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Tag Archive: california

  1. California generates more power from solar than gas in May for first time

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  2. Increasing heat is driving off clouds that dampen California wildfires

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    • Urbanization and climate change combine to heighten danger
    • Cloud cover is decreasing in Southern CA and as clouds decrease, that increases the chance of bigger and more intense fires.
    • Scientists found that periods of less cloud cover during the summer are correlated neatly with lower vegetation moisture, and thus more danger of fire.
    May 30, 2018 Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University Read full ScienceDaily article here
    “Cloud cover is plummeting in southern coastal California,” said Park Williams, a bioclimatologist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and lead author of the research. “And as clouds decrease, that increases the chance of bigger and more intense fires.” Williams said the decrease is driven mainly by urban sprawl, which increases near-surface temperatures, but that overall warming climate is contributing, too. Increasing heat drives away clouds, which admits more sunlight, which heats the ground further, leading to dryer vegetation, and higher fire risk, said Williams. The study appears this week in the journal Geophysical Research Letters…

    …The catastrophic California-wide fires that consumed over 550,000 acres in fall of 2017 were probably not strongly affected by the reductions in summer cloud cover, said Williams. Although he did find that vegetation is drier in fall seasons that follow summers with few clouds, the fall 2017 fires were driven mainly by extreme winds and a late onset of the fall rainy season. And ironically, part of this record wildfire wave resulted not from a recent record four-year drought driven in part by climate change, but rather from record rains that followed the drought, which produced a surfeit of flammable vegetation…

    A. Park Williams, Pierre Gentine, Max A. Moritz, Dar A. Roberts, John T. Abatzoglou. Effect of reduced summer cloud shading on evaporative demand and wildfire in coastal southern California. Geophysical Research Letters, 2018; DOI: 10.1029/2018GL077319

  3. California is now the world’s fifth-largest economy, surpassing United Kingdom

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    California’s economy has surpassed that of the United Kingdom to become the world’s fifth largest, according to new federal data made public Friday.

    California’s gross domestic product rose by $127 billion from 2016 to 2017, surpassing $2.7 trillion, the data said. Meanwhile, the U.K.’s economic output slightly shrank over that time when measured in U.S. dollars, due in part to exchange rate fluctuations….

  4. Increasing precipitation extremes in California; likelihood of 40 day flood event will increase significantly over decades ahead

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    By Daniel Swain April 22 2018 Read full CA Weather Blog article here

    Previous studies have found that future changes in California’s overall average annual precipitation are likely to be fairly modest, even under rather extreme global warming scenarios. Most climate models suggest that the boundary between mean wetting (in the already moist mid-latitude regions to the north) and mean drying (in the already arid subtropics to the south) in a warming world will likely fall somewhere over California—which increases uncertainty regarding whether the region will become slightly wetter or slightly drier on average. The notion that California’s average precipitation might not change much in the future is actually somewhat surprising, as there is high confidence that other “mediterranean” climate regions on Earth will experience progressively less precipitation as the world warms and the region of stable subtropical influence expands. As we demonstrate in our new research, however, these small shifts in average precipitation mask profound changes in the character of California precipitation. We find that the occurrence of both extreme wet and extreme dry events in California—and of rapid transitions between the two—will likely increase with atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations. The rising risk of historically unprecedented precipitation extremes will seriously test California’s existing water storage, distribution, and flood protection infrastructure….

    ….As most of us already know, global climate is presently changing at a rate faster than has occurred in thousands of years, almost exclusively due to the emission of greenhouse gases (like carbon dioxide) into the Earth’s atmosphere. But the Earth is not warming at the same rate everywhere, and regional differences are subject to considerably more scientific uncertainty than the overall global warming trend. That’s especially true for many of the complex meteorological phenomena that we care most about: the dramatic storms, floods, heatwaves, and droughts that tend to have the largest impacts upon human lives, economies, physical infrastructure, and the environment….

