Science news and reports: how dust could solve California’s drought, native ecosystems being blitzed by drought as the search for Sierra fish goes from bad to worse, the trouble with minijacks, and more …

Novel ecosystems arise when human activities transform biological communities through species invasions and . They are seemingly ubiquitous, and thus many policymakers and ecologists argue for them to be accepted as the “new normal”—an idea the researchers say is a bad one.Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2014-08-scientific-team-criticizes-ecosystems-policymakers.html#jCp
mojave desertIn science news this week, how dust could solve California’s drought, native ecosystems being blitzed by drought, the search for Sierra fish goes from bad to worse, the trouble with minijacks, you can’t manage what you don’t measure, new satellite data will help farmers facing drought, ASCENDS scientists test new technologies in California skies, map shows Western U.S. may suffer huge reductions in snow, how much do climate patterns influence predictability across the United States, project serves up big data to guide managing America’s coastal waters, and scientific team criticizes adoption of “novel ecosystems” by policy makers
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How dust could solve California’s drought:  “With 80 percent of California in a state of extreme drought, you wouldn’t think dust would be the answer to the state’s water woes. New research presented in San Francisco yesterday suggests, however, that dusty air blown across the Pacific Ocean from Asia and Africa could be influencing precipitation in the region.  In a presentation at a national meeting of the American Chemical Society yesterday, Kim Prather from the University of California, San Diego, described research she is leading into the dust swept westward by the jet stream. The dust—and the tiny bacteria and molecules it carries with it across the Pacific Ocean—is then mixing with other airborne particles like sea spray and smoke to have distinct and variable impacts on clouds and precipitation, Prather said. ... ”  Read more from Scientific American here:  How dust could solve California’s drought

Native ecosystems blitzed by drought:  “Peter Moyle has seen a lot in five decades of roaming California’s streams and rivers and gathering data on the fish that live in them. But last month he saw something new: tributaries of the Navarro River, which rises in vineyards before snaking through a redwood forest to the Pacific, had dried up completely.  “They looked in July like they normally look in September or October, at the end of the dry season,” says Moyle, a fish biologist at the University of California, Davis. … ”  Read more from Scientific American here:  Native ecosystems blitzed by drought

Drought journal: Search for Sierra fish goes from bad to worse: Is the drought hastening the decline of California’s native fish? Will they be able to recolonize once normal conditions return?  To help find out, a team of researchers with the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences are taking the pulse of about 70 streams and rivers across northern and central California this summer, examining habitat conditions and sampling by electrofishing to document the composition and density of fish communities. The selected streams all have data from earlier fish surveys for comparison.  Amber Manfree, a geographer with the center, happily volunteered to help the team last week —”What could beat four days of camping and sampling fish in the central Sierra?” She joined project leader Rebecca Quiñones, researcher Andy Bell and student assistants Scott Perry and Cameron Reyes as they examined about a dozen sites in the Tuolumne River Watershed. The group is midway through the summer-long project. … ”  Continue reading at the California Water Blog here: Drought journal: Search for Sierra fish goes from bad to worse

The trouble with minijacks:  “Early-maturing Chinook salmon males, called jacks, have featured prominently in our updates over the past few years. We’ve observed jacks attempting to mate with larger adult females on field surveys; have pondered their life history patterns (see “Hedging Your Bets…” and “Jumping Jack“); and have discussed how the number of returning jacks in a given year is used to forecast the number of adult Chinook that should return the following year. Recently, a news article from the Columbia Basin Bulletin on the subject of jacks caught our attention. The article focused on a research paper published earlier this year in the Transactions of the American Fisheries Society, which investigated the high frequency of extremely early maturing males, called “minijacks,” among hatchery spring- and summer-run Chinook in the Columbia River basin. The abundance of these precocious males, which can be as great as 71 percent of salmon released, could decrease the overall reproductive success of Chinook salmon in the basin. … ”  Read more from FishBio here:  The trouble with minijacks

