Conservation Science News Sept 26 2015Leave a Comment
Focus of the Week – James Hansen on sea level rise projections and more
2–CLIMATE CHANGE AND EXTREME EVENTS with special DROUGHT section
3– ADAPTATION and HOPE
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Point Blue Conservation Science
staff. You can find these news compilations posted on line by clicking here. For more information please see www.pointblue.org. The items contained in this update were drawn from www.dailyclimate.org, www.sciencedaily.com, http://news.google.com, www.climateprogress.org, www.sfgate.com, and many other online sources. This is a compilation of information available on-line, not verified and not endorsed by Point Blue Conservation Science. You can receive this news compilation by signing up for the California Landscape Conservation Cooperative Newsletter or the Bay Area Ecosystems Climate Change Consortium listserve. You can also email me directly at ecohen at pointblue.org with questions or suggestions.
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Focus of the Week– James Hansen on his Sea Level Rise projections and more
21 September 2015 James Hansen and Makiko Sato
S.L. Marcus suggests that our paper “Ice Melt, Sea Level Rise & Superstorms: evidence from paleoclimate data, climate modeling, and modern observations that 2°C global warming is highly dangerous” would have greater appeal and impact if it featured some notable, verifiable predictions. In related vein, E. Stabenau asks what observations in the next decade or so would verify our assumptions. Indeed, there are many predictions implicit in our paper, and there is merit in highlighting these. Most revealing, in stark contrast to all IPCC models, is strong cooling of the Southern Ocean surface and in the North Atlantic, as shown in Fig. 1. These coolings are a consequence of fundamental processes induced by injection of meltwater into upper layers of the ocean.
Cooling of the Southern Ocean and North Atlantic results mainly from the stratification effect of freshwater. Lesser density of fresh meltwater, compared to salty ocean water, reduces sinking of surface water to the deep ocean. Reduced Antarctic Bottom Water formation reduces the amount of relatively warm deep water rising to the surface, where it increases heat flux to the atmosphere and space. Instead heat is kept at depth, raising deep water temperature and melting ice shelves (see diagram in Fig. 22 of our paper).
We predict not only that the Southern Ocean surface will cool, rather than warm, but also that the cooling will be largest in the Western Hemisphere. Cooling is larger there because the rate of ice shelf melt is larger there (Fig. 2; note that longitude is shifted 180° in Fig. 2 relative to Fig. 1). Our modeling assumes that warming induced meltwater is three times larger in the Western Hemisphere, stretching from the Ross Sea to the Weddell Sea, than in the other hemisphere. What we have is a push and shove match between global warming, which warms the global ocean surface with amplification at high latitudes, and the freshwater stratification effect, which causes ocean surface cooling in the North Atlantic and Southern Oceans. IPCC simulations for the 21stcentury find a warming Southern Ocean with declining sea ice cover, as freshwater injection is either omitted or small. In contrast, with our assumed rates of freshwater injection, estimated from observations today and extrapolated into the future with several alternative doubling rates, the freshwater cooling effect is already comparable to the greenhouse warming effect in the Southern Ocean, and cooling wins out in our model over the next decade or two. Furthermore, we argue that our model and many ocean models understate the stratification effect because of excessive small scale ocean mixing….We interpret the Southern Ocean cooling and sea ice increase of the past two decades as effects of Antarctic ice shelf melt, i.e., increasing freshwater injection. The sea ice area anomaly decreased sharply in August 2015, back to about the mean value for the base period (1981-2010). We suggest that this sea ice loss is, at least in part, a consequence of the strong 2015-2016 El Nino, which began a few months ago. In other words, in the push and shove match between global warming and freshwater cooling on the Southern Ocean, global warming gets a boost from El Nino, but that boost is temporary. …
….Predictions of ice sheet mass loss and sea level rise. In our paper we discuss potential ice melt doubling times of 10, 20 and 40 years, which respectively would lead to multi-meter sea level rise in about 50, 100, and 200 years. For the sake of analyzing the effect of freshwater on ocean circulation and planetary energy balance, we made climate simulations for doubling times of 5, 10 and 20 years, omitting 40-year doubling because of its larger computing requirement. These cases were sufficient for conclusions about the effect of freshwater on the planetary energy balance and shutdown of overturning ocean circulations (AMOC and SMOC). Here we give our opinion about the likely speed at which ice sheets will respond to the climate forcing for “business-as-usual” growth of fossil fuel emissions. The resulting rate of increasing climate forcing is far outside the rate Earth has ever experienced. We suspect that glaciologists anticipating very slow response of ice sheets base their opinion in part on the rates of ice sheet change that occurred in response to natural climate forcings, which changed much more slowly than the human-made forcing. The rate of change of greenhouse gases determines Earth’s energy imbalance, and the energy imbalance is the “drive” or “forcing” of ice sheet change. …Given all the evidence, a claim that a scenario with 600-900 ppm CO2 forcing within a century would not yield multi-meter sea level rise this century is an extraordinary claim that would require extraordinary proof. Today’s ice sheet models are not capable of providing that proof….Even though a certain “scientific reticence” seems to infect the sea level rise issue, we do not agree that it is already too late to avert climate disasters including: (1) sea level rise inundating coastal cities, (2) shutdown of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation. Moreover, we will conclude that the actions required to avoid sea level disaster should be sufficient to also avert shutdown of the AMOC and begin to reverse other climate impacts that are beginning to appear and would otherwise be expected to grow under business-as-usual fossil fuel emissions….Let’s discuss actions required to avert climate disasters in the context of responding to a request that we specify needed observations. Critical climate metrics include:
(1) Global surface temperature. Our paper makes clear that the United Nations choice of 2°C as a “guardrail” is not justified by the science, indeed global mean temperature is a flawed metric for that purpose. However, surface temperature is a good diagnostic of the climate system, and, as discussed above, Southern Ocean and North Atlantic temperature patterns will provide an indication of the effect of ice melt on the Southern Ocean and North Atlantic overturning.
(2) Earth’s energy imbalance. The planet’s energy imbalance provides a simple measure of where climate is headed. We must eliminate this imbalance to stabilize climate, and perhaps we will need to achieve a slightly negative imbalance for the purpose of cooling the ocean and avoiding demise of ice shelves and the ice sheets….
(3) Atmospheric CO2. Atmospheric CO2 amount is a critical measure of the state of the planet, which governments apparently prefer to ignore, perhaps because they do not like its implications…. The need to restore Earth’s energy balance informs us about the required limit on greenhouse gases (GHGs), specifically that the CO2 stabilization level cannot be as high as 450 ppm or even 400 ppm, the present amount. Instead it is no more than 350 ppm and possibly lower12, which has immediate implications for policy.
(4) Sea level à ice sheet mass change. Most large cities are located on coast lines. Multi-meter sea level rise has the potential to wreak global economic havoc, create hundreds of millions of refugees, and thus perhaps make the world practically ungovernable….However, large ice sheets are the source of potentially disastrous sea level rise and it is important to measure their rates of change accurately on a regional basis. Thus a critical measurement is continuation of precise gravity measurements from satellites.
(5) Aerosols. Measurements of the largest climate forcings affecting Earth’s energy imbalance are needed for policy prescription. Greenhouse gases are monitored, but the other large human-made forcing, aerosols, including effects on clouds, are not monitored….Analogous to gravity measurements, precise aerosol measurements would be done best from a small satellite, thus making continuous or near -continuous monitoring feasible.
Now let us return to the question: is it already too late? The conclusion that dangerous climate change is reached at global warming less than 2°C, and that it will be necessary to reduce CO2 back below 350 ppm, makes clear how difficult the task will be. The bright side is the fact that the climate forcing limitation required to avoid sea level disaster is so stiff that it should also avert other climate impacts such as AMOC shutdown. Furthermore, we would roll back undesirable climate impacts that are already beginning to appear. There is a misconception that slow feedbacks associated with climate forcings already in place will have unavoidable consequences. Most slow feedbacks will never occur, if we succeed in restoring Earth’s energy balance. Restoration can be aided by reducing non-CO2 forcings. However, the dominance of CO2 in present climate forcing growth, and the long life of fossil fuel carbon in the climate system, demand first attention on phase-out of fossil fuel emissions…..
Point Blue and Partners in the news:
NASA NEWS Sep. 24, 2015 By Kate Ramsayer
NASA Goddard Earth Science
This fall, birds migrating south from the Arctic will find 7,000 acres of new, temporary wetland habitat for their stopovers in California. The wetlands – rice fields shallowly flooded for a couple weeks after the harvest – are courtesy of a project that combines citizen science, conservation groups and imagery from Landsat satellites, a joint NASA and U.S. Geological Survey program. The BirdReturns program, created by The Nature Conservancy, is an effort to provide “pop-up habitats” for some of the millions of shorebirds, such as sandpipers and plovers, that migrate each year from their summer breeding grounds in Alaska and Canada to their winter habitats in California, Mexico, Central and South America.
The route takes the birds along what’s called the Pacific Flyway, where they seek out the increasingly rare wetlands teeming with tasty insects to fuel their long-distance flights. The problem – more than 90 percent of the natural wetlands in the Central Valley of California have been lost to development, agriculture and other land use changes, said Mark Reynolds, lead scientist for The Nature Conservancy California Migratory Bird Program. The organization operates the BirdReturns program, with partners including Point Blue Conservation Science, Audubon California and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. “The challenge is how do you help wildlife that move around and create habitat in places that may only be important for a few weeks or a few months out of the year?” Reynolds said. “We’d long been searching for spatial data that could help us.”
The solution involves big data, binoculars and rice paddies. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s eBird program collects on-the-ground observations, including species and date spotted, from bird watchers nationwide. With a recent NASA grant to Cornell, scientists created computer models to analyze that information and combine it with satellite remote sensing imagery from Landsat and the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer instruments on NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites. With these models, they could identify areas in the Central Valley where birds flocked to during the spring and fall migrations, as well as estimate the number of birds making the journey. “The challenge then was to better understand the status of the habitat, where the models were predicting we should have birds,” Reynolds said. Some of his colleagues had been using Landsat images to look at where – and when – there was standing water, to assist with surveys of shorebirds. Matthew Reiter, a quantitative ecologist with the conservation science nonprofit Point Blue, based in Petaluma, California, worked on developing models that can classify habitats based on Landsat imagery. For the BirdReturns project, the team analyzed 1,500 Landsat scenes between 2000 and 2011, and then additional images from Landsat 8 after its 2013 launch. For each area not blocked by clouds, they classified whether there was surface water. “We can show patterns of how there’s changing habitat availability through the year, and that the timing may vary year to year,” Reiter said.
Matching the location and timing of surface water from Landsat with the route and timing of migrating shorebirds from eBird, the BirdReturns program looks for those key sites where extra water would make a difference for the birds, which forage for food in the wetland areas. That’s where farmers come in. Rice farmers in California’s Central Valley flood their fields post-harvest, to soften the stubble and make it easier to clear for the next year. Using a reverse-auction, the farmers submit bids to The Nature Conservancy, stating how much money per acre it would take for them to shallowly flood their fields for a few weeks to create these pop-up wetland habitats. The BirdReturns team examines the bids, compares them to the priority habitats, and then makes selections, paying farmers to flood fields for specific two-week periods. This fall, 30 farmers applied water on approximately 7,000 acres of rice fields. It’s the fourth round of auctions; about 30,000 acres of cumulative habitat was created earlier through auctions in Spring 2014, Fall 2014 and Spring 2015. In Spring 2014, the group surveyed the participating fields, as well as control fields where the water wasn’t left on. They found that more than 180,000 birds of over 50 different species used the 10,000 acres of pop-up wetlands – 30 times more than counted on the dry fields. “It’s been a pretty astonishing success,” Reynolds said. “Farmers participated, and we were able to put habitat out there at a fraction of the cost to purchase that land or put an easement on it.”
