Science news and reports: Warming deepening California drought; Fish in hot water; What’s living in the Antioch Dunes National Wildlife Refuge?; NASA report on Central Valley land subsidence; Sea level rise and west coast tidal wetlands; and more …

Eye of a Hurricane

Hurricane Katrina, 2005

In science news this week, Warming deepening California drought; Fish in hot water; What’s living in the Antioch Dunes National Wildlife Refuge?  Plenty, still; NASA report: Groundwater pumping during drought causing Central Valley to sink; Two major aquifers contaminated by uranium; Study shows sea level rise to threaten west coast tidal wetlands over the next 100 years; Toxic blue-green algae pose increasing threat to nation’s drinking, recreational water; Mercury and Selenium are Accumulating in the Colorado River Food Web of the Grand Canyon; and NOAA video highlights efforts to protect salmon during California drought

Warming deepening California drought:  “A new study says that global warming has measurably worsened the ongoing California drought. While scientists largely agree that natural weather variations have caused a lack of rain, an emerging consensus says that rising temperatures may be making things worse by driving moisture from plants and soil into the air. The new study is the first to estimate how much worse: as much as a quarter. The findings suggest that within a few decades, continually increasing temperatures and resulting moisture losses will push California into even more persistent aridity. The study appears this week in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.  … ”  Read more from PhysOrg here:  Warming deepening California drought

Fish in hot water:  “Across the Pacific Northwest, salmon are dying in droves – but the deaths aren’t from any predator, poison, or person. These fish are essentially being cooked alive in their streams. Abnormally hot and dry conditions all over the Pacific Northwest are taking a toll on wild fish and hatcheries. Drought-stricken streams across the region are experiencing lower-than-average water levels. Coupled with unusually hot days, this has turned streams bath-water warm – and they’re far from a relaxing spa for fish. ... ”  Read more from the FishBio blog here:  Fish in hot water

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What’s living in the Antioch Dunes National Wildlife Refuge?  Plenty, still:  “With the metallic clanking of Amtrak’s San Joaquin as it whooshes by and the acridity of gypsum floating through the air, it is sometimes hard to remember the conservation importance of Antioch Dunes National Wildlife Refuge. A mere 55 acres in size, Antioch Dunes is one of the smallest refuges in the United States. At first glance the landscape looks like a large vacant lot that is located next to gypsum drywall factory.  But this large empty lot is the first wildlife refuge in the country to be dedicated exclusively to the conservation of insects and plants, and a home to three endangered species-the Antioch Dunes evening primrose, Contra Costa wallflower, and Lange’s metalmark butterfly. … ”  Read more from Bay Nature here:  What’s living in the Antioch Dunes National Wildlife Refuge? Plenty, still

NASA Report: Groundwater pumping during drought causing Central Valley to sink:  “As Californians continue pumping groundwater in response to the historic drought, the California Department of Water Resources has released a new NASA report showing land in the San Joaquin Valley is sinking faster than ever before, nearly 2 inches (5 centimeters) per month in some locations. …”Because of increased pumping, groundwater levels are reaching record lows — up to 100 feet (30 meters) lower than previous records,” said Department of Water Resources Director Mark Cowin. “As extensive groundwater pumping continues, the land is sinking more rapidly and this puts nearby infrastructure at greater risk of costly damage.” … ”  Read more from Science Daily here:  Groundwater pumping during drought causing Central Valley to sink

Two major aquifers contaminated by uranium:  “Nearly 2 million people throughout the Great Plains and California above aquifer sites contaminated with natural uranium that is mobilized by human-contributed nitrate, according to a study from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.  Data from roughly 275,000 groundwater samples in the High Plains and Central Valley aquifers show that many Americans live less than two-thirds of a mile from wells that often far exceed the uranium guideline set by the Environmental Protection Agency. ... ”  Read more from Science Daily here:  Two major aquifers contaminated by uranium

Study shows sea level rise to threaten west coast tidal wetlands over the next 100 years:  “The U.S. Geological Survey and Oregon State University released a report this week examining Pacific Northwest tidal wetland vulnerability to sea level rise. Scientists found that, while vulnerability varies from marsh to marsh, most wetlands would likely be resilient to rising sea levels over the next 50-70 years. Beyond that time, however, most wetlands might convert to intertidal mudflats as sea level rise outpaces the capacity of tidal marshes to adapt.  “This study provides critical scientific findings to help natural resource managers develop and implement conservation and adaptation actions as the coastal areas of Oregon and Washington prepare for rising sea levels,” said the Department of the Interior’s Northwest Climate Science Center director, Gustavo Bisbal. “Delivering robust science with practical management application is of focal significance to our science program.” … ”  Read more from the USGS here:  Study shows sea level rise to threaten west coast tidal wetlands over the next 100 years

Toxic blue-green algae pose increasing threat to nation’s drinking, recreational water: A report concludes that blooms of toxic cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, are a poorly monitored and underappreciated risk to recreational and drinking water quality in the United States, and may increasingly pose a global health threat.  Several factors are contributing to the concern. Temperatures and carbon dioxide levels have risen, many rivers have been dammed worldwide, and wastewater nutrients or agricultural fertilizers in various situations can cause problems in rivers, lakes and reservoirs. … ”  Continue reading at Science Daily here:  Toxic blue-green algae pose increasing threat to nation’s drinking, recreational water

Mercury and Selenium are Accumulating in the Colorado River Food Web of the Grand Canyon:Although the Grand Canyon segment of the Colorado River features one of the most remote ecosystems in the United States, it is not immune to exposure from toxic chemicals such as mercury according to newly published research in Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry. The study, led by the U.S. Geological Survey, found that concentrations of mercury and selenium in Colorado River food webs of the Grand Canyon National Park, regularly exceeded risk thresholds for fish and wildlife. These risk thresholds indicate the concentrations of toxins in food that could be harmful if eaten by fish, wildlife and humans. These findings add to a growing body of research demonstrating that remote ecosystems are vulnerable to long-range transport and bioaccumulation of contaminants. … ”  Read more from the USGS here:  Mercury and Selenium are Accumulating in the Colorado River Food Web of the Grand Canyon

NOAA video highlights efforts to protect salmon during California drought:NOAA Fisheries, the California Department of Fish & Wildlife, water control agencies and private landowners come together to find ways to ration water for endangered salmon survival during the California drought.

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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