    ….Our new analysis suggests that the risk of an extreme “sub-seasonal” 40-day precipitation event similar in magnitude to that which caused the 1862 flood will rise substantially as the climate warms. By the end of the 21st century, we find a 300 – 400+ % increase in the relative risk of such an event across the entire state. One specific statistic that my colleagues and I found particularly eyebrow-raising: on our current emissions trajectory, at least one occurrence of an 1862-level precipitation event is more likely than not over the next 40 years (between 2018 and 2060), with multiple occurrences plausible between now and the end of the century. In practical terms, this means that what is today considered to be the “200-year flood”—an event that would overwhelm the vast majority of California’s flood defenses and water infrastructure—will become the “40-50 year flood” in the coming decades….

    ….Our research suggests that the frequency of such “precipitation whiplash” events—in which California experiences a very dry year followed immediately by a very wet year—will increase considerably as the climate warms. We find anywhere from a 25% increase in far northern California to over a 100% increase over far southern California in the frequency of these dry-to-wet whiplash events (of a magnitude that has historically occurred about four times per century). …

    Swain, D. L., B. Langenbrunner, J. D. Neelin, and A. Hall, “Increasing precipitation volatility in 21st-century-California,” Nature Climate Change, doi:10.1038/s41558-018-0140-y, 2018.

  5. Seagrass and kelp as nature-based solutions: CA lawmakers take aim at ocean acidification based on new report

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    • Seagrass and kelp may be quite beneficial for reducing the impacts of ocean acidification, especially in California’s bays
    • Restoring or preserving seagrass and kelp is a win-win measure that would also bring a number of other benefits including providing habitat for many marine species, including economically important fisheries like crab and moderating wave impacts, protecting coastlines from storms.
    • Hill showed that sediment inside seagrass meadows can contain up to two times as much organic carbon as habitats without vegetation; in summer months, the presence of seagrass can make water significantly less acidic, changing water chemistry up to 0.1 pH units.

    February 26, 2018 Read CA Seagrant article here

    Nielsen, K., Stachowicz, J., Carter, H., Boyer, K., Bracken, M., Chan, F., Chavez, F.,
    Hovel, K., Kent, M., Nickols, K., Ruesink, J., Tyburczy, J., and Wheeler, S. EMERGING UNDERSTANDING OF SEAGRASS AND KELP AS AN OCEAN ACIDIFICATION MANAGEMENT TOOL IN CALIFORNIA. Developed by a Working Group of the Ocean Protection Council Science Advisory Team and California Ocean Science Trust 2018

    Seaweeds and seagrasses have potential to mitigate some effects of ocean acidification, according to a new report presented to the California state legislature earlier this month. The report was supported by the Ocean Protection Council. California Sea Grant Extension Specialist Joe Tyburczy, who is based at Humboldt State University, served on the working group that wrote the report.

    “The major take-home message in the report is that seagrass and kelp may be quite beneficial for reducing the impacts of ocean acidification, especially in California’s bays,” Tyburczy says. While many details remain to be studied, the researchers say that restoring or preserving seagrass and kelp is a win-win measure that would also bring a number of other benefits. For example, seagrass meadows are important habitat for many marine species, including economically important fisheries like crab. Kelp and seagrasses can also moderate wave impacts, protecting coastlines from storms.

    “There are many reasons we’d want to restore or preserve seagrass meadows. The potential of seagrasses to remove carbon from the water is just icing on the cake,” says University of California, Davis scientist Tessa Hill, who has conducted related research on the topic.

    …In her California Sea Grant-funded research in Tomales Bay, California, Hill showed that sediment inside seagrass meadows can contain up to two times as much organic carbon as habitats without vegetation. She also found that in summer months, the presence of seagrass can make water significantly less acidic, changing water chemistry up to 0.1 pH units.

    The results of the project were so promising that they led to a larger project to expand the research across the state, and also compare seagrass meadows that were restored rather than native.