With an ongoing drought in California, which is drying up some of the state’s wildlife refuges, it’s even more valuable to have a program like this, he said. If farmers have the water to create the habitat, it could compensate for dry areas elsewhere along the route. With Landsat’s free archive of decades of land cover information, the mission has often been used for habitat and biodiversity studies, said Jeff Masek, project scientist for the upcoming Landsat 9 mission. With the currently in orbit Landsat 7 and Landsat 8 capturing more images per day than previous satellites, scientists have more information to draw on to study the timing of the ephemeral lakes, rivers and wetlands that only appear certain times of year. “There’s been more and more work with the water mapping,” Masek said. “You can start to do much more detailed studies of the seasonality of water – when these lakes fill in, and when they dry up.” The freely available satellite imagery from Landsat, and other satellite instruments such as the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer, are invaluable data resources to see how birds and other animals are affected by landscape changes, Reiter said. “With applied conservation programs, we’re using that imagery to say here are the areas that we can prioritize for conservation management, and here are areas that maybe we can let go,” he said. “It’s a very powerful tool for getting conservation to happen.”
NEW RELATED Point Blue PUBLICATION:
Matthew E. Reiter, Nathan Elliott, Sam Veloz, Dennis Jongsomjit, Catherine M. Hickey, Matt Merrifield, Mark D. Reynolds
Article first published online: 18 SEP 2015 DOI: 10.1111/1752-1688.12353 © 2015 American Water Resources Association Paper No. JAWRA-14-0153-P of the Journal of the American Water Resources Association (JAWRA).
We used Landsat satellite imagery to (1) quantify the distribution of open surface water across the Central Valley of California 2000-2011, (2) summarize spatio-temporal variation in open surface water during this time series, and (3) assess factors influencing open surface water, including drought and land cover type. We also applied the imagery to identify available habitat for waterbirds in agriculture. Our analyses indicated that between 2000 and 2011 open surface water has declined across the Central Valley during the months of July-October. On average, drought had a significant negative effect on open surface water in July, September, and October, though the magnitude and timing of the effect varied spatially. The negative impact of a drought year on open water was experienced immediately in the southern Central Valley; however, there was a one year time-lag effect in the northern Central Valley. The highest proportion of open surface water was on agricultural lands followed by lakes, rivers, and streams, yet the relative proportions varied spatially and across months. Our data were consistent with previous descriptions of waterbird habitat availability in post-harvest rice in the northern Central Valley. Tracking water distribution using satellites enables empirically based assessments of the impacts of changing water policy, land-use, drought, climate, and management on water resources.
The black-headed grosbeak commonly summers in the Central Valley. A UC Davis study found bird diversity in the area was actually higher in the winter than in summer, highlighting the importance of protecting habitat for birds year-round. Andrew Engilis/UC Davis
During the warmer months, the air surrounding California’s rivers and streams is alive with the flapping of wings and chirping of birds. But once the buzz and breeding of spring and summer are over, these riparian areas grow quiet. Sometimes it seems as though there are hardly any birds there at all. Not so, according to a study from the UC Davis Department of Wildlife, Fish and Conservation Biology. Researchers examined bird diversity in the lower Cosumnes River and lower Putah Creek watersheds in the Central Valley between 2004 and 2012. They found that just as many bird species used the riparian habitats in the winter as in the summer, and genetic diversity was actually higher in the winter than during summer months.
It turns out that while many birds headed south for the winter to tropical habitats, birds that breed in the boreal forest of Canada flew in to take their place.
These “neotemperate migrants,” as the researchers call them, include birds such as the yellow-rumped warbler, white-crowned sparrow, fox sparrow, cedar waxwing, and varied thrush. “You might have to look harder, but there are just as many species there,” said lead author Kristen Dybala, a UC Davis postdoctoral student at the time of the study and currently a research ecologist with Point Blue Conservation Science. “We found strong evidence that Central Valley ecosystems are very important in supporting bird populations throughout the year.”….
Kristen E. Dybala, Melanie L. Truan, and Andrew Engilis, Jr. (2015) Summer vs. winter: Examining the temporal distribution of avian biodiversity to inform conservation. The Condor: November 2015, Vol. 117, No. 4, pp. 560-576. doi:
Researchers used geolocators to follow the migration patterns of a Prothonotary Warbler. Credit: John Hartgerink
Posted: 22 Sep 2015 01:33 PM PDT
Scientists have noted that Prothonotary Warbler populations have experienced precipitous declines in recent years, prompting new research investigating the little known migratory behavior of this remarkable bird. As part of this effort, researchers attached several geolocators — ultra-lightweight devices that record the time of sunrise and sunset each day — using a back-pack harness on several Prothonotary Warblers to identify their migratory routes and core wintering areas.,,,
Wolfe, Jared D.; Johnson, Erik I. Geolocator reveals migratory and winter movements of a Prothonotary Warbler. Journal of Field Ornithology, 86(3): 238-243
Male sage grouse fight for the attention of a female southwest of Rawlins, Wyo. (Jerret Raffety / AP)
Sage grouse to be saved with ‘largest, most complex land conservation effort ever’ [see more in Policy below]
They worried the feds were going to shut down the West. Five years ago, federal scientists recommended adding a new name to the endangered species list: the greater sage grouse, an obscure but once-omnipresent bird whose population had been in steep decline for more than a century. The catch: The bird dwells in the scrubby carpet of sagebrush that stretches across 165 million acres and 11 western states – land that also includes oil and gas fields, wind energy farms, mines and cattle ranches. Many political and industry leaders said an endangered listing would strangle the western economy. Then came Tuesday, when after years of fear, federal policymakers showed up in Colorado to say there would be no such listing after all. “Not warranted,” the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the same agency that had tentatively recommended the bird for the list five years ago, concluded. The reason federal wildlife scientists changed their minds, according to Sally Jewell, the secretary of the Interior, is the success of what she called “the largest, most complex land conservation effort ever in the history of the United States, and perhaps the world.” With the threat of a potential endangered listing often motivating them, and with hundreds of millions of federal dollars nudging them along, many of the same groups that worried the sage grouse would upend their way of doing business suddenly became pragmatic preservationists. Over the last several years, energy companies have reduced their footprints in sagebrush, the bird’s prime habitat, and state governments have established buffers around mating grounds, known as leks. Wildfire officials have moved more quickly to put out small blazes that can quickly burn through sagebrush, particularly when it has been overtaken by invasive plants like cheatgrass. In Wyoming, state officials have identified core areas where they say they are reducing the impact of industrial development and ensuring the bird’s health…
Posted: 21 Sep 2015 12:14 PM PDT
The United States is at an environmental crossroads, states a new report. Climate change in the Arctic, urban growth in Phoenix, West Coast fisheries affected by El Niño, land-use change in New England, nutrients in watersheds in the Midwest–the report finds society is facing a wide array of environmental challenges.
Posted: 16 Sep 2015 01:18 PM PDT
China has invested substantially in nature reserves to protect giant pandas in the wild. A new study finds that in addition to benefiting the charismatic pandas, the reserves also protect substantial numbers of other species threatened with extinction, including many endemic species of forest birds, mammals and amphibians….
The authors took advantage of the fact that the zebra finch shares many characteristics with humans, mating monogamously for life, and sharing the burden of parental care. Female finches choose mates in a way that is specific to the individual, and there is little consensus among females as to who the cutest male is. Credit: © Pixel Memoirs / Fotolia
Posted: 14 Sep 2015 12:26 PM PDT
Humans are extremely choosy when it comes to mating, only settling down after a long screening process involving nervous flirtations, awkward dates, humiliating rejections and the occasional lucky strike. But evolution is an unforgiving force — isn’t this choosiness rather a costly waste of time and energy when we should just be ‘going forth and multiplying?’ What, if anything, is the evolutionary point of it all? A new study may have the answer.
Posted: 14 Sep 2015 07:27 AM PDT
More than half the world’s sea turtles have ingested plastic or other human rubbish, an international study has revealed. The study found the east coasts of Australia and North America, Southeast Asia, southern Africa, and Hawaii were particularly dangerous for turtles due to a combination of debris loads and high species diversity.
Posted: 18 Sep 2015 03:03 PM PDT
A first draft of the tree of life for all 2.3 million named species of animals, plants, fungi and microbes has been released. Thousands of smaller trees have been published over the years for select branches, but this is the first time those results have been combined into a single tree. The end result is a digital resource that is available online for anyone to use or edit, much like a ‘Wikipedia’ for evolutionary relationships.
Posted: 21 Sep 2015 03:25 PM PDT
Smokey Bear has spent decades reminding picnickers “only you can prevent forest fires” and has even been known to cry over the devastation they leave in their wake. Now researchers say the cartoon bear illustrates how mascots can most effectively protect the environment — by threatening disappointment….
Photo: Ezra Shaw, Getty Images A new study shows San Francisco Bay is hundreds of times more contaminated than the Great Lakes with tiny plastic particles.
By Steve Rubenstein SF CHronicle September 23, 2015 Updated: September 23, 2015 3:48pm
San Francisco Bay is hundreds of times more contaminated than the Great Lakes with small plastic particles from cosmetics and synthetic clothing, a new study has found. And the small microbeads and other pollutants are gobbled up by fish, whose guts contain far more of the toxic stuff than their fellow Great Lakes fish. The study by senior scientist Rebecca Sutton of the San Francisco Estuary Institute found that plastic microbeads from facial cleansers and similar products are a chief source of growing pollution in the bay. In January, Sutton took water samples from different spots in San Francisco Bay and analyzed the results. She found that the waters of the South Bay contained 2.6 million microplastic particles of 5 millimeters or smaller per square mile, compared with 285,000 in Lake Erie, 13,000 in Lake Superior and 7,800 in Lake Huron. In effect, that makes the South Bay 330 times more polluted than Lake Huron, Sutton said. “That was unexpected,” Sutton said. “I thought there would be a lower level in San Francisco Bay, because of its proximity to the ocean. We, as bay residents, are not taking such good care of the bay.” Her study, titled “Microplastic Contamination in San Francisco Bay,” also found that small fish ingest the particles, mistaking them for food. “They’re gobbling these things up,” Sutton said. The plastic accumulates in the bodies of San Francisco Bay fish at a rate up to six times higher than Great Lakes fish. People who eat fish caught in the bay are also ingesting the plastics, Sutton said. Plastic particles can contain dangerous chemicals such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and other contaminants. Other sources of the pollution, besides cosmetics, are fishing lines, cigarette butts, synthetic clothing fibers and bits of plastic from packaging and utensils. Many cosmetic manufacturers have begun eliminating plastic microbeads from their products or replacing them with safer microbeads made from seashells or fruit pits, Sutton said. The state Senate has approved a bill, opposed by major cosmetics manufacturers, that would ban the sale of microbeads in cosmetics after 2020.
Posted: 21 Sep 2015 06:01 AM PDT
A cattle disease that affected more than 5,000 cows, over 500 of which were killed, was probably spread by vets farmers and cattle traders in Germany, according to a new article. Farmers and people who visit farms should take biosecurity measures like wearing disposable clothes where there is a risk of infection.
The September 2015 issue of Jr. Animal Scientist focuses on rangeland. A PDF of the Jr. Animal Scientist rangeland issue can be viewed at http://ucanr.edu/sites/news/files/220859.pdf.=
Rangeland is where deer and antelope play. It is also home for grazing livestock and many other animals. “Almost half of the land on Earth is rangeland and one-third of the United States is rangeland,” the latest issue of Jr. Animal Scientist tells its young readers. A UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) advisor is among the scientists who contributed to the rangeland issue of the children’s magazine. Jr. Animal Scientist is published by the American Society of Animal Science for children aged 5 to 12 who are interested in animals. For the September 2015 issue, members of the Society for Range Management collaborated with ASAS to provide photos and facts about rangeland. Theresa Becchetti, UC ANR Cooperative Extension livestock and natural resource advisor for Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties, and Lisa Page, from the University of Arizona, served as co-editors for the special issue. “Our goal is to have kids and their parents and teachers learn the value of rangelands, beyond being used to produce beef and lamb; they also provide habitat for wildlife,” said Becchetti. ….
