SCIENCE NEWS: NASA data show San Joaquin Valley still sinking; Contaminants in the Bay Delta; California’s rain may shed light on new questions about what causes earthquakes; Slower snowmelt in a warming world; and more …

Hundreds of distant stars and galaxies as seen from the Hubble (Photo by NASA Goddard Space Center)
In science news this week: NASA data show California’s San Joaquin Valley still sinking; Tainted waters: Contaminants in the Bay Delta; California’s rain may shed light on new questions about what causes earthquakes; Defining snow drought and why it matters; Slower snowmelt in a warming world; USGS Publication: ‘State of the Salton Sea—A Science & Monitoring Meeting of Scientists for the Salton Sea’ and More; Restoring predators and prey together speeds recovery; Six things to know about coastal habitat restoration; Your water on drugs; and ‘Atmospheric rivers’ associated with California flooding also common in the southeast

NASA data show California’s San Joaquin Valley still sinking:  “Since the 1920s, excessive pumping of groundwater at thousands of wells in California’s San Joaquin Valley has caused land in sections of the valley to subside, or sink, by as much as 28 feet (8.5 meters). This subsidence is exacerbated during droughts, when farmers rely heavily on groundwater to sustain one of the most productive agricultural regions in the nation. Long-term subsidence is a serious and challenging concern for California’s water managers, putting state and federal aqueducts, levees, bridges and roads at risk of damage. Already, land subsidence has damaged thousands of public and private groundwater wells throughout the San Joaquin Valley. Furthermore, the subsidence can permanently reduce the storage capacity of underground aquifers, threatening future water supplies. It’s also expensive. While there is no comprehensive estimate of damage costs associated with subsidence, state and federal water agencies have spent an estimated $100 million on subsidence-related repairs since the 1960s. … ”  Read more from PhysOrg here:  NASA data show California’s San Joaquin Valley still sinking

Tainted waters: Contaminants in the Bay Delta:  “Contaminants enter our waterways through many sources – they flow in agricultural and urban runoff, wastewater treatment effluent, and oil spills; they leach from industrial waste and the byproducts of historical mining; and they can even be deposited from the air. Scientists currently recognize that contaminants in California’s San Francisco Bay-Delta are at levels high enough to seriously affect wildlife and damage the overall health of the aquatic ecosystem (Healy et al 2016). However, much is still unknown about the composition of contaminants in aquatic ecosystems and how they affect the development and survival of aquatic species. Contaminants are made up of complex mixtures, and affect aquatic life in combination with multiple stressors, both environmental (pathogens, temperature variability, habitat availability, food scarcity, etc.) and chemical (pesticides, metals, trash, personal care products, pharmaceuticals, etc.). FISHBIO recently attended a symposium on this topic titled Contaminants in the San Francisco Bay-Delta: Novel Tools and Approaches to Evaluate Effects of Multiple Stressors, which was hosted by the UC Davis Coastal and Marine Science Institute and the Delta Stewardship Council Delta Science Program. ... ”  Read more from FishBio here:  Tainted waters: Contaminants in the Bay Delta

California’s rain may shed light on new questions about what causes earthquakes:  “In recent weeks, California has experienced unusually heavy rainfall. California is also earthquake-prone, hosting the great San Andreas fault zone.  If there is an unusual surge of earthquakes in the near future – allowing time for the rain to percolate deep into faults – California may well become an interesting laboratory to study possible connections between weather and earthquakes. The effect is likely to be subtle and will require sophisticated computer modeling and statistical analysis.  Earthquakes are triggered by a tiny additional increment of stress added to a fault already loaded almost to breaking point. Many natural processes can provide this tiny increment of stress, including the movement of plate tectonics, a melting icecap, and even human activities. … ”  Read more from The Conversation here:  California’s rain may shed light on new questions about what causes earthquakes

