Highlight of the Week
IPCC REPORT RELEASED: Upper Limit on Emissions is Nearing -3.6 degrees F by ~2040
Conservation science for a healthy planet
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Highlight of the Week– IPCC REPORT RELEASED: Upper Limit on Emissions is Nearing, 3.6 degrees F by ~2040
STOCKHOLM — For the first time, the world’s top climate scientists on Friday formally embraced an upper limit on greenhouse gases while warning that it is likely to be exceeded within decades if emissions continue at a brisk pace, underscoring the profound challenge humanity faces in bringing global warming under control.
A panel of experts appointed by the United Nations, unveiling its latest assessment of climate research, reinforced its earlier conclusions that global warming is real, that it is caused primarily if not exclusively by human emissions, and that it is likely to get substantially worse unless efforts to limit those emissions are rapidly accelerated. “Human influence has been detected in warming of the atmosphere and the ocean, in changes in the global water cycle, in reductions in snow and ice, in global mean sea level rise, and in changes in some climate extremes,” the report said. “It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.”
Going well beyond its four previous analyses of the emissions problem, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change endorsed a “carbon budget” for humanity — an upper limit on the amount of the primary greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, that can be emitted from industrial activities and forest destruction. To stand the best chance of keeping the planetary warming below an internationally agreed target of 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit above preindustrial levels and thus avoiding the most dangerous effects of climate change, the panel found, only about 1 trillion tons of carbon can be burned and the resulting gas spewed into the atmosphere.
Just over half that amount has already been emitted since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, and at current rates of energy consumption, the trillionth ton will be released around 2040, according to calculations by Myles R. Allen, a scientist at the University of Oxford and one of the authors of the new report. More than 3 trillion tons of carbon are still left in the ground as fossil fuels.
Limiting the warming to the agreed-upon target “is technically doable, but at the moment we’re not going in the right direction,” Dr. Allen said in an interview. “I don’t think we’ll do it unless we bite the bullet and start talking about what we’re going to do with that extra carbon that we can’t afford to dump into the atmosphere.” ….
Scientists are concerned it will be difficult to stay below the 2C target
September 27, 2013 BBC News
A landmark report says scientists are 95% certain that humans are the “dominant cause” of global warming since the 1950s. The report by the UN’s climate panel details the physical evidence behind climate change. Here are a selection of reactions to the report.
Paul Nurse, president of the Royal Society
It is becoming increasingly clear that we are responsible for warming of the Earth primarily due to the burning of fossil fuels. Predicting the implications of this or how the picture will change in the future are big challenges for scientists and today’s report by the IPCC, whilst recognising uncertainties, gives us the best possible insight into what may lay ahead.
Those who predict imminent disaster are probably overstating the case, but equally those who claim that we can carry on regardless are likely to be burying their heads in the sand.
Predicting what will happen to climate is very complicated and there is still a lot that we do not know, but we cannot afford to wait until we can predict the future with absolute certainty before addressing the risks. We invest substantially, both as a country and individually, to insure ourselves against a wide range of risks that are less likely than climate change.
Dr Emily Shuckburgh, British Antarctic Survey
Our collective actions have generated a climate problem that threatens our future and our children’s future. Increasing levels of greenhouse gases are disrupting our climate. And because it is the cumulative amounts of greenhouse gases that determine the severity of the impact, any delay in reducing emissions will lead to greater risks and a need to deploy more difficult and expensive means to adapt to the impacts. One of the key developments since the last report has been an increased understanding of changes in the polar regions and their global effects. Arctic sea ice has declined significantly and new research is starting to shed light how this affects our weather in the UK. The Antarctic Peninsula has seen significant warming and the breakup of a number of its ice shelves. The Southern Ocean around Antarctica has warmed throughout its depth. And it has now been possible to estimate the contribution of melting of the polar ice sheets to sea level rise.
Kevin Anderson, professor of energy and climate change at the University of Manchester
What has changed significantly since the last report is that we have pumped an additional 200 billion tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere. Annual emissions are now 60% higher than at the time of the first report in 1990 and atmospheric CO2 levels are the highest they have been for over two million years.
So what are we doing in the UK to help reverse this reckless growth in emissions? Record levels of investment in North Sea oil, tax breaks for shale gas, investment in oil from tar sands and companies preparing to drill beneath the Arctic. Against this backdrop, the UK Treasury is pushing for over 30 new gas power stations, whilst the government supports further airport expansion and has dropped its 2030 decarbonisation target – all this alongside beleaguered plans for a few wind farms and weak energy efficiency measures. Governments, businesses and high-emitting individuals around the world now face a stark choice: to reduce emissions in line with the clear message of the IPCC report, or continue with their carbon-profligate behaviour at the expense of both climate-vulnerable communities and future generations.
What is the IPCC?
In its own words, the IPCC is there “to provide the world with a clear scientific view on the current state of knowledge in climate change and its potential environmental and socio-economic impacts”. The offspring of two UN bodies, the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Programme, it has issued four heavyweight assessment reports to date on the state of the climate. These are commissioned by the governments of 195 countries, essentially the entire world. These reports are critical in informing the climate policies adopted by these governments. The IPCC itself is a small organisation, run from Geneva with a full time staff of 12. All the scientists who are involved with it do so on a voluntary basis. The IPCC report provides a sound evidence base on which policy makers can make their decisions on appropriate action. Ignoring the problem is simply not sensible and most governments, businesses and individuals recognise that. The more convincing the evidence becomes, the more confident I am that rationality and science will win out and we will grasp the opportunities that decarbonising our economy offers.
Climate change glossary
Select a term to learn more:
Action that helps cope with the effects of climate change – for example construction of barriers to protect against rising sea levels, or conversion to crops capable of surviving high temperatures and drought.
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Why is IPCC so certain about the influence of humans? 100 percent of the global warming over the past 60 years is human-caused, according to the IPCC’s latest report. The Guardian
Climate scientists get Swift-boated. Six years after the IPCC’s massive Fourth Assessment Report was excoriated for a handful of errors, four years after the uproar over leaked emails put scientists on the defensive, the climate denial camp still controls the message. Daily Climate
Interactive look at 11 indicators of a warming world. While temperature change is the most commonly cited climate change indicator, there are numerous others that also show what climate change looks like. They range from rising seas to melting glaciers and ice sheets to changing ecosystems. Climate Central
Point Blue in the news:
By Mark Prado Marin Independent Journal Posted: 09/20/2013 05:05:53 PM PDT
A hiker gets a close look at a dead fin whale washed up on a beach along the Point Reyes National Seashore on June 21, 2012. The 47-foot whale was killed after having contact with a ship. It was found south of Wildcat beach. (Photo provided by National Park Service)
A new “whale spotter” app aimed at preventing ships from hitting the giant sea creatures will be tested during a cruise launched next week from Sausalito.
The testing will take place on a week-long research trip, during which scientists from Point Blue Conservation Science — formerly the Point Reyes Bird Observatory — and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Cordell Bank and Gulf of Farallones National Marine Sanctuaries will record whale sightings with the app. “Having data on whale movement is key to working with the shipping industry and making informed management decisions,” said Fairfax resident Dan Howard, superintendent of Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary. “Having real-time information from the whale spotter app will take data collation to a whole new level.”….
Mark D. Bertness 1 and Tyler C. Coverdale Ecology April 2013
With global increases in human impacts, invasive species have become a major threat to ecosystems worldwide. While they have been traditionally viewed as harmful, invasive species may facilitate the restoration of degraded ecosystems outside their native ranges. In New England (USA) overfishing has depleted salt marsh predators, allowing the herbivorous crab Sesarma reticulatum to denude hundreds of hectares of low marsh. Here, using multiple site surveys and field caging experiments, we show that the subsequent invasion of green crabs, Carcinus maenas, into heavily burrowed marshes partially reverses decades of cordgrass die-off. By consuming Sesarma, eliciting a nonlethal escape response, and evicting Sesarma from burrows, Carcinus reduces Sesarma herbivory and promotes cordgrass recovery. These results suggest that invasive species can contribute to restoring degraded ecosystems and underscores the potential for invasive species to return ecological functions lost to human impacts.
Mark D. Bertness and Tyler C. Coverdale 2013. An invasive species facilitates the recovery of salt marsh ecosystems on Cape Cod. Ecology 94:1937–1943. http://dx.doi.org/10.1890/12-2150.1
Songbirds may have ‘borrowed’ DNA to fuel migration
(September 20, 2013) — A common songbird may have acquired genes from fellow migrating birds in order to travel greater distances, according to a University of British Columbia study published this week in the journal Evolution.. While most birds either migrate or remain resident in one region, the Audubon’s warbler, with habitat ranging from the Pacific Northwest to Mexico, exhibits different behaviours in different locations. The northern populations breed and migrate south for the winter, while southern populations have a tendency to stay put all year long. Evolutionary biologists have long been puzzled by research that indicates some Audubon’s warblers share the same mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) with myrtle warblers — a different species of songbird that migrates annually to the southeastern U.S., Central America and the Caribbean — even though they look dramatically different.
