Science news & reports: New tool for forecasting ocean conditions, smolt survival in coastal streams, the science-society interface, and more!


Water vapor map for August 2013

Water vapor map for August 2013

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Weekly Science News

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New tool for forecasting ocean conditions in the Pacific Northwest:  University of Washington researchers and federal scientists have developed the first tool long-term forecasting of ocean conditions in the Pacific Nothwest.  The tool is meant to predict factors such as phytoplankton blooms, ocean temperatures and low-oxygen events.  Initial results have been promising:  ” … In January, when the prototype was launched, it predicted unusually low oxygen this summer off the Olympic coast. People scoffed. But when an unusual low-oxygen patch developed off the Washington coast in July, some skeptics began to take the tool more seriously. The new tool predicts that low-oxygen trend will continue, and worsen, in coming months.  “We’re taking the global climate model simulations and applying them to our coastal waters,” said Nick Bond, a UW research meteorologist. “What’s cutting edge is how the tool connects the ocean chemistry and biology.” … ”  Read more from Science Daily here:  New Ocean Forecast Could Help Predict Fish Habitat Six Months in Advance

Smolt survival in California’s coastal streams:  Scott Creek, located in the hills of Santa Cruz County, is a typical coastal stream that supports a population of salmon and steelhead.  Scientists have discovered that the estuary at the mouth of Scott Creek, while only comprising 5% of the stream’s total area, plays an big role:  ” … A steelhead smolt’s shot at survival to adulthood is in large part predetermined by its body size when it enters the ocean — and a fish’s choice of nursery habitat can make all the difference. In summer, a seasonal sandbar forms at the mouth of the Scott Creek, trapping fresh water in a lagoon that usually persists through the fall.  Fish that rear in this lagoon, where the water is warm and the feeding is good, bulk up much faster than their counterparts that rear upstream in the watershed (Hayes et al. 2008). Estuary fish nearly double in size during their summer in the lagoon, and enter the ocean at a larger size than upstream-reared fish, giving them an edge in the ocean’s fish-eat-fish world. Although less than half of the steelhead juveniles migrating downstream take advantage of the estuary for rearing, these fish make up the vast majority (87-95%) of the survivors that return to the watershed as adults (Bond et al. 2008).  … ”  Read more from the FishBio blog here:  California coastal creeks and salmonid survival

Papers from Environmental and Water Resources Institute (EWRI) highlight sustainability strategies and measures:  Three papers have been posted at the California Water Plan website, a result of a recent EWRI conference.  The papers cover  evaluating the resource management strategies of the Water Plan, promoting water resources sustainability through innovative strategies and indicators to measure that sustainability.  You will find the reports listed on this page.

Institutional capacity building and infrastructure at the science–society interface:  A new paper takes a look at the societal dynamics of communicating science. Why is this important?  Because communication disconnects between science and the public can have immense impacts on markets and policy debates, and the way new technologies or scientific breakthroughs are communicated in social settings is at least as important as the scientific content that is being conveyed when lay audiences interpret new technologies or make decisions about public funding for science: ” … This paper explores some of the societal complexities that surround science communication, especially during controversies such as the Bt corn debate: an inattentive public, increasingly complex and fast-moving scientific developments, and the decline of science journalism in traditional news outlets. Based on this overview, I outline four areas in which empirical social science has helped clarify sometimes faulty intuitive assumptions about the mechanisms of science communication in societal contexts. I will close with a set of recommendations about building and sustaining better science–society interfaces in the future. … ”  Read more here from the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science:  Communicating science in social settings

The importance of the global hydrologic cycle:  Water is essential to a wide range of planetary processes, as well as central to other core economic, social and polital issues, so an understanding of the complex hydrological cycle is critical, say Peter H. Gleick , Heather Cooley , James S. Famiglietti and others in this chapter from the book, book Climate Science for Serving Society: Research, Modeling and Prediction Priorities’: ” …” … As society seeks to meet demands for goods and services  for a growing population, we must improve our understanding of the fundamental science of the hydrological cycle, its links with related global processes, and the role it plays in ecological and societal well-being. At the same time, human influences on the character and dynamics of the water cycle are growing rapidly. Central to solving these challenges is the need to improve our systems for managing, sharing, and analyzing all kinds of water data, and our ability to model and forecast aspects of both the hydrological cycle and the systems we put in place to manage human demands for water. … ”  Read more from the Pacific Institute and download the chapter here:  Improving Understanding of the Global Hydrologic Cycle

Reminder: Comments on the second draft of the Delta Science Plan are due Monday, September 16thClick here for more information.


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