    The idea of a nature-based solution with multiple benefits sounded good to policymakers who are working on strategies to address ocean acidification. The question will be when, where, and how to prioritize seagrass restoration and protection. That’s where current research aims to fill the gaps…..

  6. Climate Change Threatens Major Crops in California

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    • California produces over a third of the country’s vegetables and two-thirds of its fruits and nuts.
    • By the end of the century California’s climate will no longer be able to support the state’s major crops, including orchards.

    by Ahmel Ahmed KQED Feb 26 2018  read full article here

    California currently provides two-thirds of the country’s fruits and nuts, but according to a new study published Tuesday, by the end of the century California’s climate will no longer be able to support the state’s major crops, including orchards.

    The report, published in “Agronomy,” warns that the increased rate and scale of climate change is “beyond the realm of experience” for the agricultural community, and unless farmers take urgent measures, the consequences could threaten national food security.

    “For California, as an agricultural leader for various commodities, impacts on agricultural production due to climate change would not only translate into national food security issues but also economic impacts that could disrupt state and national commodity systems,” the report warns.

    The study, led by researchers from the University of California, Merced and Davis campuses, looked at past and current trends in California’s climate and examined what impact record low levels of snowpack, and extreme events such as drought will have on crop yields over time…

    Tapan B. Pathak , Mahesh L. Maskey, Jeffery A. Dahlberg, Faith Kearn, Khaled M. Bali and Daniele Zaccaria. Climate Change Trends and Impacts on California Agriculture: A Detailed Review. Agronomy 2018, 8(3), 25; doi:10.3390/agronomy8030025

    Abstract: California is a global leader in the agricultural sector and produces more than 400 types of commodities. The state produces over a third of the country’s vegetables and two-thirds of its fruits and nuts. Despite being highly productive, current and future climate change poses many challenges to the agricultural sector. This paper provides a summary of the current state of knowledge on historical and future trends in climate and their impacts on California agriculture. We present a synthesis of climate change impacts on California agriculture in the context of: (1) historic trends and projected changes in temperature, precipitation, snowpack, heat waves, drought, and flood events; and (2) consequent impacts on crop yields, chill hours, pests and diseases, and agricultural vulnerability to climate risks. Finally, we highlight important findings and directions for future research and implementation. The detailed review presented in this paper provides sufficient evidence that the climate in California has changed significantly and is expected to continue changing in the future, and justifies the urgency and importance of enhancing the adaptive capacity of agriculture and reducing vulnerability to climate change. Since agriculture in California is very diverse and each crop responds to climate differently, climate adaptation research should be locally focused along with effective stakeholder engagement and systematic outreach efforts for effective adoption and implementation. The expected readership of this paper includes local stakeholders, researchers, state and national agencies, and international communities interested in learning about climate change and California’s agriculture. View Full-Text

     

  7. Wildfire management of CA’s chaparral ecosystem can devastate wild bird populations and fire-risk reduction is only temporary- new study

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    • Although bird species diversity and abundances rebounded after one-time use of prescribed fires, most birds never returned to masticated sites. Mastication reduced the number of bird species by about 50 percent and reduced total numbers of birds by about 60 percent.
    • “The best available science tells us that managing chaparral imperils wildlife and increases fire risk…Our study continues to build the case that we should live densely and away from chaparral.”

    February 14, 2018 University of Arizona read full ScienceDaily article here

    On the tail of California’s most destructive and expensive year of firefighting ever, it might seem obvious that vegetation removal would reduce the risk of such a year happening again. But scientists are showing that in chaparral, California’s iconic shrubland ecosystem, management can devastate wild bird populations and that fire-risk reduction is only temporary.

    …Chaparral is a fire-prone ecosystem in North America that is widespread throughout California. Although it makes up only 6 percent of California by area, it contains one-quarter of the species found in the California Floristic Province, a global biodiversity hotspot. To date, no other studies have compared the effects of different fire management types on California chaparral wildlife….

