SCIENCE NEWS: Scientists map seawater threat to California central coast aquifers; Water managers explore new strategies to protect fish in the Bay-Delta; GRACE mission: 15 years of watching water on Earth; and more …

Sediment pours into Monterey Bay

In science news this week: Scientists map seawater threat to California central coast aquifers; Water managers explore new strategies to protect fish in the Bay-Delta; This spring and summer, share the shore with California’s tiniest shorebirds; A splash of river water now reveals the DNA of all its creatures; Recovery: Benefits of a salmon failure; Formed by megafloods, this place fooled scientists for decades; GRACE mission: 15 years of watching water on Earth; and Could leftover heat from the last El Nino fuel the next one?

Scientists map seawater threat to California central coast aquifers:  “Researchers from Stanford and the University of Calgary have transformed pulses of electrical current sent 1,000 feet underground into a picture of where seawater has infiltrated freshwater aquifers along the Monterey Bay coastline. The findings, which will be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Hydrology but are available online now, help explain factors controlling this phenomenon, called saltwater intrusion, and could help improve the models that local water managers use to make decisions about pumping groundwater to meet drinking or farming needs. “The hope is that local water managers can use these findings to better identify regions most impacted by saltwater intrusion where targeted management practices can be most effectively implemented,” said study co-author Meredith Goebel, a PhD candidate at Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences. … ”  Read more from Phys Org here:  Scientists map seawater threat to California central coast aquifers

Water managers explore new strategies to protect fish in the Bay-Delta:  “The San Francisco Bay and Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta—known in California as the Bay-Delta—is a 1,600-square-mile estuary and habitat for more than 500 species of wildlife.  The Delta has been heavily modified by humans and the water that flows into, through, and out of the Delta is carefully controlled. … Despite efforts by local, State, and Federal agencies to balance water deliveries and the Delta’s ecological health, the Delta is failing to support sustainable populations of key species like the Chinook salmon and the Delta Smelt. In the face of ongoing drought and declining fish populations, regulators restricted pumping from the Delta. ... ”  Read more from the USGS here:  Water managers explore new strategies to protect fish in the Bay-Delta

This spring and summer, share the shore with California’s tiniest shorebirds:  “While Californians and visitors flock to the beaches this spring and summer, a much smaller resident will share the shoreline: the western snowy plover (Charadrius alexandrinus nivosus).  The small birds, found along America’s western coastline from Washington to Baja California, Mexico, are usually only six inches long and weigh up to two ounces. They have been federally protected as a threatened species since 1993.  Breeding season from March to September is an especially critical time for the birds. They lay their eggs in small depressions in the sandy area of beaches with easy access to the water—the same prime real estate sought after by beach goers for picnicking, walking pets and jogging. Overall, the birds’ nesting habitats are vulnerable to urban development, and other conditions like invasive plant species, predators, beach erosion, high tides or severe weather. … ”  Read more from the US FWS here:  This spring and summer, share the shore with California’s tiniest shorebirds

A splash of river water now reveals the DNA of all its creatures:  “A U.S. Forest Service technician heads out to the Blackfoot River in western Montana and pumps water through a small filter, five liters every time she stops. In a single day, she gathers dozens of samples, bringing back to the lab each of the fine mesh filters that the river water passed through.  The filters contain DNA for species — whether brook trout, stone flies, wood ducks, or river otters — that have swum in that stream in the last day or two, up to a kilometer above the sample site. Every insect, fish, or animal continually sloughs off bits of its DNA — in its feces or from its skin — and just a single cell of the invisible, free-floating genetic material can tell researchers which species are present in a river or other water body. … ”  Read more from Yale 360 here:  A splash of river water now reveals the DNA of all its creatures

Recovery: Benefits of a salmon failure:  “Of all North America’s Atlantic salmon rivers none compared in size or productivity with the 407-mile-long Connecticut River that drains Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Connecticut. But early in the 19th century all strains of salmon uniquely adapted to this sprawling system (at least 25) had been rendered extinct by dams.  Salmon restoration on the Connecticut began in earnest in 1967. It was a dream that energized the fishing and non-fishing public and elicited enormous investments of time and money from feds, power companies and the four states. The partners obtained fertilized eggs from northern rivers (most recently Maine’s Penobscot, the nearest) and reared and stocked millions of juvenile salmon, taking eggs and milt from the few returning adults and rearing more. Each generation was better-adapted. In 1980, 529 adults returned. Success seemed assured.  Then something went dreadfully wrong at sea. … ”  Read more from the Cool Green Science blog here:  Recovery: Benefits of a salmon failure

science-calendarFormed by megafloods, this place fooled scientists for decades:  “In the middle of eastern Washington, in a desert that gets less than eight inches of rain a year, stands what was once the largest waterfall in the world. It is three miles wide and 400 feet high—ten times the size of Niagara Falls—with plunge pools at its base suggesting the erosive power of an immense flow of water. Today there is not so much as a trickle running over the cataract’s lip. It is completely dry.  Dry Falls is not the only curiosity in what geologists call the Columbia Plateau. Spread over 16,000 square miles are hundreds of other dry waterfalls, canyons without rivers that might have carved them (called “coulees”), mounds of gravel as tall as skyscrapers, deep holes in the bedrock that would swallow entire city blocks, and countless oddly placed boulders. ... ”  Read more from National Geographic here:  Formed by megafloods, this place fooled scientists for decades

GRACE mission: 15 years of watching water on Earth:  ““Revolutionary” is a word you hear often when people talk about the GRACE mission. Since the twin satellites of the U.S./German Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment launched on March 17, 2002, their data have transformed scientists’ view of how water moves and is stored around the planet.  “With GRACE, we effectively created a new field of spaceborne remote sensing: tracking the movement of water via its mass,” said Michael Watkins, the original GRACE project scientist and now director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.  Like many other transformations, GRACE began with an insight. ... ”  Read more from NOAA here:  GRACE mission: 15 years of watching water on Earth

Could leftover heat from the last El Nino fuel the next one? Some climate models are suggesting that El Niño may return later this year, but for now, the Pacific Ocean lingers in a neutral “La Nada” state, according to climatologist Bill Patzert of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. The latest map of sea level height data from the U.S./European Jason-3 satellite mission shows most of the ocean at neutral heights (green), except for a bulge of high sea level (red) centered along 20 degrees north latitude in the central and eastern Northern Hemisphere tropics, around Hawaii. This high sea level is caused by warm water. ... ”  Read more from NOAA here:  Could leftover heat from the last El Nino fuel the next one? 

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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