Conservation Science News July 26, 2013

Highlight of the Week









We have changed our name to Point Blue Conservation Science (formerly PRBO) reflecting the expanded depth and reach of our work, building on our long-term bird ecology expertise.  Our 140 Point Blue
scientists and educators work with hundreds of partners, pointing the way forward to secure a healthy, blue planet well into the future.  We have changed our name to Point Blue
to more directly address climate change, together with other environmental threats, through nature-based solutions that benefit wildlife and people.  For more information please see From Point Reyes to Point Blue as well as our first Point Blue Quarterly.  You might also enjoy viewing our inspiring ~6 minute video introducing Point Blue that includes partner and staff highlights as well as a brief congratulatory video from Congressman Jared Huffman (CA-2).  Our new website,, is under construction through the summer. Until then, our existing website,, will remain active.


**Please note that our staff email addresses have changed to first initial last name– Please change your spam detector to allow for this.



Highlight of the Week

Two studies use phrase “10 times faster” to describe climate change

EarthSky (blog)  – ‎ August 2, 2013‎

Two recent studies suggest that the climate warming occurring on Earth today is happening at a dramatically fast rate. It’s this rate of change, scientists say – the speed with which average global temperatures are expected to climb over the coming One study, from Stanford University, suggests that climate change is happening 10 times faster than it has at any time in the past 65 million years. The other study, from the University of Texas, suggests that Antarctic permafrost is now melting 10 times faster than in 11,000 years, adding further evidence that Earth’s Antarctic is, in fact, warming just as Earth’s Arctic is. Click the links below to learn more about these studies.

The top map shows global temperatures in the late 21st century, based on current warming trends. The bottom map illustrates the velocity of climate change, or how far species in any given area will need to migrate by the end of the 21st century to experience climate similar to present. Images via Stanford University.

Climate warming 10 times faster than in 65 million years.
In a study announced August 1, 2013, Stanford University climate scientists say that Earth is undergoing one of the largest climate changes in the past 65 million years. They say, moreover, that the change is currently on pace to occur at a rate 10 times faster than any change in 65 million years. Without intervention, these scientists say that this extreme pace could lead to a 5-6 degree Celsius spike in annual temperatures by the end of this century. Noah Diffenbaugh and Chris Field, both senior fellows at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, published these results as part of a special report on climate change in the August 2013 issue of Science. They conducted a “targeted but broad” review of scientific literature on aspects of climate change that can affect ecosystems, and they investigated how recent observations and projections for climate change in the coming century compare to past events in Earth’s history.

Climate change on pace to occur 10 times faster than any change recorded in past 65 million years, Stanford scientists say


Stanford Report, August 1, 2013 Not only is the planet undergoing one of the largest climate changes in the past 65 million years, Stanford climate scientists Noah Diffenbaugh and Chris Field report that it’s on pace to occur at a rate 10 times faster than any change in that period. Without intervention, this extreme pace could lead to a 5-6 degree Celsius spike in annual temperatures by the end of the century…..

The planet is undergoing one of the largest changes in climate since the dinosaurs went extinct. But what might be even more troubling for humans, plants and animals is the speed of the change. Stanford climate scientists warn that the likely rate of change over the next century will be at least 10 times quicker than any climate shift in the past 65 million years.

If the trend continues at its current rapid pace, it will place significant stress on terrestrial ecosystems around the world, and many species will need to make behavioral, evolutionary or geographic adaptations to survive. Although some of the changes the planet will experience in the next few decades are already “baked into the system,” how different the climate looks at the end of the 21st century will depend largely on how humans respond….

Diffenbaugh and Field, both senior fellows at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, conducted the targeted but broad review of scientific literature on aspects of climate change that can affect ecosystems, and investigated how recent observations and projections for the next century compare to past events in Earth’s history. For instance, the planet experienced a 5 degree Celsius hike in temperature 20,000 years ago, as Earth emerged from the last ice age. This is a change comparable to the high-end of the projections for warming over the 20th and 21st centuries. The geologic record shows that, 20,000 years ago, as the ice sheet that covered much of North America receded northward, plants and animals recolonized areas that had been under ice. As the climate continued to warm, those plants and animals moved northward, to cooler climes. “We know from past changes that ecosystems have responded to a few degrees of global temperature change over thousands of years,” said Diffenbaugh. “But the unprecedented trajectory that we’re on now is forcing that change to occur over decades. That’s orders of magnitude faster, and we’re already seeing that some species are challenged by that rate of change.” Some of the strongest evidence for how the global climate system responds to high levels of carbon dioxide comes from paleoclimate studies. Fifty-five million years ago, carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was elevated to a level comparable to today. The Arctic Ocean did not have ice in the summer, and nearby land was warm enough to support alligators and palm trees. “There are two key differences for ecosystems in the coming decades compared with the geologic past,” Diffenbaugh said. “One is the rapid pace of modern climate change. The other is that today there are multiple human stressors that were not present 55 million years ago, such as urbanization and air and water pollution.”….

….The human element

Some climate changes will be unavoidable, because humans have already emitted greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and the atmosphere and oceans have already been heated.

“There is already some inertia in place,” Diffenbaugh said. “If every new power plant or factory in the world produced zero emissions, we’d still see impact from the existing infrastructure, and from gases already released.” The more dramatic changes that could occur by the end of the century, however, are not written in stone. There are many human variables at play that could slow the pace and magnitude of change – or accelerate it. Consider the 2.5 billion people who lack access to modern energy resources. This energy poverty means they lack fundamental benefits for illumination, cooking and transportation, and they’re more susceptible to extreme weather disasters. Increased energy access will improve their quality of life – and in some cases their chances of survival – but will increase global energy consumption and possibly hasten warming. Diffenbaugh said that the range of climate projections offered in the report can inform decision-makers about the risks that different levels of climate change pose for ecosystems. “There’s no question that a climate in which every summer is hotter than the hottest of the last 20 years poses real risks for ecosystems across the globe,” Diffenbaugh said. “However, there are opportunities to decrease those risks, while also ensuring access to the benefits of energy consumption.”



Landsat satellite mosaic of Antarctica, showing the location of the Dry Valleys, via University of Texas.

Antarctic permafrost melting 10 times faster than in 11 thousand years.
Publishing in the journal Nature on July 24, 2013, scientists at the University of Texas report on their study of one of Antarctica’s McMurdo Dry Valleys, showing that the rate of permafrost melting there is now 10 times the historic rate documented for the entire present geological epoch. Prior to this finding, the permafrost in this region of Antarctica was assumed to be stable. These researchers say this permafrost melting in this part of Antarctica has accelerated so that it’s now “comparable to the Arctic.” UT’s Joseph Levy and his team documented the change through LIDAR – a detection system that works on the principle of radar, but uses light from a laser – and time-lapse photography. They found a rapid retreat of ground ice in Garwood Valley, one of the McMurdo Dry Valleys, similar to the lower rates of permafrost melt observed in the coastal Arctic and Tibet. Levy said: The big tell here is that the ice is vanishing — it’s melting faster each time we measure. This is a dramatic shift from recent history.




Citizen scientists rival experts in analyzing land-cover data
(July 31, 2013) — Data gathered and analyzed by non-experts can rival the quality of data from experts, shows a new study of crowdsourced data from the Geo-Wiki project. … > full story


Feds advance plan to kill 3,603 barred owls in Pacific Northwest

A barred owl is seen near Index, Wash. The federal government is considering killing some of the owls in the Pacific Northwest to aid the smaller northern spotted owl in the area. (Barton Glasser / Associated Press)

By John M. Glionna AP July 23, 2013, 4:55 p.m. SAN FRANCISCO — Federal wildlife officials have moved one step closer to their plan to play referee in a habitat supremacy contest that has pitted two species of owl against one another in the forests of the Pacific Northwest. On Tuesday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released a final environmental review of an experiment planned in three states to see if killing barred owls will assist the northern spotted owls, which are threatened with extinction after a major loss of territory since the 1970s. The agency’s preferred course of action calls for killing 3,603 barred owls in four study areas in Oregon, Washington and Northern California over the next four years. At a cost of $3 million, the plan requires a special permit under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which prohibits killing non-game birds. “It’s a fair assessment to say that going after the barred owls is the plan we’d prefer to pursue,” Robin Bown, a federal wildlife biologist, told the Los Angeles Times.

The agency began evaluating alternatives in 2009, gathering public comment and consulting ethicists, focus groups and conduction scientific studies.

It will issue a final decision on the plan in 30 days. Animal activists have blasted the federal plan, saying the government should stay out of the fray and let the more dominant bird prevail, as nature intended. The northern spotted owl is at the center of an ongoing battle between woodcutters and environmentalists across the Pacific Northwest. Because of its dwindling numbers, the little bird is listed as a threatened species by the federal government and in Washington, Oregon and California, Bown said…..


Large Gulf dead zone, but smaller than predicted
(July 29, 2013) — Scientists have found a large Gulf of Mexico oxygen-free or hypoxic ‘dead’ zone, but not as large as had been predicted. Measuring 5,840 square miles, an area the size of Connecticut, the 2013 Gulf dead zone indicates nutrients from the Mississippi River watershed, which drains 40 percent of the lower 48 states, are continuing to affect the nation’s commercial and recreational marine resources in the Gulf. … > full story


Frogs ingest pesticides from agriculture fields 100 miles away in Sierra Nevada

Pacific chorus frogs like this one were found to contain traces of 10 agricultural chemicals that were used in farming fields up to 100 miles away, according to a new study. (Devin Edmonds/USGS / July 26, 2013)

By Brad Balukjian LA Times July 26, 2013, 3:56 p.m.

Frogs living in remote mountain ponds in the Sierra Nevada are ingesting pesticides used to grow crops 50 to 100 miles away in California’s Central Valley, according to a study by government scientists. Researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey identified 10 distinct chemicals in the frogs’ tissues, including residues of DDT, an insecticide that’s been banned for more than 40 years. No Kermit, it’s not easy being green. While the new study, published Thursday in Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, found only trace amounts of the agricultural chemicals, researchers say that’s almost beside the point: The mere fact that the pesticides had made their way to distant sites in national parks and other public lands was their primary concern. Amphibians are considered excellent indicators of ecosystem health due to their sensitivity to environmental change. And while they’re not as charismatic as polar bears,”they are a part of the food web,” said study leader Kelly Smalling, a research hydrologist who monitors pesticides in amphibians for the U.S. Geological Survey. “If frog populations decline, you’re going to have an increase in insect populations,” Smalling said. By by protecting them, “you’re keeping the food web balanced.” And their populations are declining. Badly. A recent study of frogs in the U.S. showed that even populations of species thought to be doing well are disappearing at a rate of almost 3% per year. They’re so fragile that Congress created the Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative in 2000 to keep track of the vulnerable animals……


Pesticides Contaminate Frogs in Californian National Parks


July 26, 2013 — Pesticides commonly used in California’s Central Valley, one of the world’s most productive agricultural regions, have been found in remote frog species miles from farmland. Researchers … > full story

Kelly L. Smalling, Gary M. Fellers, Patrick M. Kleeman, Kathryn M. Kuivila. Accumulation of pesticides in pacific chorus frogs (Pseudacris regilla) from California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains, USA. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, 2013; 32 (9): 2026 DOI: 10.1002/etc.2308



Conservationists Call For Quiet: The Ocean Is Too Loud!

by NPR Staff July 28, 2013 4:29 PM

The beaked whale is one of the most vulnerable of all whale species to underwater noise pollution. Robin Baird/Cascadia Research

Just about everything that we do in the water makes noise. When we ship goods from country to country, when we explore for oil and gas and minerals, when the military trains with explosives or intense sonar systems — the noise travels.

But these man-made noises are making it impossible for sea creatures to communicate with themselves, something that is integral to their survival. Michael Jasny, the director of the Marine Mammal Protection Project for the Natural Resources Defense Council , says we have to quiet down.

The Defense Council and other conservation groups reached an agreement with a number of oil and gas companies in June to tackle one aspect of this potentially dangerous cacophony.

‘Blinding’ Marine Life

Jasny is reminded of an old English science-fiction in which the people of the world wake up one morning to find that they’re all blind. “That’s what we’re doing to whales and other animals in the sea,” Jasny tells NPR’s Jacki Lyden. “We haven’t blinded them completely, but we’ve diminished their sight, we’ve made it much harder for them to live in their world…



Study dials up western pond turtles

Carolyn Jones Updated 9:54 am, Wednesday, July 31, 2013 SF Chronicle

 Turtle No. 13 is pretty much like western pond turtles everywhere. The greenish, speckled reptile likes to wallow in the mud, bask on old logs and munch on dragonfly larvae.

But then there’s the 8-inch antenna on her back. She and each of her 23 cohorts in a secluded Mount Diablo pond are affixed with radio transmitters on their shells so scientists can track their every poky, mud-filled move. The turtles are oblivious to their high-tech accessory, but the information they provide has given biologists a glimpse into one of the most rare, and mysterious, reptiles.

“This is the holy grail for turtles,” said David “Doc Quack” Riensche, an East Bay Regional Park District biologist who’s been conducting the study for three years….



Google-funded sea research vessel sets sail

The Associated Press Posted:   08/01/2013 10:00:28 AM PDT

SAN FRANCISCO—A $60 million research ship funded by a Google executive is setting sail from San Francisco to study a so-called “dead zone” in the Pacific Ocean and other mysteries of the sea.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports ( that the 272-foot vessel called Falcor was scheduled to leave port Thursday. The ship carries an unmanned submarine that will travel deep into the ocean off Vancouver Island to study an area where all sea life dies each year from a periodic lack of oxygen. …


Bird brains came before birds

Fox News  – ‎Aug 1, 2013‎

Some nonavian dinosaurs, including carnivorous tyrannosaurs, may have had brains that were hardwired for flight long before even the earliest known birds started flapping their wings, a new study finds. Scientists used high-resolution CT scanners to


A Brick That Lets Threatened Birds Build Nests Directly Into Walls

Wired  – July 26 2013‎

The Bird Brick is a fire-clamped cavity brick that can be built into walls and buildings to provide a sustainable nesting site for sparrows. Image: Aaron Dunkerton

Birds build nests in the oddest of places. “You often find them nesting under loose tiles or in old broken vents in the side of buildings,” says Aaron Dunkerton, an England-based designer. But as buildings are patched up to improve insulation and green space disappears due to urbanization, sparrows are losing a sizable chunk of their nesting options. Over the last three decades, the U.K. house sparrow population has decreased around 70 percent, and the bird has found itself on the growing list of endangered species. Dunkerton, a student at Kingston University in England, aimed to solve the problem with the Bird Brick, a fire-clamped cavity brick that could be built into walls and buildings to provide a sustainable nesting site for the birds…..



Motion-powered bird backpacks take flight

Scientists develop lightweight, sensor-filled bird backpacks to track changes in migratory patterns.

by Amanda Kooser July 29, 2013 8:17 AM PDT

A bird sports a fashionable backpack. (Credit: Michael Shafer)

Back-to-school shopping isn’t just for people. Some birds are getting backpacks, too. Researchers at the Laboratory for Intelligent Machine Systems at Cornell University are developing tiny high-tech backpacks to collect information on bird flight patterns. Birds aren’t beasts of burden, so one of the biggest challenges around gathering flight data is finding ways to monitor the birds that don’t interrupt their flying mechanisms. That’s where motion-powered devices come in. “You can’t put a 9-volt battery on a bird, so you need a lightweight energy source,” says Cornell doctoral candidate Michael Shafer. Shafer’s backpacks have been tested on homing pigeons, which can only carry about 12 grams of weight. The teensy-weensy backpacks contain vibrational energy harvesters that gather the energy from the birds’ movements. A piezoelectric device translates that energy into power for the built-in sensors. The removable packs might be small, but each one is also stuffed with an accelerometer, microcontroller, wireless receiver, and memory module. This all comes together to make in-flight tracking of birds possible….

The backpack is extremely light. (Credit: Michael Shafer)



POINT BLUE in the news:


Seagull expert Russ Bradley discusses AT&T Park’s bird issue July 31 2013
Russ Bradley joined The Rise Guys to discuss seagull problems in San Francisco.Sports radio (97.5 FM) talking about the issue of all the gulls at AT & T park. This is no NPR,  but I was able to get in some choice Western Gull facts (including my favorite quote from Dawson about WEGUs and food) to an audience I’m sure we would never reach.







Extreme wildfires in Western U.S. likely fueled by climate change
(August 1, 2013) — Climate change is likely fueling the larger and more destructive wildfires that are scorching vast areas of the American West, according to new research. … > full story


What Can Plants Reveal About Global Climate Change?

July 26, 2013 — Recently, climate change, including global warming, has been a “hot” news item as many regions of the world have experienced increasingly intense weather patterns, such as powerful hurricanes and extended floods or droughts. Often the emphasis is on how such extreme weather impacts humans, from daily heat index warnings to regulating CO2 emissions. While the media continues to present climate change as a controversial issue, many scientists are working hard to gather data, collaborate across disciplines, and use experimental and modeling techniques to track how organisms and ecosystems are responding to the current changes in our Earth’s global environment.

A group of organisms that play a wide variety of crucial roles in our global ecosystems is plants. What role do plants play in helping to regulate climate change and how will they fare in future times? A new series of articles in a Special Issue on Global Biological Change in the American Journal of Botany expands our view on how global changes affect and are affected by plants and offers new ideas to stimulate and advance new collaborative research. Global change includes topics such as increasing carbon dioxide and its effect on climate, habitat fragmentation and changes in how protected and agricultural lands are used or managed, increases in alien species invasions, and increased use of resources by humans. There is increasing concern that these changes will have rapid and irreversible impacts on our climate, our resources, our ecosystems, and ultimately on life, as we know it. These concerns stimulated Stephen Weller (University of California, Irvine), Katharine Suding (University of California, Berkeley), and Ann Sakai (University of California, Irvine) to gather together a diverse series of work from botanists spanning disciplines from taxonomy and morphology to ecology and evolution, from traditional to multidisciplinary approaches, and from observations and experiments to modeling and reviews, to help synthesize our knowledge and stimulate new approaches to tackling these global biological change issues…


S. G. Weller, K. Suding, A. K. Sakai. Botany and a changing world: Introduction to the Special Issue on Global Biological Change. American Journal of Botany, 2013; 100 (7): 1229 DOI: 10.3732/ajb.1300198


More accurate model of climate change’s effect on soil
(August 1, 2013) — Scientists have developed a new computer model to measure global warming’s effect on soil worldwide that accounts for how bacteria and fungi in soil control carbon. … > full story

Temperature alters population dynamics of common plant pests
(August 1, 2013) — Temperature-driven changes alter outbreak patterns of tea tortrix — an insect pest — and may shed light on how temperature influences whether insects emerge as cohesive cohorts or continuously, according to an international team of researchers. These findings have implications for both pest control and how climate change may alter infestations. … > full story


New knowledge about permafrost improving climate models
(July 28, 2013) — New research findings document that permafrost during thawing may result in a substantial release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and that the future water content in the soil is crucial to predict the effect of permafrost thawing. The findings may lead to more accurate climate models in the future. … > full story


Arctic sea-ice loss has widespread effects on wildlife
(August 1, 2013) — How the Arctic wildlife and humans will be affected by the continued melting of Arctic sea ice is explored in a review article in the journal Science, by an international team of scientists. The article examines relationships among algae, plankton, whales, and terrestrial animals such as caribou, arctic foxes, and walrus; as well as the effects of human exploration of previously inaccessible parts of the region. … > full story

Many Species Will Have To Evolve 10,000 Times Faster To Adapt To Climate Change, Study Finds

By Katie Valentine on Jul 26, 2013 at 11:50 am

A Rock Frog, a species in decline due to a combination of climate change, a fungus that has been killing amphibians around the world, and habitat loss. (Credit: AP/Ricardo Arduengo)

Climate change is moving too quickly for many vertebrate species to adapt, a new study has found. The study, published in the journal Ecology Letters, found species would have to evolve 10,000 times faster than they have in the past in order to keep up with the earth’s rapidly changing climate, a rate of evolution that the study’s authors say is “largely unprecedented based on observed rates.”

Researchers examined the evolutionary trees of 17 families of the major groups of terrestrial vertebrates, including frogs, salamanders, lizards, snakes, crocodilians, birds and mammals. They looked at when species split off into new species in the past, and what was happening climatically in their niche environment when they did so. They compared that, in turn, to the rates of climate change scientists predict through 2100.

“We found that on average, species usually adapt to different climatic conditions at a rate of only by about 1 degree Celsius per million years,” researcher John J. Wiens, an ecology and evolutionary biology professor at the University of Arizona, told the UA News Service. “But if global temperatures are going to rise by about 4 degrees over the next hundred years as predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change, that is where you get a huge difference in rates. What that suggests overall is that simply evolving to match these conditions may not be an option for many species.”

Though some of the 540 species studied may be able to change their habitat ranges — moving north as climate warms, for example — or persist as a whole even if several populations die out, extinction is a real threat for many of them. These extinctions could in turn affect other species that may not be directly impacted by changing temperatures themselves. In a previous study, Wiens and co-authors found that declines and extinctions of species are often due to changes in their interactions with other species. Even a certain species moving north could have big consequences for existing native species — the displaced organism could out-compete the native wildlife for food and habitat, leading, ultimately, to population extinction.

It’s a long and widely-held position in science that evolution moves slowly, taking hundreds, thousands or even millions of years, but other previous studies have challenged that belief — a 2008 study found lizards introduced to a remote island in the 1970s underwent dramatic physical changes in just a few decades, and a 2006 study found a species of Galapagos finch species developed a smaller beak in just 20 years.

It’s been unclear so far, however, how exactly the Earth’s wildlife will react to climate change, but the initial findings haven’t been promising. A recent study found that small birds, like the great tit, might have the most chance of adapting to a changing climate, but another report found that migratory birds, which are often dependent on phenology changes — set times for spring bud burst and insect hatchings, for example — are highly threatened by climate change. The IPCC predicts that between 40 and 70 percent of species could go extinct if temperatures rise by more than 3.5 degrees Celsius, and a recent study found that, when CO2 levels doubled towards the end of the Triassic Period, three-quarters of all Earth’s species died off.


Does more mean less? The value of information for conservation planning under sea level rise

Rebecca K. Runting1,2,3,*, Kerrie A. Wilson1,3, Jonathan R. Rhodes1,2 Global Change Biology Article first published online: 30 NOV 2012 DOI: 10.1111/gcb.12064


Many studies have explored the benefits of adopting more sophisticated modelling techniques or spatial data in terms of our ability to accurately predict ecosystem responses to global change. However, we currently know little about whether the improved predictions will actually lead to better conservation outcomes once the costs of gaining improved models or data are accounted for. This severely limits our ability to make strategic decisions for adaptation to global pressures, particularly in landscapes subject to dynamic change such as the coastal zone. In such landscapes, the global phenomenon of sea level rise is a critical consideration for preserving biodiversity.

Here, we address this issue in the context of making decisions about where to locate a reserve system to preserve coastal biodiversity with a limited budget. Specifically, we determined the cost-effectiveness of investing in high-resolution elevation data and process-based models for predicting wetland shifts in a coastal region of South East Queensland, Australia. We evaluated the resulting priority areas for reserve selection to quantify the cost-effectiveness of investment in better quantifying biological and physical processes.

We show that, in this case, it is considerably more cost effective to use a process-based model and high-resolution elevation data, even if this requires a substantial proportion of the project budget to be expended (up to 99% in one instance). The less accurate model and data set failed to identify areas of high conservation value, reducing the cost-effectiveness of the resultant conservation plan. This suggests that when developing conservation plans in areas where sea level rise threatens biodiversity, investing in high-resolution elevation data and process-based models to predict shifts in coastal ecosystems may be highly cost effective. A future research priority is to determine how this cost-effectiveness varies among different regions across the globe.



Global warming endangers South American water supply
(July 29, 2013) — Chile and Argentina may face critical water storage issues due to rain-bearing westerly winds over South America’s Patagonian Ice-Field to moving south as a result of global warming. … > full story






Our Once And Future Oceans: Taking Lessons From Earth’s Past

NPR  – ‎Aug 2 2013‎

One of the most powerful ways to figure out how the Earth will respond to all the carbon dioxide we’re putting into the atmosphere is to look back into the planet’s history.

Sediment trapped behind dams makes them ‘hot spots’ for greenhouse gas emissions
(July 31, 2013) — With the “green” reputation of large hydroelectric dams already in question, scientists are reporting that millions of smaller dams on rivers around the world make an important contribution to the greenhouse gases linked to global climate change. Their study shows that more methane than previously believed bubbles out of the water behind small dams. … > full story


Rocks Can Restore Our Climate … After 300,000 Years



July 26, 2013 — A study of a global warming event that happened 93 million years ago suggests that Earth can recover from high carbon dioxide emissions faster than thought, but that this process takes around 300,000 … > full story

Global warming to cut snow water storage 56 percent in Oregon watershed
(July 26, 2013)

A new report projects that by the middle of this century there will be an average 56 percent drop in the amount of water stored in peak snowpack in the McKenzie River watershed of the Oregon Cascade Range — and that similar impacts may be found on low-elevation maritime snow packs around the world. … Annual precipitation in the future may be either higher or lower, the OSU researchers said. They did calculations for precipitation changes that could range 10 percent in either direction, although change of that magnitude is not anticipated by most climate models. The study made clear, so far as snowpack goes, that temperature is the driving force, far more than precipitation. Even the highest levels of anticipated precipitation had almost no impact on snow-water storage, they said…..full story

E. Sproles, A. Nolin, K. Rittger, T. Painter. Climate change impacts on maritime mountain snowpack in the Oregon Cascades. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences Discussions, 2012; 9 (11): 13037 DOI: 10.5194/hessd-9-13037-2012


New Mexico’s Elephant Butte Reservoir Dries Up

Posted: 30 Jul 2013 08:30 AM PDT

Severe drought has driven New Mexico’s Elephant Butte Reservoir to its lowest water level in four decades, a problem that’s the latest in a series of drought-related challenges facing the state.

