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Conservation Science News June 12, 2015

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Focus of the Week Wildlife density data better predicts conservation success; sharing robust data sets improves conservation










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



Focus of the Week– Wildlife density data better predicts conservation success; sharing robust data sets improves conservation




Wildlife density data better predicts conservation success

Posted: 11 Jun 2015 06:13 AM PDT

A recent study published in the journal Conservation Biology makes a strong case for a new approach to conservation planning that uses much more robust data sets in order to better protect birds, plants, and animals. The concept is fairly simple, but won’t work unless scientists can agree to share data across studies
[see publication brief here].

“Right now, we primarily only use presence and absence data for species when conservation planning for large landscapes. Much of this is due to the cost and time of collecting more comprehensive data,” said the study’s lead author, Sam Veloz, climate adaptation group leader at Point Blue Conservation Science. “We can do a much better job of conservation planning if we include data on individual species richness, not just whether they are present.”

To illustrate his point, Veloz and his research team encouraged partners to make their detailed bird observation data accessible through the Avian Knowledge Network leading to the addition of over 900,000 new bird observations from 23 different studies. They then combined the information with bird data in the California Avian Data Center. The team used the data to develop species distribution and density models covering coastal Northern California, Oregon and Washington for 26 species of land birds representing four different habitat types. They then mapped conservation priorities based on both the presence/absence and density models, and compared the estimated population size of each species protected against the conservation priorities developed using each approach.

“As expected, we found that the prioritizations based on count data protected more individuals of each species than the prioritizations based on presence/absence data in the areas of highest conservation priority,” Veloz said. “We found that conservation priorities developed using presence/absence data over-valued areas of low conservation importance and undervalued areas of high conservation importance relative to priorities developed using density models.”

Veloz sees the main challenge is getting scientists from across the conservation spectrum to share their high-quality count data of individual species, not matter the study size, so planners can have as broad a data set as possible when drawing up conservation plans.

This study shows the value of researchers sharing their data. We can combine and recycle data from multiple studies, and re-use it to answer larger conservation questions,” Veloz said. “If we all worked together to share data, we could better prioritize and protect important habitat.”

Samuel Veloz, Leonardo Salas, Bob Altman, John Alexander, Dennis Jongsomjit, Nathan Elliott, Grant Ballard. Improving effectiveness of systematic conservation planning with density data. Conservation Biology, 2015; DOI: 10.1111/cobi.12499






Excess nutrients stimulate the growth of algae in Elkhorn Slough, leading to the formation of green algal mats on the surface. Credit: Brent Hughes

Fish declines linked to effects of excess nutrients on coastal estuaries

Posted: 08 Jun 2015 06:31 PM PDT

A comprehensive study of a major California estuary has documented the links between nutrient runoff from coastal land use, the health of the estuary as a nursery for young fish, and the abundance of fish in an offshore commercial fishery. The study, published the week of June 8, 2015, in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, focused on Elkhorn Slough and Monterey Bay on California’s central coast. Lead author Brent Hughes, now a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of California, Santa Cruz, began studying water quality in Elkhorn Slough as a UCSC graduate student. His earlier research showed that virtually every portion of the estuary is adversely affected by high nutrient levels, which stimulate the growth of algae, leading to low oxygen levels when the algae die and decompose. The new study, based on data collected over the past 40 years, shows how low levels of dissolved oxygen (a condition known as “hypoxia”) affects fish populations in the estuary and beyond. “We found that declines in dissolved oxygen levels were consistently associated with declines in the diversity and abundance of fish in Elkhorn Slough,” Hughes said. “In particular, we saw a drop in certain species of fish that we know use the estuary as a nursery ground for juveniles.” English sole is one of the fish species that uses Elkhorn Slough as a nursery, and the study found that low oxygen was associated not only with fewer juveniles in the estuary, but also with later declines in the numbers of English sole caught in the commercial fishery and scientific fish surveys in Monterey Bay. “From a conservation perspective, these findings suggest that improvements in land management and reductions in nutrient runoff could directly benefit estuaries and indirectly benefit offshore fisheries due to the important role of estuaries as nurseries for some species,” said coauthor Mary Gleason, lead marine scientist for The Nature Conservancy in California…..


The researchers found that climate can be a powerful moderator of coastal hypoxia, but the effects of climate change are hard to predict. Climate change is likely to bring warmer water temperatures in the future, and warm water holds less oxygen than cold water. It is also likely to influence the frequency and intensity of El Niño events, but exactly how is still unclear. While more research is needed to develop predictive models of how climate change will affect coastal ecosystems, reducing the stress caused by nutrient enrichment and hypoxia will improve the resilience of those ecosystems and help buffer the effects of climate change, Hughes said.

According to Gleason, there are many opportunities for improving coastal land management practices. “This study demonstrates the important connections between land management and the health of our estuaries and oceans. We need to have better dialog between land managers and ocean managers–between farmers and fishermen–to ensure that land use practices are being improved to reduce adverse effects of nutrients on coastal and marine ecosystems,” she said. In the area around Elkhorn Slough, The Nature Conservancy is working with partners to reduce nutrient runoff through improved land management practices and treatment wetlands. “Poor water quality is an important threat to some offshore fisheries and marine biodiversity, so it’s critical to improve land-based management and reduce runoff,” said Gleason. “In addition to managing nutrient applications, another solution is to restore or build wetlands at the lower end of drainage systems from farms. These treatment wetlands can collect, filter, and treat agriculture discharge water to reduce nutrient levels before the water enters the estuary.”



Brent B. Hughes, Matthew D. Levey, Monique C. Fountain, Aaron B. Carlisle, Francisco P. Chavez, Mary G. Gleason. Climate mediates hypoxic stress on fish diversity and nursery function at the land–sea interface. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2015; 201505815 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1505815112



Photo courtesy of Organic Valley

Can Better Grazing Help Dairy Farmers Cope With Drought and Climate Change?

Some farmers are finding that not all grazing is the same.

By Anna Roth on June 8, 2015

Jon Bansen has been working on a dairy farm in Monmouth, Oregon alongside his father for nearly 30 years. When the farm switched to organic about 16 years ago, he started to pay more attention to their 650 acres of grass and forageland. Grazing has long been central to organic dairies, and since 2010 the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has required that organic dairy cows spend at least 120 days out of the year eating grass on pasture, rather than grain-based feed.

As the years went by, Bansen and his father noticed something: All grazing wasn’t the same. When they rotated their 200 cows between field segments, and kept them there for a day at a time, the effect was very different than when they let the herd graze around the land at random. And when they did the former, both the cows and pasture seemed healthier and more robust.
They also also noticed that the grass was retaining more water and they were turning on their irrigation later in the spring and fall, resulting in a savings of a month to a month-and-a-half of irrigation water a year. Now the cows are on a 34-day rotation. The Bansens have broken the pasture into 1.5-acre plots, and they let the cows graze on each one for around 12 hours, allowing the cows to eat the grass part of the way down before they are moved on to the next parcel. Then, each parcel of pasture has more than a month to regenerate and build up healthy soil–which is good for their farm and the environment. Bansen has become as much a soil farmer as he is a dairyman. Healthy soil is full of organic matter that forms when animals eat the top of a stalk of grass above-ground and the plant sloughs off its roots beneath. This continuous compression of decaying plant matter eventually creates what soil agronomist Mark Kopecky likens to a sponge–a dense, nutrient-rich soil ecosystem that traps rainfall before it runs off, and which could be a boon to California dairy farmers struggling during the current drought.“We certainly see managed grazing as a tool for drought resilience,” says Renata Brillinger, Executive Director of the California Climate & Agriculture Network (CalCAN).
And California farmers like Sonoma County dairy farmer Jarrid Bordessa and Watsonville cattle rancher Joe Morris have noticed that. (Morris spoke more about soil’s capacity for water storage during CalCAN’s 4th annual Climate and Agriculture Summit in March).

Managed grazing may seem like a basic technique, and it is–just not necessarily one humans have done intentionally, says Kopecky. Shuffling cattle between  pasture segments emulates how bison used to graze the prairie: eating the grass they wanted at one spot, fertilizing it in the process, then moving along to somewhere else and giving the grass time to regenerate. When the pasture has more time to bounce back, the grass the animals eat is more nutritious and varied, which in turn makes them healthier. “We’ve adapted modern agriculture to a system that’s been in place for thousands of years and we just didn’t take advantage of it,” Kopecky says. He works for Organic Valley, the dairy co-op that Bansen and Bordessa also belong to, which preaches good pasture management to its roughly 1,800 members for a  reason beyond good land stewardship: It might be a valuable way to mitigate climate change. Though few scientific studies have been done specifically on pasture management, rangeland is known to have tremendous potential to store carbon from the atmosphere and helps reduce greenhouse gases, according to a 2014 study by the Nicholas Institute. Moreover, a 2003 study from the USDA found that soil with high carbon levels was likely to have better moisture retention. And Northern California’s Marin Carbon Project is helping ranchers work with scientists to learn more. So if pasture management can save money, make farms more resilient to drought, lead to healthier animals, and help counteract the effects of global warming, why isn’t every dairy farmer in the world doing it? The key is in the word “management”–rotational grazing takes a lot of thought and effort. It’s not just a system you set up once; a farmer has to watch the weather, watch his or her pasture growth, and make judgment calls and adjustments every day. It also involves more physical work: stringing fences across the rangeland to segment the pasture, moving cattle at least twice a day. “[It’s] my full time job,” says Bansen, with a chuckle. But since his farm’s switch to organic, Bansen says that they have improved the organic matter in their soil by 2 percent. That might sound insignificant, but most soil only holds around 5 to 6 percent organic matter at the most.
“When the soils are healthy and the cow is healthy, then the food is healthy,” he adds. “It’s one big old circle that’s really good when it works well.”



Knowledge co-production and boundary work to promote implementation of conservation plans

Thanks to Point Blue’s Dr. Libby Porzig for this: Please check out the paper by Jeanne Nel and colleagues, “Knowledge co-production and boundary work to promote implementation of conservation plans,” from the latest issue of Conservation Biology.  Knowledge co-production describes the iterative and collaborative process of combining multiple knowledge sources to address a problem or challenge, with the recognition that when stakeholders are involved in knowledge production, they are more likely to see the outputs and outcomes as legitimate and relevant. This process is facilitated by boundary spanning individuals or organizations. This paper does a really nice job explaining these concepts and describes a very cool example from freshwater conservation planning in South Africa.


