Conservation Science News April 26, 2013

Highlight of the Week










Highlight of the Week


Global Ponzi Scheme: We’re Taking $7.3 Trillion A Year In Natural Capital From Our Children Without Paying For It

Posted: 23 Apr 2013 09:29 AM PDT




Last week, David Roberts over at Grist flagged
a report carried out by the environmental consultant group Trucost, at the behest of The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity over at the United Nations. The idea behind the report was simple. Tally up all the world’s natural capital — land, water, atmosphere, etc. — that doesn’t currently have a dollar value attached to it, and figure out the price. But the next step was where it got interesting. Figure how much of that natural capital is being consumed, depleted or degraded without the responsible party paying the cost for that use. The number the study hit on was a staggering $7.3 trillion in 2009 — about 13 percent of global economic output for that year. This brings up what economists call “negative externalities.” That’s a technical term for what happens when one actor in the economy has to pay for another actor’s mess. In a theoretically perfect market, the price of consuming, degrading or depleting a resource would be paid by the party responsible. But getting the theory of markets to map onto the real world is difficult. Dumping trash on a neighbor’s lawn is technically free, so a lot of us should be doing it more. But because we’ve built societies in which our neighbor can sue us, or the cops can fine us, we’re forced to internalize that cost. Lots of costs can only be internalized through smart institutional design and government policy, rather than by leaving the markets free to do their market thing.


What Trucost found is that when you scale this problem up globally — all the river, air, and land and air pollution that isn’t paid for, all the water and land use that isn’t paid for, and especially all the carbon emissions dumped into the atmosphere that aren’t paid for — the numbers get very big:

  • Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions: $2.7 trillion. This was by far the biggest single problem, and East Asia and North America were the two biggest culprits. That lines up with an International Monetary Fund study that determined the United States is the world’s biggest subsidizer of fossil fuels — with Asia the runner-up — because it’s failed to put a price on carbon emissions through a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system. Trucost assumed a social cost to carbon emissions of $106 per metric ton. That’s higher than the IMF’s assumption of $25 per ton, but well within the overall range of costs studies have found.
  • Global Water Consumption: $1.9 trillion. Wheat farming was the biggest problem here, followed by rice farming and general water supply, mainly in Asia and North Africa. That’s probably largely because developing and poorer countries have fewer institutions or infrastructure for managing water use.
  • Global Land Use: $1.8 trillion. Cattle ranching in South America came in first here, followed by cattle ranching in South Asia. Besides the usual uses, the effects of logging and fishing were also included. Trucost estimated the value of unused land using metrics laid out in the United Nations’ Millennium Ecosystem Assessment.
  • Global Waste And Land, Air, And Water Pollution: $850 billion. Sulfur dioxides, nitrogen oxides, and particulate emissions were the big culprits for air pollution ($500 billion total) mainly in North America, East Asia, and Western Europe. Land and water pollution ($300 billion total) was actually mostly fertilizers, from North America, Asia, and Europe again. Global waste was the remainder, mostly hazardous materials. Trucost figured out these prices mainly through the costs of clean-up and health effects.


On top of that, the study’s next conclusion was equally dramatic: whole sectors of power generation, materials production, farming and ranching across the globe would become entirely unprofitable if they had to pay the true cost of their natural capital use. The top five biggest regional industries the study looked at are in the chart below, and even in the best case their natural capital costs effectively wipe out their revenues:


In fact, of the twenty biggest regional industries the researchers examined around the globe, none of them would be profitable. Much of the global economy, in other words, is a giant Ponzi scheme that is (temporarily) viable only because markets fail to account for the value and use of the natural ecology — on which civilization depends for its crops, water, air, its very livelihood. But that bill will ultimately be paid in full are — by our children and countless future generations…..

What We Can Do About It


In 2011, the public policy shop Demos put out a report exploring how gross domestic product has become a sort of catch-all measure of human welfare, and how inadequate it currently is to that conceptual task. One of the main reasons for that inadequacy was, not surprisingly, the fact that we don’t price so many of the benefits human beings derive from natural ecosystems. Demos suggested several ongoing projects as models for correcting that failure: There’s the aforementioned Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, which attempts to put a quantifiable economic value on the ability of ecosystems to provide food, crops, fresh water, raw materials, air quality, protection against erosion, protection against storms, climate maintenance, and cultural benefits. Based off the Assessment’s work, China instituted a system of ecosystem payments to make sure incentives to conserve natural resources compete equally with incentives to consume them. The World Bank has also set up a project of six to ten countries that’s building ecosystem benefits into national accounting practices. The United States has actually been working on Integrated Environmental and Economic Accounting (IEEA), which was proposed by the United Nations in 1999. It constructs assessments of ecosystem values that’s directly compatible with methods already in place for national accounting. The hope is the IEEA will result in environmental policies that better weigh the value of ecosystems versus the traditional economy, and will help federal agencies better manage resources. Several governments — including Switzerland, Wales, and the United Arab Emirates — are also using the ecological footprint measure as a guide in their own management practices.


Finally, the report from the Carbon Tracker Initiative and the London School of Economists suggests that capital markets start accounting for climate change, and that regulators require companies to report the carbon emissions built into their current fossil fuel reserves — precisely the sort of price signaling that isn’t currently being done. In short, the problem is real, and enormous. America is deeply implicated, but there are already concrete models out there to start accounting for our use of the natural world on the level of both policy and economics. Can we get to work already?







Big Ecosystem Changes Viewed Through the Lens of Tiny Carnivorous Plants

Researchers use pitcher plants to identify signs of trouble dead ahead

In scientists’ eyes, each leaf of the northern pitcher plant is a small ecosystem.
Credit and Larger Version

April 22, 2013
In one drop of water are found all the secrets of all the oceans.
—Kahlil Gibran

What do a pond or a lake and a carnivorous pitcher plant have in common? The water-filled pool within a pitcher plant, it turns out, is a tiny ecosystem whose inner workings are similar to those of a full-scale water body. Whether small carnivorous plant or huge lake, both are subject to the same ecological “tipping points,” of concern on Earth Day–and every day, say scientists. The findings are published in this week’s issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

In the paper, ecologists affiliated with the National Science Foundation (NSF) Harvard Forest Long-Term Ecological Research site in Massachusetts offer new insights about how such tipping points happen. “Human societies, financial markets and ecosystems all may shift abruptly and unpredictably from one, often favored, state to another less desirable one,” says Saran Twombly, program director in NSF’s Division of Environmental Biology, which funded the research.

“These researchers have looked at the minute ecosystems that thrive in pitcher plant leaves to determine early warning signals and to find ways of predicting and possibly forestalling such ‘tipping points.'” Life in lakes and ponds of all sizes can be disrupted when too many nutrients–such as in fertilizers and pollution–overload the system. When that happens, these aquatic ecosystems can cross “tipping points” and change drastically. Excess nutrients cause algae to bloom. Bacteria eating the algae use up oxygen in the water. The result is a murky green lake. “The first step to preventing tipping points is understanding what causes them,” says Aaron Ellison, an ecologist at Harvard Forest and co-author of the paper. “For that, you need an experiment where you can demonstrate cause-and-effect.”

Ellison and other scientists demonstrated how to reliably trigger a tipping point. They continually added a set amount of organic matter–comparable to decomposing algae in a lake–to a small aquatic ecosystem: the tiny confines of a pitcher plant, a carnivorous plant native to eastern North America. Each pitcher-shaped leaf holds about a quarter of an ounce of rainwater. Inside is a complex, multi-level food web of fly larvae and bacteria. “The pitcher plant is its own little ecosystem,” says Jennie Sirota, a researcher at North Dakota State University and lead author of the paper…..


Whales are able to learn from others: Humpbacks pass on hunting tips
(April 25, 2013) — Humpback whales are able to pass on hunting techniques to each other, just as humans do, new research has found. … > full story

.Something’s fishy in the tree of life: Largests and most comprehensive studies of fish phylogeny
(April 19, 2013) — A team of scientists has dramatically increased our understanding of fish evolution and their relationships. The group integrated extensive genetic and physical information about specimens to create a new “tree of life” for fishes. The vast amount of data generated through large-scale DNA sequencing required supercomputing resources for analysis. The result is the largest and most comprehensive studies of fish phylogeny to date. … > full story

Biological activity alters the ability of sea spray to seed clouds
(April 22, 2013) — Ocean biology alters the chemical composition of sea spray in ways that influence their ability to form clouds over the ocean. That’s the conclusion of a team of scientists using a new approach to study tiny atmospheric particles called aerosols that can influence climate by absorbing or reflecting sunlight and seeding clouds. … > full story

Cocktail of multiple pressures combine to threaten the world’s pollinating insects
(April 22, 2013) — A new review of insect pollinators of crops and wild plants has concluded they are under threat globally from a cocktail of multiple pressures, and their decline or loss could have profound environmental, human health and economic consequences. … > full story


From Battle To Birds: Drones Get Second Life Counting Critters

NPR ‎- by Grace Hood ‎- April 25, 2013

The U.S. Geological Survey is putting remotely piloted former military planes to work in the areas of environmental and wildlife management.


Groups plant trees to help endangered Wis. birds



(AP) April 26, 2013 — Local groups are helping the Kirtland’s warbler make a comeback in central Wisconsin by planting pines that help the endangered songbird survive. Groups have begun planting seedlings, as well as native grasses and plants that protect… more »



An ancient mating dance offers ranchers, grassland birds a lifeline

By Juliet Eilperin, Sunday, April 21, 4:48 PM Washington Post

BURWELL, Neb. — Under an indigo pre-dawn sky, as a frigid wind whipped across the plains, a half-dozen brown-and-white birds emerged from tufts of dry grass. They emitted a low cooing sound, akin to the hooting of an owl. Then the greater prairie chickens started their show, scurrying around to mark their territory. When one encroached on another’s turf, the defending animal charged, forcing the interloper to leap in the air with a flurry of feathers. As the birds became more animated, the orange air sacs on each side of their necks swelled, allowing them to make a louder coo known as “booming.”

The entire display had a single intended beneficiary — a female greater prairie chicken that selects the dominant male for mating — that never bothered to appear. It might have been too cold for her. But the birds still had an audience: tourists sitting silently in a pair of parked yellow school buses with their windows cracked open. These humans may represent the prairie chickens’ best chance for survival….

The northern Great Plains — 180 million acres stretching across five states and two Canadian provinces — is one of the last three large swaths of grasslands in the world, along with two in Mongolia and Patagonia. Prairie chickens have roamed the Plains for millennia, but this region is under pressure from competing financial incentives to grow corn and soybeans or pursue wind energy and shale-oil extraction. Now an unlikely coalition of ranchers and environmentalists is working to keep the prairie intact, and in the process, preserve the animals and a traditional way of life.

As the country’s prairie shrinks — U.S. farmers converted 1.3 million acres to corn and soybean fields between 2006 and 2011, according to a recent study — the birds who depend on it are increasingly imperiled. The birds, which include the greater and lesser prairie chicken as well as several species of sage grouse, are seen by scientists and federal officials as the best indicator of how the prairie is faring. “They tell us what’s happening in that particular ecosystem, because they’re particularly sensitive,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service director Daniel M. Ashe. “We want to keep the prairie right side up.” But as the grasslands get plowed under for agriculture — already 95 percent of the nation’s tall-grass prairie and about 60 percent of its short-grass prairie has been turned into farmland — the number of birds that breed and nest there is declining. As a group, the nation’s 41 grassland bird species have experienced a 38.4 percent population decline between 1968 and 2010, according to Dave Ziolkowski, ornithologist for the North American Breeding Bird Survey. The Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed listing the lesser prairie chicken as threatened and the Gunnison sage grouse as endangered under the Endangered Species Act; it must reach a final decision on both species by September. Now government officials are working with private landowners to devise voluntary land management plans that could prevent the listings altogether…..

….World Wildlife Fund-U.S., which has focused on conserving the northern Great Plains, is working with the Switzers and other ranchers in the region to keep the landscape from being fragmented by farming, oil drilling and sprawl. The environmental group took Bruce Switzer and Sarah Sortum to Namibia to observe wildlife safaris four years ago; now Sortum drives tourists across the Sandhills in an open Jeep. Jill Majerus, the eco-tourism and conservation officer for WWF’s Northern Great Plains program, said she has learned that “people aren’t going to protect their environment unless there’s an economic tie to it.” Now ranchers elsewhere in Nebraska and in neighboring states have launched bird tour operations, and other prairie-chicken festivals have started as far away as Texas.

Tom Tabor, eco-tourism development consultant for the Nebraska Department of Economic Development, said this sort of activity “has great potential” to generate income in areas where “bird events are going on.”

Ice tubes in polar seas — ‘brinicles’ or ‘sea stalactites’ — provide clues to origin of life
(April 24, 2013) — Life on Earth may have originated not in warm tropical seas, but with weird tubes of ice — sometimes called “sea stalactites” — that grow downward into cold seawater near the Earth’s poles, scientists are reporting. … > full story

Deep, permeable soils buffer impacts of crop fertilizer on Amazon streams
(April 24, 2013) — A new study in the fast-changing southern Amazon — a region marked by widespread replacement of native forest by cattle ranches and croplands — suggests that some of the damaging impacts of agricultural fertilization on local streams may be buffered by the deep, highly permeable soils that characterize large areas of the expanding cropland. … > full story


New Wild Pollinator Restoration Program Using Crowd-Sourced Fundraising: “Bees for Trees” Invigorates Forests, Local Economy, Honey Bee Population

Sweet Perks for Donors Include Fresh Honey and Gardener’s Supply Shopping Incentives

BURLINGTON, VT and GUANACASTE, COSTA RICA–(Marketwired – Apr 19, 2013) – To fight the devastating trend of wild pollinators and bee population decline, a U.S. based nonprofit is helping low-income families in Costa Rica become beekeepers, through Bees for Trees. By using entrepreneurship and crowd-sourced fundraising to restore forests in and improve the economy of an important wild pollinator habitat: the Nandamojo River Valley in Costa Rica, the program is hoping to expand. Costa Rica is a country with 5 percent of the planet’s biodiversity. Qualifying donors to the crowdsourcing campaign will get honey, with a $25 minimum, and up to $100 off their next Gardener’s Supply purchase depending upon the level of donation: the program runs until April 26.

Restoring Our Watershed (ROW), a U.S. nonprofit with the mission of protecting the vital mountain-top to mangrove estuary ecosystem of the Nandamojo watershed, launched its Bees for Trees initiative to help local farm families increase their household income through beekeeping and raw honey production — thereby introducing more honey bees to the area and creating a revenue stream to fund reforestation of the Nandamojo River Valley’s fragile ecosystem. ROW hopes that increased awareness of honey bee and wild pollinator decline in the U.S., along with a crowd-sourced fundraising campaign will help Bees for Trees expand in 2013.

In the U.S., understanding of the important role pollinators play in food production has risen with media coverage of the mysterious honey bee problem known as “colony collapse disorder,” in which adult bees suddenly disappear from previously healthy commercial hives. The New York Times recently reported that the problem wiped out “40 percent or even 50 percent of the hives needed to pollinate many of the nation’s fruits and vegetables” in 2012, a “disastrous year for bees.”

Will Raap, a founder of both ROW, the Intervale Center, and earth-friendly retailer Gardener’s Supply, explained the Bees for Trees program. “New research just reported in Science indicates that honey bees and wild pollinators have the most ecosystem benefits when they work together,” he said. “Bees for Trees not only brings more honey bees to the area, it creates new, vital pollinator habitat through reforestation with native and flowering trees and improves the local economy. It may even help this damaged ecosystem avoid a pollinator crisis like the one we’re witnessing in the U.S.”

Encouraging pollinators, restoring forests and empowering families

The Nandamojo River Valley’s healthy wild pollinator population has been bolstered with honey bees through ROW’s Bees for Trees program.

“We have found a way to encourage reforestation, generate revenue to fund our organization, and help poor families earn a better living, while producing a healthy product produced on their land,” said Matt Rosensteele, executive director of ROW.



Mammal and bug food co-op in the High Arctic
(April 24, 2013) — Who would have thought that two very different species, a small insect and a furry alpine mammal, would develop a shared food arrangement in the far North? … > full story

Desertification crisis affecting 168 countries worldwide, study shows

Severe land degradation is now affecting 168 countries across the world, according to new research released by the UN

A Burkinabe man from the village of Selbo village, in northern Burkina Faso, gestures near grass he planted to help stop the advance of the Sahara desert. Photograph: Issouf Sanogo/AFP/Getty Images

Apr 17 2013 Guardian UK Severe land degradation is now affecting 168 countries across the world, according to new research released by the UN Desertification Convention (UNCCD). The figure, based on submissions from countries to the UN, is a marked increase on the last analysis in the mid-1990s, which estimated 110 states were at risk. In an economic analysis published last week the Convention also warns land degradation is now costing US$490 billion per year and wiping out an area three times the size of Switzerland on an annual basis. “Land degradation and drought are impeding the development of all nations in the world,” UNCCD Executive Secretary Luc Gnacadja told RTCC.

How’s Earth’s Health? New Network to Keep Tabs  – ‎April 22, 2013‎

How healthy are America’s plants, animals and environment? A new nationwide program will help answer that question. Called the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON), the program encompasses a series of monitoring stations that will measure the health of ecosystems by taking snapshots from strategically chosen locations across the country — analogous to the way an EKG monitors the health of the heart, said Lily Whiteman, a spokeswoman for the National Science Foundation (NSF), which funds NEON.

Scientists say the monitoring effort is essential because so many factors are influencing Earth’s ecosystems. To truly understand the impact of these factors, researchers need a way to watch these effects over time. Understanding the impacts will help inform policies dealing with issues ranging from global warming to urban planning.

Earth’s living systems are experiencing the greatest rates of change in history, due to land-use changes, invasive species and climate change,” said Elizabeth Blood, the NSF program director for NEON, during a teleconference on April 19. “Many of these changes will be abrupt and unpredictable.” NEON will help understand these changes, and avoid negative effects on species as much as possible, she said. “Our understanding of life’s living systems doesn’t match that of the [Earth and its geology] or the atmosphere.” NEON is beginning to come online and will begin providing data later this year, Blood said. The network will be fully operational by 2017 and is expected to continue its research for 30 years, giving scientists a vital long-term data set to understand how humans are impacting the environment, Blood said. The program will record data from 106 different spots throughout the country — 60 on land and 46 at sea, Blood said. Each site will be outfitted with various sensors to record data, as well as stations where scientists can identify and quantify species, and conduct other types of research…..



New NASA satellite takes the Salton Sea’s temperature
(April 22, 2013) — A new NASA image may look like a typical black-and-white image of a dramatic landscape, but it tells a story of temperature. The dark waters of the Salton Sea pop in the middle of the Southern California desert. Crops create a checkerboard pattern stretching south to the Mexican border. … > full story


Ant family tree constructed: Confirms date of evolutionary origin, underscores importance of Neotropics
(April 22, 2013) — Several hypotheses have been proposed to explain the higher species numbers in the tropics, but these hypotheses have never been tested for the ants, which are one of the most ecologically and numerically dominant groups of animals on the planet. New research is helping answer these questions. … > full story

How trees play role in smog production
(April 25, 2013) — After years of scientific uncertainty and speculation, researchers have shown exactly how trees help create one of society’s predominant environmental and health concerns: air pollution. … > full story






Keystone species could cause ecosystem to collapse

April 22 2013 By Anastasia Poland of MSN News Photo gallery: Animals that will thrive under global warming

There are certain animals worldwide that hold a heavier sway in the balance of ecosystems, and they were dubbed “keystone species” in 1969 by American zoology professor Robert T. Paine. The theory is that like the wedge-shaped keystone (or headstone) that locks together all the pieces used in an architectural arch, there are species that keep certain ecosystems in together. Removal of the species can cause the eventual collapse of the ecosystem. Just a drop in the bucket of the keystone species affected by global warming are reviewed below.


