SCIENCE NEWS: Researchers find greenhouse gases played role in record-low 2015 snowpacks; Past climates provide a road map to the future; Drones take off in plant ecological research; and more …

microbes-within-a-fracking-well

Microbes in a Fracking Well by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

In science news this week: Researchers find greenhouse gases played role in record-low 2015 snowpacks; Past climates provide a road map to the future; Drones take off in plant ecological research; Some early 20th century earthquakes in Los Angeles area may have been man-made; The history of Colorado River carbon, as told by dead clams; Microplastics in agricultural soil: A reason to worry?

science-calendarResearchers find greenhouse gases played role in record-low 2015 snowpacks: For perennially drought-stricken California, a new study from professors at UCLA and Oregon State University, shows cause for alarm surrounding the record-low snowpack levels of 2015.  The researchers attribute the low snowpack levels to high temperatures caused by both greenhouse gases and, in some areas, a recently discovered enormous patch of warm water in the northern Pacific Ocean, dubbed “The Blob.” In 1977, which was the last year of major snow drought, the low snowpack levels were attributed primarily to lack of precipitation.  “The story in 2015 was really the exceptional warmth,” said Dennis Lettenmaier, UCLA geography professor, one of the authors of the study which was published today in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. ... ”  Read more from UCLA here:  Researchers find greenhouse gases played role in record-low 2015 snowpacks

Past climates provide a road map to the future: Want a glimpse back in time? Then try USGS’s new paleoclimate website. There, you can explore many USGS paleoclimate studies that use information from the earth’s history to better forecast, plan, and adapt to future climate change.  Paleoclimates are preserved in marine, aquatic, and land settings around the world. USGS scientists search far and wide in unusual and exotic locations for clues.  Why Study Past Climates?  Climate change and its future impacts are a critical concern worldwide. Ecosystems, water availability, ocean acidity and circulation, sea-level rise, and natural hazards all interact with or respond to climate change. ... ”  Read more from the USGS here:  Past climates provide a road map to the future

Drones take off in plant ecological research: Long-term, broad-scale ecological data are critical to plant research, but often impossible to collect on foot. Traditional data-collection methods can be time consuming or dangerous, and can compromise habitats that are sensitive to human impact. Micro-unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones, eliminate these data-collection pitfalls by flying over landscapes to gather unobtrusive aerial image data.  A new review in a recent issue of Applications in Plant Sciences explores when and how to use drones in plant research. “The potential of drone technology in research may only be limited by our ability to envision novel applications,” comments Mitch Cruzan, lead author of the review and professor in the Department of Biology at Portland State University. Drones can amass vegetation data over seasons or years for monitoring habitat restoration efforts, monitoring rare and threatened plant populations, surveying agriculture, and measuring carbon storage. “This technology,” says Cruzan, “has the potential for the acquisition of large amounts of information with minimal effort and disruption of natural habitats.” … ” Read more from PhysOrg here:  Drones take off in plant ecological research

Some early 20th century earthquakes in Los Angeles area may have been man-made: A new study from the USGS suggests that some early 20th century earthquakes in southern California might have been induced (man-made) by past practices that were used by the oil and gas industry.  In the new study, scientists evaluated the likely cause of several significant earthquakes within the Los Angeles Basin between 1900 and 1933, together with consideration of available oil industry records over this period.  They found that several damaging earthquakes, including a 1929 event near Whittier, California (estimated magnitude 5) and the 1933 Long Beach earthquake (magnitude 6.4) might have been induced by oil and/or gas production during the early decades of the Los Angeles-area oil boom. During the early decades of the oil boom, withdrawal of oil was not balanced by injection of fluids, in some cases leading to dramatic ground subsidence, and potentially perturbing the sub-surface stress field on nearby faults. … ”  Read more from the USGS here:  Some early 20th century earthquakes in Los Angeles area may have been man-made

The history of Colorado River carbon, as told by dead clams:  “The terminus the Colorado River, its delta, once supported a great expanse of grassland, marshes and cottonwood stands. Today, the land is mostly dry with few signs of life. It’s been dammed to death.  What happens to the carbon stored and transported by a river and its delta as it becomes choked off? A team of researchers from the University of Arizona and Cornell University have been following a trail of dead clams in search of clues.  The Colorado River delta was once rich in clams. Today, their shells litter the dry, brittle ground. They fan out across the landscape like sand dunes. The alluvial clam dunes are called cheniers. … ”  Read more from UPI here:  The history of Colorado River carbon, as told by dead clams

Microplastics in agricultural soil: A reason to worry? Microplastics are increasingly seen as an environmental problem of global proportions. While the focus to date has been on microplastics in the ocean and their effects on marine life, microplastics in soils have largely been overlooked. Researchers are concerned about the lack of knowledge regarding potential consequences of microplastics in agricultural landscapes from application of sewage sludge.  Sewage sludge is in principle waste, but it can also represent a resource in agriculture and horticulture. Fertilizer based on sludge contains valuable nutrients, but sustainable use requires that the levels of undesirable substances in the sludge is kept under control. Waste water treatment plants receive large amounts of microplastics emitted from households, industry and surface run-off in urban areas. Most of these microplastics accumulate in the sewage sludge. … ”  Read more from Science Daily here:  Microplastics in agricultural soil: A reason to worry?

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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