“Mitochondria are only passed down from mothers to their offspring,” says David Toews, a PhD candidate in UBC’s Department of Zoology. “So it’s a very useful marker for differentiating species. In this case, finding two species of songbirds sharing the same mtDNA is very surprising, so we set out to find out why.” By analyzing genetic data and stable isotopes in feathers, and by measuring oxygen consumption of the mitochondria in their flight muscles, Toews and fellow researcher Milica Mandic pinpointed the precise geographical location near the Utah-Arizona border where the myrtle warblers’ “wanderlust” genes displace the Audubon warbler’s ancestral mitochondria. This region happens to also be the transition zone where we see a change in the migratory behaviour of Audubon’s warblers.
“Because of its prominent role in reconstructing evolutionary relationships, people often forget that mitochondria actually have a very important function as the main energy generator of cells,” says Toews. “Our findings suggest that over generations, the Audubon’s warbler may have co-opted the myrtle’s mitochondria to better power its own travels.”
David P. L. Toews, Milica Mandic, Jeffrey G. Richards, Darren E. Irwin. Migration, Mitochondria and the Yellow-Rumped Warbler. Evolution, 2013; DOI: 10.1111/evo.12260
Seeing the forest and the trees: Panoramic, very-high-resolution, time-lapse photography for plant and ecosystem research
(September 25, 2013) — A new technique uses the GigaPan EPIC Pro, a robotic camera system, to create time-lapse sequences of panoramas that allow the viewer to zoom in at an incredible level of detail, e.g., from a landscape view to that of an individual plant. This system greatly improves the utility of time-lapse photography by capturing interactions between the environment and plant populations in a single sequence. … > full story
Whale mass stranding attributed to sonar for first time
(September 25, 2013) — An independent scientific review panel has concluded that the mass stranding of approximately 100 melon-headed whales in the Loza Lagoon system in northwest Madagascar in 2008 was primarily triggered by acoustic stimuli, more specifically, a multi-beam echosounder system operated by a survey vessel contracted by ExxonMobil Exploration and Production (Northern Madagascar) Limited. …
According to the final report issued today, this is the first known marine mammal mass stranding event of this nature to be closely associated with high-frequency mapping sonar systems. Based on these findings, there is cause for concern over the impact of noise on marine mammals as these high-frequency mapping sonar systems are used by various stakeholders including the hydrocarbon industry, military, and research vessels used by other industries. The report concluded: “The potential for behavioral responses and indirect injury or mortality from the use of similar MBES [multi-beam echosounder systems] should be considered in future environmental assessments, operational planning and regulatory decisions.” The full report can be found at: http://iwc.int/2008-mass-stranding-in-madagascar.… full story
Sep. 26, 2013 — New NOAA-led research on tagged humpback whales in Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary reveals a variety of previously unknown feeding techniques along the seafloor. Rather than a single bottom feeding behavior, the whales show three distinct feeding approaches: simple side-rolls, side-roll inversions, and repetitive scooping. A recently published paper, in the journal Marine Mammal Science, indicates that bottom side-roll techniques are common in Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary and the Great South Channel study area, a deep-water passage between Nantucket, Mass. and Georges Bank-further southeast.
Species density (a relative measure of species richness) decreases poleward. Functional diversity is highest in the Tropical Eastern Pacific and at dispersed hotspots at a range of latitudes. Color classifications differ between maps due to different ranges and distributions of diversity values. Minimum and maximum observed values are provided in the key for each plot as effective numbers per 500 square meters. (Credit: Virginia Institute of Marine Science)
September 25, 2013 — Teeming with species, tropical coral reefs have been long thought to be the areas of greatest biodiversity for fishes and other marine life — and thus most deserving of resources for conservation. But a new global study of reef fishes reveals a surprise: when measured by factors other than the traditional species count — instead using features such as a species’ role in an ecosystem or the number of individuals within a species — new hotspots of biodiversity emerge, including some nutrient-rich, temperate waters…. > full story
Uphill for the trees of the world
(September 24, 2013) — You’ll need to get out your mountain boots to go for a walk in the woods in the future. A new study shows that forests are to an increasing extent growing on steep slopes all over the world.
Human civilisation has had an impact on the world, and it continues to have an even greater impact. One of these is that the forests have been cleared and especially so in flat lowlands, so that they have gradually become restricted to steep terrain. This pattern is now emerging all across the world..
Developed countries have been particularly efficient at removing forests from fertile, flat areas of land. The process has been going on throughout the last centuries, for example in Europe. And there is a clear correlation. The better the economy, the better the political organisation, and the more orderly societal conditions a country has, the more efficient the population has been at restricting forests to steep areas, reflecting their lower utility and value. Researchers at Aarhus University have reached this conclusion by making use of the rapidly increasing amount of data from satellites that monitor the global environment with a high level of detail. The researchers analysed high-resolution global satellite data describing the distribution of tree cover in the period 2000-2005, linking this to global data for terrain (slope), climate, human activity, and a number of political and socio-economic factors. The study is being published in Nature Communications. While the process has been going on in densely populated, developed countries for a long time, it has also accelerated in recent times in less well-developed countries and societies, which have also started to clear forests to make room for agriculture and urban development. In thinly populated areas such as parts of Amazon, Siberia and Congo, there are still large, continuous stretches of unspoiled forests. As populations grow and human impacts increase, however, development will increasingly affect even these relatively isolated areas. The more well-developed societies around the world are now increasingly replanting trees, just as forests are naturally regrowing in areas that have been abandoned as people move to the cities. These dynamics occur in steep areas in particular, given modern efficient land use practices cannot easily be implemented here, strengthening the development leading towards future forests becoming concentrated on slopes. This development gives rise to concern about the biodiversity of the forests of the future, according to Brody Sandel, who is one of the researchers responsible for the study.
How Green is the Valley? Putting a Dollar Value on Ecosystems- Agriculture in NM
An acequia, or irrigation ditch, in New Mexico.
How much is something worth? If you are looking at an ounce of gold, a pound of rice or a barrel of oil, the answer is easy. Markets exist to set prices between buyers and sellers.
But what if you are trying to establish the value of clean air and water, the cohesiveness of your community or your health? What if you wanted to understand how much each of this these things was worth in order to knit them together and establish the value of an entire ecosystem? Economists call this establishing the value of “ecosystem services,” and it is no less important than setting the right price for a barrel of West Texas Crude. By working together, economists, ecologists, local residents and others can help begin to set the values for the pieces that make up an ecosystem. Through study, interviews with locals and research, things like the value of clean water to irrigate crops, or a well-functioning wetland as habitat for aquatic species begin to come into sharper focus. Understanding these values can help protect these natural landscapes in the face of development pressures and a changing climate. This understanding also helps scientists bolster what is working and transfer lessons learned to other landscapes that may not be functioning as well. A few weeks ago, a team of scientists, policy experts from EDF and other groups and local citizens, led by Dr. Steven Archambault of New Mexico State University and Dr. Nejem Raheem of Emerson College in Boston, began such an effort to examine ecosystem service values in agricultural communities in northern New Mexico. As is the case across the Southwest, many of these villages were settled by Spanish colonists in the 1600’s and their ecosystem is defined by irrigation systems called acequias. Each acequia (a-say-key-a, from the Arabic word for “water bearer”) is a hand-dug and locally maintained ditch that channels mountain snowmelt into the fertile valley bottoms for agricultural and domestic use…..
CDFA Releases New Ecosystems Services Database
The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) recently released an Ecosystem Services Database. The database was developed to help the department discuss the multiple benefits provided by California agriculture and to provide growers, ranchers, and stakeholders with information about ecosystem services. CDFA developed the database by identifying nearly 400 farms and ranches from websites and other sources, including several produced by CalCAN and available on our website, and indicating what ecosystems services they provide. The database can be queried by key word, county, crop type, and type of ecosystem service. An interactive map allows users to view where the services are taking place. Growers can add their own operation to the site by filling out a simple online questionnaire. “California’s working farms and ranches are an important part of our natural landscape,” said CDFA Secretary Karen Ross. “The commitment to ecosystem services demonstrates clearly that beyond the productivity of fields and pastures, resource management decisions by farmers and ranchers provide us with wildlife and pollinator habitat, contribute to clean water and air, provide recreational and tourism connections, and much more.”
The rapid loss of foraging animals such as bilbies, bandicoots and potoroos since the European colonisation of Australia has been linked to ecosystem decline, owing to the role they play in keeping land healthy. A new study led by Murdoch University .