The concepts of knowledge co-production and boundary work offer planners a new frame for critically designing a social process that fosters collaborative implementation of resulting plans. Knowledge co-production involves stakeholders from diverse knowledge systems working iteratively towards common vision and action. Boundary work is a means of creating permeable knowledge boundaries that satisfy the needs of multiple social groups while guarding the functional integrity of contributing knowledge systems. Resulting products can be viewed as ‘boundary objects’ of mutual interest, which maintain coherence across all knowledge boundaries. This paper shows how knowledge co-production and boundary work can be deeply entrenched into well-established stages of conservation planning to bridge the gap between planning and implementation, and promote cross-sectoral cooperation. Knowledge co-production occurred iteratively over four years in interactive stakeholder workshops, which included: co-development of goals and spatial data, translation of goals into quantitative inputs for Marxan software used to select draft priority areas, review of draft priority areas, and packaging of resulting map products into an atlas and supporting implementation manual to promote application in 37 different use contexts. Knowledge co-production stimulated dialogue and negotiation, and built capacity for multi-scale implementation beyond the project. The resulting maps and information integrate diverse knowledge types of over 450 stakeholders, representing well over 1000 person years of collective experience. The maps provide a consistent national information source that has been applied in 25 of the 37 use contexts since launching 3.5 years ago. When framed as a knowledge co-production process supported by boundary work, regional conservation plans can be developed into valuable ‘boundary objects’, which offer a tangible tool for multi-agency cooperation around conserving biodiversity. This work provides practical guidance for conservation planners interested in promoting uptake of their science, and contributes to an evidence base for reflection on how conservation efforts can be improved.


When trees aren’t ‘green’

Posted: 10 Jun 2015 10:15 AM PDT

Most of us don’t consider forests a source of pollution. As natural bodies, they should be good for the environment. But a recent study in Japan shows that older cedar and cypress plantations are causing as much pollution as a poorly managed agricultural field or urban setting…



Dispersal of alien species redefines biogeography

Posted: 11 Jun 2015 11:44 AM PDT

It has been hypothesized that globalization of human-mediated dispersal of species may break down biogeographic boundaries. However, empirical tests had been lacking until recently. An international research team has now discovered a comprehensive biogeographic reorganization for 175 species of alien gastropods across 56 countries. The data shows that homogenization is indeed happening. Geographic barriers to dispersal have fallen down but climate still limits how species colonize new areas.


This is the tiger shark from a side view. Credit: Courtesy of Nick Filmalter/Danah Divers

Longest ever tiger shark tracking reveals remarkable, bird-like migrations

Posted: 09 Jun 2015 06:33 PM PDT

A new study has yielded the first ever continuous, two or more-year satellite tagging tracks for tiger sharks. This study reveals remarkable, and previously unknown, migration patterns more similar to birds, turtles and some marine mammals than other fishes. Long believed to be mainly a coastal species, the tiger sharks, in fact, made more than 7,500 kilometer, round-trip journeys every year between two vastly different ecosystems — the coral reefs of the Caribbean and the open waters of the mid-North Atlantic. Furthermore, they returned reliably to the same overwintering areas each year, a discovery with significant conservation implications….



Isabela’s dorsal fin. Image taken in Chile’s Gulf of Corcovado in 2006. Credit: Courtesy of Rodrigo Hucke-Gaete/Blue Whale Center

Epic journey by blue whale

Posted: 11 Jun 2015 01:12 PM PDT

Scientists studying blue whales in the waters of Chile through DNA profiling and photo-identification may have solved the mystery of where these huge animals go to breed, as revealed by a single female blue whale named “Isabela.” The researchers have discovered that Isabela — a female animal named after the lead author’s daughter and a major Galapagos Island of the same name — has traveled at least once between Chile’s Gulf of Corcovado and the equatorial waters of the Galapagos Islands, a location more than 5,000 kilometers away and now thought to be a possible blue whale breeding ground. The journey represents the largest north-south migratory movement ever recorded for a Southern Hemisphere blue whale….



Funders must encourage scientists to share

To realize the full potential of large data sets, researchers must agree on better ways to pass data around, says Martin Bobrow.

June 2015 Nature Nature 522, 129 (11 June 2015) doi:10.1038/522129a PDF

How can we make best use of the vast amounts of data on genomics, epidemiology and population-level health being collected by researchers? Maximizing the benefits depends on how well we as a scientific community share information. The Human Genome Project set strong precedents for rapid pre-publication data sharing, and all biological research has benefited enormously from this approach. Most research-funding agencies, and most scientists, now agree that research data should be shared — provided that those who donate their data and samples are protected. This approach is strongly advocated by organizations such as the Global Alliance for Genomics and Health. But data sharing will work well only when it is streamlined, efficient and fair. How can more scientists be encouraged and helped to make their data available, without adding an undue administrative burden? I chair an expert advisory group on data access that has examined this question. As part of our work, we surveyed current practices and questioned Nature readers. We saw plenty of good practice — in the UK social-sciences community, for example — but also significant inefficiencies. Both those who generate data and those who want to use them expressed frustration at the way that data-access processes are frequently opaque.


Not so crowded house? New findings on global species richness

Posted: 01 Jun 2015 02:28 PM PDT

Planet Earth may contain millions fewer species than previously thought and estimates are converging, according to research. A new paper reveals findings that narrow global species estimates for beetles, insects and terrestrial arthropods.



Could aluminium-induced cognitive dysfunction be playing a role in the decline of bumblebee populations. Credit: © saratm / Fotolia

Aluminum: New factor in the decline of bee populations?

Posted: 08 Jun 2015 05:29 AM PDT

Very high amounts of aluminum contamination has been found in bees, raising the question of whether aluminum-induced cognitive dysfunction is playing a role in the decline of bumblebee populations. Aluminum is Earth’s most ubiquitous ecotoxicant and is already known to be responsible for the death of fish in acid lakes, forest decline in acidified and nutrient impoverished catchments, and low crop productivity on acid sulphate soils.




Loon chicks grow fast, fledge early to give parents a break

Posted: 08 Jun 2015 11:42 AM PDT

Raising healthy chicks is always a challenge, but in a cold, fish-free Arctic lake, it’s an enormous undertaking. Red-throated Loon parents must constantly fly back and forth between their nesting lakes and the nearby ocean, bringing back fish to feed their growing young, and a new study suggests that the chicks grow fast and fledge while they’re still small so that they can reach the food-rich ocean themselves and give their parents a break.


Daniel J. Rizzolo, Joel A. Schmutz, John R. Speakman. Fast and efficient: Postnatal growth and energy expenditure in an Arctic-breeding waterbird, the Red-throated Loon (Gavia stellata). The Auk, 2015; 132 (3): 657 DOI: 10.1642/AUK-14-261.1


Under the expansion, Shell Beach in Sonoma will become a new intertidal monitoring site that middle and high school students can explore. (Monika Krach/Farallones Marine Sanctuary Association)

Marine Sanctuary Expansion Puts New Damper on Offshore Drilling

By Lindsey Hoshaw and Amy Standen June 9, 2015

Fifty additional miles of Northern California coast will be protected from oil drilling, as of Tuesday. The federal government has doubled the size of two marine sanctuaries off the Sonoma and Mendocino coasts — the largest expansion of national marine sanctuaries in California in 20 years. The renamed Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary grows from 1,811 square miles to 4,581 square miles The area — from the Farallon Islands, north to Mendocino — is home to humpback whales, harbor and elephant seals, and thousands of shorebirds. The expansion prohibits offshore oil drilling and was widely supported via public comments and hearings, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The move comes after decades of lobbying in Congress, but becomes official just weeks after a large oil spill in Santa Barbara that has renewed concerns about offshore drilling. “This is somewhat of a coincidence,” says Richard Charter with The Ocean Foundation.  “The good news happens today against the backdrop of all the bad news coming out of southern California right now.” David Helvarg, Executive Director of the environmental group Blue Frontier Campaign, said marine sanctuaries are an unparalleled way to protect the marine ecosystem. “They are like a world class park system in the water column, ” he says. The new area will still allow commercial and recreational fishing and cruising.


Bull kelp forests provide numerous habitats for nearshore fish and invertebrate species in the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. Credit: Jared Figurski, UCSC

Offshore oil drilling banned along new stretch of California coast

By Paul Rogers Posted:   06/10/2015 06:10:40 AM PDT

In the largest expansion of national marine sanctuaries in California in 23 years, the Obama administration on Tuesday more than doubled the size of two Northern California marine sanctuaries, extending them by 50 miles up the rugged Sonoma and Mendocino coasts. Under the dramatic move by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the boundaries of the Gulf of the Farallones and Cordell Bank national marine sanctuaries expand from Bodega Bay to Point Arena, permanently banning offshore oil drilling along that stretch of coast. “These waters represent an extraordinary marine ecosystem, one of the richest on our planet,” said Maria Brown, NOAA’s superintendent of the Farallones sanctuary, headquartered in San Francisco. The announcement marks the largest expansion of national marine sanctuaries in California since President George H.W. Bush established the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary in 1992. NOAA also announced Tuesday the larger sanctuary’s name has been changed to the Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary to reflect the broader boundaries.

“If an oil spill were to happen in this system, you could wipe out major parts of the food chain for Monterey Bay and the Northern California coast,” said Richard Charter, a senior fellow with the Ocean Foundation in Washington, D.C.

“This is a Serengeti of the ocean in terms of wildlife diversity and richness. If any place deserves permanent protection, it is this place. I have been working on this since 1976. Today I’m having one of the best days of my life.”

The area is famous for its steep cliffs, wind-swept bluffs and long sandy beaches. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, oil companies showed interest in sinking new rigs in the area, which includes the communities of Jenner, Sea Ranch and Gualala, along with Fort Ross, a former Russian fur-trading outpost that dates back to 1812. The ocean waters off the San Francisco-Marin-Sonoma-Mendocino coasts are internationally famous for their large great white shark population. They are also home to 25 endangered or threatened species, 36 marine mammal species, including blue, gray and humpback whales, as well as harbor seals, elephant seals and Pacific white-sided dolphins. In addition, more than a quarter million breeding seabirds live on the Farallon Islands, 27 miles west of San Francisco.

NOAA began the process to expand the two sanctuaries in December 2012. The agency received more than 1,300 comments at public hearings and in writing, most of them in support of the expansion.

While national marine sanctuaries ban oil drilling and other extractive activities — and set rules on such practices as sewage dumping by cruise ships — they do not ban fishing or boating.