The reservoir, which is New Mexico’s largest, currently holds just 3 percent of the water it held in the 1980s and 1990s, when the region received a streak of plentiful rainfall. The lack of water is due to the extreme drought that has gripped New Mexico for the past three years. Right now, 100 percent of the state ranks on some level of drought, according to the U.S. drought monitor, and 80 percent ranks in the monitor’s most severe categories of drought. Rising temperatures coupled with low snowpack on the mountains that feed the state’s rivers and abnormally low rainfall — the past two years have been the driest in New Mexico’s history — have fueled the drought.

The reservoir is located along the Rio Grande River, which is so exceptionally dry that one local paper dubbed it the “Rio Sand.” This year, the river experienced its shortest irrigation season in recorded history, ending just a month and a half after it started. Alberquerque has imposed water use limits on its residents, and El Paso, which gets half its water from Elephant Butte, has been urging its residents since May to use less water. In the meantime, the city is relying on a desalinization plant to get water to its residents. Desalination plants are primarily used for seawater in coastal areas.

The effects of the drought go past residential water needs, however. The low water levels in the Rio Grande have strained the river’s fish and mollusks, with scientists scrambling to save as many endangered Rio Grande silvery minnows as possible from the drying river. The species is doing worse now than it did when conservation efforts began ten years ago, in part due to the drought. Grass has dried up and hay prices have skyrocketed, forcing ranchers to sell their cattle, which in turn has helped shrink the U.S. cattle herd to the smallest it’s been in at least four decades. Pecan and chile growers, too, are having trouble irrigating their crops, with some pecan growers trimming their trees to the trunks and drilling new wells in an attempt to draw more water







Sweden Focuses on Cutting Food Emissions

July 29, 2013 NY Times PHOTO SLIDE SHOW

Sweden is drawing attention to emissions from food production by requiring new labels and encouraging farmers to adhere to greener standards in order to combat climate change. In order to be considered “climate-friendly” by KRAV, Scandinavia’s leading organic certification program, dairy farms in Sweden will have to increase the amount of locally produced protein feed, rather than importing soy from the Amazon. Some farmers have risen to the challenge of reducing their carbon footprint; however, in the north of Sweden, it is hard to grow feed locally and some farmers may have to drop out of the KRAV system. Some packages of oatmeal already have labels that read “Climate declared: .87 kg CO2 per kg of product,” so shoppers can consider the environmental impact of their diets. An estimated 25 percent of the emissions produced by people in industrialized countries can be traced to the food they eat, according to recent research in Sweden. Frozen chicken was one of the first products to be carbon-labeled by Lantmannen, a farmers’ group. The Swedish Food Administration encourages its citizens to substitute beans or chicken for red meat, in view of the heavy greenhouse gas emissions associated with raising cattle. The environmental cost of raising cattle depends on many factors, including whether the farmer uses local or imported feed. Max, a Swedish burger chain, puts emissions data on its menu, uses low-energy LED lights and pays for wind-generated electricity. Some diners at Max say they think twice before ordering a burger, when faced with the emissions information posted on every menu board. Sales of more climate-friendly products, like chicken fingers and veggie chili, have risen 20 percent since Max started putting climate information on the menu last year.



A Republican Case for Climate Action


Published: August 1, 2013 261 Comments NYTimes OpEd

EACH of us took turns over the past 43 years running the Environmental Protection Agency. We served Republican presidents, but we have a message that transcends political affiliation: the United States must move now on substantive steps to curb climate change, at home and internationally. There is no longer any credible scientific debate about the basic facts: our world continues to warm, with the last decade the hottest in modern records, and the deep ocean warming faster than the earth’s atmosphere. Sea level is rising. Arctic Sea ice is melting years faster than projected.

The costs of inaction are undeniable. The lines of scientific evidence grow only stronger and more numerous. And the window of time remaining to act is growing smaller: delay could mean that warming becomes “locked in.” A market-based approach, like a carbon tax, would be the best path to reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, but that is unachievable in the current political gridlock in Washington.…



After Delayed Vote, EPA Gains a Tough Leader to Tackle Climate Change

New York Times July 29 2013

Mr. Obama’s decision to nominate Ms. McCarthy, 59, was an act of defiance to Congressional and industry opponents of meaningful action on climate change. It was also a sign of his determination to at least begin to put in place rules to reduce carbon ..



EPA and the Cost of Climate Change

Revesz and Livermore Posted: 07/29/2013 11:00 am

To tackle climate change without the help of Congress, the Obama Administration will have to estimate how much it costs society — in damaged crops, wildfires, floods, and a cascading list of other harms — when a ton of carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere. Obama’s administrators estimate the cost to be $38 per ton. In a recent post on Slate, Professor Eric Posner argues that this number is based on a “dubious set of calculations.” He worries $38 is so far-fetched that any rule that relies on it would be struck down in court. Recently, Republican members of Congress have joined in the criticism of what is known as the “social cost of carbon.” These attacks are off base. While the current estimate might not be perfect, it is rigorously researched and based on conservative assumptions. We need something like the social cost of carbon because it will always be possible to nix an additional ton of pollution, but at increasing cost. Without a sense of how much damage is caused by carbon pollution, we won’t know what kinds of costs are justified.

EPA arrived at its $38 estimate through an interagency taskforce that included scientific and economic experts from a wide range of agencies as well as White House officials including, at the time, Cass Sunstein and Michael Greenstone (both noted academics known for restraint and intellectual rigor). The economic models used by EPA to calculate the estimates are not infallible, but they have been vetted through substantial peer review and represent the state of the art. Posner accurately points to massive uncertainties that make predicting far-in-the-future economic conditions difficult. But he doesn’t offer any alternative to the administration’s approach. Should the EPA regulate without attempting to estimate the benefits? Should it arbitrarily select an emissions goal irrespective of costs? Is there any specific methodology that Posner proposes that would improve on the agency’s estimates? If the answer to these questions is “no,” it isn’t clear where Posner’s critique leaves us, other than faced with the recognition that climate change is a hard regulatory question. That is certainly true, but cannot be allowed to paralyze the EPA. …


Gov. O’Malley Announces [Maryland] Plan To Deal With Climate Change

July 28, 2013 6:41 PM BALTIMORE (WJZ) — An ambitious plan to deal with climate change. This week, Governor Martin O’Malley made major strides with the scientific community, which says our state is in the target zone for the effects of extreme weather. Extreme weather in Maryland. Experts say climate change is to blame for the increase in severe storms, flooding and extreme temperatures. Data shows Maryland is vulnerable to the rise in sea level, possibly losing precious land to climate change long term. “Last year, we experienced the hottest year on record,” O’Malley said. This week, Governor O’Malley hosted hundreds of scientists, business leaders and environmental advocates for a climate change summit. He released what he calls the country’s most ambitious greenhouse gas reduction plan. “This is not only about polar bears drowning, it’s also more locally about the 168 Marylanders we’ve lost in severe weather events over the past decade and a half,” O’Malley said. The plan, as he calls it for short, includes reducing greenhouse gas emissions 25% by 2020, cutting emissions from power plants by 40%, doubling Maryland’s transit ridership by 2020 and eliminating 85% of Maryland’s waste by 2030. Achieving that last goal means a huge increase in commercial and residential composting and recycling. “Becoming a zero waste state,” O’Malley said. “The good news is we actually have one of the higher recycling rates already compared to the other 50 states, so we start from a very good base.” The plan also calls for stricter vehicle emission standards and establishing more sources for renewable energy. The governor says these changes could create thousands of jobs and pump more than a billion dollars into the state’s economy.


Google Scientists Want Google to Stop Funding Climate Change Denial

Mashable August 1 2013

In 2011, Google launched the Google Science Communication Fellows program, hiring 21 “early to mid-career Ph.D. scientists nominated by leaders in climate change research and science-based institutions across the U.S.” On July 11, they threw a 


MARYLAND: Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Act Plan
The 2012 Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Act (GGRA) Plan fulfills the mandate to, by the end of 2012, propose a plan that achieves a 25 percent statewide reduction in GHG emissions by 2020, while also spurring job creation and helping improve the economy. The GGRA also requires a report in 2015 that, amongst other things, requires MDE to provide a recommendation on what the State’s longer term reduction target should be. In 2008, the Maryland Commission on Climate Change, appointed by Governor O’Malley, recommended that Maryland consider a 2050 goal as high as a 90 percent reduction from 2006 levels. This plan spurs reductions in GHGs through incentives that increase energy efficiency using existing technologies, and identifies ways to transition to new energy sources and stimulate further technology development.

Published: July 25, 2013
265 pages
PDF (1.6 MB)

Comprehensive Strategy for Reducing Maryland’s Vulnerability to Climate Change, Phase II: building societal, economic, and ecological resilience
A report to the Maryland Commission on Climate Change from the Adaptation and Response Working GroupAuthor(s): Boicourt KE and Johnson ZP (eds)Publisher: University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, Cambridge, Maryland and Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Annapolis, MarylandThis report details the findings of the Scientific and Technical Working Group, comprised of experts representing six sectors—human health, agriculture, forests and terrestrial ecosystems, bay and aquatic ecosystems, water resources, and population growth and infrastructure. Each sector assessed climate change vulnerabilities, and recommended adaptation strategies for the State of Maryland.

Published: January 24, 2011
80 pages
PDF (27.1 MB)



The Extraordinary Steps Health Care Providers Are Taking To Prepare For Climate Change

Posted: 30 Jul 2013 04:31 AM PDT

…It’s these emergency evacuations that Hubert Murray, Sustainable Initiatives Manager for Partners Healthcare in Boston, wants to avoid at all costs. Murray was instrumental in “future-proofing” Boston’s Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, a 132-bed teaching hospital that opened in April. Spaulding was built near the bay — a location that may seem counter-intuitive to climate preparedness, but that Murray said made the most sense in terms of cost and ease of access for city patients — so its ground floor is raised 30 inches above the current 500-year flood level and 42 inches above the 100-year flood level. It has operable windows that, in the case of an air conditioning failure, can be opened so that patients don’t overheat — a feature Cohen said is an essential part of climate change preparation. The landscaping acts as a sort of reef, created to provide a certain level of protection from storm surge. And, perhaps most importantly, its electrical equipment is on the roof, instead of the basement, so it’s not susceptible to flooding.

Murray said these climate-proofing measures weren’t costly: they added about half a percent to the total cost of the building. Preparing new buildings for climate change, he said, isn’t a necessarily expensive or difficult venture, and its cost-effectiveness is something the city of Boston has noticed. Murray said the city asked Spaulding to share the criteria it used to climate-proof its building, and now, developers in Boston are required to develop a set of protocols similar to Spaulding’s when making plans for a new building…..

The health care industry accounts for 8 percent of U.S. emissions, according to one report, making it as big a contributor to climate change in the U.S. as agriculture. Some health care companies have taken note: Spaulding’s windows are triple-glazed, a feature Murray said eliminates the need for perimeter heating in hospital rooms, dramatically cutting the hospital’s energy use. The Gundersen Health System, a health care network in Wisconsin, is on track to be energy independent by 2014 and has saved $1.3 million annually through energy conservation. Maine’s York Hospital gets 90 percent of its energy from renewable sources, a switch that has saved the hospital more than $100,000 each year for the past decade.

In 2012, Kaiser Permanente, the third-largest health insurance company in the U.S., publicly acknowledged climate change’s role in human health and announced a plan of 30 percent reductions from its 2008 emissions by 2020. Kaiser’s recognition of the link between climate and health was noteworthy: when a Ceres report published in May ranked insurance companies in order of their climate risk disclosure and management, Kaiser was the only health insurance company to make it into the list’s top 10.

Kathy Gerwig, Kaiser’s environmental stewardship officer, said so far Kaiser has made a 5 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to 2008 levels. It’s installed solar panels at 11 of its 648 hospitals and medical centers and has purchased about 43,000 megawatts of wind energy to power its Mid-Atlantic facilities. The company is also doing an inventory of all its health care facilities to see how it can better prepare them for the effects of climate change.

“We think that as health care providers it’s extremely important for us to acknowledge that climate change is already having health effects on populations, and that it will continue to do so,” Gerwig said. “We need to be in a position to both react in a way that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions to stop the problem, and also be responsive as a health care organization to the effects that are already taking place.”…..

…..If the health care industry has the potential to be a leader in climate change adaptation and mitigation, health care practitioners can be just as key in educating patients on how climate change can affect their health, Cohen said. Health Care Without Harm has worked to educate nurses in about 700 hospitals in the hopes that they’ll in turn educate their patients and other nursing organizations on the climate-health link. “Nurses and doctors are some of the most trusted messengers in our society,” Cohen said. “Having nurses, doctors, other health professionals be the spokespeople for climate change policy, to re-frame climate change not as an environmental issue but as a health issue that affects everyone — red state, blue state, poor, rich — it’s an incredible opportunity to mobilize an army of health professionals to win changes in energy and climate policy that can trump the arguments that the coal and fossil fuel industry make.”

The American Medical Association, which publicly acknowledged the link between climate change and patient health in 2011, encourages physicians to educate patients about their roles in environmental health, and to work with their local health departments to strengthen their hospitals’ climate change preparedness.

“Doctors may find themselves on the front lines in dealing with its serious and immediate problems,” the AMA said in a 2011 editorial. “Patients are sicker or developing new conditions as a result of changes in the weather. Greater awareness and understanding of the situation, from a medical perspective, is a proper priority.” The government, too, can play a role in making the link between climate and health. The Obama administration has slowly begun to acknowledge the association — this month, the White House gave the Champions of Change award to 11 people — including Cohen — who are “working on the front lines to protect public health in a changing climate.” But it’s the Affordable Care Act that has one of the best opportunities for educating health care practitioners on the link between climate and health, Cohen said, which is why he’s working with the Healthier Hospitals Initiative to link the implementation of the Affordable Care Act with hospital sustainability. Obamacare, for the first time, addresses population health instead of just focusing on the health of individuals, making it an ideal vessel to carry the message of climate change’s effect on health.

“We’re spending 96 cents on the dollar to address people when they’re sick. We spend four cents on the dollar for prevention. So there’s something fundamentally wrong there — we’re not addressing the social and environmental factors that are making people sick in the first place and landing them in the emergency room,” Cohen said. “Under the new Affordable Care Act, for the first time, hospitals are mandated to do community health needs assessments, and start to align their care to those community needs.”

Cohen said he thinks climate and health have historically been seen as separate issues in America, but the more they’re linked — in the eyes of government officials, hospital planners, health insurance companies, doctors, nurses and patients — the more opportunity the country has to effectively prepare for and mitigate the harmful effects of climate change.

“The more that we link health care and climate change, I think the more powerful the argument becomes,” he said.

Existing cropland could feed four billion more by dropping biofuels and animal feed
(August 1, 2013) — The world’s croplands could feed 4 billion more people than they do now just by shifting from producing animal feed and biofuels to producing exclusively food for human consumption, according to new research. … > full story






NASA climate change video: This is the US in 2100

Mother Nature Network  – ‎Jul 25, 2013‎

The video illustrates a small component of the upcoming National Climate Assessment, set to come out in 2014, which provides Congress with the most up-to-date information on the state of climate change in the country from more than 240 contributing 


Scientists have been warning about the global impacts that climate change will bring over the coming decades — but what do those impacts mean for Los Angeles? Do they spell doom for life as we know it in our California paradise? To answer these questions, Professor Alex Hall presented an Oppenheim Lecture on the results of his ground-breaking research on the local impacts of global climate change in the Los Angeles region on May 15, 2013.    By downscaling global climate models to very high resolutions, Professor Hall’s work makes climate change relevant to everyone by predicting what the climate will be at the neighborhood level, where people live, work, and play. He predicts the changes that will take place across the Los Angeles landscape by 2050 and 2100, from warmer temperatures and more frequent extreme heat events, to reduced snowfall in the region’s mountain ranges and more frequent, larger fires. This work is of critical interest to anyone who needs to prepare this region for the inevitable changes in climate: fire departments, public health officials, electric and gas utilities, businesses, and water and flood control agencies. Dr. Hall also makes it clear that while some climate changes are inevitable, what we do as a society can avoid some of the most extreme climate changes that “business as usual” will bring.

To watch the full lecture
click here
or visit this link:

To listen to a podcast of the lecture click here or visit this link:

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Watershed Monitoring and Adaptive Management. 

The Sacramento River Watershed Program presents the 3rd series of Watershed Management Technical Assistance Workshops on Watershed Monitoring and Adaptive Management.  Workshops will be held in 7 regions across California.  The first workshop of the series is scheduled for August 7th and 8th in Redding.  There is still room but space is limited so Register Now!
Click HERE for more information or contact Dennis Bowker or Holly Jorgensen.  



Project Design and Evaluation
September 23-24, 2013 9:00am – 5:00pm both days

“How can I be sure that my projects will reach the right audience and have the right impact? What can I do to make sure that my efforts go beyond ‘preaching to the choir’?”
If you’ve ever asked yourself these questions,
this is the course for you!

The San Francisco Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve  is excited to announce this upcoming workshop!The Project Design and Evaluation course provides coastal resource management extension and education professionals with the knowledge, skills, and tools to design and implement projects that have measurable impacts on the audience they want to reach. This interactive curriculum can help you increase the effectiveness of your projects by applying valid instructional design theory to their design. For more information or to register, click here.  Course Instructed by NOAA Coastal Services Center 



August 29, 11:30a.m.-12:30p.m. (Pacific Time)
Pikas in the Columbia River Gorge FWS/C3 Webinar
WebEx link 
Call in: 877 952-8012  Access code: 274207

August 15-17
ScienceOnline Climate Conference  Explores the intersection of climate science, communication and the web.

Best Practices for Systematic Conservation Planning: A Non-Technical Course

Sam Veloz, Point Blue Conservation Science

Thursday, September 12, 2013 at 9:00 AM – Friday, September 13, 2013 at 5:00 PM (PDT)

Davis, CA

This workshop looks at currently available resources and link science, statistics, species distributions, applications, and models together to improve landscape level conservation.
The first workshop, September 12-13, 2013, is non-technical and aimed at managers, planners, and biologists. Click here for more information or to register.
There is a second workshop, September 16-19, 2013, that is more technical and aimed at analysts and modelers with a more advanced GIS background.   Click here for more information or to register. 



Call for Abstracts

September 5-6, Fourth Annual Pacific Northwest Climate Science Conference: Reminder– All abstracts must be submitted by July 12.  Registration and lodging information will be available soon. For more details or to submit an abstract, please go to:

SER2013 Early Registration Closes July 15th!




Early registration for the 5th SER World Conference on Ecological Restoration
closes on July 15, 2013. Registration rates increase on July 16! (Sorry, but we can’t make exceptions to this deadline. We’re managing more than a thousand registrations).

Register now and save up to $125 on the cost of registration.  July 15 is also the deadline for presenter registration. If you have submitted an abstract or will speak in a symposium, you MUST register by July 15. If you do not register by this deadline your presentation will not be included in the scientific program. No Exceptions! More Information


Working for Conservation Conference: Active Engagement in Forestland Woodland Sustainability
October 10, 2013  Sacramento CA
This conference will focus on what we can learn from innovative and novel strategies that seek to achieve desired outcome in natural systems that have been historically altered and will continue to be altered. Participants will discuss new policies and management strategies that recognize the realities of these impacts, and encourage active approaches to ensure that these values continue into the future. This one-day conference is intended to engage resource managers, governmental, industry and NGO leaders, the interested general public. Early registration is due October 1, 2013.





Sierra Nevada Conservancy Prop 84 FUNDS – The Sierra Nevada Conservancy (SNC) Proposition 84 Grant Program for the Fiscal Year 2013-14 has been launched.  The funding available for this round of grants is approximately $2.5 million. Eligible projects for this grant round include projects that meet Proposition 84 eligibility criteria and SNC mission and program goals.  Projects must align with one of the two focus areas of this round, Healthy Forests and Abandoned Mine Lands).  Projects that build upon past SNC investment, financial or otherwise, will be given preference.  For more information click here.





Restoration and Education Internship, 2013-14

Point Blue Conservation Science (formerly PRBO) is dedicated to conserving birds, other wildlife, and ecosystems through innovative scientific research, restoration, outreach and extensive partnerships.  Our highest priority is to reduce the impacts of habitat alteration, climate change and other threats to wildlife and people, while promoting adaptation to the changes ahead. Our 130+ staff and seasonal biologists and educators work with a wide range of public and private partners to advance effective conservation throughout the west. We are based in Petaluma, CA; visit us online at  Point Blue’s watershed restoration and education program called STRAW (Students & Teachers Restoring A Watershed), facilitates K-12 students in implementation of professionally designed habitat restoration projects on streams and wetlands in Marin, Sonoma, Napa and Solano counties October – May. Restoration work typically includes native plant installation, biotechnical erosion control practices and/or invasive plant removal. Restoration sites are maintained for three summers after planting.  Restoration site maintenance work occurs April-August and includes watering, weeding and other plant establishment activities. Maintenance of STRAW restoration sites is an integral part of the project and overall program success. Point Blue is seeking four reliable, respectful, and enthusiastic interns to help with student-implemented restoration workdays and accompanying maintenance and monitoring of sites.

Position duration:  October 1, 2013 – September 1, 2014 (internship end dates may change depending on project needs)

Stipend: Voluntary position with monthly stipend of $850/month to offset living expenses, plus shared housing in an apartment in Petaluma, CA

To apply, please submit your resume, 3 references and a cover letter describing why you would like the internship by August 1, 2013 to Emily Allen (









Comparing bird and bat fatality-rate estimates among North American wind-energy projects

K. Shawn Smallwood* Article first published online: 26 MAR 2013 DOI: 10.1002/wsb.260 Copyright © 2013 The Wildlife Society


Estimates of bird and bat fatalities are often made at wind-energy projects to assess impacts by comparing them with other fatality estimates. Many fatality estimates have been made across North America, but they have varied greatly in field and analytical methods, monitoring duration, and in the size and height of the wind turbines monitored for fatalities, and few benefited from scientific peer review. To improve comparability among estimates, I reviewed available reports of fatality monitoring at wind-energy projects throughout North America, and I applied a common estimator and 3 adjustment factors to data collected from these reports. To adjust fatality estimates for proportions of carcasses not found during routine monitoring, I used national averages from hundreds of carcass placement trials intended to characterize scavenger removal and searcher detection rates, and I relied on patterns of carcass distance from wind turbines to develop an adjustment for variation in maximum search radius around wind turbines mounted on various tower heights. Adjusted fatality rates correlated inversely with wind-turbine size for all raptors as a group across the United States, and for all birds as a group within the Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area, California. I estimated 888,000 bat and 573,000 bird fatalities/year (including 83,000 raptor fatalities) at 51,630 megawatt (MW) of installed wind-energy capacity in the United States in 2012. As wind energy continues to expand, there is urgent need to improve fatality monitoring methods, especially in the implementation of detection trials, which should be more realistically incorporated into routine monitoring. © 2013 The Wildlife Society



Potential well water contaminants highest near natural gas drilling
(July 26, 2013) — Researchers tested 100 samples from water wells in and near the Barnett Shale natural gas drilling area and found elevated levels of potential contaminants such as arsenic closest to active gas extraction sites. Increased presence of these metals could be due to a variety of factors, including industrial accidents such as faulty gas well casings or mechanical vibrations from natural gas drilling activity disturbing particles in neglected water well equipment. … > full story


Scientists Envision Fracking in Arctic and on Ocean Floor

Wall Street Journal  – ‎ July 29, 2013‎

The biggest concern is that the sediment that contains methane hydrate is inherently unstable, meaning a drilling accident could set off a landslide that sends massive amounts of methane—a potent greenhouse gas—bubbling up through the ocean and into 


How San Onofre’s new steam generators sealed nuclear plant’s fate



By Abby Sewell and Ken Bensinger

LA Times | Jul 13, 2013 | 5:50 PM


In March 2004, an attorney for Southern California Edison sat before state utility regulators to propose what seemed like a great deal.



BMW Launches Its First Mass-Production Electric Car

Auto Maker Needs to Boost Sales of Electric Cars to Meet Regulatory Requirements

WSJ July 29, 2013….BMW’s immediate rival in the plug-in luxury segment, particularly in the U.S. market, is Tesla Motors Inc. The Tesla Model S luxury sedan has up to 265 miles of driving range. The Model S starts at $69,900 before tax breaks. …BMW says the i3 will deliver 80 to 100 miles of driving between charges. The Fiat SpA’s Fiat 500e, which starts at $32,600 before tax breaks, has a range of 87 miles. Nissan Motor Co.’s Leaf, which starts at just under $30,000, can go 75 miles, according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s measures. General Motors’s Chevrolet Volt can travel 38 miles on electricity, and 380 total once the gasoline engine kicks in.






Climate Change And Violence Linked, Breakthrough Study Finds

Huffington Post  – ‎ August 2, 2013‎

Shifts in climate change are strongly linked to human violence around the world, according to a comprehensive new study released Thursday by the University of California, Berkeley and Princeton University.


In midst of climate change crisis, art helps us cope


Aug 1 2013

Written by

Chris Tackett

The idea that art has the power to move, persuade and even inspire change is an old one. “Art is not a mirror to hold up to society, but a hammer with which to shape it,” declared Bertolt Brecht.


