reported that a fully-charged battery is more vulnerable to losing power at temperatures above 86 degrees F.






What is unique about the migration patterns of the Mountain Quail?
(a.) They do not follow the same patterns from year to year
(b.) They will migrate with other bird species
(c.) They migrate the opposite direction from most birds, moving north as the weather gets cold
(d.) They walk most of the way
(e.) They invariably choose the most popular winter beach resorts, even though they claim to hate crowds
(answer at end)

High levels of lead detected in rice imported from certain countries
(April 10, 2013) — Rice imported from certain countries contains high levels of lead that could pose health risks, particularly for infants and children, who are especially sensitive to lead’s effects, and adults of Asian heritage who consume large amounts of rice, scientists say. … > full story

Self-medication in animals much more widespread than believed
April 11, 2013) — It’s been known for decades that animals such as chimpanzees seek out medicinal herbs to treat their diseases. But in recent years, the list of animal pharmacists has grown much longer, and it now appears that the practice of animal self-medication is a lot more widespread than previously thought, according to ecologists. … > full story

Bean leaves can trap bedbugs, researchers find
April 9, 2013) — Inspired by a traditional Balkan bedbug remedy, researchers have documented how microscopic hairs on kidney bean leaves effectively stab and trap the biting insects. Scientists are now developing materials that mimic the geometry of the leaves. … > full story

‘Strikingly similar’ brains of human and fly may aid mental health research
(April 11, 2013) — Scientists have revealed deep similarities in how the brain regulates behavior in arthropods (such as flies and crabs) and vertebrates (such as fish, mice and humans). The findings shed new light on the evolution of the brain and behavior and may aid understanding of disease mechanisms underlying mental health problems. … > full story

Reducing waste of food: A key element in feeding billions more people
(April 7, 2013) — Families can be key players in a revolution needed to feed the world, and could save money by helping to cut food losses now occurring from field to fork to trash bin, an expert said. He described that often-invisible waste in food — 4 out of every 10 pounds produced in the United States alone — and the challenges of feeding a global population of 9 billion. … > full story















(d.) They walk most of the way

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