Ever since the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill, environmental groups have pushed to ban oil drilling over large swaths of the California coastline. As with the fight through the 1980s to establish the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, which extends from the Golden Gate Bridge to Hearst Castle, tourism and fishing industry groups joined conservation advocates on the latest expansion push. The new boundaries were finalized Tuesday after NOAA’s administrative process ended.

Under the new boundaries, Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary, established in 1989, will expand from 529 square miles to 1,286 square miles. The Gulf of the Farallones sanctuary, established in 1981, will expand from 1,282 square miles to 3,295 square miles. Since 2004, former U.S. Rep. Lynn Woolsey had tried to pass bills in Congress since 2004 to expand the sanctuaries. But she was blocked by congressional Republicans who favor more offshore oil and gas production.

NOAA has the authority, without a vote of Congress, to enlarge sanctuary boundaries. The expanded boundaries were supported by Gov. Jerry Brown and many of the state’s congressional representatives.


California Academy of Sciences discovers 100 new species in the Philippines

Posted: 08 Jun 2015 07:29 AM PDT

Scientists are celebrating World Ocean’s Day with a slew of brand new marine discoveries — more than 100 species that are likely new to science. Mysterious live animals from dimly-lit, deep-water reefs were also collected.


Marin County a Stronghold for Steady Population of Spotted Owls

By Joe Rosato Jr. NBC BayArea Updated at 7:19 PM PDT on Tuesday, Jun 9, 2015

Northern spotted owls may have an image as being pretty wise. But you can also add tenacious survivors to their list of esteemed credentials. Over the years spotted owls have been left homeless across the nation’s timber farming lands, served-up as dinner for hungry ravens, and occasionally fallen victim to careless tree trimmers. Their numbers have dropped three percent over the last 15 years. Yet their population in their stronghold of Marin County has held steady. Point Blue Conservation and Science researcher Renee Cormier estimated there are 200 spotted owls living in Marin. And she should know. She counted them. “It looks like an owl was perched here for a decent amount of time recently,” Cormier said recently, inspecting the base of a tree in the Giacomini Open Space Preserve in West Marin. Cormier had recently spotted an adult pair of spotted owls and their owl chicks in the vicinity. Now she and a fellow researcher were coming back for a status check…. Cormier said there are only about 4000 Northern spotted owls left in lands ranging from Marin County to Southern British Columbia. In 1990, their dwindling numbers caused the federal government to list them as “threatened.” Marin County represents the species’ densest nesting region. “It’s great to have a population like this in Marin,” said Cormier, “where the population is stable and they’re producing a lot of young.”…








Sea surface temperatures anomalies across the Pacific Ocean from June 1 to June 7, 2015, when an El Niño event was in place. Credit: NOAA View

El Niño Forecast Brings Calif. Hope for Drought Relief

By Andrea Thompson
Published: June 11th, 2015

El Niño is gaining steam in the Pacific Ocean and forecasters are now leaning towards it being a strong event, the first since the blockbuster El Niño of 1997-1998. That possibility is again raising the collective hopes of Californians that this winter may finally see some desperately needed precipitation to begin the slow climb out of a historic drought.

“In California, all eyes are on the Pacific given the ongoing historic drought,” Daniel Swain, an atmospheric science Ph.D. student at Stanford University, said in an email. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued its latest monthly El Niño forecast on Thursday, calling for a better than 90 percent chance that this event will stick around through the fall months, and an 85 percent chance it will last through the winter. Forecasters also took their first stab this year at projecting the intensity of the event, with the odds right now favoring a strong El Niño. There is, as always with such forecasts, the niggling possibility that it could remain a weak event or even fizzle out. “We can’t rule out a ’97-’98-like event,” NOAA forecaster Michelle L’Heureux said, but nor can they say that it will definitely happen. If the El Niño does become a strong event and stays that way through the winter, that means there’s a good chance California could finally see some healthy rains come winter, the traditional wet season there, which has come up dry in recent years. But after El Niño failed to flourish last year, hopes are seasoned with more than a few grains of salt. “This year people have the perspective of last year’s failed prediction of El Niño to temper the enthusiasm of the predictions in play this year,” California state climatologist Michael Anderson said in an email.

Atmospheric Domino Effect El Niño is a climate phenomenon that happens in the Pacific Ocean, but it causes an atmospheric cascade that can alter normal weather patterns across the globe. An El Niño is primarily defined by the warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures it brings to the central and eastern tropical Pacific, but that’s not all there is to it. That excess ocean warmth bleeds into the atmosphere, which tends to shift storm activity from west to east in the same region…..

….This past winter saw the lowest snowpack in California’s recorded history — a measly 6 percent of normal at the traditional April 1 measurement. That dismal reading was a catalyst for the first statewide water restrictions ever mandated there. The reason the snowpack was so meager was because temperatures were record warm throughout the season, meaning that even when rare storms came through, they dropped rain and not snow, even at higher elevations.

Past strong El Niño events, such as in 1982-1983 and 1997-1998, have seen robust snowpacks, Swain said, but they may not be the case with any event now or in the future. For one thing, the Pacific off the California coast is still very warm, which tends to keep temperatures over the state warm as well. For another, there’s global warming.

“California has experienced a significant temperature increase over the past several decades, which is a hallmark of global warming,” Swain said. “So it’s hard to say whether what has been true historically about El Niño and Sierra snowpack will hold true for the present event.” Even if all the various hurdles for this El Niño event are cleared — it becomes strong and stays that way through winter; it brings sustained rains; and it provides a healthy snowpack — California won’t be drought free come spring. The drought is one of truly historic proportions that was the result of year-after-year dryness. Because it took multiple years to dig such a deep hole, it’s going to take several to fill it back in.

“California would probably need to experience its wettest year on record (by a fairly wide margin) to erase ongoing deficits in a single year,” Swain wrote on his blog. “While it’s not physically impossible, that would be a very tall order, indeed.”




ENSO Alert System StatusEl Niño Advisory

June 11, 2015 NOAA

There is a greater than 90% chance that El Niño will continue through Northern Hemisphere fall 2015, and around an 85% chance it will last through the 2015-16 winter:During May, sea surface temperatures (SST) anomalies increased across the central and eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean (Fig. 1 & Fig. 2). All of the Niño indices were in excess of +1.0oC, with the largest anomalies in the eastern Pacific, indicated by recent weekly values of +1.4oC in Niño-3 and +1.9oC in Niño-1+2 (Fig. 2). After a slight decline in April, positive subsurface temperature anomalies strengthened during May (Fig. 3) in association with the progress of a downwelling oceanic Kelvin wave (Fig. 4). In addition, anomalous low-level westerly winds remained over most of the equatorial Pacific, and were accompanied by anomalous upper-level easterly winds. The traditional and equatorial Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) were both negative, consistent with enhanced convection over the central and eastern equatorial Pacific and suppressed convection over Indonesia (Fig. 5). Collectively, these atmospheric and oceanic features reflect an ongoing and strengthening El Niño.

Nearly all models predict El Niño to continue throughout 2015, with many predicting SST anomalies to increase into the late fall 2015 (Fig. 6). For the fall and early winter, the consensus of forecasters slightly favors a strong event (3-month values of the Niño-3.4 index +1.5oC or greater), relative to a weaker event. However, this prediction may vary in the months ahead as strength forecasts are the most challenging aspect of ENSO prediction. A moderate, weak, or even no El Niño remains possible, though at increasingly lesser odds. There is a greater than 90% chance that El Niño will continue through Northern Hemisphere fall 2015, and around an 85% chance it will last through the 2015-16 winter (click CPC/IRI consensus forecast for the chance of each outcome for each 3-month period). Across the contiguous United States, temperature and precipitation impacts associated with El Niño are expected to remain minimal during the Northern Hemisphere summer and increase into the late fall and winter (the 3-month seasonal outlook will be updated on Thursday June 18th). El Niño will likely be a contributor to a below normal Atlantic hurricane season, and above-normal hurricane seasons in both the central and eastern Pacific hurricane basins (click Hurricane season outlook for more).

This discussion is a consolidated effort of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NOAA’s National Weather Service, and their funded institutions. Oceanic and atmospheric conditions are updated weekly on the Climate Prediction Center web site (El Niño/La Niña Current Conditions and Expert Discussions). Forecasts are also updated monthly in the Forecast Forum of CPC’s Climate Diagnostics Bulletin. Additional perspectives and analysis are also available in an ENSO blog. The next ENSO Diagnostics Discussion is scheduled for 9 July 2015. To receive an e-mail notification when the monthly ENSO Diagnostic Discussions are released, please send an e-mail message to:



Maps showing position of sea surface temperature (SST) anomaly, aka The Blob, in the northeast Pacific Ocean in March 2014. Second map showing how the sea surface temperature (SST) anomaly had moved and spread along the West Coast by March 2015. (Image provided by the NOAA/ESRL Physical Sciences Division at Boulder, Colorado)


The [Warm Water] Blob expands from Gulf of Alaska to Baja California

By Matt Miller, KTOO – Juneau | June 2, 2015


Scientists are watching for how a warmer North Pacific Ocean could affect weather and climate this year. There could also be significant impacts to marine life, including species that form the basis for Alaska’s commercial fisheries.
A conference at California’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography earlier this month featured scientists in fields ranging from avian biology to Arctic climatology. They tried to determine the potential impacts of a giant mass of warm, ocean water that currently stretches from the Gulf of Alaska down to Baja California. Temperatures have increased more than two degrees Celsius since the fall of 2013. “I know. It doesn’t seem like very much,” says Molly McCammon of the Alaska Ocean Observing System, an observing and data gathering organization based in Anchorage. “But for species that live in the ocean, it’s a big deal. One degree C is a big deal. So, yes, it can have a big impact.” McCammon helped organize the Alaska contingent that participated in theCalifornia conference on the warm water anomaly that’s been nicknamed “The Blob”. The mass of warm ocean water may be a factor in Alaska’s recent mild winters, dry conditions along the West Coast, and extreme cold conditions in the Great Lakes region last winter. It’s not the same as El Niño which has its origins in the equatorial ocean, and it’s not clear if The Blob is related to Pacific Decadal Oscillation, a longer-term cycle of ocean climate variability. The Blob’s formation may have been generated by a lingering high pressure system over the Northeast Pacific that diverted winds and passing storm systems.


