SCIENCE NEWS: Salty soils: Can California recover?; Increases in wildfire-caused erosion could impact water supply and quality in the West; CA’s climate future suggests more volatility and a key role for atmospheric rivers; and more …

In science news this week: Salty soils: Can California recover?; The mystery of the disappearing eelgrass in Morro Bay; Wise conservation solution protects owls and aviators at NAS Lemoore; Increases in wildfire-caused erosion could impact water supply and quality in the West; California's climate future suggests more volatility and a key role for atmospheric rivers; New story map showcases NOAA research on atmospheric rivers and their impacts; and more …

Salty soils: Can California recover? Finding fresh water in California, with its unsteady climate and uneven distribution of rainfall, is known to be a challenge. But what to do with that water once it is used has also become a pressing question for the state. The problem is salinization, which occurs when salts such as sodium, chloride, boron, and selenium accumulate in soils or water at a level that is toxic to humans, crops, and animals. According to the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB), increasing salinity in soil, aquifers, and rivers is rendering those resources unusable, and the economic impact could devastate California’s economy (SWRCB 2009). At the 2017 Water Policy Conference, which convened water board members and legal representatives from across the state, panel members expressed concern that not addressing California’s increasing soil salinity could leave residents without clean drinking water in as little as ten years. ... ” Read more from FishBio here:  Salty soils: Can California recover?

The mystery of the disappearing eelgrass in Morro Bay:  “Eelgrass has mysteriously disappeared from the large tidal flats of Morro Bay, California, prompting a new research collaboration to investigate the reasons for the collapse, the potential adverse effects on local fish and wildlife, and how to bring the eelgrass back. Scientists hope what they learn will also help inform eelgrass recovery efforts up and down the West Coast.  Eelgrass provides one of the richest and most productive coastal habitats in the world and is found in cold, shallow waters, primarily in the northern hemisphere. Halfway up the California Coast, Morro Bay has long been known for its vast beds of native eelgrass (Zostera marina), which help protect shorelines, improve water quality, sustain marine and estuarine food webs, and support many fish and invertebrate species. As one of many examples, threatened and endangered species such as steelhead benefit from the food-rich habitat and shelter that eelgrass provides.  … ”  Read more from NOAA here:  The mystery of the disappearing eelgrass in Morro Bay

Solving the unsolvable: Wise conservation solution protects owls and aviators at NAS Lemoore:  “You’d think a little burrowing owl would be no match for a supersonic F/A-18 Superhornet fighter jet, but at Naval Air Station (NAS) Lemoore, in Kings County, California, the diminutive owls posed a safety threat.  According to the Federal Aviation Administration, in 2013 alone there were 11,000 bird strikes at 650 airports across the country.  Burrowing owls often use abandoned ground squirrel burrows for nesting. The combination of a ground squirrel presence and the small owls attracts birds of prey like red-tailed and Swainson’s hawks.  These birds of prey are large enough to cause damage to aircraft. But how do you move the owls without harming them and making sure they don’t return to the same place? … ”  Read more from the US FWS here:  Solving the unsolvable: Wise conservation solution protects owls and aviators at NAS Lemoore

Increases in wildfire-caused erosion could impact water supply and quality in the West:  “A growing number of wildfire-burned areas throughout the western United States are expected to increase soil erosion rates within watersheds, causing more sediment to be present in downstream rivers and reservoirs, according to a new study by the U.S. Geological Survey.  As a number of previous peer-reviewed studies have shown, the area burned annually by wildfires has increased in recent decades and is expected to continue to increase this century. Many growing cities and towns rely on water from rivers and reservoirs that originates in watersheds where wildfire and sedimentation are projected to increase. Increased sedimentation could negatively impact water supply and quality for some communities. … ”  Read more from the USGS here: Increases in wildfire-caused erosion could impact water supply and quality in the West

California's climate future suggests more volatility and a key role for atmospheric rivers:  “Two recently published studies investigating past and future precipitation in California demonstrate that the state is experiencing an increasingly volatile precipitation regime, as rain-heavy winter storms known as “atmospheric rivers” become increasingly intense, and dry periods between storms grow longer.  This makes for more variability in water resources from year to year, with both droughts and floods becoming more likely as seen recently  when historic drought was followed by a record wet year.  The research team behind the two studies includes Alexander Gershunov, a research meteorologist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego. He said that the combined results of these two papers provide “more nuanced” information about the changing climate of California than scientists had before. And it’s not all bad news. ... ”  Read more from Scripps Institute of Oceanography here:  California’s climate future suggests more volatility and a key role for atmospheric rivers

New story map showcases NOAA research on atmospheric rivers and their impacts:  “The NOAA Climate Program Office’s Sectoral Applications Research Program (SARP) created a story map to describe how NOAA research is trying to better understand atmospheric rivers, their impacts on communities, and forecast them. Every year, the U.S. experiences roughly 10,000 thunderstorms, 5,000 floods, 1,300 tornadoes, 2 Atlantic hurricanes (landfall), 100,000 wildfires, as well as several drought events. According to NOAA, these types of weather and climate events lead to 650 deaths and cost $15 billion in damage per year. Roughly one-third of the U.S. economy—some $3 trillion—is sensitive to weather and climate impacts. Continuing to improve our understanding of weather- and climate-related impacts, and how they affect economic activities, provides critical information to help communities better prepare and respond. … ”  Read more from NOAA here:  New story map showcases NOAA research on atmospheric rivers and their impacts