The polar bear, long the most-often touted of threatened species, indeed is in trouble with reduction of ice pack in the Arctic. As the apex predator, the bears keep their food source population — mainly seals, but also walruses and whales — in balance. What is not commonly known is that polar bears also are good scavengers in scarcity and will move into other animals’ food source if necessary. Polar bears will happily consume fish, reindeer, birds, rodents, eggs, kelp, berries and trash left by humans — putting them in competition with arctic foxes and seagulls, instead of providing a symbiotic relationship by leaving leftover prey. The walrus is also a keystone species that is threatened in the Arctic and elsewhere. Walruses prefer to dine on mollusks such as clams, but also eat shrimp, crabs, soft corals, sea cucumbers, tube worms and the occasional seal, so the decline of walruses allows many of their prey to bloom into overpopulation. Since they rely on the ice pack for their reproductive periods, the reduction of ice separates lactating cows for longer distances from their calves in order to get to the best feeding grounds…..
Sea Surface Temperatures Reach Highest Level in 150 Years on Northeast Continental Shelf
April 26, 2013 NOAA Sea-surface temperatures in the Northeast Shelf Large Marine Ecosystem during 2012 were the highest recorded in 150 years, according to the latest Ecosystem Advisory issued by NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC). These high sea-surface temperatures (SSTs) are the latest in a trend of above-average temperature seen during the spring and summer seasons, and part of a pattern of elevated temperatures occurring in the Northwest Atlantic, but not seen elsewhere in the ocean basin over the past century. The advisory reports on conditions in the second half of 2012. Sea surface temperature for the Northeast Shelf Ecosystem reached a record high of 14 degrees C (57.2°F) in 2012, exceeding the previous record high in 1951. Average SST has typically been lower than 12.4 C (54.3 F) over the past three decades. Sea surface temperature in the region is based on both contemporary satellite remote-sensing data and long-term ship-board measurements, with historical SST conditions based on ship-board measurements dating back to 1854. The temperature increase in 2012 was the highest jump in temperature seen in the time series and one of only five times temperature has changed by more than 1 C (1.8 F). The Northeast Shelf’s warm-water thermal habitat was also at a record high during 2012, while cold water habitat was at a record low level. Early winter mixing of the water column went to extreme depths, which will affect the spring 2013 plankton bloom. Mixing redistributes nutrients and affects stratification of the water column as the bloom develops.Temperature is also affecting distributions of fish and shellfish on the Northeast Shelf. The advisory provides data on changes in distribution, or shifts in the center of the population, of seven key fishery species over time. The four southern species – black sea bass, summer flounder, longfin squid and butterfish – all showed a northeastward or upshelf shift. American lobster has shifted upshelf over time but at a slower rate than the southern species. Atlantic cod and haddock have shifted downshelf. “Many factors are involved in these shifts, including temperature, population size, and the distributions of both prey and predators,” said Jon Hare, a scientist in the NEFSC’s Oceanography Branch. A number of recent studies have documented changing distributions of fish and shellfish, further supporting NEFSC work reported in 2009 that found about half of the 36 fish stocks studied in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean, many of them commercially valuable species, have been shifting northward over the past four decades……

Ecology buys time for evolution: Climate change disrupts songbird’s timing without impacting population size (yet)
(April 25, 2013)Songbird populations can handle far more disrupting climate change than expected. Density-dependent processes are buying them time for their battle. But without (slow) evolutionary rescue it will not save them in the end, says an international team of scientists. Yes, spring started late this year in North-western Europe. But the general trend of the four last decades is still a rapidly advancing spring. The seasonal timing of trees and insects advance too, but songbirds like Parus major, or the great tit, lag behind. Yet without an accompanying decline in population numbers, it seems, as the international research team shows for the great tit population in the Dutch National Park the Hoge Veluwe.

“It’s a real paradox,” explain Dr Tom Reed and Prof Marcel Visser of the Netherlands Institute of Ecology. “Due to the changing climate of the past decades the egg laying dates of Parus major have become increasingly mismatched with the timing of the main food source for its chicks: caterpillars. The seasonal timing of the food peak has advanced over twice as fast as that of the birds and the reproductive output is reduced. Still, the population numbers do not go down.” On the short term, that is, as Reed, Visser and colleagues from Norway, the USA, and France have now calculated using almost 40 years of data from this songbird.

The solution to the paradox is that although fewer offspring now fledge due to food shortage, each of these chicks has a higher chance of survival until the next breeding season. “We call this relaxed competition, as there are fewer fledglings to compete with,” first author Reed points out. Out of 10 eggs laid, 9 chicks are born, 7 fledge and on average only one chick survives winter. That last number increases with less competitors around.

This is the first time that density dependence — a widespread phenomenon in nature — and ecological mismatch are linked, and it is a real eye-opener. Reed: “It all seems so obvious once you’ve calculated this, but people were almost sure that mistiming would lead to a direct population decline.”

The great tits that lay eggs earlier in spring are more successful nowadays than late birds, which produce relatively few surviving offspring. This leads to increasing selection for birds to reproduce early. But the total number of birds in the new generation stays the same. “That is the second paradox,” the researchers state. “Why are population numbers hardly affected, despite the stronger selection on timing caused by the mismatch? The answer is that for selection it matters which birds survive, while for population size it only matters how many survive. Visser: “The mortality in one group can be compensated for by the success in another. But this stretching, this flexibility, is not unlimited.”

The mismatch between egg laying period and caterpillar peak in the woods will keep growing, and so will the impact following the temporary rescue, as long as spring temperatures continue to increase. “The density dependence is only buying the birds time, hopefully for evolutionary adaptation to dig in before population numbers are substantially affected,” according to Visser. The new findings can help to predict the impact of future environmental change on other wild populations and to identify relevant measures to take. Even rubber bands stretch only so far before they break.

… > full story

The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW), via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.


New grass hybrid could help reduce the likelihood of flooding
(April 25, 2013) — Scientists have used hybridized forage grass to combine fast root growth and efficient soil water retention. Field experiments show Festulolium cultivar reduces water runoff by up to 51 percent against nationally-recommended cultivar. … used a hybridised species of grass called perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne) with a closely related species called meadow fescue (Festuca pratensis). They hoped to integrate the rapid establishment and growth rate of the ryegrass with the large, well developed root systems and efficient water capture of the meadow fescue. Over two years of field experiments in the south west the team demonstrated that the hybrid, named Festulolium, reduced water runoff from agricultural grassland by up to 51 per cent compared to a leading UK nationally-recommended perennial ryegrass cultivar and by 43 per cent compared to meadow fescue. It is thought the reduced runoff is achieved because Festulolium‘s intense initial root growth and subsequent rapid turn-over, especially at depth, allows more water to be retained within the soil. The hybrid grass also provides high quality forage with resilience to weather extremes, making the grass doubly useful to farmers….full story


Christopher (Kit) J. A. Macleod, Mike W. Humphreys, W. Richard Whalley, Lesley Turner, Andrew Binley, Chris W. Watts, Leif Skøt, Adrian Joynes, Sarah Hawkins, Ian P. King, Sally O’Donovan, Phil M. Haygarth. A novel grass hybrid to reduce flood generation in temperate regions.
Scientific Reports, 2013; 3 DOI: 10.1038/srep01683

Scientists advocate a simple, affordable and accurate technology to identify threats from sea-level rise
(April 25, 2013) — Researchers are calling for the global adoption of a method to identify areas that are vulnerable to sea-level rise. The method, which utilizes a simple, low-cost tool, is financially and technically accessible to every country with coastal wetlands. The team seeks to establish a network to coordinate the standardization and management of the data, as well as to provide a platform for collaboration. … In a bid to address this gap, the research team, comprising members from NUS and the United States Geological Survey, argues for the widespread adoption of a standardised, simple and inexpensive method to measure the vertical movement of coastal wetland surface and its constituent processes that determine whether a wetland can keep pace with sea-level rise. The method utilises a rod surface elevation table (RSET), in which a benchmark rod is drilled vertically through the soil down to the base of the mudflat. A portable horizontal arm is attached at a fixed point to measure the distance to the substrate surface. The RSET is thus a permanent reference point to measure the rate and direction of the mudflat’s surface movement. This very simple and affordable tool can be extensively replicated, thereby providing critical data on the geomorphological processes contributing to the surface elevation change at a site. The data can then be used to make inferences about a site’s long-term vulnerability to sea-level rise…..> full story


Edward L. Webb, Daniel A. Friess, Ken W. Krauss, Donald R. Cahoon, Glenn R. Guntenspergen, Jacob Phelps. A global standard for monitoring coastal wetland vulnerability to accelerated sea-level rise. Nature Climate Change, 2013; 3 (5): 458 DOI: 10.1038/nclimate1756


Nitrogen has key role in estimating carbon dioxide emissions from land use change
(April 19, 2013) — A new global-scale modeling study that takes into account nitrogen — a key nutrient for plants — estimates that carbon emissions from human activities on land were 40 percent higher in the 1990s than in studies that did not account for nitrogen. Plant regrowth — and therefore carbon assimilation by plants — is limited by nitrogen availability, causing other studies to overestimate regrowth and underestimate net emissions from the harvest-regrowth cycle. … > full story


The Drought-Stricken Midwest’s Floods: Is This What Climate Change Looks Like?

The Atlantic Wire April 26, 2013

The dramatic images resulting from this week’s floods in the Midwest are, in a way, a welcome sight. Six months ago, the region was wracked by drought.


Brook trout is climate change loser; bobwhite quail could be winner

Penn Live

Apr 26 2013

Written by

Marcus Schneck

The U.S. Forest Service developed “A Climate Change Atlas for 147 Bird Species of the Eastern United States” that predicts other bird species likely to wane as a result of climate change include the yellow warbler, Savannah sparrow, song sparrow, house


Carbon Pollution: If We Don’t Change Our Direction, We’ll End Up Where We’re Headed

Posted: 19 Apr 2013 12:15 PM PDT By Dr. Jonathan G. Koomey, via

If we don’t change our direction, we’ll end up where we’re headed. Climate Progress did a great service for climate communications on March 8th, 2013 by publishing this graph of historical and projected global temperatures:

Figure 1: Historical and projected global average surface temperatures on our current trajectory for fossil fuel emissions

The historical data in the graph came from a recently published article in Science, and the projected data came from the “no-policy” case developed by the folks at MIT back in 2009. The MIT case showed about a 5 Celsius degree increase in global average surface temperatures by 2100, equivalent to about a 9 Fahrenheit degree increase…..


Figure 7: Carbon dioxide concentrations for the past 450,000 years and projected to 2100 assuming no change in policies, including other warming gases

The critical takeaway from Figures 6 and 7 is that we’re on track for more than two doublings of greenhouse gas concentrations by 2100 if we continue on our current path (greenhouse gas equivalent concentrations rise by a factor of 4.8 by 2100). Many in the media and elsewhere mistakenly focus only on the climate sensitivity, which is the expected increase in global average surface temperatures for a doubling of greenhouse gas equivalent concentrations (best estimate now is about 3 Celsius degrees, or 5.4 Fahrenheit degrees, per doubling). But it’s not just the temperature increase from a doubling of concentrations that matters, you also need to know how many doublings we’re in for…..

… The case for concern about rising greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations is ironclad, and the graphics above show one compelling way to describe that case. We’re on track for more than two doublings of greenhouse gas concentrations by 2100 when all warming agents are included. Combined with an expected warming of about 3 Celsius degrees per doubling of GHG concentrations (the climate sensitivity) that implies about a 6 Celsius degree warming commitment on our current path (the 5 Celsius degree warming calculated by MIT for 2100 is lower because it takes many centuries for the climate to equilibrate to fully account for the effects of changes in concentrations). The graphs above show a dramatic shift in the climate system caused by human activity, one that has no precedent in human history. We need to leave more than three-quarters of proven fossil fuel reserves in the ground if we’re to stabilize the climate (for more technical backup on this point, see this classic paper by Meinshausen et al. and the technical details provided in Cold Cash, Cool Climate). It’s hard to imagine a starker challenge for humanity, but it’s one that we must confront if we’re to leave a livable world for our descendants.

Jonathan Koomey is a Professor at Stanford University and an expert on the economics of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the effects of information technology on resource use. This piece was originally published on his blog and was reprinted with permission.

Earth’s current warmth not seen in the last 1,400 years or more, says study
(April 22, 2013) — Fueled by industrial greenhouse gas emissions, Earth’s climate warmed more between 1971 and 2000 than during any other three-decade interval in the last 1,400 years, according to new regional temperature reconstructions covering all seven continents. … > full story


How the burning of fossil fuels was linked to a warming world in 1938

This month marks the 75th anniversary of Guy Callendar’s landmark scientific paper on anthropogenic climate change

English engineer Guy Stewart Callendar who expanded on the work Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius and developed the theory called Callendar effect that linked rising carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere to global temperature. Photograph: University of East Anglia Archives

Seventy-five years ago this month an amateur weather-watcher from West Sussex published a landmark paper in the Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society directly linking the burning of fossil fuels to the warming of the Earth’s atmosphere.

Guy Callendar was a successful steam engineer by trade, but in his spare time he was a keen meteorologist. In April 1938, his paper, “The artificial production of carbon dioxide and its influence on temperature” (pdf), which built on the earlier work of John Tyndall and Svante Arrhenius, was published with little fanfare or impact. It was only in the proceeding decades that the true significance of his conclusions would be heralded.

To mark the anniversary, two modern-day climatologists have published a co-authored paper (pdf) in the same journal celebrating not just his legacy, but also illustrating with modern techniques and data just how accurate Callendar’s calculations proved to be.

Dr Ed Hawkins of the University of Reading’s National Centre for Atmospheric Science, who co-authored the paper with Prof Phil Jones at the University of East Anglia, describes why Callendar is so significant to the development of climate science:…..








On Earth Day, where does Obama’s environmental record stand?

Posted by Juliet Eilperin on April 22, 2013 at 2:21 pm Wash Post

What better day than Earth Day — the 43rd incarnation — than to ask where President Obama’s environmental record stands at this point in his presidency, and what are the most important decisions that lie ahead of him during his second term.

First, let’s look at where he has taken action.

1. Reducing pollution from cars and light trucks. The administration has taken two major steps to clean up the U.S. passenger vehicle fleet. First, the Environmental Protection Agency and Transportation Department have cut greenhouse gas emissions from cars and light trucks, demanding that by 2025 the U.S. auto fleet must average 54.5 miles per gallon. Then, late last month, EPA proposed imposing stricter fuel and equipment standards on American autos that would reduce the amount of sulfur in U.S. gasoline by two-thirds and impose fleet-wide pollution limits on new vehicles by 2017. Car manufacturers have supported these initiatives, while oil refiners have opposed them as imposing too heavy a cost on their industry.

2. Curbing harmful emissions from power plants. EPA has taken aim at utilities–many of which are powered by coal and have been operating for more than 30 years–on multiple fronts. In December 2011 the agency  required coal- and oil-fired power plants to control emissions of mercury and other poisons for the first time. The rule, which was two decades in the making, applies to about 40 percent of the country’s roughly 1,400 coal- and oil-fired utilities that lack modern pollution controls. A year later it tightened the nation’s soot standards by 20 percent, reducing the sort of fine particle pollution leading to heart and lung disease. And on Friday EPA issued new rules limiting the kind of water utilities can discharge from hundreds of power plants. These rules, along with other initiatives aimed at governing mine waste disposal, have prompted many coal industry officials and their allies in Congress to accuse the administration of waging a “War on Coal.”

3. Adopting a broad policy for managing the nation’s ocean waters. Just last week the administration finalized its National Ocean Policy, which aims to coordinate the work of more than two dozen agencies and reconcile competing interests including fishing, offshore energy exploration and recreational activities.

4. Supporting renewable energy development. President Obama touts the fact that the amount of U.S. renewable energy doubled during his first four years in office. The administration has given billions of dollars to the wind, solar and geothermal industries through both direct subsidies and in the form of tax credits, and it has worked to streamline the permitting process on public lands and in federal waters. At least 10,000 megawatts of onshore renewable energy has been permitted on federal land already. Renewable industry advocates have embraced these policies while Republicans point to the failure of Solyndra, the solar manufacturer which cost taxpayers more than $500 million, as an example of why the U.S. shouldn’t provide financial backing for this industry.

Now to what the Obama Administration is in the midst of doing related to the environment.

1. The first-ever greenhouse gas emission limits for power plants. A year ago EPA proposed a new standard greenhouse gas standard would have required any new power plant to emit no more than 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour of electricity produced; a week and-a-half ago the agency said it would delay finalizing the rule, as it is still reviewing more than 2 million comments on it.

2. A new smog rule. In September 2011, Obama decided to pull back an EPA proposal to limit ozone emissions linked to smog, on the grounds that it would hurt the economy and the government would revisit the issue in 2013 anyway. This year the agency must identify its new smog standard, which would improve air quality but potentially limit economic development in regions across the country.

3. Regulating coal ash waste. Produced by 431 coal-fired power plants, which supply 36 percent of the nation’s electricity, coal ash piles up at the rate of 140 million tons a year. The EPA has been looking at this issue ever since. Nearly three years ago the agency outlined three possible rules for storing and disposing of coal ash, but none have become final. The first would designate it a hazardous waste; the other two would regulate it as a solid waste.

And now, what the Administration may or may not do.

1. A presidential permit for the Keystone XL pipeline project. Sometime this year, likely in the fall, the State Department will have to decide if it will let TransCanada build a pipeline that crosses the Canada-U.S. border. Proponents said the pipeline is the safest and most efficient way to transport crude oil from Canada’s oil sands region to Gulf Coast refineries, while generating short-term, high-paying  construction jobs and ensuring a steady oil supply from one of our closest allies. Critics argue it will speed development of a carbon-intense form of oil that will exacerbate climate change, and could still spill on ecologically-sensitive habitat. Obama is likely to weigh in personally on the decision, which has been the subject of intense political debate for more than two years.

2. Curbing greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants. More than any other action, the single biggest climate policy Obama could undertake would be to impose limits on greenhouse gas emissions from utilities now in operation. The president has not yet said whether he will pursue this course, but EPA has given every indication it plans to pursue this policy in concert with the states over the course of the next year. No matter what the administration does, this will provoke a major political and legal battle.

3. Weigh in on whether large-scale mining operations can take place in Alaska’s Bristol Bay watershed. EPA is now reviewing whether a proposed gold mine near Alaska’s Bristol Bay would harm wild salmon habitat so significantly it should invoke the Clean Water Act to declare the area off-limits. Backers of the mining project proposed by Northern Dynasty Minerals, a Canadian company, say it would be inappropriate for EPA to weigh in before the firm formally requests a permit.

As a second-term president, Obama is under intense pressure to deliver to the environmental constituency that helped him win reelection last fall. CREDO Mobile political director Becky Bond, whose group is lobbying against the Keystone pipeline, wrote in an e-mail, “If President Obama approves the Keystone XL pipeline over all of the scientific evidence, it will be remembered by history just as poorly as President Bush’s invasion of Iraq, which was based on deceptive information and burdened us with enormous financial and human cost.” And Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), said in a statement that while the president’s investment in clean energy and vehicles rules have been significant “he can’t stop there.” “President Obama has said that failing to respond to climate change would ‘betray our children and future generations,’ and I know he strongly believes that,” Whitehouse said. “I hope the President continues to follow through on his commitment to address climate change, including establishing carbon pollution standards for new and existing power plants and setting efficiency standards for appliances.” Even Luke Popovich, a spokesman for the National Mining Association, said Obama is in a tough position when it comes to reconciling his economic and environmental goals. “He is in an unenviable position,” Popovich wrote in an e-mail, “trying to rescue the economy and help the millions shut out of the job market at the same time he wrestles with environmental issues that could aggravate the problem if taken too far.”



If Oil Companies Can Have Master Limited Partnerships, Why Can’t Clean Energy Companies?

By Richard Caperton, Guest Blogger on Apr 26, 2013 at 12:25 pm

This week, Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) and a diverse group of original co-sponsors introduce a bill that would lower the cost of capital for clean energy, a critical piece of deploying clean energy at the scale needed to fight climate change. The bill — the Master Limited Partnerships Parity Act — would allow renewable energy and energy efficiency to access the MLP structure. The MLP Parity Act is a common-sense bill with bipartisan, bicameral support that simply levels the playing field for clean energy. Now, when someone tells you that they have a “common-sense bill with bipartisan, bicameral support that simply levels the playing field for clean energy,” you should be skeptical. Allow me to address that skepticism…..