As a result, the ocean surface did not have the chance to cool off as usual. “I think the consensus was that, yes, this is an unusual warming event. It’s above and beyond just the warming that’s happening as a result of global warming,” McCammon says. “There also seems to be an El Niño forming right now as well. They think that’s separate, but it could be merging, exacerbating this warming event. So, there’s a lot of unknowns.” The relationship between the ocean and atmosphere is complex, and interactions are rarely linear or sequential. Ocean surface temperature, surface and subsurface currents, atmospheric pressure, winds, temperature, precipitation, and geography may all be linked in some way. How each condition influences another could vary significantly. “That’s actually what we’re trying to figure out at the moment: What or how (are) things might be linked to The Blob,” says Peter Bieniek, a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ International Arctic Research Center. He was one of the Alaska scientists invited to attend the SIO conference. “Normally, there are linkages to what goes on in the North Pacific, and especially the equatorial Pacific,” Bieniek says. “Sea surface temperatures, like if there’s an El Niño going on in the equatorial Pacific, then we’ll tend to get, for instance, warmer-than-normal winters in Alaska.”….


May 2015 was wettest month on record for contiguous U.S.

Devastating floods end multiyear drought in Southern Plains

The May contiguous U.S. average temperature was 60.8°F, 0.6°F above the 20th century average, ranking near the median value in the 121-year record. Much of the East Coast and Northwest were warmer than average, particularly the Northeast where four states were record warm.  Below-average temperatures were observed across the central U.S. The spring (March-May) contiguous U.S average temperature was 53.2°F, 2.2°F above the 20th century average, and the 11th warmest on record. The May precipitation total for the contiguous U.S. was 4.36 inches, 1.45 inches above average. This was the wettest May on record, and the wettest month of any month, in the 121-years of record keeping. For the spring season, the contiguous U.S. precipitation total was 9.33 inches, 1.39 inches above average, and the 11th wettest on record. 

 This monthly summary from NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information* is part of the suite of climate services NOAA provides to government, business, academia and the public to support informed decision-making.

May 2015 


NOAA Study Confirms Global Warming Speed-Up Is Imminent

by Joe Romm Posted on June 5, 2015 at 12:03 pm

A major new study from NOAA finds more evidence that we may be witnessing the start of the long-awaited jump in global temperatures. As I reported in April, many recent studies have found that we are about to enter an era of even more rapid global warming. Indeed, one March study, “Near-term acceleration in the rate of temperature change,” warns the speed-up is imminent — with Arctic warming rising a stunning 1°F per decade by the 2020s. The new study in Science from a team of NOAA scientists, “finds that the rate of global warming during the last 15 years has been as fast as or faster than that seen during the latter half of the 20th Century,” as NOAA explains. The director of NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, Thomas Karl, told the UK Guardian that “considering all the short-term factors identified by the scientific community that acted to slow the rate of global warming over the past two decades (volcanoes, ocean heat uptake, solar decreases, predominance of La Niñas, etc.) it is likely the temperature increase would have accelerated in comparison to the late 20th Century increases.”
What happens when these various temporary factors stop? Karl explained: “Once these factors play out, and they may have already, global temperatures could rise more rapidly than what we have seen so far.”
In other words, the long-awaited jump is global temperatures is likely imminent. How big is the jump? As I reported in April, top climatologist Kevin Trenberth has said it would be as much as 0.5°F. Given that 2015 is crushing it for the hottest year on record, we appear to be already witnessing a big piece of that jump.
NOAA’s new study not only incorporates the latest global temperature data from 2013 and 2014. Their “calculations also use improved versions of both sea surface temperature and land surface air temperature datasets” (detailed here). The result, as NOAA explains, is that the new “study refutes the notion that there has been a slowdown or ‘hiatus’ in the rate of global warming in recent years.” In particular, the authors conclude bluntly:Indeed, based on our new analysis, the IPCC’s statement of two years ago – that the global surface temperature “has shown a much smaller increasing linear trend over the past 15 years than over the past 30 to 60 years” – is no longer valid.”….


Boreal peatlands not a global warming time bomb

Posted: 10 Jun 2015 06:34 AM PDT

To some scientists studying climate change, boreal peatlands are considered a potential ticking time bomb. With huge stores of carbon in peat, the fear is that rising global temperatures could cause the release of massive amounts of CO2 from the peatlands into the atmosphere–essentially creating a greenhouse gas feedback loop. A new study by researchers at the University of South Carolina and University of California Los Angeles challenges that notion, and demonstrates that the effect of temperature increases on peat storage could be minor.
Funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and published in Global Biogeochemical Cycles, the study instead points to the length of time peat is exposed to oxygen as a much more important factor in how it releases carbon into the atmosphere…However, peat formed during these warm intervals was not extensively decomposed compared to peat formed during cooler periods. Instead, the most extensive decomposition coincided with drier conditions and longer oxygen exposure time during peat formation. This indicates oxygen exposure time was the primary control on peat decomposition, while temperature was of secondary importance….




Plants may run out of time to grow under ongoing climate change

Posted: 10 Jun 2015 12:20 PM PDT

The causes and consequences of global warming are still under debate, but what would actually happen to all the plants, essential to many aspects of our lives, if the climate in the planet does get warmer? A new study addresses just this question.


Floodplain white spruce stand along lower Yukon River, late at night near the summer solstice in 2007. Credit: Photo by Claire Alix

Changing climate prompts boreal forest shift

Posted: 11 Jun 2015 01:13 PM PDT

With warming summer temperatures across Alaska, white spruce tree growth in Interior Alaska has declined to record low levels, while the same species in Western Alaska is growing better than ever measured before. According to researchers, ‘The movement of an entire biome is often hypothesized in models of probable future climate, but the Alaska boreal forest is actually shifting today, and the process is well underway.



Image shows apparently very hungry bears eating dolphins for the first time, before freezing the leftovers in the snow

Polar bears seen killing and eating dolphins that have been forced north by global warming

Andrew Griffin
Thursday 11 June 2015 Independent UK

Bears have been seen catching and eating dolphins for the first time ever, after the marine mammals were left stuck in the Arctic Ocean because of global warming. It marks the first time that bears have been seen killing and eating dolphins. Usually, the dolphins only go up north during the warmer summer — but this year they have arrived in spring. The bears catch the dolphins in a similar way to the seals that they usually eat. Both animals keep holes in the ice which they use to come up and breathe from — at which point, if the bear is lucky, it will snatch them up and eat them. The researchers observed the behaviour for the first time last year. At least six different bears have been seen eating the dolphins since then, scientists write in a new report, ‘White-beaked dolphins trapped in the ice and eaten by polar bears’ After eating the dolphin, the bear seemed to cover it with ice so that it could be kept for later. Such behaviour is rare in polar bears, and could be a result of the animals not having enough to eat. The authors of the study describe the bear as having “clearly visible ribs” and being “very skinny”….


Flash flood risks increase as storm peak downpours intensify

Posted: 08 Jun 2015 09:01 AM PDT

Thirty-year weather records from 79 locations across Australia reveal peak downpours during storms are intensifying at warmer temperatures across all climate zones, leading to greater flash flood risks in cities.



How atmospheric rivers form

Posted: 09 Jun 2015 08:36 AM PDT

A new study suggests that unusually persistent spatial structures that self-assemble high in the atmosphere serve as “tracer patterns” around which atmospheric rivers grow. Based on simulations using real weather data in the Atlantic Ocean, the work was focused specifically on the transport of water from the Caribbean to the Iberian Peninsula, but it suggests a more general way to study the transport of tropical water vapor globally.



Steam and smoke rise from a coal-burning plant in Gelsenkirchen, Germany, in December 2009. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

We’re still waking up to the ultra long-term consequences of burning fossil fuels

By Chris Mooney June 8 at 1:35 PM

Sometimes, on environmental issues, we make things too complicated. Global warming is an example. We go on and on about emissions targets and thresholds and offsets — when really, it’s all about something much simpler: heat. We burn fossil fuels — coal, oil, natural gas — because doing so gives off heat. We then use that heat to create electricity (and for other purposes). But burning fossil fuels also gives off carbon dioxide, which makes its way into the atmosphere and gives us heat in a different way — through the greenhouse effect, in which this gas traps infrared heat radiation that would otherwise escape the planet to space. Instead, that heat sticks around and makes Earth a little bit hotter. Moreover, carbon dioxide stays in the atmosphere and keeps on having this effect for a very long time — for a given atmospheric pulse of carbon dioxide, some portion of it will still be there in a thousand years. Now, in a recent study in Geophysical Research Letters, Xiaochun Zhang and Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Stanford, Calif., compare these two kinds of heating that result from the burning of fossil fuels. And they show that it only takes a relatively brief period of time for the long-term heating caused by the atmospheric carbon dioxide to exceed the short-term heating that we get from burning the fossil fuel in the first place. “The total amount of heat released upon burning a lump of coal is dwarfed by the total amount of energy trapped in the atmosphere by the CO2 that burning releases,” Caldeira said by e-mail. (Here’s a video that he made to explain the result further.) Moreover, the difference is not small. As Caldeira put it in the video: “Over its lifetime in the atmosphere, if you burn a lump of coal, the greenhouse warming exceeds the direct thermal warming by a factor of 100,000 or more.” A key reason the differential is so large has to do with the notoriously long atmospheric lifetime of carbon dioxide. “The fossil fuel is burned in an instant, but some of the CO2 remains in the atmosphere for many thousands of years,” note Zhang and Caldeira in their paper. A recent paper unpacking this in more detail, by University of Chicago geoscientist Raymond Pierrehumbert, reaches a staggering conclusion. It considers a gigantic hypothetical pulse of carbon dioxide large enough to increase atmospheric concentrations to 1250 parts per million over pre-industrial levels (which were 280 parts per million). In 1,000 years, Pierrehumbert finds, concentrations will still be 675 parts per million. The stuff stays up there for many, many human lifetimes. This is why some have suggested that substantial part of global warming is “irreversible.” Granted, coal, oil and natural gas are all different.
The new study by Zhang and Caldeira found that in about 34 days, the warming caused by the greenhouse effect of burning a given quantity of coal has exceeded the heat given off in that burning. For oil, that number was 45 days, and for natural gas, 59 days. “This won’t come as a surprise to climate scientists, but there’s just never been a peer-reviewed citation for these kinds of numbers, so it’s just good to get it into the literature,” Caldeira said. I asked a few scientists to comment on the new paper by Zhang and Caldeira to make sure I was properly understanding its implications. Atmospheric scientist Kerry Emanuel of MIT noted that the paper is “just showing that the heat energy trapped by greenhouse gases exceeds that directly produced by fossil fuel combustion after only a very short time.” However, he added, “if greenhouse gas warming were less by a factor of, say, 10, then the heat trapped would still vastly exceed the heat of combustion after a short time, but we would be less worried about the consequences.”

