SCIENCE NEWS: Storms filled 37% of California’s snow-water deficit; Which sources of blue carbon measure up to the mitigation challenge?; Publication: Communicating science effectively; and more …

Deep sea coral community; photo by NOAA.

In science news this week: Storms filled 37% of California's snow-water deficit; Winter weather keeps CA Water Science Center field crews busy; A drought-quenching deluge; Evaporation from the Golden State; Coastal wetlands excel at storing carbon; Which sources of blue carbon measure up to the mitigation challenge?; Toxic mercury in aquatic life could spike with greater land runoff; Floating towards water treatment; Publication: Communicating science effectively; and La Nina, did you orchestrate this?

Storms filled 37% of California's snow-water deficit:  “The “atmospheric river” weather patterns that pummeled California with storms from late December to late January may have recouped 37 percent of the state’s five-year snow-water deficit, according to new University of Colorado Boulder-led research using NASA satellite data.  Researchers at the university's Center for Water Earth Science and Technology (CWEST) estimate that two powerful recent storms deposited roughly 17.5-million acre feet (21.6 cubic kilometers) of water on California’s Sierra Nevada range in January. Compared to averages from the pre-drought satellite record, that amount represents more than 120 percent of the typical annual snow accumulation for this range. Snowmelt from the range is a critical water source for the state's agriculture, hydropower generation and municipal water supplies. ... ”  Read more from NASA here:  Storms filled 37% of California’s snow-water deficit

science-calendarWinter weather keeps CA Water Science Center field crews busy:  “It’s been a wet and snowy winter so far throughout much of California. For many Californians, that means keeping dry inside, avoiding dangerous roads, and listening closely for the rare clap of thunder. For field crews at the U.S. Geological Survey California Water Science Center (CAWSC), however, wet weather means piling on safety gear and chasing storms to make real-time high-flow and flood measurements at swollen rivers, creeks, and waterways throughout the state.  CAWSC – in cooperation with agencies around the state – runs and maintains a network of more than 500 streamgages throughout California. This is part of a larger National Streamgage Network the USGS operates, which has more than 7,000 stations around the country. USGS streamgage data play a critical role in emergency preparedness and water resource management, providing accurate, reliable, real-time data to help officials keep communities safe during and after storms. … ”  Read more from the USGS here:  Winter weather keeps CA Water Science Center field crews busy

A drought-quenching deluge:  “Many areas in California are still recovering from the previous weeks of torrential rainfall, caused by an atmospheric river. As large amounts of precipitation have swept across the western United States, storms have created extreme flooding, mudslides, and several power outages. While powerful atmospheric rivers can cause tremendous damage, they also supply an average of 30-50% of the annual precipitation experienced along the West Coast. California receives almost half of its yearly precipitation during just 5-10 days per year (Dettinger 2016). Due to such a high percentage of rain and snowfall over a short period of time, these storms can dictate whether or not California will remain in drought or have an above-average precipitation year. It appears that despite previous predictions, atmospheric rivers have brought enough precipitation to relieve most of California of its current extended drought. … ”  Read more from the FishBio blog here:  A drought-quenching deluge

Evaporation from the Golden State:  “More than 25 years ago, David Rind of NASA published a paper with compelling logic about the effects of global warming on drought. He noted that most of the water that forms rainfall is derived from evaporation from the oceans and that the oceans (like lakes in spring) are likely to warm up more slowly than the surrounding land. The rate of evaporation from the oceans’ surface will lag behind the increase in atmospheric temperature recorded on land. Meanwhile, as the Earth warms, there will be increasing evaporation from the land surface. Overall, a warmer Earth will have a hotter and drier land surface, particularly in the central portions of the continents.  Let’s focus on California, where the years with significant rainfall are associated with El Niño conditions, when warm waters gather along the west coast of South America. … ”  Read more from the Cool Green Science blog here:  Evaporation from the Golden State

