Science news and reports: El Niño is here, Drought and climate change linked, Dutch lessons on levee design, beavers saving salmon, CA precipitation summary, and more …

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In science news this week, March 2015 ENSO discussion: El Niño is here, Stanford researchers say California drought and climate change linked – but rain isn’t the only factor, Dutch lessons on levee design and prioritization for California, Beavers are saving California’s wild salmon, California Precipitation Summary, plus embracing unknowns, isolated wetlands, water and the open data initiative, first global rainfall and snow map, and experts say the world’s challenges demands science changes – and fast

(Republished with ENSO blog added)

March 2015 ENSO discussion: El Niño is here: “Over the last several months, we’ve seen warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in the tropical Pacific, including the Niño3.4 region, which we track as one indicator of El Niño. The seasonal Niño3.4 Index has been at or above 0.5°C since September, and the most recent weekly Niño3.4 index was +0.6°C.  The El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is a coupled phenomenon, though, so we also monitor the atmosphere for signs that it is responding to those positive SST anomalies. For the last few months, we’ve been seeing some suggestions of borderline atmospheric El Niño conditions, but until this month we were below that borderline. This month, we’ve finally crept above it, and thus NOAA is declaring the onset of El Niño conditions. … ”  Read more from the ENSO blog here:  March 2015 ENSO discussion: El Niño is here

Stanford research brief: California Drought and Climate Change Linked – but Rain Isn’t the Only Factor:California is currently in the midst of a record-setting drought. The ongoing drought event—which began in 2012—includes the lowest precipitation for any calendar year or 12-month period, the highest annual temperature, and the most extreme drought indicators in more than 100 years of record. The extremely warm and dry conditions have led to water shortages, groundwater overdraft, critically low stream flow, very low mountain snowpack and enhanced wildfire risk. … ” Continue reading here: California Drought and Climate Change Linked – but Rain Isn’t the Only Factor

Weekly Science News
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Global warming brought on California drought:  “California’s severe and ongoing drought is just a taste of the dry years to come, thanks to global warming, a new study finds.  “California’s warming trend is driving an increase in the risk of drought,” said study co-author Daniel Swain, a doctoral student in climate science at Stanford University in California.  A dry year does not always trigger a drought, even in the arid West. But the new report finds that dry years are now more likely to hit during long heat waves — and human-caused climate change is to blame, the researchers said. … ”  Read more from Live Science here:  Global warming brought on California drought

Dutch lessons on levee design and prioritization for California:  Jay Lund writes, “In any lowland, levees define how humans live and how they disrupt native habitats. This is as true for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta as it is for coastal Louisiana, Vietnam and the Netherlands.  Flood safety in the Delta is a statewide concern because the region serves as a hub for delivering water to most Californians and supports native fish.  Like many Dutch lowlands, the Delta became low from the conversion of tidal marsh to farmland. Once diked and drained, peat soils (accumulating over millennia with sea level rise) were exposed to air, decomposed and subsided.  … ”  Read more from California Water Blog here:  Dutch lessons on levee design and prioritization for California

Beavers are saving California’s wild salmon:  “With California’s wild Coho salmon populations down to 1% of their former numbers, there’s growing evidence that beavers – long reviled as a pest of the waterways – are essential to restore the species, writes Maria Finn. In the process, they raise water tables, recharge aquifers and improve water quality. What’s not to love? ... ”  Read more from The Ecologist here:  Beavers are saving California’s wild salmon

varibale precipCalifornia Precipitation Summary now available:  “CW3E and partners from the California Department of Water Resources, CNAP and the Southwest Climate Science Center have released a summary handout describing California precipitation. The seasonality and variability of precipitation for the state are examined in this summary. Special emphasis is on the link between large storms (AR storms) and the total precipitation for a season. The figure above (Dettinger et al., 2011) illustrates that how much variability there is from year to year in precipitation. The green and blue circles over California indicate the largest year-to-year variability is over this state at an order of about half the annual average precipitation. ”  For the summary, go here:  California Precipitation Summary

infographic snowfallInfographic: Too Warm to Snow in California, Oregon, and Washington: “The Cascades and the Sierra Nevada, two major mountain ranges in the American West, experienced record-high temperatures in February 2015. In most areas, even in the middle of winter, it was too warm to snow. Freezing levels were as much as 1,051 meters (3,448 feet) higher than normal, based on the average from 1980 to 2010.  This year’s lack of snowpack — which is below 25 percent of normal in both mountain ranges — means less water than usual will be available in the late summer, when snowmelt is important for farm irrigation, fish habitat, and peak demand in cities. The Sierra Nevada is a water tower for more than 25 million Californians and millions of acres of the nation’s most productive farmland. … ”  Read more from KQED here:  Infographic: Too Warm to Snow in California, Oregon, and Washington

