Science news & reports: El Nino, future observations on extreme precipitation events, Delta’s interior flows and stressors examined, Hamilton Airfield, Farrallon Islands and more …

Subsurface Temperature Anomaly, April 2014
Weekly Science News
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Slow slosh of warm water across Pacific hints El Niño is brewing: “The El Niño / La Niña climate pattern that alternately warms and cools the eastern tropical Pacific is the 800-pound gorilla of Earth’s climate system. On a global scale, no other single phenomenon has a greater influence on whether a year will be warmer, cooler, wetter, or drier than average. Naturally, then, the ears of seasonal forecasters and natural resource managers around the world perked up back in early March when NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center issued an “El Niño Watch.”  The “watch” means that oceanic and atmospheric conditions in the tropical Pacific Ocean are favorable for the development of El Niño within the next six months. These maps reveal one of the most significant of those favorable signs: a deep pool of warm water sliding eastward along the equator since late January. … ”  Read more from NOAA’s here: Slow slosh of warm water across Pacific hints El Niño is brewing

fig4_Ralph_etal_2014_461x354Report on future observations for extreme precipitation and flooding in the western U.S.: “A journal article entitled A Vision for Future Observations for Western U.S. Extreme Precipitation and Flooding by CW3E Director F. Martin Ralph and colleagues was recently published in the April 2014 issue of the Journal of Contemporary Water Research and Education.  The paper describes how new technologies and paradigms using the most recent technological and scientific advances can be used to better monitor and predict extreme storms that lead to flooding in the Western U.S. The strategy is intended to add new technology to existing observational networks rather than replacement.” Read the article here:  A Vision for Future Observations for Western U.S. Extreme Precipitation and Flooding

Tracking pathways of atmospheric rivers

Climate change, El Niño, cold winters, and California’s drought:  It was a winter Charles Dickens would write an opening line about. Parts of the Midwest and Eastern US experienced periods of bitterly cold weather delivered from the Arctic by the jet stream. The West Coast, meanwhile, received very little precipitation—producing a historic drought in California that looms large over the coming summer—as a result of the jet stream zagging in the opposite direction.  The detours of the jet stream were large, and they were persistent. The northward-bending “ridge” shielded the West Coast from moisture-bearing weather that would normally water the Californian landscape and restock the supply of mountain snow that provides meltwater over the dry summer.  Many wondered if climate change could be partly responsible—a question that gets asked about every extreme now. It is, as always, a difficult question to answer, considering the inherent and substantial variability of weather. However, it’s also plainly true that average atmospheric conditions have changed over the past century. The hard part is teasing out the contribution of those changing conditions to specific weather events. … ”  Read more from Ars Technica here: Climate change, El Niño, cold winters, and California’s drought

Scientists weigh best options for the Delta; look at interior flows, stressors: We’re still a long way from learning the best way to care for the Delta; that was the overarching theme emerging from Thursday’s Delta Stewardship Council’s workshop on interior flows and related stressors. But, said panelist Russ Perry, “we are starting to better understand the environmental cues.” Hints at strategies for preserving the Delta’s integrity haven’t always been easy to identify, and more recently, they’ve come through the process of elimination, as neither rainy nor dry conditions have done much to alter the region’s struggling ecosystem. … ”  Read more from the River News-Herald here: Scientists weigh best options for the Delta; look at interior flows, stressors

South Delta tour highlights importance of balancing water supply with habitat: The Delta Independent Science Board has been charged with the monumental task of evaluating the best available science for restoration of the Delta’s ecosystem, and providing a solution through “sound science” to eliminate or reduce many of the stressors currently harming the estuary.  In a tour of the south Delta, the ISB and members of the public were afforded an opportunity to learn about some of the most important spots in the Delta, including the Port of Stockton, Head of Old River, Paradise Cut, Clifton Court Forebay and the Old River Pumping Plant, operated by Contra Costa Water District. … ”  Read more from the River News-Herald here: South Delta tour highlights importance of balancing water supply with habitat

Water hyacinth, debris and counting fish:  “As we do every spring on many of the rivers in California, we are currently using rotary screw traps to enumerate outmigrating juvenile salmon – but this year, you could say conditions are less than ideal. Over the past week or so, many of the rivers in California’s Central Valley have been running high. Water operators temporarily increase flows in the rivers for a “spring pulse flow” to assist outmigrating salmonids in making their way out of the tributaries and through the Sacramento San Joaquin Delta. ... ”  So waht are conditions like out there?  Check out the pictures and video and more at the FishBio blog here:   Houston, we have a problem…

Suisun Marsh: Ecological History and Possible Futures: An interview with Amber Manfree on a new book about the ecological histiory and possible futures of Suisun Marsh, the largest tidal wetland in California. Manfree, a doctoral student of geography with the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences, co-edited the book with center fish biologist Peter Moyle and Peggy Fiedler, director if the UC Natural Reserve System.”

