Science news and reports: Sierra snowpack the lowest in five centuries; Watch 2015 and 1997 El Ninos build side by side; Caltech calls for ‘crazy new science’; Making big data bigger; and more …

Plankton Dance SliderboxIn science news this week: Sierra snowpack the lowest in five centuries; How deep of a precipitation hole is California in?; Watch 2015 and 1997 El Ninos build side by side; Cal Water Fix, Drought and more in the September issue of Estuary News; Caltech calls for ‘crazy new science’ to save the planet; Fall waterfowl migration underway at Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge; Making big data bigger: Sleeker science to inspire water pollution solutions; and more …

Sierra snowpack the lowest in five centuries:  “Snowpack in California’s Sierra Nevada in 2015 was at the lowest level in the past 500 years, according to a new report led by University of Arizona researchers.  The team’s research is the first to show how the 2015 snowpack compares with snowpack levels for the previous five centuries.  “Our study really points to the extreme character of the 2014-15 winter. This is not just unprecedented over 80 years — it’s unprecedented over 500 years,” said Valerie Trouet, an associate professor of dendrochronology at the UA Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research. … ”  Read more from Science Daily here:  Sierra snowpack lowest in five centuries

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How deep of a precipitation hole is California in?  “A BIG one.  ………..(silence)………… Wait, you want more detail than that? One sentence won’t suffice? I suppose that is reasonable request.  In January, after a series of rain events the previous month in California, I wrote an article using analysis from my Climate Prediction Center colleague Rich Tinker that described how much rain/snow was needed by the end of the California water year (the end of September) to get California out of its precipitation hole.  The answer was a lot of precipitation. It would have taken near record amounts of rain across the agriculture-dominated central California – the San Joaquin Valley – to bring the most recent four year period out of the driest 20 percent of years on record.  Flash forward to September and those rains did not happen last year. In fact, California remains extremely dry. … ”  Read more from Climate.gov here:  How seep of a precipitation hole is California in?

Watch 2015 and 1997 El Ninos build side by side:  “The El Niño brewing in the tropical Pacific is on track to become one of the strongest such events in recorded history and may even warm its way past the historic 1997-98 El Niño.  While it’s too early to say if the current El Niño will live up to the hype, this new NCAR visualization comparing sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific in 1997 to those in 2015 gives a revealing glimpse into the similarities, and differences, between the two events. Sea surface temperatures are key to gauging the strength of an El Niño, which is marked by warmer-than-average waters. … ”  Read more from NCAR here:  Watch 2015 and 1997 El Ninos build side by side

Why is it called El Nino and how did scientists figure out what it is? Bare, wind-sculpted dunes march inland from the Pacific coast of Peru. Shielded from the prevailing storm track by the spine of the Andes, some areas of the Sechura Desert get only a centimeter of rain in a typical year. Offshore, cold, nutrient-rich water wells up from the deep ocean, and the north-running Humboldt Current brings a steady flush of cold, nutrient-rich water from Antarctica, feeding one of the most productive fisheries on Earth. But every so often, the current changes direction and the sky breaks open.  In early 1891, a traveler named S.M. Scott was staying near Talara in northwestern Peru when clouds started building on the horizon. ... ”  Read more from Bay Nature here:  Why is it called El Nino and how did scientists figure out what it is?

Cal Water Fix, Drought and more in the September issue of Estuary News:  “This issue is full of grand plans and big ideas. As the drought drags on, the state has revealed its new, scaled-down plans—deconstructed by writer Joe Eaton—for rehabilitating the broken Delta. The Delta and its complicated plumbing and flows are also tackled by nine Estuary experts in our “Pivot” story. We asked them to share their views about old ways of doing things that no longer work, especially with sea level rise and climate change upon us, and their ideas for change. Other stories cover new ideas and technology for monitoring Delta levees, and new methods of tracking even the smallest pollutants—both natural and not so natural—that can affect the health of the Bay and people.”  Click here for the September issue of Estuary News.