    …Although bird species diversity and abundances rebounded after one-time use of prescribed fires, most birds never returned to masticated sites. Mastication reduced the number of bird species by about 50 percent and reduced total numbers of birds by about 60 percent….

    …Much of California’s chaparral is burning too frequently to replace itself because of human-caused ignitions and longer wildfire seasons due to climate change. According to Scott Stephens, the principal investigator of the experiment at UC Berkeley, too-frequent fire can cause chaparral to be replaced by invasive grasses, which can increase fire risk.

    This leads to other problems. Grasses don’t hold soils in place, so deadly mudslides may follow wildfires, such as those in Santa Barbara, California….

    …”The best available science tells us that managing chaparral imperils wildlife and increases fire risk,” she said. “Our study continues to build the case that we should live densely and away from chaparral.”

    Erica A. Newman, Jennifer B. Potts, Morgan W. Tingley, Charles Vaughn, Scott L. Stephens. Chaparral bird community responses to prescribed fire and shrub removal in three management seasons. Journal of Applied Ecology, 2018; DOI: 10.1111/1365-2664.13099

  8. Governor Brown Takes Action to Increase Zero-Emission Vehicles, Fund New Climate Investments

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    Jan 26 2018  see full news release here

    ….California Climate Investments projects include affordable housing, renewable energy, public transportation, zero-emission vehicles, environmental restoration, more sustainable agriculture and recycling, among other projects. At least 35 percent of these investments are made in disadvantaged and low-income communities….

    The $1.25 billion climate investment plan can be found here.

     

    Some specifics include:

    • Healthy and Resilient Forests (p 5)—$160 million of Cap and Trade funding for the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) to support forest improvement, fire prevention, and fuel reduction projects.
    • Healthy Soils (p 10):  Includes $5m in the budget and another $9 m from SB5 (the new bond measure) for a total of $14m.

     

     

     

  9. Nearly Half of California’s Vegetation at Risk From Climate Stress

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    • Slashing emissions to Paris climate agreement targets could reduce impacts on CA vegetation 20-30% per new UC Davis, USGS, CDFW, NPS study
    • Cutting emissions so that global temperatures increase by no more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.2 degrees Fahrenheit) could reduce those impacts by half, with about a quarter of the state’s natural vegetation affected.
    • It projects that at current rates of greenhouse gas emissions, vegetation in southwestern California, the Central Valley and Sierra Nevada mountains becomes more than 50 percent impacted by 2100, including 68 percent of the lands surrounding Los Angeles and San Diego.
    • Areas projected to be more resilient include some coastal areas and parts of northwestern California.
    By Kat Kerlin on January 25, 2018  read full UCDavis article her

    Current levels of greenhouse gas emissions are putting nearly half of California’s natural vegetation at risk from climate stress, with transformative implications for the state’s landscape and the people and animals that depend on it, according to a study led by the University of California, Davis. However, cutting emissions so that global temperatures increase by no more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.2 degrees Fahrenheit) could reduce those impacts by half, with about a quarter of the state’s natural vegetation affected.

    The study, published in the journal Ecosphere, asks: What are the implications for the state’s vegetation under a business-as-usual emissions strategy, where temperatures increase up to 4.5 degrees Celsius by 2100, compared to meeting targets outlined in the Paris climate agreement that limit warming to 2 degrees Celsius?

    “At current rates of emissions, about 45-56 percent of all the natural vegetation in the state is at risk, or from 61,190 to 75,866 square miles,” said lead author James Thorne, a research scientist with the Department of Environmental Science and Policy at UC Davis. “If we reduce the rate to Paris accord targets, those numbers are lowered to between 21 and 28 percent of the lands at climatic risk.”…

    …“This is the map of where we live,” Thorne said. “The natural landscapes that make up California provide the water, clean air and other natural benefits for all the people who live here. They provide the sanctuary for California’s high biodiversity that is globally ranked. This map portrays the level of climate risk to all of those things. In some cases, the transformation may be quite dramatic and visible, as is the case with wildfire and beetle outbreaks. In other cases, it might not be dramatically visible but will have impacts, nevertheless.”…

    …the data is helping the agency understand not only which parts of the state are vulnerable to climate change, but also which areas are more resilient, such as some coastal areas and parts of northwestern California, so they can ensure they remain resilient….