Environmentalists protest the razing of 500-year-old trees to build facilities for the downhill skiing events at the 2018 Olympics.
By Phil McKenna Sept 20 2015 www.insideclimatenews.org
Organizers of the 2018 Winter Olympics are clear-cutting part of an ancient forest that includes 500-year-old trees on a protected mountain near Pyeongchang, South Korea. Activists are calling on the International Olympic Committee and the government of South Korea to stop the felling of trees at the site and are urging Olympic organizers to find another venue for the four-day downhill skiing event. “When it’s a choice between tearing down 500-year-old trees and looking for an alternative venue, you should look for an alternative venue,” said Dalia Hashad, campaign director of the international advocacy group Avaaz. Clearing of the ski slope on South Korea’s Mount Gariwang was probably completed last week, but additional clearing for the venue may be continuing, the activists say. Precise information about current conditions have been difficult to confirm…..
Separately, global oceans and global land were both highest on record for these periods of time
September 17, 2015
The globally averaged temperature over land and ocean surfaces for August 2015 was the warmest August on record, 1.58°F warmer than the 20th century average, and surpassing the previous record set in 2014 by 0.16°F (0.09°C). August 2015 tied with January 2007 as the third warmest monthly highest departure from average for any month since record keeping began in 1880. The combined global average land and ocean surface temperature for January-August was also record warm….
Tracking the 2C Limit – August 2015
Posted on 21 September 2015 by Rob Honeycutt
We ticked up this month over last month on the current 12 month average temperature anomaly in the GISS data. In July we stood at 1.060C and August is now 1.074C [since 1880]. Full size image here. The Japanese Meteorological Agency is showing very strong, rapid warming with August hitting a new high anomaly. This is likely due to the current El Nino starting to express itself in the surface temperature data….
Climate change set to fuel more “monster” El Niños, scientists warn
Posted on 23 September 2015 by Guest Author This is a re-post from Roz Pidcock at Carbon Brief
The much-anticipated El Niño gaining strength in the Pacific is shaping up to be one of the biggest on record, scientists say. With a few months still to go before it reaches peak strength, many are speculating it could rival the record-breaking El Niño in 1997/8. Today, a new review paper in Nature Climate Change suggests we can expect more of the same in future, with rising temperatures set to almost double the frequency of extreme El Niño events….Last week, US scientists confirmed they expect “a strong El Niño” to peak in the next few months. The event brewing in the Pacific is already “significant and strengthening”, said the statement from NOAA’s Climate Prediction Centre. The latest temperature maps, released today, confirm parts of the tropical Pacific are up to 3C warmer than the long term average (dark red in the map below). A separate comment piece in the same journal explains how scientists have been left scratching their heads over why El Niño has reemerged with such vigour after a false start last year. An El Niño first looked to be on the way back in Spring 2014, only for it to inexplicably fizzle out, explains the comment piece’s author, Dr Michael McPhaden from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The scientific community was fooled for a second time when El Niño unexpectedly flared upagain in 2015, says McPhaden. Calling this behaviour “doubly perplexing”, McPhaden adds:
…”our crystal ball is blurry when it comes to how El Niño and its impacts may change in the future.” The new research, which McPhaden was not involved in, reviews all the available scientific evidence on ENSO and climate change, concluding that extreme El Niño events will happen more often as the climate warms. If emissions stay very high, the authors expect extreme El Niño events with impacts similar to the one in 1997/8 will almost double in frequency by the end of the century, from about once every 28 years today to once every 16 years. As the climate warms, the scientists also expect to see an increase in extreme La Niña events. As the authors say in the paper: “ENSO-related catastrophic weather events are thus likely to occur more frequently with unabated greenhouse-gas emissions.”…How El Niño and La Niña events might change in response to climate change is one of the most compelling questions in today’s climate research today, says McPhaden in his comment piece.
On much shorter timescales, what caused last year’s El Niño to fizzle out only to re-emerge with such force is equally fascinating. Why forecasts and expectations fell so wide of the mark has led to a fair amount of soul searching among scientists, says McPhaden.
“Many El Niño experts were fooled by these developments, both when the widely anticipated monster El Niño went into steep decline and again when it re-ignited with such startling intensity.”
One thing El Niño scientists have probably learned is not to take anything for granted. McPhaden concludes: “We’ve learned a lot but it continues to surprise us. Nature has a way of humbling you when you assume you know more than you do.”
Posted: 18 Sep 2015 10:20 AM PDT
The first continent-wide, multi-factor analysis of climate and land cover effects on watersheds in the United States, published today, provides a broad new assessment of runoff, flooding and storm water management options for use by such professionals as land use and town planners and water quality managers.
Paul Ekness, Timothy O. Randhir. Effect of climate and land cover changes on watershed runoff: A multivariate assessment for storm water management. Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences, 2015; DOI: 10.1002/2015JG002981
Flames from the Valley Fire covered a hillside along Highway 29 in Lower Lake, Calif. on Sept. 13, 2015. Credit Noah Berger/Reuters
Governments’ interference in the natural cycle of fires, along with climate change, has created more brush on forest floors and hotter, drier seasons.
By JOHN SCHWARTZ NY Times Sept 22 2015
NEAR COCHITI CANYON, NEW MEXICO — The hills here are beautiful, a rolling, green landscape of grasses and shrubs under a late-summer sky. But it is starkly different from what was here before: vast forests of ponderosa pine. ….. The result is bad news for forests here, in the West and around the world. A planet with fewer trees is less able to fight climate change, because trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as part of photosynthesis. “The future in a lot of places,” Dr. Allen said, “is looking shrubbier.”
The fire season of 2015 in the American West is shaping up as one of the worst in the nation’s history, with more than eight million acres burned nationwide — more than five million acres in Alaska alone. Fierce wildfires this month have destroyed hundreds of homes in California. The Forest Service struggles under an increasingly costly mission: According to a report released last month, firefighting takes up more than 50 percent of its annual budget, up from 16 percent a decade ago. In 10 years, it could consume three quarters of its budget. Climate change has lengthened fire seasons, which are, on average, 78 days longer than they were in 1970, and the six worst fire seasons since 1960 have come since 2000.
The consequences of a century of forest policies to suppress fires are now combining with the hotter and drier seasons to create tinderbox conditions, producing high-severity fires that kill trees and are increasingly hard to bring under control. Dr. Allen and many other researchers have studied how to manage forests so fires are not as destructive. And in the case of the most destructive fires, they are studying what happens to those landscapes in the years after a blaze.
In an increasing number of cases, said Malcolm P. North, a research scientist with the United States Forest Service Pacific Southwest research station in Davis, Calif., “after the satellite trucks leave and everyone goes home, you have a charred condition on the landscape that does not have a historical precedent.” Fire, over eons, has been an essential and cyclical part of forest life; tree-ring records show fires occurring every five or 15 years for ponderosa pine in the Southwest, said Thomas W. Swetnam, a professor emeritus at the University of Arizona and an expert in tree-ring analysis. The fires tended to burn with low intensity, clearing underbrush, grasses and seedlings, leaving an uncluttered forest floor and helping some species of pine spread their seeds.
More than 100 years ago, that pattern of frequent surface fires was disrupted, first by widespread grazing by sheep and cattle, which cleared much of the grass and other undergrowth, and then by a government policy to suppress forest fires wherever possible. Fewer fires caused the forests to grow more densely, and for grasses and dead trees to accumulate on the forest floor. The hotter, longer droughts associated with climate change make the trees and ground cover drier; the result is a greater tendency for fires to “ladder up” to the canopy of leaves or needles above.
Dr. North, the California researcher, said that as much as 80 percent of California’s forests were in the kind of conditions that were likely to lead to the more destructive, tree-killing fires. Without mature trees near the fire-ravaged areas to spread their seeds, brush and grass are likely to grow in place of the conifers. That means forest recovery can be slow, or worse, said Donald A. Falk, a fire expert at the University of Arizona. “That’s a recovery process that could take centuries — and given where climate is going, it might never recover,” he said. Not everyone agrees with this gloomy assessment. William L. Baker, a professor emeritus at the University of Wyoming, has used historical land-survey data to argue in papers that large, severe wildfires are a natural phenomenon and are not necessarily worse than before. Over time, he has argued, the forests can grow back.
But Dr. Swetnam and others disagree with Mr. Baker’s conclusions, arguing that the land-survey records are not as reliable an approach to understanding fire history than the trees’ own rings, among other data sources.
Droughts are certainly not new, nor are large fires or even intense fires, Dr. Swetnam acknowledged. But the greater number of intense and large fires, and the repeated “burns on top of burns” like the ones that cleared the landscape around Cochiti canyon, are part of a pattern of worsening conditions exacerbated by the hotter droughts. He has studied sections of many trees from the former forest near the canyon, which provided 300 years of fire history before the 2011 Las Conchas blaze, which ultimately burned 150,000 acres. “Obviously, the forest had survived many, many, surface fires,” he said. “But this fire — this fire — killed all of the trees in this area. ”
He added, “I’m often pressed to say which is the most important factor in the changing nature of forest fires. I’m more inclined now to point to climate change than I was 10 years ago.” A sweeping recent paper from Mr. Allen and colleagues suggests that wildfires are only part of the damage that climate change is wreaking on the world’s forests. The hotter droughts that are associated with climate change are causing stress for trees, and are likely to grow worse over time, leading to increased tree mortality. By the middle of this century, “If the climate models are at all accurate, what in 2011 were really extraordinary conditions will be typical conditions for June” in the Southwest, he said.
Because dry and wet periods are cyclical, he said, year-by-year variation could lead to brief periods of even more extreme drought along the way. El Niño could bring wetter and cooler weather to this region, reducing the number and severity of fires for a while. But the long-term trends are anything but good. And what is happening in the West is a harbinger for much of the rest of the planet.
The trees in too-dense forests are already competing for water that the historically more sparse stands of trees might have found adequate; as drought increases, the stress will kill many trees outright and weaken others to the point that they become more vulnerable to predators like aggressive bark beetles.
Because of hotter drought, he said, “the future broad-scale vulnerability of forests globally is being widely underestimated, including the vulnerability of forests in wetter regions,” he said. With three trillion trees in the world, of course, there is still a great deal of carbon being stored. But that could change over time. And because forests provide an important natural mechanism for fighting climate change, the stress of hotter drought could become part of a feedback loop of increased warming. Landscapes like the scrubland in New Mexico absorb far less carbon than the forests they are replacing, said Mr. Falk of the University of Arizona. With forest fires and the decay of dead trees, which also puts the carbon they were storing back into the atmosphere, “These forest become carbon sources, where in the past, we’ve relied on them to become carbon sinks.”
A study published in July suggests this has occurred in California, where forests have shifted from net carbon absorbers to carbon emitters, according to Patrick Gonzalez, a forest ecologist with the national park service and the author of the report. An author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Dr. Gonzalez said that wildfires were “tipping the balance” between storage and emission. Even droughts that do not lead to tree death impair the ability of forests to absorb carbon dioxide. A study published in July from William R.L. Anderegg of Princeton University and colleagues has found that forests slow their growth for four years after a drought, and absorb less carbon during that period. Researchers in the past believed that forests recovered quickly, but Dr. Anderegg and his colleagues found that severe drought greatly curtailed the absorption of carbon over a broad range of tree species. “It’s absolutely clear that drought has these manifold and very severe impacts on forests,” Dr. Anderegg said. “Forests are more vulnerable than we thought. Drought has lasting impacts, even when the rain comes back and the soil becomes wet again.” So far, he said, the world’s forests appear to be a net absorber of carbon, but there are “some worrying signs that we could be starting to change that.” He added, “We could be in more danger than we thought, sooner than we thought.” Fire experts have long called for action to meet the challenge of forest fires in a changing climate.