Birds — Israel’s New Spies

Huffington Post  – ‎ Aug 1 2013‎

The bird that was just arrested in Turkey had a metal ring tag on its leg which read 24311 Tel Avivunia Israel. Of course, that would frighten any reasonable person who would then, frantically, call the police and the secret security service.










Conservation Science News July 19, 2013

Highlight of the Week– Fracking in California









Point Blue Conservation Science:  We have changed our name to Point Blue Conservation Science (formerly PRBO) reflecting the expanded depth and reach of our work, building on our long-term bird ecology expertise.  Our 140 Point Blue
scientists and educators work with hundreds of partners, pointing the way forward to secure a healthy, blue planet well into the future.  We have changed our name to Point Blue
to more directly address climate change, together with other environmental threats, through nature-based solutions that benefit wildlife and people.  For more information please see From Point Reyes to Point Blue as well as our first Point Blue Quarterly.  You might also enjoy viewing our inspiring ~6 minute video introducing Point Blue that includes partner and staff highlights as well as a brief congratulatory video from Congressman Jared Huffman (CA-2).  Our new website,, is under construction through the summer. Until then, our existing website,, will remain active.



Highlight of the Week– FRACKING in CALIFORNIA



Data Source: U.S. EIA


Fracking, California’s oil frontier

By TOM KNUDSON The Sacramento Bee Published: Sunday, Jul. 7, 2013 – 5:13 am


SHAFTER, Calif. — One afternoon last fall, Tom Frantz cradled a video camera in his hand and pointed it at an oil well on the edge of this San Joaquin Valley farm town.

Workers shuffled amid tanks and trucks, preparing the site for hydraulic fracturing – fracking, for short – the controversial drilling method that has the potential to spark an economic boom in California and perhaps even free the state from foreign oil.

But Frantz recorded something less promising: oily-brown waste spilled from a pipe into an unlined pit near an almond grove, followed by a stream of soapy-looking liquid.


“That was kind of shocking,” said Frantz, 63, a fourth-generation farmer. “We can’t live without fresh groundwater. It doesn’t take much to ruin that.”

This is not the first time oil companies have fracked wells in California.

Today, though, they are doing it more often and in more places to try to tap an enormous buried treasure called Monterey shale.

Stretching from Los Angeles north along the coast and into the San Joaquin Valley, the formation is not just another potential new source of domestic oil. It is the grand prize, the richest oil shale formation in America. If it can be fully exploited – and that is not yet clear – it is estimated to hold enough oil to create hundreds of thousands of jobs, flood the state with tax revenue and halt oil imports to California for a half-century.


An almond farmer watches oil wells that have sprouted up near almond orchards in Shafter, CA. In California, there is no regulation of fracking, even as the state faces sudden growth in oil drilling


But here in the manicured, mint-green farm country around Shafter – a modern-day Sutter’s mill on California’s new fracking frontier – that promise is already being clouded by conflict, pollution and fear…

….Others, though, advise caution. “There is tremendous (scientific) uncertainty,” said Michael Kiparsky, associate director of UC Berkeley’s Wheeler Institute for Water Law and Policy and co-author of a recent report that found gaping holes in California’s regulation of fracking. “California has historically been a leader in the governance of environmental issues” – but not fracking, Kiparsky said. “There is the opportunity to learn from other states … and try not repeat their learning experiences.” The report cited many possible remedies, such as banning the underground injection of liquid drilling wastes near risky earthquake faults and requiring that companies give advance notice before fracking and disclose all chemicals used in the process. State lawmakers are scrambling to fill the void. This year, they introduced 10 fracking-related bills. Only one – focusing on public notice, disclosure and better monitoring – remains alive. The others died for a mix of reasons, including opposition from both the industry and environmentalists.
For some, including Desatoff, change can’t come soon enough. A retired businessman, he moved to rural Shafter in the early 1990s for its quiet pace of life. Now, he can smell the gassy odors and hear the million-mosquito drone of diesel equipment from his front porch…..



Interactive graphic: The ins and outs of fracking

Published: Sunday, Jun. 30, 2013 – 12:00 am

Hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” is a method of extracting oil and gas that are inaccessible by conventional drilling. Fracking has become increasingly common over the past decade and accounts for a large proportion of oil and gas production in the United States. Fracking involves freeing the gas or oil trapped in non-permeable layers of shale by fracturing the layer, thus freeing up the gas or oil. Go online to this graphic then click the button to begin the process:

Graphic by Mitchell Brooks

Sources: McClatchy Tribune, ProPublica, FracFocus

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.




Shale Shocked: Sharp Rise In U.S. Earthquakes Directly Linked To Fracking Wastewater Reinjection

By Joe Romm and Climate Guest Blogger on Jul 14, 2013 at 11:45 am

Distant Quakes Trigger Tremors at U.S. Waste-Injection Sites

“Cumulative count of earthquakes with a magnitude ≥ 3.0 in the central and eastern United States, 1967–2012. The dashed line corresponds to the long-term rate of 21.2 earthquakes per year, with an increase in the rate of earthquake events starting around 2009.” Via USGS

This double repost excerpts the releases for two new important articles in the journal Science. The first is “Enhanced Remote Earthquake Triggering at Fluid-Injection Sites in the Midwestern United States” (subs. req’d). The second is a review article, “Injection-Induced Earthquakes” (subs. req’d) by U.S. Geological Survey geophysicist William Ellsworth. The first release, from Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, explains:

A surge in U.S. energy production in the last decade or so has sparked what appears to be a rise in small to mid-sized earthquakes in the United States. Large amounts of water are used both to crack open rocks to release natural gas through hydrofracking, and to coax oil and gas from underground wells using conventional techniques. After the gas and oil have been extracted, the brine and chemical-laced water must be disposed of, and is often pumped back underground elsewhere, sometimes causing earthquakes.

Earthquakes induced by fracking wastewater reinjection are a major concern because those wells are already prone to fail and leak (see “Natural Gas, Once A Bridge, Now A Gangplank“). The Propublica exposé in Scientific American, “Are Fracking Wastewater Wells Poisoning the Ground beneath Our Feet?” quoted engineer Mario Salazar, who worked for a quarter century as a technical expert with the EPA’s underground injection program: “In 10 to 100 years we are going to find out that most of our groundwater is polluted. A lot of people are going to get sick, and a lot of people may die.”

Here is an extended excerpt from the Columbia release:

Large earthquakes from distant parts of the globe are setting off tremors around waste-fluid injection wells in the central United States, says a new study. Furthermore, such triggering of minor quakes by distant events could be precursors to larger events at sites where pressure from waste injection has pushed faults close to failure, say researchers.

Among the sites covered: a set of injection wells near Prague, Okla., where the study says a huge earthquake in Chile on Feb. 27, 2010 triggered a mid-size quake less than a day later, followed by months of smaller tremors. This culminated in probably the largest quake yet associated with waste injection, a magnitude 5.7 event which shook Prague on Nov. 6, 2011. Earthquakes off Japan in 2011, and Sumatra in 2012, similarly set off mid-size tremors around injection wells in western Texas and southern Colorado, says the study….

The fluids are driving the faults to their tipping point,” said lead author Nicholas van der Elst, a postdoctoral researcher at Columba University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. “The remote triggering by big earthquakes is an indication the area is critically stressed.”

… “We’ve known for at least 20 years that shaking from large, distant earthquakes can trigger seismicity in places with naturally high fluid pressure, like hydrothermal fields,” said study coauthor Geoffrey Abers, a seismologist at Lamont-Doherty. “We’re now seeing earthquakes in places where humans are raising pore pressure.”

The new study may be the first to find evidence of triggered earthquakes on faults critically stressed by waste injection. If it can be replicated and extended to other sites at risk of manmade earthquakes it could “help us understand where the stresses are,” said William Ellsworth, an expert on human-induced earthquakes with the USGS who was not involved in the study…..







Evolutionary Changes Could Aid Fisheries



July 18, 2013 — Sustainable fishing practices could lead to larger fishing yields in the long run, according to a new study that models in detail how ecology and evolution affect the economics of fishing. Evolutionary changes induced by fisheries may benefit the fishers, according to a new study published last week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. But if fisheries are not well-managed, this potential benefit turns into economic losses, as stocks decline from overfishing and further suffer from evolution. The bad news is that today very few fisheries are managed in a way that will lead to yield increases in the long term. While these fisheries may not be in danger of collapsing, IIASA Evolution and Ecology Program Leader Ulf Dieckmann says, “There is a big difference between preventing stocks from collapsing and managing them so as to achieve an optimal harvest.”…. The new study shows that the balance depends on how aggressively a stock is fished: if the fish are harvested optimally, evolution helps, whereas if the fish are harvested too aggressively, evolution harms the economic interests of fishers and fishing nations. Consequently, to reap these long-term benefits, fisheries managers must first cut back substantially on the amount of fish that are harvested today. “Harvesting Northeast Arctic cod optimally means taking 50% less fish,” says Dieckmann. “Our model shows that by making this substantial cut and waiting for the stock to rebuild, evolution and natural growth could lead to sustainable yields over 30% greater than today.”> full story


European fish stocks poised for recovery
(July 18, 2013) — The results of a major international effort to assess the status of dozens of European fish stocks find that many of those stocks in the northeast Atlantic are being fished sustainably today and that, given time, those populations should continue to recover. The findings come as surprisingly good news amid widespread criticism that the European Union’s Common Fisheries Policy is failing, the researchers say. … > full story


Southern California crustacean sand-dwellers suffering localized extinctions
(July 18, 2013) — Two types of small beach critters — both cousins of the beloved, backyard roly-poly — are suffering localized extinctions in Southern California at an
alarming rate, says a new study. As indicator species for beach biodiversity at large, their disappearance suggests a looming threat to similar sand-dwelling animals across the state and around the world. Led by David Hubbard and Jenifer Dugan of UCSB’s Marine Science Institute, the new work reveals a trend toward extirpation that has been growing slowly since 1905, steadily since the 1970’s, and today reflects the “dramatic” impact of development, climate change, and sea level rise on the diminutive critters that are essential prey for shorebirds. From Point Conception in Santa Barbara County, to Baja at the state’s southern tip, the endemic isopods in question have
vanished from some 60 percent of beaches where they were recorded 100 years ago. Barring the quick implementation of effective conservation strategies for sandy beaches, the pair say, the isopods — and several other species — may be wiped out altogether. “The pattern is really strong, and it’s a lot larger than we expected,” said research scientist Dugan, co-author to Hubbard on the paper posted today in the online edition of the journal Estuarine Coastal and Shelf Science. “The southern species has lost eight percent of its California range since 1971 — there are only a few places where you can find it on the mainland coast now. The northern species isn’t doing well in the southern California region either. Just a handful of populations still remain south of Ventura County.” “Looking into the future is a little bit daunting,” said Hubbard. “We have trouble coming up with more than 12 kilometers out of the more than 450 in the study where we have much certainty — with current sea level rise projections — that in 100 years biodiversity will be preserved unless active conservation strategies are adopted.”…. And therein lies the larger problem: a lack of widespread recognition of sandy beaches as ecosystems in their own right. Where the average sunbather may see only beauty — wide, flat swaths of sand — the scientists see peril for plant and animal life alike. The grooming process to make a beach towel-friendly, so to speak, can be disastrous for species like Alloniscus and Tylos. Ceasing that practice alone, argued Hubbard and Dugan, would do wonders to restore the beaches that may be those best-equipped to sustain biodiversity through sea level rise. “There are opportunities for restoration, and that’s one of the messages we’re interested in people understanding,” Hubbard said. “These wide groomed beaches could become places where endemic biodiversity could be conserved and preserved through sea level rise. Some beaches with virtually no animals on them now would be tremendous restoration sites, but it will require a mind shift.”….full story

D.M. Hubbard, J.E. Dugan, N.K. Schooler, S.M. Viola. Local extirpations and regional declines of endemic upper beach invertebrates in southern California. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, 2013; DOI: 10.1016/j.ecss.2013.06.017


Nesting Gulf of Mexico loggerhead turtles face offshore risks
(July 15, 2013) — Threatened loggerhead sea turtles in the northern Gulf of Mexico can travel distances up to several hundred miles and visit offshore habitats between nesting events in a single season, taking them through waters impacted by oil and fishing industries. … > full story


Puffins flock home to Maine islands

By DAVID SHARP, Associated Press Updated 5:47 am, Monday, July 15, 2013

In this July 1, 2013, photo, a puffin looks around after emerging from its burrow on Eastern Egg Rock off the Maine coast. Forty years ago biologists launched a re colonization effort called the Puffin Project by transplanting puffin chicks from Newfoundland to man-made burrows on the island. Photo: Robert F. Bukaty

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — The cute and comical seabirds called puffins have returned to several Maine islands and are finding plenty of food for their young chicks unlike last summer when many starved.

Young puffins died at an alarming rate last season because of a shortage of herring, leaving adults to try to feed them another type of fish that was too big to swallow. Some chicks died surrounded by piles of uneaten fish. This summer, the chicks are getting plenty of hake and herring, said Steve Kress, director of the National Audubon Society‘s seabird restoration program and professor at Cornell University.

But researchers remain concerned. Occupancy of puffin burrows on Matinicus Rock and at Seal Island, the two largest U.S. puffin colonies, are down by at least a third this season, Kress said. That likely means many birds died over the winter and others were too weak to produce offspring this season, he said.


Novel Study Using New Technologies Outlines Importance of California Condor Social Groups



July 16, 2013 — The intricate social hierarchy of the California condor, an endangered species, is something that could not be studied until recently due to the severe reduction of this population in the wild. The … > full story


Fiji’s largest marine reserve swarming with sharks
(July 15, 2013) — Researchers have found that Fiji’s largest marine reserve contains more sharks than surrounding areas that allow fishing, evidence that marine protected areas can be good for sharks. … > full story


Why Crop Rotation Works: Change in Crop Species Causes Shift in Soil Microbes



July 18, 2013 — Shift in soil microbes triggers cycle to improve yield, plant nutrition and disease resistance. New research could help explain the dramatic effect on soil health and yield of crop … > full story


The ‘underground forests’ that are bringing deserts to life

Encouraging ‘weeds’ to grow in desert areas is helping prevent land degradation and allowing crops to thrive

A grassroots agricultural revolution is – almost unnoticed by the outside world – spreading across West Africa’s Sahel desert Photo: Christian Science Monitor/Getty By Geoffrey Lean 8:38PM BST 12 Jul 2013 73 Comments

They call it the “underground forest”, and it has proved, literally, to be an answer to prayer, both for one young Australian and for countless people living in one of the hungriest corners of the planet. For it has enabled millions of hectares of severely degraded land to produce good harvests, spurring a grassroots agricultural revolution that – almost unnoticed by the outside world – is spreading across West Africa’s Sahel. The revolution – and similar, largely unpublicised, developments around the globe – offers hope of reversing perhaps the world’s most alarming environmental crisis: land degradation costs at least 30 billion tons of priceless topsoil and deprives farmers of an area three times the size of Switzerland every year. And it represents one of the best ways of combating climate change and preventing conflict. ….The bushes turned out to be clusters of shoots from the buried stumps of long-felled trees, whose root systems still drew water and nutrients from far beneath the arid soil. The shoots could never grow much before being cut or eaten by livestock, but when Rinaudo pruned them down to a single stem and kept the animals away, they shot up into substantial trees within four years. As the trees grew, so did crops. And as local farmers began reaping good harvests, neighbours and visitors followed suit. Now, two decades later, some 200 million trees have been regenerated in this way, covering five million hectares of Maradi and the neighbouring region of Zinder, enabling the growing of enough extra grain to feed two-and-a-half million people.
Nor is this all. Satellite images have shown that the same technique has been used successfully over 485,000 hectares of next-door Mali. And it is known to have spread to Senegal and the Niger regions of Tahoua and Dosso, though no one has had the resources to quantify it.

This was only one of the success stories that emerged at a conference in Switzerland this week on land restoration. Counter-intuitive techniques developed by Allan Savory, a Zimbabwean farmer and biologist, are successfully revitalising 15 million hectares of degraded land on five continents, by grazing livestock very intensively on small areas for short periods: their dung and the grass they trample enrich the soil, mimicking the natural practices of the once-vast herds of gnu or American bison….




Stemming the Tide of Shorebird Losses

With migrations that can span thousands of miles, Pacific shorebirds are among nature’s most amazing aerialists. But without crucial stopover habitat along their way, they could be doomed.

By Jane Qiu Audubon Magazine Published: July-August 2013

On a subdued April afternoon in Nanpu, an industrial town on China’s Bohai Bay, the air is salty and acidic from the saltpans, oil refineries, and steel and soda factories that cram along the coast. The mudflat slowly emerges from the receding tide, its soft sediment shimmering like a gigantic tin roof. Large flocks of shorebirds—bar-tailed godwits, dunlins, red knots, great knots, curlew sandpipers, whimbrels, sanderlings, and red-necked stints—feed frenetically at the water’s edge. With their highly specialized bills, they quickly dig out a feast of worms, clams, and crabs from the seemingly lifeless tidal flats. ….Twenty-four shorebird species that use the flyway are heading toward extinction, with many others facing exceptionally rapid losses, sometimes as high as 5 percent to 9 percent a year, according to a report released last October by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The worst hit are the long-distance, Arctic-breeding migrants such as the red knot and the spoon-billed sandpiper; the latter, declining at a rate of 26 percent a year and with fewer than 200 breeding pairs in the wild, is listed by the IUCN as critically endangered. These rates are among the highest of any on the planet, the report says. And all species identified as declining rely on the Yellow Sea shoreline during migration. It’s extremely challenging to make an airtight case that the marked reduction of mudflats in East Asia, especially on the Yellow Sea, is responsible for the rapid decline in flyway populations of such species as the red knot and spoon-billed sandpiper. It’s also hard to persuade policy makers to step up protection of the remaining key stopover habitat. This is the mission that Piersma—a world-renowned expert on the red knot and the namesake of one of its subspecies, Calidris canutus piersmai—and his team, including Yang, have set out to accomplish……



In the African Jacana (Actophilornis africanus), the female mates with several males and it is the males who raise offspring. (Credit: Daniel Sol)

Shorebirds Prefer a Good Body to a Large Brain

July 18, 2013 — In many animal species, males and females differ in terms of their brain size. The most common explanation is that these differences stem from sexual selection. But predictions are not always … > full story


Great white sharks’ fuel for oceanic voyages: Liver oil
(July 17, 2013) — New research shows that great white sharks power their nonstop journeys of more than 2,500 miles with energy stored as fat and oil in their massive livers. The findings provide novel insights into the biology of these ocean predators. … > full story


Phytoplankton social mixers: Tiny ocean plants use turbulence for travel to social gatherings
(July 15, 2013) — Scientists have shown that the motility of phytoplankton also helps them determine their fate in ocean turbulence. … > full story


Restoring the San Joaquin River and Recalling Its History

By: Isabella Ross
ENVIRONMENT — July 12, 2013 at 5:07 PM EDT


This photo from 1900 shows European-Americans boarding rowboats on the banks of the San Joaquin River in California. Using archives records like maps and photographs, scientists are trying to revive the delta. Photo courtesy Bank of Stockton


For centuries, California’s San Joaquin River teemed with over half a million wild Chinook salmon. Today, the river — much of it dry — has almost none. This year scientists have begun reintroducing Chinook into the river with hopes to eventually restore the salmon population–and the river itself. PBS NewsHour correspondent Spencer Michels reports on tonight’s NewsHour.

The San Joaquin – like its larger cousin, the Sacramento River – flows into the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, and then out into San Francisco Bay. The Delta and the rivers that form it are part of a vast ecosystem that support fish, wildlife, and, of course, farming throughout the Central Valley. California is trying to restore not just the San Joaquin River, but the Delta as well. And those efforts have cast new attention on the human as well as the ecological history of this fascinating and watery part of California.

The state has funded scientists from the San Francisco Estuary Institute to reconstruct an image of the Delta’s pre-Spanish landscape. Using a process of “historical ecology,” these researches are layering thousands of historical sources from dozens of archives, including navigational charts, government land surveys, drawings, photographs, and journals to paint detailed picture of the Delta ecosystem of 200 years ago. By understanding the region’s ecological history and how native Americans carefully used the land, researchers hope to restore the Delta’s vibrant ecosystem and ensure a more sustainable future…..


Money Flow Is Concern for California’s San Joaquin River Restoration

PBS NewsHour AIR DATE: July 12, 2013

In 2006, environmentalists and farmers signed an agreement to share water from the San Joaquin River, as federal government planned to refill the waterway and restore the salmon population. But with the recession and $100 million already spent, Spencer Michels reports both sides worry there won’t be enough money to finish: (MP3 link:

This is the once-mighty San Joaquin River, and much of it has been like this, dry as toast, since the 1940s. That’s when the federal government constructed Friant Dam near Fresno, California, which impounded the San Joaquin’s water in a large reservoir, so it could diverted through a vast network of canals to farms and ranches in the San Joaquin Valley, leaving some sections of the river wet, some dry. Today, the San Joaquin Valley is one of the most productive agricultural areas in the world. But the fish are gone, and the river is a ghost of its former self. Now there is a controversial move afoot to cover this sand with water to restore this river. Before the dam, the water began high in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and flowed west, through the Central Valley, and eventually out through San Francisco Bay to the Pacific Ocean…..


Study urges spending on coastal restoration  – ‎July 14 2013‎

NEW ORLEANS (AP) – Wildlife tourism, from hunting and fishing to bird and dolphin watching, is a $19 billion-a-year business along the Gulf of Mexico, and states spending their settlement money from the 2010 BP oil spill should focus on restoring ecologically sensitive areas that keep guides, hotels and others working, a study says. The study, commissioned by the Environmental Defense Fund and the Walton Family Foundation, was released Tuesday at a replica of a historic lighthouse while the seafood restaurant next door geared up for lunch and sailboats set out on Lake Ponchartrain.

Wildlife tourism brings in 20 million visitors who pay $5.3 billion a year in federal state and local taxes, according to the study, which drew financial and tourist data from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the federal Bureau of Labor Standards and from parish and county tourism bureaus.

Wildlife watching draws 11.5 million people a year to Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, according to the study. It said recreational fishing attracts 7.5 million visitors and hunting 2.7 million. The 53 coastal counties and parishes in those states have more than 25,000 tourism-related businesses and nearly 500,000 associated jobs, it said.

The study by Datu Research LLC of Durham, N.C., was released in Louisiana because its marshes and estuaries are the nursery for 90 percent of the Gulf states’ seafood fisheries, said Jim Wyerman, spokesman for the Environmental Defense Fund. The state’s 400 miles of coastline are so fringed with wetlands that they comprise 7,700 miles of shoreline….



Where do birds’ legs go when they fly?

Billings Gazette July 14, 2013

It turns out that birds’ posterior anatomy is even more remarkable than their feathered wings. See, a bird’s legs are designed to move only at the knee. Humans, antelope, frogs, crickets – we all rotate our hips and trust our thighs when we walk or run….





Snow and Arctic sea ice extent plummet suddenly as globe bakes

By Jason Samenow, Published: July 18 at 3:42 pmE-mail the writer

Temperature difference from average during June around the globe (NASA)

NOAA and NASA both ranked June 2013 among the top five warmest (NOAA fifth warmest, NASA second warmest) Junes on record globally (dating back to the late 1800s).  But, more remarkable, was the incredible snow melt that preceded the toasty month and the sudden loss of Arctic sea ice that followed…..You may recall, late last summer the Arctic sea ice extent dropped to its lowest level on record, 49 percent below the 1979-2000 average. Temperature difference from normal over the high latitude Northern Hemisphere over first 10 days of July (National Snow and Ice Data Center)

It’s not clear if 2013 levels will match 2012′s astonishing record low, but – with temperatures over the Arctic Ocean 1-3 degrees above average – the 2013 melt season has picked up in earnest during July.

“During the first two weeks of July, ice extent declined at a rate of 132,000 square kilometers (51,000 square miles) per day. This was 61% faster than the average rate of decline over the period 1981 to 2010 of 82,000 square kilometers (32,000 square miles) per day,” the National Snow and Ice Data Center writes on its website. Despite this rapid ice loss, the current mid-July 2013 sea ice extent is greater than 2012 at the same time by about 208,000 square miles NSIDC says…..



US wilting in a heat wave somehow stuck in reverse

By SETH BORENSTEIN, AP Science Writer Updated 3:35 pm, Thursday, July 18, 2013

WASHINGTON (AP) — The oppressively hot weather in the Northeast has surprised meteorologists: It’s moving backward across America, something that rarely happens.

Normally U.S. weather systems move west to east. The western Atlantic high pressure system behind the hot dry weather started moving east to west last week and by Tuesday was centered over lower Michigan, said Jon Gottschalck, the operations chief at the National Weather Service‘s prediction branch…


A high pressure system known as a “heat dome” is not only baking 21 states and DC, it’s also trapping air pollutants closer to the ground. [LA Times]


Scientists Predict Looming Climate Shift: Will Ocean Heat Come Back To Haunt Us Once Again?

Posted: 16 Jul 2013 08:15 AM PDT By Rob Painting via Skeptical Science. Reprinted with permission.