Fla. wildlife officials release action plan

(AP) April 26, 2013— Florida’s wildlife officials have released action plans to conserve 16 imperiled specials, including the Florida burrowing owl, Florida sandhill crane and Big Cypress and Sherman’s fox squirrels. Next, the commission will develop… more »


Thirsty States Take Water Battle To Supreme Court



by Joe Wertz April 21, 2013 5:12 AM

The audio of this story, as did a previous Web version, incorrectly says the Red River is fed by Rocky Mountain snowpack.

A dispute over Texas’ access to the Kiamichi River, which is located in Oklahoma, has started a longer legal battle that is headed to the Supreme Court.

On Tuesday, Oklahoma and Texas will face off in the U.S. Supreme Court. The winner gets water. And this is not a game.

The court will hear oral arguments in the case of The case pits Oklahoma against Texas over rights to water from the river that forms part of the border between them. Depending on how the court decides, it could impact interstate water-sharing agreements across the country.

Keeping Up With Texas

To understand what the fight is all about, you have to go to the Texas side of the Red River. North Texas is one of the fastest-growing regions in one of the fastest-growing states. Cities like Arlington and Fort Worth have enjoyed a surge of growth that’s brought new jobs, businesses and development.

The future looks bright for this part of Texas, but it also looks dry. Drought has hit Texas particularly hard over the past couple of years. Water officials say the North Texas region’s growth is outpacing the water supply nearby.

“All of the locations — watershed locations — close by have been tapped for us,” says Linda Christie, government relations director for the Tarrant Regional Water District. The district is the water authority for an 11-county stretch of north Texas that includes Fort Worth. “So now we’re going to have to go 200, 300 miles. And most of it would be water that is being pumped uphill.”

The Red River, less than 75 miles from Fort Worth, seems like an ideal solution to the Tarrant Water District’s problem. It forms the border between Oklahoma and Texas as it flows southeast on its way to the Gulf of Mexico.

Texas and Oklahoma already have a formal agreement on how to share water from the Red River. In 1980, Congress ratified the Red River Compact, giving the two states — along with Arkansas and Louisiana — an equitable apportionment of water from the river and its tributaries…..



Climate Change Series: The Geoengineering Debate

WBUR April 26, 2013

If geoengineering is determined to be a “plan B” for addressing climate change, it may give corporations and governments license to say, “If we’re going to geoengineer in 20 years anyway, we don’t need to worry about reducing carbon emissions now.


Lisa Murkowski On Climate Change: ‘It’s Real, We Need To Fight It’

Huffington Post  – ‎Apr 25, 2013‎

Following her keynote speech at the Bloomberg New Energy conference in New York City, Murkowski discussed her views on climate change with Fortune’s Brian Dumaine. “It doesn’t make sense to argue about how much global warming is caused by man


Sonoma County kickstarts a public power agency

Operator Tech Mike Taylor is responsible for the operations of the Socrates geothermal plant at the Calpine geothermal facility in the Geysers. John Burgess / The Press Democrat

THE PRESS DEMOCRAT Published: Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 4:57 p.m.

The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Tuesday voted to implement a public power program for all homes and businesses outside city limits with plans to expand countywide. The effort seeks to eventually displace Pacific Gas and Electric Co. in the electricity supply business for 220,000 homes and businesses. About 100,000 of those metered customers are in the county’s unincorporated area. The 4-1 vote sets in motion a series of decisions geared to roll out the power plan in January. Unless customers formally opt out, they would receive power from the public agency. PG&E would continue to handle transmission, billing, metering, customer service and grid repair…


For info on similar program in Marin County see:





50 Feet of Sea Level Rise “Baked In” VIDEO

from the Vital Voices of the Environment” series. Englander has just published a book – High Tide on Main Street – that in stark terms makes the case for why dramatic sea level rise is an inevitability regardless of what steps are taken to cut CO2 emissions going forward, and why we must expeditiously implement coastal adaptation strategies anticipating the possibility of seas rising 6 feet in as few as 30 – 40 years. While those of us working actively in the conservation community are more or less familiar with some of these projections and catalysts, Englander presents it all in simple and compelling terms rooted soundly in historical data. Interestingly, John’s tone is not alarmist; instead his is a practical message reflecting irrefutable data, and emphasizes the importance of taking action while we have time. The interview is just 7 minutes, but in that time he makes things pretty clear we’ve got to act…..



Third Biennial Ocean Climate Summit– Summary Report – SF

The summary report for the Third Biennial Ocean Climate Summit, held February 20, 2013 in San Francisco, is now available through the summit website home page or directly through this link. The report includes: summit goal, objectives and structure; presentation and discussion summaries; suggestions for the Fourth Biennial Summit summarized from the post-summit evaluation; and appendices with the agenda, poster abstracts, and participant list.



CA Coastal Adaptation Program Grants (pdf)

The Ocean Protection Council, California Coastal Commission and State Coastal Conservancy announce the availability of grants to encourage local governments and other entities responsible for planning under the California Coastal Act to develop and adopt updated plans that conserve and protect coastal resources from future impacts from sea-level rise and related climate change impacts such as extreme weather events.
Applications are due July 15, 2013. They must be emailed (or postmarked) by the submission date.  We expect to award grants in the fall of 2013.  For the full grant program announcement click here




Scenario Planning (Pilot Offering!): July 15-19, 2013

Course & Class Name: Scenario Planning toward Climate Change Adaptation : FWS-2013-0715-NCTC ALC3194 

Scenario planning is a valuable decision support method for integrating irreducible and uncontrollable uncertainties into climate change adaptation and other planning in natural resource management. This overview course will introduce the core elements of scenario planning and expose participants to a diversity of approaches and specific scenario development techniques that incorporate both qualitative and quantitative components. Participants will learn how scenario planning can be integrated into planning frameworks and be complementary with other decision support methods. This course will provide participants with the skills needed to assess the appropriateness of scenario planning for their needs, and identify the resources and expertise needed to conduct a scenario planning exercise that will meet established objectives. The course is developed in partnership with the Wildlife Conservation Society and the U.S. Geological Survey.


Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment: August 27-29, 2013

Course & Class Name: Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment : FWS-2013-0827-NCTC ALC3184 

This course is based on January 2011 publication “Scanning the Conservation Horizon – A Guide to Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment” ( The guidance document is a product of an expert workgroup on climate change vulnerability assessment convened by the National Wildlife Federation in collaboration with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station, National Park Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, and the Department of Defense Legacy Resource Management Program. This course is designed to guide conservation and resource management practitioners in two essential elements in the design of climate adaptation plans. Specifically, it will provide guidance in identifying which species or habitats are likely to be most strongly affected by projected changes; and understanding why these resources are likely to be vulnerable. Vulnerability Assessments are a critical tool in undertaking any climate change planning or implementation.

Registration Information:

Important Note on registering! All participants will automatically be added to a waitlist, from which we are enrolling. 

Department of Interior (DOI) Employees  and those with a DOI Learn account (and have taken a course through DOI before).

Please register through DOI Learn





Position Available


Manager, Marine Climate Change  Conservation International’s marine climate change program provides the technical foundation for addressing climate change throughout CIs marine programs. In addition to providing strategic and technical support across the institution, the program directly supports field activities, such as vulnerability assessments and adaptation planning and implementation. Further, through the marine climate change program Conservation International (CI) is partnering to lead an international consortium that focuses on the conservation and management of coastal systems for their carbon sequestration and storage capacity. The consortium is implementing the International Blue Carbon Initiative (, which integrates targeted science, policy, and economics of coastal “blue” carbon through working groups, pilot projects, international policy, and capacity building.

This position will work closely with the Senior Director, Strategic Marine Initiatives, to support the long-term growth and success of CI’s marine climate change program. The position will be responsible for the day to day management of the blue carbon and marine adaptation programs, including project development, implementation, research, communications and broader capacity building. The position will be responsible for building and maintaining a strong network of climate change, conservation and related experts to support the work of CI and its partners. The position will be the technical point-person for supporting the field programs on marine climate change issues. The position will coordinate with the Seascapes program, Moore Center for Science, Center for Environment and Peace, other CI divisions and external partners to ensure successful completion and maximum integration of marine climate change activities at CI. For more information and to apply see:







New Report Details How National Parks Are Threatened By Oil And Gas Drilling

By Jessica Goad, Guest Blogger on Apr 25, 2013 at 3:52 pm

Here’s another example of how “the score card shows that the industry is winning,” as the NY Times put it last year. The National Parks Conservation Association today released a new report warning of the risks that oil and gas drilling pose to national parks.

In “National Parks and Hydraulic Fracturing:  Balancing Energy Needs, Nature, and America’s National Heritage” the group writes:

…these early indications of harm to America’s natural resources and national parks suggest the wisdom of a careful, considered approach to hydraulic fracturing, rather than blind complicity and a zealous rush toward monetary riches.

National parks are managed under a precautionary principle designed to err on the conservative side of any potentially negative impacts. The same principle should be applied to fracking activities on lands adjacent to our national parks….


What BP Doesn’t Want You to Know About the 2010 Gulf Spill

Apr 22, 2013 4:45 AM EDT

The 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill was even worse than BP wanted us to know.

“It’s as safe as Dawn dishwashing liquid.” That’s what Jamie Griffin says the BP man told her about the smelly, rainbow-streaked gunk coating the floor of the “floating hotel” where Griffin was feeding hundreds of cleanup workers during the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Apparently, the workers were tracking the gunk inside on their boots. Griffin, as chief cook and maid, was trying to clean it. But even boiling water didn’t work…..


EPA releases harsh review of Keystone XL environmental report

By Neela Banerjee April 22, 2013, 3:37 p.m. WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency issued a sharply critical assessment of the State Department‘s recent environmental impact review of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, certain to complicate efforts to win approval for the $7-billion project. In a letter to top State Department officials overseeing the permit process for the pipeline, the EPA lays out detailed objections regarding greenhouse gas emissions related to the project, pipeline safety and alternative routes. Based on its analysis, the EPA said it had “Environmental Objections” to the State Department’s environmental assessment due to “insufficient information. ” A State Department spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment. The State Department assessment concluded that Keystone XL would have a minimal impact on the environment. But the EPA analysis appears to challenge that conclusion.

DOCUMENT: EPA reviews Keystone XL
The EPA’s assessment came during the public comment period for the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement that the State Department issued last month. The study is supposed to be an exhaustive look at the effect of the proposed pipeline on air, water, endangered species, communities and the economy.


New battery design could help solar and wind power the grid
(April 24, 2013) — Researchers have designed a low-cost, long-life battery that could enable solar and wind energy to become major suppliers to the electrical grid. … > full story



Bloomberg Study: 70 Percent Of New Global Power Capacity Added Through 2030 Will be Renewable

Posted: 25 Apr 2013 09:45 AM PDT

According to Bloomberg’s renewable energy research team, Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), 70 percent of the power generation the world will add between now and 2030 will most likely be renewable.

That would mean $630 billion in new renewable capacity investments in 2030 alone — over three times what was built in 2012, and 35 percent higher than what BNEF predicted for 2030 a year ago. So not only does renewable energy’s future look formidable, it’s looking more formidable every year we project it.

After accumulating the latest data on economic prosperity, market trends, demand growth, technology development, and likely future policies, BNEF’s modeling program spit out three projection scenarios: the optimistic “Barrier Busting” scenario, the pessimistic “Traditional Territory” scenario, and the middle-of-the-road “New Normal” scenario. The New Normal scenario is considered the most likely. It shows the investment requirement for new clean energy assets in the year 2030 at $630bn (in nominal terms), more than three times the investment in the renewable energy capacity that was built in 2012. This 2030 investment figure is 35 percent higher than that produced in Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s last global forecast a year ago, and the projection for total installed renewable energy capacity by that date is 25 percent higher than in that previous forecast, at 3,500GW.

In the power sector, the research company’s latest forecasts project that 70 percent of new power generation capacity added between 2012 and 2030 will be from renewable technologies (including large hydro). Only 25 percent will be in the form of coal, gas or oil, the remaining being nuclear.






How Resource Scarcity and Climate Change Could Produce a Global Explosion

The Nation.  – ‎April 22 2013‎

Two nightmare scenarios—a global scarcity of vital resources and the onset of extreme climate change—are already beginning to converge and in the coming decades are likely to produce a tidal wave of unrest, rebellion, competition and conflict….


As people live longer and reproduce less, natural selection keeps up
(April 25, 2013) — In many places around the world, people are living longer and are having fewer children. But that’s not all. A study of people living in rural Gambia shows that this modern-day “demographic transition” may lead women to be taller and slimmer, too. … > full story

Let’s Rename Earth Day

Posted: 21 Apr 2013 09:25 AM PDT Joe Romm

……So I think the world should be more into conserving the stuff that we can’t live without. In that regard I am a conservative person. Unfortunately, Conservative Day would, I think, draw the wrong crowds. The problem with Earth Day is it asks us to save too much ground. We need to focus. The two parts of the planet worth fighting to preserve are the soils and the glaciers.

Two years ago, Science magazine published research that “predicted a permanent drought by 2050 throughout the Southwest” — levels of soil aridity comparable to the 1930s Dust Bowl would stretch from Kansas and Oklahoma to California. The Hadley Center, the U.K.’s official center for climate change research, found that “areas affected by severe drought could see a five-fold increase from 8% to 40%.” On our current emissions path, most of the South and Southwest ultimately experience twice as much loss of soil moisture as was seen during the Dust Bowl (see “Dust-Bowlification“).

Also, locked away in the frozen soil of the tundra or permafrost is more carbon than the atmosphere contains today
(see Tundra, Part 1). On our current path, most of the top 10 feet of the permafrost will be lost this century — so much for being “perma” — and that amplifying carbon-cycle feedback will all but ensure that today’s worst-case scenarios for global warming become the best-case scenarios (see NSIDC bombshell: Thawing permafrost feedback will turn Arctic from carbon sink to source in the 2020s, releasing 100 billion tons of carbon by 2100). We must save the tundra. Perhaps it should be small “e” earth Day, which is to say, Soil Day. On the other hand, most of the public enthusiasm in the 1980s for saving the rain forests fizzled, and they are almost as important as the soil, so maybe not Soil Day.

As for glaciers, when they disappear, sea levels rise, perhaps as much as two inches a year by century’s end (see “Sea levels may rise 3 times faster than IPCC estimated, could hit 6 feet by 2100” and here). If we warm even 3°C from pre-industrial levels, we will return the planet to a time when sea levels were ultimately 100 feet higher (see Science: CO2 levels haven’t been this high for 15 million years, when it was 5° to 10°F warmer and seas were 75 to 120 feet higher: “We have shown that this dramatic rise in sea level is associated with an increase in CO2 levels of about 100 ppm.”). The first five feet of sea level rise, which seems increasingly likely to occur this century on our current emissions path, would displace more than 100 million people. That would be the equivalent of 200 Katrinas. Since my brother lost his home in Katrina, I don’t consider this to be an abstract issue.

Equally important, the inland glaciers provide fresh water sources for more than a billion people. But on our current path, virtually all of them will be gone by century’s end.

So where is everyone going to live? Hundreds of millions will flee the new deserts, but they can’t go to the coasts; indeed, hundreds of millions of other people will be moving inland. But many of the world’s great rivers will be drying up at the same time, forcing massive conflict among yet another group of hundreds of millions of people. The word rival, after all, comes from “people who share the same river.” Sure, desalination is possible, but that’s expensive and uses a lot of energy, which means we’ll need even more carbon-free power.

Perhaps Earth Day should be Water Day, since the worst global warming impacts are going to be about water — too much in some places, too little in other places, too acidified in the oceans for most life. But even soil and water are themselves only important because they sustain life. We could do Pro-Life Day, but that term is already taken, and again it would probably draw the wrong crowd.

We could call it Homo sapiens Day. Technically, we are the subspecies Homo sapiens sapiens. Isn’t it great being the only species that gets to name all the species, so we can call ourselves “wise” twice! But given how we have been destroying the planet’s livability, I think at the very least we should drop one of the sapiens. And, perhaps provisionally, we should put the other one in quotes, so we are Homo “sapiens,” at least until we see whether we are smart enough to save ourselves from self-destruction.

What the day — indeed, the whole year — should be about is not creating misery upon misery for our children and their children and their children, and on and on for generations (see “Is the global economy a Ponzi scheme?“). Ultimately, stopping climate change is not about preserving the earth or creation but about preserving ourselves. Yes, we can’t preserve ourselves if we don’t preserve a livable climate, and we can’t preserve a livable climate if we don’t preserve the earth. But the focus needs to stay on the health and well-being of billions of humans because, ultimately, humans are the ones who will experience the most prolonged suffering. And if enough people come to see it that way, we have a chance of avoiding the worst.

We have fiddled like Nero for far too long to save the whole earth or all of its species. Now we need a World War II scale effort just to cut our losses and save what matters most. So let’s call it Triage Day. And if worse comes to worst — yes, if worse comes to worst — at least future generations won’t have to change the name again.

As a penultimate thought, I suspect that many environmentalists and climate science advocates will have their own, private name: “I told you so” Day. Not as a universal as “Triage Day,” I admit, but it has a Cassandra-like catchiness, no?

Finally, perhaps we should call it “science day.” We don’t have a day dedicated to celebrating science, and don’t we deserve one whole day free from the non-stop disinformation of the anti-science crowd?

As always, I’m open to better ideas….Eaarth day?

Related Post:

An Illustrated Guide to the Science of Global Warming Impacts: How We Know Inaction Is the Gravest Threat Humanity Faces


Elephant bird egg sells for more than $100000

Washington Post  – ‎April 26, 2013‎

A massive, partly fossilized egg laid by an extinct elephant bird has sold for more than $100,000 at a London auction. Christie’s auction house said the winning bidder paid $101,813 for the foot-long egg, nearly nine inches in diameter.


Mushrooms can provide as much vitamin D as supplements
(April 22, 2013) — Researchers have discovered that eating mushrooms containing Vitamin D2 can be as effective at increasing and maintaining vitamin D levels (25–hydroxyvitamin D) as taking supplemental vitamin D2 or vitamin D3. … > full story


Some visible signs of Lyme disease are easily missed or mistaken
(April 22, 2013) — With Lyme disease season now beginning, doctors are urged to consider Lyme disease as the underlying cause when presented with skin lesions that resemble conditions such as contact dermatitis, lupus, common skin infections, or insect or spider bites, especially where Lyme disease is endemic. New analysis establishes patients with those symptoms, rather than the classic Lyme “bulls-eye” lesion, to have been infected with the Lyme bacterium. … > full story

Study shows reproductive effects of pesticide exposure span generations
(April 22, 2013) — Researchers studying aquatic organisms called Daphnia have found that exposure to a chemical pesticide has impacts that span multiple generations — causing the so-called “water fleas” to produce more male offspring, and causing reproductive problems in female offspring. … > full story

Coffee may help prevent breast cancer returning, study finds
(April 25, 2013) — Drinking coffee could decrease the risk of breast cancer recurring in patients taking the widely used drug Tamoxifen, a study has found. Patients who took the pill, along with two or more cups of coffee daily, reported less than half the rate of cancer recurrence, compared with their Tamoxifen-taking counterparts who drank one cup or less. … > full story

More evidence berries have health-promoting properties
(April 21, 2013) — Adding more color to your diet in the form of berries is encouraged by many nutrition experts. The protective effect of berries against inflammation has been documented in many studies. Diets supplemented with blueberries and strawberries have also been shown to improve behavior and cognitive functions in stressed young rats. … > full story

Drinking one 12-ounce sugar-sweetened soft drink a day can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes by 22 percent, study suggests
(April 24, 2013) — Drinking one (or one extra) 12-ounce serving size of sugar-sweetened soft drink a day can be enough to increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 22 percent, a new study suggests. … > full story











Conservation Science News April 12, 2013

Highlight of the Week









Highlight of the Week


Yes, Climate Change Is Worsening U.S. Drought — NOAA Report Needlessly Confuses The Issue

Posted: 12 Apr 2013 09:32 AM PDT

NOAA has issued a report on a small part of the recent brutal droughts that have hit the United States over the past few years. The report “An Interpretation of the Origins of the 2012 Central Great Plains Drought” is needlessly confusing, problematic scientifically, and already leading to misleading headlines.