Coastal wetlands excel at storing carbon:  “In the global effort to mitigate carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, all options are on the table — including help from nature. Recent research suggests that healthy, intact coastal wetland ecosystems such as mangrove forests, tidal marshes and seagrass meadows are particularly good at drawing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing it for hundreds to thousands of years.  Policymakers are interested to know whether other marine systems — such as coral reefs, kelp forests, phytoplankton and fish — can mitigate climate effects. A new analysis co-authored by a University of Maryland scientist suggests that, while coastal wetlands serve as effective “blue carbon” storage reservoirs for carbon dioxide, other marine ecosystems do not store carbon for long periods of time. … ”  Read more from Science Daily here:  Coastal wetlands excel at storing carbon

Which sources of blue carbon measure up to the mitigation challenge?  “Natural climate mitigation: using nature to help buffer rising atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. It’s a hot topic amongst conservationists, and there’s no doubt that natural systems, like the oceans, will play a big role in helping the world’s nations avert more than 2 degrees Celsius of warming. But exactly which ocean systems have the greatest potential? Could phytoplankton be the key to climate mitigation? Or coral reefs?  According to new research published by Nature Conservancy scientists in Frontiers in Ecology & the Environment, countries and conservationists looking to implement carbon mitigation strategies using natural ecosystems should prioritize three coastal habitats — mangrove forests, tidal marshes, and seagrass meadows. … ”  Read more from the Cool Green Science blog here:  Which sources of blue carbon measure up to the mitigation challenge?

Toxic mercury in aquatic life could spike with greater land runoff:  “A highly toxic form of mercury could jump by 300 to 600 percent in zooplankton — tiny animals at the base of the marine food chain — if land runoff increases by 15 to 30 percent, according to a new study.  And such an increase is possible due to climate change, according to the pioneering study by Rutgers University and other scientists published in Science Advances.  “With climate change, we expect increased precipitation in many areas in the Northern Hemisphere, leading to more runoff,” said Jeffra K. Schaefer, study coauthor and assistant research professor in Rutgers' Department of Environmental Sciences. “That means a greater discharge of mercury and organic carbon to coastal ecosystems, which leads to higher levels of mercury in the small animals living there. ... ”  Read more from Science Daily here:  Toxic mercury in aquatic life could spike with greater land runoff

Floating towards water treatment:  “Floating wetlands may seem odd but are perfectly natural. They occur when mats of vegetation break free from the shore of a body of water. That got ecological engineers curious about how they affect the water they bob up and down in.  A group from Saint Francis University in Pennsylvania and the University of Oklahoma, including researcher William Strosnider, has found that the floating wetlands show promise for water treatment. They engineered four different floating treatment wetlands designs using different materials and wetland plants.  “The main result is that engineered floating treatment wetlands could affect water quality in many of the same ways that naturally-occurring floating wetlands do,” Strosnider says. ... ”  Read more from Science Daily here:  Floating towards water treatment

Publication: Communicating science effectively:  “Science and technology are embedded in virtually every aspect of modern life. As a result, people face an increasing need to integrate information from science with their personal values and other considerations as they make important life decisions about medical care, the safety of foods, what to do about climate change, and many other issues. Communicating science effectively, however, is a complex task and an acquired skill. Moreover, the approaches to communicating science that will be most effective for specific audiences and circumstances are not obvious. Fortunately, there is an expanding science base from diverse disciplines that can support science communicators in making these determinations. … ”  Read more and download free PDF from the National Academies Press here:  Publication: Communicating science effectively

La Nina, did you orchestrate this? Imagine an orchestra playing your favorite concerto or film score, each instrument contributing its share to the entire piece. Sometimes one of them seems to lead the others, to become soon after just another thread in the musical tapestry, no more important than any other instrument.  Like in concertos, sometimes ENSO (El Niño-Southern Oscillation, as climate scientists call the El Niño & La Niña phenomenon) seems to lead what we could call the “climate symphony,” especially during strong events like the 1988-89 La Niña, or the 1997-98 and 2015-16 Los Niños (the plural of “El Niño” in Spanish).  At other times, like the present weak La Niña, the competing effects of other climate phenomena can be so important that they modify the typical ENSO rainfall patterns in several parts of the world. If we are listening for a moment of dissonance in the climate concerto, let’s replay the score of South America’s rainfall last month, for example. … ”  Read more from the ENSO blog here:  La Nina, did you orchestrate this?

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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