Key Points:

  • Despite a large increase in heat being absorbed by the Earth’s climate system (oceans, land & ice), the first decade of the 21st century saw a slowdown in the rate of global
    surface warming (surface air temperatures).
  • A climate model-based study, Meehl (2011), predicted that this was largely due to anomalous heat removed from the surface ocean and instead transported down into the deep ocean. This anomalous deep ocean warming was later confirmed by observations.
  • This deep ocean warming in the model occurred during negative phases of the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation (IPO), an index of the mean state of the north and south Pacific Ocean, and was most likely in response to intensification of the wind-driven ocean circulation.
  • Meehl (2013) is an update to their previous work, and the authors show that accelerated warming decades are associated with the positive phase of the IPO. This is a result of a weaker wind-driven ocean circulation, when a large decrease in heat transported to the deep ocean allows the surface ocean to warm quickly, and this in turn raises global surface temperatures.
  • This modelling work, combined with current understanding of the wind-driven ocean circulation, implies that global surface temperaures will rise quickly when the IPO switches from the current negative phase to a positive phase…..


High carbon dioxide spurs wetlands to absorb more carbon
(July 15, 2013) — Under elevated carbon dioxide levels, wetland plants can absorb up to 32 percent more carbon than they do at current levels, according to a 19-year study just published. With atmospheric carbon dioxide passing the 400 parts-per-million milestone this year, the findings offer hope that wetlands could help soften the blow of climate change. … > full story


Dunes, reefs protect U.S. coasts from climate change

As climate change brings higher sea levels, can sand dunes and coral reefs really protect U.S. coastlines? Yes, indeed, they help defend 67% of them, says a new study by Stanford scientists

Wendy Koch, USA TODAY 5:19 p.m. EDT July 14, 2013.

Story Highlights

  • Scientists say dunes and reefs help protect 67% of U.S. coastlines from sea level rise
  • They say coastal damages could double if natural habitats aren’t maintained

Rising sea levels and extreme weather put 16% of U.S. coastlines at “high-hazard” risk and the number of threatened residents could double if natural habitats — sand dunes, coral reefs, sea grasses, mangroves — aren’t protected, Stanford University researchers say in a study today. The study, noting that 23 of the 25 most densely populated U.S. counties are coastal, comes as U.S. and local officials are looking at “hardening” shorelines with billion-dollar sea walls and other projects in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, which devastated the mid-Atlantic coast last October. It says maintaining habitats may offer a simpler, cheaper alternative in some areas. “If we lose these defenses, we will either have to have massive investments in engineered defenses or risk greater damage to millions of people and billions in property,” said lead author and Stanford scientist Katie Arkema in announcing the findings, published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Climate Change. She says reefs and dunes play critical roles in places such as Hillsborough and Monroe counties in Florida and Brooklyn in New York…. They found good and bad news. On the plus side, natural habitats now protect two-thirds or 67% of U.S. coastlines. Yet the 16% of high-risk coastlines that are within a kilometer of the shore are home to 1.3 million people and $300 billion in residential property. The study says sea level rise, a result of climate change’s rising temperatures, will increase the number of threatened people 30% to 60% by the year 2100. “This study is a pretty significant advance over what’s been done before,” says Virginia Matzek,a restoration ecologist at Santa Clara University in California. She says prior research has looked at individual pieces, such as the role of habitats or the areas most at risk of sea level rise, but this is the first to synthesize them. She says the findings are conservative, noting the authors assumed current storm frequency, although storms are expected to get more frequent. “If I were a county planner, I’d be all over this,” she says. She adds that more research is needed, however, because current data is limited.

Peter Kareiva, chief scientist at The Nature Conservancy and one of the study’s co-authors, says data show whether an area has natural habitat but not its type, extent or exact location. He says it makes a difference whether marsh or reef is 10 feet or 100 feet offshore, arguing the federal government needs to invest in mapping coastal habitats.

“We have the Human Genome. What about the Earth Genome?” he asks, saying habitats could reduce the need for costlier solutions and offer other benefits such as recreation, fish nurseries, water filtration and erosion control. “It costs a ton of money to build a sea wall, and a sea wall does one thing only. Habitats do many.”

The study says the East and Gulf coasts are more vulnerable to sea level rise than the West coast. It says while habitats may protect some areas, “sea level rise will overwhelm” them in others, so additional measures are needed. It was compiled by Kareiva and eight Stanford researchers who are working with the Natural Capital Project, a partnership of scientists focused on nature’s benefits.



Nature | News

Natural defences can sharply limit coastal damage

Reefs, dunes and marshes are key to protecting lives and property against storm surges and long-term sea-level rise.

Virginia Gewin 14 July 2013

The Best Defense Against Catastrophic Storms: Mother Nature, Researchers Say

July 17, 2013 — Extreme weather, sea level rise and degraded coastal systems are placing people and property at greater risk along the coast. Natural habitats such as dunes and reefs are critical to protecting millions of U.S. residents and billions of dollars in property from coastal storms, according to a new study by scientists with the Natural Capital Project at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. The study, “Coastal habitats shield people and property from sea-level rise and storms,” published July 14 in the journal Nature Climate Change, offers the first comprehensive map of the entire U.S. coastline that shows where and how much protection communities get from natural habitats such as sand dunes, coral reefs, sea grasses and mangroves. The likelihood and magnitude of losses can be reduced by intact ecosystems near vulnerable coastal communities….

Katie K. Arkema, Greg Guannel, Gregory Verutes, Spencer A. Wood, Anne Guerry, Mary Ruckelshaus, Peter Kareiva, Martin Lacayo, Jessica M. Silver. Coastal habitats shield people and property from sea-level rise and storms. Nature Climate Change, 2013; DOI: 10.1038/nclimate1944


Scientists outline long-term sea-level rise in response to warming of planet
July 15, 2013) — A new study estimates that global sea levels will rise about 2.3 meters, or more than seven feet, over the next several thousand years for every degree (Celsius) the planet warms. This is one of the first analyses to combine four major contributors to potential sea level rise into a collective estimate, and compare it with evidence of past sea-level responses to global temperature changes. … > full story


Stop marine pollution to protect kelp forests
(July 17, 2013) — Marine biologists have found that reducing nutrient pollution in coastal marine environments should help protect kelp forests from the damaging effects of rising CO2. … > full story


Antarctic ice loss alters ocean ecology, study shows



The Guardian  – ‎July 17, 2013‎

The deep southern ocean waters flow at a pretty steady -2°C. But waters once completely masked by ice are now exposed to sunlight for more than six months of the year.


‘Brown ocean’ can fuel inland tropical cyclones
(July 16, 2013) — In the summer of 2007, Tropical Storm Erin stumped meteorologists. Most tropical cyclones dissipate after making landfall, weakened by everything from friction and wind shear to loss of the ocean as a source of heat energy. Not Erin. The storm intensified as it tracked through Texas. Erin is an example of a newly defined type of inland tropical cyclone that maintains or increases strength after landfall.
Storms in the newly defined category derive their energy from the evaporation of abundant soil moisture — a phenomenon that experts call the “brown ocean.”
… > full story


Scientists solve a 14,000-year-old ocean mystery– role of iron in productivity

July 14, 2013 PhysOrg

Credit: Tiago Fioreze / Wikipedia

At the end of the last Ice Age, as the world began to warm, a swath of the North Pacific Ocean came to life. During a brief pulse of biological productivity 14,000 years ago, this stretch of the sea teemed with phytoplankton, amoeba-like foraminifera and other tiny creatures, who thrived in large numbers until the productivity ended—as mysteriously as it began—just a few hundred years later.

Researchers have hypothesized that iron sparked this surge of ocean life, but a new study led by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) scientists and colleagues at the University of Bristol (UK), the University of Bergen (Norway), Williams College and the Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University suggests iron may not have played an important role after all, at least in some settings.

The study, published in the journal Nature Geoscience, determines that a different mechanism—a transient “perfect storm” of nutrients and light—spurred life in the post-Ice Age Pacific. Its findings resolve conflicting ideas about the relationship between iron and biological productivity during this time period in the North Pacific—with potential implications for geo-engineering efforts to curb climate change by seeding the ocean with iron. “A lot of people have put a lot of faith into iron—and, in fact, as a modern ocean chemist, I’ve built my career on the importance of iron—but it may not always have been as important as we think,” says WHOI Associate Scientist Phoebe Lam, a co-author of the study. Because iron is known to cause blooms of biological activity in today’s North Pacific Ocean, researchers have assumed it played a key role in the past as well. They have hypothesized that as Ice Age glaciers began to melt and sea levels rose, they submerged the surrounding continental shelf, washing iron into the rising sea and setting off a burst of life…..


Researchers shed new light on supraglacial lake drainage
(July 16, 2013) — Supraglacial lakes — bodies of water that collect on the surface of the Greenland ice sheet — lubricate the bottom of the sheet when they drain, causing it to flow faster. Differences in how the lakes drain can impact glacial movement’s speed and direction, researchers report. … > full story



Acid Test: Rising CO2 Levels Killing Ocean Life (Op-Ed)  – ‎ July 17, 2013‎

Matt Huelsenbeck is a marine scientist for the climate and energy campaign at Oceana. This article was adapted from one that first appeared on The Beacon






The Costs of Climate Change and Extreme Weather Are Passing the High-Water Mark

Hurricane Sandy made it clear: as the climate warms, population grows and sea level rises, extreme weather will hurt more. That’s why we need to fix flood insurance

By Bryan Walsh
@bryanrwalshJuly 17, 20135 Comments

Scott Eells/Bloomberg via Getty Image A truck is stuck outside the flooded Battery Tunnel in New York City on Nov. 1, 2012, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane Sandy cost the U.S. some $70 billion in direct damages and lost economic output. This is, obviously, a lot of money — Sandy was the second most expensive hurricane in U.S. history after a small tropical storm called Katrina. Much of that cost was borne by the government — local, state and federal — and some of it was absorbed by those of us who lived in the storm’s path. But about $20 billion to $25 billion of the damage from the storm was eventually covered by the insurance industry. Much of that bill in turn was covered by the big reinsurers, the companies that take on insurance policies from primary insurance companies looking to spread out their risk. And if you were an insurance company affected by Sandy, you better hope you had a reinsurer behind you.

One of the biggest of the reinsurers is Swiss Re, and yesterday I had a chance to talk with the
CEO of Swiss Re Americas, J. Eric Smith.
Smith was in New York City to speak at an event for the Climate Group, an international nonprofit that works with companies, cities and states on sustainability. The event was held at the NASDAQ headquarters in Times Square, where the temperature threatened to push past 100°F. Global warming was on everyone’s mind, even though the air-conditioning inside was on full and shades blocked out the droning city sun. “What keeps us up at night is climate change,” Smith said. “We see the long-term effect of climate change on society, and it really frightens us.”…..


Democrats looking to build support for new climate change action

Los Angeles Times July 18 2013

WASHINGTON — Democrats on Capitol Hill sought to move climate change back to the front of the congressional agenda Thursday morning, after a long period of inaction.


John Kerry lends support to closed-door negotiations over protecting waters around Antarctica

By Agence France-Presse Friday, July 12, 2013 15:00 EDT

The guardians of Antarctica’s marine wealth gather in Germany on Sunday for a fresh round of talks on creating the world’s largest ocean sanctuary.

Two plans of unprecedented scope are on the table, aimed at protecting vast, pristine waters and 16,000 species from human predation. But whether one scheme, both — or none — gets approval is unclear, given Russian and Chinese concerns that the restrictions are too draconian. One proposal, floated by the United States and New Zealand, would cover 1.6 million square kilometers (640,000 square miles) of the Ross Sea, the deep bay on Antarctica’s Pacific side. The other, backed by Australia, France and the European Union (EU), would protect 1.9 million sq. km (733,000 sq. miles) of coastal seas off East Antarctica, on the frozen continent’s Indian Ocean side. The three-day meeting in Bremerhaven, Germany, gathers 24 nations plus an EU delegation in the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR). The CCAMLR is a treaty tasked with overseeing conservation and sustainable exploitation of the resources of the Southern Ocean.

It aims to fill a gap left by the Antarctic Treaty that came into force in 1961, which addressed the land of the continent but not its surrounding waters…..


Special meeting of the Commission in Bremerhaven

In July 2013 CCAMLR will hold a Special Meeting in Bremerhaven, Germany, dedicated to further discussions on marine protected areas (MPAs) in the Southern Ocean. This meeting will be only the second time in CCAMLR’s 32-year history that it has met outside its normal annual meeting.
The Bremerhaven meeting has been convened specifically to continue discussions on two proposals for the establishment of MPAs in the Convention Area. One proposal has been submitted by New Zealand and the United States (the Ross Sea region MPA proposal). The second proposal has been submitted by Australia, France and the European Union (the East Antarctica MPA proposal). Media are invited to attend the official opening of the Commission meeting in Bremerhaven, Germany, on Monday 15 July. Please email Jessica Nilsson to register and to receive further details. See here for CCAMLR – background information.


Free market is best way to combat climate change, study suggests
(July 15, 2013) — The best way to reduce carbon emissions and combat climate change is through the use of market forces, according to a new study. … > full story

Evangelical Scientists Issue Faith-Based Call For Congress To Address Climate Change

Posted: 15 Jul 2013 01:54 PM PDT

It’s a plea frequently made to Christians who turn a blind eye to climate change: The Bible gives humankind dominion over the planet, so isn’t humankind responsible for helping preserve it? A group of evangelical scientists think so — and they’re using scientific and Biblical arguments to pressure congress to do something about climate change.

Last week, 200 self-identified evangelical scientists from secular and religious universities sent a letter to the U.S. Congress calling for legislation to reduce carbon emissions and protect the environment. The signatories, all of whom hold master’s or doctorate degrees…






Stabilization Wedges- Princeton University



To get on track to avoiding dramatic climate change, the world must avoid emitting about 200 billion tons of carbon, or eight 25 billion ton wedges, over the next 50 years.

This is the heart of the Carbon Mitigation Initiative’s (CMI) Stabilization Wedges concept, a simple framework for understanding both the carbon emissions cuts needed to avoid dramatic climate change and the tools already available to do so. Since the wedges concept is becoming a paradigm in the field of carbon mitigation, CMI has developed this website both as an educational resource and as an archive of resources for those who’d like to incorporate the wedges into their own presentations and workshops. Our graphics and other materials may be used freely for non-commercial purposes; we just ask that you credit the “Carbon Mitigation Initiative, Princeton University.”






July 23, 2013 12:00-1:00pm (PT)
Effects of Climate Change on Inland Fishes of California

This CA LCC hosted webinar will present status and trends of fishes with different vulnerabilities to climate change and adaptation strategies for the major aquatic zoogeographic regions of California.
To join this webinar:
1. Go to 
2. If a password is required, enter the meeting password: calcc
3. Call-in to: 1-866-737-4154
4. Enter attendee access code: 287 267 0

July 23, 2013, 11:00-noon (Pacific Time)
Climate Change and Boreal Forest Fires: What does the future hold?
; NOAA Webinar; (Add to Google Calendar)

July 31, 10-11:30a.m. (Pacific Time)
State Wildlife Action Plans: lessons learned in adapting for an era of climate change. FWS and NWF Webinar.  Registration Link

August 29, 11:30a.m.-12:30p.m. (Pacific Time)
Pikas in the Columbia River Gorge FWS/C3 Webinar
WebEx link 
Call in: 877 952-8012  Access code: 274207

August 15-17
ScienceOnline Climate Conference  Explores the intersection of climate science, communication and the web.

Call for Abstracts

September 5-6, Fourth Annual Pacific Northwest Climate Science Conference: Reminder– All abstracts must be submitted by July 12.  Registration and lodging information will be available soon. For more details or to submit an abstract, please go to:

SER2013 Early Registration Closes July 15th!




Early registration for the 5th SER World Conference on Ecological Restoration
closes on July 15, 2013. Registration rates increase on July 16! (Sorry, but we can’t make exceptions to this deadline. We’re managing more than a thousand registrations).

Register now and save up to $125 on the cost of registration.  July 15 is also the deadline for presenter registration. If you have submitted an abstract or will speak in a symposium, you MUST register by July 15. If you do not register by this deadline your presentation will not be included in the scientific program. No Exceptions! More Information


Working for Conservation Conference: Active Engagement in Forestland Woodland Sustainability
October 10, 2013  Sacramento CA
This conference will focus on what we can learn from innovative and novel strategies that seek to achieve desired outcome in natural systems that have been historically altered and will continue to be altered. Participants will discuss new policies and management strategies that recognize the realities of these impacts, and encourage active approaches to ensure that these values continue into the future. This one-day conference is intended to engage resource managers, governmental, industry and NGO leaders, the interested general public. Early registration is due October 1, 2013.





Sierra Nevada Conservancy Prop 84 FUNDS – The Sierra Nevada Conservancy (SNC) Proposition 84 Grant Program for the Fiscal Year 2013-14 has been launched.  The funding available for this round of grants is approximately $2.5 million. Eligible projects for this grant round include projects that meet Proposition 84 eligibility criteria and SNC mission and program goals.  Projects must align with one of the two focus areas of this round, Healthy Forests and Abandoned Mine Lands).  Projects that build upon past SNC investment, financial or otherwise, will be given preference.  For more information click here.





Restoration and Education Internship, 2013-14

Point Blue Conservation Science (formerly PRBO) is dedicated to conserving birds, other wildlife, and ecosystems through innovative scientific research, restoration, outreach and extensive partnerships.  Our highest priority is to reduce the impacts of habitat alteration, climate change and other threats to wildlife and people, while promoting adaptation to the changes ahead. Our 130+ staff and seasonal biologists and educators work with a wide range of public and private partners to advance effective conservation throughout the west. We are based in Petaluma, CA; visit us online at  Point Blue’s watershed restoration and education program called STRAW (Students & Teachers Restoring A Watershed), facilitates K-12 students in implementation of professionally designed habitat restoration projects on streams and wetlands in Marin, Sonoma, Napa and Solano counties October – May. Restoration work typically includes native plant installation, biotechnical erosion control practices and/or invasive plant removal. Restoration sites are maintained for three summers after planting.  Restoration site maintenance work occurs April-August and includes watering, weeding and other plant establishment activities. Maintenance of STRAW restoration sites is an integral part of the project and overall program success. Point Blue is seeking four reliable, respectful, and enthusiastic interns to help with student-implemented restoration workdays and accompanying maintenance and monitoring of sites.

Position duration:  October 1, 2013 – September 1, 2014 (internship end dates may change depending on project needs)

Stipend: Voluntary position with monthly stipend of $850/month to offset living expenses, plus shared housing in an apartment in Petaluma, CA

To apply, please submit your resume, 3 references and a cover letter describing why you would like the internship by August 1, 2013 to Emily Allen (







How Water Scarcity From Climate Change Could Jack Up Europe’s Power Prices

Posted: 12 Jul 2013 01:43 PM PDT

Water evaporating from nuclear plant’s cooling towers. (Credit: U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission)

Many European countries could see a decrease in electricity generating capacity and an increase in electricity prices thanks to climate change. That’s the overall finding from a new study out of the Austria-based Institute for International Applied Systems Analysis, which looked at how higher water temperatures and reduced river flows could affect hydropower plants, as well as the nuclear and fossil fuel power plants that draw off much of that water for cooling.



The Electrical Divide

New Energy Technologies and Avoiding an Electric Service Gap

By Richard W. Caperton and Mari Hernandez July 17, 2013

The current electricity system in the United States is one that is available to all Americans, but it is overly centralized and polluting. As the system inevitably evolves to include more clean distributed generation and more information technology to improve efficiency at the point of use, we must maintain our commitment to universal electricity access even as the fundamental design of our energy grid is transformed. If we fail to meet this challenge, our future electricity services will be distributed unevenly—much like new telecommunications services such as broadband Internet and cell-phone service—with a harmful effect on citizens, communities, and the larger economy. ….


Students in the Netherlands unveil a solar-powered family car



By Lauren Hockenson Jul. 5, 2013 – 1:39 PM PDT

Will we ever be able to live in a world powered by the sun? Solar Team Eindhoven, made up of students from Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands, has solved a crucial part of going solar: An solar-powered car that comfortably seats a family of four….

Scientists break record for thinnest light-absorber: May lead to more efficient, cheaper solar cells
(July 18, 2013) — Scientists have built the thinnest, most efficient absorber of visible light on record, a nanosize structure that could lead to less-costly, more efficient, solar cells. … > full story


Forget High-Speed Rail: Elon Musk Wants to Build Something Far More Awesome

By Will Oremus Posted Monday, July 15, 2013, at 5:54 PM

We don’t know yet what Elon Musk’s hypothetical Hyperloop might look like, but he claims it would get passengers from Los Angeles to San Francisco in under half an hour Illustration by Fedor Selivanov /

High-speed rail is so 20th century. Well, perhaps not in the United States, where we still haven’t gotten around to building any true bullet trains. After 30 years of dithering, California is finally working on one that would get people from Los Angeles to San Francisco in a little under 2 1/2 hours, but it could cost on the order of $100 billion and won’t be ready until at least 2028.

Enter Tesla and SpaceX visionary Elon Musk with one of the craziest-sounding ideas in transportation history. For a while now, Musk has been hinting at an idea he calls the Hyperloop—a ground-based transportation technology that would get people from Los Angeles to San Francisco in under half an hour, for less than 1/10 the cost of building the high-speed rail line. Oh, and this 800-mph system would be self-powered, immune to weather, and would never crash.

What is the Hyperloop? So far Musk hasn’t gotten very specific, though he once called it “a cross between a Concorde and a railgun and an air hockey table.” But we’ll soon find out more. …



Induced seismicity? Recent spike of earthquakes in the central and eastern U.S. may be linked to human activity

Posted: 12 Jul 2013 06:52 AM PDT

The number of earthquakes has increased dramatically over the past few years within the central and eastern United States. More than 300 earthquakes above a magnitude 3.0 occurred in the three years from 2010-2012, compared with an average rate of 21 events per year observed from 1967-2000. This increase in earthquakes prompts two important questions: Are they natural, or human-made? And what should be done in the future as we address the causes and consequences of these events to reduce associated risks? U.S. Geological Survey scientists have been analyzing the changes in the rate of earthquakes as well as the likely causes, and they have some answers.


Drought response identified in potential biofuel plant
(July 15, 2013) — Drought resistance is the key to large-scale production of Jatropha, a potential biofuel plant — and an international group of scientists has identified the first step toward engineering a hardier variety. … > full story


Deepwater Horizon debris was likely source of Gulf of Mexico oil sheens
(July 16, 2013) — A chemical analysis of oil sheens found floating recently at the ocean’s surface near the site of the Deepwater Horizon disaster indicates that the source is pockets of oil trapped within the wreckage of the sunken rig. Both the Macondo well and natural oil seeps common to the Gulf of Mexico were confidently ruled out. … > full story








All waterfowl hunters over the age of 16, of course, are required to buy a stamp in order to hunt, but there are other very compelling reasons – for hunters and non-hunters – to buy a stamp each and every year. The $15 cost for the stamp is a small price to pay for new Refuge System habitat acquisition.

….For starters, become familiar with the Stamp on the Federal Duck Stamp Office website. ….And if you know others who wish to receive this Wingtips newsletter, with regular stamp announcements and news, have them ask to be added to our Wingtips mailing list. See here. Of course, buy a Stamp – or two – and use/display it proudly. (Many non-hunters display the stamp on their backpacks, field guides, binoculars, and camera-cases.)  Also become an official Friend! To find out how to do so, you can visit our website.





Bias pervades the scientific reporting of animal studies, research suggests
(July 16, 2013) — A new study suggests that the scientific literature could be compromised by substantial bias in the reporting of animal studies, and may be giving a misleading picture of the chances that potential treatments could work in humans. … > full story


Why Don’t Farmers Believe in Climate Change?

And does it really matter whether they do?

By David Biello|Posted Tuesday, July 16, 2013, at 7:15 AM SLATE

…. Few would have to change their livelihoods as radically as American farmers if efforts to combat climate change became more serious. Maybe skepticism also flourishes because farmers tend to be more conservative, and denying climate change falls under the same political umbrella as, say, gun ownership. (According to Robert Carlson, who leads the World Farmers Organization, farmers in other countries are more likely to believe in climate change, and many feel they are already facing new weather extremes.)

But even if American farmers don’t believe in climate change, there are reasons for them to behave as if they do. The Agriculture Department has begun incorporating climate change into its projections and outreach, such as encouraging no-till practices where applicable. Oregon wheat farmer McCullough is following their advice to reduce tillage, which helps keep the soil from blowing away, like it used to do in his forefathers’ time, burying the farmhouse in silt that had to be shoveled out. He can now skip the three or four tilling passes in his tractor in favor of clearing a field with herbicides and then using an air drill that injects the wheat seed and fertilizer together.* “It’s more fuel efficient,” he says. Plus, the USDA also provides financial and technical assistance to those who adopt the new practices. “It’s cheaper to farm that way, and you still get the same type of crop, if not a bit better.”

The key to feeding 7 billion people in a post-climate-change world will be diversity of crops, which will help ensure resilience. To take the example of the farm my brother works, a dry year might see a better crop of sweet potatoes while a wet year promotes the growth of cereal crops. Weather is always changeable and unpredictable in the long term, which means a farmer must take good care of the soil so that the soil can take good care of the farmer when the weather turns challenging.

In other words, many American farmers—even those who would question whether climate change is man-made—are already doing exactly what efforts to combat climate change would require: precision agriculture to cut back on fossil fuel use, low or no-till farming, cover crops, biodigesters for animal waste, and the like. The key to reaching farmers is bringing them practices that improve their farms. “If you can help me deal with weather variability,” Miller says, “I can probably adapt to climate variability.”

“You’ve got so much to do anyway, trying to figure out rotations and moving animals and crops through and taking good care of your land and making enough money,” says my brother. “It’s unclear what the point of talking about climate change would be.” Or as I would put it: If many farmers are doing the right thing anyway, does it matter why?



