Science news and reports: High temperatures threaten Sacramento River’s fall-run King salmon, North Pacific warmth jostles marine food chain, the fickle El Nino of 2014, Peter Gleick on climate change and water resources, and more …

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In science news this week, high temperatures threaten Sacramento River’s fall-run King salmon, the salmon mega-model, Salmon Cam 2014, Unusual North Pacific warmth jostles marine food chain, Changes in coastal upwelling linked to temporary declines in marine ecosystem, Revealing plankton pigments, the fickle El Nino of 2014, No El Niño yet, but temperatures in tropical atmosphere are already warm, Our disappearing snows: Climate change and water resources, Signs in groundwater may predict earthquakes six months in advance, Small fish test helps target PCB cleanups, and lastly … TROUTS and EELS in a SINISTER PACT to RULE the oceans!

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High temperatures threaten Sacramento River’s fall-run King salmon:  “Salmon eggs need river temperatures of 56 degrees or less to survive; at 62 degrees there is a 100 percent mortality rate. So when areas of the Sacramento River hit the low 60s in late August, it made a big splash.  The early fall Chinook (also known as king) spawning run is now taking place between Red Bluff and Redding, but prolonged drought has led to reduced flows from Lake Shasta and high water temperatures down river, a situation that could deal many egg nests a death blow. The dangerously warm water recently prompted the Golden Gate Salmon Association — a Petaluma-based coalition of salmon advocates — to call on federal and state agencies to act. ... ” Read more from Bay Nature here: High Temperatures Threaten Sacramento River’s Fall-Run King Salmon

The salmon mega-model: Fisheries scientists often get called on to make assessments or predictions about the current or future state of fish populations. But short of a crystal ball, the most powerful tools scientists have to predict the future are mathematical models. Simply put, the goal of modeling is to define a mathematical expression that quantifies the relationships between different natural and human-derived processes. If the expression accurately reflects reality, researchers can make reasonable predictions about how a fish population may change under different scenarios, such as different temperatures or water flows. Models drive or inform nearly every aspect of fisheries management today, and sometimes consist of extremely complex networks of physical and biological interactions. Models can be used to describe the life cycle of a species, estimate the abundance of a population, or evaluate how different management actions could affect threatened or endangered salmon stocks. ... ”  Read more from the FishBio blog here:  The salmon mega-model

It’s back: Salmon Cam 2014: A live look at migratory fish:  “This fall, we’re pleased to return Salmon Cam, a live view at the Chinook and coho salmon and steelhead trout that are spawning on The Nature Conservancy in California’s Shasta Big Springs Ranch.  Last year, more than 7,500 Chinook salmon made their way back to the Shasta River, and many were able to be viewed as they swam past Salmon Cam.  Six years ago, you could have watched this camera for hours and likely would not have seen a salmon. ... ”  Read more from the Cool Green Science blog here:  Salmon Cam 2014: A live look at migratory fish

Unusual North Pacific warmth jostles marine food chain: Scientists across NOAA Fisheries are watching a persistent expanse of exceptionally warm water spanning the Gulf of Alaska that could send reverberations through the marine food web. The warm expanse appeared about a year ago and the longer it lingers, the greater potential it has to affect ocean life from jellyfish to salmon, researchers say.  “Right now it’s super warm all the way across the Pacific to Japan,” said Bill Peterson, an oceanographer with NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Newport, Ore., who has linked certain ocean indicators to salmon returns. “For a scientist it’s a very interesting time because when you see something like this that’s totally new you have opportunities to learn things you were never expecting.” … ”  Read more from the Northwest Fisheries Science Center here: Unusual North Pacific warmth jostles marine food chain

Changes in coastal upwelling linked to temporary declines in marine ecosystem: In findings of relevance to conservationists and the fishing industry, new research links short-term reductions in growth and reproduction of marine animals off the California coast to increasing variability in the strength of coastal upwelling currents — currents that supply nutrients to the region’s diverse ecosystem.  Along the west coast of North America, winds lift deep, nutrient-rich water into sunlit surface layers, fueling vast phytoplankton blooms that ultimately support fish, seabirds and marine mammals. … ”  Read more from Science Daily here: Changes in coastal upwelling linked to temporary declines in marine ecosystem