Europe-wide studies published on cormorant-fishery conflicts
(September 24, 2013) — Findings from a major Europe-wide study into cormorant-fishery conflicts are published this week, providing one of the most detailed ecological and socio-economic investigations of these fish-eating birds, their impacts and implications for their management….. Cormorant numbers across Europe have been increasing, particularly within the last three decades, for a range of reasons including protection from persecution, the effect of improved food sources, for example as a result of nutrient enrichment and fish farms, and changes in pollution levels. However, the enlarged cormorant populations have led to significant conflicts in many parts of Europe with recreational and commercial fisheries, and fish farms. For this reason, an interdisciplinary network of almost 70 researchers from 30 countries contributed to the ‘INTERCAFE: Interdisciplinary Initiative to Reduce Pan-European Cormorant-Fisheries Conflicts’ project which was funded through the EU COST Action programme. … > full story
Whale earwax used to determine contaminant exposure in whales
(September 23, 2013) — A novel technique has been developed for reconstructing contaminant and hormone profiles using whale earplugs to determine, for the first time, lifetime chemical exposures and hormone profiles, from birth to death, for an individual whale. This information has not been previously attainable. … > full story
Science World Report
– September 23, 2013
Invasive species are conquering native ones as aquatic environments begin to shift. Now, scientists have discovered a fish species in the Danube River that’s making a huge splash; not only is this invasive species conquering new habitat, but it’s also … That’s not all round goby are doing. They’re also reducing the diversity and abundance of invertebrates. Stoneflies, caddisflies and mayflies are being particularly hard hit as they become preferred prey. With the ability to quickly adapt to its new surroundings, the round goby is drastically impacting ecosystems. In fact, the researchers found that the goby invasion has led to a “novel ecosystem” in the headwater of the Danube. This ecosystem is comprised of previously unknown combinations of species. Similar occurrences are also happening in other areas that the round goby is colonizing, including the Great Lakes of North America. “What we are observing is a very flexible and robust network of different species that adapts itself perfectly to new environments,” said Jurgen Geist, one of the researchers, in a news release. “Biodiversity is declining and once the original ecosystem is lost, we can never go back.” The findings are published in the journal PLOS One.
Three new species of tiny frogs from the remarkable region of Papua New Guinea
(September 20, 2013) — Following the description of the world’s smallest frogs, biologists now offer three more species of tiny amphibians from the region of Papua New Guinea. Despite their minute size, around 20 mm, the three new frog species are still substantially larger than the prize holders, described in 2011. The new species represent a small part and attest for the remarkable anuran biodiversity of the Papuan region. … > full story
Artificial lighting and noise alter biorhythms of birds
(September 24, 2013) — Noise from traffic and artificial night lighting cause birds in the city centre to become active up to five hours earlier in the morning than birds in more natural areas. These were the findings from an investigation conducted on 400 blackbirds in Leipzig by the interdisciplinary research group “Loss of the Night”. These findings showed how ambient noise and light pollution caused by humans have significant effects on the behavioural patterns of city blackbirds, affecting their natural cycles. … > full story
Antibacterial products fuel resistant bacteria in streams and rivers
(September 19, 2013) — Triclosan — a synthetic antibacterial widely used in personal care products — is fueling the development of resistant bacteria in streams and rivers. So reports a new paper that is the first to document triclosan resistance in a natural environment. … > full story
Steroids may persist longer in the environment than expected
(September 26, 2013) — Certain anabolic steroids and pharmaceutical products last longer in the environment than previously known, according to a new study. The researchers found that the steroid trenbolone acetate, along with some other pharmaceutical products, never fully degrade in the environment, and in fact can partially regenerate themselves. … > full story
The future of the suburbs
(September 25, 2013) — Few living environments are more universally maligned than the suburbs. The suburbs stand accused of being boring, homogeneous, inefficient, car-oriented, and sterile. Some critics even argue that the suburbs make people fat. While criticisms mount, however, a large proportion of the world’s population continues to live in the suburban fringes of growing cities. What factors will affect the future of the suburbs? What changes do planners need to accommodate in planning the next generation of urban growth? … > full story
By Katie Valentine on September 26, 2013 at 4:09 pm
Emissions from livestock can be cut by 30 percent just by adopting better farming practices, according to a new report by the U.N. The report, published Thursday by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, found that using better, more easily-digestible feeds can reduce the amount of methane generated by ruminants like cows, and that better breeding techniques and maintenance of animals’ health can also reduce the numbers of unproductive animals in a herd. In addition, better soil management on grazing lands can increase the pasture’s ability to act as a carbon sink. For pigs and poultry, the report found that using precision feeding — meeting the animals’ nutritional requirements, instead of overfeeding them nutrient-deficient foods — and switching to feed sources that are less energy-intensive can help reduce emissions. And for cows and poultry, using manure as fertilizer instead of storing and discarding it can help recycle nutrients back into the soil and also cut down on emissions from decomposing manure. Livestock is responsible for 14.5 percent of the world’s emissions, according to the report. Most of those — 65 percent — come from cattle and are in the form of methane, a potent greenhouse gas that’s responsible for about 44 percent of livestock’s emissions. Forty-five percent of greenhouse gases from livestock are emitted during feed production and processing — meaning growing and shipping the corn and soy used to feed most farm animals. The report stated that many of these recommendations had the ability to boost production as well as decrease emissions. The report recommended that governments, especially in developing countries, provide incentives to farmers to adopt these better practices, and also to increase public awareness of livestock’s role in climate change. …
September 25 2013
The heat content of the oceans is growing and growing. That means that the greenhouse effect has not taken a pause and the cold sun is not noticeably slowing global warming. NOAA posts regularly updated measurements of the amount of heat stored in the ocean… The amount of heat stored in the oceans is one of the most important diagnostics for global warming, because about 90% of the additional heat is stored there (you can read more about this in the last IPCC report from 2007). The atmosphere stores only about 2% because of its small heat capacity. The surface (including the continental ice masses) can only absorb heat slowly because it is a poor heat conductor. Thus, heat absorbed by the oceans accounts for almost all of the planet’s radiative imbalance….We see two very interesting things.
First: Roughly two thirds of the warming since 1980 occurred in the upper ocean. The heat content of the upper layer has gone up twice as much as in the lower layer (700 – 2000 m). The average temperature of the upper layer has increased more than three times as much as the lower (because the upper layer is only 700 m thick, and the lower one 1300 m). That is not surprising, as after all the ocean is heated from above and it takes time for the heat to penetrate deeper.
Second: In the last ten years the upper layer has warmed more slowly than before. In spite of this the temperature still is changing as rapidly there as in the lower layer. This recent slower warming in the upper ocean is closely related to the slower warming of the global surface temperature, because the temperature of the overlaying atmosphere is strongly coupled to the temperature of the ocean surface. That the heat absorption of the ocean as a whole (at least to 2000 m) has not significantly slowed makes it clear that the reduced warming of the upper layer is not (at least not much) due to decreasing heating from above, but rather mostly due to greater heat loss to lower down: through the 700 m level, from the upper to the lower layer. (The transition from solar maximum to solar minimum probably also contributed a small part as planetary heat absorption decreased by about 15%, Abraham, et al., 2013). It is difficult to establish the exact mechanism for this stronger heat flux to deeper water, given the diverse internal variability in the oceans.
Climate report struggles with temperature quirks. September 21, 2013 Associated Press Scientists working on a landmark U.N. report on climate change are struggling over how to address a wrinkle in the meteorological data that has given ammunition to global-warming skeptics: The heating of Earth’s surface appears to have slowed in the past 15 years even though greenhouse gas emissions keep rising.
By Joe Romm on September 25, 2013 at 5:34 pm
“Global Warming Has Accelerated In Past 15 Years, New Study Of Oceans Confirms,” as we reported back in March. And “Greenland Ice Melt Up Nearly Five-Fold Since Mid-1990s, Antartica’s Ice Loss Up 50% In Past Decade,” as we reported last November. Another study that month found “sea level rising 60% faster than projected.” And yet much of the media believes climate change isn’t what gets measured and reported by scientists, but is somehow a dialectic or a debate between scientists and deniers. So while 2010 was the hottest year on record and the 2000s the hottest decade on record, we are subject to nonsensically framed stories like this one from CBS, headlined “Controversy over U.N. report on climate change as warming appears to slow.” The drama-driven junkies of the MSM apparently think that the most newsworthy thing in the once-every-several-years literature review by hundreds of the world’s leading scientists is that people who make a living denying climate science … wait for it … deny climate science. That CBS story actually begins, “Climatologists and climate-change deniers agree on at least one thing this week: everyone is awaiting the landmark U.N. report on climate change that will be presented at next week’s meeting of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).” Stop the presses! No, please, stop the damn presses already if you are an editor or reporter who thinks deniers deserve equal billing with scientists.
Because the media keeps making the same faux pas about the faux pause, scientists and science writers have had to debunk it repeatedly. Anyone in the media who insists on buying into the false dialectic MUST read the new piece at Real Climate by climatologist Stefan Rahmstorf, the Mother Jones piece by Chris Mooney, this piece by Tamino, and almost anything at Skeptical Science (such as this or this).
Let me extract the key points and figures. Back in July, scientist Dana Nuccitelli summarized a new study, “Distinctive climate signals in reanalysis of global ocean heat content“:
- Completely contrary to the popular contrarian myth, global warming has accelerated, with more overall global warming in the past 15 years than the prior 15 years. This is because about 90% of overall global warming goes into heating the oceans, and the oceans have been warming dramatically.
- As suspected, much of the ‘missing heat’ Kevin Trenberth previously talked about has been found in the deep oceans. Consistent with the results of Nuccitelli et al. (2012), this study finds that 30% of the ocean warming over the past decade has occurred in the deeper oceans below 700 meters, which they note is unprecedented over at least the past half century.
- Some recent studies have concluded based on the slowed global surface warming over the past decade that the sensitivity of the climate to the increased greenhouse effect is somewhat lower than the IPCC best estimate. Those studies are fundamentally flawed because they do not account for the warming of the deep oceans.