In a paper published last week in the journal Science, Dr. North and colleagues argued for ending the national policy of fighting every fire, and for making more concerted effort to thin forests so more fires might only scorch trees without destroying them. The authors called the traditional policy of trying to suppress every fire “dangerous, expensive, and ill advised.” Thinning involves techniques like selectively cutting down trees in forests and burning sections of forest, carefully and under weather conditions that make fire easier to control. The alternative, Dr. Swetnam said, is more of the severe and repetitive blazes. “If you don’t come in and thin these trees with chain saws or fire,” he said, “you’ve got a bomb.” Tightly packed trees spread fire to other trees faster, noted Paul F. Hessburg, a research ecologist with the United States Fire Service at the Pacific Northwest Research Station. Thinning and prescribed burns, he said, “can break that contagiousness up.” Local citizens complain about smoke from controlled burns, he said, but some kind of fire is inevitable. “I think society is going to have to decide how it wants its fire and how it wants its smoke — whether in large-fire-sized doses, or in smaller-fire-sized doses,” Dr. Hessburg added. “We have it in us to decide what kind of society we want to live in.”
The problem with controlled burning, Mr. Allen said, is that the century of fire suppression has created forests that can readily burn out of control. “We were trapped in this Catch-22,” he said. But such thinning, he said, is nonetheless essential. Restoring forests that have burned is also expensive, Mr. Allen said, and not always effective. After the Los Conchas fire in 2011, the federal government announced a program to plant 5,200 acres of trees – a large number, though still just a fraction of the 150,000 acres of land that were burned. The seedlings, planted during a severe drought, also did not fare well; most died.
And even if the forest service could replant millions of acres of forest land, would those new trees be able adapt to the changing climate of the next 100 years? Those problems have led to high-level discussions about topics like climate adaptation and planting species that might be better suited to emerging environmental conditions — a process that goes by such names as “assisted colonization” and “assisted migration.”
Meg Krawchuk, an assistant professor of geography at Simon Fraser University, noted that such initiatives would be expensive, and contentious as well. Theoretically, she said, it might be attractive to shift species to areas where they might be expected to do well. “Given enough time and limited tinkering from humans,” she said, “one would think an appropriate response to changes in climate and to fire would be proposed by mother nature.”
As the fires in California are showing, conflagrations that threaten people and communities receive the most attention. Better land management can reduce the risk to life and property, but people will always be drawn to the lush beauty of forests, just as they are drawn to risky coastal areas and locations threatened by river flooding. “This is the human condition,” said Dr. Swetnam, standing on his land in the Jemez mountains of New Mexico. While the trees on his hillside property have been thinned, many neighbors have not taken that step — and he knows a major fire would easily race across his handful of acres. It is, however, home, and human beings have long preferred to overlook some obvious risks of natural — and increasingly human-created — disasters “In so many places, we live under the volcano,” he said. “We have a great capacity to set aside the risks we are taking.”
Managed fires are usually caused by lightning and are allowed to burn, similar to the way fires burned naturally before fire suppression. Credit: © bisonov / Fotolia
Posted: 18 Sep 2015 12:22 PM PDT
A new article suggests catastrophic wildfire danger could be reduced by increasing use of planning burning in land management plans.
M. P. North, S. L. Stephens, B. M. Collins, J. K. Agee, G. Aplet, J. F. Franklin, P. Z. Fule. Reform forest fire management. Science, 2015; 349 (6254): 1280 DOI: 10.1126/science.aab2356
Warming in the Arctic has caused the transition from winter to summer to occur weeks earlier over the last half century, yet little is known about whether avian migrants have altered their timing of arrival on breeding areas to match this earlier seasonal transition. In a recent publication, Alaska Science Center scientists David Ward, Jerry Hupp, David Douglas and co-authors examined a 50-year record of first arrival for birds along the Arctic coast of Alaska. The authors found that the date of first arrival occurred an average of 6 days earlier across all species. Local climatic variables, particularly temperature, had a greater effect on a species first arrival date than did large-scale climatic predictors. The authors conclude that avian migrants are responsive to changing environmental conditions, though some species appear to be more adaptive than others. An early view of the abstract can be accessed online at:http://www.avianbiology.org/accepted-article/multi-decadal-trends-spring-arrival-avian-migrants-central-arctic-coast-alaska . (Contact: David Ward, 907-786-7097, Anchorage, AK)
Ward, D. H., J. Helmericks, J. W. Hupp, L. McManus, M. Budde, D. C. Douglas, and K. D. Tape. 2015. Multi-decadal trends in spring arrival of avian migrants to the central Arctic coast of Alaska: effects of environmental and ecological factors. Journal of Avian Biology In Press.
September 15, 2015 Peter Hannam Environment Editor, The Sydney Morning Herald
Global temperature records continue to tumble, with August easily the hottest in 124 years of data, Japan’s Meteorological Agency says. Last month, near-surface land and sea temperatures were 0.45 degrees higher than the 1981-2010 average, eclipsing the previous biggest anomaly for August of 0.33 degrees set last year….
Needles District of Canyonlands National Park, with continuous biocrust in the foreground. (Courtesy Bill Bowman, University of Colorado.)
By Chris Mooney September 14
Virtually every ecosystem of the world — from forests to the oceans — raises concern about the toll that a warming climate will take. There’s one type of landscape, though, that doesn’t get talked about very much in this context — so-called “drylands,” a grouping that includes arid and semi-arid regions ranging from many deserts to grasslands. Drylands are one of the more important ecosystems in the world, comprising fully 40 percent of the Earth’s land surface. And now, an alarming new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences says the impact of a warming climate on these ecosystems could be much worse than expected — comparable to humans trampling the landscapes underfoot or driving off-road vehicles across them. “Contrary to our expectations, experimental climate change and physical disturbance had strikingly similar impacts,” wrote the researchers, led by Scott Ferrenberg of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Southwest Biological Science Center in Moab, Utah. Ferrenberg conducted the work with two Geological Survey colleagues….
et al PNAS Sept 2015 doi: 10.1073/pnas.1509150112
In drylands worldwide, where plant cover is sparse, large amounts of the ground surface are covered by specialized organisms that form biological soil crusts (biocrusts). Biocrusts fix carbon and nitrogen, stabilize soils, and influence hydrology. Extensive physical disturbance from livestock/human trampling and off-road vehicles is known to destroy biocrusts and alter ecosystem function. More recent work also indicates that climate change can affect biocrust communities. Contrary to our expectations, experimental climate change and physical disturbance had strikingly similar impacts on biocrust communities, with both promoting a shift to degraded, early successional states.
These results herald ecological state transitions in drylands as temperatures rise, calling for management strategies that consider risks from both physical disturbances and climate change.
Posted: 23 Sep 2015 10:44 AM PDT
Agricultural inputs such as nitrogen and phosphorous alter soil microbial communities, which may have unintended environmental consequences, new research from an ecologist shows.
IRD researchers and their partners have just published a summary in the Global Change Biology journal on soil organic carbon stocks changes in Amazonia. Credit: © IRD / B. Osès
Posted: 14 Sep 2015 08:47 AM PDT
Along with the oceans and forests, soils are one of the planet’s main carbon reservoirs. In the 20th century, carbon stocks fell dramatically due to deforestation, intensive farming and the associated poor cultivation practices. Consequently, large amounts of carbon have been emitted into the atmosphere in the form of CO2 contributing to global warming. Now researchers have published a summary on soil organic carbon stocks changes in Amazonia…However, in pasture land, the quantity of organic carbon in the soil has slightly increased since the forest’s disappearance. In fact, the significant root activity of the grasses improves the soils’ carbon storage. Pedologists thus observe an average 11% increase in this element in meadows that are not overgrazed. However, researchers expected much higher values in pasture land, which are thought to offer significant carbon sequestration potential. Furthermore, the increase in carbon quantities from the grasses in pasture land reaches a threshold after around twenty years. Therefore, it certainly does not offset global greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation. Lastly, this summary reveals that, contrary to what is observed elsewhere in the world, rainfall amounts have no impact on the carbon storage capacity of Amazonian soils. Scientists are now exploring the influence of different land management methods such as overgrazing, labour and alternative farming systems like agroforestry on carbon sequestration in Brazilian Amazon soils.
9 September 2014 – The United Nations weather agency today voiced concerns over the surge of carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere, which has reached a new record high in 2013, amid worrying sings that oceans and biosphere seem unable to soak up emissions as quickly as they used to. According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) latest annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin, the greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and nitrous oxide caused a 34 per cent increase in the global warming in the last 10 years.
Ahead of a climate summit organized by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at UN Headquarters in New York set to take place on 23 September, the WMO urges the international community to take a concentrated action against accelerating and potentially devastating climate change. “The Greenhouse Gas Bulletin shows that, far from falling, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere actually increased last year at the fastest rate for nearly 30 years. We must reverse this trend by cutting emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases across the board,” WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud said at a press conference in Geneva today. According to the report, in 2013, concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere was 142 per cent of the pre-industrial era (1750), and of methane and nitrous oxide 253 per cent and 121 per cent respectively. “We know without any doubt that our climate is changing and our weather is becoming more extreme due to human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels,” added Mr. Jarraud. The Bulletin, which focuses on the atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases and its impact on the climate, for the first time includes a section on ocean acidification prepared in collaboration with international partners. .. Stressing that the Greenhouse Gas Bulletin provides a scientific base for decision-making, the WMO Secretary-General has called for immediate international action to prevent further deterioration of the environmental situation. “We have the knowledge and we have the tools for action to try to keep temperature increases within 2°C to give our planet a chance and to give our children and grandchildren a future. Pleading ignorance can no longer be an excuse for not acting,” concluded Mr. Jarraud….
Extreme low sea levels occurred during August in parts of the western Pacific associated with the ongoing strong El Niño. Data from AVISO satellite measurements. Credit: Widlansky, et al. (2015)
Extreme Pacific sea level events to double in future – from
more frequent El Nino’s
Posted: 25 Sep 2015 11:27 AM PDT
Many tropical Pacific island nations are struggling to adapt to gradual sea level rise stemming from warming oceans and melting ice caps. Now they may also see much more frequent extreme sea level swings. The culprit is a projected behavioral change of the El Niño phenomenon and its characteristic Pacific wind response, according to recent computer modeling experiments and tide-gauge analysis….”Our results are consistent with previous findings that showed the atmospheric effects of both El Niño and La Niña are likely to become stronger and more common in a future warmer climate,” explains Cai. “The possibility of more frequent flooding in some areas and sea level drops in others would have severe consequences for the vulnerable coastlines of Pacific islands,” says Widlansky. The authors hope that better predictability of not only rising sea levels, but also the sea level fluctuations examined in this study, will aid Pacific Island communities in adapting to the impacts of climate change as well as shorter-term climate events such as the ongoing 2015 El Niño.
Wenju Cai et al. Future extreme sea level seesaws in the tropical Pacific. Science Advances, September 2015 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1500560
Photo: Paul Chinn, The Chronicle This year’s El Niño may be stronger that the version that hit California in 1997-1998 rainy season. Here are photos from the 1997-1998 El Niño: A storm-damaged section of the Great Highway south of Sloat Boulevard in March 2012.