Michael Mann, a climate researcher at Penn State, made a similar point: “In one case we’re talking about net energy released to do work/generate power/heat, etc. In the other case we’re talking about a redistribution of heat within the atmosphere that isn’t simply related to the former quantity — it is a subtle feature of the particular pollutant being released.” For this reason, Mann wondered about “what that comparison tells us physically.” Maybe nothing super profound from a physics standpoint. Nonetheless, the comparison between how much energy we get from fossil fuels, and how much heating they leave behind once they’re burned, is hard to forget. Granted, we shouldn’t neglect what we owe to fossil fuels — a vast amount. And those industrious humans who, in the 1800s, first started the mass burning of coal, driving up atmospheric carbon-dioxide concentrations, could hardly be expected to have known about numbers like these. We’re still wrapping our minds around them ourselves, and it’s 2015.



Visiting a national park? Be prepared to learn about climate change.

The National Park Service is not only trying to reduce its own carbon footprint, but yours as well. And visitors don’t seem to mind.

By Brian Bienkowski The Daily Climate June 9, 2015

This year hundreds of thousands of lucky folks will hike up glacier-tipped mountains, cast flies at world-class salmon, or just take a bunch of selfies at Alaska’s Denali National Park and Preserve.  But, if park officials have their way, those same people will go home with some homework. The park’s iconic glaciers are melting. Its snowshoe hares are losing their cover. And interpreters don’t mind sharing these warnings about a changing climate and sending visitors away with a directive to be nicer to the Earth when they go home.   According to a recent survey almost half of people go home heeding the advice.  “The numbers really showed us—the message is clear,” said Langdon Smith, an associate professor and geographer from Slippery Rock University who was the lead author of a new study about the survey and the National Park Service’s climate messaging. “According to the survey they [the National Park Service] should continue trying to teach people about climate change, the message is going over very well with visitors,” Smith said.  Denali National Park, which is about 240 miles north of Anchorage, is one of the more notable examples in national parks’ shift in tone to educate and spur action on climate change. 

The survey, conducted in Denali during the busy month of June 2012, found that 93 percent of the 247 respondents said the National Park Service should teach sustainability and 78 percent said it should teach about climate change.  People learned too—39 percent reported learning more about climate change, and 42 percent said they went home after Denali wanting to do more to reduce the impacts of climate change.

The results suggest “that visiting Denali opened their eyes to some very real consequences of which they were not previously aware and serves as a reminder of the value of national parks as educational landscapes,” wrote Smith and colleagues.

The National Park Service for decades had various programs to reduce its environmental footprint, some were climate-related, and some were not. 

“Visiting Denali opened their eyes to some very real consequences of which they were not previously aware.” But, as climate change projections became dire, the agency’s position shifted to one of more urgency.  In the fall of 2008 agency director Jonathon Jarvis testified before Congress about climate change, and “blew it wide open,” said Jeffrey Olson, public affairs officer with the National Park Service.  Jarvis wrote in a 2010 report that he believed climate change to be “fundamentally the greatest threat to the integrity of our national parks that we have ever experienced”.  That spurred the 2012 Green Parks Plan, which went beyond stressing sustainability at just the parks. The plan had familiar environmental directives like “greening” vehicles and reducing emissions but it also pushed to encourage visitors to take such practices back to their communities, a “very purposeful” strategy, Olson said. “Yes we care about what will happen to the parks, the visitor experience,” Olson said. “But we want people to learn and see things at the park that they can bring home.” Some of it comes from a purely economic and efficiency standpoint. National parks use a lot of energy. According to Smith’s study, 67,000 structures in the national parks use as much energy as about 15,000 households, costing roughly $44 million.  But most of this grew out of seeing real changes at parks, Olson said. “Lost ice caves in Mount Rainier National Park … receding glaciers, pika habitat problems in the northern Rockies … things like that were poster things, but also things like Joshua trees getting hit, Southwest getting drier, fire seasons starting to change,” Olson said. “We starting seeing these severe weather things everyone’s talking about now back in mid-2000s.” In Denali the most striking change is the park’s glaciers—which are retreating about 66 feet per year, according to National Park Service estimates…..




Climate change scientists urged to be more open to the public about uncertainties

A new report calls for experts to communicate their research more clearly

Tom Bawden Environment Editor Tuesday 09 June 2015 Independent UK

Climate change scientists must be more honest about the limits of their knowledge and uncertainty around predictions if they are to win the trust of the public, according to a new report. Scientists are under increasing pressure to communicate their research more clearly, to galvanise politicians into taking decisive action to combat climate change, and to help promote their universities. They are also keen to make their findings meaningful to a public which feels alienated from much climate change research, which is largely abstract and concerned with developments that often lie decades in the future, said Dr Gregory Hollin, of the University of Nottingham. But this increases the temptation to gloss over any uncertainties in research – an urge they should resist if they don’t want to lose credibility, his report says. And while referencing recent events such as floods and heatwaves can make climate change seem more tangible, they are much less scientifically certain as evidence….







The marshlands, canals and culverts in Williams, Calif., north of Sacramento, are temporary homes to geese and other migratory birds that use the area as a stop on the Pacific Flyway. (Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

Ducks, geese and rice — the next victims of California’s drought?

By Joseph Serna
contact the reporter LA Times June 10, 2015

The nests of hundreds of thousands of birds and the food for millions more could be imperiled this year because of fewer rice crops in California – the latest symptom of the state’s historic drought. Only about 375,000 acres of rice are expected to be planted this year, a 30% decrease from a typical year and the lowest in California since 1991, according to a statement from the California Rice Commission. In summer, the rice is used as nesting for native mallards and shore birds, said Mark Biddlecomb, director for the western region of Ducks Unlimited, a wetlands conservation group. In the fall, after the rice is harvested, the fields are flooded and the remaining grain becomes food for up to 7 million ducks and geese in the Sacramento River Valley, he said. If the crop is reduced, the feeding area becomes more concentrated, which makes the population more vulnerable to diseases. “I hate to say it’s cascading, but it kind of is,” Biddlecomb said of the drought’s effects. The drought also annually costs the state billions of dollars in economic activity and tens of thousands of agricultural jobs, the commission noted. In 2014, about 408,000 acres of rice was planted, which was also below normal, the group said. If not for a fortuitous spell of strong winter storms in late December that expanded feeding grounds, an outbreak of Avian botulism within the fowl population would have spread further, Biddlecomb said. “This coming winter, if that doesn’t happen, and if we don’t use our water resources wisely … we can really be in a world of hurt,” Biddlecomb said.


Predicting tree mortality

Posted: 09 Jun 2015 11:17 AM PDT

A combination of drought, heat and insects is responsible for the death of more than 12 million trees in California, according to a new study. Researchers studying environmental factors contributing to tree mortality expect this number to increase with climate change according to a new study from UC Santa Barbara’s National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS). Members of the NCEAS working group studying environmental factors contributing to tree mortality expect this number to increase with climate change. The study is the first of its kind to examine the wide spectrum of interactions between drought and insects. Lead author William Anderegg, a postdoctoral researcher at the Princeton Environmental Institute, and his co-authors first devised a framework to look at the effects that each stressor can have on tree mortality and then examined interactions among them. The researchers’ findings appear in New Phytologist….



Drought Speeds Decline of Beloved California Desert Species

LOS ANGELES, AP— Jun 7, 2015, 7:24 PM ET

In the California desert, Joshua tree seedlings are shriveling up and dying before they get the chance to put down strong roots, and ecologist Cameron Barrows wants the details. The University of California, Riverside scientist knows that hot weather and lack of rainwater hurt the iconic species, reports the Los Angeles Times ( ). But Barrows plans to monitor Joshua trees’ responses to climate change and drought, which will provide baseline information to help guide conservation decisions. With funding from federal wildlife officials, Barrows is trying to find ways to assess the effects of climate change on the plants and the animals they shelter, including yucca moths, skipper butterflies, termites, ants, desert night lizards, kangaroo rats and 20 species of birds. “Beyond its importance as a critical refuge for desert species, the Joshua tree is a cultural signature of California’s desert landscape,” UC Berkeley biology post-doctoral fellow Rebecca R. Hernandez said. The species, which only grows in the Mojave desert, has become a mainstay for movies, fashion shoots, advertising campaigns and wedding ceremonies.

Scientists predict that the trees will lose 90 percent of their current range in the 800,000-acre Joshua Tree National Park by the end of the century if the warmer, drier conditions continue. The park has seen 1.71 inches of rain this year. Precipitation there averages about 4 inches per year.
“For Joshua trees, hotter, drier conditions are a problem — but a bigger problem is that what little rainfall occurs evaporates faster,” Barrows said.
Technically called Yucca brevifolia, Joshua trees aren’t actually trees — they’re succulents. They can grow up to 40 feet high, live more than 200 years and bloom sporadically with yellow and white bell-shaped blossoms.
They were named after the biblical figure Joshua by a band of Mormons travelling through the Cajon Pass back to Utah in 1857. They saw the trees as shaggy prophets stretching their limbs to point the way to their promised land.
The species has weathered threats before. In the 1980s, about 200,000 Joshua trees were replaced with housing tracts and shopping centers in desert boomtowns like Lancaster and Palmdale. In the 1990s, moist El Nino conditions triggered explosive growth of exotic grasses that established themselves and left the forests vulnerable to large-scale brush fires. One such blaze charred 14,000 acres in 1999.
But can Joshua trees survive climate change? Computer models by Barrows and his team show the species retaining just 2 to 10 percent of its current range if global temperatures rise by 5 degrees Fahrenheit.
“Since they grow for about 200 years, we won’t see massive die-offs in our lifetime,” park Superintendent David Smith said. “But we will see less recruitment of new trees.”
Scanning the park, Barrows was able to find a tiny sign of new life: a knee-high bouquet of dagger-like leaves.
“Look here, a baby,” he said, estimating the Joshua tree was 10 to 15 years old. “Will it survive? Depends on how much rain we get.”