Mark Hertsgaard Analyzes the Psychology of Climate Change Activism

The Keystone pipeline might be approved this year, but Mark Hertsgaard says an important new book shows what activists have to do to psychologically commit to fighting for the environment. Jul 14, 2013 4:45 AM EDT

When President Obama, to most observers’ surprise, addressed the Keystone XL pipeline in his landmark speech on climate change on June 25, it was partly because of Mary Pipher. Inside the Beltway, the conventional wisdom was that Obama would not mention Keystone, a pipeline that would carry particularly carbon-heavy tar sands oil from Canada to Gulf Coast refineries, because he was privately planning to approve the project later this year. In a speech designed to highlight his commitment to fighting climate change, what would be the point of talking about a pipeline that, if the president did approve it, would facilitate burning some of the dirtiest fossil fuels on the planet?

Yet activists like Pipher had made Keystone too big an issue to ignore. After years of living-room meetings that gave rise to statehouse rallies, mass demonstrations outside the White House, and the media coverage all this engendered, it was simply not credible for Obama to claim that he cared about climate change but not about Keystone. From her residence in Nebraska, Pipher had been one of countless grassroots activists who publicized what the pipeline would do—not only to the stability of the climate but the soil and water of the Midwestern states the pipeline would traverse—and rallied citizens to demand that this catastrophe in the making be prevented.

…… As a therapist, she learned long ago that simply telling a client to “wake up” doesn’t work. The client must also believe that waking up can actually make things better. “Neuroscientists have discovered that the human mind functions best when it acts as if there is hope,” Pipher writes. Believing that change is possible helps to make change possible….



Climate Change Could Make The Tour De France A Lot Hotter

ThinkProgress  – ‎ July 14, 2013‎

An article in Quartz Friday looked at moderate and extreme climate change projections in France for 2050 and 2100. It found that, in a moderate warming scenario, temperatures in the south of France will increase by 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit by 2050, with …




Manure used by Europe’s first farmers 8,000 years ago
(July 16, 2013) — A new study says Europe’s first farmers used far more sophisticated practices than was previously thought. Scientists have found that Neolithic farmers manured and watered their crops as early as 6,000 BC. … > full story


Ecological forces structure your body’s personal mix of microbes
(July 16, 2013) — Environmental conditions have a stronger influence on the mix of microbes living in your body than does competition between species. Instead of excluding each other, microbes that fiercely compete for similar resources are more likely to cohabit the same individual. The findings are a step toward building a predictive model of the human microbiome to study how medical conditions change this massive biological system, identify how to promote beneficial microbiomes, and design interventions for hard-to-manage problems like chronic digestive inflammation. … > full story

Bioengineers develop new approach to regenerate back discs
(July 16, 2013) — Cell therapies may stop or reverse the pain and disability of degenerative disc disease and the loss of material between vertebrae, according to scientists. … > full story
















Conservation Science News July 12, 2013

Highlight of the WeekBirds Outpace Climate Change to Avoid Extinction









Highlight of the Week– Birds Outpace Climate Change to Avoid Extinction



Three great tits on a branch. (Credit: © Per Tillmann / Fotolia)

Birds Outpace Climate Change to Avoid Extinction

July 10, 2013 ScienceDaily— A new study has shed light on the potential of birds to survive in the face of climate change. In the analysis, based on more than fifty years’ detailed study of a population of great tits near Oxford, UK, a team of scientists were able to make predictions about how the birds could cope with a changing climate in the future. They found that for small, short-lived birds like the great tit, evolution can work fast enough for genetic adaptation to keep pace with a changing environment. However, even for such fast-evolving species, evolution on its own is not enough. By studying individual birds over multiple years, the team were able to show that individual birds have a built-in flexibility that enables them to adjust their behaviour rapidly in response to short-term changes in the environment. This flexibility — known as phenotypic plasticity — greatly increases the chances that a population can survive in spite of short-term changes, but that possibility depends on how closely they can track the key aspects of their environment, such as the availability of food. As species become longer-lived, and thus slower to reproduce, evolutionary adaptation is far slower and can’t on its own save such species from climate change-induced extinction….


Oscar Vedder, Sandra Bouwhuis, Ben C. Sheldon. Quantitative Assessment of the Importance of Phenotypic Plasticity in Adaptation to Climate Change in Wild Bird Populations. PLoS Biology, 2013; 11 (7): e1001605 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1001605


One Little Bird That Might Adapt To A Changing Climate

Posted: 10 Jul 2013 11:24 AM PDT

(Credit: Shutterstock) Joe Romm July 11, 2013

Little birds might look incredibly fragile, with their tiny wings and minuscule beaks. But according to a new study by a University of Oxford ornithologist, those little winged creatures actually stand big chances of surviving the effects of a changing climate. Ornithologist Ben Sheldon took an innovative approach to studying the effects of climate change on one little bird species, the great tit. Instead of assuming that the bird could only survive under its current environmental conditions, he looked at its ability to adapt over time. Using 50 years of data on when the great tit laid its eggs, Sheldon first looked for established patterns of egg-laying in relation to the climate. The LA Times explains, “on average, the birds had shifted their egg-laying time two weeks earlier in the year since the study began in 1960,” and that “Females that had multiple clutches were able to adjust their egg-laying time year by year as temperatures varied.” But the study gets even more interesting with what the researchers did next: They ran a simulation to test how the great tits would respond to low, medium, or high levels of carbon emissions in the future. And the outlook looks great for the great tit:

[T]he Wytham great tit population is predicted to be able to adapt to a maximum long-term rate of increase in spring temperature of 0.47°C y−1, i.e. >15 times the rate of temperature change of 0.030°C y−1 predicted under a high emissions scenario for this location and time in the annual cycle…. we ran 100,000 simulations, with each simulation randomly sampling from a normal error distribution of parameters σ2h2, γ, T, B, and b. This resulted in an estimated probability of 0.001 that ηc falls below 0.030°C y−1 (Figure 2a), and hence again very little likelihood of extinction due to predicted temperature change

In layman’s terms, this means that great tits will be able to adjust to our changing global temperatures, even under the worst-case scenario predictions. The researchers predict that, even if the great tit couldn’t change when it lays its eggs, they’d have a 40 percent chance of surviving through evolution.

Other woodland creatures have had much worse fates befall them thanks to climate change. Take for example the mountain-dwelling pika, a furry little mammal called the “mountain bunny of the Rockies.” Pika are so sensitive to changing temperatures that the recent heat and drought in the American west is driving them quickly to extinction. The pika aren’t alone; the painted turtle is losing all of its men thanks to climate change, and many species of marmots, including groundhogs, are on the decline. Sadly, it’s just the beginning; models project that between 40 and 70 percent of species could go extinct if global temperatures rise by more than 3.5°C.








Link between beetle kill and forest fires draws closer look

Once affected trees’ needles drop, so does flammability

By Kevin Vaughan and Burt Hubbard I-News at Rocky Mountain PBS Posted:   07/07/2013 02:00:00 PM MDT

The fire risk caused by damage from mountain pine beetles, such as that seen in these lodgepole pines on the eastern side of Rocky Mountain National Park, is complex and debated by some. Colorado’s 4.3 million acres of beetle-decimated forests represent a catastrophe in the making during another devastating wildfire season.

Or do they? That is the conventional wisdom as another summer unfolds with destructive blazes that have left skies along the Front Range choked with smoke, but the reality is not so simple.

“The issue is not will beetle-kill forests burn — they certainly will,” said Monica Turner, a University of Wisconsin professor who has done extensive research of wildfires in the West. “The question is, are they burning worse — more severely — than if the forest was green?” And the answer to that question is a matter of ongoing scientific debate, wrapped in factors that include the amount of time that has passed since the beetles did their damage, the number of trees that survived the infestation, other species of plants in the area and weather patterns. “This is a field of study that we just don’t have all the answers for,” said Matt Jolly, a researcher at the Missoula Fire Sciences Laboratory in Montana whose work has looked extensively at the way plants burn in wildfires. …





Sweeping Parts of Southern Seas Could Become a Nature Preserve- ROSS SEA

NPR July 12, 2013

The “Giant Tabular Iceberg” floats in Antarctica’s Ross Sea in December 2011. Under a proposed new international agreement, large sections of the oceans around Antarctica would become protected as a marine preserve.

The area of ocean set aside as a nature preserve could double or triple in the coming days, depending on the outcome of a meeting in Germany. Representatives from 24 countries and the European Union are considering setting aside large portions of ocean around Antarctica as a protected area. And the deal may hinge on preserving some fishing rights. There are two proposals on the table: One would set aside huge parts of the Southern Ocean around East Antarctica; the other would focus on the Ross Sea, south of New Zealand.
“The total size of the marine protected area we are proposing is roughly 3 1/2 times the size of Texas,” says Ambassador Mike Moore, the former prime minister of New Zealand, who was talking up the joint U.S.-New Zealand proposal in Washington this spring. “So to misquote the vice president of the United States, ‘this is a big deal.’ ” Jim Barnes, who heads a conservation group called the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition , says the Ross Sea area is one of the few relatively untouched regions left in the world’s oceans. And it’s rich in wildlife — including the great whales, penguins, seals and albatrosses, he says. “Similarly, along the east Antarctic coast, [there’s] another really great concentration of wildlife — charismatic wildlife, as well as all the smaller [animals] that the food chain depends on.”…. But because these two areas are in international waters, creating marine preserves will require consensus from all of the nations in the pact known as CCAMLR , or the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources…. When the group met to discuss the issue last fall, it couldn’t reach agreement. Russia, China and Ukraine were concerned about losing fishing rights in these seas. But they agreed to the upcoming meeting in Germany to try again….Already the original proposal for the Ross Sea area has been revised to allow fishing in one part of the protected area, to satisfy nations that currently catch Antarctic toothfish. But Karen Sack at the Pew Charitable Trusts says that’s also a poor compromise because it would be very difficult to know whether fishing vessels are obeying the proposed fishing rules in this remote region. “So we would hope that these countries would work together to recognize that for enforcement and for the integrity of the ecosystem it’s important to close the entire area completely,” Sack says…..



The Proposals

The Australia-France-EU Proposal. This proposal for new marine protected areas “would conserve representative areas of biodiversity in the high latitudes of the Indian sector of the Southern Ocean,” according to the Australian Antarctic Division.

The New Zealand-United States Proposal. This plan would establish an 888,000-square-mile marine protected area in Antarctica’s Ross Sea.




How nature maintains diversity: Temporal niches are important, study finds
(July 9, 2013) — By studying rapidly evolving bacteria as they diversify and compete under varying environmental conditions, researchers have shown that temporal niches are important to maintaining biodiversity in natural systems.
The temporal niches — changes in environmental conditions that occur during specific periods of time — promoted frequency-dependent selection within the bacterial communities and positive growth of new mutants. They played a vital role in allowing divers
ity among bacterial phenotypes to persist.

The research provides new insights into the factors that promote species coexistence and diversity in natural systems. Understanding the mechanisms governing the origin and maintenance of biodiversity is important to scientists studying the roles of both ecology and evolution in natural systems.

This study provides the first experimental evidence showing the impact of temporal niche dynamics on biodiversity evolution,” said Lin Jiang, co-author of the paper and an associate professor in the School of Biology at the Georgia Institute of Technology. “Our laboratory results in bacteria can potentially explain the diversity dynamics that have been observed for other organisms over evolutionary time.”… > full story


Bat that sings like a bird is highly tuned to social circumstance
(July 10, 2013) — New research shows that Brazilian free-tailed bats (Tadarida brasiliensis) vary the way elements are combined in their songs (i.e. syntax) in response to different social contexts, which is exceedingly rare among non-human mammals. … > full story


Dinosaurs, diets and ecological niches: Study shows recipe for success
(July 10, 2013) — A new scientific study answers a long-standing question in palaeontology — how numerous species of large, plant-eating dinosaurs could co-exist successfully over geological time. Results from the largest study of dinosaurs recovered from Alberta’s Dinosaur Park Formation suggest that niche partitioning was at play: adaptations in skulls and jaws allowed for distinct groups of herbivores to specialize in eating specific types of vegetation, thereby avoiding competition for valuable food sources. … > full story


Mammals can ‘choose’ sex of offspring, study finds
(July 10, 2013) — A new study shows that mammalian species can “choose” the sex of their offspring in order to beat the odds and produce extra grandchildren. In analyzing 90 years of breeding records from the San Diego Zoo, researchers were able to prove for the first time what has been a fundamental theory of evolutionary biology: that mammals rely on some unknown physiologic mechanism to manipulate the sex ratios of their offspring as part of a highly adaptive evolutionary strategy. … > full story


Night Parrot, Nocturnal Bird In Australia, Seen Alive For First Time In Over A Century

An illustration of the Night Parrot



Oakland adopts building rules to save birds

By Carolyn Jones SF Chronicle July 8, 2013

Oakland’s feathered friends have a new reason to sing. The city has become one of the most bird-friendly places in North America. Oakland joined San Francisco and Toronto in adopting strict building regulations to deter birds from fatally smacking into windows… In Toronto, the first major city to adopt bird-friendly development standards, the program has been a success, according to Kelly Snow, an environmental policy planner for that city and the author of its regulations. …No one knows how many birds have been saved in Toronto since it adopted the regulations in 2010, but – in combination with other environmentally friendly standards the city has adopted – the overall impact has been significant, Snow said. Bird-safe buildings are a great step, but cities, and the public, should take further steps to help birds, said Mike Lynes, director of Golden Gate Audubon. Residents and businesses should shut off lights at night during migration season, he said, and parks and yards should have plenty of shrubbery and a variety of native and fruit trees. Cats are probably the biggest problem, though. The wily felines kill three times the number of birds that buildings do, according to the experts. Lynes and other bird lovers would like residents to keep their cats inside and bring strays to a local animal shelter.



Roddy Ranch deal means regional park, not development

Ian C. Bates, The Chronicle Jack Roddy rides through the cattle fields he will still own after he sells nearby land to the East Bay Regional Park District in Antioch.

By Peter Fimrite SF Chronicle July 8, 2013

The bucolic oak- and chaparral-covered ridges and valleys on the old Roddy Ranch were all set to be paved over for luxury homes, forever cutting off a wildlife corridor at the foot of Mount Diablo.

The envisioned neighborhood in Contra Costa County was going to replace habitat for threatened and endangered species with swimming pools, manicured lawns and all the Rockwellian comforts that meet the criteria of wealthy suburbanites and their requisite homeowners associations. So it was a happy surprise for conservationists this past week when they learned that the East Bay Regional Park District was instead buying the 1,885 acres of ranchland and turning it into a regional park, forever ending the concrete and cul-de-sac dreams of developers who hoped to incorporate the new subdivision into the city of Antioch. “It’s an incredible acquisition, and we are incredibly happy about it,” said Seth Adams, the land programs director for Save Mount Diablo, which has been fighting for two decades to save Roddy Ranch from development. “This is one of the most important acquisitions in the Bay Area.” The district signed an option last month to buy the land partly owned by champion rodeo cowboy Jack Roddy in Deer Valley and Horse Valley. The district and its partner, the East Contra Costa County Habitat Conservancy, now have a year to come up with the $14.2 million it will cost to complete what will be one of the largest and most expensive land purchases in East Bay Regional Park history. The plan is to protect and restore wildlife habitat and create a vast recreational area called Deer Valley Regional Park. New and expanded trails will connect the park with the Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve, Marsh Creek State Park and other protected open space on the north side of Mount Diablo, said Robert Doyle, the East Bay Regional Park general manager. The blue oak woodlands, rocky hillsides, seasonal wetlands and grassy plains will forever be preserved as a wildlife corridor, he said, providing critical habitat for, among other rare species, the California tiger salamander, California red-legged frog, San Joaquin kit fox, American badger and burrowing owl….



It smells fishy: Copper prevents fish from avoiding danger
(July 5, 2013) — Fish fail to detect danger in copper-polluted water. A new study shows that fish cannot smell a danger odor signal emitted by other fish in waters contaminated with copper. … > full story

Mesoscale ocean eddies impact weather
(July 7, 2013) — Not only large-scale ocean currents impact weather but also relatively small eddies, as a new study reveals. The researchers therefore recommend to account for these eddies in weather prediction models. … > full story


Researchers warn of legacy mercury in the environment
(July 8, 2013) — Environmental researchers have published evidence that significant reductions in mercury emissions will be necessary just to stabilize current levels of the toxic element in the environment. So much mercury persists in surface reservoirs (soil, air, and water) from past pollution, going back thousands of years, that it will continue to persist in the ocean and accumulate in fish for decades to centuries, they report. … > full story






Climate change: The forecast for 2018 is cloudy with record heat

Efforts to predict the near-term climate are taking off, but their record so far has been patchy.

Jeff Tollefson NATURE 10 July 2013

Jasiek Krzysztofiak/NATURE

In August 2007, Doug Smith took the biggest gamble of his career. After more than ten years of work with fellow modellers at the Met Office’s Hadley Centre in Exeter, UK, Smith published a detailed prediction of how the climate would change over the better part of a decade1. His team forecasted that global warming would stall briefly and then pick up speed, sending the planet into record-breaking territory within a few years. The Hadley prediction has not fared particularly well. Six years on, global temperatures have yet to shoot up as it projected. Despite this underwhelming result, such near-term forecasts have caught on among many climate modellers, who are now trying to predict how global conditions will evolve over the next several years and beyond. Eventually, they hope to offer forecasts that will enable humanity to prepare for the decade ahead just as meteorologists help people to choose their clothes each morning. These near-term forecasts stand in sharp contrast to the generic projections that climate modellers typically produce, which look many decades ahead and don’t represent the actual climate at any given time. “This is very new to climate science,” says Francisco Doblas-Reyes, a modeller at the Catalan Institute of Climate Sciences in Barcelona, Spain, and a lead author of a chapter that covers climate prediction for a forthcoming report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). “We’re developing an additional tool that can tell us a lot more about the near-term future.”

In preparation for the IPCC report, the first part of which is due out in September, some 16 teams ran an intensive series of decadal forecasting experiments with climate models. Over the past two years, a number of papers based on these exercises have been published, and they generally predict less warming than standard models over the near term. For these researchers, decadal forecasting has come of age. But many prominent scientists question both the results and the utility of what is, by all accounts, an expensive and time-consuming exercise.

“Although I have nothing against this endeavour as a research opportunity, the papers so far have mostly served as a ‘disproof of concept’,” says Gavin Schmidt, a climate modeller at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, which declined to participate in the IPCC’s decadal-predictions experiment….



Snakes Devour More Mosquito-Eating Birds as Climate Change Heats Forests

July 11, 2013 — Many birds feed on mosquitoes that spread the West Nile virus, a disease that killed 286 people in the United States in 2012 according to the Centers for Disease Control. Birdsalso eat insects that can be agricultural pests. However, rising temperatures threaten wild birds, including the Missouri-native Acadian flycatcher, by making snakes more active, according to University of Missouri biologist John Faaborg. He noted that farmers, public health officials and wildlife managers should be aware of complex indirect effects of climate change in addition to the more obvious influences of higher temperatures and irregular weather patterns. “A warmer climate may be causing snakes to become more active and seek more baby birds for food,” said Faaborg, professor of biological sciences in MU’s College of Arts and Science. “Although our study used 20 years of data from Missouri, similar threats to bird populations may occur around the world. Increased snake predation on birds is an example of an indirect consequence that forecasts of the effects of climate change often do not take into account.”…. Over the past twenty years, fewer young Acadian flycatchers (Empidonax virescens) survived during hotter years, according to research by Faaborg and his colleagues published in the journal Global Change Biology. Survival of young indigo buntings (Passerina cyanea) also decreased during warmer years. Faaborg suggested that a likely reason for decreased baby bird survival in hot years was an increase in snake activity. Faaborg, his colleagues and his former students, collected the data used in the study during two decades of fieldwork….



Glimpse into the future of acidic oceans shows ecosystems transformed

EurekAlert (press release)  – July 8 2013‎

Ocean acidification may create an impact similar to extinction on marine ecosystems, according to a study released today by the University of California, Davis. The study, published online in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that ocean acidification can degrade not only individual species, as past studies have shown, but entire ecosystems. This results in a homogenized marine community, dominated by fewer plants and animals. “The background, low-grade stress caused by ocean acidification can cause a whole shift in the ecosystem so that everything is dominated by the same plants, which tend to be turf algae,” said lead author Kristy Kroeker, a postdoctoral researcher at the Bodega Marine Laboratory at UC Davis. “In most ecosystems, there are lots of different colorful patches of plants and animals — of algae, of sponges, of anemones,” Kroeker said. “With ocean acidification, you lose that patchiness. We call it a loss of functional diversity; everything looks the same.”….



Steep drop in coastal fish found in California power plant records

Fish swim in a return system at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in San Clemente (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times / February 17, 2010)

By Tony Barboza LA TIMES July 10, 2013, 7:15 a.m.

Fish populations in Southern California have dropped 78% over the last 40 years, according to a new study. Scientists consulted an unlikely source, sifting through records of fish caught up in the cooling systems of five coastal power plants from northern San Diego County to Ventura County. The analysis confirmed what fishing data and stock assessments had long indicated: That there has been a steep, ongoing drop in a wide variety of fish in the region over several decades.

“The coastal fish community that we have here in Southern California has changed dramatically and we can’t relate it to anything other than a regional oceanographic climate effect,” said Eric Miller, senior scientist at MBC Applied Environmental Sciences, an environmental consulting firm that conducted the research with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego.

“I knew that there was a decline, but coming so close to 80% was startling to me,” Miller told the Los Angeles Times.

While the researchers don’t fully understand what is behind the large-scale shift in ocean conditions, they said it could be related to changing seawater density and rising ocean temperature from global warming.

The study ruled out overfishing as the main driver of the decline. That’s because the power plant records showed that fish such as salema, which are not harvested by commercial or recreational fishermen, have been declining at about the same rate as commonly fished species such as sardines.

Many of the fish in decline are small, schooling fish such as sardines and anchovies, known as “forage fish” because they feed larger sport fish, seabirds and marine mammals. A downturn in their numbers could be altering the structure of the marine food web and be playing a role in the malnutrition and deaths in predators like California sea lions, the researchers said.

A 2011 study by researchers at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography found that kelp bass and barred sand bass, two of the most-caught saltwater fishes in Southern California, have plummeted 90% since 1980.

Other scientists have come to alarming conclusions about the depletion of fish stocks globally since the 1950s.



Faunal shift in southern California’s coastal fishes: A new assemblage and trophic structure takes hold


Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science
Volume 127, 20 July 2013, Pages 29–36

Eric F. Millera, , , , John A. McGowanb,

a MBC Applied Environmental Sciences, 3000 Red Hill Ave., Costa Mesa, CA 92626, USA

b Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UCSD, 9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla, CA 92093, USA, How to Cite or Link Using DOI
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Trends in coastal fish abundance indices were examined using a novel 39-year (1972–2010) time series recorded at southern California coastal power plants. Since 1972, the annual mean abundance index significantly declined (r2 = 0.45, p < 0.001). The mean annual biomass index likewise declined but with a large interruption in 2005–2006 when an influx of large bodied, southern species increased the annual means. Ensemble mean abundance indices for fished and unfished species declined at similar rates. Two faunal shifts were identified, 1983–1984 and 1989–1990. The ensemble mean, annual entrapment rate abundance index during the current period (1990–2010) represents only 22% of that recorded during the first and most abundant period, 1972–1983. The mean biogeographic distribution of the assemblage was non-linear over time including a shift south during the 1980s through the 1990s before shifting north in recent years. The northern shift in recent years accompanied higher variability than previously recorded and was likely related to the overall low abundance. Since the early 1980s, the mean trophic level derived from abundance declined. The observed patterns were not correlated with commonly employed composite indices such as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, but did show some sensitivity to changes in coastal seawater temperature and density over time. Timing of the observed faunal shifts in the fish assemblage was consistent with reported oceanographic shifts. These data suggested factors beyond fishing, such as oceanographic change, have substantially impacted the coastal fishes of southern California.



Evolution too slow to keep up with climate change
(July 9, 2013)Many vertebrate species would have to evolve about 10,000 times faster than they have in the past to adapt to the rapid climate change expected in the next 100 years, a new study has found. ..

Scientists analyzed how quickly species adapted to different climates in the past, using data from 540 living species from all major groups of terrestrial vertebrates, including amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. They then compared their rates of evolution to rates of climate change projected for the end of this century. This is the first study to compare past rates of adaption to future rates of climate change. The results, published online in the journal Ecology Letters, show that terrestrial vertebrate species appear to evolve too slowly to be able to adapt to the dramatically warmer climate expected by 2100. The researchers suggested that many species may face extinction if they are unable to move or acclimate. “Every species has a climatic niche which is the set of temperature and precipitation conditions in the area where it lives and where it can survive,” explained John J. Wiens, a professor in UA’s department of ecology and evolutionary biology in the College of Science. “For example, some species are found only in tropical areas, some only in cooler temperate areas, some live high in the mountains, and some live in the deserts.”….. > full story


Deserts ‘greening’ from rising carbon dioxide: Green foliage boosted across the world’s arid regions
(July 8, 2013) — Increased levels of carbon dioxide have helped boost green foliage across the world’s arid regions over the past 30 years through a process called carbon dioxide fertilization, according to new research. … > full story



Even slight temperature increases causing tropical forests to blossom
(July 8, 2013) — A new study shows that tropical forests are producing more flowers in response to only slight increases in temperature. … > full story



Trees use water more efficiently as atmospheric carbon dioxide rises
(July 10, 2013) — Though studies have long predicted that more efficient forest water use would result from increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, biologists, using data collected in the northeastern US, and elsewhere around the world, showed that forests were responding much more than the predictions of even the most state-of-the-art computer models. … > full story


Some Trees Use Less Water Amid Rising Carbon Dioxide, Paper Says

By JUSTIN GILLIS NY Times July 11, 2013

New research suggests that trees in at least some parts of the world are having to pull less water out of the ground to achieve a given amount of growth.