Dr. Kevin Trenberth, head of the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, has sent to reporters a Commentary on the report, which I repost below. He concludes:

This report has some useful material in it describing aspects of the drought in 2012 in the central US. But it is quite incomplete in many respects, and it asks the wrong questions.  Then it does not provide very useful answers to the questions that are asked.

Indeed, it seems odd to do a 44-page report on the drought in the Central Great Plains (in the spring and summer of 2012) when so much of the Great Plains — and Southwest — has also been in a brutal extended drought that continues to this day.








Measuring microbes makes wetland health monitoring more affordable, says researcher
(April 9, 2013)
Wetlands serve as Earth’s kidneys. They filter and clean people’s water supplies while serving as important habitat for many species, including iconic species like cattails, cranes and alligators. Conventional ecosystem health assessments have focused on p
opulations of these larger species. However, the tiny, unseen creatures in the wetlands provided crucial indicators of the ecosystems’ health in a study by University of Missouri Associate Professor of Engineering Zhiqiang Hu and his team…..Tiny, unseen wetland creatures provided crucial indicators of the ecosystems’ health in a new study. Using analysis of the microbiological health of wetlands is cheaper and faster than traditional assessments, and could lead to improvements in harnessing natural processes to filter human’s wastewater. …Microbes form the base of the wetland food chain and nutrient cycle, so the health of their populations reverberates through the ecosystem,” said Hu. “However, analyzing their populations was once too difficult. Now, advances in microbial analysis allow us to more easily and accurately identify the species present in soil or water samples. This could become a vital tool to complement other forms of wetland health evaluation.” Hu’s team, led by former MU doctoral student Atreyee Sims, found that a higher ratio of certain microbes, known as archaea, to bacteria was a good sign of a healthy ecosystem. When a few species of bacteria dominated the samples, the wetland was probably contaminated and unhealthy from the ground up, Sims concluded….full story


Environmental change triggers rapid evolution
(April 9, 2013) — Environmental change can drive hard-wired evolutionary changes in animal species in a matter of generations. A new study overturns the common assumption that evolution only occurs gradually over hundreds or thousands of years.
Instead, researchers foun
d significant genetically transmitted changes in laboratory populations of soil mites in just 15 generations, leading to a doubling of the age at which the mites reached adulthood and large changes in population size. The results have important implications in areas such as disease and pest control, conservation and fisheries management because they demonstrate that evolution can be a game-changer even in the short-term…Although previous research has implied a link between short-term changes in animal species’ physical characteristics and evolution, the Leeds-led study is the first to prove a causal relationship between rapid genetic evolution and animal population dynamics in a controlled experimental setting….Professor Benton said: “The traditional idea would be that if you put animals in a new environment they stay basically the same but the way they grow changes because of variables like the amount of food. However, our study proves that the evolutionary effect — the change in the underlying biology in response to the environment — can happen at the same time as the ecological response. Ecology and evolution are intertwined,” he said. … > full story


Early warning signs of population collapse
(April 10, 2013) — Spatial measurements of population density could reveal when threatened natural populations are in danger of crashing. Researchers describe a new way to predict the risk of collapse, based on variations in population density in neighboring regions. … > full story



The fisher (Martes pennanti) is a cat-sized carnivore found in coniferous and mixed conifer and hardwood forests across Canada and in four regions of the United States, including New England, the Great Lakes, the northern Rockies, and the Pacific Northwest. Now a candidate species for listing under the Endangered Species Act, fishers in California are falling victim to rodenticides used on illegal marijuana crops scattered throughout the state’s public and tribal lands. (Credit: John Jacobson/Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife)

Silent Forests? Rodenticides on Illegal Marijuana Crops Harm Wildlife

2013 Spring — March 17, 2013 Wildlife Society News By Mourad W. Gabriel, Greta M. Wengert, J. Mark Higley, Shane Krogan, Warren Sargent, and Deana L. Clifford

Another mortality signal on the radio collar of a fisher (Martes pennanti) pulses on a wet spring morning, and fear of a repeat of the previous spring’s mortalities looms in the backs of our minds. Hoopa tribal biologists scramble to recover the fisher quickly so that a necropsy can be performed to determine cause of death. The field crew reports back that the fisher is not dead but lethargic and lurching on the ground when it attempts to seek cover from approaching biologists. A conference call among researchers, a wildlife pathologist, and a veterinary toxicologist follows to determine the next course of action. Unfortunately, the consensus is humane euthanization. Though testing is ongoing, this is likely the sixth monitored fisher in California that has died from second-generation anticoagulant rodenticide (SGAR) toxicosis since 2009. Linking SGARs to multiple deaths of a rare forest carnivore has been an alarming discovery. Even more unsettling: We’ve learned that these deaths appear to be linked to illegal marijuana cultivation on community and public lands — a finding that raises serious concerns for the health of many species of wildlife including fishers, an Endangered Species Act candidate…..


Protected wildlife areas are ‘welcome mats’ for UK’s bird newcomers
(April 10, 2013) — A new study shows that bird species which have colonized the UK in recent decades breed initially almost exclusively in nature reserves and other areas specially protected for wildlife. … > full story


Spring rains bring life to Midwest granaries but foster Gulf of Mexico ‘Dead Zone’
(April 9, 2013) — The most serious ongoing water pollution problem in the Gulf of Mexico originates not from oil rigs, as many people believe, but rainstorms and fields of corn and soybeans a thousand miles away in the Midwest. An expert on that problem — the infamous Gulf of Mexico “Dead Zone” — today called for greater awareness of the connections between rainfall and agriculture in the Midwest and the increasingly severe water quality problems in the gulf. … > full story



‘Sustainable fishing’ certification too lenient and discretionary
(April 10, 2013) — The certification of seafood as “sustainable” by the nonprofit Marine Stewardship Council is too lenient and discretionary, a study by a consortium of researchers has found. … > full story

Great white sharks scavenging on dead whales
(April 10, 2013) — Biologists have explored the behaviors of Great white sharks scavenging on dead whales in South Africa. The team documented as many as 40 different sharks scavenging on a carcass over the course of a single day, revealing unique social interactions among sharks. … > full story

Research enables fishermen to harvest lucrative shellfish on Georges Bank
(April 10, 2013) — New scientific understanding of toxic algal blooms on Georges Bank, along with an at-sea and dockside testing protocol, has allowed fishermen to harvest ocean quahogs and surf clams in these offshore waters for the first time in more than two decades. The Georges Bank surf clam and ocean quahog fishery has an estimated annual value of -15 million. … > full story



Researchers help unlock pine beetle’s Pandora’s box
(April 5, 2013) — A paper detailing the newly created sequencing of the mountain pine beetle’s genome will be gold in the hands of scientists trying to stem the beetle’s invasion into eastern forests. … > full story

New live bi-ocular animations of two oceans now available
(April 5, 2013) — NOAA’s GOES-13 and GOES-15 weather satellites sit 60 degrees apart in a fixed orbit over the eastern and western U.S., respectively, providing forecasters with a look at the movement of weather systems in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The GOES Project announced the creation of satellite animations of both GOES-13 and GOES-15 to show continuous views of both oceans, with conjoined images reminiscent of binoculars. … > full story



New Jersey rebuilding bayside beaches crucial to birds

The Journal News | April 7, 2013

Red knots and other shore birds land on Delaware Bay beaches by the hundreds of thousands each May, gorging themselves on horseshoe crab eggs to fatten up for the second half of their arduous 10,000-mile migration to Canada…..


Smart solutions to a worsening water crisis
(April 10, 2013) — Innovative policies and new technologies that reduce water waste are helping countries across the Middle East and North Africa deal with chronic water shortages. …
Those a
dvances spring from the simple idea that preventing water loss is effectively the same as giving parched countries new sources of water. This view gained widespread credibility in the wake of an IDRC-supported research program designed to assess how the so-called “water demand management” approach could ease the region’s water crisis…. arlier, governments had seen big, costly projects such as dams, canals, and salt-water desalination plants as the solution to water scarcity. By the mid-1990s, the megaproject approach was widely viewed as a poor response to a water crisis worsened by population growth and climate change. However, the “demand management” alternative to developing new supplies of water — for example, reducing the amount of water used, wasted, or even needed — remained unproven….full story

Research holds revelations about an ancient society’s water conservation, purification
(April 9, 2013) — New research at the ancient Maya site of Medicinal Trail in northwestern Belize is revealing how populations in more remote areas — the hinterland societies — built reservoirs to conserve water and turned to nature to purify their water supply. … > full story


Goosefish capture small puffins over deep water of Northwest Atlantic
(April 10, 2013) — A recent study has shown that bottom-dwelling goosefish, also known as monkfish, prey on dovekies, a small Arctic seabird and the smallest member of the puffin family. To understand how this deep-water fish finds a shallow-feeding bird in offshore waters, researchers looked at when, where, and how these animals were most likely to be in the same place at the same time. … > full story


Scientists use islands to gauge rainfall’s effect on landscapes
(April 10, 2013) — Researchers have used volcanic islands to measure how rainfall sets the pace of landscape formation. …

Remote coral reefs can be tougher than they look: Western Australia’s Scott Reef has recovered from mass bleaching
April 5, 2013) — Isolated coral reefs can recover from catastrophic damage as effectively as those with nearby undisturbed neighbors, a long-term study by marine biologists has shown. Scott Reef, a remote coral system in the Indian Ocean, has largely recovered from a catastrophic mass bleaching event in 1998, according to the study. … > full story

The Snakelocks Anemone, a marine species prized in cooking, has been bred for the first time in captivity
(April 5, 2013) — Researchers have managed to breed for the first time in captivity a marine animal known as the snakelocks anemone and have also begun breeding a species of sea cucumber although this process is still in its initial stages. Both species have great culinary potential and possess excellent nutritional properties. … > full story


New chart shows the entire topography of the Antarctic seafloor in detail for the first time
(April 9, 2013) — Reliable information on the depth and floor structure of the Southern Ocean has so far been available for only few coastal regions of the Antarctic. Scientists have for the first time succeeded in creating a digital map of the entire Antarctic seafloor. … > full story

Urban grass might be greener, but that doesn’t mean it’s ‘greener’
(April 9, 2013) — New research explores how efforts to keep urban lawns looking green and healthy might negate the soil’s natural ability to store atmospheric toxins. … > full story






Ocean nutrients a key component of future change, say scientists
(April 10, 2013) — Variations in nutrient availability in the world’s oceans could be a vital component of future environmental change, according to a new review paper. … > full story



Arctic Sea Ice: The Death Spiral Continues

Posted: 11 Apr 2013 11:22 AM PDT

The story of the decade is the collapse of Arctic sea ice and its impact on our extreme weather (see “CryoSat-2 Confirms Sea Ice Volume Has Collapsed“).

That merits the latest monthly update of sea ice volume by creative tech guru Andy Lee Robinson showing that “death spiral” is the right visual metaphor:

Many experts now say that if recent volume trends continue we will see a “near ice-free Arctic in summer” within a decade. And that may well usher in a permanent change toward extreme, prolonged weather events “such as drought, flooding, cold spells and heat waves.

It will also accelerate global warming in the region, which in turn will likely accelerate both the disintegration of the Greenland ice sheet as well as the release of the vast amounts of carbon currently locked in the permafrost, which in turn will likely add 0.4°F – 1.5°F to total global warming by 2100.

For more on the death spiral, here’s Peter Sinclair’s latest video, featuring an interview with Walt Meier of the National Snow and Ice Data Center:

Related Posts:


In Sign of Warming, 1,600 Years of Ice in Andes Melted in 25 Years

By JUSTIN GILLIS Published: April 4, 2013

Both images: Lonnie G. Thompson/Ohio State University The Qori Kalis glacier in Peru, a tongue of ice extending down a valley from the mighty Quelccaya ice cap, has been melting rapidly. Pull the slider with your mouse to compare a picture taken in 1978, left, with one taken in 2011.

Glacial ice in the Peruvian Andes that took at least 1,600 years to form has melted in just 25 years, scientists reported Thursday, the latest indication that the recent spike in global temperatures has thrown the natural world out of balance. .. The evidence comes from a remarkable find at the margins of the Quelccaya ice cap in Peru, the world’s largest tropical ice sheet. Rapid melting there in the modern era is uncovering plants that were locked in a deep freeze when the glacier advanced many thousands of years ago. Dating of those plants, using a radioactive form of carbon in the plant tissues that decays at a known rate, has given scientists an unusually precise method of determining the history of the ice sheet’s margins. Lonnie G. Thompson, the Ohio State University glaciologist whose team has worked intermittently on the Quelccaya ice cap for decades, reported the findings in a paper released online Thursday by the journal Science. The paper includes a long-awaited analysis of chemical tracers in ice cylinders the team recovered by drilling deep into Quelccaya, a record that will aid scientists worldwide in reconstructing past climatic variations.

Such analyses will take time, but Dr. Thompson said preliminary evidence shows, for example, that the earth probably went through a period of anomalous weather at around the time of the French Revolution, which began in 1789. The weather presumably contributed to the food shortages that exacerbated that upheaval. “When there’s a disruption of food, this is bad news for any government,” Dr. Thompson said in an interview. Of greater immediate interest, Dr. Thompson and his team have expanded on previous research involving long-dead plants emerging from the melting ice at the edge of Quelccaya, a huge, flat ice cap sitting on a volcanic plain 18,000 feet above sea level. …

Throughout the Andes, glaciers are now melting so rapidly that scientists have grown deeply concerned about water supplies for the people living there. Glacial meltwater is essential for helping Andean communities get through the dry season. In the short run, the melting is producing an increase of water supplies and feeding population growth in major cities of the Andes, the experts said. But as the glaciers continue shrinking, trouble almost certainly looms. Douglas R. Hardy, a University of Massachusetts researcher who works in the region, said, “How much time do we have before 50 percent of Lima’s or La Paz’s water resources are gone?”


When It Rains, It Pours: Study Confirms Climate Change Will Keep Driving More Intense Precipitation

Posted: 07 Apr 2013 07:15 AM PDT

Climate change will bring more and more extreme precipitation events this century. A new study from NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center confirms what climate scientists have long been saying about climate change’s effect on the hydrological cycle. If you are not familiar with this term, you are certainly familiar with what it describes. As the sun warms the earth, water evaporates from oceans, lakes, and rivers, which then form clouds that produce rain and snow. More evaporation happens when the ocean
the air is warmer, which has been happening steadily for some time. The NOAA study, published in Geophysical Research Letters, found that extreme precipitation events will become more intense this century as the globe continues to warm. Extra moisture expected from that warming will be the dominant factor fueling this increase in extreme precipitation, with a 20 to 30 percent more precipitation in the Northern Hemisphere by 2099.
The paper looked at three factors that go into the maximum precipitation value possible in any given location: moisture in the atmosphere, upward motion of air in the atmosphere, and horizontal winds. The team examined climate model data to understand how a continued course of high greenhouse gas emissions would influence the potential maximum precipitation. While greenhouse gas increases did not substantially change the maximum upward motion of the atmosphere or horizontal winds, the models did show a 20-30 percent increase in maximum moisture in the atmosphere, which led to a corresponding increase in the maximum precipitation value.


Percent maximum daily precipitation difference (2071-2100) – (1971-2000). (Photo credit: NOAA)


They looked at possible changes in winds that could offset increased water vapor, but found that those changes would be too small. We already know that specific events cannot be said to be directly caused by climate change, but as Kevin Trenberth puts it, “All weather events are affected by climate change because the environment in which they occur is warmer and moister than it used to be.” And we know that NOAA’s projections have already started to become the reality: a study in Nature
found that several of the last decade’s extreme weather events would not have occurred without climate change. The study’s authors hope that this will allow water managers, engineers, and infrastructure planners to better identify risks and mitigate potential disasters. National reports like this are valuable not only because funds for flood risk prevention studies are often attacked in Congress, but because climate impacts are often ignored, forcibly, at the state level. South Carolina buried an important report on climate impacts. North Carolina made it illegal to consider the latest climate science when preparing coastal regions for sea level rise.

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Climate Change Keeps Expanding Canada’s Unprecedented Epidemic Of Forest-Destroying Beetles

By Jeff Spross on Apr 11, 2013 at 3:51 pm

Since the late 1990s, climate change has driven a massive expansion of forest-destroying Mountain Pine Beetles in Canada, delivering the country one of the worst ecological disasters in its history. The insects are not technically invasive, and until recently they existed in a natural balance with their environment; killing off older trees and making room for new growth. But as a new documentary chronicles, climate change eliminated many of the natural limits on the beetles’ geographic spread and their rate of reproduction.


Scientists seek sea urchin’s secret to surviving ocean acidification
(April 9, 2013) — Ocean research reveals rapid evolutionary adaptations to a changing climate. Genetic variation is the key to this ability to deal with higher acidity. … > full story

Trouble in penguin paradise? Research analyzes Antarctic ice flow
(April 9, 2013) — A student researcher has discovered that a good way to monitor the environmental health of Antarctica is to go with the flow — the ice flow, that is. It’s an important parameter to track because as Antarctica’s health goes, so goes the world’s. … > full story


Feelin’ queasy? More air turbulence over Atlantic

By RAPHAEL SATTER Associated Press Posted:   04/10/2013 02:35:08 AM PDT

LONDON—Tourists, exchange students, masters of the financial universe and other business travelers: It’s time to buckle up. More pollution is likely to mean bumpier flights for trans-Atlantic travelers, researchers say, predicting increased turbulence over the North Atlantic as carbon dioxide levels rise. University of East Anglia climate expert Manoj Joshi said scientists have long studied the impact of the carbon-heavy aviation industry on climate change but he took a new tack. “We looked at the effect of climate change on aviation,” he said. In a paper published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change, Joshi and colleague Paul Williams ran a climate simulation that cranked up the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to twice its pre-industrial level—roughly 50 percent more than now. Williams said they ran a series of turbulence-predicting algorithms for the North Atlantic winter period and compared the results to pre-industrial rates.

Queasy fliers need read no further.

Williams said the results showed a 10-to-40 percent increase in the median strength of turbulence and a 40-to-170 percent increase in the frequency of moderate-or-greater turbulence. He described the latter as shaking that is “strong enough to force the pilot to switch on the seat-belt sign, knock over drinks, and make it difficult to walk.”

The explanation is that some models predict that global warming will draw the jet stream further north,

creating more of the vertical wind shear that causes turbulence.

Joshi said choppier skies might prompt pilots to reroute their flights. But the North Atlantic is a busy place for air travel, with an average of 960 flights a day last week, according to aviation data companies masFlight and OAG. Pilots interviewed by The Associated Press said—in such a crowded air corridor—planes were just as likely to simply power through.

“You just got to grin and bear it,” said Steven Draper, a retired airline pilot and a spokesman for the British Airline Pilots Association. Although there’s no clear evidence of rougher skies just yet, Draper did say he’d seen worse weather—like storms—near the end of his career.

“My experience was that they were increasing in intensity and frequency,” he said. ….


Wine-growing regions may shift from climate change

Top regions may be too hot by 2050 – but coast, mountains could thrive

By David Perlman SF Chronicle April 11, 2013

Winegrowers in California and around the world will be forced to move their vineyards to cooler environments within the next few decades as climate change causes temperatures to rise, conservation biologists say in a study to be published this week. Think Yellowstone Pinot Noir or Chateau Yukon Cabernet.

Not that those are likely new venues for high-end premium grapes, but a new analysis warns that the world’s warming climate will put new strains on water supplies for vineyard irrigation. And without adequate planning, the scientists warned, any movement to the north by grape growers into critical habitat will pose new threats to wildlife.

The analysis by a team of international researchers, to be published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, indicates that California’s coastal vineyards are least likely to be at risk because of their proximity to the Pacific Ocean, which moderates California’s coastal climate.

But in the Central Valley, as well as in the world’s warmer grape-growing regions, water supplies will be heavily stressed as growers are forced to compete for irrigation water with other crop growers, said Lee Hannah, a biologist and climate specialist with Conservation International who led the study.