Gabrielle Lurie, Special To The Chronicle Carlos Guzman puts down cardboard around the edge of a plant on a lawn in Palo Alto, California, on Wednesday, June 10, 2015. The crew working on the lawn consists of Esau Angulo and his partner Carlos Guzman are on contract with the Santa Clara Valley Water district, is in the process of replacing a lawn in Palo Alto, by installing what is called sheet mulching, a technique meant to mimic the eco-system of a forest floor. Local agencies, like the Santa Clara Valley Water district, are offering homeowners rebates for ripping out their lawns and replacing them with drought-friendly landscaping.

Drought-wary lawn owners line up for money to rip out their grass

By Carolyn Lochhead and Kurtis Alexander June 10, 2015 SF Chron

Esau Angulo puts down cardboard around plants on a lawn in Palo Alto as he prepares to replace the lawn with sheet mulching, a technique meant to mimic the ecosystem of a forest floor. Local agencies, like the Santa Clara Valley Water district, are offering homeowners rebates for ripping out their lawns and replacing them with drought-friendly landscaping. California lawn owners irrigated more acreage last year than drought-pummeled farmers fallowed for lack of water. But the flawless green sward — suburban status symbol and “Downton Abbey” throwback — is under siege. As California’s big dry deepens, homeowners are lining up for lawn bounties offered by local water districts. Lawn vigilantes have taken to “drought shaming” of celebrities surrounded by emerald acres, and some homeowners have gone so far as to paint their brown grass green. The lawn industry, meanwhile, is fighting back — insisting that people can be socially conscientious and still enjoy a patch of grass. No one in the turf rip-out rebate program at Santa Clara Valley Water District had time to talk because “they’re drowning in applications,” said spokesman Marty Grimes. The district’s $2-a-foot rebate persuaded people to pull up just 160,000 square feet of grass in 2013, but so far this year it has eliminated 1.28 million square feet of lawn. That’s a mere divot compared to the record $450 million in lawn rebates offered this year by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which serves Los Angeles and surrounding areas….



Photo: Tom Stienstra, The Chronicle This image in Yosemite National Park looks across Hetch Hetchy from the trail above the reservoir that stores S.F.’s water supply; it’s more than 90 percent full.

S.F. water supply in OK shape, but officials keep on pressure

By Kurtis Alexander SF CHron June 9, 2015 Updated: June 10, 2015 10:17am

SFPUC Assistant General Manager Steven Ritchie showed off some impressive water consumption declines in the Bay Area Tuesday June 9, 2015. Officials with the San Francisco PUC said thanks to conservation efforts San Francisco has more water in storage than other municipalities in the Bay Area. Four years into a drought that has left many cities and farms desperate for water, the vast Sierra-fed water system that serves San Francisco and much of the Bay Area is in relatively good shape — and should get the region through the dry months ahead, officials said Tuesday. But city water officials aren’t taking chances. The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission launched a new conservation push Tuesday to preserve its pristine mountain supply, just as snow vanishes above the lake and runoff begins to dry up with summer. “Last year, our customers proved they know how to save water,” said Harlan Kelly, general manager of the commission, at a news conference held downtown, about 180 miles west of the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. “As this historic drought continues, we’re calling on them again to continue this amazing effort.” The conservation call was paired with the start of a $300,000 sex-themed ad blitz, which piggy-backs on last year’s racy promotions that included slogans like “Make it a quickie,” a reference to showering, and “Get paid for doing it,” meaning replacing an old toilet.

Slogan: ‘Go full frontal’

The latest slogan is “Go full frontal.” The phrase — while revealing that the campaign may have exhausted its best ideas — is a plug for efficient front-loading washing machines.













How to convert US to 100 percent renewable energy

Posted: 09 Jun 2015 06:30 AM PDT

It’s technically possible for each state to replace fossil fuel energy with entirely clean, renewable energy, experts say. A new report is the first to outline how each of the 50 states can achieve such a transition by 2050. The 50 individual state plans call for aggressive changes to both infrastructure and the ways we currently consume energy, but indicate that the conversion is technically and economically possible through the wide-scale implementation of existing technologies…


The Norwegian Parliament’s website Friday featured this image of a lump of coal and the statement: The Storting is unanimous in its agreement to pull the Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG) out of coal.

CREDIT: via the Storting

Norway Will Divest From Coal

by Samantha Page Posted on June 5, 2015 at 3:15 pm

The Norwegian Parliament voted Friday to remove coal investments from the country’s $890 billion government pension fund, which is considered the largest sovereign wealth fund in the world. Under the new policy, power and mining companies whose activities or revenue are at least 30 percent coal-related will be removed from the portfolio. Norges Bank Investment Management, which manages the huge Norwegian fund, said its goal was “safeguarding and building financial wealth for future generations in Norway,” according to the New York Times. The reasons for divesting include “long-established climate-change risk-management expectations,” spokeswoman Marthe Skaar told the paper.

The decision will most likely force the Norwegian fund, called the Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG), to divest from 122 companies totaling $8.7 billion, according to calculations made by the environmental group Greenpeace and its partners. “Norway’s decision to take a stand against coal is an example for other governments — and for investors — about shifting from polluting energy sources towards clean, renewable power,” Greenpeace International Executive Director Kumi Naidoo said in a statement. Greenpeace identified 49 U.S.-based companies or subsidiaries that the GPFG will no longer be able invest in, including major U.S. utilities and power producers like Duke Energy, American Electric Power, and NRG Energy.

The divestment is set to be carried out by Jan. 1, 2016. Norway joins a growing list of organizations — including big universities, pension funds, and even the Church of England — that are divesting from coal. Coal is the largest stationary source of carbon emissions in the U.S., and reducing or eliminating coal use is seen as critical to preventing catastrophic climate change….




Vietnamese farmers make solar-powered boat

Tuoi Tre News Updated : 06/09/2015 13:55 GMT + 7

A solar-powered boat has been successfully created by four farmers in Dong Thap Province in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam.

The idea to start making the boat came from the need to save money on fuel costs. Now, their boat can run at a speed of 20kph while making absolutely no engine noise and no pollution. All passengers can hear is the cascading sound of waves crashing on the boat’s hull. “This boat is friendly to the environment and will not stun wild birds flying away from gardens,” said a local official after trying the boat. Le Hoang Long, director of the center for tourism and environmental education at Tram Chim National Park in Tam Nong District, called Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper journalists to inform them of the news as happily as if he were the boat creator. Before the success, no one had believed that the ‘four crazy men’ in Truong Xuan Commune of Thap Muoi District would succeed…



Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience

Press Statement– John Kerry Secretary of State Washington, DC June 9, 2015

Climate change poses a threat to every country on Earth, and we all need to do what we can to take advantage of the small window of opportunity we still have to stave off its worst, most disastrous impacts. But even as we take unprecedented steps to mitigate the climate threat, we also have to ensure our communities are prepared for the impacts we know are headed our way – and the impacts we are already seeing all over the world in the form of heat waves, floods, historic droughts, ocean acidification and more. Thanks to President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, we’ve taken a number of important steps to increase the resilience of American communities. But as the President has always said, this is a global challenge, and we’re not going to get very far if we keep our efforts contained within our borders. That’s why the United States is deeply committed to helping the rest of the world – especially the poorest and most vulnerable nations – adapt to the changing climate as well.

As part of that commitment, last fall, President Obama announced his intention to create a private-public partnership to provide climate data and information to help promote resilient development worldwide. Today we formally launched the Climate Services for Resilient Development partnership, along with the government of the United Kingdom and our partners at the American Red Cross, the Asian Development Bank, Esri, Google, the Inter-American Development and the Skoll Global Threats Fund.

In addition to the $34 million we and our partners are putting toward that new partnership, we also announced a series of individual steps we’re taking to make adapting to climate change easier around the globe – including, for example:

In the United States, we’ve developed some of the most advanced technologies and scientific expertise on climate change, and we want to make sure these tools are reaching those who need it the most. Each of the commitments announced today will make it easier for people to take control of their own futures and play an active role in helping to prepare their communities, their countries, and ultimately their planet for the changes ahead. When it comes to confronting climate change, no country should be forced to go it alone – because no country can possibly address this threat alone. It will require all of us – every country, around the world, doing what it can to contribute to the solution. That understanding is at the core of the initiatives we are unveiling today, it’s what is driving our work toward an ambitious global agreement in Paris later this year, and it’s what will continue to guide our leadership in the fight against climate change in the months and years to come.






Bonn meeting ends with last-minute compromise on Paris climate text.

June 12, 2015 the Guardian UK

Climate change negotiators meeting in Bonn on Thursday came up with a last-minute compromise that observers hope will put the talks on track for a new global agreement on greenhouse gases.  


Court rejects bid to block EPA power plant standards

Jeremy P. Jacobs, E&E reporter Greenwire: Tuesday, June 9, 2015

A federal appeals court today dismissed an attempt by more than a dozen states, energy companies and industry groups to block U.S. EPA from finalizing its landmark greenhouse gas standards for power plants. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruling hinged on procedural grounds, holding that the court would not rule on the legality of the standards before they were finalized. In his majority opinion for the three-judge panel, Judge Brett Kavanaugh said the challengers, led by West Virginia and Ohio-based Murray Energy Corp., asked the court to take unprecedented action….



The leaders of the world’s richest countries wave goodbye to a safe global climate on June 7, 2015 at Schloss Elmau near Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images

World’s Richest Countries Decide to Take It Slow on Climate Change

By Eric Holthaus June 8, 2015

In a joint declaration from the G7 summit, leaders of the world’s richest countries called for a global phase-out of fossil fuels for the first time on Monday. That sounds great, but unfortunately, they’re talking about a lax timescale—”over the course of this century.” The leaders also committed to “doing our part to achieve a low-carbon global economy in the long-term,” though they didn’t announce any increased ambitions in cutting carbon in their own economies. Reports from the two-day meeting in Germany indicated that bolder statements were considered, including a call to decarbonize the G7 economies by 2050, but they were ultimately dropped, likely under pressure from Canada and Japan.
Though today’s statement is bold, the focus on the very long-term is disappointing. The G7 meeting was billed as a showcase for Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, to assert leadership on climate change in advance of key negotiations in December, when world leaders will gather in Paris and are expected to sign the first-ever global agreement on climate change. Expectations for an ambitious outcome in Paris have been waning in recent months, and today’s G7 statement doesn’t help things much.