By David Perlman SF CHRON Updated 7:04 pm, Monday, September 21, 2015
The seacoasts of California and nations on both sides of the Pacific are likely to be battered in coming years by increasingly high waves pushed ashore by ever-stronger weather patterns, leaving them vulnerable to destructive erosion, an international group of experts said Monday. Those intensified weather patterns such as El Niño, when warmer eastern Pacific waters contribute to more intense storms hitting California, will increasingly threaten the coasts irrespective of climate change, said an international team of 17 coastal experts. Severe weather events across the entire Pacific basin have been increasing for more than 30 years and are expected to double in frequency in coming years, the scientists said in a report published in the journal Nature Geoscience. Only five years ago, an unusual weather pattern during an El Niño winter brought extreme wave heights and unprecedented erosion that tore away protective revetments along more than 3 miles of San Francisco’s Ocean Beach and damaged the Great Highway. Patrick Barnard, the leading coastal geologist at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Marine Science Center in Santa Cruz and principal author of the new study, said Ocean Beach has since recovered, and other beaches in the Bay Area “now look in moderately decent shape.” But in the long term, Barnard said, such areas are going to become increasingly vulnerable to erosion brought about by surging storms. And it isn’t only El Niño events that are the problem: Intensified episodes of El Niño’s meteorological opposite, called La Niña, when the eastern and central Pacific becomes abnormally cold, are likely to threaten coastal regions in New Zealand, Australia and elsewhere in the Southern Hemisphere, the report said. The coastal scientists who compiled the new report surveyed 48 beaches bordering the Pacific and analyzed detailed climate events around the Pacific stretching from 1979 to 2012 to reach their forecasts. They also considered forecasts of extreme La Niña and El Niño events published recently by a separate group of international climate and coastal scientists led by Wenju Cai, a climate modeler at Australia’s Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, Barnard said. The Cai group predicted that increased global warming and rising sea levels due to climate change would double the frequency of those severe weather events across the Pacific basin. The result, the group said in a report published this year in the journal Nature Climate Change, would be “more occurrences of devastating weather events and more frequent swings of opposite extremes from one year to the next, with profound socio-economic consequences.”
Barnard et al. Nature Geoscience (2015) doi:10.1038/ngeo2539 Received 29 June 2015 Accepted 17 August 2015 Published online 21 September 2015
To predict future coastal hazards, it is important to quantify any links between climate drivers and spatial patterns of coastal change. However, most studies of future coastal vulnerability do not account for the dynamic components of coastal water levels during storms, notably wave-driven processes, storm surges and seasonal water level anomalies, although these components can add metres to water levels during extreme events. Here we synthesize multi-decadal, co-located data assimilated between 1979 and 2012 that describe wave climate, local water levels and coastal change for 48 beaches throughout the Pacific Ocean basin. We find that observed coastal erosion across the Pacific varies most closely with El Niño/Southern Oscillation, with a smaller influence from the Southern Annular Mode and the Pacific North American pattern. In the northern and southern Pacific Ocean, regional wave and water level anomalies are significantly correlated to a suite of climate indices, particularly during boreal winter; conditions in the northeast Pacific Ocean are often opposite to those in the western and southern Pacific. We conclude that, if projections for an increasing frequency of extreme El Niño and La Niña events over the twenty-first century are confirmed, then populated regions on opposite sides of the Pacific Ocean basin could be alternately exposed to extreme coastal erosion and flooding, independent of sea-level rise.
Emily Becker Thursday, September 10, 2015
The CPC/IRI ENSO forecast says there’s an approximately 95% chance that El Niño will continue through Northern Hemisphere winter 2015-16, gradually weakening through spring 2016. It’s question & answer time!
How strong is this El Nino now?
The only real way to answer this is to throw a bunch of numbers at you. Essentially, it’s “pretty strong.” The three-month, June-August average of sea surface temperatures in the Niño3.4 region (the Oceanic Niño Index) is 1.22°C above normal, via the ERSSTv4 data set. This is the third-highest June-August value since records start in 1950, behind 1987 (1.36°C) and 1997 (1.42°C).
The August average is 1.49°C, second behind August 1997 (1.74°C). The August Equatorial Southern Oscillation Index (which measures the strength of the atmospheric part of ENSO) was -2.2, second to 1997’s -2.3. There are many ways of measuring El Niño, so the ranking of El Niño will change depending on which variable (winds, pressure, etc.) or time period (monthly, seasonal) you want to examine.
When is El Niño going to hit?
El Niño isn’t a storm that will hit a specific area at a specific time. Instead, the warmer tropical Pacific waters cause changes to the global atmospheric circulation, resulting in a wide range of changes to global weather. Think of how a big construction project across town can change the flow of traffic near your house, with people being re-routed, side roads taking more traffic, and normal exits and on-ramps closed. Different neighborhoods will be affected most at different times of the day. You would feel the effects of the construction project through its changes to normal patterns, but you wouldn’t expect the construction project to hit your house.
Okay, then… but what’s going to happen in my home town?
The expected changes in regional weather patterns due to El Niño are a big part of the NOAA Climate Prediction Center’s seasonal forecasts. Over North America, the Pacific jet stream (a river of air that flows from west-to-east) often expands eastward and shifts southward during El Niño, which makes precipitation more likely to occur across the southern tier of the United States. Check out the winter (December-February) forecasts here….
A very strange summer in California
by Daniel Swain on September 19, 2015 •
2015 has brought some of the strangest California warm season weather conditions in recent memory.
A significant portion of this can be attributed to a combination of El Niño and more generalized (but even more extraordinary) warmth in North Pacific Ocean. Two major and extremely unusual warm season precipitation events–one in early July, associated with the remnants of Hurricane Dolores, and another more recently in early September associated with the remnants of Hurricane Linda–have already occurred in Southern California. Both have been associated with record-shattering summer precipitation and rare heavy thunderstorms in the Los Angeles and San Diego areas, along with significant out-of-season flooding (even at lower elevations). In some cases, monthly precipitation records have been approached or broken over the course of just 24 or 48 hours–which is pretty incredible from a climatological perspective. Meanwhile, Northern California has had no such luck. Despite some light precipitation earlier this week, much of the northern half of the state has been left high and dry all summer. Several devastating and deadly wildfires–most recently including the Valley Fire, Butte Fire, and Rough Fire–have occurred in recent weeks. These wildfires have been remarkable not only for their outright intensity and high rate of spread but also because this extreme fire behavior has occurred in the absence of strong katabatic (offshore/downsloping) winds. Nearly all of California’s very fast spreading (and highly damaging) wildfires have historically occurred during dry Santa Ana or Diablo wind events (like, for example, the 2003 Cedar Fire in Southern California and the 1991 Oakland Hills Fire in the Bay Area). The truly extreme fire behavior exhibited this summer in NorCal in the absence of such winds strongly suggests that severely moisture-stressed vegetation and widespread tree mortality due to California’s record-breaking drought is fueling the flames.
Unfortunately, the vegetation conditions conducive to this dangerous fire behavior will remain in place until “season-ending” precipitation occurs. That might not happen until November or even December in some spots, although we could get lucky with an early season storm. At present, though, there’s no such storm on the horizon in NorCal.
Impressive tropical rain/thunderstorm event headed for Southern California
At the far southern end of California, though, things are looking very different than up north. After a bizarrely wet summer so far, additional record-breaking early-autumn precipitation may be on the way early this week. An extremely moist airmass–originating from the deep subtropics–will surge northward over Southern California later on Sunday into Monday ahead of a broad upper-level low off the coast. As this low slowly moves toward shore, it will advect additional moisture from soon-to-be Tropical Storm Marty off the coast of Baja California. Broad-scale lift produced by a region of upper-level divergence ahead of the upper-level low will interact with this highly anomalous moist plume to produce widespread, possibly quite heavy precipitation across a wide swath of Southern California. Thunderstorms are also rather likely, and may present a major flash flood threat (especially in areas that already received heavy precipitation from Hurricane Linda’s remnants earlier this month). All in all, it’s looking increasingly likely that September 2015 could set some all-time monthly precipitation records in Southern California. Unfortunately, none of this precipitation is likely to make it further north than about the San Luis Obispo County coast, meaning that wildfire-stricken parts of the state will not get any relief. It’s also worth noting that the risk of severe and dangerous flash flooding will be quite high this week across much of the Southwest–including those regions affected last week by some of the deadliest Southwestern flash floods in recent memory.
El Niño: still extremely impressive, and not done strengthening quite yet
The strongest El Niño event since at least 1997-1998 continues to intensify in the tropical Pacific.
The latest oceanic Kelvin wave has finally reached the coast of South America, and very rapid near-shore ocean warming has occurred over the past week. Nino 3.4 region sea surface temperature anomalies have now reached their highest August/September values ever recorded, and a new westerly wind burst appears to be ongoing in the West Pacific. All observational signs point to further strengthening of an event that is already in the top three since at least 1950. The present event is still expected to peak (in terms of maximum tropical ocean temperature anomalies) sometime between the late autumn and early winter months. Maximum effects upon California precipitation probably won’t occur until the January-March period, however, which is during the peak of our typical rainy season.
Moreover, the September update of both the North American and International Multi-Model ensembles continues to suggests a high likelihood of a wet January-March period during the coming winter. Well above average temperatures are also expected to persist through most of the winter for most of California, which may have significant implications for lower-elevation snowpack.
It does not necessarily appear, however, that California will see an early start to the rainy season. Seasonal forecast models continue to suggest that November and perhaps early December will be drier and much warmer than average. This forecast has been fairly consistent in recent months, and suggests that our drought-worsened fire season may last for at least a couple more months in the north.
One exception appears to be in the southern third of the state, which will have received three rounds of very impressive, drenching rains so far this summer by the end of the coming week. These intense tropical downpours are very likely linked to the extreme warmth of the Pacific Ocean near and south of the Southern California Bight, where water temperatures have recently approached an astonishing and record-breaking 80 degrees F! Fire risk in the far southern part of the state will still be greatly elevated during any Santa Ana wind events that develop, but recent and ongoing rains will partially mitigate the regional fire danger in the south.
Starved, beached seabirds flood Northern California rescue centers [El Nino related?]
Bay City News Service
Posted: 09/23/2015 11:46:22 AM PDT
Hundreds of hungry and exhausted seabirds are continuing to flood a Fairfield bird rescue center because of rising sea temperatures, leaving the center strapped for resources and volunteers. Over the last few weeks, more than 250 mostly young, starving common murre chicks have arrived at the International Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay Center, according to the nonprofit’s spokesman Russ Curtis. “Most of them are starving,” Curtis said. “Their weight is way down, their body temperatures are low, and they’re mostly feather and bone, which is not good for a young bird that needs lots of calories.” About 10 to 12 common murres on average are being delivered daily to the center from all over Northern California, but predominantly from the Monterey, Santa Cruz, San Mateo, and Marin areas. The number of birds being delivered to the rescue center daily is the number that usually comes over the entirety of a month, center officials said. “The sheer number of birds we’re seeing is pretty mind-blowing, especially for just one species,” Curtis said. “This is unprecedented. Sometimes we get spikes and it dissipates. But it has not stopped.” The flood of incoming common murres have the Interational Bird Rescue center in Fairfield in “desperate” need of volunteers and donations because of the influx of new patients, Curtis said….
Posted: 18 Sep 2015 10:26 AM PDT
A new study using a new method for calculating urban heat island intensities clarifies the conflict on whether urban density or sprawl amplify these effects more. It also provides a ranking of the top urban heat island cities among the 50 largest metropolitan statistical areas.
Posted: 21 Sep 2015 10:34 AM PDT
When it comes to climate change, it’s rare to get any good news. But a researcher who’s reported evidence, after more than two decades of study, has some: the loss of sea ice over Antarctic waters in some areas has led to the increased growth of creatures living on the seafloor. Those underwater assemblages are acting as an important and unexpected carbon sink.
Posted: 21 Sep 2015 10:38 AM PDT
Many studies predict that future sea-level rise along the US Atlantic and Gulf coasts will increase flooding. Others suggest that the human-caused warming driving this rise will also boost the intensity and frequency of big coastal storms. Now, a new study quantifies how they could interact to produce alarming spikes in the combined height and duration of flooding. It projects that coastal flooding could possibly shoot up several hundredfold by 2100, from the Northeast to Texas.
