Science news: NASA maps California drought effects on Sierra trees; Stanford scientists find ‘water windfall’ beneath California’s Central Valley; Fish in space: Where the fish are and why we need to know; and more …

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In science news this week: NASA maps California drought effects on Sierra trees; Stanford scientists find ‘water windfall’ beneath California’s Central Valley; Fish in space: Where the fish are and why we need to know; Climate change adaptation, the dust-up on Buckler Island, and more highlighted in the lastest issue of ESTUARY News; Beach replenishment helps protect against storm erosion during El Nino; For nature, gravel-fed rivers are most important feature in mountainous western North America; Ocean forecast offers seasonal outlook for Pacific Northwest waters; and the life and death of El Nino

NASA maps California drought effects on Sierra trees:  “A new map created with measurements from an airborne instrument developed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, reveals the devastating effect of California’s ongoing drought on Sierra Nevada conifer forests. The map will be used to help the U.S. Forest Service assess and respond to the impacts of increased tree mortality caused by the drought, particularly where wildlands meet urban areas within the Sierra National Forest.  After several years of extreme drought, the highly stressed conifers (trees that produce cones and are usually green year-round) of the Sierra Nevada are now more susceptible to bark beetles (Dendroctonus spp.). While bark beetles killing trees in the Sierra Nevada is a natural phenomenon, the scale of mortality in the last couple of years is far greater than previously observed. ... ” Read more from NASA here:  NASA maps California drought effects on Sierra trees

Stanford scientists find ‘water windfall’ beneath California’s Central Valley: California’s drought-stricken Central Valley harbors three times more groundwater than previously estimated, Stanford scientists have found. Accessing this water in an economically feasible way and safeguarding it from possible contamination from oil and gas activities, however, will be challenging.  The discovery of a vast quantity of groundwater under California’s Central Valley is tempered by the need to protect it from contamination, especially by oil and gas extraction.  “It’s not often that you find a ‘water windfall,’ but we just did,” said study co-author Robert Jackson, the Michelle and Kevin Douglas Provostial Professor at Stanford. “There’s far more fresh water and usable water than we expected.”  The research, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences the week of June 27, highlights the need to better characterize and protect deep groundwater aquifers not only in California but in other parched regions as well. … ”  Read more from Stanford News here:  Stanford scientists find ‘water windfall’ beneath California’s Central Valley  Read the article at PNAS here:  Salinity of deep groundwater: Water quantity, qualtity, and protection

Fish in space: Where the fish are and why we need to know: Fish have to swim – and as a result, most fish are constantly on the move, some displaying very complex migration patterns over the course of their lifetimes. An article published earlier this year in the journal Environmental Monitoring and Assessment (Cooke et al. 2016) describes the essential value of spatial ecology to fisheries management and conservation. Spatial ecology is the study of how populations are distributed over different locations at given points in time, and the processes that influence those distributions – it’s actually a key part of the work we do at FISHBIO. Knowing where and when fish are present is central to identifying critical habitats, understanding how human activities influence fish populations, understanding interactions between species, and determining effective management strategies (Cooke et al. 2016).  ... ”  Read more from the FishBio blog here:  Fish in space: Where the fish are and why we need to know

Climate change adaptation, the dust-up on Buckler Island, and more highlighted in the lastest issue of ESTUARY News:  “This issue of ESTUARY News magazine covers the latest on climate change adaptation with the watershed — from managing forests to increase snowpack above the San Joaquin Valley to reimagining a derelict urban shipyard and prioritizing shoreline investments based on new decision making tools. Other stories preview the 2016 CCMP and delve into its history, and touch on topics like offshore responses to global warming and innovations in pipe replacement for utilities struggling with aging infrastructure.”  Click here to read the issue (PDF download).

Beach replenishment helps protect against storm erosion during El Nino:A team of researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego compared sand levels on several San Diego beaches during the last seven winters. The El Niños of winter 2009-10 and 2015-16 were the two most erosive. Three San Diego County beaches that received imported sand in 2012 were about 10 meters (33 feet) wider, and one to two meters (three to six feet) higher in 2015-16 than in 2009-10, with the coarseness of the sand apparently aiding the effectiveness of the effort.  In contrast, Torrey Pines State Beach, which had received no recent sand infusions, had slightly more erosion than in 2009-10.  “After sand is lifted off the ocean floor by waves, coarse grains fall more quickly to the bottom than finer grains, making it more difficult for the currents to move them around,” said study leader Bonnie Ludka, a former Scripps graduate student partially supported by a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. … ” Read more from Science Daily here:  Beach replenishment helps protect against storm erosion during El Nino

For nature, gravel-fed rivers are most important feature in mountainous western North America: Gravel-bed river floodplains are some of the most ecologically important habitats in North America, according to a new study by scientists from the U.S. and Canada. Their research shows how broad valleys coming out of glaciated mountains provide highly productive and important habitat for a large diversity of aquatic, avian and terrestrial species.  This is the first interdisciplinary research at the regional scale to demonstrate the importance of gravel-bed rivers to the entire ecosystem. … ”  Read more from Science Daily here:  For nature, gravel-fed rivers are most important feature in mountainous western North America

Ocean forecast offers seasonal outlook for Pacific Northwest waters: By now we are used to the idea of seasonal weather forecasts — whether to expect an El Niño ski season, or an unusually warm summer. These same types of climate models are now being adapted to make seasonal forecasts for the region’s coastal waters.  Researchers from the University of Washington and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have created a seasonal outlook for the Pacific Northwest waters, which would help tell if it’s going to be a great year for sardines or a poor crab season. A paper evaluating the forecast’s performance was published in June in the interdisciplinary, open-access journal Nature: Scientific Reports. … ” Read more from Science Daily here:  Ocean forecast offers seasonal outlook for Pacific Northwest waters

The life and death of El Nino: Over the last couple of months, we’ve been witnessing a tremendous fall from the peak of one of the strongest El Niño events on record.  Sea surface temperatures in the Niño-3.4 region of the east-central equatorial Pacific Ocean have cooled down over three degrees Fahrenheit since January!   The collapse of El Niño was well predicted because El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) events are almost always strongest during the Northern Hemisphere winter (1).  So, the seeds of destruction are sown into most El Niño events, but what exactly are they? To understand the demise of El Niño, one needs to understand why and how ENSO evolves.   The entire ENSO lifecycle describes the birth, growth, maturation, and death of warm (El Niño) and cool (La Niña) phases.  When and why ENSO events get their start is still a bit of a mystery to us and is why forecasting remains challenging.  The death of ENSO is slightly more predictable, but still not preordained (2).  While ENSO events don’t always die in the spring or summer, there are times—like recently!—when it’s clear that a eulogy needs to be written.  … ”  Read more from the ENSO blog here:  The life and death of El Nino

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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