Environmental organizations said that setting a goal of decarbonization by the end of the century is a signal to business that further investment in fossil fuel infrastructure could lead to “stranded assets.” May Boeve, the executive director of, said, “If you’re still holding onto fossil fuel stocks, you’re betting on the past. As today’s announcement makes clear, the future belongs to renewables.” However, nothing terribly new has actually happened: Many climate projections were already using the relatively low-ambition G7 target. According to the independent Climate Action Tracker, the world’s current policies will result in global warming of 3.6 to 4.2 degrees Celsius by 2100. That’s just half a degree less than it predicts we would see if nothing changed, and the consequences of half-action are truly frightening. Even the current pledges of the G7 countries, if converted into effective policies, likely wouldn’t be enough for the world to stay under the previously agreed-upon goal of keeping warming to 2 degrees Celsius. The G7—which is comprised of Italy, Germany, the United Kingdom, France, the United States, Canada, and Japan, plus the European Union—were responsible for 59 percent of historical global carbon dioxide emissions as of 2011, according to the World Resources Institute. That percentage is falling as developing countries, mainly China, rapidly expand their economies. Still, this outsized share means the world’s richest countries have a responsibility to help the world transition to a zero carbon economy as quickly as possible. A new report from Oxfam shows that five of the seven countries—including Germany—have increased their use of coal over the last five years. Those that didn’t—the U.S. and Canada—are in the midst of an oil and gas renaissance and largely offset their decreased coal use with other fossil fuels. Germany’s bold Energiewende plan to transform its energy sector away from nuclear energy has at least partially resulted in temporarily increased emissions from its coal sector to fill the gap as more solar and wind power comes online. On the bright side, the G7 statement did make progress in outlining concrete steps to secure a $100 billion per year fund to help poor countries prepare for and respond to climate change. It also called for 400 million of the world’s most vulnerable people to have access to disaster insurance by 2020.



The administration is expected to propose new carbon standards for big trucks and trailers as soon as this week. Photo: JEREMY MARTIN/LARAMIE DAILY BOOMERANG/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Obama Administration Readies Big Push on Climate Change

Proposals to curb emissions from trucks, airplanes, oil and natural-gas operations, and power plants

By Amy Harder June 9, 2015 2:07 p.m. ET

The Obama administration is planning a series of actions this summer to rein in greenhouse-gas emissions from wide swaths of the economy, including trucks, airplanes and power plants, kicking into high gear an ambitious climate agenda that the president sees as key to his legacy. The Environmental Protection Agency is expected to announce as soon as Wednesday plans to regulate carbon emissions from airlines, and soon after that, draft rules to cut carbon emissions from big trucks, according to people familiar with the proposals. In the coming weeks, the EPA is also expected to unveil rules aimed at reducing emissions of methane—a potent greenhouse gas—from oil and natural-gas operations. And in August, the agency will complete a suite of three regulations lowering carbon from the nation’s power plants—the centerpiece of President Barack Obama’s climate-change agenda. The proposals represent the biggest climate push by the administration since 2009, when the House passed a national cap-and-trade system proposed by the White House aimed at reducing carbon emissions. Anticipating the rules, some of which have been telegraphed in advance, opponents of Mr. Obama’s regulatory efforts are moving to block them. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.), is urging governors across the country to defy the EPA by not submitting plans to comply with its rule cutting power-plant emissions. Nearly all Republicans and some Democrats representing states dependent on fossil fuels say the Obama administration is going beyond the boundary of the law and usurping the role of Congress by imposing regulations that amount to a national energy tax driven by ideological considerations. “The Administration seems determined to double down on the type of deeply regressive regulatory policy we’ve already seen it try to impose on lower-and-middle-class families in every state,” Mr. McConnell said in a statement. “These Obama administration regulations share several things in common with the upcoming directives: they seem motivated more by ideology than science, and they’re likely to negatively affect the economy and hurt both the cost and reliability of energy for hard-working American families and small-business owners.”…


Bloomberg: ‘Climate Change Deniers Will Be Giant Money Losers’

by Joe Romm Posted on June 11, 2015

A major new global financial report finds that investors who remain ignorant of or deny climate science will be big money losers. The Mercer Research report, “Investing in a Time of Climate Change,” details the prospects — and the pitfalls — of various climate scenarios. For the report, “Mercer collaborated with 16 investment partners, collectively responsible for more than US$1.5 trillion, to produce the report,” including Germany’s Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development and “the private sector arm of the World Bank Group.” A Bloomberg column by investment guru Barry Ritholtz summed up the report: “In the real world, climate-change deniers are and will be giant money losers.” The report has several key findings. Clearly, “climate change will give rise to investment winners and losers.” Some industries, like coal, will likely see average annual returns over the next decade “eroding between 26% and 138%,” depending on how aggressively the world attempts to fight climate change. Other industries, like renewables, could see average annual returns increase by up to 97 percent over the 10-year period — if the world does seriously move toward a 2°C pathway coming out of the Paris climate talks this December. The report identifies three phases investors may go through — “Climate-Unaware Future Takers,” “Climate-Aware Future Takers,” and finally “Climate-Aware Future Makers”:

….A key goal of the report is to get investors to “progress along these phases to the extent they can.” Significantly, if investors make it to the final phase — the “future makers” — they “feel compelled by the magnitude of the longer-term risk of climate change to seek to influence which scenario comes to pass.” Some investors might become “future makers” because they feel compelled as human beings to try to minimize the potential harm to billions of other people. But the study makes clear you don’t have to be altruistic to desire a 2°C future. Strictly from an investment perspective, the sustainable path is much better than the catastrophic one: “A 2°C scenario does not have negative return implications for long-term diversified investors at a total portfolio level over the period modelled (to 2050), and is expected to better protect long-term returns beyond this timeframe,” the report states. Mercer finds that “A 2°C scenario could see return benefits for emerging market equities, infrastructure, real estate, timber and agriculture” whereas “4°C scenario could negatively impact emerging market equities, real estate, timber and agriculture.” In other words, Dust-Bowlification is bad for business….


Republican pledges $175 million to push party on climate

A North Carolina executive is pouring his own money into trying to sway people in the GOP to take global warming seriously.

By Darren Goode 6/8/15 7:30 PM EDT Updated 6/8/15 10:21 PM EDT

A Republican entrepreneur is putting a whopping $175 million behind a campaign whose message will have some party stalwarts seeing red: The GOP needs to deal with climate change. North Carolina businessman Jay Faison will launch a social media and online advertising blitz, backed by state and national digital advocacy efforts and a series of strategic grants, as part of a $165 million campaign run through the ClearPath Foundation. The aim is to get the Republican Party to shift its skeptical view of climate change and green energy, topics that usually fall to the bottom of its list of priorities when they don’t generate outright opposition among conservative voters. In addition to his public education effort, Faison is putting an additional $10 million of his money into a separate political advocacy operation, using the same nonprofit tax status designation as groups like President Barack Obama’s Organizing for Action, Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS and several tea party groups. He will also try to attract additional outside funds for that operation. On Tuesday, Faison, who made a fortune from the sale of his Charlotte-based audio-visual equipment company SnapAV, will unveil the first stage of his ClearPath campaign, including spending $40 million through 2016 to persuade moderates and conservatives to join the fight against climate change — but relying on market-based principles rather than government mandates. “I always felt a little alone out there as a Republican, and so I started ClearPath to create a dialogue around this in a way that hadn’t been done before and sort of be part of the solution,” Faison said in an interview, adding he’d like to see the party’s candidates debate the solutions to climate change, not the science. “We think that there are real Republican solutions to the problem.”…


Adaptation, Resistance, or Subversion: How Will Water Politics Be Affected by Climate Change?

June 9, 2015 By Anders Jägerskog, Anton Earle, & Ashok Swain

One of the primary ways climate change is expected to affect international relations is through water. There are more than 270 bodies of water that cross over international boundaries, and various methodologies have identified several dozen that are particularly at risk for tension or conflict. So how is climate change affecting transboundary water politics?
Are governments and institutions taking the threat seriously? A few years back, a group of researchers decided to focus on this question.

…A key conclusion is that questions about who gets what water, where, why, and how is going to depend heavily on the political context. Any physical change is going to be interpreted in light various actors’ interests (states, transboundary water management organizations). This may not seem revelatory to the political science-minded, but it bears emphasizing in the water world. We also found that many transboundary water agreements are not suited to deal with changes in water flow, which we can expect to see as the climate changes. Agreements, where they exist, are most often based on multi-year averages of water flows and thus lack the flexibility needed to adjust to changes in availability. In addition, many lack participation from all the states sharing a given resource. Some key examples in this respect are the Nile, where sharing is currently governed by various agreements; the Jordan, where only bilateral agreements exist in spite of there being five riparians states; and the Mekong, where arguably the most important riparian, China, is only taking part as an observer in the Mekong River Commission. The result of this research is now available in a new book, Transboundary Water Management and the Climate Change Debate, covering examples from Africa, Asia, and the Middle East from which conclusions and policy recommendations ….



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Oil spill cleanup continues at Refugio State Beach on Sunday. (Christina House / For The Times)

Officials: Cost to clean oiled Santa Barbara beaches exceeds $60 million

By Javier Panzar contact the reporter

Cleaning up the thousands of gallons of crude oil that fouled Refugio State Beach on May 19 has cost more than $60 million, officials said Wednesday, and the figure is expected to grow as the cleanup continues.  Cleanup costs hit a peak of about $3 million per day after a ruptured pipe spilled up to 101,000 gallons of oil along the Gaviota coast in Santa Barbara County last month, said Meredith Mathews, a spokeswoman for Plains All American Pipeline, which operates the broken pipeline.   The company is paying to deploy more than 1,000 workers, skimming boats, ecological monitors and other resources along a 96.5-mile stretch of coast from Gaviota to Point Mugu near Oxnard.  …


China’s electricity emissions may have already peaked, as coal imports plunge nearly 40%

Tristan Edis 9 Jun, 2:43 PM

As new Chinese customs data reveals a 38.2% plunge in its coal imports up to May this year compared to last, a new study suggests that China’s emissions are likely to stabilise far sooner than many experts had expected. The study was authored by Australian Fergus Green and former World Bank chief economist Nicholas Stern, both at London School of Economics’ Grantham Institute. It finds that while the Chinese Government has so far only been willing to commit to halting the growth of emissions by 2030 before bringing them down, overall emissions will probably peak by 2025 and possibly sooner. They believe it is reasonable to expect that emissions at this time would peak at around 12.5 to 14 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent; this compares to an estimate that emissions were roughly 12 to 13 gigatonnes in 2014. The paper states:“China’s international commitment to peak emissions ‘around 2030’ should be seen as a conservative upper limit from a government that prefers to under-promise and over-deliver. It must be remembered that China’s pledge includes a commitment to use ‘best efforts’ to peak before 2030; we are beginning to see the fruits of China’s best efforts.” Back in June 2013, Climate Spectator reported on analysis by Rhodium Group in its China 2012 Energy Report Card. This data from 2012 hinted that China was in the process of executing a major turnaround in the energy and carbon intensity of its economy. This was partly due to a shift towards less polluting sources of energy than coal and partly a rebalancing of the economy away from growth of heavy industry and towards domestic consumption and services…


Scientists Say Tar Sands Development And Limiting Climate Change Are ‘Incompatible’

by Katie Valentine Posted on June 11, 2015

“If Canada wants to participate constructively in the global effort to stop climate change, we should first stop expanding the oil sands.”