Insect discovery sheds light on climate change
(July 11, 2013) — Biologists have discovered a new, extinct family of insects that will help scientists better understand how some animals responded to global climate change and the evolution of communities. … > full story


What the West Coast Could Look Like if Climate Change Continues

By: Eric Zerkel Published: July 11, 2013

Whether you’re rollerblading along Venice Beach, downing a prawn or 12 at San Francisco’s Pier 33, or shagging foul balls at San Francisco’s AT&T Park, the West Coast of the United States offers up thousands of miles of coastline and hundreds of iconic locales to match. More importantly, 39 percent of America’s population, some 123 million people, call America’s coastline home, a number that’s expected to rise 20 million by 2020, according to NOAA. But the West Coast we all know and love may be under as much as 25 feet of water in the years to come. National Geographic reports that Global Mean Sea Levels have risen 4 to 8 inches over the past century, and more alarmingly, the rate at which the sea-level rises has doubled over the past 20 years.  And while you may not catch a glimpse of an inundated Venice Beach in your lifetime, the generations that follow very well could.

Artist Nickolay Lamm gives us a glimpse into that grim future with a series of illustrations showing what famous sea-side locales would look like under forecasted sea-level changes. Lamm’s West Coast series builds upon his previous work, which visualized iconic East Coast sites like the Jefferson Memorial flooded by seas. Using stock photos and data from Climate Central, Lamm mashes together illustrations that show the photographer’s prospective in 100 to 300 years (5 feet), the year 2300 (12 feet), and the centuries to come (15 feet). The end result is an eerie glimpse into a future drastically altered by climate change.  Checkout Lamm’s illustrations in the slideshow below…..



EPA: Climate Change Impact on Health and the Environment in Your Region

What does climate change mean for health and the environment in your region? Click below to find out:  



Wildfires may contribute more to global warming than previously predicted
(July 9, 2013) — Wildfires produce a witch’s brew of carbon-containing particles, as anyone downwind of a forest fire can attest. But measurements taken during the 2011 Las Conchas fire near Los Alamos National Laboratory show that the actual carbon-containing particles emitted by fires are very different than those used in current computer models, providing the potential for inaccuracy in current climate-modeling results. … > full story


Climate, fishing, and fluctuations of sardine and anchovy in the California Current

Martin Lindegrena,1, David M. Checkley, Jr.a, Tristan Rouyerb, Alec D. MacCallc, and Nils Chr. Stensethd, Author Affiliations PNAS July 8, 2013

Edited by Bonnie J. McCay, Rutgers, State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick, NJ, and approved June 10, 2013 (received for review March 25, 2013)


Since the days of Elton, population cycles have challenged ecologists and resource managers. Although the underlying mechanisms remain debated, theory holds that both density-dependent and density-independent processes shape the dynamics. One striking example is the large-scale fluctuations of sardine and anchovy observed across the major upwelling areas of the world. Despite a long history of research, the causes of these fluctuations remain unresolved and heavily debated, with significant implications for fisheries management. We here model the underlying causes of these fluctuations, using the California Current Ecosystem as a case study, and show that the dynamics, accurately reproduced since A.D. 1661 onward, are explained by interacting density-dependent processes (i.e., through species-specific life-history traits) and climate forcing. Furthermore, we demonstrate how fishing modifies the dynamics and show that the sardine collapse of the 1950s was largely unavoidable given poor recruitment conditions. Our approach provides unique insight into the origin of sardine–anchovy fluctuations and a knowledge base for sustainable fisheries management in the California Current Ecosystem and beyond.


The Southwest’s Forests May Never Recover from Megafires

“Abnormal” fire risks have become the new normal.

Richard Schiffman
Jul 5 2013, 11:16 AM ET

Burnt-out terrain off of Forest Rd. 141 in the Gila National Forest, New Mexico, on May 30, 2012. New Mexico’s Whitewater-Baldy Complex fire ravaged more than 170,000 acres, becoming the largest wildfire in the state’s history. (Reuters)

If you doubt that climate change is transforming the American landscape, go to Santa Fe, New Mexico. Sweltering temperatures there have broken records this summer, and a seemingly permanent orange haze of smoke hangs in the air from multiple wildfires. Take a ride into the mountains and you’ll see one blackened ridge after another where burns in the past few years have ravaged the national forest. Again, this year, fires in New Mexico and neighboring states of Colorado and Arizona are destroying wilderness areas. Fire danger is expected to remain abnormally high for the rest of the summer throughout much of the Intermountain West. But “abnormal” fire risks have become the new normal. The tragic death of 19 firefighters in the Yarnell fire near Prescott, Arizona last Sunday shows just how dangerous these highly unpredictable wind-driven wildfires can be. The last 10 years have seen more than 60 mega-fires over 100,000 acres in size in the West. When they get that big, firefighters often let them burn themselves out, over a period of weeks, or even months. These fires typically leave a scorched earth behind that researchers are beginning to fear may never come back as forest again.


Storm warning: Climate change to spawn more hurricanes

USA TODAY July 8, 2013

The world could see as many as 20 additional hurricanes and tropical storms each year by the end of the century because of climate change, says a study out today. The study was published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences …



Sydney’s urban areas to be hit hardest by global warming
(July 8, 2013) — Green spaces, trees and bodies of water are must-have design features for future development in Sydney’s suburbs after researchers found that by 2050 global warming combined with Sydney’s urban heat island effect could increase temperatures by up to 3.7°C. … > full story


Simultaneous Disasters Batter Pacific Islands– SLR and DROUGHT

Published: July 5th, 2013 By Paul Brown, Climate News Network

LONDON —  High tides have surged over sea walls defending the capital of the Marshall Islands, adding to the crisis situation in this tiny Pacific nation, where a state of emergency was declared only last month because of a devastating drought in the scattered northern atolls. In the last week, what the islanders call “king tides” have repeatedly flooded parts of the capital, Majuro, and its airport, in one of the countries most vulnerable to sea level rise.


Scientists image vast subglacial water system underpinning West Antarctica’s Thwaites Glacier
(July 9, 2013) — In a development that will help predict sea level rise, scientists have used an innovation in radar analysis to accurately image the vast subglacial water system under West Antarctica’s Thwaites Glacier, detecting a swamp-like canal system several times as large as Florida’s Everglades. The new observations suggest dynamics of the subglacial water system may be as important as ocean influences in predicting the fate of Thwaites, which holds substantial potential for triggering sea-level rise. … > full story

The sounds of science: Melting of iceberg creates surprising ocean din
(July 10, 2013) — There is growing concern about how much noise humans generate in marine environments through shipping, oil exploration and other developments, but a new study has found that naturally occurring phenomena could potentially affect some ocean dwellers. Nowhere is this concern greater than in the polar regions, where the effects of global warming often first manifest themselves. The breakup of ice sheets and the calving and grounding of icebergs can create enormous sound energy, scientists say. Now a new study has found that the mere drifting of an iceberg from near Antarctica to warmer ocean waters produces startling levels of noise. … > full story


Pine Island Glacier Antarctica 8 July 2013. The newly formed iceberg, on the left side, is approximately 720 square kilometers. (Credit: DLR

Huge iceberg breaks away from the Pine Island glacier in the Antarctic
(July 10, 2013) — On July 8, 2013, a huge area of the ice shelf broke away from the Pine Island glacier, the longest and fastest flowing glacier in the Antarctic, and is now floating in the Amundsen Sea in the form of a very large iceberg. … However, the Pine Island glacier, which flows from the Hudson mountains to the Amundsen Sea, was the fastest flowing glacier in the Western Antarctic with a flow speed of around 4 kilometres per year. This speed is less caused by the rising air temperatures, however, and is more attributable to the fact that the wind directions in the Amundsen Sea have altered. “The wind now brings warm sea water beneath the shelf ice. Over time, this process means that the shelf ice melts from below, primarily at the so-called grounding line, the critical transition to the land ice,” says the scientist.

For the Western Antarctic ice shelf, an even faster flow of the Pine Island glacier would presumably have serious consequences. “The Western Antarctic land ice is on land which is deeper than sea level. Its “bed” tends towards the land. The danger therefore exists that these large ice masses will become unstable and will start to slide,” says Angelika Humbert. If the entire West Antarctic ice shield were to flow into the Ocean, this would lead to a global rise in sea level of around 3.3 metres.

…> full story


Contribution of Greenland ice sheet to sea-level rise will continue to increase
(July 10, 2013) — The contribution of the Greenland ice sheet to sea-level rise will continue to increase, experts say. … > full story


Climate change’s heat intensifies drought in the USA

Shannon Rae Green hosts USA TODAY’s Weathering the Change, covering higher temperatures causing more evaporation leading to drier soil.

Wendy Koch, USA TODAY 7:34 p.m. EDT July 9, 2013

Special report: USA TODAY, in a series of stories this year, is exploring how climate change is affecting Americans. The fifth stop: The parched Austin area, epicenter of Texas’ three-year drought.

Story Highlights

  • Global warming may be intensifying drought by causing more water to evaporate
  • Rural and city residents worry about water supplies, while some face restrictions
  • UT study: Oil and gas drilling accounts for less than 1% of water use in Texas

SPICEWOOD, Texas — In this browning patch of land in central Texas, C.J. Teare could be fined for using fresh water to keep her decades-old oak trees alive so she relies on soapy water left over from washing clothes.

“I’ve never seen it like this before,” says Teare, a grandmother who has lived in her modest Lakeside Beach ranch for 20 years. Her community has been under emergency water restrictions since January 2012, when it became the first to run dry during Texas’ ongoing three-year drought. It stays afloat with six daily truckloads of water. Thirty miles southeast near Austin, Pete Clark had to close one restaurant along Lake Travis, and the other has lost 75% of its business since 2011. Water levels are so low that Carlos n’ Charlie’s, once a popular floating Tex-Mex watering hole, is no longer even lakeside.








To feed the future, we must mine the wealth of the world’s seed banks today, experts argue
(July 5, 2013) — With fewer than a dozen flowering plants out of 300,000 species accounting for 80 percent of humanity’s caloric intake, people need to tap unused plants to feed the world in the near future, claims a plant geneticist. … > full story



California regulators look to curb beach bonfires, citing climate change

Fox News July 11, 2013

A tradition dating back to the 1940s — bonfire pits on the beaches of southern California — is being targeted by state officials who say the popular pastime is no longer acceptable because of global warming and negative health consequences. “One fire pit burning one night, a few hours, a couple bundles of wood, emits as much as one average diesel truck on the road today driving over 500 miles,” said Dr. Philip Fine, of the Southern California Air Quality Management District (AQMD).  AQMD staff recommended banning open fires at the beach and removing the hundreds of concrete fire pits that stretch from San Diego to Los Angeles. …Initially, many thought the rules would go through without much opposition. Beachgoers are not an especially vocal or organized lobby. Leaf-blowers and gas-powered weed wackers cause far more air pollution than beach bonfires, but California chose not to regulate them after Hispanic lawmakers protested on behalf of landscapers….



Must-See Gasland Part II on HBO Monday: Natural Gas, Once A Bridge, Now A Gangplank

By Joe Romm on Jul 7, 2013 at 12:25 pm

If you liked the Oscar-nominated fracking exposé “Gasland” by Josh Fox, you’ll love the sequel Gasland, Part II, which is being broadcast on HBO Monday night.

I think it’s a better movie, more entertaining and even more compelling in making a case that we are headed on a bridge to nowhere — a metaphorical gangplank — with our hydraulic fracturing feeding frenzy. Future generations living in a climate-ruined world will be stunned that we drilled hundreds of thousands of fracking and reinjection wells:

  • Even though we knew that fossil fuels destroy the climate and accelerate drought and water shortages;
  • Even though we knew that leaks of heat-trapping methane from fracking may well be vitiating much of the climate benefits of replacing coal with gas; and
  • Even though each fracked well consumes staggering amounts of water, much of which is rendered permanently unfit for human use and reinjected into the ground where it can taint even more ground water in the coming decades.

Perhaps you have been persuaded fracking is a good idea by the multi-million-dollar industry campaign for fracking and against Fox — which includes backing a counter-documentary by two anti-science filmmaker’s best known for a film smearing Al Gore. If so, I’d urge you to read the Propublica exposé in Scientific American, “Are Fracking Wastewater Wells Poisoning the Ground beneath Our Feet?

After fracking — injecting a generally toxic brew into the earth to release natural gas (or oil) — wastewater wells are used to reinject the resulting brine deep underground. Here’s the bad news:

There are more than 680,000 underground waste and injection wells nationwide, more than 150,000 of which shoot industrial fluids thousands of feet below the surface. Scientists and federal regulators acknowledge they do not know how many of the sites are leaking.… in interviews, several key experts acknowledged that the idea that injection is safe rests on science that has not kept pace with reality, and on oversight that doesn’t always work. “In 10 to 100 years we are going to find out that most of our groundwater is polluted,” said Mario Salazar, an engineer who worked for 25 years as a technical expert with the EPA’s underground injection program in Washington. “A lot of people are going to get sick, and a lot of people may die.”A ProPublica review of well records, case histories and government summaries of more than 220,000 well inspections found that structural failures inside injection wells are routine. From late 2007 to late 2010, one well integrity violation was issued for every six deep injection wells examined — more than 17,000 violations nationally. More than 7,000 wells showed signs that their walls were leaking. Records also show wells are frequently operated in violation of safety regulations and under conditions that greatly increase the risk of fluid leakage and the threat of water contamination.










July 18, 11:30-1p.m. (Pacific Time) Designing Sustainable Landscapes for Avian Conservation
(includes projections for landscape dynamics driven by climate change and urban growth)  Registration Link
Speaker Dr. Jamie Collazo, USGS, North Carolina Cooptive Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, North Carolina State University, will present dynamic spatial models for the potential distribution of bird habitats in concert with niche-space models for focal bird species to prioritize areas for conservation.
To register for thie webinar, click here.

July 23, 2013 12:00-1:00pm (PT)
Effects of Climate Change on Inland Fishes of California

This CA LCC hosted webinar will present status and trends of fishes with different vulnerabilities to climate change and adaptation strategies for the major aquatic zoogeographic regions of California.
To join this webinar:
1. Go to 
2. If a password is required, enter the meeting password: calcc
3. Call-in to: 1-866-737-4154
4. Enter attendee access code: 287 267 0

July 23, 2013, 11:00-noon (Pacific Time) Climate Change and Boreal Forest Fires: What does the future hold?; NOAA Webinar; (Add to Google Calendar)

July 31, 10-11:30a.m. (Pacific Time)
State Wildlife Action Plans: lessons learned in adapting for an era of climate change. FWS and NWF Webinar.  Registration Link

August 29, 11:30a.m.-12:30p.m. (Pacific Time)
Pikas in the Columbia River Gorge FWS/C3 Webinar
WebEx link 
Call in: 877 952-8012  Access code: 274207

August 15-17
ScienceOnline Climate Conference  Explores the intersection of climate science, communication and the web.

Call for Abstracts

September 5-6, Fourth Annual Pacific Northwest Climate Science Conference: Reminder– All abstracts must be submitted by July 12.  Registration and lodging information will be available soon. For more details or to submit an abstract, please go to:

SER2013 Early Registration Closes July 15th!




Early registration for the 5th SER World Conference on Ecological Restoration
closes on July 15, 2013. Registration rates increase on July 16! (Sorry, but we can’t make exceptions to this deadline. We’re managing more than a thousand registrations).

Register now and save up to $125 on the cost of registration. July 15 is also the deadline for presenter registration. If you have submitted an abstract or will speak in a symposium, you MUST register by July 15. If you do not register by this deadline your presentation will not be included in the scientific program. No Exceptions! More Information



Working for Conservation Conference: Active Engagement in Forestland Woodland Sustainability
October 10, 2013 Sacramento CA
This conference will focus on what we can learn from innovative and novel strategies that seek to achieve desired outcome in natural systems that have been historically altered and will continue to be altered. Participants will discuss new policies and management strategies that recognize the realities of these impacts, and encourage active approaches to ensure that these values continue into the future. This one-day conference is intended to engage resource managers, governmental, industry and NGO leaders, the interested general public. Early registration is due October 1, 2013.





Sierra Nevada Conservancy Prop 84 FUNDS – The Sierra Nevada Conservancy (SNC) Proposition 84 Grant Program for the Fiscal Year 2013-14 has been launched.  The funding available for this round of grants is approximately $2.5 million. Eligible projects for this grant round include projects that meet Proposition 84 eligibility criteria and SNC mission and program goals.  Projects must align with one of the two focus areas of this round, Healthy Forests and Abandoned Mine Lands).  Projects that build upon past SNC investment, financial or otherwise, will be given preference.  For more information click here.





Restoration and Education Internship, 2013-14

Point Blue Conservation Science (formerly PRBO) is dedicated to conserving birds, other wildlife, and ecosystems through innovative scientific research, restoration, outreach and extensive partnerships.  Our highest priority is to reduce the impacts of habitat alteration, climate change and other threats to wildlife and people, while promoting adaptation to the changes ahead. Our 130+ staff and seasonal biologists and educators work with a wide range of public and private partners to advance effective conservation throughout the west. We are based in Petaluma, CA; visit us online at
Point Blue’s watershed restoration and education program called STRAW (Students & Teachers Restoring A Watershed), facilitates K-12 students in implementation of professionally designed habitat restoration projects on streams and wetlands in Marin, Sonoma, Napa and Solano counties October – May. Restoration work typically includes native plant installation, biotechnical erosion control practices and/or invasive plant removal. Restoration sites are maintained for three summers after planting.  Restoration site maintenance work occurs April-August and includes watering, weeding and other plant establishment activities. Maintenance of STRAW restoration sites is an integral part of the project and overall program success. Point Blue is seeking four reliable, respectful, and enthusiastic interns to help with student-implemented restoration workdays and accompanying maintenance and monitoring of sites.

Position duration:  October 1, 2013 – September 1, 2014 (internship end dates may change depending on project needs)

Stipend: Voluntary position with monthly stipend of $850/month to offset living expenses, plus shared housing in an apartment in Petaluma, CA

To apply, please submit your resume, 3 references and a cover letter describing why you would like the internship by August 1, 2013 to Emily Allen (








Male greater prairie chickens make booming calls to attract females for mating. A seven-year study from a Kansas State University research team has found that wind power development has little effect on greater prairie chickens. (Credit: H. Hirt)

Wind power does not strongly affect greater prairie chickens, seven-year study finds
(July 10, 2013) — Wind power development does not ruffle the feathers of greater prairie chicken
populations, according to a seven-year study by ecologists. They found that grassland birds are more affected by rangeland management practices and by the availability of native prairie and vegetation cover at nest sites. …
The researchers studied the birds for seven breeding seasons and captured nearly 1,000 total male and female birds around lek sites, which are communal areas where males gather and make calls to attract females. Females mate with the males and then hide nests in tall prairie grass. The scientists researched many different features of prairie chickens and their biology: patterns of nest site selection; reproductive components, such as clutch size, timing of laying eggs and hatchability of eggs; survival rates; and population viability. “We don’t have evidence for really strong effects of wind power on prairie chickens or their reproduction,” Sandercock said. “We have some evidence for females avoiding the turbines, but the avoidance within the home range doesn’t seem to have an impact on nest site selection or nest survival.” The results are somewhat surprising, especially because similar studies have shown that oil and gas development affect prairie chickens, Sandercock said. With wind power development, the researchers had the unexpected result of female survival rates increasing after wind turbines were installed, potentially because wind turbines may keep predators away from nest sites. Female mortality rates are highest during the breeding season because females are more focused on protecting clutches than avoiding predators, Sandercock said. ….The Grassland Community Collaborative Oversight Committee of the National Wind Coordinating Collaborative oversaw the research project. The project received funding from a variety of sources including the U.S. Department of Energy; the National Renewable Energy Laboratory; the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism; the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation; and The Nature Conservancy.full story


Climate change will disrupt energy supplies, DOE warns

Wendy Koch, USA TODAY 8:42 a.m. EDT July 12, 2013

How does climate change affect energy supplies? A new government report says rising temperatures make it more difficult for some power plants to operate and sea level rise threatens others.

(Photo: Julie Jacobson AP)

Story Highlights

DOE says climate change is likely to disrupt U.S. energy supplies

Its report says rising temperatures can reduce production at power plants

U.S. energy supplies will likely face more severe disruptions because of climate change and extreme weather, which have already caused blackouts and lowered production at power plants, a government report warned Thursday.

What’s driving these vulnerabilities? Rising temperatures, up 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit in the last century, and the resulting sea level rise, which are accompanied by drought, heat waves, storms and wildfires, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

“It (climate change) is a very serious problem and it will get worse,” says Jonathan Pershing, who oversaw the report’s development. While impacts will vary by region, “no part of the country is immune,” he says. He adds that climate change is exacerbating extreme events.

“Sea level rise made Sandy worse,” Pershing says, noting that it intensified flooding. When the superstorm slammed the East Coast last year, it took down power lines, damaged power plants and left millions of people in the dark.

The report comes one week after President Obama, describing climate change as a threat to future generations, called for action to address the problem “before it’s too late.” He said he aims to cut heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions from new and existing power plants.

Echoing other research, the DOE report makes the case for why such reductions are needed. It says coastal power plants are at risk from sea level rise and power lines operate less efficiently in higher temperatures.

“The report accurately outlines the risks to the energy sector in the United States” and should serve as a “wake-up call,” says Jennifer Morgan, deputy director of climate and energy at the World Resources Institute, a non-profit that advocates for sustainability.

The report cites prior climate-related energy disruptions. Last year in Connecticut, the Millstone Nuclear Power Station shut down one reactor because the temperature of water needed to cool the facility — taken from the Long Island Sound — was too high. A similar problem caused power reductions in 2010 at the Hope Creek Nuclear Generating Station in New Jersey and the Limerick Generating Station in Pennsylvania.

Reduced snowpack in the Sierra Nevada mountains last year cut California’s hydroelectric power generation 8%, while drought caused the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to stop the transport of oil and coal along the Mississippi River, where water levels were too low, according to the report. Also, in September 2010, water levels in Nevada’s Lake Mead fell to a 54-year low, prompting a 23% loss in the Hoover Dam’s generation.

While climate change is not the sole cause of drought, climate scientists say rising temperatures can exacerbate it by causing more moisture to evaporate from the soil. They say those temperatures, which the third federal National Climate Assessment says could rise 3 degrees to 10 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100, will contribute more to drought in the future.

In Texas, which is suffering a three-year drought that now affects 87% of its land, conflicts are arising over the water-intensive process of extracting oil or natural gas from shale deposits, known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. In 2011, Grand Prairie became the first in the state to ban city water for fracking. Other municipalities have restricted water use for that purpose.

Nationwide, 47% of fracking wells are in water-stressed areas, according to a report in May by Ceres, a Boston-based non-profit that promotes corporate sustainability.

The DOE report cites research indicating that nearly 60% of current thermoelectric power plants, which need water cooling to operate, are located in water-stressed areas.

It says higher temperatures will boost the demand for air conditioning, which could threaten energy security by forcing the nation’s power system to operate beyond ranges for which it was designed. It cites a study by DOE’s Argonne National Laboratory that found such peak demand, given current population levels, will require additional electricity equal to 100 new power plants.

The dire tone of the DOE report, while warranted, can “give a reader a sense of fatigue,” says Joe Casola, a senior scientist at C2ES, formerly the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. Yet he says it also points to solutions such as water-efficient technologies and protection for energy infrastructure.

“It’s technologically within our means to address some of these issues now,” Casola says. “There are a lot of things we can do.”

DOE’s Pershing agrees. “It’s a problem we need to work on,” he says. He notes that the billions of dollars in losses already incurred from climate-related disasters show the need for additional measures.


US earthquake increase tied to disposal well boom

Wastewater, increasingly injected into deep disposal wells amid the energy boom, appears to be the culprit in an increase in U.S. quakes.

USA TODAY July 11, 2013 Written by Dan Vergano

A boom in earthquakes seems to have accompanied the U.S. energy boom, geologists reported Thursday. They are finding an increase in temblors that appear tied to wastewater from energy drilling that is injected deep underground, putting pressure on quake faults. In a study out today that provides the strongest link to date between wastewater wells and quakes, seismologists and geologists say U.S. earthquakes have become roughly five times more common in the past three years. They warn about inadequate monitoring of deep wastewater disposal wells that are setting off these small quakes nationwide. There are more than 30,000 such deep disposal wells nationwide. They’re increasingly used as mile-deep dumping grounds for fluids left over from the more shallow hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” wells responsible for surging U.S. natural gas production. The earthquakes have been linked to the wastewater wells but not the fracking drilling wells themselves. Earthquakes near Dallas, Oklahoma City and Youngstown, Ohio, in the past half-decade have been tied to wastewater “injected” at high pressure thousands of feet underground near quake faults. A National Research Council report last year cautioned that such deep disposal wells raise risks for triggering quakes….



“Endangered Bird Found Dead at Desert Solar Power Facility”
(KCET ReWire, 7/10/13)
A bird found dead at a Riverside County solar project in May was a Yuma clapper rail, a Federally listed Endangered species. The rail is one of a number of water birds found dead at the site, according to one of the owners of the project. The fatality marks the first reported death of a Federally Endangered bird at a renewable energy generation site in the mainland U.S.