- The slowed surface air warming over the past decade has lulled many people into a false and unwarranted sense of security…..
Arctic Ice Makes Comeback From Record Low, but Long-Term Decline May Continue
New York Times
– September 21, 2013
Sea ice in the Arctic Ocean underwent a sharp recovery this year from the record-low levels of 2012, with 50 percent more ice surviving the summer melt season, scientists said Friday. The experts added, however, that much of the ice remains thin and slushy, a far cry from the thick Arctic pack ice of the past. Because thin ice is subject to rapid future melting, the scientists said this year’s recovery was unlikely to portend any change in the relentless long-term decline of Arctic sea ice…..
The deep Greenland Sea is warming faster than the world ocean
(September 25, 2013) — Recent warming of the Greenland Sea Deep Water is about ten times higher than warming rates estimated for the global ocean. Scientists analyzed temperature data from 1950 to 2010 in the abyssal Greenland Sea, which is an ocean area located just to the south of the Arctic Ocean. … In the last thirty years, the water temperature between 2000 metres depth and the sea floor has risen by 0.3 degrees centigrade. ‘This sounds like a small number, but we need to see this in relation to the large mass of water that has been warmed’ says the AWI scientist and lead author of the study, Dr. Raquel Somavilla Cabrillo. ‘The amount of heat accumulated within the lowest 1.5 kilometres in the abyssal Greenland Sea would warm the atmosphere above Europe by 4 degrees centigrade. The Greenland Sea is just a small part of the global ocean. However, the observed increase of 0.3 degrees in the deep Greenland Sea is ten times higher than the temperature increase in the global ocean on average. For this reason, this area and the remaining less studied polar oceans need to be taken into consideration’. The cause of the warming is a change in the subtle interplay of two processes in the Greenland Sea: the cooling by deep convection of very cold surface waters in winter and the warming by the import of relatively warm deep waters from the interior Arctic Ocean. “Until the early 1980s, the central Greenland Sea has been mixed from the top to the bottom by winter cooling at the surface making waters dense enough to reach the sea floor” explains Somavilla. “This transfer of cold water from the top to the bottom has not occurred in the last 30 years. However, relatively warm water continues to flow from the deep Arctic Ocean into the Greenland Sea. Cooling from above and warming through inflow are no longer balanced, and thus the Greenland Sea is progressively becoming warmer and warmer.” ….> full story
TRACIE CONE September 27, 2013 Associated Press The forest is beginning to repair itself. The conundrum facing forest ecologists is what to do now in an agency that is transitioning from a heavy focus on timber production to take into consideration the impacts of climate change, carbon sequestration and habitat. ….
ust four weeks after the most intense day of California’s Rim Fire — when wind and extremely arid conditions created a conflagration that turned 30,000 acres of dense conifers and oaks into a moonscape — life is returning as the forest begins to repair itself. “It’s a pretty harsh environment, but we know fire can be good and that species depend on it, and that fire allows seeds to germinate,” said Sean Collins of the South Central Sierra Incident Command Team as he examined tiny patches of greenery amid a disorienting sepia-tone landscape.
“Next spring we’ll see a lot of wildflowers and plants that haven’t been seen around here for a long, long time. In 20 years, we’ll see something really nice. But it will take 200 years at least for it to grow back the way it was,” he said.
A hunter’s illegal campfire ignited California’s third-largest fire in history Aug. 17 in Stanislaus National Forest, launching a 400-square-mile mosaic of destruction interspersed with unaltered refuges across the 1,400-square-mile forest. It scorched canyon walls in 25 watersheds nurturing sensitive trout and supplying drinking water to millions of Californians before spreading into Yosemite National Park.
Experts estimate the Stanislaus lost 1 billion board feet of potential lumber in a forest that balances recreation and natural beauty with select timber sales. Forest archeologists are assessing damage and the potential loss of historic logging camps, Gold Rush cabins and native Miwok artifacts.
But the conundrum facing forest ecologists is what to do now in an agency that is transitioning from one with a heavy focus on timber production to one whose actions now take into consideration the impacts of climate change, carbon sequestration and habitat.
Decades ago when the last fires swept through the Stanislaus, foresters replanted vast stands of conifers. Absent funding to manage those forests, and lacking a market for small trees that could be sold from thinning, they had stood relatively untouched. Inspections this week revealed that those were some of the most heavily devastated from a fire that has become a laboratory for forest management in an era of rapid environmental changes brought by climate warming. “When they planted those plantations, the foresters wanted to grow forest for wood production,” said federal forest ecologist Hugh Safford a day after surveying the impact. “Now there are a lot of things that we are trying to do that we have to take into consideration: watershed protection, wildlife habitat restoration, climate change resilience. That’s a big switch in thinking.”
What science is learning about fire and how to live with it.
New York Times - Paul Tullis Photographs by Richard Barnes September 19, 2013
Lassen Volcanic National Park, in Northern California, consists of more than 100,000 acres of wilderness and woodlands surrounding Lassen Peak, a volcano named for a pioneer and huckster who guided migrants through the area, that last blew its top in 1915, before anybody knew it was an active volcano. Last summer the park, like much of the West, was in the midst of a yearlong drought — which could be more accurately described as the continuation of a decade-long drought that had merely been less severe for a couple of years…. Fire has always been a part of the natural ecology — many plant species evolved in direct response to it and couldn’t survive without it; when the sap of some pine cones melts, for example, seeds are released. But the reflexive practice of putting out all fires, which has dominated national policy for so many decades, has turned much of the American West into a tinderbox….…Seven weeks later, a hunter’s illegal campfire started a wildfire near Yosemite National Park; named the Rim Fire, it would go on to burn an area about the size of San Francisco, San Jose, Oakland and Sacramento combined, involve nearly 5,000 firefighters at one point and cost roughly $90 million to fight. Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency as the fire threatened San Francisco’s water supplies and access to electricity. That same week in August, images of giant flames from a fire burning over a 174-square-mile area near Ketchum, Idaho — close to where a fire in 2007 burned 65 square miles — dominated nightly news coverage.
Wildfires of a size and intensity that only a decade ago were rare are now almost an annual occurrence. This summer, more than 500 homes were destroyed by fire in the Colorado Springs area; last year, the nearby Waldo Canyon Fire burned down 347 structures, at a cost of $453 million. In 2011, 5,600 homes and buildings were destroyed by fires in Texas. In 2009, one wildfire lasting several weeks burned an area in Los Angeles County the size of more than 10 Manhattans and cost $93 million. The amount the federal government spent putting out fires over the last decade was triple what it was in the ’90s. We probably wouldn’t be as concerned about fires that are getting bigger and spreading farther, of course, were it not for the increasing intrusion of people and buildings into fire-prone landscapes. This development creates what fire experts call the wild-land-urban interface, or WUI (pronounced WOO-ee), and from Bozeman, Mont., to Laurel Canyon in California, more and more of us want to live there, with forested views and coyotes for neighbors — but without the fire. About 80,000 wildfires in the United States were designated for suppression each year between 1998 and 2007, and only an average of 327 were allowed to burn. Yet trying to put out all those fires leads inevitably to more intense, more dangerous and more expensive fires later on. The accumulation of dead wood and unburned “ladder fuels” — what ecologists call lower vegetation that can carry fire to taller trees — turn lower-intensity fires into hotter fires that kill entire stands of trees that otherwise might survive.
PHOTO: The fire-whirl generator inside the Fire Sciences Laboratory in Missoula.
We know this, but we haven’t wanted to pay the costs to do things differently. It’s possible to break up and remove smaller trees and other vegetation, but the heavy equipment needed to do that is very expensive. (The process can inhibit plant growth too.) It’s also possible to set “prescribed” fires, but these carefully controlled operations can take decades to produce the desired effects in a given area. And managing a fire that starts naturally in order to let it clean up ladder fuels is risky and costly. “If we let fires burn, it takes up resources to watch them, and we don’t have the luxury to do that,” says Ken Pimlott, the director of California’s Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire. “We’ve got to put it out and move on to the next fire.” A sudden change in wind can send a fire raging toward populated areas, which can lead to fatalities, damage and lawsuits. With responsibility for 31 million acres, almost all privately owned, that have more and more people living on them, Pimlott maintains a strict policy of immediate and full suppression for every fire that starts in his area, even as he recognizes the policy flies in the face of logic and science. “The entire cycle is out of whack,” he says. “The movement of people into the WUI, the fires they start there and infrastructure that needs protection, plus drought, climate, suppression — you combine all these things, and it’s creating more intense fires. It just becomes a larger problem.” ….
The Fire Sciences Lab is hoping to come up with a physics-based model that would incorporate the findings. More than that, they want their research to lead to a better understanding of fire and hence better decisions in the field. The dynamics that Finney, Cohen and their collaborators have observed would explain a lot of fire behavior that has puzzled firefighters — a wildfire suddenly spreading rapidly without wind, say, or failing to be tamped down by cooler, moist night air. “There may be a general principle that can be applied to every wildfire,” Finney said. What that general principle might be is still unformulated, so exactly how it might change the way we approach any specific fire remains unknown. But what we do know now is that fire spreads in ways we didn’t realize before. This argues even more strongly for a policy that encourages removal of underbrush and managed or prescribed burns, and for the regulation of communities living at a forest’s edge. The way to make wildfires, and the people living near them, safer is by making peace with the idea that we need to let more of them burn longer. ….