From drifter to dynamo: The story of plankton:  “Melissa Dubose casts a net out into the sea on a crisp winter morning, from a wooden pier overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.  “I come out here every week,” she says. She reels in her net to collect her catch, which appears to be only water, captured in a small bottle dangling from the bottom of the net. Dubose collects sea creatures so small most people never notice them, yet they are critical to all life in the oceans and on land: plankton. ... ”  Read more from KQED here:  From drifter to dynamo: The story of plankton

Buildings may be chasing Southern California’s fog away: Heavy low-lying clouds of water — also known as fog — had been a familiar morning sight along much of coastal Southern California. But fog no longer occurs there as often as it used to. The reason? A half-century surge of building has transformed the area into a heat sink, new data indicate.  City planners refer to this building as “urbanization.” The transformation of wildlands into cities and suburban areas brings in lots of brick, concrete and roads. Acting like an energy sponge, these building materials absorb heat by day. At night, they radiate the stored energy back into the air. This boosts late night temperatures. That heat also limits how much water can condense out of the air near ground level to form fog. … ”  Read more from Science for Students here:  Buildings may be chasing Southern California’s fog away

Embrace unknowns, opt for flexibility in environmental policies, experts say:We make hundreds, possibly thousands, of decisions each day without having full knowledge of what will happen next. Life is unpredictable, and we move forward the best we can despite not knowing every detail.  It’s no different in the natural world. Earth is warming, fish stocks and species counts fluctuate and we’re experiencing more extreme weather. Conservation managers need to act quickly and make decisions about how to address these issues — even though questions remain. That’s the argument of two University of Washington researchers whose perspectives article appears Feb. 27 in Science. … ”  Read more from Science Daily here:  Embrace unknowns, opt for flexibility in environmental policies, experts say

Isolated wetlands can have significant impact on water quality: Geographically isolated wetlands play an outsized role in providing clean water and other environmental benefits even though they may lack the regulatory protections of other wetlands, according to an article by Indiana University researchers and colleagues.  Given those benefits, the authors argue, decision-makers should assume that isolated wetlands are critical for protecting aquatic systems, and the burden of proof should be on those who argue on a case-by-case basis that individual wetlands need not be protected. … ”  Read more from Science Daily here:  Isolated wetlands can have significant impact on water quality

Using every drop of data: The open data initiative:  ““Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink,” intoned the fictional Ancient Mariner as he looked hopelessly over an empty ocean. More water data wouldn’t have helped in his case. In many cases, it does.  Today, as usable water is becoming a matter of increasing concern, the knowledge of water — knowledge based on data that is relevant, timely, and closely integrated — is more and more crucial for American communities, farms, and industries. The same basic data can serve to help us use our water resources more wisely, protect the natural environment, and respond to disasters. … ”  Read more from the USGS here:  Using every drop of data: The open data initiative

First global rainfall and snow map from new earth mission released:Global Precipitation Measurement mission has produced its first global map of rainfall and snowfall.  Like a lead violin tuning an orchestra, the GPM Core Observatory—launched one year ago on Feb. 27, 2014, as a collaboration between NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency—acts as the standard to unify precipitation measurements from a network of 12 satellites. The result is NASA’s Integrated Multi-satellite Retrievals for GPM data product, called IMERG, which combines all of these data from 12 satellites into a single, seamless map.  The map covers more of the globe than any previous NASA precipitation data set and has repeat coverage every three hours, allowing scientists to see how rain and snow storms move around nearly the entire planet. … ”  Read more from NASA here:  First global rainfall and snow map from new earth mission released

World’s challenges demands science changes – and fast, experts say: The world has little use — and precious little time — for detached experts.  A group of scientists — each of them experts — makes a compelling case in this week’s Science Magazine that the growing global challenges has rendered sharply segregated expertise obsolete.  Disciplinary approaches to crises like air pollution, biodiversity loss, climate change, food insecurity, and energy and water shortages, are not only ineffective, but also making many of these crises worse because of counterproductive interactions and unintended consequences, said Jianguo “Jack” Liu, lead author of the paper “Systems Integration for Global Sustainability.” He also is Rachel Carson Chair in Sustainability and director of the Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability (CSIS) at Michigan State University (MSU). … ”  Read more from Science Daily here:  World’s challenges demands science changes – and fast, experts say

Maven’s XKCD Comic Pick of the Week …

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About Science News and Reports: This weekly feature, posted every Thursday, is a collection of the latest scientific research and reports with a focus on relevant issues to the Delta and to California water, although other issues such as climate change are sometimes included. Do you have an item to be included here? Submissions of relevant research and other materials is welcome. Email Maven.

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