Assessing impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico
(July 10, 2013) — While numerous studies are under way to determine the impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on the Gulf of Mexico, the extent and severity of these impacts and the value of the resulting losses cannot fully be measured without considering the goods and services provided by the Gulf, says a new report. … > full story


Treating oil spills with chemical dispersants: Is the cure worse than the ailment?
(July 5, 2013) — Treating oil spills at sea with chemical dispersants is detrimental to European sea bass. A new study suggests that although chemical dispersants may reduce problems for surface animals, the increased contamination under the water reduces the ability for fish and other organisms to cope with subsequent environmental challenges. … > full story


Rooftop solar takes off across California as costs come down

By Dana Hull San Jose Mercury News Posted:   07/11/2013 06:10:34 AM PDT Updated:   07/11/2013 06:10:42 AM PDT

California’s groundbreaking efforts to encourage homeowners and businesses to install rooftop solar panels were so successful in 2012 that the program is now effectively winding down, according to a new report. A record 391 megawatts of solar power were installed statewide in 2012, a growth of 26 percent from 2011, according to a report by the California Solar Initiative released Wednesday.

“The program has made solar affordable for ordinary Californians,” said Susannah Churchill of the San Francisco-based solar advocacy group Vote Solar. “Solar is a classic California success story.”…






Radically better smartphones may be possible using system inspired by bird migration: Molecular chains hypersensitive to magnetic fields
(July 5, 2013) — Researchers have for the first time created perfect one-dimensional molecular wires of which the electrical conductivity can almost entirely be suppressed by a weak magnetic field at room temperature. The underlying mechanism is possibly closely related to the biological compass used by some migratory birds. This spectacular discovery may lead to radically new magnetic field sensors, for smartphones for example. … > full story


The hidden force behind Islamic militancy in Nigeria? Climate change

Christian Science Monitor July 8, 2013

Ohio State University professor Geoffrey Parker argues in his new book, Global Crisis: War, Climate Change and Catastrophe in the Seventeenth Century, that “the experience of the seventeenth century shows that long-term turbulence and unreliability of …



The Gay-Rights Playbook: How to Fight Climate Change Now

by Lisa Bennett Jul 10, 2013 4:45 AM EDT

How can climate warriors build an unstoppable social movement—and avoid a global catastrophe? Lisa Bennett sees seven lessons from the struggle for marriage equality. There is little question that the gay-rights movement is the most successful social crusade in recent American history. (The Supreme Court rulings sanctioning same-sex marriage only put the icing on that cake.)

In a sense, we are in the the pre-Stonewall age of the climate-change debate, but we don’t need to be. (AP (2))

So how can that success inspire the most essential fight of our time—a climate movement big enough to demand that Congress do what’s needed to avoid catastrophe by leveling the playing field for renewable energy? On the surface, this may seem an odd comparison of very different issues. After all, gay rights is perceived as deeply personal and climate change as inextricably global; gay rights as relevant in the here and now and climate change as a largely future occurrence; and gay rights as having one clear demand—equality—while climate change seems to require that we change everything.

Yet consider the similarities: just two decades ago, when people like me came out as gay, we encountered denial, fear, shaming, stereotyping, silencing, and a cultural debate over whether our experience was natural. Today all the same dynamics are at play around those who “come out” with their concerns about climate change: denial, fear, shaming, and stereotyping that leads, of course, to silencing. And all of this leaves us with little more than a stale debate about whether climate change is natural. We are, in other words, in the pre-Stonewall age on climate change. But we don’t need to be….



Adaptation Or Mitigation? Lessons From Abolition In The Battle Over Climate Policy

Posted: 05 Jul 2013 11:18 AM PDT

By John Sterman

What’s the best way to address the risks of climate change?  Mitigation or Adaptation?  Should the world cut greenhouse gas emissions to lower the risks of harm from climate change (mitigation), or should we just get used to it (adaptation), spending to build seawalls, move populations inland, and figure out how to grow food for more than 9 billion people in a world of higher temperatures, droughts, and extreme weather? Many people, including some I greatly respect, have lately argued that advocacy for mitigation isn’t working, so we should shift to advocacy for adaptation.  They say that’s where the interest is after Superstorm Sandy, that’s how to get people engaged, and that’s where the money is. The frustration of climate activists around mitigation is understandable.  The failure of the 2009 Copenhagen climate conference was deeply discouraging, and since then the international negotiations have stalled.  Total pledges for emissions reductions under the UNFCCC’s voluntary system, even if fully implemented, are nowhere near enough.  With gridlock in the US Congress and the erosion of climate commitments in other nations, more and more people are giving up on mitigation.

Of course, adaptation is necessary.  We’ve already warmed the climate about 1.4 °F (0.8 °C) over preindustrial levels.  Global CO2 emissions have reached new records every year since 2009.  In May, atmospheric CO2 hit 400 ppm for the first time in human history. We are dumping CO2 into the atmosphere about twice as fast as nature can remove it.  Even with the best imaginable policies, the climate will keep changing for decades, and sea level will keep rising for centuries.  Adaptation is necessary.

….However, adaptation without mitigation is futile.  Since Sandy the focus has been on updating flood maps and building sea walls.  But sea walls are the Maginot line of climate change.   Sea walls won’t help with ocean acidification, water shortage, drought, more and more dangerous wildfires, declines in agricultural output, and the many other impacts of climate change, not to mention the climate refugees and risks of war in regions those impacts create.  However, when we point out that there’s no adapting to the changes in the climate we are facing if we don’t cut emissions dramatically, some adaptation advocates say, “yes, but if we can convene people around adaptation, they’ll soon see its limitations and will end up strongly advocating mitigation as part of their local adaptation plan.”

….The road to victory will be long.  It requires that we work to overcome the counter-reaction so that the administration’s forthcoming proposals are implemented.  It requires that we work for adaptation and mitigation, without falling for the lie that adaptation is enough.  It requires that we build on these initial steps to implement even stronger policies, in the United States and around the world.  Victory will come only if we get involved.  Join any of the hundreds of groups, left, right, and center, working for rational policy to cut emissions, create jobs, and build a sustainable economy, from to the Citizens Climate Lobby, to ConservAmerica (formerly Republicans for Environmental Protection), to Environmental Entrepreneurs, to Mothers Out Front, among many others.

We must create the change we need by cutting our personal carbon footprints.  We must create the change we need by demanding that our elected representatives put a price on carbon, so that we pay the true costs of the fossil fuels we use.  If our leaders don’t act, we must create the change we need by electing new leaders who will.  We can do it.  We’ve done harder things before.  But we have to act, now.

MIT’s John Sterman is one of the world’s leading experts on systems thinking.



The dark side of artificial sweeteners: Expert reviews negative imact
(July 10, 2013) — More and more Americans are consuming artificial sweeteners as an alternative to sugar, but whether this translates into better health has been heavily debated. A new opinion article reviews surprising evidence on the negative impact of artificial sweeteners on health, raising red flags about all sweeteners — even those that don’t have any calories. … > full story



The brown pelican’s preferred nesting sites are small coastal islands. What of these is the most important motivation?

(a.) Fish
(b.) Stable temperatures
(c.) Humidity
(d.) Raccoons
(e.) Lizards
(f.) Retaining higher property values






Local Krill Die-Off

Photos by David Anderson, fishery biologist, Redwood National Park

From National Park Service: Monday morning (June 17, 2013), the bio techs doing snowy plover surveys on Mussel Beach (the beach reach north of the mouth of Redwood Creek) in Redwood National Park [California] found the wrack line on the beach covered with fresh krill. They said it went on for about a mile.  Some krill were still alive. The birds were not on them yet. They were identified back in the office as Thysanoessa spinifera.  Another crew surveying the reach from Espa Lagoon to Mussel Point (north of Mussel Beach) reported krill on the beach but not as many.  On Tuesday morning the survey crew found krill on Crescent Beach near Crescent City to the north, and state parks reported krill on the Clam Beach in McKinleyville to the south – a span of about 50 miles of coastline.

People are looking for a cause, and hypoxia was mentioned, but marine scientists contacted in Oregon have discounted that possibility. Local scientists are checking data from the few ocean water quality monitoring stations and there was an already scheduled research cruise this week that will be checking nearshore water quality. At their request, we are sending specimens to the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Oregon for examination.  People communicating with each other are from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, NOAA Fisheries, Humboldt State University, Wyiot Tribe, University of California Sea Grant Extension, Oregon State University, California State Parks, and NPS-REDW.  Right now it is still in the investigative phase. —-from David G. Anderson (










(d.) Raccoons




Conservation Science News June 28, 2013

Highlight of the WeekNew Scenario Planning Guide, Groundwater Depletion, and Carbon Visuals









PRBO is now Point Blue Conservation Science:  We have changed our name to Point Blue Conservation Science (formerly PRBO) reflecting the expanded depth and reach of our work, building on our long-term bird ecology expertise.  Our 140 Point Blue
scientists and educators work with hundreds of partners, pointing the way forward to secure a healthy, blue planet well into the future.  We have changed our name to Point Blue
to more directly address climate change, together with other environmental threats, through nature-based solutions that benefit wildlife and people.  For more information please see From Point Reyes to Point Blue as well as our first Point Blue Quarterly.  You might also enjoy viewing our inspiring ~6 minute video introducing Point Blue that includes partner and staff highlights as well as a brief congratulatory video from Congressman Jared Huffman (CA-2).  Our new website,, is under construction through the summer. Until then, our existing website,, will remain active.

Highlights of the Week– New Scenario Planning Guide, Groundwater Depletion, and Carbon Visuals



  1. New Point Blue/CA Coastal Conservancy Publication:

    Scenario planning for climate change adaptation: A guidance for resource managers.

    Moore, S.S., N.E. Seavy, and M. Gerhart. 2013.
    Point Blue Conservation Science and California Coastal Conservancy. Available on-line at:

    This document is a step-by-step guide to develop scenarios and use them to plan for climate change adaptation. The intended audience includes natural resource managers, planners, landowners, scientists and other stakeholders working at a local or regional scale to develop resource management approaches that take climate change impacts and other important uncertainties into account. Scenario planning is a tool that embraces uncertainty rather than trying to reduce or eliminate it. It can help resource managers generate creative approaches to climate change adaptation by thinking outside the historical or most obvious trends to incorporate uncertainty as a factor in prioritizing and taking climate-smart management actions today. For more information, contact



  2. Satellites reveal depth of water depletion in California’s Great Central Valley

    By David Perlman June 21 2013 10:28 AM

    Satellites peering down on California’s great Central Valley have discovered evidence that the nation’s prime food source is fast losing precious reserves of water from the valley’s underground aquifers. Loss of water from beneath the surface, combined with increasing shortages of surface irrigation caused by climate change, is quietly adding up to a crisis that threatens one of the state’s major industries, scientists say. “We don’t recognize the dire water situation we face,” said Jay Famiglietti, a UC Irvine hydrologist who has monitored those stored water levels every month since the spacecraft began measuring the sources 11 years ago. Even as those reserves are being depleted, diminished surface water sources are forcing many farm districts in the region to pump their water from ever deeper levels of the underground aquifers, farm experts say. Pumps that once brought water from 500 feet deep are now reaching as deep as 900 or even 1,500 feet, said Chase Hurley, general manager of the San Luis Canal Co., a 100-year-old water agency in Los Banos (Merced County) that represents more than 300 landowners farming 45,000 acres of irrigated crops – mostly with water from the San Joaquin River. “As you suck that water out of deep clay layers,” Hurley said, “you not only get subsidence but changes in water quality. It’s salty, and acidic, and that’s not good for crops.” Additionally, groundwater pumping is creating difficult subsidence problems as the land surface in many areas is sinking – by 4 or 5 feet or even more.

    Chronic water shortages

    Irrigation districts serving Central Valley farmers obtain most of their water from the Central Valley Project, whose dams and reservoirs release the water from the annual thaw of the Sierra snowpack.

    But those farmers have long faced chronic water shortages, and this year the mountain snowpack has been at barely half its normal water yield. Managers of the project have warned that the irrigation districts south of the delta will be allocated only 20 percent of the water they have contracted for. That could force farmers to pump more water out of the aquifers, which are filled by long, sustained drainage from above. “We’re losing those groundwater reserves every month, and with climate change affecting snowmelt, the risks and uncertainties are changing faster than ever,” Famiglietti said. “We don’t see that there’ll be any replenishment in the future, so there’s a critical need to improve the way we monitor and regulate groundwater systems now.” Famiglietti, who directs UC Irvine’s Center for Hydrologic Monitoring, and Matthew Rodell, of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., reported on the spacecraft’s underground water findings in this week’s issue of the journal Science….




    Satellite data will be essential to future of groundwater, flood and drought management 

    UC Irvine, NASA researchers demonstrate need for national water management policy with map of U.S. ‘hotspots’

    Irvine, Calif., June 13, 2013 – New satellite imagery reveals that several areas across the United States are all but certain to suffer water-related catastrophes, including extreme flooding, drought and groundwater depletion.

    The paper, to be published in Science this Friday, June 14, underscores the urgent need to address these current and rapidly emerging water issues at the national scale.

    “We don’t recognize the dire water situation that we face here in the United States,” said lead author Jay Famiglietti, a professor of Earth System Science at the University of California, Irvine, and Director of the UC Center for Hydrologic Modeling (UCCHM).  Since its launch in 2002, Famiglietti and co-author Matt Rodell, Chief of the Hydrological Sciences Laboratory at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, have been using data from the NASA Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellite mission to track changing freshwater availability all over the world.  “Worldwide, groundwater supplies about half of all drinking water, and it is also hugely important for agriculture, yet without GRACE we would have no routine, global measurements of changes in groundwater availability,” said Rodell. “Other satellites can’t do it, and ground-based monitoring is inadequate.” The report, entitled Water in the Balance, draws attention to water management as a national, rather than just a regional or statewide problem. The GRACE mission is able to monitor monthly water storage changes within river basins and aquifers that are 200,000 km2 or larger in area, and, according to Famiglietti and Rodell, can contribute to water management at regional and national scales, and to international policy discussions as well.

    Using GRACE data, the researchers were able to identify several water ‘hotspots’ in the United States, including its key food producing regions in 1) California’s Central Valley, and 2) the southern High Plains aquifer; a broad swath of the southeastern U. S. that has been plagued by persistent drought, including 3) Houston, Texas, 4) Alabama, and 5) the Mid-Atlantic region; and 6) the flood-prone upper Missouri River basin.  They also noted that since 2003, the wetter, northern half of the U.S. has become wetter, while the drier, southern half has become drier. ….


    Water in the Balance Science June 14, 2013

    James S. Famiglietti1,2,3, Matthew Rodell4

    Earth’s climate is changing, and so is its hydrologic cycle. Recent decades have witnessed rising rates of global precipitation, evaporation, and freshwater discharge (1). Extreme flooding is occurring with greater intensity and frequency in some regions; in others, extreme drought is becoming more common (2). Most climate models indicate that by the end of this century, the dry regions of the world will become drier, whereas the wet areas will become wetter (3). Meanwhile, groundwater reserves, the traditional backup for water supplies during extended periods of drought, are in decline globally (46). GRACE (the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment, a joint U.S.-German satellite mission) monitors these variations on monthly to decadal time scales, providing detailed data on the water cycle that are an essential prerequisite for contemporary water management.

    Read the Full Text





    Carbon Visuals, supported by Environmental Defense Fund, have created a film that makes those emissions feel more real – the total emissions and the rate of emission. Designed to engage the ‘person on the street’, this version is exploratory and still work in progress….


    A single hour’s emissions from New York City: 6,204 one-metric-ton spheres


    A single day’s emissions from New York CIty


    A year’s carbon dioxide emissions from New York City: 54,349,650 one-metric-ton spheres








Point Blue in the news:


Study finds Marin Swainson’s thrush winters in Jalisco

Mist nets at a research center in Bolinas catch the Swainson’s thrushes that bird ecologists like Renée Cormier are tracking with geolocator bands on their migration to Mexico. Photo by David Briggs

By  Mackenzie Mount 06/27/2013

When avian ecologist Renée Cormier sat down in her Palomarin Field Station office on Monday to talk about the implications of a recently published study she co-authored on Swainson’s thrushes, she didn’t tell a woe-is-the-species story. Swainson’s thrushes aren’t officially endangered or threatened, but they are highly dependent on riparian habitats. The songbirds act as ecological thermometers of their locales, and Ms. Cormier and three Point Blue Conservation Science colleagues found exciting readings. Published in the ornithological journal The Auk, the study determined for the first time where exactly the Marin County population of these songbirds winter—in the western Mexican state of Jalisco, about 1,600 miles south.  This corresponding narrowness of breeding and winter locations is called migratory connectivity, making the Swainson’s thrushes more vulnerable to changes in habitat in either region and making Marin and Jalisco kind of ecological pen pals for the songbirds’ corresponding homes. Ms. Cormier explained the significance of the sites’ geographic ties from her field station office—her hair loosely pulled back, her face free of makeup, notes from a 4 a.m. owl survey scrawled on her hand. (“Stopping to pull out the notebook when running toward a calling owl in the dark is not that convenient.”) She radiated satisfaction with her work, as one who considers climate change and the fragility of her subjects but who bookends office hours creeping outside pre-sunrise and post-sunset, playing recorded hoots in hopes that a live owl replies and reveals its location.  Monday morning’s dense fog kept Point Blue staff from unfurling the mist nets that catch birds and barred any Swainson’s thrush sightings. The nets work like a spiderweb with pockets: a soft mesh that stretches about as wide as a volleyball net and is undetectable to a bird fixated on a distant oak. Ms. Cormier unwound a corner to demonstrate how birds pop into the net and slip into its fold, but she froze when a nearby Swainson’s began its upward spiraling trill. ….


Uncertainty over the benefits of feeding birds in winter
(June 24, 2013) — Scientists have found that feeding wild blue tits in winter resulted in less successful breeding during the following spring. … The research, published in Scientific Reports, revealed that woodland blue tits that were provided with fat balls as a supplementary food during the winter months went on to produce chicks that were smaller, of lower body weight and which had lower survival than the chicks of birds that did not receive any additional food.

Dr Jon Blount from Biosciences at the University of Exeter who led the research said: “Our research questions the benefits of feeding wild birds over winter. Although the precise reasons why fed populations subsequently have reduced reproductive success are unclear, it would be valuable to assess whether birds would benefit from being fed all year round rather than only in winter. More research is needed to determine exactly what level of additional food provisioning, and at what times of year, would truly benefit wild bird populations.”

Dr Kate Plummer, lead author of the paper, said: “There could be a number of different explanations for our results. One possibility is that winter feeding may help birds in relatively poor condition to survive and breed. Because these individuals are only capable of raising a small number of chicks, they will reduce our estimation of breeding success within the population. But more research is needed to understand whether winter feeding is contributing to an overall change in the size of bird populations.” It is estimated that around half of UK householders feed birds in their gardens. This equates to around 50-60 thousand tonnes of bird food provisioned each year and contributes to a thriving bird food industry…..> full story


Large dead zone forming in the Gulf
(June 27, 2013) — Ocean experts had predicted a large “dead zone” area in the Gulf of Mexico this year, and according to the results from a researcher just back from studying the region, those predictions appear to be right on target. … > full story


Why closely related species do not eat the same things
(June 21, 2013)
— Closely related species consume the same r
esources less often than more remotely related species. In fact, it is the competition for resources, and not their kinship, which determines the food sources of the species of a community. Under the effect of this competition, closely related species have specialized on different food resources. This is the conclusion of a study carried out by researchers from CNRS, the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle and Exeter University (United Kingdom). These results were obtained by studying trophic interactions between species at an extraordinary level of detail in an English meadow….Published on 20 June 2013 in the journal Current Biology, the work provides important insights into the evolution of ecological communities at a time when certain are being disrupted by climate change and the arrival of invasive species. In ecology, the present paradigm considers that kinship relations between species determine the identity of the partners with which the species interact: the more closely related the species, the more chance they have of interacting with the same partners. Thus, according to this view, two closely related species should share the same predators and the same preys. Recent work carried out by a team of researchers from CNRS, the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle and Exeter University shows that this is not necessarily the case. For the first time, the scientists have shown that although kinship between species effectively determines what feeds on species, it is competition for resources and not degree of kinship that determines what species feed on…..full story


Migrating animals add new depth to how the ocean ‘breathes’
(June 24, 2013) — Animals ranging from plankton to small fish consume vast amounts of what little oxygen is available in the deep ocean, and may reveal a crucial and unappreciated role that animals have in ocean chemistry on a global scale. …
Research begun at Princeton University and recently reported on in the journal
Nature Geoscience found that animals ranging from plankton to small fish consume vast amounts of what little oxygen is available in the ocean’s aptly named “oxygen minimum zone” daily. The sheer number of organisms that seek refuge in water roughly 200- to 650-meters deep (650 to 2,000 feet) every day result in the global consumption of between 10 and 40 percent of the oxygen available at these depths….”You can say that the whole ecosystem does this migration — chances are that if it swims, it does this kind of migration,” Bianchi said. “Before, scientists tended to ignore this big chunk of the ecosystem when thinking of ocean chemistry. We are saying that they are quite important and can’t be ignored.”….full story

Daniele Bianchi, Eric D. Galbraith, David A. Carozza, K. A. S. Mislan, Charles A. Stock. Intensification of open-ocean oxygen depletion by vertically migrating animals. Nature Geoscience, 2013; DOI: 10.1038/ngeo1837


My manifesto for rewilding the world

Nature swiftly responds when we stop trying to control it. This is our big chance to reverse man’s terrible destructive impact

George Monbiot
The Guardian, Monday 27 May 2013 15.30 EDT

Forest elephants were exterminated from Europe 40,000 years ago when modern humans arrived. Photograph: Sebastião Salgado/Amazonas Images

Until modern humans arrived, every continent except Antarctica possessed a megafauna. In the Americas, alongside mastodons, mammoths, four-tusked and spiral-tusked elephants, there was a beaver the size of a black bear: eight feet from nose to tail. There were giant bison weighing two tonnes, which carried horns seven feet across….



Researchers unearth data in animal habitat selection that counters current convention
(June 27, 2013) — Scientists have long presumed that animals settle on breeding territories according to the ideal free model. But settlement data often show that, in fact, animals do not select high quality habitat. Indeed, here we report that young common loons have a striking tendency to settle on breeding lakes that resemble their natal lake in terms of both size and pH. …
“The basic finding is that young loons chose to settle on territories that are very similar to their natal territories,” noted Dr. Piper, professor in Chapman’s Schmid Col
lege of Science and Technology. “This behavioral pattern seems to indicate that loons choose habitat so as to promote their survival, not their breeding success. This is exciting because it flies in the face of current dogma in field of habitat selection.” Here is the abstract from the research: Scientists have long presumed that animals settle on breeding territories according to the ideal free model, which presumes that animals select habitat that maximizes the number of offspring they can produce. But settlement data often show that, in fact, animals do not select high quality habitat. Indeed, here we report that young common loons have a striking tendency to settle on breeding lakes that resemble their natal lake in terms of both size and pH. Preference for natallike rather than high quality habitat, might allow a young animal to feed on familiar prey and, hence, increase its likelihood of surviving its early breeding years. More information on Dr. Piper’s research on loons can be found at The Loon Project website: story

W. H. Piper, M. W. Palmer, N. Banfield, M. W. Meyer. Can settlement in natal-like habitat explain maladaptive habitat selection?
Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2013; 280 (1765): 20130979 DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2013.0979




Illegal marijuana grows threaten fishers in the southern Sierra Nevada
(June 27, 2013) — Rat poison used on illegal marijuana grows is killing fishers in the southern Sierra Nevada, according to a recent study conducted by a team of scientists. … > full story



Vegetation on Earth: Stunning satellite imagery depicting vegetation around the world
(June 24, 2013) — Although 75 percent of the planet is an ocean of blue, the remaining 25 percent of Earth’s surface is a dynamic green. Data from the Visible-Infrared Imager/Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) instrument on board the NASA/NOAA Suomi NPP satellite is able to detect these subtle differences in greenness, and is sending extraordinary images back to Earth giving us a clearer picture of vegetation around the world. … > full story



Mapping out how to save species
(June 27, 2013) — Using colorful world maps, a new study maps out priority areas for protection to save species and preserve biodiversity. The scale is 100 times finer than previous assessments. … > full story


Clearing up confusion on future of Colorado River flows
(June 25, 2013)
Leading experts on water issues in the Western U.S. have come together to establish what is known about the future of Colorado River water, and to understand the wide range of estimates for future flows. …
The Colorado River provides water for more than 30 million people, including those in the fast-growing cities of Las Vegas, Phoenix and Los Angeles. Increasing demand for that water combined with reduced flow and the looming threat of climate change have prompted concern about how to manage the basin’s water in coming decades. In the past five years, scientific studies estimated declines of future flows ranging from 6 percent to 45 percent by 2050. A paper by University of Washington researchers and co-authors at eight institutions across the West aims to explain this wide range, and provide policymakers and the public with a framework for comparison. The study is published this week in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. “The different estimates have led to a lot of frustration,” said lead author Julie Vano, who recently earned a UW doctorate in civil and environmental engineering. “This paper puts all the studies in a single framework and identifies how they are connected.”….
The authors compared the array of flow projections for the Colorado River and came up with four main reasons for the differences. In decreasing order of importance, predictions of future flows vary because of:

  • Which climate models and future emissions scenarios were used to generate the estimates.
  • The models’ spatial resolution, which is important for capturing topography and its effect on the distribution of snow in the Colorado River’s mountainous headwaters.
  • Representation of land surface hydrology, which determines how precipitation and temperature changes will affect the land’s ability to absorb, evaporate or transport water.
  • Methods used to downscale from the roughly 200-kilometer resolution used by global climate models to the 10- to 20-kilometer resolution used by regional hydrology models.