SEEING MORE THAN CARBON FOR THE TREES
‘Best practice’ carbon farming that considers more than just the carbon in trees is needed if the full benefits of trees in the landscape are to be realised by farmers, landholders, and the community.
September 24 2013- CSIRO-led research confirms that tree plantings in rural lands have significant potential to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and, if done well, can provide a stream of other benefits to farmers, local communities and the environment. “Schemes which offer economic incentives for growing trees for carbon present an opportunity to reverse trends in land clearing but also to restore ecosystem services – such as pest control, pollination, soil and water conservation – that provide important benefits to farmers and the broader community,” according to CSIRO’s Dr Brenda Lin.
The removal of trees may have disrupted refuges for native insects that control pests, pollination, carbon sequestration, organic matter accumulation and water and soil conservation which are important for sustainable farming and the environment. “The ability of carbon tree plantings to restore some of these other benefits that support agricultural production may be a key factor in encouraging farmers and landholders to take up this type of carbon farming,” Dr Lin said.”Land-use models show that policies aimed solely at maximising carbon storage may not produce additional agricultural and environmental benefits and may even produce unwanted outcomes for farmers, landowners and communities. For example, studies of past revegetation in agricultural landscapes show that in some locations intensive single-species (or monoculture) plantations can affect water flows, increase invasive pests and lead to biodiversity loss, be fire prone and have poor growth rates. Poorly located vegetation could reduce the availability of land for food production.” Alternatively, there are many opportunities for tree plantings, if planned and implemented properly, to provide additional benefits to the farmer beyond just carbon. “By revegetating unused, marginal or degraded cropping land, using multiple species of trees and shrubs, we could see improvements to pest control, pollination and water quality, increased wind protection and reduced soil erosion and salinity,” Dr Lin said. “For example, we know that remnant native vegetation patches that currently persist in agricultural landscapes, if they are well managed and contain few weed species, support a range of insect and spider predators and parasitic wasps that can attack pests of grain crops.” The benefits for local communities and the public could include increased water quality, reduced pesticide use, more habitat for species such as birds, and other cultural benefits. The research, published in the American BioScience journal, highlights the need to better understand these private, public and shared benefits and tradeoffs so that future policies and initiatives encourage ‘best practice’ tree plantings that maximize the positives while also storing carbon.
Global warming is likely to increase severe thunderstorm conditions in U.S., research finds
(September 23, 2013) — Severe thunderstorms, often exhibiting destructive rainfall, hail and tornadoes, are one of the primary causes of catastrophic losses in the United States. New climate models suggest a robust increase in these types of storms across the country. In 2012, 11 weather disasters in the United States crossed the billion-dollar threshold in economic losses. Seven of those events were related to severe thunderstorms. New climate analyses led by Stanford scientists indicate that global warming is likely to cause a robust increase in the conditions that produce these types of storms across much of the country over the next century. Severe thunderstorms are one of the primary causes of catastrophic losses in the United States and often exhibit the conditions that generate heavy rainfall, damaging winds, hail and tornadoes. Sparse historical data describing the atmospheric conditions that cause severe thunderstorms has limited scientists’ ability to project the long-term effects of global warming on storm frequency. But, using a complex ensemble of physics-based climate models, researchers led by Noah Diffenbaugh, an associate professor of environmental Earth system science at Stanford, have produced the most comprehensive projections of severe storm conditions for the next century.… > full story
During boreal summer, Earth’s tropical rain belt migrates north. A similar but prolonged shift could happen if the north continues to heat faster than the south, disrupting global rainfall patterns. (Credit: Mats Halldin)
Wind and rain belts to shift north as planet warms: Redistribution of rainfall could make Middle East, Western US and Amazonia drier
(September 23, 2013) — As humans continue to heat the planet, a northward shift of Earth’s wind and rain belts could make a broad swath of regions drier, including the Middle East, American West and Amazonia, while making Monsoon Asia and equatorial Africa wetter, says a new study. The study authors base their prediction on the warming that brought Earth out of the last ice age, some 15,000 years ago. As the North Atlantic Ocean began to churn more vigorously, it melted Arctic sea ice, setting up a temperature contrast with the southern hemisphere where sea ice was expanding around Antarctica. The temperature gradient between the poles appears to have pushed the tropical rain belt and mid-latitude jet stream north, redistributing water in two bands around the planet. Today, with Arctic sea ice again in retreat, and the northern hemisphere heating up faster than the south, history could repeat itself.
“If the kinds of changes we saw during the deglaciation were to occur today that would have a very big impact,” said the study’s lead author, Wallace Broecker, a climate scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. Marshaling climate data collected from around the world, from tree-rings, polar ice cores, cave formations, and lake and ocean sediments, Broecker and study coauthor, Aaron Putnam, a climate scientist at Lamont-Doherty, hypothesize that the wind and rain belts shifted north from about 14,600 years ago to 12,700 years ago as the northern hemisphere was heating up. At the southern edge of the tropical rain belt, the great ancient Lake Tauca in the Bolivian Andes nearly dried up at this time while rivers in eastern Brazil slowed to a trickle and rain-fed stalagmites in the same region stopped growing. In the middle latitudes, the northward advance of the jet stream may have caused Lake Lisan, a precursor to the Dead Sea in Jordan’s Rift Valley, to shrink, along with several prehistoric lakes in the western U.S., including Lake Bonneville in present day Utah. Meanwhile, a northward shift of the tropical rains recharged the rivers that drain Venezuela’s Cariaco Basin and East Africa’s Lake Victoria and Lake Tanganyika. Stalagmites in China’s Hulu Cave grew bigger. Evidence for a stronger Asian monsoon during this time also shows up in the Greenland ice cores….… > full story
What 95% certainty of warming means to scientists.
Associated Press Top scientists from a variety of fields say they are about as certain that global warming is a real, man-made threat as they are that cigarettes kill. They are as sure about climate change as they are about the age of the universe. And for some non-scientists, that’s just not good enough.
By Katie Valentine on September 24, 2013 at 9:02 am
For many U.S. fisherman, there’s no debate about climate change. It’s here, and already majorly impacting their industries. In New Jersey, Rutgers scientists have documented for 24 years how climate change is affecting the state’s oceans through weekly fish surveys. The researchers are finding fewer and fewer northern species and more and more southern species — fish like the Atlantic croaker, which historically have rarely ventured into the cool waters surrounding New Jersey. Mackerel and clams, which were once common, are now moving north, forcing fisherman to reevaluate what they fish for.
“As far as fishermen are concerned, climate change is here. This is a reality,” Tom Fote, of the Jersey Coast Anglers Association, told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “We’re going to have to change the way we fish.” And it’s not just in New Jersey. Off the coast of Oregon, ocean acidification and hypoxia — a depletion in the ocean’s oxygen which can cause dead zones — are two of the biggest problems facing the region’s ocean ecosystems. Both are linked to climate change: the ocean absorbs about 30 to 40 percent of the atmosphere’s excess carbon, causing its pH to drop, and one study found hypoxia tends to increase as temperatures rise. Particularly off the coast of Oregon, where hypoxia began occurring in 2002 and anoxia — an area with zero oxygen — first emerged in 2006, more evidence is pointing to climate change as a likely culprit of the patches of depleted oxygen. These effects are causing trouble for Oregon fishermen. Rising water temperatures and ocean acidification are causing jellyfish populations to increase off the coast of Oregon (and also around the world), disrupting the ocean ecosystem and clogging fishermen’s nets. “Sometimes we’ll catch 4,000 or 5,000 pounds of jellyfish. They spray all around. We get stung,” fisherman Ryan Rogers told the Register-Guard. “It makes it difficult to bring your net in. You have to let it go and lose the salmon that are in your net.”
Climate change: Polar bears change to diet with higher contaminant loads
(September 20, 2013) — Over the past 30 years, polar bears have increasingly exchanged ringed seal with harp seal and hooded seal in their diet. This change exposes the polar bear to more contaminants, according to a recent international study. … > full story
National Geographic September 26, 2013The research, published Sunday in Nature Climate Change, said the benefits were especially striking for China, with its large population now exposed to some of the worst pollution in the world.
