Science news and reports: Drought dowsing goes high-tech, the value of clams and mussels in cleaning dirty water, interior Delta flows report and more, plus El Nino: fizzle or sizzle?

barents sea

Phytoplankton blooms in the Berents Sea

In science news this week, Drought dowsing goes high-tech, Stanford research shows value of clams and mussels in cleaning dirty water, the Delta Stewardship Council releases interior Delta flows and stressors report, fish data written in the scales, love a shark – save a wetland, Fishbio surveys Big Chico Creek, El Nino: fizzle or sizzle, trapped atmospheric waves triggering more weather extremes and trend is expected to continue, climate warming may have unexpected impact on invasive species, and 200 years of measuring global sea level

Weekly Science News

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Drought dowsing goes high-tech: Sonar devices measure water underground:  “This year, groundwater is serving as California’s pinch hitter, supplying about 60 percent of the state’s needs during this historic drought. But until now, it’s been an impossible resource to manage.  We don’t have enough data to know just how much groundwater is hanging out below any given house or farm. Because it’s unregulated by the state, anyone can pump as much water as they want—a point of contention between those who think people own the water underneath their property and those who believe groundwater is a communal resource. To make matters worse, groundwater hasn’t been replenished during these dry times, and there’s been a recent rush to drill more wells in the San Joaquin Valley. … ”  Read more from UC Berkeley Alumni Association's California Magazine here:  Drought dowsing goes high-tech: Sonar devices measure water underground

Stanford research shows value of clams and mussels in cleaning dirty water:  “Pharmaceuticals, personal care products, herbicides and flame retardants are increasingly showing up in waterways. New Stanford research finds that a natural, low-cost solution – clams and mussels – may already exist for these contaminants of emerging concern, or CECs.  These chemicals are found in some waters at trace levels; little is known about their ecosystem health impacts. But some have been implicated as potentially harmful to fish reproduction in waters receiving large inputs of wastewater. ... ”  Read more from Stanford News here:  Stanford research shows value of clams and mussels in cleaning dirty water

Delta Stewardship Council releases Interior Delta Flows And Related Stressors – Panel Summary Report: “The Delta Science Program has posted an independent scientific review panel report on interior Delta flows and related stressors. The report was prepared in support of the State Water Resources Control Board’s process of reviewing and updating Bay-Delta flow objectives to protect beneficial uses in the Bay-Delta Watershed.  In accordance with the Delta Reform Act of 2009 and the Delta Plan, the State Water Resources Control Board is updating its water quality control plan for the Bay-Delta. In response to a request from the Board, the Delta Stewardship Council’s Delta Science Program organized this independent panel and April 16-17 workshop to review the science of interior Delta flows and related stressors and provide input to the Board.  For more information, click here.”

Written in the scales:  “Effectively managing fish populations requires knowing how quickly individual fish grow, and how old fish are at key stages of their life cycle. One common technique to estimate the age and growth of fish is to interpret patterns that developed on their calcified structures, such as scales, bones, spines, fin rays, or inner ear bones called otoliths (see Rings in their ears). Scales have been used to age fishes since 1890, and this technique is still widely used in the fisheries field today. As fish grow, their hard parts (scales, bones, etc.) must grow accordingly. Due to seasonal changes in temperature or food availability, major life history events are recorded as markings on their scales or bones. Much like the rings on a tree, fisheries researchers can use these patterns to estimate both the age and growth of a fish. However, unlike trees, fish often deposit numerous growth rings every year on scales, and daily rings on otoliths (see Miniature ear bones). ... ”  Read more from FishBio blog here:  Written in the scales

Love a shark? Save a wetland: “It is Shark Week on the Discovery Channel, which means it’s time for lots of toothy grins and fighter-jet-size sharks leaping from the sea and distressed seal pups fleeing in frothy panic. Also, if you are Save the Bay restoration scientist Hayley Zemel, it is a great time to talk about tidal wetlands.  Pickleweed-mosaic margins at the edge of the Bay, when we’re celebrating, you know, sharks? Definitely. Because not all (or even many) of the 500 species of sharks are the leapy-toothy-fighter-jet-size variety, including the resident sharks of the San Francisco Bay, and our six local regulars rely on healthy wetlands. Tidal marshes are food factories for the small fish and invertebrates Bay sharks favor, and even better, our warm, shallow estuary is a major shark nursery. … ”  Read more from Bay Nature here: Love a Shark? Save a Wetland

FishBio surveys Big Chico Creek: “Last summer we set out to improve our understanding of Chico’s liquid gem, Big Chico Creek, and conducted the first assessment of the creek’s fish community in over a decade. Delighted to yet again wet our feet (and the rest of our bodies) in the less frequently visited reaches of the creek, we recently revisited the Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserve for our second annual fish population snorkel survey.  While we limited last year’s effort to within the boundaries of the reserve, this year private landowners graciously gave us permission to access their property, allowing us to expand our survey to the literal “end of the creek,” as far as salmon and steelhead are concerned. ... ” Now I want this job!  Read more from Fishbio here:  Take it to the limit

El Nino: Fizzle or sizzle? July was a rough month for the potential development of El Niño.  Waiting for El Niño is starting to feel like Waiting for Godot.  As Emily discussed in her post and as the CPC also described in the August 7th ENSO discussion, the trends were in the opposite direction of El Niño, particularly with respect to the ocean.  Below-average temperatures emerged at the surface in the eastern equatorial Pacific and were widespread below the surface.  The appearance of seemingly unfavorable conditions has led to some comparisons with 2012, when an emerging El Niño instead collapsed.  Are we in 2012 territory again?   Is this El Niño again a bust? … ”  More from the ENSO blog here:  El Nino: Fizzle or sizzle?

Trapped atmospheric waves triggering more weather extremes: Trend expected to continue:  Weather extremes in the summer — such as the record heat wave in the United States that hit corn farmers and worsened wildfires in 2012 — have reached an exceptional number in the last ten years. Human-made global warming can explain a gradual increase in periods of severe heat, but the observed change in the magnitude and duration of some events is not so easily explained.  It has been linked to a recently discovered mechanism: the trapping of giant waves in the atmosphere. A new data analysis now shows that such wave-trapping events are indeed on the rise. … ”  Read more from Science Daily here:  Trapped atmospheric waves triggering more weather extremes: Trend expected to continue

Climate warming may have unexpected impact on invasive species, study finds: “Rising temperatures may be seen as universally beneficial for non-native species expanding northward, but a Dartmouth College study suggests a warmer world may help some invaders but hurt others depending on how they and native enemies and competitors respond.  The study, which sheds light on the uncertain relationship between climate change and invasive species, appears in the journal Ecology. ... ”  Read more from Science Daily here: Climate warming may have unexpected impact on invasive species, study finds

Reading between the tides: 200 years of measuring global sea level:Global warming and the rising sea levels that come with it may bring to mind catastrophic coastline destruction during storms and mass relocation to higher grounds—or at the very least, a good reason to reevaluate beachfront flood insurance policies. But before we can prepare for whatever impacts a more voluminous ocean may have on civilization, we need an accurate measure of just how high the sea level is, and just how fast it’s rising. NOAA's on that. … ”  Read more from here:  Reading between the tides: 200 years of measuring global sea level

Maven's XKCD Comic Pick of the Week:

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