Science news: New report on groundwater and stream interaction in the Central Valley; Challenges of forecasting salmon abundance amid drought and El Nino; Researchers ride atmospheric river to help improve forecasts; and more …

Bennu's Journey, by NASA Goddard Space Center

Bennu’s Journey, by NASA Goddard Space Center

In science news this week: Groundwater and stream interaction in California’s Central Valley; Challenges of forecasting salmon abundance amid drought and El Nino; Researchers ride atmospheric river to help improve forecasts; Unraveling the mystery of the Western Sycamores that weren’t; Klamath Basin refuges: Landowner’s “Labor of Love” expands habitat for local wildlife; “Super sucker” targets highly invasive Sargassum in Southern California; Flooding alleviated by targeted tree planting and river restoration, scientists discover; Dueling climate cycles may increase sea level swings; March El Nino update: Spring forward; and Science can now link climate change with some extreme weather events

Groundwater and stream interaction in California’s Central Valley:  “Groundwater is intimately connected to surface water, which has profound implications for sustainable water resource management. California has historically overlooked this important interaction and as a consequence, decisions about groundwater extractions have generally failed to address the resulting impacts to aquatic ecosystems such as rivers, wetlands and springs. This has contributed to a loss of approximately 95 percent of the historical wetlands and river habitat in California’s Central Valley.   In February 2016, the Conservancy published a study that uses an integrated hydrologic model to reconstruct the historical impacts of groundwater use on groundwater levels and stream flow conditions in California’s Central Valley. The results illustrate how rivers and streams that historically gained surface flows from groundwater now lose surface flows to groundwater. ... ”  Read more from The Nature Conservancy here:  Groundwater and stream interaction in California’s Central Valley

Challenges of forecasting salmon abundance amid drought and El Nino: Each February, the Pacific Fisheries Management Council (PFMC) breaks out a crystal ball of mathematical models to predict salmon abundance on the West Coast. The Salmon Technical Team, comprised of experts in salmon management, is responsible for assisting the PFMC by summarizing monitoring data from the previous season and calculating the forecasts. They use data on the number of fall-run Chinook jacks (two-year old fish) that returned to the Sacramento River the previous fall to calculate a forecasted index of abundance for Sacramento River Fall-run Chinook (SRFC) salmon. This forecast, called the Sacramento Index (SI), is the number of adult fish (ages 3-5) projected to be available in the ocean that will either be harvested or will escape to natural areas and hatcheries in the Central Valley (Figure 1). PFMC uses the Sacramento Index to set salmon fishing regulations for the year. ... ”  Read more from the FishBio blog here: Challenges of forecasting salmon abundance amid drought and El Nino

Science calendarResearchers ride atmospheric river to help improve forecasts:  “NOAA researchers in the air over the Pacific are giving weather forecasters the most detailed look ever at an atmospheric river as it drenches the west coast of the United States with badly needed precipitation.  On Thursday, researchers in NOAA’s G-IV jet covered more than 3,500 miles from Honolulu to Ontario, California, dropping 42 small tubes packed with weather instruments as it crisscrossed the dense stream of water vapor that they have been tracking from the central Pacific. A second NASA research plane captured more data just as the plume was making landfall. … ”  Read more from NOAA here:  Researchers ride atmospheric river to help improve forecasts

Unraveling the mystery of the Western Sycamores that weren’t:  “It was probably not a good feeling when the scientists restoring riparian areas along California’s Sacramento River discovered they had something of an arboreal mystery on their hands. The problem? As trees in some of their restoration sites grew to maturity, they didn’t look like the native western sycamores the scientists were sure they had planted.  “It was a serious concern,” said Greg Golet, senior ecologist for The Nature Conservancy in California, “because it lead us to believe that, well, these trees we’d planted weren’t fully native. And that was not good. Maybe they were a hybrid between native and non-native sycamores, and we knew we’d better figure out what was going on.”  … ”  Read more from the Cool Green Science blog here:  Unraveling the mystery of the Western Sycamores that weren’t