– September 24 2013
Every year, New England and other northern regions reliably burst into a blaze of fall color. But this natural phenomenon will likely become less reliable as climate change disrupts the planet, experts say. Add those brilliant reds and oranges to the list of global warming victims. Though climate effects are complicated, warmer weather will generally mean duller fall vistas in the United States, said Howie Neufeld, a professor of plant physiology at Appalachian State University in North Carolina. Climate change could dampen fall foliage by delaying the season, bleaching out red tones and ushering in invasive species, Neufeld told LiveScience. Though pretty red leaves might seem minor compared with the more dire predictions of climate change, fall color represents a significant economic and cultural resource. Last year, fall tourism brought over $1.5 billion to Maine alone. With 25 states across the country, from the Midwest to New England to the Piedmont, claiming significant autumn tourism seasons, Neufeld estimates “leaf peepers” generate about $25 billion a year. “That’s pretty significant,” he said…..A 23-year observational study at Harvard Forest has shown that fall hues now arrive three to five days later today, on average, than they did at the beginning of the study. That correlates with an increase of about 2 degrees Fahrenheit (1.1 degrees Celsius) in average temperatures in the Northeast, said John O’Keefe, an emeritus professor at Harvard who collected the data. “Should that pattern continue, by the middle of the century, we’d be at well over a week later” for fall color, O’Keefe said. Trees cue in on both day length and temperature when moving toward leaf “senescence,” the process that produces fall color. Warmer fall days will make trees delay this process, Neufeld said. “The trees say, ‘It’s not getting colder, so I’ll just keep my leaves,’ ” he said. All else being equal, however, a later fall start might not do much harm to the leaf-peeping season, as global warming could also delay the frost and push off the end of fall, O’Keefe said. Unfortunately, “all else” is not equal, and studies like O’Keefe’s fail to account for the ways climate change might rob New England of its red leaves, Neufeld said. For one thing, climate change will likely alter the “suitable habitat” for many of the trees that bring fall color, particularly New England’s prized sugar maples, “one of the most important contributors to fall foliage,” O’Keefe said.
Simulations show that climate change will push sugar maples from New England into Canada, reducing the suitable habitat for these trees in the United States by 40 to 60 percent by 2100, said Louis Iverson, a landscape ecologist with the U.S. Forest Service, whose “Climate Change Tree Atlas” forecasted the shift…
Risky measures to save big trees from Rim fire worked.
September 22, 2013 Los Angeles Times
Giant sequoias evolved to face wildfire. But officials feared that the third-largest blaze in California history could kill even trees that had been shrugging off flames since before Rome burned. Firefighters were fearful as they set backfires to save giant sequoias and a stand of giant pines standing in the way of the third-largest blaze in California history.
Flames consume the pine forest just off Evergreen Road near Yosemite National Park on Aug. 25. Firefighters set backfires to keep the Rim fire away from ancient trees. (Don Bartletti, Los Angeles Times / August 25, 2013)
YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, Calif. — Each afternoon the fire’s thunderous plume rose. At night, helicopter crews at the Crane Flat lookout watched a line of orange burning across the horizon. The line kept drawing closer. By the last week of August, every effort to halt the Rim fire before it moved deeper into the national park had failed. The blaze now had a clear path to the Tuolumne and Merced groves of giant sequoia, and the Rockefeller grove, one of the last stands of giant sugar pine untouched by logging. On Aug. 30, a Friday, a group of firefighters gathered at the lookout to launch a risky plan to protect some of Earth’s oldest and largest living organisms. Even Ben Jacobs, the division commander, was nervous. Jacobs, 55, had fought wildfires and managed prescribed burns at Sequoia Kings Canyon National Park. But he had seen crews take chances earlier in the week trying to save family camps and businesses. If they’d gambled for buildings, what would they do for living giants? He also worried that if crews lost control of the backfires they were about to ignite, flames could spread for miles, even as far as the Merced River, west of the park’s famous valley. “Listen,” he said. “Nobody wants to be the guy who burned down Yosemite.”…..
Eight days, 1,000-year rain, 100-year flood. September 22, 2013 Boulder Daily Camera On a hot night in early September, there was no way to know that Boulder and the surrounding region were about to endure what experts would ultimately call a 1,000-year rain and a 100-year flood.
By CHRISTOPHER J. LOEAK NYTIMES September 26, 2013
My country, the Marshall Islands, is in terrible danger. But we can do something about it — and you can help. .. Nowhere in the world is this threat more immediate than in the Marshall Islands, a loose string of more than 1,000 small islands a short plane ride southwest of Hawaii. As one of only four low-lying coral atoll nations in the world, we are increasingly panicked by recent scientific reports suggesting that the world is currently heading for a three- to six-foot rise in sea levels by the end of the century. If such predictions are accurate, my country will be lost forever. Earlier this year, I was forced to declare a state of disaster for our northern atolls after an unprecedented drought left thousands of our people without food or fresh water. Just six weeks later, a giant “king tide” hit our capital, Majuro, flooding the airport runway, some surrounding neighborhoods and even my own backyard as the waves crashed over a thick, protective sea wall — the second devastating climate disaster in two months. Some have suggested that we move to higher ground, but in the Marshall Islands there isn’t any — and we are not prepared to abandon our country….. For too long, others have used American inaction as an excuse not to act themselves. The world needs American leadership on climate change. United States support for the Majuro Declaration could not be more welcome, and it is likely to spur action from others. At this month’s post-forum dialogue, we heard strong support for the Majuro Declaration from Britain, Indonesia, France, Thailand, Malaysia, South Korea, the Philippines and the European Union, and we look forward to their commitments as well. This is precisely the upward spiral we are seeking to spark.
This week, I am in New York with my fellow Pacific leaders to seek broader support for the Majuro Declaration, and to present it to the secretary general of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, as our “Pacific gift” to his efforts to build political will for accelerating climate action, and the signing of a new global agreement in 2015. In doing so, we will call on countries, businesses and organizations to bring forward new commitments, and rededicate ourselves to finding a solution to the challenge of our generation. Nothing could be more important.
By RICHARD A. MULLER OP ED NY TIMES September 25, 2013
The lull is consistent with historic temperature variability.
Most comprehensive climate change review to date warns of risks to children, with UNICEF arguing that children have been largely left out of the debate so far
Indian children displaced due to the flooding of the River Ganges sit by a roadside in Allahabad. Photograph: Rajesh Kumar Singh/AP
September 23 2013 The Guardian– Children will bear the brunt of the impact of climate change because of their increased risk of health problems, malnutrition and migration, according to a new study published on Monday. And food prices are likely to soar as a result of warming, undoing the progress made in combating world hunger. The findings are published as scientists began meeting in Stockholm to produce the most comprehensive assessment yet of our knowledge of climate change. Over the next five days, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, bringing together the world’s leading experts, will thrash out the final details of a message to the world’s governments….
Challenges await plan to reduce emissions. September 21, 2013 New York Times The Obama administration’s potentially pathbreaking proposal for carbon emission limits on new power plants will face political and legal challenges from opponents who argue that the technology needed has not been close to being proven as the law requires.
New EPA rules: Coal’s future depends on cheap carbon capture. September 21, 2013 Christian Science Monitor The Environmental Protection Agency’s new rules on carbon emissions make carbon capture and storage a make-or-break technology for the coal industry. Ultimately, the fate of the technology and the coal industry lies with market forces, not technical know-how.
By Jessica Goad, Guest Blogger and Matt Lee-Ashley on September 26, 2013 at 10:58 am
Despite the fact that most Americans object to the tactic of shutting down the government over Obamacare, Congressional Republicans continue to insist that they will not pass a budget for the federal government unless the Affordable Care Act is defunded, meaning that the government could potentially shut down when its current funding authorization runs out this coming Monday, September 30th.
A review of the most recent contingency plans completed in December 2011 for federal agencies shows that under a government shutdown, federal land management agencies would be required to close national parks, wildlife refuges, and national forests to the general public but keep them open to most oil, gas, and mining operations.
The National Park Service’s contingency plan says: Effective immediately upon a lapse in appropriations, the National Park Service will take all necessary steps to close and secure national park facilities and grounds in order to suspend all activities except for those that are essential to respond to emergencies involving the safety of human life or the protection of property…Where ever possible, park roads will be closed and access will be denied….
The closures, which may happen just 48 hours after tens of thousands of volunteers turn out this Saturday for National Public Lands Day, will not only throw a wrench in countless family plans, but will send chills through the country’s multibillion dollar tourism and recreation industry.
New Life for the National Marine Sanctuary System
NOAA’s proposal for a new framework for future expansion of the National Marine Sanctuary System represents real progress for marine-natural-resource management.
By Shiva Polefka | Wednesday, August 28, 2013
How the insurance industry is dealing with climate change.
Smithsonian Magazine When it comes to the calculating the likelihood of catastrophic weather, one group has an obvious financial stake in the game: the insurance industry. In recent years, the industry researchers who determine the annual odds of catastrophic weather-related disasters say they’re seeing something new. ….”Our business depends on us being neutral. We simply try to make the best possible assessment of risk today, with no vested interest,” says Robert Muir-Wood, the chief scientist of Risk Management Solutions (RMS), a company that creates software models to allow insurance companies to calculate risk. “In the past, when making these assessments, we looked to history. But in fact, we’ve now realized that that’s no longer a safe assumption—we can see, with certain phenomena in certain parts of the world, that the activity today is not simply the average of history.” This pronounced shift can be seen in extreme rainfall events, heat waves and wind storms. The underlying reason, he says, is climate change, driven by rising greenhouse gas emissions. Muir-Wood’s company is responsible for figuring out just how much more risk the world’s insurance companies face as a result of climate change when homeowners buy policies to protect their property….
SLowly, Democrats embrace fracking. Sept 25 2013 Washington Post Blue states are now rushing to grab a piece of the fracking pie just as fast as red states, despite concerns raised by environmental activists.