California water rights: You can’t manage what you don’t measure:  “California water experts have long known the amount of surface water granted by water rights far exceeds the state’s average supplies. Historically, the over-allocation has not raised much concern; in most years, there has been enough runoff of rain and snowmelt to go around.  But circumstances are changing. California is suffering the third driest year in a century and demands for water are at an all-time high. The huge gap between allocations and natural flows — coupled with great uncertainty over water-rights holders’ actual usage — is increasingly creating conflicts between water users and confusion for water managers trying to figure out whose supplies should be curtailed during a drought. … ”  Continue reading at the California Water Blog here: California water rights: You can’t manage what you don’t measure

New satellite data will help farmers facing drought:About 60 percent of California is experiencing “exceptional drought,” the U.S. Drought Monitor’s most dire classification. The agency issued the same warning to Texas and the southeastern United States in 2012. California’s last two winters have been among the driest since records began in 1879. Without enough water in the soil, seeds can’t sprout roots, leaves can’t perform photosynthesis, and agriculture can’t be sustained.  Currently, there is no ground- or satellite-based global network monitoring soil moisture at a local level. Farmers, scientists and resource managers can place sensors in the ground, but these only provide spot measurements and are rare across some critical agricultural areas in Africa, Asia and Latin America.  ... ”  Read more from NASA here:  New satellite data will help farmers facing drought

ASCENDS scientists test new technologies in California skies: “Scientists, including a team from NASA’s Langley Research Center, will fly through western skies in August as they test laser-based technologies for measuring atmospheric carbon dioxide.  Langley’s contingent will join teams from two other NASA centers aboard a DC-8 aircraft flying out of a NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center facility in Palmdale, California. Plans call for cruising over the Pacific Ocean, forests in Northern California, the Oregon coast and cornfields in Indiana. Flights should wrap up around the end of August. ... ”  Read more from NASA here: ASCENDS scientists test new technologies in California skies

Science Graphic of the Week: Map Shows Western U.S. May Suffer Huge Reductions in Snow:The western United States is undergoing a major shift in precipitation patterns. Large swaths of the West that have historically been dominated by snow in the winter months are starting to see a lot more rain instead. A new study that maps out the predominant form of precipitation shows that this trend could result in an average reduction in snow-dominated area of around 30 percent by the middle of this century.  The western US depends heavily on snowpack to sustain its water supply through the dry summertime, but the new research, published in Geophysical Research Letters in July, suggests this may have to change. … ”  Read more from WIRED Science here: Science Graphic of the Week: Map Shows Western U.S. May Suffer Huge Reductions in Snow

How much do climate patterns influence predictability across the United States? In our post last month, we introduced and defined several climate patterns other than ENSO that impact United States winter climate. But how useful are these climate patterns in predicting U.S. temperature and precipitation in winter and other seasons?  How do they stack up against ENSO, for example? For all seasons combined, upward temperature trends have been observed across much of the U.S., especially in the northern and western regions (Fig. 1). The southeastern U.S. has had a slower warming trend (Livezey and Timofeyeva 2008). ... ”  Read more from Climate.gov here: How much do climate patterns influence predictability across the United States?

Project serves up big data to guide managing America’s coastal waters: When it comes to understanding America’s coastal fisheries, anecdotes are gripping — stories of a choking algae bloom, or a bay’s struggle with commercial development. But when it comes to taking action, there’s no beating big data.  In this week’s edition of Estuaries and Coasts, a Michigan State University doctoral student joins with others to give a sweeping assessment to understand how human activities are affecting estuaries, the nation’s sounds, bays, gulfs and bayous. These are places where freshwater flows into the oceans, and the needs of the people blend with a wide variety of fish and shellfish that support both commercial and recreational fishing. … ”  Read more from Science Daily here: Project serves up big data to guide managing America’s coastal waters

Scientific team criticizes adoption of “novel ecosystems” by policy makers:  “Embracing “novel” ecosystems is dangerous, according to a new study by an international team.  Novel ecosystems arise when human activities transform biological communities through species invasions and . They are seemingly ubiquitous, and thus many policymakers and ecologists argue for them to be accepted as the “new normal”—an idea the researchers say is a bad one. … ”  Read more from Science Daily here:  Scientific team criticizes adoption of “novel ecosystems” by policy makers

Maven’s XKCD Pick of the Week:

Photo:  Ecology of the Mojave Desert, courtesy of Pacific Northwest National Laboratories.

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