Just add water: Engineers develop computer that operates on water droplets

Posted: 09 Jun 2015 06:30 AM PDT

A synchronous computer has been developed that operates using the unique physics of moving water droplets. Their goal is to design a new class of computers that can precisely control and manipulate physical matter.







EPA Provides Training to Help Local Governments Prepare for Climate Change

EPA has released an online training module to help local government officials take actions to increase their communities’ resiliency to a changing climate. The training, which lasts about 30 minutes, was developed with advice from EPA’s Local Government Advisory Committee. It illustrates how a changing climate may affect a variety of environmental and public health services, describes how different communities are already adapting to climate-related challenges, and links to a number of federal and state resources that can help communities assess their unique climate-related risks and opportunities to become more resilient to climate change.

Climate Solutions University Now Accepting Applications for 2016

Climate Solutions University has helped more than 30 communities create adaptation plans that are ready for implementation. Your region is a good fit for the program if you need to tackle the following challenges:

Who should apply to Climate Solutions University?

Participants foster positive, sustainable connections between people, economic, and ecosystem health! This is done through market solutions based in solid research. Visit Climate Solutions University or contact Recruitment Coordinator Josh Dye via email or at 612-481-8059 to get started. 


Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment for the North-central California Coast and Ocean 

The report Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment for the North-central California Coast and Ocean is available online as a NOAA publication


Biodiversity and Climate Change

The impact of climate change on biodiversity has engendered much research, both within California and worldwide. The following summarizes much of the research directly concerning California, and identifies a few important resources more global in scope that are especially pertinent to management.





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

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


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

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



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

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

Click here for more information.



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


December 13-18, 2015 San Francisco

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



21-26 February 2016 New Orleans

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



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







Point Blue is hiring a Senior Marine Spatial Ecologist to help us drive climate-smart conservation actions off the Sonoma coast and across the entire California Current ecosystem. The Marine Ecologist will play a key role in Point Blue’s strategic initiative to conserve ocean food webs by helping to: 1) identify the effects of climate change on marine wildlife distribution patterns and the location and function of food web hot spots, 2) guide ocean adaptation planning, management, and zoning to improve the conservation of threatened ocean resources within California’s National Marine Sanctuaries, 3) use monitoring and citizen science to inform public outreach and policy recommendations that will reduce human impacts on marine wildlife, and 4) coordinate and support collaborative science and resource management activities with key agencies and stakeholders. The Marine Ecologist will work collaboratively with staff across the California Current Group and Point Blue, as well as externally with public and private partners to carry out research and monitoring, perform analyses, engage in policy and resource management discussions, and disseminate results.  Supervision will be provided by Point Blue’s California Current Group Director. To Apply E-mail: (1) cover letter describing qualifications and reasons for interest in this position and Point Blue, (2) complete CV/resume, and (3) contact information (including phone numbers and e-mail addresses) for 3 references to with “Marine Ecologist” in the subject line. Applicants may be subject to background checks. Application deadline is May 31, 2015; the position will remain open until a successful candidate has been identified.  For more information please follow this link:…/jobs-and-intern…/marine-ecologist.


Avian Research Internships (4): Bird-banding internships at the Palomarin Field Station

Interns needed at Point Blue Conservation Science’s Palomarin Field Station on the Marin County coast, north of San Francisco, in Point Reyes National Seashore.  We have been studying songbirds at the Palomarin Field Station since 1966, with special focus on the demographics of Wrentits and Song Sparrows. Intern positions are primarily for mist-netting and banding in coastal scrub, Douglas-fir forest, and riparian habitats. Interns will become proficient in landbird monitoring techniques and learn about various aspects of avian ecology, conservation science, natural history, and climate-smart conservation (e.g., hands-on and via scientific literature). Interns will hike banding trails to check mist nets, learn safe bird extraction and handling techniques, and learn to band and collect information on species identification, age, sex, and morphometrics for many species of landbirds. Responsibilities may also include habitat assessment, plant phenology monitoring, conducting area search surveys, resighting color banded birds, public outreach, and an independent project. Interns will also participate in the North American Banding Council bander certification process. All internships include data entry. Expect long hours in the field and office. Duration: August 1 or 15 to November 2015. Qualifications: Self-motivation, a sense of humor, and the desire to spend long hours in the field and office are required. Participants must be able to work independently as well as in groups. Exposure to poison oak is unavoidable. A functioning pair of binoculars is required. Some of our internships require the use of a personal vehicle, current proof of insurance, and a driver’s license. Any use of personal vehicles will be reimbursed at a standard per-mile rate. Compensation: This is a voluntary training position that includes a stipend to offset living expenses while on the project ($850 per month, gross).  On-site housing is provided. To Apply: email a letter of interest to Renée Cormier (;  415.868.0655 ext. 316) describing previous experience with field research, specific dates of availability, and whether or not you have a vehicle; a resume; and contact information for three references (please also note if applying to other positions within Point Blue). Applications are accepted until all positions filled.


BirdLife International, Head of Policy; to lead global team based in Cambridge, UK
May 25, 2015

We are seeking to appoint a Head of Policy to lead BirdLife International’s global policy and advocacy team in Cambridge. BirdLife International is the world’s largest nature conservation partnership, comprising a global secretariat, a regional network and 120 BirdLife Partners worldwide – one civil society organisation per country – and growing. It has more than 13 million members and supporters. Through our unique local-to-global approach, we deliver high impact and long-term conservation for the benefit of nature and people. BirdLife’s policy and advocacy work, based on sound science, influences priorities, policies and legislation for the benefit of bird and biodiversity conservation. 


Yolo Basin Foundation Executive Director (pdf)

Yolo Basin Foundation is currently taking applications for the position of Executive Director.  The position description and application process can be found at the following link on the Yolo Basin Foundation website  Yolo Basin Foundation is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.  As the founding executive director, I have decided that this is a good time to step down –  for both the organization and me, personally.  I will serve as a policy advisor and continue to work on habitat projects and stakeholder outreach to further the goals of the Foundation. The board will be taking applications until June 19th.







Current mobile contracts damaging the environment

Posted: 06 Jun 2015 05:40 PM PDT

Researchers analyzed studies on the lifespan of mobile devices, from manufacture, use and disposal to see what impact each stage had on the environment. Through their investigation, they concluded that the current mobile business model, driven by frequent upgrades, is costing both the manufacturer and the environment. The study argues that where frequent upgrades are encouraged and recycling schemes not actively pursued, valuable materials integral to phone manufacture are lost, causing damage to the environment by additional waste to landfill as well as from the impact of extracting additional finite resources.


A Televised Presidential Debate, About Science?

by Katie Valentine Posted on June 6, 2015 at 9:00 am

Science issues aren’t usually hot topics for presidential candidates, whose rhetoric tends to revolve more around jobs and the economy than space exploration and funding for energy research. But one organization wants to change that, and is pushing for 2016 presidential candidates to agree to a full debate on science issues, including climate change. ScienceDebate, a group that started during the 2008 election, is working with campaigns and media outlets to try to convince them to air a general election debate on science issues. Sheril Kirshenbaum, executive director of the group, told ThinkProgress that she helped start the group in 2008 because she and her fellow co-founders weren’t hearing enough talk about science issues — including energy, climate change, health, and space exploration — between Barack Obama and John McCain. The group didn’t succeed in getting a debate over science issues on TV — Kirshenbaum said both candidates originally agreed to the debate but then backed out — but it did get Obama and McCain to provide written responses on 14 science-related questions.The 2012 campaign was similar — candidates didn’t engage in a televised science debate, but they did answer questions about science that ScienceDebate sent them. In both cases, the questions were selected after whittling down thousands of submissions from the public.


Seven reasons to eat insects

Posted: 09 Jun 2015 09:43 AM PDT

Eating bugs may not seem appetizing, but according to experts, insects are a sustainable alternative protein source with nutritional benefits that can’t be ignored.


Risky outdoor play positively impacts children’s health, study suggests

Posted: 10 Jun 2015 10:18 AM PDT

New research shows that risky outdoor play is not only good for children’s health but also encourages creativity, social skills and resilience.



Photo: Richard Drew, Associated Press

SF supervisors OK warning labels on sugary drinks

By Emily Green

June 9, 2015 Updated: June 9, 2015 4:10pm

Various-sized soft drink cups are compared with stacks of sugar cubes. San Francisco supervisors passed a measure that will put warning labels on advertisements for sugary drinks.  

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed some of the strongest laws in the country to regulate soda and other sugary beverages Tuesday, rejecting arguments by the soda industry that its beverages should be treated no differently than cake, doughnuts and other sugary food. The board unanimously passed three pieces of legislation: A first of its kind in the country measure to require warning labels on new soda advertising on city billboards, buses, transit shelters, posters and stadiums. The label would read, “WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes and tooth decay.” Supervisor Scott Wiener introduced the legislation.

In addition, the board passed legislation by Supervisor Malia Cohen banning soda advertising on city property, and Supervisor Eric Mar banning the spending of city money on soda. “This is round two of San Francisco versus big soda,” Mar said. The soda industry won the first round last year, when it spent $10 million last year to help defeat a tax on sugary beverages in the November election. The supervisors framed the issue as a public health one — they said soda contributes to Type 2 diabetes — as well as a racial justice one. “These are not just harmless products that taste good. These are products that are making people sick and we need to take action,” Wiener said. Cohen said the legislation furthers the “effort to address the health disparities and make our communities healthier and more informed.”

















Ellie Cohen, President and CEO

Point Blue Conservation Science (formerly PRBO)

3820 Cypress Drive, Suite 11, Petaluma, CA 94954

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


Point Blue—Conservation science for a healthy planet.


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