At the current rate of climate change, by 2050 vineyard owners could be pushing into California regions that are now considered unsuitable for wine growing, like the higher slopes of the Sierra and the northern redwood forests, Hannah said.

Only careful planning will ward off conflicts between winegrowers and wildlife defenders, said Rebecca Shaw, a climate policy analyst with the Environmental Defense Fund.

The “Yellowstone-Yukon corridor” is a typical region that is currently “unsuitable” for wine growing, but where vineyards could become widespread in the next 40 years, according to the scientists’ analysis.

Wine is made in the Yellowstone area now, and some farmers grow grapes there, but Montana’s eight licensed wineries specialize in making wines mostly from cherries, rhubarb, blueberries, pears and other fruits, according to the Montana Commerce Department.

Matthiasson in the barrel room at Silenus Vintners, where he produces his wine.

In Australia, Hannah said, many grape growers are already expanding their vineyards southward into Tasmania, where cooler climates previously have inhibited full ripening, but where global warming is making the region a better fit for wine.

And in South Africa, winegrowers are planning moves to higher altitudes for their expanded vineyards, Hannah said.

In Napa, noted wine consultant Steve Matthiasson, who produces wine from his family vineyard, called the new analysis “a great report.”

“I agree with it. It’s right on,” he said. “It’s time we think hard about it so we growers can move out of the abstract. Remember, grapes are very adaptable. Even now they’re growing grapes in the Coachella Valley, where it’s really hot.” One way growers can adapt to global warming, Matthiasson said, is to start planning now to use less water for irrigation by planting drought-tolerant rootstocks and by irrigating longer but less frequently so “root zones” go deeper. Vineyard rows can also be shifted to allow leaves to give more protection to ripening grapes, he said.



Limiting greenhouse gas emissions from land use in Europe
(April 10, 2013) — New research estimates future land use emissions for the European Union, showing that Europe could potentially reduce greenhouse gas emissions from land use by more than 60 percent by 2050. ..

The new estimates, which are based on an integrated modeling framework that combines information about population, economics, and land use and land productivity, show that Europe could potentially reduce greenhouse gas emissions from land use by more than 60% by 2050. The study showed that the biggest mitigation potential lies in cutting emissions from agriculture such as livestock production, as well as in managing forests effectively to increase their role as a carbon sink….full story

Think the Planet Isn’t Warming? Check the Ocean

Apr 11, 2013 05:11 AM ET // by Kieran Mulvaney

A recent article in The Economist stated that “over the past 15 years air temperatures at the Earth’s surface have been flat while greenhouse-gas emissions have continued to soar.” The Economist went to great lengths to point out that “the mismatch between rising greenhouse-gas emissions and not-rising temperatures … does not mean global warming is a delusion.” But the piece was predictably lauded by climate skeptics as “further evidence” of the case against climate change.

Except that … it wasn’t. As The Economist piece itself pointed out, this wasn’t an argument that “global warming has ‘stopped.‘” The past two decades have been the hottest in recorded history; of the nine hottest years on record, eight have come since 2000. The question, though, is why the year-on-year/decade-on-decade increase appears to have been somewhat less in the past 10 to 15 years, given the ongoing increase in atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations.

To which there are several answers.

First, the smaller the temporal time scale, the more the short-term fluctuations, forcings and feedbacks — from aerosol emissions to La Niña events — can distort the bigger picture. Over a longer scale, the evidence is increasing that the rate of warming is probably unprecedented in over 11,000 years.

Second, The Economist article, and the skeptic narrative that has absorbed it, focuses on what is known as “climate sensitivity,” which is how much surface warming the planet will experience in response to a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations relative to pre-Industrial Revolution levels. (Those pre-industrial levels were approximately 280 ppm; a doubling therefore would be roughly 560 ppm. Present levels are closing in on 397 ppm.)

But, as climate blogger Joe Romm points out, climate sensitivity is but one factor in determining how much the planet will warm in the future; another hugely important one is the extent to which CO2 concentrations will actually increase, and present trends suggest they will blow past 560 ppm and wind up closer to 1,000 ppm. Additionally, while climate sensitivity estimates are greatly influenced by short-term feedbacks such as sea ice extent and water vapor, they do not factor in “slow” feedbacks, such as the release of methane as a result of tundra melt. Nor do they consider the non-linearity of such feedbacks – i.e. the fact that they may become significant relatively suddenly.

Third, the data referred to by The Economist suggest that climate sensitivity may be at the very low end of projected estimates of between 2 degrees Celsius and 4.5 degrees Celsius. If that indeed does prove to be the case, then that’s obviously good news. But, as Zeke Hausfather pointed out in a post at the Yale Forum on Climate Change and the Media: “A world with a relatively low climate sensitivity — say in the range of 2 °C — but with high emissions and with atmospheric concentrations three to four times those of pre-industrial levels is still probably a far different planet than the one we humans have become accustomed to. And it’s likely not one we would find nearly so hospitable.”

Finally, and most importantly, there is plenty of reason to suspect that climate sensitivity isn’t lower than expected; because, critically, discussions of climate sensitivity tend to focus on surface warming of the planet; but several recent studies have shown that in fact an increasing amount of warming is taking place beneath the surface, in the ocean depths.

Ninety percent of warming goes into heating, not the land or the atmosphere, but the ocean; two recent papers, in 2012 and earlier this year, showed that approximately 30 percent of recent ocean warming has been taken up by waters below depths of 700 meters (about 2,300 feet), where few measurements had previously taken place. That was reinforced by a European study, published earlier this week, which, according to Reuters, found “that the oceans took up more warmth from the air around 2000. That would help explain the slowdown in surface warming but would also suggest that the pause may be only temporary and brief … Lead author Virginie Guemas of the Catalan Institute of Climate Sciences in Barcelona said the hidden heat may return to the atmosphere in the next decade, stoking warming again.”







Judge Slams Obama Administration Over Fracking In California

April 9, 2013 SAN FRANCISCO -– A federal judge struck a major blow against fracking in California this week, ruling that the government was wrong to allow energy companies to drill for oil on 2,700 acres of public land without first considering environmental impacts. The Bureau of Land Management’s assessment of the land “did not adequately consider the development impact of hydraulic fracturing techniques,” wrote U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Grewal in a decision made public on Monday that sided with environmental groups that sued the BLM.

The land in question sits atop the Monterey Shale, a formation of sedimentary rock stretching beneath much of Central California, which the U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates contains more than 15 billion barrels of oil. But the oil can only be reached through hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, an invasive process that injects vast amounts of water, sand and chemicals to create cracks in the rock and force the oil to the surface.Before auctioning off mineral rights to the land in 2011, BLM was required to analyze potential environmental consequences. The agency’s 125-page report, however, characterized fracking as “not relevant to the analysis of impacts … because the reasonable foreseeable development scenario anticipates very little (if any) disturbance to the human environment.” Based on this, BLM declared that drilling into federal lands would create “no significant environmental impact” and signed off on the leases.

A coalition of environmental groups, including the Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club, sued BLM over the auction, arguing that fracking threatened significant detrimental effects on water quality and on endangered species. Judge Grewal sided with the plaintiffs, charging that the government didn’t take fracking sufficiently into account. “Rather than engaging in this reality by at least considering what impact might result from fracking on the leased lands, whatever its ultimate conclusion, BLM chose simply to ignore it, asserting that ‘these issues are outside the scope of this … [environmental analysis] because they are not under the authority or within the jurisdiction of the BLM,” the judge wrote. “If not within BLM’s jurisdiction, then whose?”….


California Senate Panel Approves Bill to Regulate Fracking
The Sacramento Bee, 4/10/13
A bill to more tightly regulate the drilling process called hydraulic fracturing cleared a Senate committee Tuesday. Fracking, as the extraction technique is commonly called, has become a flash point for environmental advocates as the process has become more commonplace in recent years. California is in the incipient stages of regulating fracking, which involves shooting a mix of chemicals, sand and water deep underground.


Americans Are Slowly Reprioritising Their Environmental Concern

April 12, 2013
Joshua S Hill

….Two years ago I wrote an article entitled ‘Americans Characteristically Uninformed About Climate Change‘ in the wake of that years’ Environmental poll. When asked “How much do you personally worry about global warming?” those who worried “a great deal” and “fair amount” had reached an almost all-time low of 51% of respondents. The lowest had been a response of only 50% in 1998, compared with 72% two years later.This year, respondents in the 2013 Environmental poll were asked the same question, and the continuing growth in concern has continued. 2012 showed 55% were worrying “a great deal” and “a fair amount” while this year that number has jumped up to 58%. They aren’t great numbers, but they are growing numbers.

Image Credit: Gallup

More specifically, 33% of Americans worry about global warming “a great deal,” 25% worry “a fair amount,” 20% “only a little,” and 23% “not at all.” That last number is somewhat terrifying, and somewhat representative of a continuing segment of the American population’s attitudes towards global warming, and the environment as a whole…..


Unhappy Returns: Climate Change’s Big Tax on Americans

Mindy Lubber, Ceres Date: 09 April 2013 Time: 05:06 PM ET

Mindy Lubber is the president of Ceres, a non-profit organization mobilizing business leadership on climate change. She contributed this article to LiveScience’s Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

Crop losses. Floods. Wildfires. Climate change and extreme weather are fundamentally changing the United States, and American taxpayers are paying a huge, and growing, cost. The U.S. Government Accountability Office warned in February that climate change is a “significant financial risk to the federal government.” It threatens everything — not just federal lands and buildings, but food, flood and crop insurance, and disaster relief. And who pays for all of this? We do, the American taxpayers — a threat to the government’s wallet is a threat to our own bottom line. Here are several examples of the escalating costs Americans are already bearing.

Food Taxpayers subsidize the federal crop insurance program that was created during the 1930s Dust Bowl to protect farmers against crop losses. Today, we’re experiencing another devastating drought, and federal crop insurance losses have tripled in the past three years to $16 billion in payouts for 2012. That’s a cost of $51 a year for every man, woman and child in America.

And these costs are likely to continue — the latest numbers from the U.S. Drought Monitor show nearly 67 percent of the contiguous U.S. is now experiencing some level of drought.

Floods The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is staggering under massive losses after Superstorm Sandy, which triggered more than 115,000 new claims in just the first two weeks after the storm.

Although NFIP collects about $3.5 billion a year in premiums, the amount of claims the agency has paid out has exceeded the amount collected in four of the past eight years, leading to increased borrowing by the federal government (in other words, taxpayers) to fill the gap. Last year’s losses in Sandy’s wake are expected to approach $8 billion. That’s $25 for every American. [How Sandy Compares to the Worst US Natural Disasters] Keep in mind, that figure doesn’t even include the $50 billion of disaster relief that Congress approved in January for Sandy-impacted states. And with sea levels rising and storm surges reaching further inland because of climate change, risks to coastal communities and costs to taxpayers will continue to rise….

Senate OKs Sally Jewell as New Interior Secretary
Los Angeles Times, 4/10/13 The Senate approved REI Chief Executive Sally Jewell Wednesday as the new secretary of the Interior by a vote of 87 to 11. Jewell, 58, had faced tough questioning by some Senate Republicans during her confirmation hearing in early March. But in comparison to some Obama Cabinet nominees, she sailed through the committee and full Senate votes.

NWRA Welcomes Sally Jewell as the Next Secretary the Interior

Washington, D.C.–The National Wildlife Refuge Association today expressed its strong support for Sally Jewell as the next Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior following the Senate’s confirmation of her nomination last night.  Jewell’s appreciation for the outdoors and wildlife as well as her extensive knowledge of the economic benefits of our natural resources will bring a unique perspective in the President’s cabinet.

“We are extremely pleased by the Senate’s confirmation of Sally Jewell to be the 51st Secretary of the Interior and look forward to working closely with her to grow our nation’s commitment to wildlife conservation at a landscape level, in places such as the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area in Florida, the Silvio Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge in the Connecticut River watershed and Cache River National Wildlife Refuge in Arkansas.” said David Houghton, President of the National Wildlife Refuge Association. “She will undoubtedly be an excellent spokesperson for the President’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative and will continue to bring attention to our nation’s great public lands.”

Jewell has earned national recognition for her management skills of the nearly $2 billion outdoor equipment company, REI. This expertise makes her uniquely qualified to lead an agency with hundreds of millions of acres of lands where Americans go to enjoy outdoor recreation.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Wildlife Refuge System is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. The sun literally never sets on its 150 million acres spanning 560 units from Guam to Puerto Rico.  Over 40 million annual visitors contribute over $4.2 billion in economic output and over 34,000 jobs from recreation-related spending. National wildlife refuges and their recreational opportunities is part of a growing industry in the United States. Jewell’s leadership at the helm of the Department of Interior comes at a crucial time.

“Sally Jewell has been  a leader in the outdoor recreation industry using innovative strategies to protect and restore wildlife habitat throughout the Pacific Northwest and across the country; as Secretary of the Interior, she will have an opportunity to articulate and implement a larger conservation vision for the nation.” said Houghton.  “We look forward to working with her to further the goals and mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Wildlife Refuge System.”



California’s Secret To Green Jobs And A Thriving Clean Economy? It’s Policy.

Posted: 10 Apr 2013 11:59 AM PDT

California utilities to get a third of their power from renewable sources, the country’s most aggressive clean energy standard (AP Photo)

By Jorge Madrid via EDF

California has a thriving clean economy. In fact, the Golden State boasted more green jobs in clean energy and transportation last year than the other top 4 states combined, according to a new report by Environmental Entrepreneurs. Here are some more highlights:

Innovation: The state is a hub for clean energy innovation. Clean technology patents grew by 26 percent in the past 2 years, outpacing the country and the rest of the world. It is the “undisputed leader in solar technology patents” according to, with totals greater than the cumulative solar patents of the next eight highest states.

Energy Generation: Total renewable energy generation has grown 28 percent between 2007 and 2011 and wind energy has doubled during this same period. Earlier this month, the state broke its own record for solar power — over 15,394 megawatt-hours of power to the grid, enough for every Californian to keep a 100-watt bulb lit for four hours. Not to be outdone, the state also surpassed 4-gigawatts of wind power — similar to what California’s two nuclear plants can churn out at full power, or enough to momentarily supply over 2.5 million homes……



How is Tom Steyer
different than the Koch Brothers?

San Francisco Chronicle (blog) ‎- April 10 2013

Billionaire San Francisco hedge fund manager/friend of President Obama Tom Steyer. As Comrade Marinucci has told us, Steyer is targeting ..






Beyond Bathtub: Modeling and Responding to Sea Level Rise and Shoreline Change

This is a follow-up message from the Beyond Bathtub: Modeling and Responding to Sea Level Rise and Shoreline Change
workshop hosted at the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project, December 19, 2012, in Costa Mesa, CA. We are happy to announce the agenda, summary report and the presentations from the day are online and ready for viewing! Please visit the Beyond Bathtub workshop webpage for the resources – we have also enclosed the summary report with this message for your convenience. Where appropriate we also updated information to reflect developments since the workshop. To pique your interest, please find below the table of contents for this report.



North Pacific LCC Announces Two Requests for Proposals (RFPs)

The North Pacific Landscape Conservation Cooperative (NPLCC) announces the release of two separate funding opportunities:
Funding Announcement #1 
The NPLCC, the Northwest Climate Science Center and the Alaska Climate Science Center, joined hands and pooled resources to support the development of climate change science and information relevant to the adaptation and management of subsistence/cultural resources.  Funding Announcement #1, found here, provides descriptions of eligible projects and application details.  This action is included in the NPLCC Science/TEK Strategy Implementation Plan as Focused Activity #5.  Applications are due to on 5/9/13 by 5:00 p.m. PDT.
Funding Announcement #2
The NPLCC is also releasing a second funding opportunity, found here.  Funding Announcement #2 implements for 4 additional actions which are included in the recently adopted NPLCC Science/TEK Strategy Implementation Plan under Focused Activities 2 and 4.  Descriptions of eligible projects and application details are included in this second funding announcement.  Applications are due to on 5/6/13 by 5:00 p.m. PDT.
To learn more about the NPLCCNorthwest Climate Science Center, and Alaska Climate Science Center, please visit their web sites.Please share this information with anyone in your organization who may be interested in submitting proposals in response to either of these announcements. If you have questions, please contact NPLCC Staff at: Mary Mahaffy –, or  John Mankowski –



Modeling potential range shifts under a changing climate: A case study
Wednesday, April 17, 1:00-2:30 PM Eastern


  • Scott D. Klopfer, Director, Conservation Management Institute, Virginia Tech
  • David Kramar, Conservation Management Institute, Virginia Tech
  • Chris Burkett, Wildlife Action Plan Coordinator, VA Dept. of Game & Inland Fisheries
  • Austin Kane, Science and Policy Manager, National Wildlife Federation

Description: Climate change, and its potential impact on species distributions, has moved to the forefront of concerns among wildlife managers. Current speculation in Virginia centers on how species will respond to changing climate in the coming century. We used dynamically downscaled climate models to generate change scenarios in the mid and late 21st century. We used that information, along with available species occurrence information, to build predictive spatial models for a select group of species. Our results suggested that the impact of climate change will vary across the landscape. The resulting species distribution models provide information for wildlife managers on how climate changes may result in shifting distributions in Virginia. We also provide some basic suggestions to managers in using the information produced and in incorporating climate change into their decision making.


Demonstration of Our Coast-Our Future by Kelley Higgason, Gulf of the Farallones NMS, and Michael Fitzgibbon, PRBO

Join us for a Webinar on April 23 1:00 pm- 2:00pm EDT
Space is limited.
Reserve your Webinar seat now at:
Description: Our Coast–Our Future (OCOF) provides San Francisco Bay Area planners and managers with online maps and tools to help understand, visualize, and anticipate vulnerabilities to sea level rise and storms. OCOF provides a variety of information and tools needed to plan for changing Bay Area shorelines including: seamless Digital Elevation Model (DEM) at 2 meter horizontal resolution; 25 cm increment sea level rise projections between 0 – 2 meters with a 5 meter extreme; storm scenarios using the Coastal Storm Modeling System (CoSMoS); and interactive maps overlaying infrastructure and ecosystem vulnerabilities. Scenarios and decision support tools are currently available for the North-central California coast and are anticipated to be available for San Francisco Bay by Summer 2014. This webinar will provide information on how these products were created as well as give a live demonstration of their capabilities. Learn more at


Managing for resilience in the face of climate change: a scientific approach to targeted oyster restoration in San Francisco Bay and Elkhorn Slough, California“.  Wed April 17 Time: 10 am – 3 pm

By an interdisciplinary team from the California Coastal Conservancy, UC Davis and the National Estuarine Research Reserves at San Francisco Bay and Elkhorn Slough that began in late 2011

Location: State Coastal Conservancy, 11th floor conf room, 1330 Broadway, Oakland CA 94618 (steps from 12th St. BART and meter and lot parking)

Remote participation:  We encourage all participants to attend in person if at all possible, in order to have the best discussion.  For those who must attend remotely, please use the conference line (audio) and Go To Meeting link (powerpoints) below.

1.  Please join my meeting. Meeting ID: 327-017-026

2.  Join the conference call: 1-888-232-3870 Passcode: 226167#


Scenario Planning (Pilot Offering!): July 15-19, 2013

Course & Class Name: Scenario Planning toward Climate Change Adaptation : FWS-2013-0715-NCTC ALC3194 

Scenario planning is a valuable decision support method for integrating irreducible and uncontrollable uncertainties into climate change adaptation and other planning in natural resource management. This overview course will introduce the core elements of scenario planning and expose participants to a diversity of approaches and specific scenario development techniques that incorporate both qualitative and quantitative components. Participants will learn how scenario planning can be integrated into planning frameworks and be complementary with other decision support methods. This course will provide participants with the skills needed to assess the appropriateness of scenario planning for their needs, and identify the resources and expertise needed to conduct a scenario planning exercise that will meet established objectives. The course is developed in partnership with the Wildlife Conservation Society and the U.S. Geological Survey.


Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment: August 27-29, 2013

Course & Class Name: Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment : FWS-2013-0827-NCTC ALC3184 

This course is based on January 2011 publication “Scanning the Conservation Horizon – A Guide to Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment” ( The guidance document is a product of an expert workgroup on climate change vulnerability assessment convened by the National Wildlife Federation in collaboration with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station, National Park Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, and the Department of Defense Legacy Resource Management Program. This course is designed to guide conservation and resource management practitioners in two essential elements in the design of climate adaptation plans. Specifically, it will provide guidance in identifying which species or habitats are likely to be most strongly affected by projected changes; and understanding why these resources are likely to be vulnerable. Vulnerability Assessments are a critical tool in undertaking any climate change planning or implementation.

Registration Information:

Important Note on registering! All participants will automatically be added to a waitlist, from which we are enrolling. 

Department of Interior (DOI) Employees  and those with a DOI Learn account (and have taken a course through DOI before).

Please register through DOI Learn







Understanding the Life of Lithium Ion Batteries in Electric Vehicles

Apr. 10, 2013 — Scientists today answered a question that worries millions of owners and potential owners of electric and hybrid vehicles using lithium-ion batteries: How long before the battery pack dies, leaving a sticker-shock bill for a fresh pack or a car ready for the junk heap? Their answer, presented here at the 245th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), being held in New Orleans this week, may surprise skeptics. “The battery pack could be used during a quite reasonable period of time ranging from 5 to 20 years depending on many factors,” said Mikael G. Cugnet, Ph.D., who spoke on the topic. “That’s good news when you consider that some estimates put the average life expectancy of a new car at about eight years.”

Cugnet explained that the lifespan depends mainly on the battery’s temperature, state of charge and charge protocol. Battery performance begins to suffer as soon as the temperature climbs above 86 degrees Fahrenheit. “The higher the temperature, the lower the battery service life,” he said. “A temperature above 86 degrees F affects the battery pack performance instantly and even permanently if it lasts many months like in Middle East countries.” Cugnet also recommended that electric vehicle (EV) owners pay attention to how much their battery is charged, another factor in a battery’s longevity. He reported that a fully-charged battery is more vulnerable to losing power at temperatures above 86 degrees F.







What is unique about the migration patterns of the Mountain Quail?
(a.) They do not follow the same patterns from year to year
(b.) They will migrate with other bird species
(c.) They migrate the opposite direction from most birds, moving north as the weather gets cold
(d.) They walk most of the way
(e.) They invariably choose the most popular winter beach resorts, even though they claim to hate crowds
(answer at end)

High levels of lead detected in rice imported from certain countries
(April 10, 2013) — Rice imported from certain countries contains high levels of lead that could pose health risks, particularly for infants and children, who are especially sensitive to lead’s effects, and adults of Asian heritage who consume large amounts of rice, scientists say. … > full story

Self-medication in animals much more widespread than believed
April 11, 2013) — It’s been known for decades that animals such as chimpanzees seek out medicinal herbs to treat their diseases. But in recent years, the list of animal pharmacists has grown much longer, and it now appears that the practice of animal self-medication is a lot more widespread than previously thought, according to ecologists. … > full story

Bean leaves can trap bedbugs, researchers find
April 9, 2013) — Inspired by a traditional Balkan bedbug remedy, researchers have documented how microscopic hairs on kidney bean leaves effectively stab and trap the biting insects. Scientists are now developing materials that mimic the geometry of the leaves. … > full story

‘Strikingly similar’ brains of human and fly may aid mental health research
(April 11, 2013) — Scientists have revealed deep similarities in how the brain regulates behavior in arthropods (such as flies and crabs) and vertebrates (such as fish, mice and humans). The findings shed new light on the evolution of the brain and behavior and may aid understanding of disease mechanisms underlying mental health problems. … > full story

Reducing waste of food: A key element in feeding billions more people
(April 7, 2013) — Families can be key players in a revolution needed to feed the world, and could save money by helping to cut food losses now occurring from field to fork to trash bin, an expert said. He described that often-invisible waste in food — 4 out of every 10 pounds produced in the United States alone — and the challenges of feeding a global population of 9 billion. … > full story
















(d.) They walk most of the way

Conservation Science News April 5, 2013

Highlight of the Week









Highlight of the Week

Climate Change Winners: Adélie Penguin Population Expands as Ice Fields Recede

Apr. 3, 2013Adélie penguins may actually benefit from warmer global temperatures, the opposite of other polar species, according to a breakthrough study by an international team led by University of Minnesota Polar Geospatial Center researchers. The study provides key information affirming hypothetical projections about the continuing impact of environmental change.

Researchers from the United States and New Zealand used a mix of old and new technology studying a combination of aerial photography beginning in 1958 and modern satellite imagery from the 2000s. They found that the population size of an Adélie penguin colony on Antarctica’s Beaufort Island near the southern Ross Sea increased 84 percent (from 35,000 breeding pairs to 64,000 breeding pairs) as the ice fields retreated between 1958-2010, with the biggest change in the last three decades. The average summer temperature in that area increased about a half a degree Celsius per decade since the mid-1980s.

The first-of-its-kind study was published today in PLOS ONE, a leading peer-reviewed scientific journal. The research affirms models published in 2010 projecting how south polar penguins will respond to changed habitat as Earth’s atmosphere reaches 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, a point that is rapidly approaching. The study showed that available habitat for Adélie penguins on the main portion of the Beaufort colony, on the south coast, increased 71 percent since 1958, with a 20 percent increase from 1983-2010. The extent of the snow and ice field to the north of the main colony did not change from 1958-1983, but then retreated 543 meters from 1983-2010. In addition to the overall population growth, researchers saw an increase in population density within the colony as it filled in what used to be unsuitable habitat covered in snow and ice. They also found that the emigration rates of birds banded as chicks on Beaufort Island to colonies on nearby Ross Island decreased after 2005 as available habitat on Beaufort increased, leading to altered dynamics of the population studied.

…..Penguin expert and study co-author David Ainley, a lead author of an earlier study, agreed that this study gives researchers important new information.

“We learned in previous research from 2001-2005 that it is a myth that penguins never move to a new colony in large numbers. When conditions are tough, they do,” said Ainley, a senior marine wildlife ecologist with H.T. Harvey and Associates, an environmental consulting company in California. “This study at Beaufort and Ross Islands provides empirical evidence about how this penguin attribute will contribute to their response to climate change.”….. In addition to LaRue and Ainley, other researchers involved in the study included Matt Swanson, a graduate student researcher at the University of Minnesota Polar Geospatial Center; Katie M. Dugger from Oregon State University; Phil O’B. Lyver from Landcare Research in New Zealand; Kerry Barton from Bartonk Solutions in New Zealand; and Grant Ballard from PRBO Conservation Science in California.

The study was primarily funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

  1. Michelle A. LaRue, David G. Ainley, Matt Swanson, Katie M. Dugger, Phil O′B. Lyver, Kerry Barton, Grant Ballard. Climate Change Winners: Receding Ice Fields Facilitate Colony Expansion and Altered Dynamics in an Adélie Penguin Metapopulation. PLoS ONE, 2013; 8 (4): e60568 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0060568








State flood
risk high, coordination low

April 3 2013 –California may be known for its vulnerability to earthquakes and wildfires, but the state also faces the risk of devastating floods, according to a report being released Wednesday by the state Department of Water Resources and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The report blames much of the danger on the state’s fragmented efforts at flood management, the lack of stable funding, and an absence of cooperation and focus in attempting to manage and prevent floods. It calls on the state to coordinate, streamline or even consolidate the 1,343 agencies that deal with flood management and to set priorities for future investments. “The stakes are tremendous,” said Terri Wegener, manager for the Department of Water Resources statewide flood management-planning program. “Millions of lives are exposed to flooding and billions of dollars worth of structures.” The report, the most comprehensive statewide study of flooding ever conducted, found that 7.3 million Californians – 19 percent of the state’s population – including more than 1 million in the Bay Area, are exposed to significant risk of being affected by floods. Damage to structures and farmland could be as high as $575 billion statewide with $130 billion in the Bay Area. More than $7 billion in crops are endangered by flooding, including $20 million in the Bay Area. ….

CA DWR and the Army Corps of Engineers new draft report:

California’s Flood Future: Recommendations for Managing the State’s Flood Risk. (pdf)


Farmers, researchers fatten fish in rice fields

TRACIE CONE, April 4, 2013

(AP) — Alongside a flooded field of rice stubble, Jacob Katz dipped a fish net into turbid water and came up with a half dozen or so silvery juvenile salmon. After a century of watching rivers held back by levees and California wetlands… more »




Charles Hueth, right, and Shaun Root, center, arrange a net used to trap chinook salmon that will then be released in an upper portion of the river as part of a restoration program. (Bethany Mollenkof/Los Angeles Times) More photos

Salmon are a sign of hope in a long-dry stretch of the San Joaquin

Agriculture and the Friant Dam, built in the 1940s, dried up a 60-mile stretch of the river. After a long, tortuous effort, a chinook spawns 10 miles downstream from the dam.

By Bettina Boxall, Los Angeles Times March 29, 2013

About 10 miles downstream from Friant Dam, two men gently guided their drift boat toward a spot where the riverbed gravel looked as if it had been swept clean. There, in about a foot of water, they spied something that had vanished from the San Joaquin River more than 60 years ago: a spawning chinook salmon. “How sweet,” said Matt Bigelow, an environmental scientist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. “I put in a lot of work to get to this point.”

It was a small victory in a tortuous effort: to revive one of California’s most abused rivers by restoring a portion of its long-lost water and salmon runs. The San Joaquin’s spring-run chinook once numbered in the hundreds of thousands. The salmon were so plentiful that farmers fed them to hogs. Settlers were kept awake at night by splashing fish as they struggled upstream to their spawning grounds. The run dwindled as San Joaquin Valley agriculture sucked more and more water from the river system and hydropower dams blocked salmon from upstream passage. Then, in the 1940s, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation erected Friant Dam as part of the Central Valley Project, a massive irrigation system.

Most of the upper river flow was sent into two giant canals that fed irrigation ditches up and down the east side of the San Joaquin Valley. Sixty miles of the San Joaquin — the state’s second-biggest river — died, its bed turning to a ribbon of dry sand. The spring-run chinook disappeared. Hatchery releases sustained a small population of fall-run chinook that spawn in the San Joaquin’s major tributaries. In the late 1980s, environmentalists went to court to get back some of the San Joaquin’s water — and its salmon. Their legal arguments focused on an old provision of the state Fish and Game Code that required dam owners to release enough water downstream to sustain healthy fish populations. After a nearly two-decade fight, environmental groups reached a settlement with the federal government and farmers supplied by the Friant operation. The 2006 pact called for irrigators to give up some of their supplies to restore year-round flows, and with them, part of the river’s historic salmon runs. But no one thought that reviving a river as degraded as the San Joaquin would be a matter only of adding water and fish and stirring…..


New technologies combat invasive species
(March 29, 2013) — A new research paper by a team of researchers from the University of Notre Dame’s Environmental Change Initiative demonstrates how two cutting-edge technologies can provide a sensitive and real-time solution to screening real-world water samples for invasive species before they get into our country or before they cause significant damage. … > full story


Satellite tagging maps the secret migration of white sharks
(April 3, 2013) — Long-life batt
eries and satellite tagging have been used to fill in the blanks of female white sharks’ (Carcharodon carcharias) lifestyles. New research defines a two year migratory pattern in the Pacific Ocean. Pregnant females travel between the mating area at Guadalupe Island and nursery in Baja California, putting them and their young at risk from commercial fishing. …
White sharks are pelagic much of their time, living in the open ocean. However they are also philopatric, in that they return to the same place to find a mate. This commute can be far-ranging, including the Hawaiian Islands, California, and Mexico but while males have been reported returning yearly to mating sites, the behavior of females has before now been more secretive. Dr Michael Domeier and Nicole Nasby-Lucas from the California based Marine Conservation Science Institute mapped the migration patterns of female white sharks using satellite-linked radio-telemetry tags. Female white sharks were found to follow a two-year migration pattern with four distinct phases. Firstly the pregnant females left Guadalupe Island, Mexico and remained offshore for most of their 18 month gestation (on average 465 days). This pelagic area was much larger than the foraging area used by males and in fact the females tended to avoid the male’s foraging area while the males were present. The second phase was a two month sojourn in the coastal waters of Baja California where the sharks gave birth. After leaving the nurseries the female sharks began a migratory path back to Guadalupe Island in such a way as to avoid males until ready to reproduce. Finally the mating n phase at Guadalupe Island lasted up to four and a half months before the two year cycle began again. Females that skipped a year of reproduction returned to the breeding site after only a single year migration…..full story

Shark tooth weapons reveal missing shark species in Central Pacific islands
(April 3, 2013) — The Gilbert Island reefs in the Central Pacific were once home to two species of sharks not previously reported in historic records or contemporary studies. The species were discovered in a new analysis of weapons made from shark teeth and used by 19th century islanders. … > full story



What role do small dams play in pollution control?
(March 29, 2013) — There is a crucial need to gain a better understanding of what small dams mean for our water quality before they crumble and disappear. … > full story

Decimation of critically endangered forest elephant detailed
(March 29, 2013) — African forest elephants are being poached out of existence. A new study shows that a staggering 62 percent of all forest elephants have been killed across their range in central Africa, for their ivory over the past decade. … > full story

Extreme algal blooms: The new normal?
(April 1, 2013) — A research team has determined that the 2011 record-breaking algal bloom in Lake Erie was triggered by long-term agricultural practices coupled with extreme precipitation, followed by weak lake circulation and warm temperatures. The team also predicts that, unless agricultural policies change, the lake will continue to experience extreme blooms. … > full story

By keeping the beat, sea lion sheds new light on animals’ movements to sound
(April 1, 2013) — Move over dancing bears, Ronan the sea lion really does know how to boogie to the beat. A California sea lion who bobs her head in time with music has given scientists the first empirical evidence of an animal that is not capable of vocal mimicry but can keep the beat, according to new research. … > full story


Trade Emerging as a Key Driver of Brazilian Deforestation



April 4, 2013 — A new study found that trade and global consumption of Brazilian beef and soybeans is increasingly driving Brazilian deforestation. Consequently, current international efforts to protect rainforests … > full story


Chinese foreign fisheries catch 12 times more than reported, study shows
(April 3, 2013)
Chinese fishing boats catch about US.5 billion worth of fish from beyond their country’s own waters each year — and most of it goes unreported, according to a new study. …
“We need to know how many fish have been taken from the ocean in order to figure out what we can catch in the future,” says Daniel Pauly, principal investigator of UBC’s Sea Around Us Project and the study’s lead author. “Countries need to realize the importance of accurately recording and reporting their catches and step up to the plate, or there will be no fish left for our children.”full story



Stephen Crowe

China’s Massive Water Problem

By SCOTT MOORE NY Times Op-Ed Published: March 28, 2013

This month, a hundred years after the completion of the Panama Canal, China is expected to finish the first phase of its gigantic South-North Water Transfer Project, known in Chinese as Nanshui beidiao gongcheng — literally, “to divert southern water north.” The phrase evokes the suggestion, attributed to Mao, that “since the south has a great deal of water, and the north very little, we should borrow some of it.” In realizing Mao’s dream of moving huge quantities of water from areas of plenty to those of want, Beijing is building a modern marvel, this century’s equivalent of the Panama Canal. But whereas the canal inaugurated a century of faith in the ability of human ingenuity to reshape the natural world, the South-North Water Transfer Project is a testament to the limits of engineering solutions to problems of basic environmental scarcity.

China is one of the most water-rich countries in the world. But as Mao observed, its water resources are unevenly distributed and overwhelmingly concentrated in the south and far west. Water scarcity has always been a problem for northern China, but shortages have reached crisis levels as a result of rapid economic development.

For most of the 1990s, northern China’s major river, the Yellow, failed to reach the sea, and the water tables around Beijing and other major northern cities have dropped so low that existing wells cannot tap them. In response, the government has tried to promote water conservation and limit water use. But these measures have had little impact, and there simply isn’t enough water to satisfy growing demands for drinking water, irrigation, energy production and other uses.

Rather than face the political challenge of allocating water resources among these competing interests, Beijing has placed its faith in monumental feats of engineering to slake the north’s growing thirst. The South-North Water Transfer eventually aims to pipe 45 cubic kilometers of water annually northward along three routes in eastern, central and western China. All three pose enormous technical challenges: The eastern and central routes will be channeled under the Yellow River, while the western route entails pumping water over part of the Himalayan mountain range.

The estimated cost of $65 billion is almost certainly too low, and doesn’t include social and ecological impacts. …



Rare Birds’ Nest Destroyed at San Francisco Port

SAN FRANCISCO April 4, 2013 (AP)

The Port of San Francisco is under federal investigation after workers apparently destroyed a rare birds’ nest on a crane near Pier 80. KPIX-TV reports ( ) federal fish and wildlife authorities are trying to determine whether the workers violated the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, a federal law that makes it illegal to destroy an “active” raptor’s nest during mating season. The nest was home to a pair of rare ospreys, which were once near extinction. The port agreed last year to shut down the crane to allow the ospreys to nest. After about six months, port workers put reflectors and wires on the crane and took other steps to keep the birds from returning. Potrero Hill naturalist Eddie Bartley says he spotted workers destroying the nest last week.





Figure 1 – mean sea level (in centimetres) since 1993 obtained by satellite altimetry observations. Annual and semi-annual signals have been removed to reveal the long-term trend. The glacial isostatic adjustment (GIA) of 0.3mm per year is added to account for the slumping of ocean basins. Image from the AVISO website.

Earth Encounters Giant Speed Bump on the Road to Higher Sea Level

Posted on 29 March 2013 by Rob Painting

The Earth is warming which is driving the ongoing thermal expansion of sea water and the melt of land-based ice. Both processes are raising sea level, but superimposed upon this long-term sea level rise are what scientists at  NASA JPL (Jet Propulsion Lab) have coined, “potholes and speed bumps on the road to higher seas“. (See their follow-up paper – The 2011 La Niña: So strong, the oceans fell, Boening [2012]). Since mid-2011 a giant “speed bump” has been encountered. In roughly the last two years the global oceans have risen approximately 20 millimetres (mm), or  10 mm per year. This is over three times the rate of sea level rise during the time of satellite-based observations (currently 3.18 mm per year), from 1993 to the present.   So does this mean land-based ice is undergoing a remarkably abrupt period of disintegration? While possible, it’s probably not the reason for the giant speed bump.

Pot Holes and Speed Bumps: The largest contributor to the year-to-year (short-term) fluctuation in sea level is the temporary exchange of water mass between the land and ocean. This land-ocean exchange of water is coupled to the natural Pacific Ocean phenomenon called the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) – which affects weather on a global scale. (See Ngo-Duc [2005], Nerem [2010]Llovel [2011], Cazenave [2012] & Boening [2012] – linked to above)…. Sea level is already committed to rise many metres over the coming centuries because of the concentration of greenhouse gases humans have put into the atmosphere. The warming from this will enforce the continued disintegration of land-based ice, and the thermal expansion of seawater (Meehl 2012, Foster & Rohling 2013). This uphill road to higher sea level is bound to be long and lumpy one – with many potholes and speed bumps along the way…



‘A better path’ toward projecting, planning for rising seas on a warmer Earth
(April 3, 2013) — More useful projections of sea level are possible despite substantial uncertainty about the future behavior of massive ice sheets. In two recent articles, researchers present an approach that provides a consistent means to integrate the potential contribution of continental ice sheets such as Greenland and Antarctica into sea-level rise projections.
During the past 20 years, the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have lost an increasing amount of ice and now contribute roughly one-third of the rate of global mean sea-level rise. However, the standard tools used to project these ice sheets’ contribution to future sea levels are limited by inadequate process understanding and sparse data. Ice sheets interact with the ocean on small spatial scales, and their motion is strongly governed by poorly understood properties of the ice as well as the sediment hidden several miles beneath it. Sea-level rise projections should reflect these uncertainties.

“Recently, several groups have used alternative techniques to forecast maximum possible sea levels — known as upper bounds — that do not explicitly model ice dynamics. Upper bound estimates by the year 2100 projected using these techniques are up to 6 feet (three times higher than future sea level estimates from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)). However, the physical basis underlying these projections and their likelihood of occurrence remain unclear.