Reuters Pump jacks pump for oil in the Monterey Shale.
Oil firms seek to unlock big California field.
Wall Street Journal California’s Monterey Shale formation is estimated to hold as much as two-thirds of the recoverable onshore shale-oil reserves in the U.S.’s lower 48 states, but there’s a catch: It is proving very hard to get. Formed by upheaval of the earth, the Monterey holds an estimated 15.4 billion barrels of recoverable shale oil, or as much as five times the amount in North Dakota’s booming Bakken Field, according to 2011 estimates by the Department of Energy. The problem is, the same forces that helped stockpile the oil have tucked it into layers of rock seemingly as impenetrable as another limiting factor: California’s famously rigid regulatory climate. California has become one of the U.S.’s top oil-producing states over the past century, largely by tapping into the easier-to-get oil that has seeped out of the Monterey beneath places like Bakersfield and Los Angeles County. But with production in general decline since the 1980s, producers are trying a smorgasbord of techniques—called enhanced oil recovery in industry parlance—in an effort to tap into the mother lode. So far, there have been no production breakthroughs…. Despite its limited use in the state, fracking is drawing fire from environmentalists and other critics for potentially causing harm, such as lowering water quality. On Friday Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill requiring more disclosures on fracking, which producers have been reporting to the state on a voluntary basis. The law takes effect at the start of 2014….
Cargo ship carves a path in Arctic sea.
Wall Street Journal A coal-laden cargo ship is on track to become the first bulk carrier to traverse the Northwest Passage through Canada’s Arctic waters, blazing a trail that shippers hope will become a time-saving route in global trade.
By KIRK JOHNSON NYT September 26, 2013
…The Nez Perce Indians, who have called these empty spaces and rushing rivers home for thousands of years, were drawn into the national brawl over the future of energy last month when they tried to stop a giant load of oil-processing equipment from coming through their lands. The setting was U.S. Highway 12, a winding, mostly two-lane ribbon of blacktop that bisects the tribal homeland here in North Central Idaho.
On Sept. 19th, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) cleared the way for new rules that will make it easier for California farmers, school districts, businesses and others making use of the state’s Net Energy Metering (NEM) program to produce renewable energy. The CPUC Commissioners directed the public utilities to put in place procedures that allow NEM customers to aggregate electric meters on their property and use excess clean energy generated at one meter to be credited against other meters. Farmers and ranchers typically have multiple meters on their property. Current California law prohibits the power generated from an on-site renewable facility to be counted against other meters. Consequently, farmers would have to install a separate facility for each meter, which is extremely inefficient and cost prohibitive, limiting their ability to cost-effectively generate renewable energy. The change came about because of the 2012 passage of a bill, Senate Bill 594, authored by Senator Lois Wolk (D-Davis). The California Climate and Agriculture Network (CalCAN), a coalition of sustainable agriculture organizations, supported the bill. Read more…
Rachel Kleinfeld SF Chronicle Opinion Week in Review Updated 4:35 pm, Friday, September 20, 2013
Last week’s landmark agreement between China and California to cooperate on economic ventures that tackle climate change was more than the first-ever accord between China and a state government. It was a concrete example of the flattening of foreign policy, which is moving from something governments do on behalf of “regular people,” to something that governments and citizens undertake together. For years, global governments have worked to tackle climate change through domestic policy and international agreements. They wanted to succeed: from the mid-1990s, far-seeing leaders understood that climate change was going to create refugees and greater poverty in already poor regions such as Bangladesh, exacerbate resource conflicts over water and land in already volatile areas (such as the African savannahs where the Muslim north meets the Christian south), and enable tropical diseases to migrate to formerly temperate states in Europe and the United States. Yet, as each of these prophecies came true, governments proved unable to act. The 1997 Kyoto Protocol was deemed a failure because the United States, then the largest contributor to climate change, abstained. In 2009, the Copenhagen climate talks were scuttled by a recalcitrant China, which had become the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases. When the U.S. government tried to tackle the problem domestically in 2010, Congress defeated an attempt to create a cap on U.S. carbon emissions. And a carbon tax – supported by conservative economists and liberal environmentalists alike as the fairest and most market-driven method of action – is a political nonstarter among tax-averse politicians. For many in Silicon Valley, this morality tale has a clear lesson: avoid the government and get things done through the private sector…..
Brown signs bill on fracking, upsetting both sides of oil issue.
September 21, 2013 Los Angeles Times The nation’s toughest restrictions on a controversial oil drilling technique known as fracking were signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday. Hotly opposed by the oil industry, the measure “establishes strong environmental protections and transparency requirements,” the governor said in a statement.
The Climate Commons offers a starting point for discovery of climate change data and related resources, information about the science that produced it, and the opportunity to communicate with others about applying climate change science to conservation in California.
Search the Commons Catalogs:
How Many Salmon Return to Our Coastal Watersheds? The Nature Conservancy’s California Salmon Snapshots is a collaborative information-sharing effort, critical to the on-going recovery of the state’s salmon species. For the first time ever, population data — from the California Department of Fish & Wildlife and others — are compiled to show the number of salmon in our coastal California watersheds….
October 4, 2013 8:30 – 5:00
Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve Including field site training at ALBA’s Triple M Ranch, Las Lomas; Carlie Henneman- POINT BLUE CONSERVATION SCIENCE, Dale Huss, Marc Los Huertos, and Paul Robins, Instructors
This one-day workshop trains participants in how to improve their analyses in consideration of the use of buffers for wetland and riparian areas in agricultural settings. During an in-depth field training session , participants will also have opportunities to discuss farming operations and buffers with Agriculture and Land-Based Training Association (ALBA) affiliated Francisco Serrano (Serrano Organic Farm), Hector Mora (Hector’s Organic Farm), and Guilebaldo Nuñez (Nuñez Farms) as well as Kaley Grimland- ALBA’s Triple M Ranch Wetland Restoration Project Manager. To register and for more information: http://www.elkhornsloughctp.org/training/show_train_detail.php?TRAIN_ID=AnP4EPT
Working for Conservation Conference–Active Engagement in Forest and Woodland Sustainability
Thursday, October 10, 2013 — Sheraton Grand Sacramento Hotel, 1230 J Street, Sacramento, CA 95814 916-341-401
University of California Forestry and Outreach
California’s forests and woodlands provide a tremendous array of values for society, including diverse habitats, water supply, carbon storage, energy, building products, aesthetics, outdoor recreation. With a population approaching 38 million people and 14 million international visitors, there is no area of the state not touched by humans. This conference will focus on what we can learn from innovative and novel strategies that seek to achieve desired outcome in natural systems that have been historically altered and will continue to be altered. We have scores of risk avoidance strategies that these new approaches can be compared to. We will discuss new policies and management strategies that recognize the realities of these impacts, and encourage active approaches to ensure that these values continue into the future. This one day conference will provide a series of presentations illustrating the trajectory of our fingerprints across the state’s 40 million acres of forest and woodlands and consider novel approaches being implemented to get ahead of challenges where ‘no action’ approaches may not work. A series of case studies will be presented on how hybrids of restoration ecology , silviculture, and conservation biology are being combined in innovative conservation strategies. The response panelists will highlight the risks and opportunities of innovative approaches and will also ask questions that are submitted from participants. A wrap-up reception and poster session will be held to encourage discussion of the topics developed in the formal presentations.
Intended Audience: Resource managers, governmental, industry and NGO leaders, the interested general public. A list of useful background reading is provided at this LINK. Registration is $100, and includes breaks, lunch, and a reception. Early registration is due by October 1, 2013. Register by clicking HERE.
Agenda Updates, Final Bootcamp Schedule and New Plenary Speakers
Tuesday Oct. 22, 2013 9am to 5pm Sumner Auditorium, Scripps Institution of Oceanography
8625 Discovery Way, San Diego, CA , 92037 Register Here
FREE! Space is limited Registration is required by October 4, 2013 Dress comfortably for afternoon walking tour This intensive one-day training will introduce the “Roadmap” assessment approach designed to help communities characterize their exposure to current and future hazard and climate threats. This participatory assessment process is designed to:
• Engage key staff members and stakeholders in a comprehensive assessment of local vulnerabilities;
• Evaluate potential hazard and climate impacts using existing information resources;
• Collaborate across disciplines to better understand and plan for impacts; and
• Identify opportunities for improving resilience to current and future hazard risks.
NOAA’s Coastal Services Center expert training staff will lead instruction, with participants spending the morning being trained in the classroom, followed by an afternoon field experience.
Who should attend? Professionals interested in: (1) increasing their understanding of, and skills in, coastal hazard mitigation, and (2) networking among other professionals. Specifically: program administrators, land use planners, public works staff members, floodplain managers, hazard mitigation planners, emergency managers, community groups, and coastal resource managers. For further information contact: John Sandmeyer at email@example.com
Save the date for CA Native Grassland Associatio’s popular “how-to” workshop for native grassland restoration & revegetation projects.
WHEN: Thursday October 24th 8:00am – 4:30pm WHERE: Lake Solano Nature Center and field visit to upland restoration site west of Winters, CA
WHO: course led by CNGA expert instructors Bryan Young, J.P. Marie, Chris Rose, Emily Allen of Hedgerow Farms, assisted by Jon O’Brien and Kurt Vaughn.