Defining snow drought and why it matters:  “On 12 February, water resource managers at the Oroville Dam issued an evacuation warning that forced some 180,000 Californians to relocate to higher ground. The story of how conditions got to this point involves several factors, but two clearly stand out: the need to prevent water shortages during a record drought, followed by one of the wettest October–February periods in California history.  The situation at Oroville Dam highlights difficulties that many reservoir managers face in managing flood risks while simultaneously storing water to mitigate severe droughts and smaller snowpacks. Central to this difficulty is the idea of “snow drought,” a term that’s gaining traction in both scientific and lay literature.  Snow drought refers to the combination of general drought and reduced snow storage. … ”  Read more from EOS here:  Defining snow drought and why it matters

Slower snowmelt in a warming world:  “As the world warms, mountain snowpack will not only melt earlier, it will also melt more slowly, according to a new study by scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).  The counterintuitive finding, published today in the journal Nature Climate Change, could have widespread implications for water supplies, ecosystem health, and flood risk.  “When snowmelt shifts earlier in the year, the snow is no longer melting under the high sun angles of late spring and early summer,” said NCAR postdoctoral researcher Keith Musselman, lead author of the paper. “The Sun just isn’t providing enough energy at that time of year to drive high snowmelt rates.” … ”  Read more from NCAR’s AtmosNews here:  Slower snowmelt in a warming world

USGS Publication: ‘State of the Salton Sea—A Science & Monitoring Meeting of Sciescience-calendarntists for the Salton Sea’ and More!:  ” … The Salton Sea (Sea) is an ecosystem facing large systemic changes in the near future. Managers and stakeholders are seeking solutions to the decline of the Sea and have turned to the scientific community for answers. In response, scientists gathered in Irvine, California, to review existing science and propose scientific studies and monitoring needs required for understanding how to retain the Sea as a functional ecosystem. This document summarizes the proceedings of this gathering of approximately 50 scientists at a September 8–10, 2014, workshop on the State of the Salton Sea. … ”  Continue reading at the Water Wired blog here:  USGS Publication: ‘State of the Salton Sea—A Science & Monitoring Meeting of Scientists for the Salton Sea’ and More!

Restoring predators and prey together speeds recovery:  “Restoring predator and prey species together helps accelerate ecosystem recovery efforts compared to pursuing restoration of one species at a time, new research concludes.  A team of scientists from NOAA Fisheries, Oregon State University, the University of California Santa Barbara and Imperial College London used models and case studies to examine the pace of species and ecosystem recovery efforts. They found that pursuing the recovery of one species at a time is slower and less desirable — ecologically and economically — than working to recover predators and prey at the same time. … ”  Read more from the Northwest Fisheries Science Center here:  Restoring predators and prey together speeds recovery

Six things to know about coastal habitat restoration:  “Did you know that NOAA’s Restoration Center has been restoring habitat for 25 years? During that time, we’ve restored more than 130,000 acres of habitat — marshes, wetlands, rivers, barrier islands, and more — ultimately leading to healthier, more abundant fish.  Here are 6 of the most interesting lessons we’ve learned along the way: ... ”  Read more from NOAA here:  Six things to know about coastal habitat restoration

Your water on drugs:  “The Clean Water Act focused on water pollution from human sewage outflow, which has now been markedly reduced across the nation. Later we realized that the effective control of water pollution also demands removal of nitrogen and phosphorus, derived from sewage degradation. Many sewage treatment plants now include tanks to remove nitrate by denitrification and to remove dissolved phosphorus by complexing it with other compounds. Still, nitrogen and phosphorus are problematic, causing hypoxic zones to develop in lakes and coastal waters. … ”  Read more from the Cool Green Science blog here:  Your water on drugs

Atmospheric rivers’ associated with California flooding also common in the southeast: Much of the flood-inducing rainfall that has pummeled California over the last month flowed into the region via a river in the sky. But these so-called atmospheric rivers, which transport large quantities of water vapor poleward from the tropics, can wreak havoc in the Southeast as well.  University of Georgia geography and atmospheric sciences researchers provide the first detailed climatological analysis of Southeastern atmospheric rivers in a new study published in the International Journal of Climatology. … ”  Read more from Science Daily here:  ‘Atmospheric rivers’ associated with California flooding also common in the southeast

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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