SCIENCE NEWS: New Scale to Characterize Strength and Impacts of Atmospheric River Storms; Study of brine discharge from Carlsbad desalination plant finds good and bad news; Learning to filter water by studying manta rays; and more …

Anti-Cancer Antibodies, Photo by Pacific Northwest National Labs

In science news this week:

New Scale to Characterize Strength and Impacts of Atmospheric River Storms: “A team of researchers led by Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego has created a scale to characterize the strength and impacts of “atmospheric rivers,” long narrow bands of atmospheric water vapor pushed along by strong winds. They are prevalent over the Pacific Ocean and can deliver to the Western United States much of its precipitation during just a few individual winter storms.  Atmospheric rivers (ARs) are the source of most of the West Coast’s heaviest rains and floods, and are a main contributor to water supply. For example, roughly, 80 percent of levee breaches in California’s Central Valley are associated with landfalling atmospheric rivers. … ” Read more from Scripps Institution of Oceanography here:  New Scale to Characterize Strength and Impacts of Atmospheric River Storms

Study of brine discharge from Carlsbad desalination plant finds good and bad news:  “Before the Carlsbad Desalination Plant in Southern California began operations in 2015, scientists at UC Santa Cruz recognized an important opportunity to study the effects of the high-salinity brine that would be discharged from the plant into coastal waters. Starting in 2014, they collected measurements of water chemistry and biological indicators in the area so they could compare conditions before and after the plant began discharging brine into the ocean.  The results of their study, published January 25 in Water, include good news and bad news.  … ”  Read more from Science Daily here:  Study of brine discharge from Carlsbad desalination plant finds good and bad news

Intense drought in the U.S. Southwest persisted throughout 2018, lingers into the new year: “As part of their year-end national climate recap, the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information reported on the stubbornness of extreme drought in the U.S. Southwest and Four Corners region in 2018.  The animated gif at right [available on click through] shows drought conditions across the contiguous United States every four weeks throughout 2018, starting with January 2 and ending with December 25. Places identified as “abnormally dry” are colored yellow, and increasing intensity of drought is shown in shades of orange to dark red. … ”  Continue reading from Climate.gov here: Intense drought in the U.S. Southwest persisted throughout 2018, lingers into the new year

Learning to filter water by studying manta rays:  “Despite sometimes growing to a large size, manta rays feed on tiny zooplankton, microcrustaceans and mesoplankton with a unique filtration apparatus. Now, scientists are working to find out how the rays filter their food through seawater so efficiently with an eye toward revealing their secret.  Most filter feeders in the world’s oceans are sieve filters. These work by moving water past membranes with tiny pores in them that allow water molecules to pass through—but not tiny prey such as zooplankton. The same principle drains water from pasta in kitchens, for example.  However, manta rays are unique, as Oregon State University assistant professor of integrative biology Dr. James Strother explained to EM as he discussed his recent research. ... ”  Read more from Environmental Monitor here:  Learning to filter water by studying manta rays

You Shall Not Pass: Using Selective Barriers to Block Invasive Species:  “Imagine being on a road trip to visit friends or family, only to find that the road you’re used to traveling has been permanently closed. While humans can typically rely on Google Maps to choose a new route, for fish the closure of a travel route could mean the difference between survival and extinction. The division of a formerly connected areas into separate sections by human-made barriers like dams, known as habitat fragmentation, is a significant problem for many fish species. Many scientists have studied the negative consequences of barriers, such as blocking the migration of anadromous species like salmon, and also dividing once large populations of resident stream fish into smaller, less genetically diverse groups. However, some biologists are investigating whether barriers could possibly act as a useful management tool.  ... ”  Read more from FishBio here:  You Shall Not Pass: Using Selective Barriers to Block Invasive Species

Why charismatic, introduced species are so difficult to manage:  “Introduced and invasive species can present big problems, particularly when those species are charismatic, finds a recently published paper in the Ecological Society of America’s journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.  People tend to have a more favorable view of species that are large; do not bite, crawl, or squirm; are not oily or slimy; or are culturally valued. Some introduced species, like zebra mussels, tend to be reviled by the public, and people willingly adhere to strict management policies. … ”  Read more from Science Daily here:  Why charismatic, introduced species are so difficult to manage

The environmental toll of mining the world’s sand:  “Nothing sounds so dull — even for most environmentalists — as sand mining. But in India, reports of sand mafias cashing in on the country’s construction boom have lately been making headlines. Last month, the issue went viral — a 17-year-old girl named Kavya in a fishing village in the state of Kerala posted a video on a mobile phone app about how excavators and dredgers had invaded her coastal community. “The land beneath our feet is sinking away,” she said. It became a sensation across the country. Bollywood actors backed her, and now the country’s National Green Tribunal, a government body aimed at settling environmental disputes, is to consider the case. … ”  Read more from Yale 360 here:  The environmental toll of mining the world’s sand

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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