“In our group, we think we can more consistently assess disparate sources of information. In two recent papers, we introduce a novel framework for projecting the mass balance of the Antarctic ice sheet that allows for the conversion of current and future uncertainties of ice-sheet dynamics into probability distributions that may be supplemented by expert judgments. The power of this framework arises from its ability to improve and compare projections in a transparent manner.

“Like watersheds on land, ice sheets discharge precipitation that falls over a wide drainage basin through relatively narrow outlets. Although ice flow is linked across basins, each basin may remain relatively independent over time periods less than a century. The framework described in these two papers projects mass balance separately for each drainage basin, while allowing for correlated trends driven by underlying physical processes occurring at larger spatial scales…..full story


In two recent papers, Princeton University researchers present a probabilistic assessment of the Antarctic contribution to 21st-century sea-level change. Their methodology provides a consistent means to integrate the potential contribution of continental ice sheets such as Greenland and Antarctica into sea-level rise projections. In existing projections, the contribution of Antarctica to future sea-level rise is almost entirely derived from locations where present-day mass loss is concentrated (area 15, above). This is despite evidence that future discharge in other drainage basins — which comprise more than 96 percent of the ice sheet’s area — remains uncertain. (Credit: Image courtesy of Christopher Little)


  1. C. M. Little, N. M. Urban, M. Oppenheimer. Probabilistic framework for assessing the ice sheet contribution to sea level change. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2013; 110 (9): 3264 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1214457110
  2. Christopher M. Little, Michael Oppenheimer, Nathan M. Urban. Upper bounds on twenty-first-century Antarctic ice loss assessed using a probabilistic framework. Nature Climate Change, 2013; DOI: 10.1038/nclimate1845


2013 wintertime Arctic sea ice maximum fifth lowest on record
(April 3, 2013) — During the cold and dark of Arctic winter, sea ice refreezes and achieves its maximum extent, usually in late Feb. or early Mar. According to a NASA analysis, this year the annual maximum extent was reached on Feb. 28 and it was the fifth lowest sea ice winter extent in the past 35 years. … said
Joey Comiso, senior scientist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Ce
nter, Greenbelt, Md., and a principal investigator of NASA’s Cryospheric Sciences Program. “A decline in the sea ice cover in winter is thus a manifestation of the effect of the increasing greenhouse gases on sea ice.”full story



Breeding Birds Vulnerable to Climate Change in Arctic Alaska: A Story of Winners and Losers.

Science Daily (press release)  – April 3, 2013‎

Apr. 2, 2013 – A new report from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) looked at the vulnerability of 54 breeding bird species to climate change impacts occurring by the year 2050 in Arctic Alaska. The assessment found that two species, the gyrfalcon and common eider are likely to be “highly” vulnerable, while seven other species would be “moderately” vulnerable to anticipated impacts. Five species are likely to increase in number and benefit from a warming climate….. Arctic Alaska harbors some of the most important breeding and staging grounds for millions of birds — many from around the world — representing more than 90 species. A rise in mean annual temperatures of at least 3.1 degrees Celsius in northern Alaska is expected by 2050, and will likely impact species in myriad ways.

The report, Assessing Climate Change Vulnerability of Breeding Birds in Arctic Alaska, co-authored by WCS Scientists Joe Liebezeit, Erika Rowland, Molly Cross and Steve Zack, details in-depth vulnerability assessments conducted on 54 species to help guide climate-informed wildlife management in the region. The project was aided by the participation of more than 80 scientists who are experts on the assessed species.

Results showed that along with the highly vulnerable gyrfalcon and common eider, seven other species were moderately vulnerable, including: brandt, Steller’s eider, pomerine jaeger, yellow-billed loon, buff-breasted sandpiper, red phalarope and ruddy turnstone. Five species, including the savannah sparrow, Lapland longspur, white-crowned sparrow, American tree-sparrow and common redpoll are likely to increase in number, according to the assessments…..




Southern California sagebrush better suited to climate change, study finds
(April 1, 2013)
California sagebrush in the southern part of the state will adjust better to climate change than sagebrush populations in the north, according to
UC Irvine researchers in the Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology affiliated with the Center for Environmental Biology. .. The results of their study, which appears online in Global Change Biology, will assist land management and policy decisions concerning coastal sage scrub restoration. California sagebrush (Artemisia californica), also known as “cowboy cologne,” is the fragrant gray-green shrub that once filled area ranch land. It’s found on coastal hillsides for more than 400 miles along California’s Pacific coast. Only about 10 percent of its original habitat remains — the rest having been converted to human use — and is home to a number of endangered species, including the California gnatcatcher, which depend on plants like sagebrush….The researchers found that populations from southern sites, with historically variable rainfall amounts, adjusted with greater ease to altered precipitation than did populations from the historically invariant north. Accordingly, they asserted, reaction to climate change will differ across this species’s range, with southern populations adapting more readily to future conditions. “For instance, sagebrush from San Diego stretches, where precipitation varies substantially from year to year, were better able to respond to changes in precipitation than those from the San Francisco area,” said Mooney, an assistant professor of ecology & evolutionary biology…. > full story


Soils in newly forested areas store substantial carbon that could help offset climate change
(April 1, 2013) — Surface appearances can be so misleading: In most forests, the amount of carbon held in soils is substantially greater than the amount contained in the trees themselves, according to new
research. …
Large and rapid increases in soil carbon were observed on forested land that had previously been used for surface mining and related industrial processes. On a post-mining landscape, the amount of soil carbon generally doubled within 20 years of mining termination and continued to double every decade or so after that. The changes after cultivated farm fields were abandoned and trees became established are much subtler, though still significant. This type of tree establishment — which has been widespread in recent decades in the northeastern United States and portions of the Midwest — takes about 40 years to cause a detectable increase in soil carbon. But at the end of a century’s time, the amount of soil carbon averages 15 percent higher than when the land was under cultivation, with the biggest increases (up to 32 percent) in the upper two inches of the soil. In places where trees and shrubs have encroached into native grassland, soil carbon increased 31 percent after several decades, according to the study. That type of incursion is occurring throughout the Great Plains, from the Dakotas all the way to northern Texas, and is largely due to suppression of wildfires….full story


Plant-Pollinator Interactions over 120 Years: Loss of Species, Co-Occurrence and FunctionUsing historic data sets, this study quantifies the degree to which global change over 120 years disrupted plant-pollinator interactions in a temperate forest understory community in Illinois, USA. Researchers found degradation of interaction network structure and function and extirpation of 50% of bee species. Network changes can be attributed to shifts in forb and bee phenologies resulting in temporal mismatches, nonrandom species extinctions, and loss of spatial co-occurrences between extant species in modified landscapes. Quantity and quality of pollination services have declined through time. The historic network showed flexibility in response to disturbance; however, the study’s data suggest that networks will be less resilient to future changes. Burkle et al., published online Feb 28, 2013, Science, DOI: 10.1126/science.1232728


Adapting to climate change

John Maday, Managing Editor, Drovers CattleNetwork  |  Updated: 04/02/2013

Changing climate patterns already affect agriculture in the United States, and the effects will become more pronounced over the next 20 years. To sustain the ability to provide affordable food, feed, fiber and fuel in the future, U.S. agriculture and forestry will need to take a broad, collaborative approach in planning for and adapting to change, according to a new report from the 25x”25 Alliance. The report, “Agriculture and Forestry in a Changing Climate: Adaptation Recommendations” was compiled by the 25x’25 Adaptation Work Group, a collaboration of agriculture, forestry, business, academic, conservation and government leaders who have spent more than 18 months exploring the impacts of a changing climate and other variables on U.S. agriculture and forestry. The group outlined the report in a web-based news conference on April 2. Panelists for the conference included:

  • Fred Yoder – Chairman of the Adaptation Work Group and Past President of the National Corn Growers Association
  • Gene Takle – Iowa State Climate Science Program Director
  • Chuck Rice – Kansas State University Distinguished Professor of Soil Microbiology, Past-President of the Soil Science Society of America
  • Ray Gaesser – Iowa Grain Farmer and First Vice President of the American Soybean Association

A Network for Observing Great Basin Climate Change 
The Nevada Climate-Ecohydrology Assessment Network (NevCAN), a novel system of permanent monitoring stations located across elevational and latitudinal gradients within the Great Basin hydrographic region (Figure 1). NevCAN was designed, first, to quantify the daily, seasonal, and interannual variability in climate that occurs from basin valleys to mountain tops of the Great Basin in the arid southwest of the United States; second, to relate the temporal patterns of ecohydrologic response to climate occurring within each of the major ecosystems that compose the Great Basin; and, last, to monitor changes in climate that modulate water availability, sequestration of carbon, and conservation of biological diversity.  Mensing et al., EoS, March 12, 2013, DOI: 10.1002/2013EO110001

Large-Scale Ecosystem Resilience to Drought:
[Summary Courtesy of the Climate CIRCulator—click here to subscribe] Drought frequency and duration, along with temperature, are predicted to increase during this century in many regions of the world, including most of the Americas. With large regions of the globe, undergoing a decadal-scale drought during the beginning of the 21st century, we already have the opportunity to begin examining the response of biomes to a foreseeable future climate. A team of authors (Ponce Campos et al. 2013) has recently taken advantage of these large-scale droughts to look at the resilience of biomes to drought by examining carbon gain at the expense of water loss or water-use efficiency (WUE). The authors measured WUE as the ratio of above-ground net primary production to evapotranspiration for an ecosystem. Resilience was defined as the capacity for a system to absorb a drought disturbance and still be able to transition to a “common minimum native state” of WUE given subsequent water abundance. The authors separated wet and dry years, and showed that the wet-year WUE was the same irrespective of biome and whether the year was during the recent large-scale drought (2000-2009) or from the wetter preceding years (1975-1999). This implies that biomes exhibit resilience or the capacity to absorb drought disturbance and maintain eco-hydrologic function despite interannual climate variability. Campos et al. 2013. Ecosystem resilience despite large-scale altered hydroclimatic conditions. Nature Vol. 494, 349-352. doi:10.1038/nature11836.


New models predict drastically greener Arctic in coming decades
(March 31, 2013) — New research predicts that rising temperatures will lead to a massive “greening,” or increase in plant cover, in the Arctic. In a new paper, scientists reveal new models projecting that wooded areas in the Arctic could increase by as much as 50 percent over the next few decades. The researchers also show that this dramatic greening will accelerate climate warming at a rate greater than previously expected. …

Plant growth in Arctic ecosystems has increased over the past few decades, a trend that coincides with increases in temperatures, which are rising at about twice the global rate. The research team — which includes scientists from the Museum, AT&T Labs-Research, Woods Hole Research Center, Colgate University, Cornell University, and the University of York — used climate scenarios for the 2050s to explore how this trend is likely to continue in the future. The scientists developed models that statistically predict the types of plants that could grow under certain temperatures and precipitation. Although it comes with some uncertainty, this type of modeling is a robust way to study the Arctic because the harsh climate limits the range of plants that can grow, making this system simpler to model compared to other regions such as the tropics. The models reveal the potential for massive redistribution of vegetation across the Arctic under future climate, with about half of all vegetation switching to a different class and a massive increase in tree cover. What might this look like? In Siberia, for instance, trees could grow hundreds of miles north of the present tree line. …. In addition, the researchers investigated the multiple climate change feedbacks that greening would produce. They found that a phenomenon called the albedo effect, based on the reflectivity of Earth’s surface, would have the greatest impact on the Arctic’s climate. When the sun hits snow, most of the radiation is reflected back to space. But when it hits an area that’s “dark,” or covered in trees or shrubs, more sunlight is absorbed in the area and temperature increases. This has a positive feedback to climate warming: the more vegetation there is, the more warming will occur….> full story

2012-13 U.S. Winter Recap: Mixed messages on drought

March 11, 2013 NOAA

Winter storms in February improved drought in the Southeast and Midwest, but well below average precipitation in parts of the West in recent months has worsened drought in other places.

The contiguous United States experienced a warmer- and wetter-than-average 2012–13 winter according to the latest statistics from NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center. The December 2012–February 2013 total precipitation of 7.10 inches and this was 0.63 inches above the long-term average. Several winter storms passed through the country in February, improving drought conditions across the Southeast and Midwest, but lighter precipitation totals across the Central Plains and Mountain West provided little drought relief in those locations



Must Read: Arctic Sea Ice Death Spiral And Cold Weather

Posted: 31 Mar 2013 07:55 AM PDT

The media are debating if the decrease in  Arctic ice  is related to this winter’s cold weather in Germany. This post discusses the most recent current research about this including the most important figures from relevant studies.

Translated from an article by Stefan Rahmstorf [] are translation notes via Rabett Run

First, what does the unusual temperature distribution observed this March actually look like? Here is a map showing the data (up to and including March 25, NCEP / NCAR data plotted with KNMI Climate Explorer):

Freezing cold in Siberia, reaching across northwestern Europe, unusually mild temperatures over the Labrador Sea and parts of Greenland and a cold band diagonally across North America, from Alaska to Florida. Averaged over the northern hemisphere the anomaly disappears – the average is close to the long-term average. Of course, the distribution of hot and cold is related to atmospheric circulation, and thus the air pressure distribution….There was unusually high air pressure between Scandinavia and Greenland. Since circulation around a high is clockwise [anticyclone], this explains the influx of arctic cold air in Europe and the warm Labrador Sea.

Arctic sea ice

Let us now discuss the Arctic sea ice.  The summer minimum in September set a new record low, but also at the recent winter maximum there was unusually little ice (ranking 6th lowest – the ten years with the lowest ice extent were all in the last decade). The ice cover in the Barents sea was particularly low this winter.  All in all until March the deficit was  about the size of Germany compared  to the long-term average. Is there a connection with the winter weather?  Does the shrinking ice cover influence the atmospheric circulation, because the open ocean strongly heats the Arctic atmosphere from below?  (The water is much warmer than the overlying cold polar air.) Did the resulting evaporation of sea water moisten the air and thus lead to more snow? These questions have been investigated by several studies in recent years….

In my view, the above studies provide strong evidence for a link between Arctic ice loss due to global warming, more frequent winter high pressure, especially over the Atlantic-European part of the Arctic, and an associated influx of cold air to Europe. As we have often seen in recent winters – for example in a spectacular way in the first half of February 2012.

Still this is still not settled science – the studies are relatively new and need to be discussed intensively in the professional community and confirmed by further research, or perhaps called into question. This is the normal process of scientific debate, through which at the end findings are distilled which are robust and widely accepted, such as the fact that our emissions of greenhouse gases warm the climate.


Ancient pool of warm water questions current climate models
(April 3, 2013) — A huge pool of warm water that stretched out from Indonesia over to Africa and South America four million years ago suggests climate models might be too conservative in forecasting tropical changes. Present in the Pliocene era, this giant mass of water would have dramatically altered rainfall in the tropics, possibly even removing the monsoon. Its decay and the consequential drying of East Africa may have been a factor in Hominid evolution. The missing data for this phenomenon could have significant implications when predicting the future climate. … > full story

Thin clouds drove Greenland’s record-breaking 2012 ice melt
April 3, 2013) — If the sheet of ice covering Greenland were to melt in its entirety tomorrow, global sea levels would rise by 24 feet. Three million cubic kilometers of ice won’t wash into the ocean overnight, but researchers have been tracking increasing melt rates since at least 1979. Last summer, however, the melt was so large that similar events show up in ice core records only once every 150 years or so over the last four millennia. Three million cubic kilometers of ice won’t wash into the ocean overnight, but researchers have been tracking increasing melt rates since at least 1979. Last summer, however, the melt was so large that similar events show up in ice core records only once every 150 years or so over the last four millennia. “In July 2012, a historically rare period of extended surface melting raised questions about the frequency and extent of such events,” says Ralf Bennartz, professor of atmospheric and oceanic sciences and scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Space Science and Engineering Center. “Of course, there is more than one cause for such widespread change. We focused our study on certain kinds of low-level clouds.

In a study to be published in the April 4 issue of the journal Nature, Bennartz and collaborators describe the moving parts that led to the melt, which was observed from the ICECAPS experiment funded by the National Science Foundation and run by UW-Madison and several partners atop the Greenland ice sheet.

“The July 2012 event was triggered by an influx of unusually warm air, but that was only one factor,” says Dave Turner, physical scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Severe Storms Laboratory. “In our paper we show that low-level clouds were instrumental in pushing temperatures up above freezing.”

Low-level clouds typically reflect solar energy back into space, and snow cover also tends to bounce energy from the sun back from Earth’s surface.

Under particular temperature conditions, however, clouds can be both thin enough to allow solar energy to pass through to the surface and thick enough to “trap” some of that heat even if it is turned back by snow and ice on the ground….full story



Bushfires at Grampians national park, Victoria, Australia. Extreme weather can lead to more severe and frequent disasters. Photograph: Jason Edwards/Newspix / Rex Feat

Climate change making extreme events worse in Australia – report

Country faces more frequent and more severe weather events if it fails to make deep and swift cuts to carbon emissions

By Damian Carrington, Tuesday 2 April 2013 11.50 EDT

The extreme heatwaves, flooding and bush fires striking Australia have already been intensified by climate change and are set to get even worse in future, according to a new report. Only fast and deep cuts to carbon emissions can start to reverse the trend, say scientists from the Climate Commission, an independent advisory group set up by the Australian government. “Climate change is making many extreme events worse in terms of their impacts on people, property, communities and the environment,” said climate commissioner professor Will Steffen. “We are very concerned that the risk of more frequent and more severe extreme weather events is increasing as we continue to emit more and more greenhouse gases.” Chief commissioner, Tim Flannery, said: “Records are broken from time to time, but record-breaking weather is becoming more common as the climate shifts. Only strong preventative action, with deep and swift cuts in emissions this decade, can stabilise the climate and halt the trend towards more intense extreme weather.”…


Spring Delayed, Europe Shivers

By HARVEY MORRIS March 28 2013 LONDON — “When will this winter ever end?” Thursday’s plaintive headline in Britain’s Daily Telegraph was prompted by forecasts that the big freeze gripping much of Europe is likely to last well into April.

From Ireland to Romania, unseasonable snowfalls have caused travel chaos, power outages and serious losses to livestock farmers during the coldest March in almost half a century.

Sun-starved Germans have endured their gloomiest winter in at least 43 years, while northern France is shivering in near-freezing temperatures more than a week after the official arrival of spring.

The cold weather phenomenon, which has also affected the parts of the United States, is being blamed on a slowing of the Atlantic jet stream that scientists say is paradoxically linked to global warming.

This time last year, northern Europe and the eastern United States were basking in a mini-heat wave that brought the warmest March on record in some areas.

It was one of the many examples of climate phenomena that made 2012 a record year for extreme weather events in some regions, as my colleague Christopher F. Schuetze reported in January.

Last year saw the start of an unusually harsh winter in China, record-breaking temperatures in Australia, summer floods in Britain, drought in the American Midwest, and a storm that devastated parts of New Jersey and New York in late October.

As my colleague Sarah Lyall has written, quoting Omar Baddour of the World Meteorological Organization in Geneva, extreme weather events are increasing in intensity as well as frequency.


Americans back preparation for extreme weather and sea-level rise
(March 29, 2013) — The majority of Americans express support for stronger coastal development codes, according to a new survey. … > full story

RISE: Climate Change and Coastal Communities

National Geographic     – ‎March 29, 2013

Most of the great cities, the world over, are built along the water. So are many towns, hamlets, and villages. But sea level rise and extreme weather, both fueled by climate change, threaten to reclaim coastal lands and the communities that are built …


Gene discovery may yield lettuce that will sprout in hot weather
(March 29, 2013) — Plant scientists have identified a lettuce gene and related enzyme that put the brakes on germination during hot weather — a discovery that could lead to lettuces that can sprout year-round, even at high temperatures. … > full story



Greenland reaps benefits of global warming

Climate change is allowing agriculture to boom

Reuters Kangerlussuaq
Sunday 31 March 2013

Inside the Arctic Circle, a chef is growing the kind of vegetables and herbs – potatoes, thyme, tomatoes, green peppers – more fitted for a suburban garden in a temperate zone than a land of northern lights, glaciers and musk oxen. Some Inuit hunters are finding reindeer fatter than ever thanks to more grazing on this frozen tundra, and, for some, there is no longer a need to trek hours to find wild herbs. This is climate change in Greenland, where locals say longer and warmer summers mean the country can grow the kind of crops unheard of years ago. “Things are just growing quicker,” said Kim Ernst, the Danish chef of Roklubben restaurant, nestled by a frozen lake near a former Cold War-era US military base. “Every year we try new things,” added Mr Ernst, who even managed to grow a handful of strawberries that he served to some surprised Scandinavian royals. “I came here in 1999 and no one would have dreamed of doing this. But now the summer days seem warmer, and longer.”