QUESTIONS: Contact our Admin. Director firstname.lastname@example.org or drop us a note via our Contact us link. Hope to see you in October! Early bird registration extends through October 14th.
Quivira Conference 2013– Inspiring Adaptation Wednesday, November 13 – Friday, November 15, 2013 Registration Deadlines: November 5, 2013
“The Westerner is less a person than a continuing adaptation. The West is less a place than a process.” – Wallace Stegner
From prehistoric times to the present, human societies have successfully adapted to the challenges of a changing West, including periods of severe drought, limitations created by scarce resources and shifting cultural and economic pressures. Now, the American West is entering an era of unprecedented change brought on by new climate realities, which will test our capacity for adaptation as well as challenge the resilience of the region’s native flora and fauna. It is therefore paramount that we find and share inspiring ideas and practical strategies that help all of the region’s inhabitants adapt to a rapidly changing world. We will hear from scientists, ranchers, farmers, conservationists, urban planners and others who have bright ideas and important tools to share from their adaptation toolbox.
Date CHANGED! : Rangeland Coalition Summit 2014 January 21-22, 2014 Oakdale, CA Please note that the dates have been changed for the 9th Annual California Rangeland Conservation Coalition Summit to be hosted at the Oakdale Community Center. Mark your calendar for January 21-22, 2014, more details will be coming soon! The planning committee will have a conference call on September 11 at 9:00 AM to start planning for the event. If you are interested in serving on the planning committee or being a sponsor please contact Pelayo Alvarez: email@example.com.
The Ecological Society of America, American Geophysical Union, and US Geological Survey are co-sponsors of the upcoming
Soil Science Society of America ecosystems services conference–abstracts are now being invited and are due by 12/1/2013.
March 6-9, 2014 Sheraton Grand Hotel, Sacramento, CA
Purpose of Conference: Soils provide provisioning and regulating ecosystem services relevant to grand challenge areas of 1) climate change adaptation and mitigation, 2) food and energy security, 3) water protection, 4) biotechnology for human health, 5) ecological sustainability, and 6) slowing of desertification. The purposes of this conference will be to evaluate knowledge strengths and gaps, encourage cross-disciplinary synergies to accelerate new learning, and prioritize research needs.
More info is available here: https://www.soils.org/meetings/specialized/ecosystem-services
99th Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America
Sacramento, California August 10-15, 2014 http://www.esa.org/sacramento
Call for Proposals– Symposia, Organized Oral Sessions, and Organized Poster Sessions
Deadline for Submission: September 26, 2013
Grants support projects in 4 key categories: Species Research, Animal Rescue and Rehabilitation, Habitat Protection, and Conservation Education. Application deadline is December 1 each year for grants beginning the following year. Past programs have supported projects in the range of 5-25K for a one-year term.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Coastal Program at San Francisco Bay The program’s focus is on the San Mateo and Marin Counties’ outer Coast and is also available to projects in watersheds draining into San Francisco Bay. The mission of the Coastal Program at San Francisco Bay is to conserve coastal ecosystems by engaging external partners and other Service programs in activities that restore, enhance and protect fish and wildlife habitats and habitat forming processes. Funding Available: about $100,000 to $200,000 annually. There is no rigid application format or deadline to apply. However, our money is available on a Federal fiscal year basis (October 1 to September 30), and we encourage you to contact us as early as possible so that we can explore potential partnership opportunities for your project. We would like to hear from you starting in January each year, cooperative agreements for each year are generally finalized by June.
NOAA Announces Solicitation for the U.S. Marine Biodiversity Observation Network
This funding opportunity invites proposals for projects that demonstrate how an operational Marine Biodiversity Observation Network could be developed for the nation by establishing one or more prototype networks in U.S. coastal waters, the Great Lakes, and the EEZ. Applications are due on December 2, 2013.
For more information, click here
Deep sea ecosystem may take decades to recover from Deepwater Horizon spill
(September 25, 2013) — The deep-sea soft-sediment ecosystem in the immediate area of the 2010’s Deepwater Horizon well head blowout and subsequent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico will likely take decades to recover from the spill’s impacts, according to a new scientific article. … > full story
September 26, 2013 — Scientists have decrypted the effectiveness of two types of bacteria, which could be used in the future to help combat oil spill disasters. Alcanivorax borkumensis converts hydrocarbons into fatty … > full story
Time to rethink misguided policies that promote biofuels to protect climate, experts say
(September 24, 2013) — Policymakers need to rethink the idea of promoting biofuels to protect the climate because the methods used to justify such policies are inherently flawed, according to a University of Michigan energy researcher. In a new paper published online in the journal Climatic Change, John DeCicco takes on the widespread but scientifically simplistic perception that biofuels such as ethanol are inherently “carbon neutral,” meaning that the heat-trapping carbon dioxide gas emitted when the fuels are burned is fully balanced by the carbon dioxide uptake that occurs as the plants grow. That view is misguided because the plants used to make biofuels — including corn, soybeans and sugarcane — are already pulling carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere through photosynthesis, said DeCicco, a research professor at the U-M Energy Institute and a professor of practice at the School of Natural Resources and Environment. DeCicco’s paper is unique because it methodically deconstructs the life-cycle-analysis approach that forms a basis for current environmental policies promoting biofuels. Instead, he presents a rigorous carbon cycle analysis based on biogeochemical fundamentals to identify conditions under which biofuels might have a climatic benefit. These conditions are much more limited than has been presumed. “Plants used to make biofuels do not remove any additional carbon dioxide just because they are used to make fuel as opposed to, say, corn flakes,” DeCicco said. … > full story
Stephen Lacey: September 18, 2013
It would be hard for most Americans to look around and conclude that we are in the middle of an historic shift in our energy sector. Gas-powered cars still dominate the roads, most of us don’t own a solar PV system, and more than 70 percent of homes still rely on 100-year-old incandescent light bulbs.
But within the energy industry, there are major improvements in the economics of renewables, electric vehicles and lighting that are accelerating an increasingly rapid shift in certain sectors.
A new report from the Department of Energy report lays out some of these advances in wind, solar PV, LED lighting and electric vehicles throughout the U.S. They’re worth a look
Santa Monica bets on electric cars, but consumers are slow to switch. September 21, 2013. New York Times
It would seem to be a good time to own an electric car in Santa Monica. From the charging stations dotted around town to the dedicated public parking spaces — all provided at no cost by the city — Santa Monica has rolled out the welcome mat for electric cars. But only a core group of owners have switched.
San Francisco Chronicle - September 25, 2013
he wants drivers who are contemplating buying an electric vehicle to feel …
Lowenthal teased the news Monday at an event in San Francisco.
Green energy pays for itself in lives saved from smog.
New Scientist Switching to clean energy might seem like the expensive option, but it would pay for itself almost immediately, according to a new analysis. The reason? Reducing our reliance on fossil fuels will cut air pollution, saving lives and therefore money.
By Andrew Breiner on September 24, 2013
Indian utilities plan to use 23,000 acres of land to build the largest solar power plant in the world, at 4GW of power.
- OTHER NEWS OF INTEREST
For scientists, early to press means success
(September 20, 2013) — A provocative new study suggests it is straightforward to predict which academics will succeed as publishing scientists. Being English-speaking and male also helps. … > full story
Spinning CDs to clean sewage water
(September 23, 2013) — Audio CDs, all the rage in the ’90s, seem increasingly obsolete in a world of MP3 files and iPods, leaving many music lovers with the question of what to do with their extensive compact disk collections. While you could turn your old disks into a work of avant-garde art, researchers in Taiwan have come up with a more practical application: breaking down sewage. … > full story
NY TIMES Sept 24 2013 Dr. Patrick was one of the country’s leading experts in the study of freshwater ecosystems, or limnology. She achieved that renown after entering science in the 1930s, when few women were able to do so, and working for the academy for eight years
The POV video shows the eagle hunting its prey and flying high over the Mer de Glace glacier in the Alps and the Montenvers Railway on the northern slopes of the Mont Blanc massif. Compared to machine-enabled flight videos, which provide a steady feeling, the bird-mounted camera gives a realistic experience of flight; as the bird beats its wings and banks off to the side, the camera shakes slightly, reminding us that riding on its back, like in “The NeverEnding Story’, would be nothing short of a bumpy ride.
(click to see video)
by Lidija Grozdanic, 09/24/13 If you’ve ever wanted to fly like a bird, then you’ll definitely want to check out this amazing video. A falconer strapped a small camera to the back of an eagle in the southeast corner of France, and when the eagle took flight the camera captured an incredible birds-eye view of the landscape. Check out the vertigo-inducing clip and listen to the sound of the wind as the eagle soars over mountain slopes, cuts through the air and almost brushes against the treetops!
A golden eagle captures a young sika deer in the Russian Far East. The rare attack was captured by a camera trap set up by the Zoological Society of London and Wildlife Conservation Society. Photo credit: Linda Kerley, Zoological Society of London (ZSL) Photo: Linda Kerley, Zoological Society Of London (ZSL)