Revealing plankton pigments: Keeping tabs on San Francisco Bay’s wildlife involves counting plants. That means tracking the relative numbers and types of the microscopic floating plants that feed the Bay. “Some are like the kale of the sea, others are like french fries,” says Jim Cloern, a scientist who monitors Bay food webs for the U.S. Geological Survey. Understanding which phytoplankton are in the Bay can help scientists predict booms and busts in fish populations, forecast toxic algal blooms, and warn seafood eaters of potential danger. Microscopic analysis to provide this information can be costly and time consuming, but scientist Misty Peacock has been pioneering a faster cheaper approach. … ”  Read more from Estuary News here:  Revealing plankton pigments

El NinoThe fickle El Nino of 2014:  “Prospects have been fading for an El Niño event in 2014, but now there’s a glimmer of hope for a very modest comeback. Scientists warn that unless these developing weak-to-modest El Niño conditions strengthen, the drought-stricken American West shouldn’t expect any relief.  The latest sea-level-height data from the NASA/European Ocean Surface Topography Mission (OSTM)/Jason-2 satellite mission show a pair of eastward-moving waves of higher sea level, known as Kelvin waves, in the Pacific Ocean — the third such pair of waves this year. Now crossing the central and eastern equatorial Pacific, these warm waves appear as the large area of higher-than-normal sea surface heights (warmer-than-normal ocean temperatures) hugging the equator between 120 degrees west and the International Dateline. The Kelvin waves are traveling eastward and should arrive off Ecuador in late September and early October. … ”  Continue reading at JPL here:  The fickle El Nino of 2014

No El Niño yet, but temperatures in tropical atmosphere are already warm: In mid-July 2014, Michelle hypothesized that the reason El Niño was having trouble getting started was that although eastern Pacific sea surface temperatures (SST) were above average, they weren’t being felt by the atmosphere (1). While the central and eastern Pacific were warm, so were the western Pacific and Indian Ocean—so the SST gradient was small (2)—and the gradient is one factor that matters to the atmosphere, because it drives the winds.  That is a convincing explanation for why the SST anomalies in the eastern Pacific have not led to a full blown El Niño yet.  In this post, though, I want to explore a different way in which the ocean influences the atmosphere, through the temperature of the entire tropical atmosphere. … ”  Read more from the ENSO blog here: No El Niño yet, but temperatures in tropical atmosphere are already warm

Our disappearing snows: Climate change and water resources:  Peter Gleick writes:  “As the Earth has warmed over the past 30 years, the global water cycle has begun to change. In particular, our snows have begun to disappear. The implications for the water systems we’ve built and operate are vast and pervasive. And despite decades of research, observations, and outreach to water managers, we’re not ready.  Nearly three decades ago, as a young graduate student at the Energy and Resources Group at the University of California, Berkeley, I published initial results from the core of my doctoral dissertation to integrate regional hydrologic models with output from the three major general circulation models of the climate in operation in the United States. … ”  Read more from Peter Gleick at the Huffington Post here:  Our disappearing snows: Climate change and water resources

Signs in groundwater may predict earthquakes six months in advance:  “Scientists searching for a way to predict earthquakes have uncovered the most promising lead yet, after uncovering tell-tale chemical spikes in groundwater up to six months before tremors struck.  Major earthquakes can kill hundreds of thousands of people, as in Haiti in 2010, but they are the only natural disaster that cannot currently be forecast. Some experts think a useful prediction of time, place and magnitude may be an impossible dream. Previously, scientists have examined radon gas leaks, heat maps and even unusual animal behaviour as possible earthquake indicators, without success. … ”  Read more from The Guardian here:  Signs in groundwater may predict earthquakes six months in advance

Small fish test helps target PCB cleanups:  “Jay Davis didn’t expect much from a pilot test for PCBs in silversides and topsmelt that live on the edges of the San Francisco Bay. PCBs, a toxicant linked to cancer, accumulate in fat as bigger creatures eat littler ones, so Davis assumed concentrations would be lower in small fish than in larger sport fish. The pilot study revealed the opposite was true. “This is why we do measurements,” says Davis. … ”  Read more from Estuary News here: Small Fish Test Helps Target PCB Clean Up

And lastly … TROUTS and EELS in a SINISTER PACT to RULE the oceans!  [Cue scary B music movie stunner here]:  Jasper Hamill has all the details:  “Boffins have observed a worrying alliance between trout and eels, which have joined forces to launch a sea-had (jihad, geddit?) against other ocean-dwelling species.  Cooperation is as rare in the animal kingdom as it is in the United one, so fish-folk at the University of Cambridge were astonished to see two different underwater species working together.  They found that coral trout and eels actually cooperate as well or even better than chimpanzees, which are humanity’s closest relatives. … ”  Read more from The Register here: TROUT and EELS in SINISTER PACT to RULE the oceans

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