Klamath Basin refuges: Landowner’s “Labor of Love” expands habitat for local wildlife:  “Just off Highway 97, on Miller Island, three miles south of Klamath Falls, Oregon, the Klamath River spills out onto a valley floor. Farms and ranches spread out on either side of the highway, as bare fields and shallow ponds dotted with ducks and geese of all types, cover the basin all the way to the foothills and mountains beyond. The ponds and wetlands serve as important resting and nesting places for millions of waterfowl migrating up and down the Pacific Flyway, and other wildlife. And some of these wetlands are the product of a unique partnership between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and local ranchers and farmers. ... ”  Read more from the US FWS here:  Klamath Basin refuges: Landowner’s “Labor of Love” expands habitat for local wildlife

“Super sucker” targets highly invasive Sargassum in Southern California: A NOAA Fisheries pilot project to test targeted control of a highly invasive brown alga off southern California’s Catalina Island using a giant underwater vacuum tube known as the “Super Sucker” is yielding promising results, say scientists leading the project.  Last year research divers tested the efficacy of the Super Sucker in removing dense mats of the alga Sargassum horneri in several plots off Catalina Island. The method knocked down the Sargassum enough that when divers returned this year they found fewer plants growing in the test plots than in untreated control plots, said Adam Obaza of the West Coast Region’s Protected Resources Division in Long Beach. … ”  Read more from NOAA here:  “Super sucker” targets highly invasive Sargassum in Southern California

Flooding alleviated by targeted tree planting and river restoration, scientists discover:  “A study by an international team of scientists, led by the Universities of Birmingham and Southampton, has shown that strategic planting of trees on floodplains could reduce the height of flooding in towns downstream by up to 20 per cent, according to research published in the journal Earth Surface Processes and Landforms.  Researchers studied a whole river catchment in the New Forest over an area of 100 square kilometres, upstream of the town of Brockenhurst. They wanted to understand how tree planting, river restoration and logjams might affect the ‘peak height’ of a flood in a downstream urban location. ... ”  Read more from Science Daily here:  Flooding alleviated by targeted tree planting and river restoration, scientists discover

Dueling climate cycles may increase sea level swings:  “The tropical Pacific Ocean isn’t flat like a pond. Instead, it regularly has a high side and a low side. Natural cycles such as El Niño and La Niña events cause this sea level seesaw to tip back and forth, with the ocean near Asia on one end and the ocean near the Americas on the other. But over the last 30 years, the seesaw’s wobbles have been more extreme, causing variations in sea levels up to three times higher than those observed in the previous 30 years. Why might this be?  A new NASA/university study has found the differing alignments of two separate climate cycles could be causing these intensifying swings, which occur on top of a global rise in sea level due to melting ice sheets and warming oceans. The findings may help improve forecasts of sea level variations, allowing vulnerable coastal communities to prepare for their increased risk of flooding, erosion and other damage due to higher sea levels. … ”  Read more from NASA here:  Dueling climate cycles may increase sea level swings

March El Nino update: Spring forward:  “The strong El Niño of 2015/16 is on the decline, and the CPC/IRI forecast says it’s likely that conditions will transition to neutral by early summer, with about a 50% chance of La Niña by the fall. In this post, we’ll take a look back at this past winter and forward to what may happen next.  El Niño has begun to weaken, with sea surface temperature anomalies across most of the equatorial Pacific decreasing over the past month. The large amount of warmer-than-average waters below the surface of the tropical Pacific (the “heat content”) also decreased sharply, despite getting a small boost in January. The heat content is the lowest it’s been in over a year, and since the subsurface heat feeds El Niño’s warm surface waters, this is another sign that the event is tapering off. … ” Read more from Climate.gov here:  March El Nino update: Spring forward

Science can now link climate change with some extreme weather events: Extreme weather events like floods, heat waves and droughts can devastate communities and populations worldwide. Recent scientific advances have enabled researchers to confidently say that the increased intensity and frequency of some, but not all, of these extreme weather events is influenced by human-induced climate change, according to an international National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine report released March 11.  “In the past, many scientists have been cautious of attributing specific extreme weather events to climate change. People frequently ask questions such as, ‘Did climate change cause Hurricane Sandy?’ Science can’t answer that because there are so many relevant factors for hurricanes. What this report is saying is that we can attribute an increased magnitude or frequency of some extreme weather events to climate change,” said David Titley, professor of practice in Penn State’s Department of Meteorology and founding director of Penn State’s Center for Solutions to Weather and Climate Risk, who chaired the committee that wrote the report. … ” Read more from Science Daily here:  Science can now link climate change with some extreme weather events

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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