Posted: 23 Sep 2015 05:40 AM PDT
As the global scientific community combines technology and brains to track climate change patterns and effects, the indigenous populations across the world have, for generations, already been noting these changes in a landscape they know intimately, say experts in a new report.
Posted: 14 Sep 2015 08:45 AM PDT
Snowpack in California’s Sierra Nevada in 2015 was at the lowest level in the past 500 years, according to a new report. The research is the first to show how the 2015 snowpack compares with snowpack levels for the previous five centuries.
“Our study really points to the extreme character of the 2014-15 winter. This is not just unprecedented over 80 years — it’s unprecedented over 500 years,” said Valerie Trouet, an associate professor of dendrochronology at the UA Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research. “We should be prepared for this type of snow drought to occur much more frequently because of rising temperatures,” Trouet said. “Anthropogenic warming is making the drought more severe.” California’s current record-setting drought began in 2012, the researchers note in their report.
On April 1 of this year, California Gov. Jerry Brown declared the first-ever mandatory water restrictions throughout the state while standing on dry ground at 6,800-foot elevation in the Sierra Nevada. The historical average snowpack on that site is more than five feet, according to the California Department of Water Resources. The lack of snow in 2015 stems from extremely low winter precipitation combined with record high temperatures in California in January, February and March, Trouet said. About 80 percent of California’s precipitation occurs in the winter months, she said. Snowpack level is generally measured on April 1 each year, a time when the snowpack is at its peak. “Snow is a natural storage system,” she said. “In a summer-dry climate such as California, it’s important that you can store water and access it in the summer when there’s no precipitation.” In past years the snows of the Sierra Nevada slowly melted during the warmer months of the year, and the meltwater replenished streams, lakes, groundwater and reservoirs. In a winter with less snow or with winter precipitation coming as rain rather than snow, there is less water to use during California’s dry summers….
Soumaya Belmecheri, Flurin Babst, Eugene R. Wahl, David W. Stahle, Valerie Trouet. Multi-century evaluation of Sierra Nevada snowpack. Nature Climate Change, 2015; DOI: 10.1038/nclimate2809
National Geographic graphic
By NOAH S. DIFFENBAUGH and CHRISTOPHER B. FIELD SEPT. 18, 2015 NYTimes Opinion
STANFORD, Calif. — As wildfires rage, crops are abandoned, wells run dry and cities work to meet mandatory water cuts, drought-weary Californians are counting on a savior in the tropical ocean: El Niño.
This warming of the tropical Pacific occurs about every five years, affecting climate around the globe and bringing heavy winter precipitation to parts of California. The state experienced two of its wettest years during two of the strongest El Niños, in 1982-83 and 1997-98. Now climatologists have confirmed that a powerful El Niño is building, and forecasts suggest a high likelihood that El Niño conditions will persist through the next several months. So we in California expect a rainy winter. But before everyone gets too excited, it is important to understand this: Two physical realities virtually ensure that Californians will still face drought, regardless of how this El Niño unfolds.
- The first is that California has missed at least a year’s worth of precipitation, meaning that it would take an extraordinarily wet rainy season to single-handedly break the drought. Even if that happened, we would most likely suffer from too much water too fast, as occurred in the early 1980s and late 1990s, when El Niño delivered more rainfall than aquifers could absorb and reservoirs could store.
- The second is that California is facing a new climate reality, in which extreme drought is more likely. The state’s water rights, infrastructure and management were designed for an old climate, one that no longer exists.
Our research has shown that global warming has doubled the odds of the warm, dry conditions that are intensifying and prolonging this drought, which now holds records not only for lowest precipitation and highest temperature, but also for the lowest spring snowpack in the Sierra Nevada in at least 500 years. These changing odds make it much more likely that similar conditions will occur again, exacerbating other stresses on agriculture, ecosystems and people. At the same time, extreme wet periods may also increase because a warming atmosphere can carry a larger load of water vapor. In a possible preview, persistent El Niño conditions this year could force Californians to face both flooding and drought simultaneously. The more rainfall there is, the more water will be lost as runoff or river flow, increasing the risk of flooding and landslides. Add in the fact that the drought and wildfires have hardened the ground, and a paradox arises wherein the closer El Niño comes to delivering enough precipitation to break the drought this year, the greater the potential for those hazards. In the United States, we experienced more than 80 “billion-dollar” climate and weather disasters in the last decade, and several have cost much more. The regularity of these episodes and the resulting damage shows that we are not prepared for the current climate, let alone a changing one that portends more weather extremes. From these disasters, we can take away two lessons: Increasing resilience now can build protection for the future, and stressed systems are more prone to disasters. For instance, the risk from a period of extremely low water supply in California is far greater when high temperatures, like those we’ve seen here over the last two years, prolong drought. There are also risks when the combined demands of households, manufacturing, farming and ecosystems tax water supplies even in good years, or when forest management practices create conditions that fuel fires. Californians will benefit by reducing these interacting stresses. We are not arguing that the drought has been caused by climate change alone, or that all weather disasters have a link to climate change. However, the evidence is clear that many areas of the globe are experiencing increasing risks from weather and climate hazards. As with the California drought, climate change is an important thumb on the scale, increasing the odds of particular extremes in specific places. In California, we can expect warmer winters and hotter summers, drier dry years and wetter wet years, and less water storage from snowpack in the mountains, which also controls flooding. This means more years with extreme fire danger, critically overdrawn groundwater, legal water rights that exceed the amount of water available and challenges to balancing trade-offs among water storage, flood control and environmental protection. We have opportunities to rethink the fundamental structure of water rights and markets, re-engineer water storage to compensate for decreasing snowpack, update regulations and infrastructure to embrace water reuse and recycling, and regulate end-user pricing to encourage conservation. In short, we benefit from incorporating climate-related risks in planning for California’s future. Fortunately, California has many assets, including historical experience, robust institutions, sophisticated science and engineering expertise and financial flexibility. Capitalizing on these assets can reduce risks today and set a path for a vibrant future. Doing so will begin by acknowledging that we are already living in a rapidly changing climate.
Photo: Vern Fisher, Associated Press Scorched trees and burned vehicles and the remains of homes cover the landscape Thursday Sept. 17, 2015, in Anderson Springs, Calif. The Valley fire that sped through Middletown and other parts of rural Lake County, less than 100 miles north of San Francisco, has continued to burn since Saturday despite a massive firefighting effort. (Paul Kitagaki Jr./The Sacramento Bee via AP)
September 21, 2015 Updated: September 21, 2015 4:30pm
The scope of damage from the Valley Fire became shockingly apparent Monday as authorities said at least 1,783 structures were wiped out — making it the third-most-destructive inferno in the state’s history. The 75,781-acre fire is one of 10 large wildfires that nearly 9,000 firefighters are battling around tinder-dry California, including the Butte Fire, the seventh-most destructive ever in California, which torched at least 545 homes and 356 outbuildings in Calaveras and Amador counties. Since the beginning of the year, there have been nearly 7,200 wildfires in California that have burned a total of 1,200 square miles, said Daniel Berlant, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. In just the past week, 150 wildfires have erupted statewide, including the Tassajara Fire that sparked over the weekend in Monterey County, killing one person and damaging at least 10 homes….
This trio of images depicts satellite observations of declining water storage in California as seen by NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment satellites. Colors progressing from green to orange to red represent greater accumulated water loss between April 2002 and June 2014. California’s Sacramento and San Joaquin River basins, including the Central Valley, have suffered the greatest losses, in part due to increased groundwater pumping to support agricultural production. Between 2011 and 2014, the combined river basins have lost 4 trillion gallons (15 cubic kilometers, or 12 million acre-feet) of water each year, an amount far greater than California’s 38 million residents use in cities and homes annually. Courtesy / NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of California, Irvine
If there is a villain in this devastating drought many fingers point at the California farmer. Central Valley farms are pumping out groundwater faster than it can be replenished. In recent years, many farmers have switched to more efficient drip irrigation, replacing the old method of flood irrigation that was seen as wasteful. But flood irrigation is better at restoring groundwater. One farmer wants to bring floodwaters back to the farm and he’s using his own farm and his own funds to prove it’s the way to go. ….Restoring groundwater by flooding farmlands can’t be done everywhere. Not all soils are permeable and not all crops can tolerate extra water in the winter. But it shows enough promise to garner the attention of almond growers. The thirsty crop has been villainized in the drought. The Almond Board of California is funding a study with UC Davis to see if flooding orchards can work. “Almonds are a very interesting test case because the almond acreage is huge and a lot of them are in areas that are…the soils are good for groundwater recharge,” says Ken Shackle, with the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis. One drawback is that most almond growers no longer have the piping and canals once used to flood irrigate. But Don Cameron says every effort should be made to see if it’s possible to restore groundwater. “This is something that can be done now, in a relatively short amount of time and the benefit is immense. You’re essentially putting money in the bank for a rainy day,” says Cameron. Or, in this case, for a dry day. State law will soon require local water agencies or irrigation districts to have plans to manage groundwater sustainably. That may make deliberately flooding a crop to recharge groundwater not so crazy after all.
September 18, 2015 12:22 PM By: Jeff DeLong, Reno Gazette-Journal
At Nevada’s Bently Ranch, these days the backup is squarely up front. Reclaimed wastewater is used to water crops late every irrigation season, but this year, during a protracted drought, it’s largely what’s keeping the place in the business of agriculture. “If we were just on surface water, we would have stopped irrigating a month ago. We’d be dry,” said Matt McKinney, ranch manager. “Now we can go all summer long. It’s a lifesaver.” It was a decade ago that the ranch’s founder, inventor and philanthropist Donald Bently, first signed a contract with the sewer districts serving Minden-Gardnerville and Lake Tahoe’s Zephyr Cove area to receive effluent water for irrigation use. All winter long, treated wastewater is pumped from the two sewer districts to a reservoir built on ranch property. Come summer, the water is used to irrigate Bently Ranch’s primary crop, high-quality alfalfa hay, which is in turn sold as cattle feed to dairy farms in California. Bently Ranch also receives “biosolids” from the wastewater plants — a combination of fecal matter and household garbage put down sink disposals — which is combined with wood chips and green yard waste to ultimately produce fertilizer in the only such major composting operation now existing in Northern Nevada.
It’s agriculture with a full-circle, sustainable philosophy that is now paying off big-time….
Tim Hearden/Capital Press Cattle graze on the farm at California State University-Chico. The State Water Resources Control Board has discontinued developing a statewide plan to regulate grazing near streams, at least for now.
California’s State Water Resources Control Board voted to discontinue efforts to impose a statewide regulation affecting grazing near streams, but agreed to revisit the issue in a year to 16 months to consider how well regional boards are addressing water quality concerns from grazing.
Tim Hearden Capital Press Published: September 17, 2015 9:55AM
SACRAMENTO — The state’s water board has agreed to discontinue developing blanket regulations affecting grazing near streams — at least for now. Employees recommended the State Water Resources Control Board stop preparing the Grazing Regulatory Action Project, or GRAP, after receiving testimony from ranchers and others and visiting several ranches earlier this year.
The board voted to do so, 4-0 with Chairwoman Felicia Marcus absent, on Sept. 16 but left the door open to further state involvement in a year to 16 months if they’re not satisfied with regional and voluntary efforts to control water pollution from grazing. “I would not want to say that GRAP is over,” Vice Chairwoman Frances Spivy-Weber said. “We will be engaged.”