It was -20C in March but the sun was out and the air was still, with an almost spring-like feel. Mr Ernst showed me his greenhouse and an outdoor winter garden which in a few months may sprout again. Hundreds of miles south, some farmers now produce hay, and sheep farms have grown in size. Some supermarkets in the capital, Nuuk, sell locally grown vegetables in the summer…..







Climate Maverick to Quit NASA

James E. Hansen of NASA, retiring this week to pursue political and legal efforts to limit greenhouse gases

By JUSTIN GILLIS Published: April 1, 2013


James E. Hansen, the climate scientist who issued the clearest warning of the 20th century about the dangers of global warming, will retire from NASA this week, giving himself more freedom to pursue political and legal efforts to limit greenhouse gases. His departure, after a 46-year career at the space agency’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in Manhattan, will deprive federally sponsored climate research of its best-known public figure. At the same time, retirement will allow Dr. Hansen to press his cause in court. He plans to take a more active role in lawsuits challenging the federal and state governments over their failure to limit emissions, for instance, as well as in fighting the development in Canada of a particularly dirty form of oil extracted from tar sands.


“As a government employee, you can’t testify against the government,” he said in an interview. Dr. Hansen had already become an activist in recent years, taking vacation time from NASA to appear at climate protests and allowing himself to be arrested or cited a half-dozen times. But those activities, going well beyond the usual role of government scientists, had raised eyebrows at NASA headquarters in Washington. “It was becoming clear that there were people in NASA who would be much happier if the ‘sideshow’ would exit,” Dr. Hansen said in an e-mail. At 72, he said, he feels a moral obligation to step up his activism in his remaining years. “If we burn even a substantial fraction of the fossil fuels, we guarantee there’s going to be unstoppable changes” in the climate of the earth, he said. “We’re going to leave a situation for young people and future generations that they may have no way to deal with.” His departure, on Wednesday, will end a career of nearly half a century working not just for a single agency but also in a single building, on the edge of the Columbia University campus. From that perch, seven floors above the diner made famous by “Seinfeld,” Dr. Hansen battled the White House, testified dozens of times in Congress, commanded some of the world’s most powerful computers and pleaded with ordinary citizens to grasp the basics of a complex science. His warnings and his scientific papers have drawn frequent attack from climate-change skeptics, to whom he gives no quarter. But Dr. Hansen is a maverick, just as likely to vex his allies in the environmental movement. He supports nuclear power and has taken stands that sometimes undercut their political strategy in Washington.


In the interview and in subsequent e-mails, Dr. Hansen made it clear that his new independence would allow him to take steps he could not have taken as a government employee. He plans to lobby European leaders — who are among the most concerned about climate change — to impose a tax on oil derived from tar sands. Its extraction results in greater greenhouse emissions than conventional oil.

Dr. Hansen’s activism of recent years dismayed some of his scientific colleagues, who felt that it backfired by allowing climate skeptics to question his objectivity. But others expressed admiration for his willingness to risk his career for his convictions.

Initially, Dr. Hansen plans to work out of a converted barn on his farm in Pennsylvania. He has not ruled out setting up a small institute or taking an academic appointment.

He said he would continue publishing scientific papers, but he will no longer command the computer time and other NASA resources that allowed him to track the earth’s rising temperatures and forecast the long-run implications.

Dr. Hansen, raised in small-town Iowa, began his career studying Venus, not the earth. But as concern arose in the 1970s about the effects of human emissions of greenhouse gases, he switched gears, publishing pioneering scientific papers.

His initial estimate of the earth’s sensitivity to greenhouse gases was somewhat on the high side, later work showed. But he was among the first scientists to identify the many ways the planet is likely to respond to rising temperatures and to show how those effects would reinforce one another to produce immense changes in the climate and environment, including a sea level rise that could ultimately flood many of the world’s major cities.


“He’s done the most important science on the most important question that there ever was,” said Bill McKibben, a climate activist who has worked closely with Dr. Hansen.

Around the time Dr. Hansen switched his research focus, in the 1970s, a sharp rise in global temperatures began. He labored in obscurity over the next decade, but on a blistering June day in 1988 he was called before a Congressional committee and testified that human-induced global warming had begun.

Speaking to reporters afterward in his flat Midwestern accent, he uttered a sentence that would appear in news reports across the land: “It is time to stop waffling so much and say that the evidence is pretty strong that the greenhouse effect is here.”

Given the natural variability of climate, it was a bold claim to make after only a decade of rising temperatures, and to this day some of his colleagues do not think he had the evidence.

Yet subsequent events bore him out. Since the day he spoke, not a single month’s temperatures have fallen below the 20th-century average for that month. Half the world’s population is now too young to have lived through the last colder-than-average month, February 1985.

In worldwide temperature records going back to 1880, the 19 hottest years have all occurred since his testimony. Again and again, Dr. Hansen made predictions that were ahead of the rest of the scientific community and, arguably, a bit ahead of the evidence. “Jim has a real track record of being right before you can actually prove he’s right with statistics,” said Raymond T. Pierrehumbert, a planetary scientist at the University of Chicago.

Dr. Hansen’s record has by no means been spotless. Even some of his allies consider him prone to rhetorical excess and to occasional scientific error. He has repeatedly called for trying the most vociferous climate-change deniers for “crimes against humanity.” And in recent years, he stated that excessive carbon dioxide emissions might eventually lead to a runaway greenhouse effect that would boil the oceans and render earth uninhabitable, much like Venus. His colleagues pointed out that this had not happened even during exceedingly warm episodes in the earth’s ancient past. “I have huge respect for Jim, but in this particular case, he overstated the risk,” said Daniel P. Schrag, a geochemist and the head of Harvard’s Center for the Environment, who is nonetheless deeply worried about climate change.

Climate skeptics have routinely accused Dr. Hansen of alarmism. “He consistently exaggerates all the dangers,” Freeman Dyson, the famed physicist and climate contrarian, told The New York Times Magazine in 2009.

Perhaps the biggest fight of Dr. Hansen’s career broke out in late 2005, when a young political appointee in the administration of George W. Bush began exercising control over Dr. Hansen’s statements and his access to journalists. Dr. Hansen took the fight public and the administration backed down.

For all his battles with conservatives, however, he has also been hard on environmentalists. He was a harsh critic of a failed climate bill they supported in 2009, on the grounds that it would have sent billions into the federal government’s coffers without limiting emissions effectively. Dr. Hansen agrees that a price is needed on carbon dioxide emissions, but he wants the money returned to the public in the form of rebates on tax bills. “It needs to be done on the basis of conservative principles — not one dime to make the government bigger,” said Dr. Hansen, who is registered as a political independent.

In the absence of such a broad policy, Dr. Hansen has been lending his support to fights against individual fossil fuel projects. Students lured him to a coal protest in 2009, and he was arrested for the first time. That fall he was cited again after sleeping overnight in a tent on the Boston Common with students trying to pressure Massachusetts into passing climate legislation. “It was just humbling to have that solidarity and support from this leader, this lion among men,” said Craig S. Altemose, an organizer of the Boston protest.

Dr. Hansen says he senses the beginnings of a mass movement on climate change, led by young people. Once he finishes his final papers as a NASA employee, he intends to give it his full support. “At my age,” he said, “I am not worried about having an arrest record.”

Science Times Podcast

Marveling at the efficiency of a killer in the skies and NASA’s household name on climate change takes his fight for the earth’s future into retirement. 0:22


Keystone XL: The pipeline to disaster

If Obama OKs the Keystone XL, it will exacerbate global warming and put the U.S. on the hook for spills and environmental degradation, all in service to one of the planet’s dirtiest fuels.

By James Hansen Op Ed LATimes April 4, 2013

In March, the State Department gave the president cover to open a big spigot that will hitch our country to one of the dirtiest fuels on Earth for 40 years or more. The draft environmental review of the Keystone XL pipeline acknowledges tar sands are nasty stuff for the environment, but concludes that the project is OK because this oil will get to market anyway — with or without a pipeline. A public comment period is underway through April 22, after which the department will prepare a final statement to help the administration decide whether the pipeline is in the “national interest.” If the conclusion is yes, a Canadian company, TransCanada, gets a permit to build a pipeline to transport toxic tar sands through our heartland, connecting to refineries in the Gulf of Mexico, for likely export to China. Around the world, emissions of heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide continue to soar. Australia is now finishing “the angry summer” — 123 extreme weather records broken in 90 days — which government sources link to climate change. Last year, 2012, was also the hottest year on record in the contiguous United States…..



Top 5 Ocean Priorities for the New Secretary of State

National Geographic  – ‎April 2, 2013‎

When President Barack Obama convenes his cabinet in the White House’s Roosevelt Room, one might be left with the impression that defenders of our oceans are rather pointedly underrepresented. The Department of Commerce, which oversees the …


Conditions align for big salmon season



Tom Stienstra San Francisco Chronicle

The Pacific Fisheries Management Council has forecast 834,208 salmon available for fishermen on the Bay Area and central coast, and more than 1.55 million in all, including salmon from the north state and the Klamath River. According to federal… more »


The Tar Sands Disaster

By THOMAS HOMER-DIXON NY Times OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR Published: March 31, 2013

IF President Obama blocks the Keystone XL pipeline once and for all, he’ll do Canada a favor. Canada’s tar sands formations, landlocked in northern Alberta, are a giant reserve of carbon-saturated energy — a mixture of sand, clay and a viscous low-grade petroleum called bitumen. Pipelines are the best way to get this resource to market, but existing pipelines to the United States are almost full. So tar sands companies, and the Alberta and Canadian governments, are desperately searching for export routes via new pipelines. Canadians don’t universally support construction of the pipeline. A poll by Nanos Research in February 2012 found that nearly 42 percent of Canadians were opposed. Many of us, in fact, want to see the tar sands industry wound down and eventually stopped, even though it pumps tens of billions of dollars annually into our economy.

….Both the cabinet and the Conservative parliamentary caucus are heavily populated by politicians who deny mainstream climate science. The Conservatives have slashed financing for climate science, closed facilities that do research on climate change, told federal government climate scientists not to speak publicly about their work without approval and tried, unsuccessfully, to portray the tar sands industry as environmentally benign. The federal minister of natural resources, Joe Oliver, has attacked “environmental and other radical groups” working to stop tar sands exports. He has focused particular ire on groups getting money from outside Canada, implying that they’re acting as a fifth column for left-wing foreign interests. At a time of widespread federal budget cuts, the Conservatives have given Canada’s tax agency extra resources to audit registered charities. It’s widely assumed that environmental groups opposing the tar sands are a main target.

This coercive climate prevents Canadians from having an open conversation about the tar sands. Instead, our nation behaves like a gambler deep in the hole, repeatedly doubling down on our commitment to the industry….


Obama on climate change at billionaire Tom Steyer’s home: “The politics of this are tough”

Carla Marinucci San Francisco Chronicle April 4, 2013

Here’s the unedited local pool report we’ve filed to the White House immediately after covering the DCCC fundraiser at the Sea Cliff home of billionaire Tom Steyer. We’ll have more blogs, tweets (@cmarinucci) and pool reports. And don’t… more »






South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project’s Science Symposium 2013,

Registration has opened for the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project’s Science Symposium 2013, to be held Tuesday, July 16 at the USGS Menlo Park Science Center.

Our 2011 symposium was at capacity, so we suggest registering early. Registration is also available for participating in the event by webinar.

To register for in-person or webinar attendance, go to



Society For Ecological Restoration—Deadline

The deadline to submit abstracts for oral and poster presentations at the 5th World Conference on Ecological Restoration is May 1, 2013. We welcome submissions from restoration practitioners, researchers, and advocates addressing any aspect of ecological restoration. Visit the Call for Abstracts page on the conference website for complete instructions and a link to the online submission form.
Conservation Hawks is a group working to engage the 37 million sportsmen (hunters and anglers) regarding the vulnerability of the resources they value to climate change. They have just released their first video (2 minutes) that messages to their constituents, and it is worth a view. I think this is a great example of how a diverse array of individuals and organizations are now engaged in educating Americans about the need to take action to address climate change.






Webinar: The National Fish, Wildlife and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy

April 9, 2013 2:00-4:00 pm

Description: The recently National Fish, Wildlife, and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy is the first nationwide strategy to help public and private decision makers address the impacts that climate change is having on our natural resources and the people and economies that depend on them.

This collaborative effort led by the Fish and Wildlife Service, NOAA, and the state agencies is the product of an extensive national dialogue that spanned nearly two years and was shaped by comments from more than 55,000 Americans.

Join us to hear from the partners who developed this effort about how this Strategy provides a unified approach for reducing the negative impacts of climate change on natural systems, and discuss key recommendations for safeguarding the nation’s fish, wildlife and plants in a changing climate.

For more information on the Strategy, visit:


April 10, 11-noon Pacific Time, Distribution Trends for Wintering Raptors in Western North America, GNLCC Webinar



Webinar: Fish Habitat and Climate Change: Implications for the Desert Southwest, Midwestern Smallmouth Bass, and Eastern Brook Trout

Thursday, April 11, 2:30 PM Eastern
Joanna Whittier, Research Assistant Professor, University of Missouri

Craig Paukert, Leader, Missouri Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit

Tyrell Deweber, Ph.D. Student, Penn State University
Description:  The effects of climate change on freshwater fishes and their habitats will likely not be consistent among species or habitats so region or species-specific effects of climate change may help managers focus conservation efforts.  The first webinar (of two) for this nationwide project will show how climate change affects fish distributions in the desert southwest, brook trout distributions in the eastern U.S., and growth and consumption of smallmouth bass in the Midwest U.S.  In the desert southwest, we developed a framework based on the predicted distribution of native species to serve as a surrogate measure of change in stream habitat condition from changes in climate and land use.  Native species showed a general increase in distribution by 2085.  These were primarily warm-water species.  Of the two cold-water natives, we had enough records to model the distribution of the Apache trout which showed a 25% decline in distribution.   In the Midwest, bioenergetics simulations showed that a 1°C stream temperature increase will increase smallmouth bass growth in the Midwest by 7% and consumption by 27%.  For eastern brook trout increasing stream temperatures and urban land use change are predicted to result in 30 to 40% reductions in suitable stream habitat. These results show that climate change may affect fishes at the distributional and population levels, and may vary by species and region.


Once submitted, your name will be added to the registry and you will receive an email with instructions on how to join the webinar via the WebEx platform. For closed captioning during the webinar, at the start time of the event, please login to your event by clicking on the link below:

Webinar: Modeling potential range shifts under a changing climate: A case study

Wednesday, April 17, 1:00-2:30 PM Eastern


Scott D. Klopfer, Director, Conservation Management Institute, Virginia Tech

David Kramar, Conservation Management Institute, Virginia Tech

Chris Burkett, Wildlife Action Plan Coordinator, VA Dept. of Game & Inland Fisheries

Austin Kane, Science and Policy Manager, National Wildlife Federation

Description: Climate change, and its potential impact on species distributions, has moved to the forefront of concerns among wildlife managers. Current speculation in Virginia centers on how species will respond to changing climate in the coming century. We used dynamically downscaled climate models to generate change scenarios in the mid and late 21st century. We used that information, along with available species occurrence information, to build predictive spatial models for a select group of species. Our results suggested that the impact of climate change will vary across the landscape. The resulting species distribution models provide information for wildlife managers on how climate changes may result in shifting distributions in Virginia. We also provide some basic suggestions to managers in using the information produced and in incorporating climate change into their decision making.


Once submitted, your name will be added to the registry for the webinar and you will receive an email with instructions on how to join the webinar via WebEx platform.


April 16, 2013; 9:00-10:30 Pacific Time, Communicating Climate in a Time of Rapid Change; NOAA Webinar (Add to Google Calendar)

April 17, 2013; 9:00-10:00 Pacific Time, Is Sea Level Rise Accelerating? Somewhere a Hockey Stick; NOAA presentation and webinar, HQ (Add to Google Calendar)



Tell ABC, NBC and CBS News To Cover Climate Change – Media Matters

Twelve. That’s the combined number of segments that ABC, CBS and NBC’s nightly news programs devoted to climate change throughout the entire year of 2012. This is woefully inadequate. We need coverage that’s consistent with the importance of dealing with this issue. Click here to urge ABC, NBC and CBS’ nightly news programs to do a better job of covering climate change.
Since 2012 was the hottest year on record and we experienced a series of damaging extreme weather events, you’d think that the media would have given climate change more attention. The simple reality is that dealing with climate change is going to take big action. But, that can’t happen unless the American people understand how climate change fuels extreme weather. It’s up to the media to inform people.
That’s why we and the Sierra Club are joining the League of Conservation Voters in asking the three nightly news programs to do a better job of covering climate issues in 2013 than they did in 2012. We almost have 100,000 signatures already and with your participation, we can get over the 100,000 mark. You can help out by signing the letter to the executive producers of ABC World News, CBS Evening News and NBC Nightly News asking them to give us more frequent, accurate coverage of climate change this year. Sign here:







As Administration Decides On Keystone, U.S. Experiences Two Tar Sands Spills This Week

Posted: 31 Mar 2013 09:20 AM PDT

One week after the Senate held a symbolic vote in favor of the Keystone XL pipeline, the U.S. saw two different oil spills involving Canadian tar sands crude oil.

An ExxonMobil pipeline ruptured Friday, leaking approximately 10,000 barrels of tar sands crude in an Arkansas town. As a result, 22 homes have been evacuated as officials clean up of the world’s dirtiest oil: Exxon shut the Pegasus pipeline, which can carry more than 90,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil from Pakota, Illinois, to Nederland, Texas, after the leak was discovered on Friday afternoon, the company said in a statement.

The Keystone XL pipeline would carry almost nine times the barrels of oil as the Pegasus pipeline…



A step closer on Keystone
March 29 2013 The Obama Administration is a step closer to a final decision on the proposed Keystone XL pipeline from Canada with the State Department’s release of a draft environmental assessment. C2ES examines the Keystone controversy, the greenhouse gas implications of developing Canadian oil sands, and potential long-term solutions.



Buy an Electric Car, Get a Gas-Powered Car Free

By Brad TuttleApril 02, 20131 Comment A buy-one-get-one-free special on cars? Not exactly. To ease consumer concerns about the limited driving range of electric vehicles, two automakers are giving buyers free access to traditional gas-powered rental cars and loaners throughout the year. For many drivers, purely battery-powered electric vehicles remain an impractical choice because the typical EV must be recharged after every 80 or so miles on the road, and because four or more hours are required for a full recharge. Automakers have rolled out offers such as free included auto insurance, cheap lease deals, and simple price cuts and cash rebates to convince consumers they can live with “range anxiety” and the other downsides to EVs. A $7,500 federal tax credit and state incentives of up to $2,500 make the electric car math even more enticing. And of course, owning an electric vehicle comes with the possibility of saving thousands annually on the costs of “fueling” their cars….







Chimps: Ability to ‘think about thinking’ not limited to humans
(April 3, 2013) — Humans’ closest animal relatives, chimpanzees, have the ability to “think about thinking” — what is called “metacognition,” according to new research. … > full story


Breakthrough cancer-killing treatment has no side-effects in mice: New chemistry may cure human cancers
(April 3, 2013) — The scientific crusade against cancer recently achieved a victory. Medical researchers have developed a new form of radiation therapy that successfully put cancer into remission in mice. This innovative treatment produced none of the harmful side-effects of conventional chemo and radiation cancer therapies. … > full story