Ocean surveys show poor outlook for Columbia salmon:  “Ocean conditions for salmon headed to sea this year are very poor, according to recent NOAA Fisheries research surveys, and have a high likelihood of depressing salmon returns to the Columbia River in the next few years.  The outlook is described in a recent research memorandum from NOAA Fisheries’ Northwest Fisheries Science Center (NWFSC), which has been studying the ecology of young salmon entering the ocean for more than 20 years. The research has helped reveal how conditions in the ocean affect salmon survival and, ultimately, how many salmon complete their life cycle to return to their home streams and spawn a new generation of fish. … ”  Read more from NOAA Fisheries here:  Ocean surveys show poor outlook for Columbia salmon

Saving Canada's wild salmon policy: Canada already has a forward-thinking salmon policy.  Now it just needs to implement it:  “When Canada’s Policy for Conservation of Wild Pacific Salmon was announced in 2005, it was hailed as a major step forward for fisheries management in the country.  “It was a blueprint for how to manage, rebuild, and conserve wild salmon populations that puts conservation as the number-one priority,” says Aaron Hill, executive director of the Watershed Watch Salmon Society in Victoria, British Columbia. The most important part of the wild salmon policy, as it’s commonly known, is that it includes strategies and actions to achieve its goals, says Hill.  “That’s what makes the policy special,” he says. “It’s not just empty verbiage; it has some actual meat to it.” Or, it’s supposed to. … ”  Read more from Hakai Magazine here:  Saving Canada’s wild salmon policy: Canada already has a forward-thinking salmon policy.  Now it just needs to implement it

Sand? Mine! Our insatiable need for concrete has led to destructive mining around the world. How can we do it better? “I’m standing in the rain looking at a pile of rocks. This is not the kind of view that grabs most people. But for quarry manager Brian Buckley, the 100,000-tonne mound of gravel below us is exceptional. “It’s very high quality rock and very uniform,” he says. “It’s one of the best deposits I’ve seen in the world.”  We’re peering down from a walkway on top of the stacker belt, a conveyor currently pouring a river of wet gravel onto the 30-meter-high pile. Buckley is not alone in his admiration for the freshly washed rock. The aggregate mined here at Orca Quarry on northern Vancouver Island in British Columbia has been a vital ingredient in a bevy of high-profile construction projects on the west coast of North America: the new “spaceship” Apple headquarters under construction in Cupertino; the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge; and the 61-story Salesforce Tower, set to be the tallest building in San Francisco. … ”  Read more from Hakai Magazine here:  Sand? Mine! Our insatiable need for concrete has led to destructive mining around the world. How can we do it better?

Decade of data shows FEMA flood maps missed 3 in 4 claims:  “An analysis of flood claims in several southeast Houston suburbs from 1999-2009 found that the Federal Emergency Management Agency's 100-year flood plain maps—the tool that U.S. officials use to determine both flood risk and insurance premiums—failed to capture 75 percent of flood damages from five serious floods, none of which reached the threshold of a 100-year event.  The research by hydrologists and land-use experts at Rice University and Texas A&M University at Galveston was published in the journal Natural Hazards Review just days before Hurricane/Tropical Storm Harvey inundated the Houston region and caused some of the most in U.S. history. … ”  Read more from PhysOrg here:  Decade of data shows FEMA flood maps missed 3 in 4 claims

Extreme weather is getting more extreme:  “In the past month, Hurricane Irma devastated parts of Florida and several islands in the Caribbean. Hurricane Harvey tore through Houston and other parts of Texas and Louisiana. A magnitude 8.2 earthquake devastated Chiapas and Oaxaca in southern Mexico. Wildfires, strengthened by severe drought in the region, continue to scorch hundreds of thousands of acres of the Pacific Northwest. And floods have submerged entire cities in Bangladesh, India, and Nepal.  So, are bouts of extreme , like what we've seen in the past month, the new normal?  Because of the years of data required to make such a call, it's hard to tell for sure, said Northeastern professor Auroop Ganguly, an expert in extreme weather and infrastructural resilience. What is clear, however, is that something needs to be done to boost preparedness for and recovery from weather catastrophes, he said. … ”  Read more from PhysOrg here:  Extreme weather is getting more extreme

Evidence of sea level fingerprints:  “Researchers from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and the University of California, Irvine, have reported the first detection of sea level “fingerprints” in ocean observations: detectable patterns of sea level variability around the world resulting from changes in water storage on Earth’s continents and in the mass of ice sheets. The results will give scientists confidence they can use these data to determine how much the sea level will rise at any point on the global ocean as a result of glacier ice melt. … ”  Read more here:  Evidence of sea level fingerprints

Taking the long view: The ‘forever legacy' of climate change:  “A century or two from now, people may look back at our current era — with its record-breaking high temperatures year after year, rapid disappearance of Arctic sea ice, and gradually rising sea levels — as part of a much cooler and far more desirable past. The spate of extreme weather events in the past month — which have devastated America’s fourth-largest city, Houston; spawned a massive hurricane that tore through the Caribbean and Florida; and swamped large swaths of India and Bangladesh — may well be a prelude to more monster hurricanes, Biblical rain events, and coastal inundations brought about by extreme weather and vastly higher sea levels. … ”  Read more from Yale 360 here:  Taking the long view: The ‘forever legacy’ of climate change

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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