SCIENCE NEWS: Comparing Delta consumptive use, climate change and oysters, hydrogen-powered ferries, Southwest megadrought, gauging a warmer world, and more …

Nitrogenase Complex; Photo by PNNL
Nitrogenase Complex
In science news this week: Comparing Delta consumptive use: Preliminary results from a blind model comparison; Climate change may benefit native oysters, but there’s a catch; Delta smelt: Where do we go from here?; Hydrogen-powered passenger ferry in SF Bay is possible, study says; Megadrought risks in Southwest soar as atmosphere warms; Reservoirs play substantial role in global warming; Even if the Paris Agreement is implemented, food and water supplies remain at risk; Gauging a warmer world

Comparing Delta consumptive use: Preliminary results from a blind model comparison:As California works to improve its official accounting of water for a range of purposes, one major area lacking widely accepted quantification is the consumptive use of water for agriculture, particularly evapotranspiration (ET) from crops. In the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, such estimates are important, along with other hydrologic flows, for a variety of water rights, operational, and regulatory purposes.  Consumptive use is the proportion of water removed that cannot be reused elsewhere in a basin. For crops in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, this is mostly evapotranspiration. In a region’s water balance, consumptive use can become a keystone for estimating groundwater recharge, outflows from a basin, and the availability of water for water exchanges or market transactions. In places like the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta (the Delta), crop consumptive use estimation may have the additional challenges of adjusting for a collection of localized factors such as fog, canal seepage, evaporation from canals, and widely varying wind conditions. ... ”  Read more from the California Water Blog here:  Comparing Delta consumptive use: Preliminary results from a blind model comparison

Climate change may benefit native oysters, but there’s a catch:  “Amid efforts to restore native oyster populations on the West Coast, how are oysters expected to fare under climate change in the decades and centuries to come? Not too badly, according to a study from the University of California, Davis. But there’s a big “if” involved.  In the study, published Oct. 10 in the journal Functional Ecology, researchers investigated oysters in the lab and in oyster beds at California’s Tomales Bay and San Francisco Bay. They found that certain components of climate change may actually benefit oysters in California in the long term, provided they have enough food, because they tend to grow faster at warmer temperatures. Good news? Not so fast. … ”  Read more from UC Davis here:  Climate change may benefit native oysters, but there’s a catch

Delta smelt: Where do we go from here? The endangered delta smelt (Hypomesus transpacificus) lies squarely in the middle of a heated debate over the current state of California’s Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta and how its waterways should be managed. Commonly referred to as an indicator species, or one whose abundance reflects a specific environmental condition, population levels of the delta smelt provide a relative status update to the overall health of the Delta ecosystem. In recent years, it has become apparent that delta smelt, along with several other mid-water species known to commonly occur within the Delta, are being pushed to the edge as population levels precipitously decline. The results of the 2015 and 2016 spring kodiak trawls conducted by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife both showed a record decrease in the relative abundance of delta smelt, with only 13 adult delta smelt collected In 2016. In light of this serious situation, a symposium was presented by the Delta Science Program and the UC Davis Coastal and Marine Sciences Institute on March 29th to discuss the challenges facing delta smelt and to help consider future actions to facilitate their recovery. … ”  Read more from the FishBio blog here:  Delta smelt: Where do we go from here?

Hydrogen-powered passenger ferry in SF Bay is possible, study says:  “Nearly two years ago, Sandia National Laboratories researchers Joe Pratt and Lennie Klebanoff set out to answer one not-so-simple question: Is it feasible to build and operate a high-speed passenger ferry solely powered by hydrogen fuel cells? The answer is yes.  The details behind that answer are in a recent report, “Feasibility of the SF-BREEZE: a Zero Emission, Hydrogen Fuel Cell High Speed Passenger Ferry.” SF-BREEZE stands for San Francisco Bay Renewable Energy Electric Vessel with Zero Emissions.  “The study found that it is technically possible to build a high-speed, zero-emission hydrogen-powered ferry. We also believe this can be done with full regulatory acceptance,” said Pratt. ... ”  Read more from Science Daily here:  Hydrogen-powered passenger ferry in SF Bay is possible, study says

Megadrought risks in Southwest soar as atmosphere warms:  “As a consequence of a warming Earth, the risk of a megadrought — one that lasts more than 35 years — in the American Southwest likely will rise from a low chance over the past thousand years to a 20- to 50-percent chance in this century. However, by slashing greenhouse gas emissions, these risks are nearly cut in half, according to a Cornell-led study in Science Advances, Oct. 5.  “Megadroughts are rare events, occurring only once or twice each millennium. In earlier work, we showed that climate change boosts the chances of a megadrought, but in this paper we investigated how cutting fossil fuel emissions reduces this risk,” said lead author Toby Ault, Cornell professor of earth and atmospheric science. If climate change goes unabated — and causes more than a 2-degree Celsius rise in atmospheric temperature — megadroughts will become very probable, Ault said. ... ”  Read more from Science Daily here:  Megadrought risks in Southwest soar as atmosphere warms

Reservoirs play substantial role in global warming: Washington State University researchers say the world’s reservoirs are an underappreciated source of greenhouse gases, producing the equivalent of roughly 1 gigaton of carbon dioxide a year, or 1.3 percent of all greenhouse gases produced by humans.  That’s more greenhouse gas production than all of Canada.  Writing in next week’s journal BioScience, the WSU researchers say reservoirs are a particularly important source of methane, a greenhouse gas that is 34 times more potent than carbon dioxide over the course of a century. Reservoir methane production is comparable to rice paddies or biomass burning, both of which are included in emission estimates of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the leading international authority on the subject. ... ” Read more from Science Daily here:  Reservoirs play substantial role in global warming

Even if the Paris Agreement is implemented, food and water supplies remain at risk: If all pledges made in last December’s Paris climate agreement (COP21) to curb greenhouse gases are carried out to the end of the century, then risks still remain for staple crops in major “breadbasket” regions and water supplies upon which most of the world’s population depend. That’s the conclusion of researchers at the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change in the program’s signature publication, the “2016 Food, Water, Energy and Climate Outlook,”now expanded to address global agricultural and water resource challenges.  Recognizing that national commitments made in Paris to reduce greenhouse gas emissions fall far short of COP21’s overarching climate target — to limit the rise, since preindustrial times, in Earth’s mean surface temperature to 2 degrees Celsius by 2100 — the report advances a set of emissions scenarios that are consistent with achieving that goal. … ” Read more from Science Daily here:  Even if the Paris Agreement is implemented, food and water supplies remain at risk

gaugesGauging a warmer world:  “World leaders have gathered in Paris to try to hammer out a plan to slow the machinery of climate change. They are guided by scientists who know which gauges to monitor. Here’s how experts say these pieces fit together.  Scientists say the planet is hurtling toward a global-warming danger zone, and humans deserve much of the blame. But how exactly does burning coal or clearing forests lead to glaciers melting, seas rising and oceans overheating? Here’s how experts describe the system. … ”  Read more at the Washington Post here:  Gauging a warmer world

 

Maven’s XKCD Comic Pick of the Week …

 

Photo credit: Nitrogenase Complex, Courtesy of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

 

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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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