Caltech calls for ‘crazy new science’ to save the planet: Delia Milliron wants your windows to stop being so stupid. Mika Järvinen wants to lay waste to the concept of waste. Joel Dawson wants the world’s cell phone systems to save the energy equivalent of 7 million cars, while Yi Cui wants to put you into a shiny new Tesla.  Got your own crazy idea to save the world? Caltech’s Resnick Institute just might honor you next year with its Resonate Award, a tribute it bestowed on each of these scientists this year. For details on the nomination procedure, go here.  Of course, there’s crazy and then there’s crazy. The kind the Resnick Institute is looking for is born of great intellect uninhibited by convention. “Truly disruptive innovation can turn on its head our preconceived notion of how the world can be,” said the institute’s director, Harry Atwater, as he introduced the 2015 award winners at a panel discussion held in Aspen, Colorado, this past July. ... ”  Read more from NASA here:  Caltech calls for ‘crazy new science’ to save the planet

Fall waterfowl migration underway at Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge:  “Water is flowing to the Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge this week and that is great news for the white fronted geese, mallards and pintails that have already begun arriving into the Klamath Basin. Tens of thousands of waterfowl will arrive in the coming weeks, with peak migration expected in late October and early November. It has been said that of all the wetlands in the American West, no area provides more feeding, resting and nesting habitat for migratory waterfowl than the marshes and lakes of the Klamath Basin that spans more than 25-square miles along the California-Oregon border. … ”  Read more from the US Fish and Wildlife Service here:  Fall waterfowl migration underway at Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge

U.S. Fish and Wildlife and CalTrans partnership creates new California Monarch Highway:  “Bay area highways connect thousands of vehicles to their destinations daily and thanks to a new partnership between the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service these same roadways will soon provide habitat for monarch butterflies. Caltrans District 4, which services Bay Area counties including Contra Costa, Napa, San Francisco and Sonoma, will be adding milkweed seeds to some roadside landscaping areas. … ”  Read more from the US Fish and Wildlife Service here:  U.S. Fish and Wildlife and CalTrans partnership creates new California Monarch Higway

Making big data bigger: Sleeker science to inspire water pollution solutions:  “We live in an era of big data, where anyone with access to a computer has loads of scientific treasures at their fingertips. Yet all too often, these amazing resources find themselves with oh-so-small audiences. I know, I know… not everyone gets as excited about data as I do. But, with the keys to many of our biggest challenges out there to discover, we need more hands on deck.  Getting more people more excited about data probably means making it look a little less like… err… data. But, unfortunately, taking big data and translating it to digestible stories that can inspire solutions isn’t many people’s cup of tea. Surely there are folks up for this task, but where can they be found? … ”  Read more from The Equation blog here:  Making big data bigger: Sleeker science to inspire water pollution solutions

Tales of fat fish in food limited locations:  “Food can be hard to come by for fish in harsh environments, such as the dark isolation of freshwater caves. Because caves are typically devoid of light, plants of any kind are limited or absent. Furthermore, the aquatic organisms that would eat these plants or algae, including insects and crustaceans, can also be very scarce. If fishes inside caves can’t scrounge up dinner at home, they must rely on a delivery coming from elsewhere. Most of the food that finds its way to these fishes is “allochthonous,” or derived from outside the waterway. Nutrients often come from nearby terrestrial sources, such as bat guano, decomposing animals, or terrestrial insects. This allochthonous food supply is rarely consistent, and may only be available during pulses in seasonal flow or from other transitory events (Aspiras et al. 2015, Yang et al. 2008). ... ”  Read more from Fishbio here:  Tales of fat fish in food limited locations

Predicting Pesticides in Streams and Rivers: Where is Water Quality at Risk?A new interactive mapping tool provides predicted concentrations for 108 pesticides in streams and rivers across the Nation and identifies which streams are most likely to exceed water-quality guidelines for human health or aquatic life. Citizens and water managers can create maps showing where pesticides are likely to occur in local streams and rivers and evaluate the likelihood of concentrations exceeding water-quality guidelines.  The predictions can also be used to design cost-effective monitoring programs. “Because pesticide monitoring is very expensive, we cannot afford to directly measure pesticides in all streams and rivers,” said William Werkeiser, USGS Associate Director for Water.  “This model can be used to estimate pesticide levels at unmonitored locations to provide a national assessment of pesticide occurrence.” … ”  Read more from the USGS here:  Predicting Pesticides in Streams and Rivers: Where is Water Quality at Risk?

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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