    Jim Thorne, Hyeyeyong Choe, Ryan Boynton, Jacqueline Bjorkman, Whitney Albright, Koren Nydick, Alan Flint, Lorraine Flint, Mark Schwartz. The impact of climate change uncertainty on California’s vegetation and adaptation management. Ecosphere.  DOI: 10.1002/ecs2.2021  Volume 8, Issue 12 December 2017 e02021
  10. California’s Proposed Budget Reveals Water, Climate Priorities

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    • A recently released state budget proposal uses a science-based approach to allocating funds and includes money for water systems in disadvantaged communities, endangered species, wildfire fighting and conservation.
    • California’s budget states it will be “Basing Actions in Science,” especially as it assesses spending needs for climate change mitigation and adaptation. According to the plan, the “best available scientific understanding of how climate change is impacting the state … will serve as the foundation for how state agencies, local governments and the public respond to forecasted climate change impacts.”
    Written by Alastair Bland read full WaterDeeply article here
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    A firefighting helicopter makes a water drop on a flare-up of the Blue Cut Fire along Interstate 15 in the Cajon Pass in 2016. California’s proposed 2018–19 budget gives the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection $2.3 billion, which includes money for replacing and upgrading firefighting aircraft and vehicles.Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

    For California governor Jerry Brown and his administration, 2017 was a water year to remember, and one that would figure into the drafting of the state’s 2018-19 budget, which was released early this month. The $190 billion proposed spending plan names California’s drought and the “extreme natural events of 2017” as determining factors in how the cash was divvied up.

    The budget, released just days after President Donald Trump mocked the science of climate change on Twitter, specifically outlines a science-based approach to allocating funds, especially with an eye toward the planet’s increasing temperatures and rising sea level.

    The 177-page document gives $9.8 billion to California’s Natural Resources Agency in the next fiscal year. The agency consists of 26 departments, commissions, conservancies and boards tasked with protecting and managing the state’s woodlands, open space, coastline, wildlife and water.

    Of that money, $4.7 million will go toward a new program of aiding communities in both “short-term and long-term costs of obtaining access to safe and affordable drinking water.” This would achieve the goals of Senate Bill 623, a bill introduced into the 2016–17 legislative session but which is currently stalled in the Senate.

    ….more than 1 million Californians lack access to clean drinking water, notes that the budget doesn’t merely dedicate money toward the cause but actually initiates what he believes will become a long-term program…..The budget includes $4 billion that will be made available for parks, water resources and recreation if voters pass Senate Bill 5, a bond measure heading to the ballot in June. SB 5 allocates $140 million to groundwater protection and recharge strategies, and another $98 million to multibenefit flood protection strategies – including floodplain restoration. The bond measure would provide another $63 million for safe drinking water projects.

    The California Department of Fish and Wildlife will receive $610 million in the coming fiscal year. Focal areas for the department will include “conservation efforts on land, in rivers and streams, and in the ocean to benefit iconic species like salmon.” The budget also calls for “increasing efforts to recover key declining and endangered species.” ….

    ….California’s budget ….will serve as the foundation for how state agencies, local governments and the public respond to forecasted climate change impacts.”…

    …Mention of the Delta tunnels, which Brown has fervently promoted for years, was conspicuously absent from the budget, even though the state quietly unveiled interest in building a single-tube version of the project, called California WaterFix, on Friday, January 12.

    …“The fact that there’s no money for California WaterFix in the budget doesn’t mean that ratepayers and taxpayers in California aren’t being affected by this,” she said. The state auditor reported in October that the Department of Water Resources was guarding a pool of $286 million that it planned to use, in part, to fund development of the WaterFix project….