Board member Steven Moore agreed. “It’s something like 40 million acres in California that are grazed,” he said. “It’s definitely a footprint on our landscape, and when there’s a footprint there’s definitely an impact on water. The state water board is not discontinuing looking at grazing, but (is considering) collaboration, third-party expertise and non-regulatory components. There’s a non-regulatory component to virtually everything we do.” As it is, the board’s resolution encourages the state’s nine Regional Water Quality Control Boards to consider imposing best management practices and monitoring their use. The decision came during the board’s regular meeting at the California Environmental Protection Agency headquarters in Sacramento, which was streamed online. Board member Tam Doduc requested that officials come back with a report in 12 to 16 months, at which point the state body could reconsider its role. California Cattlemen’s Association government affairs director Kirk Wilbur, who spoke at the meeting, said afterward that a one-year progress report could be an opportunity for ranchers to further educate regulators about their ongoing efforts to protect water quality…..
The Pope’s fateful vision of hope for society and the planet
Robert J. Brulle and Robert J. Antonio
doi:10.1038/nclimate2796 Nature Climate Change
The Pope’s encyclical challenges incremental approaches that have dominated climate change discourse, and brings a much needed moral vision to the environmental movement. Social scientists are required to join this effort.
Pope Francis addressed the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly on Friday, Sept. 25, 2015 at United Nations headquarters. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
By Michael O’Loughlin National reporter September 25, 2015
NEW YORK — Pope Francis brought his campaign for action on climate change to the United Nations Friday, proclaiming the existence of a “right of the environment” and pleading with countries to stop abusing it.
In remarks to the largest gathering of world leaders in UN history — close to 200 prime ministers, presidents, and potentates — the leader of 1.2 billion Catholics blamed environmental degradation on “a selfish and boundless thirst for power and material prosperity” that causes untold suffering for the poor who “are cast off by society.” But the environment was hardly Francis’ only focus: In a wide-ranging speech, he urged action on drug trafficking, armed conflict, terrorism, education, inequality, and corruption — reminding the UN General Assembly that “solemn commitments” without follow-through could ultimately do more harm than good. Francis is the fourth pope to address the UN (John Paul II visited twice), and he used the opportunity to push his pro-environment message, framing the issue in moral terms and citing his climate change encyclical, Laudato Si’. He was clear that in his mind, environmental protections include an “absolute respect for life in all its stages and dimensions.”
Climatic Change October 2015, Volume 132, Issue 3, pp 387-400 First online: 28 August 2014
ABSTRACT: In the research project nordwest2050, scientists and stakeholders from Northwestern Germany jointly develop a long-term strategy (time horizon 2050) to increase the regional resilience, with respect to uncertainties of both regional climate change and socio-economic developments. This roadmap is based upon sectoral adaptation strategies. As the first step in the development of the roadmap, framing scenarios for the external driving forces were built. These scenarios both incorporate the different regional climate projections in consistent regional developments and capture the most relevant socio-economic uncertainties from the sectors involved. The main difficulty in building the scenarios was the cross-sectoral integration of the different perspectives from the various sectors, which is necessary to be able to integrate the sectoral adaptation strategies in the regional roadmap. Therefore we built the framing scenarios with strong participation of stakeholders from all the sectors. We present the methodology used to build the scenarios and discuss the insights we drew from the process. Our findings support the thesis that it is important to integrate the stakeholders in the building of the scenarios to achieve acceptance and enable learning. Even more, their feedback should already be incorporated in the early stages of the process and the intermediate steps should be kept transparent.
Maureen (GNS) Groppe, USA TODAY 4:13 p.m. EDT September 21, 2015
WASHINGTON – The University of Notre Dame will stop burning coal for electricity in response to Pope Francis’ call to action on climate change, the school’s president announced Monday. The Rev. John I. Jenkins also said Notre Dame will cut its carbon footprint by more than half by 2030. The reductions are the equivalent of taking 10,000 cars off the road, the school estimates. “Notre Dame is recommitting to make the world a greener place, beginning in our own backyard,” Jenkins said in a statement. The announcement came a day before Pope Francis arrives in the United States to visit Washington, D.C., New York and Philadelphia.
Chris Martin September 22, 2015 — 7:30 AM PDT Bloomberg Business
- Climate risks spur 50-fold increase in pledges to divest
- Large pension funds, insurers account for 95% of pledges
Portfolio managers have pledged to steer $2.6 trillion in investments away from fossil fuels in an effort to prevent catastrophic climate change. That’s a 50-fold increase from the cumulative total a year ago, $50 billion, as environmental groups increased pressure on universities, insurance companies and individual investors to abandon stocks tied to coal, oil and natural gas, according to a report released Tuesday by Arabella Advisors. The surge in support for the divestment movement shows growing awareness of the role fossil fuels play in climate change, and growing concern among the general public. The report is being issued as world leaders and industry executives begin to gather in New York for Climate Week NYC and the United Nations general assembly. The results may spur commitments to reduce greenhouse gas production ahead of a December summit in Paris when more than 190 nations are expected to agree on a binding global carbon emissions pact.
Daniel Cusick, E&E reporter ClimateWire: Monday, September 21, 2015
The number of large companies placing an internal price on carbon emissions nearly tripled over the last year, from 150 to 437 firms globally, according to new data released this morning by CDP, the U.K.-based nonprofit that tracks corporate-sector greenhouse gas emissions. They join an increasingly diverse set of firms — ranging from energy producers to financial institutions — that are making detailed financial calculations around greenhouse gases, including risk assessments of how such emissions affect their bottom lines, according the group’s 2015 carbon pricing report. In the United States and Canada, the number of companies placing an internal cost on carbon more than doubled in 2015 to 97 firms, according to CDP. Among the latest firms to disclose carbon pricing policies are iconic American brands such as General Electric Co., General Motors Co., Campbell Soup Co., Stanley Black & Decker, and Fruit of the Loom. Other global firms adopting carbon pricing as part of their corporate decisionmaking include automakers Daimler AG, Volkswagen AG, Nissan Motor Co. and Mazda Motor Corp.; airlines Air France-KLM, Cathay Pacific and Qantas Airways; and some of the world’s largest consumer products makers, such as Nestlé, Unilever PLC and Colgate Palmolive Co.
The Guardian UK Sept 18 2015
A new report from the US Green Business Council found green construction has generated some $167.4bn in the last three years and supported more than 2m jobs – but some critics say the current LEED certification system is faulty. Green building construction is on track to make up a quarter of the US construction market this year, according to a new report from the US Green Business Council released this week.
By MIKE GORRELL | The Salt Lake Tribune
First Published Sep 23 2015 04:33PM • Last Updated Sep 23 2015 04:46 pm
Ski Utah is stepping up its efforts to combat climate change, which is perceived as a threat to the state’s fabled “Greatest Snow on Earth.” The marketing arm of the state’s 14 Alpine ski resorts has formed a partnership with Protect Our Winters, an advocacy group founded in 2007 by professional snowboarder Jeremy Jones, to raise awareness of climate change and to unite Utah’s winter-sports community in the fight against it. To kick off that effort, Ski Utah President and CEO Nathan Rafferty sent a letter recently to Gov. Gary Herbert, urging him to commit the state to develop a strategy to comply with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan. “On the heels of a hot and dry winter in Utah,” Rafferty wrote, “we’re all increasingly alarmed by the local economic impacts of climate change.” Noting that winter tourism contributes $1.2 billion annually to Utah’s economy — and provided jobs last winter to 18,419 — Rafferty said “we are concerned by the disruptive impact of increasingly extreme weather events, like the Texas floods of last month.”….
By John Steele September 17, 2015
It doesn’t have to be downhill,” Greg Carr says about Earth’s future. “Humans could be okay on this planet for thousands of years if we understand what it means to live sustainably.” In this age of worry about climate change and biodiversity loss, Carr is a rare beacon of optimism. In 1999, he cashed in on his success as a serial entrepreneur in the telecom industry and became a philanthropist. Inspired by the writings of biologist E.O. Wilson, he went on to found the Gorongosa Restoration Project—a 20-year partnership with the Mozambique government to revive Gorongosa National Park through ecotourism. Once home to some of the most diverse wildlife in Africa, the park was decimated by almost three decades of war. Now, after 11 years of rebuilding infrastructure, reintroducing animals, including hippos and wildebeests, and working with local communities, Gorongosa is thriving again. The park now serves as a model for future conservation. Nautilus caught up with Carr in his lush Idaho backyard to hear him describe his journey in his own words. When we asked him what makes the park worth protecting, he reminded us that Gorongosa lies in the Great Rift Valley, where the human species evolved about 200,000 years ago. “This was our cradle,” he said, “It’s in our DNA.” When we visit, we feel like we’ve come back home.
By CORAL DAVENPORTSEPT. 25, 2015
WASHINGTON — When President Obama tried to tackle climate change in his first term, he pushed Congress to limit and put a price on carbon pollution, but the so-called cap-and-trade bill died in the Senate in 2010. Among the chief reasons: Lawmakers from both parties feared that any law to cut greenhouse gas emissions would harm the nation’s competitiveness compared with China, which was then emerging as the world’s largest polluter. Since then, Republican lawmakers and presidential candidates have repeatedly cited China’s lack of action on climate change as the chief reason that the United States should not take stronger action.
On Friday in the Rose Garden, the story of how Washington and Beijing will fight climate change took a stunning turn as President Xi Jinping of China stood with Mr. Obama and announced that China would put in place its own national cap-and-trade system in 2017.
Environmentalists hailed the announcement as historic and said that China’s move should effectively end Republicans’ main objection to enacting a domestic climate change policy. “The ironies are rich,” said David Sandalow, a fellow at Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy and a former senior official in the Obama administration. “Carbon emissions trading is an American idea. Now it’s an American export. The Europeans have moved forward in implementing it. Now the Chinese are embracing it on a large scale.” But news of China’s cap-and-trade policy did not seem to change the views of a number of Republican presidential candidates….
By ANDREW C. REVKIN NY Times Sept 15 2015
Cutting against right-wing hype, some moderate House Republicans press for modest steps to address global warming…. “[The] House of Representatives commits to working constructively, using our tradition of American ingenuity, innovation, and exceptionalism, to create and support economically viable, and broadly supported private and public solutions to study and address the causes and effects of measured changes to our global and regional climates, including mitigation efforts and efforts to balance human activities that have been found to have an impact.” So read the brief, vague, but welcome resolution on “environmental stewardship” introduced today by Representative Chris Gibson, a Republican representing New York’s 19th Congressional District who has long had to woo Democrats to keep his seat, and has said human-driven climate change is real and needs to be addressed. He was joined by nine other House Republicans in seats with similar political contexts, with more slated to sign on….
By SOMINI SENGUPTA and JIM YARDLEY September 25, 2015 NY Times UNITED NATIONS — With a passionate call from Pope Francis to choose environmental justice over a “boundless thirst for power and material prosperity,” world leaders on Friday adopted an ambitious agenda to reset their own priorities, from ending hunger to protecting forests to ensuring quality education for all.
“We want to change our world, and we can,” Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany told a packed General Assembly hall. The global goals, which emerged after three years of negotiations, are 17 in all. Known as the Sustainable Development Goals, they are not legally binding, and therefore not enforceable. But they carry a moral force of coercion, because they are adopted by consensus by the 193 member states of the United Nations…..
September 22, 2015 US Department of Interior
Today, the Interior Department announced that an epic conservation effort has led to a huge wildlife win — the greater sage grouse does not require Endangered Species Act protection. Watch a video of Secretary Jewell making the announcement and explaining why the sage grouse decision is historic. Plus, check out the top 5 reasons you should care about the bird.
Top executives were warned of possible catastrophe from greenhouse effect, then led efforts to block solutions.