A Long Time Coming, but the Bay’s Back at Former Hamilton Airfield:  “Last week a backhoe knocked a hole in the outer levee at the former Hamilton Army Airfield, letting the Bay seep back onto a landscape that had undergone 18 years of preparation for this moment. Everyone in the Bay’s movement to restore 100,000 acres of tidal wetlands seemed to be on that levee: the engineers who design them, the activists who champion them, the biologists who want more of them to save endangered marsh species, the public servants who sign the permits to dig or fill or disturb them, even the Congress people who get the appropriations to pay for them. What a turnout!  It was a beautiful day of rain and sun, with tiers of gray and white clouds piling up on top of the tiers of mud, water and plants that are this vast new wetland.  … ”  Read more from Bay-Nature here:  A Long Time Coming, but the Bay’s Back at Former Hamilton Airfield

The Drought Could Harm Research At Farallon Islands:As you might imagine, life out on Southeast Farallon Island is pretty rustic for the half dozen or so research scientists who live out there.  “We only shower every four days. There’s a schedule,” said Russ Bradley, the Farallon program manager and a senior scientist at Point Blue Conservation Science.  Situated 27 miles offshore, the research station has to be largely self-sufficient. More than 90 percent of the power comes from solar panels. And the scientists rely on rainwater for household use that is collected in a large cistern with a 100,000 gallon capacity. They use about 25,000 gallons a year, roughly one-quarter of the use of the average family home. Gray water is collected, filtered and used in toilets. … ”  Read more from Bay-Nature here: The Drought Could Harm Research At Farallon Islands

NOAA-led researchers discover ocean acidity is dissolving shells of tiny snails off West Coast:  A NOAA-led research team has found the first evidence that acidity of continental shelf waters off the West Coast is dissolving the shells of tiny free-swimming marine snails, called pteropods, which provide food for pink salmon, mackerel and herring, according to a new paper published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.  Researchers estimate that the percentage of pteropods in this region with dissolving shells due to ocean acidification has doubled in the nearshore habitat since the pre-industrial era and is on track to triple by 2050 when coastal waters become 70 percent more corrosive than in the pre-industrial era due to human-caused ocean acidification.  The new research documents the movement of corrosive waters onto the continental shelf from April to September during the upwelling season, when winds bring water rich in carbon dioxide up from depths of about 400-600 feet to the surface and onto the continental shelf. … ”  Read more from NOAA here:  NOAA-led researchers discover ocean acidity is dissolving shells of tiny snails off West Coast

geo mapThe thin-crusted Sierra Nevada mountains:  Where did the earth go?  “Scientist have examined the seismological study of the entire extent of the Sierra Nevada range using seismograms collected in the Sierra Nevada EarthScope field experiment from 2005 to 2007. The southern Sierra Nevada is known to have unusually thin crust for mountains with such high elevations (peaks higher than 4 km/14,000 ft, and average elevations near 3 km/10,000 ft). Scientists have used measurements of the arrival times of seismic waves (called P-waves) from earthquakes around the globe to image the earth under the Sierra Nevada and neighboring locations.”  Read more from Science Daily here: The thin-crusted US Sierra Nevada Mountains: Where did the Earth go?

Study says wetlands likely to blame for atmospheric methane increases:  “A surprising recent rise in atmospheric methane likely stems from wetland emissions, suggesting that much more of the potent greenhouse gas will be pumped into the atmosphere as northern wetlands continue to thaw and tropical ones to warm, according to a new international study. The study supports calls for improved monitoring of wetlands and human changes to those ecosystems.”  Read more from Science Daily here: Wetlands likely to blame for atmospheric methane increases: Study

The Road to Sustainability: More Nudging, Less Shoving:Behavioral “nudges” to achieve social policy objectives are all the rage — and with plenty of evidence to back up that enthusiasm. So why aren’t they being used more by conservationists?  Based on insights from behavioral economics and psychology, nudges attempt to subtly change the environment in which people make decisions to help them make better choices — better for themselves and for society.  One example: People are notoriously biased toward the present and routinely fail to make beneficial longer-term investments. But governments and corporations have found that they can induce citizens and customers to make such investments by making small changes in their decision environments — such as helping people to set goals or to create ways of making it more costly to themselves to deviate later from their investment plans. … ”  Read more from the Cool Green Science blog here: The Road to Sustainability: More Nudging, Less Shoving

Maven’s XKCD Comic Pick of the Week:

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