By Neela Banerjee, Lisa Song and David Hasemyer Sep 21, 2015
At a meeting in Exxon Corporation’s headquarters, a senior company scientist named James F. Black addressed an audience of powerful oilmen. Speaking without a text as he flipped through detailed slides, Black delivered a sobering message: carbon dioxide from the world’s use of fossil fuels would warm the planet and could eventually endanger humanity. “In the first place, there is general scientific agreement that the most likely manner in which mankind is influencing the global climate is through carbon dioxide release from the burning of fossil fuels,” Black told Exxon’s Management Committee, according to a written version he recorded later. It was July 1977 when Exxon’s leaders received this blunt assessment, well before most of the world had heard of the looming climate crisis. A year later, Black, a top technical expert in Exxon’s Research & Engineering division, took an updated version of his presentation to a broader audience. He warned Exxon scientists and managers that independent researchers estimated a doubling of the carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration in the atmosphere would increase average global temperatures by 2 to 3 degrees Celsius (4 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit), and as much as 10 degrees Celsius (18 degrees Fahrenheit) at the poles. Rainfall might get heavier in some regions, and other places might turn to desert…..
Bottom of Form
Posted: 24 Sep 2015 12:14 PM PDT
Researchers have demonstrated a safe and affordable battery capable of storing energy from intermittent sources — like rooftop solar panels — that is suitable for the home.
By DAVID GELLES NY Times September 24 2015
A mixture of moral conviction, economic forecasting and expectations of tougher regulations has spurred Microsoft and others to track their energy use.
Posted: 17 Sep 2015 01:00 PM PDT
The cost of coal use is greater than it seems and policies geared toward subsidizing its use must be reformed quickly, before countries invest in coal-fired plants.
Posted: 21 Sep 2015 06:52 AM PDT
New research reveals the potential benefits of harnessing the energy created from salinity gradients, with impacts across climate change, fossil fuel reliance and the global desalination industry.
Posted: 21 Sep 2015 12:34 PM PDT
The hotter solar cells become, the less efficient they are at converting sunlight to electricity, a problem that has long vexed the solar industry. Now engineers have developed a transparent overlay that increases efficiency by cooling the cells even in full sunlight.
Posted: 22 Sep 2015 08:47 AM PDT
Researchers around the globe are on a quest for materials capable of capturing and storing greenhouse gases. This shared goal led researchers to team up to explore the feasibility of vertically aligned carbon nanotubes to trap and store two greenhouse gases in particular: carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide.
EVALUATING AND MONITORING ADAPTATION Wednesday, September 30, 2015, 10AM PST/ 1PM EST (confirm time)
- Rachel M. Gregg, M.M.A., Lead Scientist, EcoAdapt. Is it Doing Any Good?: Monitoring and Evaluating Climate Adaptation Activities
- Anne Carlson, Ph.D., Climate Associate, The Wilderness Society. Carnivores, water and weeds: Improving the success of climate change response strategies through effective monitoring programs
- Mallory Morgan, Climate Fellow, San Diego Foundation, A Qualitative Analysis of the Climate Change Action Plan for the Florida Reef System 2010-2015
For more information on the webinar and other National Adaptation Forum webinars visit the webinar support page. If you are not able to make the webinar we will also be providing a recording at http://cakex.org/NAF/webinars.
Climate Change and Organic Agriculture
October 6, 2015 12PM Pacific / 3PM Eastern
Presented by USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service – Science and Technology National Technology Support Centers
Kris Nichols, Ph.D. Chief Scientist Rodale Institute: Dr. Kris Nichols will discuss the Rodale Institute’s white paper: Regenerative Organic Agriculture and Climate Change: A Down-to-Earth Solution to Global Warming. This paper discusses the positive impacts of organically managed soils on climate change. She will present data from farming systems and pasture trials around the world that show the carbon sequestration impact of organic management practices. The presentation will describe the farming practices that can be implemented to meet this objective.
Presented by USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service – Science and Technology – National Technology Support Centers
Jennifer Anderson-Cruz, State Biologist, Georgia State Office, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Join the Webinar
NRCS’s Stream Visual Assessment Protocol 2 (SVAP2) is a national protocol that provides an initial evaluation of the overall condition of wadeable streams as well as their riparian zones and instream habitats. This is a simple resource assessment tool with the goal of providing education, problem (resource concern) identification, before / after evaluation, and a sense of ownership by users. Target users include field conservationists, partners/volunteers, landowners, and citizens who may have little training or experience. This presentation will introduce participants to SVAP2, covering the assessment of 16 elements as they relate to potential resource concerns….
The Wildlife Society 22nd Annual Conference
October 17-21, 2015 Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
The Wildlife Society’s Annual Conference is one of the largest gatherings of wildlife professionals, students and supporters in North America. More than 1,500 attendees gathered to learn, network and engage at our 2014 Annual Conference in Pittsburgh, PA…
This October, CalCoast™ and its allies in government, academia, and the private sector (including Strategic Advocacy Partners) will hold “Drought Symposium 15,” tentatively scheduled for Oct 20-21. We have been scouting sites in Ontario, CA; San Diego, CA; and Orange County. A call for presentations will be circulated soon, but if you have an idea for a presentation or (better yet) a whole panel (90 mins), please send a message to Steve Aceti at email@example.com and John Helmer at firstname.lastname@example.org. If your organization is interested in becoming a sponsor or exhibitor for Drought Symposium 15, please send a message to Gracie Parisi, CalCoast’s COO, at email@example.com. If you know of any conflicts with other events this October 20-21, please let us know. And stay tuned!
2015 Southwest Climate Summit November 2-3, 2015 Holiday Inn Capital Plaza Sacramento, CA
Join us for the 2015 Southwest Climate Summit when we’ll promote Climate-Smart Conservation by bringing together managers and scientists from across the Southwest to:
- Discover emerging climate science
- Explore adaptive management application
- Share Climate-Smart Conservation results
- Discuss management and policy responses
The California LCC, Southwest Climate Science Center, USDA Southwest Climate Hub, Great Basin LCC, and Desert LCC are hosting the Summit to foster sharing of lessons learned and collaboration across the Southwestern landscape. Click here for more information.
Grand Challenges in Coastal & Estuarine Science: Securing Our Future 8 – 12 November, 2015 Oregon Convention Center | Portland, Oregon
Registration for the CERF 23rd Biennial Conference is now open! The CERF 2015 scientific program offers four days of timely, exciting and diverse information on a vast array of estuarine and coastal subjects. Presentations will examine new findings within CERF’s traditional scientific, education and management disciplines and encourage interaction among coastal and estuarine scientists and managers. Plus, there are plenty of workshops, field trips, and special events to get involved with that will make this conference one you won’t want to miss.
This one day overview class is being hosted by the California Landscape Conservation Cooperative (CA LCC) and is based on the guide Climate-Smart Conservation: Putting Adaptation Principles into Practice. This publication is the product of an expert workgroup on climate change adaptation convened by the National Wildlife Federation in collaboration with the FWS’s National Conservation Training Center and other partners. The course is designed to provide an introduction to climate adaptation for application to on-the-ground conservation. It will provide an overview of how to craft climate-informed conservation goals, to carry out adaptation with intentionality, and how to manage for change and not just persistence…. The San Diego Foundation, 2508 Historic Decatur Road, San Diego, CA 92106 Register Now– contact Christy Coghlan – firstname.lastname@example.org
California Association of Resource Conservation Districts:
“Healthy Forests, Healthy Soils, A Resilient California” 70th Annual Conference November 18—21, 2015 Tenaya Lodge, Yosemite, CA
Don’t miss out on being part of the change. California’s future is the crucial discussion at this year’s CARCD Annual Conference November 18th—21st at the Tenaya Lodge in Yosemite, CA. The Sierra National Forest, backdrop for Yosemite National Park, will provide a perfect classroom and case study of the challenges California will face if we cannot enact effective and efficient management strategies at the local, regional and statewide levels. We will discuss how smart, integrated management projects on a seemingly small-scale are the building blocks that affect water abundance, water quality, soil health, tree/ plant health, forest health, groundwater, and climate change throughout the state. In addition, we will examine innovative developments to solve new world challenges like the latest developments in carbon markets, building partnerships to solve complex, multi-jurisdictional issues, state programs focused on solving California’s problems, capacity building for RCDs and much more.
Abstract Submissions are OPEN for the 21st Biennial. We are currently accepting abstract submissions for workshops, oral, speed and poster presentations for the 21st Biennial Society for Marine Mammalogy Conference, to take place in San Francisco from December 13-18, 2015. The submission deadline is May 15th, 2015. Workshops will be held on December 12-13th.
JOBS (apologies for any duplication; thanks for passing along)
The Coastal Adaptation Program Leader (CAPL) will be responsible for executing the strategy and achieving the outcomes of Point Blue’s Protecting Our Shorelines Initiative. As such, the CAPL will help natural resource managers and policy makers advance their adaptation efforts in the face of accelerating climate change, ocean acidification, increased storm frequency and intensity, habitat loss, and other stressors, leveraging Point Blue and partner scientific, data, and informatics resources. The CAPL will also develop science-based policy and natural resource management recommendations. Learn more and how to apply here.
Point Blue: Institutional Philanthropy Director The Director of Institutional Philanthropy (Director) will be responsible for securing foundation and agency funding for priority programs, and managing all aspects of Point Blue’s foundation relations to advance our innovative climate-smart conservation science strategies. Reporting to the Chief Advancement Officer, the Director will collaborate with the Chief Science Officer, Group Directors, and other organizational leaders on the development and planning of strategic initiatives, assist staff scientists in the production of technical proposals and reports, write foundation proposals and reports, and support the advancement staff in written communications to major donors…
The [CA State] Coastal Conservancy
is pleased to announce a new round of competitive grants to fund multi-benefit watershed restoration and ecosystem protection projects. These grants will be funded by the Proposition 1 Water Bond approved by California voters last fall. The proposal solicitation is on our website and applications are due September 30, 2015.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is now accepting proposals for restoration projects that further the objectives of the California Water Action Plan (CWAP). For Fiscal Year (FY) 2015-2016, a total of $31.4 million in Proposition 1 funds will be made available through CDFW’s two Proposition 1 Restoration Grant Programs. The Watershed Restoration Grant Program will fund up to $24 million in projects of statewide importance outside of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, while the Delta Water Quality and Ecosystem Restoration Grant Program will fund up to $7 million in projects that specifically benefit the Delta….
Sustainable Conservation September 4, 2015
Many of you are busy with project implementation right now and may not have had the time to evaluate Prop 1 funding sources. Sustainable Conservation has put together a breakdown of top funding sources, application tips, and which simplified permits for restoration you can use to increase your “project readiness” scoring and save time/resources on permitting. Simplified permits will be essential to getting projects implemented quickly and spending more money for on-the-ground work. Note that we are continually working on new permits where coverage doesn’t already exist, so be sure to check our website for updates. The following tables have summary information to guide you:
- OTHER NEWS OF INTEREST
By NICHOLAS KRISTOF NY Times Opinion September 24 2015
Francis’ empathy lifts humans, animals and Christianity itself.
Posted: 16 Sep 2015 01:21 PM PDT
Spending time in nature provides protections against a startling range of diseases, including depression, diabetes, obesity, ADHD, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and many more, research shows. How this exposure to green space leads to better health has remained a mystery. After reviewing hundreds of studies examining nature’s effects on health, an environment and behavior researcher believes the answer lies in nature’s ability to enhance the functioning of the body’s immune system….
The Act on Climate national bus tour is stopping in areas worst affected by high pollution and social inequality, driving the message that urban communities and people of color are most afflicted by climate change. The Guardian.
Posted: 23 Sep 2015 07:32 AM PDT
A new article offers horse owners advice on how to manage stable flies and house flies, including how to use parasitoid wasps as an alternative to pesticides.
Posted: 18 Sep 2015 07:50 AM PDT
Scientists have developed a first-of-its-kind, 3-D printed guide that helps regrow both the sensory and motor functions of complex nerves after injury. The groundbreaking research has the potential to help more than 200,000 people annually who experience nerve injuries or disease.
Posted: 16 Sep 2015 01:18 PM PDT
Teens who reported a traumatic brain injury in the past year were seven times more likely to have consumed at least five energy drinks in the past week than those without a history of TBI, according to a study.
Ellie Cohen, President and CEO
Point Blue Conservation Science (formerly PRBO)
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