While the paper does not determine a new estimate for future flows, it provides context for evaluating the current numbers. The 6 percent reduction estimate, for example, did not include some of the fourth-generation climate model runs that tend to predict a dryer West. And the 45 percent decrease estimate relied on models with a coarse spatial resolution that could not capture the effects of topography in the headwater regions. The analysis thus supports more moderate estimates of changes in future flows. “Drought and climate change are a one-two punch for our water supply,” said Overpeck, a professor of geosciences and of atmospheric sciences at the University of Arizona. The new paper is intended to be used by scientists, policymakers and stakeholders to judge future estimates.full story


Julie A. Vano, Bradley Udall, Daniel R. Cayan, Jonathan T. Overpeck, Levi D. Brekke, Tapash Das, Holly C. Hartmann, Hugo G. Hidalgo, Martin Hoerling, Gregory J. McCabe, Kiyomi Morino, Robert S. Webb, Kevin Werner, Dennis P. Lettenmaier. Understanding Uncertainties in Future Colorado River Streamflow. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, 2013; 130625085810007 DOI: 10.1175/BAMS-D-12-00228.1


Why are gull chicks murdered, especially on Sundays?
(June 20, 2013) — Why are gull chicks murdered especially on Sundays? Are humans somehow to blame? Researchers have discovered much more cannibalism takes place over the weekend than on weekdays (gull chicks were pecked to death by adult gulls and sometimes eaten). It turned out that gulls, especially during chick care, rely heavily on fish waste thrown overboard from fishing boats. Bad luck for these birds: at the weekend, the fishing fleet is largely in the harbor. … > full story


Placing flood mitigation on four pillars: Conclusions from 2013 central European floods
(June 27, 2013) — In future, flood mitigation in Germany should be based on four key pillars: Technical flood protection for larger built-up areas will be required just as much as greater space for rivers by means of dike relocation and integration of the agricultural sector. Furthermore, private mitigation should be supported wherever technical flood protection has so far been unable to provide sufficient protection against damage. To ensure provisions of solidarity in accommodating the residual damage, it would be sensible to introduce mitigation-based, mandatory insurance. This is what scientists at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) write in a position paper on the 2013 flooding, published in June. … >


State’s largest dam removal project groundbreaking– Carmel River

By MARTHA MENDOZA, AP National Writer Updated 12:56 am, Friday, June 21, 2013 SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (AP) — A 92-year-old dam that’s been in danger of collapse for decades is slated for demolition this summer, the largest dam to come down in California history.

The $83 million, 28-month tear down is prompting hopes that the 36-mile waterway once listed among “America’s Top Ten Most Endangered Rivers” might someday be restored to the quiet, clear ribbon that flowed from forested mountains to the Monterey Bay. In a rare case of harmony, state and local regulators, lawmakers, environmental advocates and private utility owners scheduled a joint groundbreaking ceremony for Friday morning in Carmel. They say it will be the biggest dam removed in California history.

“This resolves a problem we’ve been dealing with since 1980,” said Robert MacLean, president of dam-owner California American Water. “It’s a very innovative solution that restores the river and eliminates a seismic hazard.” Brian Stranko, who directs California’s office of The Nature Conservancy, said they’re supporting the project in hopes it will be a national model. “We’re going to confront this problem a lot in coming decades as a lot of dams are ending their useful life and creating safety issues,” he said…..


Scientists discover thriving colonies of microbes in ocean ‘plastisphere’
(June 27, 2013) — Scientists have discovered a diverse multitude of microbes colonizing and thriving on flecks of plastic that have polluted the oceans — a vast new human-made flotilla of microbial communities that they have dubbed the “plastisphere.” … > full story


Personal Grooming Products May Be Harming Great Lakes Marine Life

Could removing dead skin cells from your face each night mean doom for perch and other Great Lakes species?

By Christopher Johnston

CLEAN KILL: Microplastics in the Great Lakes may be harming wildlife. Image: Courtesy of Lorena Rios

June 25 2013 Scientific American

Three of the five Great Lakes—Huron, Superior and Erie—are awash in plastic. But it’s not the work of a Christo-like landscape artist covering the waterfront. Rather, small plastic beads, known as micro plastic, are the offenders, according to survey results to be published this summer in Marine Pollution Bulletin. “The highest counts were in the micro plastic category, less than a millimeter in diameter,” explained chemist Sherri “Sam” Mason of the State University of New York at Fredonia, who led the Great Lakes plastic pollution survey last July. “Under the scanning electron microscope, many of the particles we found were perfectly spherical plastic balls.”

Cosmetics manufacturers use these micro beads, or micro exfoliates, as abrasives in facial and body scrubs. They are too tiny for water treatment plants to filter, so they wash down the drain and into the Great Lakes. The biggest worry: fish such as yellow perch or turtles and seagulls think of them as dinner. If fish or birds eat the inert beads, the material can deprive them of nutrients from real food or get lodged in their stomachs or intestines, blocking digestive systems.

In early April, at the 245th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society in New Orleans, chemist Lorena Rios of the University of Wisconsin–Superior, announced that her team found 1,500 to 1.7 million plastic particles per square mile (2.5 square kilometers) in the lakes, with the highest concentration in Lake Erie. Rios is collaborating on the study with Mason and 5 Gyres Institute, a Los Angeles-based research group studying garbage patches in five subtropical gyres in the Atlantic, Pacific and Southern oceans.

Typically, the oceans contain a higher percentage of debris in the one- to five-millimeter-diameter size, whereas, for unknown reasons, the three Great Lakes the team studied have a higher concentration, approximately 85 percent, of micro plastics measuring less than one millimeter in diameter.



Confessions of a Former Snake Wrangler

by Edward O. Wilson Jun. 20, 2013 Science Friday June 20, 2013

I believe it will help for me to start with this letter by telling you who I really am. This requires your going back with me to the summer of 1943, in the midst of the Second World War. I had just turned fourteen, and my hometown, the little city of Mobile, Alabama, had been largely taken over by the buildup of a wartime shipbuilding industry and military air base. Although I rode my bicycle around the streets of Mobile a couple of times as a potential emergency messenger, I remained oblivious to the great events occurring in the city and world. Instead, I spent a lot of my spare time—not required to be at school—earning merit badges in my quest to reach the Eagle rank in the Boy Scouts of America. Mostly, however, I explored nearby swamps and forests, collecting ants and butterflies. At home I attended to my menagerie of snakes and black widow spiders…. I’ve told you my Pushmataha-to-Harvard story not to recommend my kind of eccentricity (although in the right circumstances it could be of advantage); and I disavow my casual approach to early formal education. I grew up in a different age. You, in contrast, are well into a different era, where opportunity is broader but more demanding. My confessional instead is intended to illustrate an important principle I’ve seen unfold in the careers of many successful scientists. It is quite simple: put passion ahead of training. Feel out in any way you can what you most want to do in science, or technology, or some other science-related profession. Obey that passion as long as it lasts. Feed it with the knowledge the mind needs to grow. Sample other subjects, acquire a general education in science, and be smart enough to switch to a greater love if one appears. But don’t just drift through courses in science hoping that love will come to you. Maybe it will, but don’t take the chance. As in other big choices in your life, there is too much at stake. Decision and hard work based on enduring passion will never fail you.


Australia extends water management expertise to Asia

June 25, 2013

Scientists from Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, are applying their knowledge in transboundary river basin management to improve the livelihoods of people living in some of the poorest parts of Asia.

CSIRO and its partners have begun work in the Koshi River Basin which stretches from China, across the Himalayas through Nepal and discharges into the Ganges River in India. The Koshi Basin is home to millions of people who rely on its fertile floodplains for their livelihoods. There is growing pressure to address development challenges in the Basin, in particular population growth and an increasing demand for energy, whilst working within constraints of natural hazards exacerbated by a changing climate, such as floods, drought, landslides, sediment movement and debris flow. In a collaborative four-year project, scientists from CSIRO’s Water for a Healthy Country Flagship will provide technical assistance to the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development’s (ICIMOD) Koshi Basin Programme. CSIRO scientists will develop an integrated basin-wide modelling system to improve management of the Koshi River Basin. This system will incorporate information on water availability, freshwater environments and the ecosystem services they provide and social considerations such as the effect of changes in water availability on livelihoods. The system will contribute to development in the Koshi Basin in a socially and environmentally sustainable manner and support national and transboundary water reforms….



New Cambodian tailorbird is an unlikely bird, in an unlikely place

Christian Science Monitor June 26, 2013 Written by Elizabeth Barber

Called the Cambodian tailorbird (Orthotomus chaktomuk), the previously undocumented bird was found in Phnom Penh, as well as at several locations, including a construction site, outside the teeming city.

The Cambodian tailorbird was identified in Phnom Penh’s urban capital. Ashish John/WCS

In Pictures New species discovered in the heart of Borneo






Global warming may affect soil microbe survival, with unknown consequences on soil fertility and erosion
June 27, 2013) — Researchers have discovered for the first time that temperature determines where key soil microbes can thrive — microbes that are critical to forming topsoil crusts in arid lands. And of concern, the scientists predict that in as little as 50 years, global warming may push some of these microbes out of their present stronghold with unknown consequences to soil fertility and erosion. … > full story


Habitat Restoration and Climate Change: Dealing with Climate Variability, Incomplete Data, and Management Decisions with Tree Translocations

Marta Benito-Garzon et al 10 JUN 2013 DOI: 10.1111/rec.12032 © 2013 Society for Ecological Restoration Abstract

Restoration programs need to increasingly address both the restitution of biodiversity and ecosystem services and the preparation of habitats for future climate change. One option to adapt habitats to climate change in the temperate zone is the translocation of southern populations to compensate for climate change effects—an option known as assisted migration (AM). Although AM is widely criticized for endangered species, forest managers are more confident that tree populations can be translocated with success because of previous experiences within native ranges. Here, we contend that translocations of tree populations are also subject to uncertainties, and we extract lessons for future programs of AM within species ranges from a well-documented failed case of population translocation of Pinus pinaster Ait. in Europe. The failure of these translocations originated from the unawareness of several unpredictable ecological and social events: cryptic maladaptation of the introduced populations, underestimation of climate variability differences between the source and target sites, and complexity in the management schemes, postponing decisions that could have been undertaken earlier. Under the no-analog conditions that are expected with climate change, management decisions need to be made with incomplete data, implying that a certain degree of maladaptation should always be expected when restoring plant populations from local or external seed sources.



Salmon Lifecycle Considerations to Guide Stream Management: Examples from California’s Central Valley
Joseph Merz, Michelle Workman, Doug Threloff, and Brad Cavallo June 2013


USDA Conservation Practices Increase Carbon Storage and Water Quality Improvement Functions: An Example from Ohio

John M. Marton et al 10 JUN 2013 DOI: 10.1111/rec.12033© 2013 Society for Ecological Restoration Abstract

We compared potential denitrification and phosphorus (P) sorption in restored depressional wetlands, restored riparian buffers, and natural riparian buffers of central Ohio to determine to what extent systems restored under the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wetland Reserve Program (WRP) and Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) provide water quality improvement benefits, and to determine which practice is more effective at nutrient retention. We also measured soil nutrient pools (organic C, N, and P) to evaluate the potential for long-term C sequestration and nutrient accumulation. Depressional wetland soils sorbed twice as much P as riparian soils, but had significantly lower denitrification rates. Phosphorus sorption and denitrification were similar between the restored and natural riparian buffers, although all Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) practices had higher denitrification than agricultural soils. Pools of organic C (2570–3320 g/m2), total N (216–243 g/m2), and total P (60–71 g/m2) were comparable among all three NRCS practices but were greater than nearby agricultural fields and less than natural wetlands in the region. Overall, restored wetlands and restored and natural riparian buffers provide ecosystem services to the landscape that were lost during the conversion to agriculture, but the delivery of services differs among conservation practices, with greater N removal by riparian buffers and greater P removal by wetlands, attributed to differences in landscape position and mineral soil composition. At the landscape, and even global level, wetland and riparian restoration in agricultural landscapes will reintroduce multiple ecosystem services (e.g. C sequestration, water quality improvement, and others) and should be considered in management plans.



Massive Heat Wave In Western U.S. Could Set Record Global Temperature

Posted: 27 Jun 2013 07:04 AM PDT

Heat forecast graphic from NWS forecast office in Phoenix

Already suffering from widespread drought and wildfires, the Western U.S. could face a record heat wave next week. [Climate Central]

A brutal and potentially historic heat wave is in store for the West as parts of Nevada, Arizona and California may get dangerously hot temperatures this weekend and into next week. In fact, by the end of the heat wave, we may see a record tied or broken for the hottest temperature ever recorded on Earth. The furnace-like heat is coming courtesy of a “stuck” weather pattern that is setting up across the U.S. and Canada. By early next week, the jet stream — a fast-moving river of air at airliner altitudes that is responsible for steering weather systems — will form the shape of a massive, slithering snake with what meteorologists refer to as a deep “ridge” across the Western states, and an equally deep trough seting up across the Central and Eastern states. All-time records are likely to be threatened in normally hot places — including Death Valley, Calif., which holds the record for the highest reliably recorded air temperature on earth at 134°F … set on July 10, 1913.… Heat waves are one of the most well-understood consequences of manmade global warming, since as global average surface temperatures increase, the probability of extreme heat events increases by a greater amount.

One study, published in the Proceedings of the American Academy of Sciences in 2012, found that the odds of extremely hot summers have significantly increased in tandem with global temperatures. Those odds, the study found, were about 1-in-300 during the 1951-1980 timeframe, but that had increased to nearly 1-in-10 by 1981-2010.


Jet stream blamed for weather extremes

San Francisco Chronicle June 26, 2013

Last week, it was responsible for downpours that led to historic floods in Alberta, as well as record-breaking heat in parts of Alaska, experts say. “While it’s not unusual to have a heat wave in the East in June, it is part of the anomalous jet… more »


Climate tug of war disrupting Australian atmospheric circulation patterns
(June 26, 2013) — Further evidence of climate change shifting atmospheric circulation in the southern Australian-New Zealand region has been identified in a new study. … > full story


Surprise species at risk from climate change
(June 24, 2013) — Most species at greatest risk from climate change are not currently conservation priorities, according to a new study that has introduced a pioneering method to assess the vulnerability of species to climate change. The paper, published in the journal PLOS ONE, is one of the biggest studies of its kind, assessing all of the world’s birds, amphibians and corals. It draws on the work of more than 100 scientists over a period of five years, including Wits PhD student and leader of the study, Wendy Foden.

Up to 83% of birds, 66% of amphibians and 70% of corals that were identified as highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change are not currently considered threatened with extinction on The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. They are therefore unlikely to be receiving focused conservation attention, according to the study. “The findings revealed some alarming surprises,” says Foden, who conducted the study while formerly working for the IUCN Global Species’ Programme’s Climate Change Unit, which she founded six years ago. “We hadn’t expected that so many species and areas that were not previously considered to be of concern would emerge as highly vulnerable to climate change. Clearly, if we simply carry on with conservation as usual, without taking climate change into account, we’ll fail to help many of the species and areas that need it most.”The study’s novel approach looks at the unique biological and ecological characteristics that make species more or less sensitive or adaptable to climate change. Conventional methods have focussed largely on measuring the amount of change to which species are likely to be exposed. … > full story


Wendy B. Foden, Stuart H. M. Butchart, Simon N. Stuart, Jean-Christophe Vié, H. Resit Akçakaya, Ariadne Angulo, Lyndon M. DeVantier, Alexander Gutsche, Emre Turak, Long Cao, Simon D. Donner, Vineet Katariya, Rodolphe Bernard, Robert A. Holland, Adrian F. Hughes, Susannah E. O’Hanlon, Stephen T. Garnett, Çagan H. Şekercioğlu, Georgina M. Mace. Identifying the World’s Most Climate Change Vulnerable Species: A Systematic Trait-Based Assessment of all Birds, Amphibians and Corals. PLoS ONE, 2013; 8 (6): e65427 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0065427


Farming carbon: Study reveals potent carbon-storage potential of human-made wetlands
(June 20, 2013) — The goal of restoring or creating wetlands on agricultural lands is almost always to remove nutrients and improve water quality. But new research shows that constructed marshes also excel at pulling carbon dioxide from the air and holding it long-term in soil, suggesting that farmers and landowners may also want to build wetlands to “farm” carbon. … > full story


Changing ocean temperatures, circulation patterns affecting young Atlantic cod food supply
(June 20, 2013) — Changing ocean water temperatures and circulation patterns have profoundly affected key Northeast U.S. Continental Shelf zooplankton species in recent decades, and may be influencing the recovery of Atlantic cod and other fish stocks in the region. Researchers have found that zooplankton species critical for the survival of Atlantic cod larvae have declined in abundance in the same areas where Atlantic cod stocks have struggled to rebuild after an extended period of overfishing. … > full story

Scientist: ‘Miami, As We Know It Today, Is Doomed. It’s Not A Question Of If. It’s A Question Of When.’

Posted: 23 Jun 2013 09:40 AM PDT

Jeff Goodell has a must-read piece in Rolling Stone, “Goodbye, Miami: By century’s end, rising sea levels will turn the nation’s urban fantasyland into an American Atlantis. But long before the city is completely underwater, chaos will begin.” Goodell has talked to many of the leading experts on Miami including Harold Wanless, chair of University of Miami’s geological sciences, department, source of the headline quote. The reason climate change dooms Miami is a combination of sea level rise, the inevitability of ever more severe storms and storm surges — and its fateful, fatal geology and topology, which puts “more than $416 billion in assets at risk to storm-related flooding and sea-level rise”: South Florida has two big problems. The first is its remarkably flat topography. Half the area that surrounds Miami is less than five feet above sea level. Its highest natural elevation, a limestone ridge that runs from Palm Beach to just south of the city, averages a scant 12 feet. With just three feet of sea-level rise, more than a third of southern Florida will vanish; at six feet, more than half will be gone; if the seas rise 12 feet, South Florida will be little more than an isolated archipelago surrounded by abandoned buildings and crumbling overpasses. And the waters won’t just come in from the east – because the region is so flat, rising seas will come in nearly as fast from the west too, through the Everglades. Even worse, South Florida sits above a vast and porous limestone plateau. “Imagine Swiss cheese, and you’ll have a pretty good idea what the rock under southern Florida looks like,” says Glenn Landers, a senior engineer at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. This means water moves around easily – it seeps into yards at high tide, bubbles up on golf courses, flows through underground caverns, corrodes building foundations from below. “Conventional sea walls and barriers are not effective here,” says Robert Daoust, an ecologist at ARCADIS, a Dutch firm that specializes in engineering solutions to rising seas.

The latest research “suggests that sea level could rise more than six feet by the end of the century,” as Goodell notes, and “Wanless believes that it could continue rising a foot each decade after that.”



Nature Climate Change | Commentary


In recent years the global warming trend has plateaued, despite increasing anthropogenic emissions. Now research attributes this plateau to an increase in ocean heat uptake, through retrospective predictions of up to 5 years in length. The ability to hindcast this warming plateau strengthens our confidence in the robustness of climate models.


Most weather-related aircraft incidents are caused by atmospheric turbulence; however, the effects of changing climate are not known. Climate model simulations show that clear-air turbulence, associated with jet streams, changes significantly for the transatlantic flight corridor when atmospheric carbon dioxide is doubled. These results suggest that climate change will lead to bumpier transatlantic flights by the middle of this century.



Climate change to shrink bison, profit
(June 20, 2013) — A researcher finds that during the next 50 years, future generations of bison will be smaller in size and weigh less. Climate is likely to reduce the nutritional quality of grasses, causing the animals to grow more slowly. … > full story





President Obama’s Climate Action Plan: Infographic, Video


Watch President Obama’s speech on his plan to reduce carbon pollution and prepare our country for the impacts of climate change.

See the Plan


Economists Have A One-Page Solution To Climate Change

NPR June 28, 2013

Written by David Kestenbaum

Climate change seems like this complicated problem with a million pieces. But Henry Jacoby, an economist at MIT’s business school, says there’s really just one thing you need to do to solve the problem: Tax carbon emissions.



Moral Majority: Team Obama Finally Embraces The Winning Argument For Climate Action

By Joe Romm on Jun 27, 2013 at 6:15 pm

“… remind everyone who represents you at every level of government that sheltering future generations against the ravages of climate change is a prerequisite for your vote” — Obama 6/25/13

“We have a moral obligation to act” — #1 message in post-speech talking points from team Obama

“Republican leaders have a clear strategy for combating President Barack Obama’s climate agenda: Don’t talk about the science” — Politico 6/27/60

“Once third-rail issues transform into moral imperatives, impossibilities sometimes surrender to new realities — Salon 2/13/13

Wednesday, the Supreme Court sided with marriage equality. The Court struck down the unconstitutional Defense of Marriage Act and re-opened the door for gay marriage in California.

I’m sure you all know the argument that won in the Supreme Court, the argument that has led toward a sharp swing of public support for LGBT rights in the past decade, the one repeated endlessly by advocates for change: Legalizing gay marriage would be a big job creator. Yes, in the face of strong religious and conservative objections, the public and the Court were persuaded by the growing call for a jobs plan from florists, caterers, photographers, wedding planners, DJs, celebrity bookers, gown and tuxedo stores, marriage counselors and even divorce attorneys.

Oh wait, that wasn’t the winning argument. As Salon explained in a late 2011 article, “Gay rights’ surprise weapon: Morality,” what “moved gay marriage into the mainstream in 2011″ was “morality.” ….


Obama’s climate plan takes aim at coal plants

JONATHAN FAHEY, AP Energy Writer Associated Press June 26, 2013

The plan aims to reduce power-plant emissions of carbon dioxide, increase America’s reliance on natural gas and renewables and make trucks, homes and businesses more efficient. Obama also seeks to increase funding for clean energy research by 30… more »


On climate change, Obama bypasses Congress with ambitious plan
By Juliet Eilperin, Washington Post, Published: June 25 E-mail the writer

President Obama delivered his most forceful push for action on global warming on Tuesday, declaring that his administration would impose tighter pollution controls on coal- and gas-fired utilities and establish strict conditions for approval of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.

Obama also announced that the government would take climate change into consideration in its everyday operations. The shift could affect decisions on a range of issues, including bridge heights, flood insurance rates and how the military gets electricity overseas.

The actions make clear that the president will bypass Congress in seeking to reshape the federal government and the nation’s electricity sector. The aggressive posture also sets up major confrontations with the fossil fuel industry and its Republican allies, who immediately vowed to punish Democrats in elections next year for waging a “war on coal” by setting new limits on carbon emissions. Speaking to college students and environmental activists at Georgetown University, the president mocked those who disclaim any connection between human activity and climate change and suggested that curbing carbon emissions amounted to a moral obligation owed to future Americans. “I refuse to condemn your generation and future generations to a planet that’s beyond fixing,” he told the crowd, adding later, “We don’t have time for a meeting of the Flat Earth Society.”

In perhaps the most significant policy unveiled Tuesday, Obama ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to propose limits on carbon dioxide emissions from existing coal- and gas-fired utilities by 2015.

The president also surprised supporters and detractors alike by announcing that he would approve the Keystone XL pipeline — which would carry crude oil from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico — only if “does not significantly exacerbate the climate problem.” It remains to be seen how much practical effect his declaration will have on the final pipeline decision, however. A draft environmental assessment by the State Department found that blocking the project would not translate into fewer greenhouse gas emissions because the crude oil destined for the pipeline would be transported through other means, such as by rail.,,,,



What’s in Obama’s plan to combat global warming

MATTHEW DALY, Associated Press Associated Press June 26, 2013

Obama on Tuesday announced plans to reduce domestic carbon dioxide emissions by 17 percent between 2005 and 2020 and “put an end to the limitless dumping of carbon pollution.” Other aspects of the plan would boost renewable energy production on… more »


10 Essential Measures in President Obama’s Climate Plan June 26, 2013 | View Online

By Richard W. Caperton, Daniel J. Weiss, and Andrew Light

In a speech on climate change at Georgetown University, President Barack Obama announced a comprehensive “Climate Action Plan” to reduce U.S. pollution responsible for climate change, better coordinate international efforts to solve the problem of climate change, and provide additional protection from the effects of climate change that have already begun. The president’s plan rightly includes many additional measures to reduce pollution, invest in energy efficiency and clean renewable sources of energy, and make our cities more resilient to future extreme weather events both at home and abroad. All of these actions can occur under existing law and without additional funds. But congressional support for providing additional revenue for investments in efficiency, renewable energy, and community resilience would yield less pollution, more health protection, and safer communities for all Americans and their children. Here are 10 of the most important aspects of the president’s plan.

What President Obama’s Climate Plan Means for the Ocean

By Michael Conathan and Shiva Polefka June 26, 2013

While the president’s newly announced plan to curb energy demand, make power plants cleaner, and support more renewable energy production on public lands isn’t a direct mandate for our oceans, it is a good step toward creating less carbon pollution and emitting less of the other greenhouse gases that result in these enormous ocean problems. There are several additional ocean-focused steps President Obama can take today that will help tackle climate change and better protect marine ecosystems. Oceans have absorbed a tremendous amount of human-generated carbon pollution—between 20 percent and 35 percent of anthropogenic carbon dioxide, according to the most rigorous peer-reviewed estimates. And the results of all that humanity-saving carbon absorption are beginning to show. Our oceans are now more acidic than they have been in 20 million years, and the rate of acidification is still increasing faster than it has in more than 300 million years. While this doesn’t mean your skin will melt off if you dip a toe in the ocean, it does make life increasingly difficult for marine microorganisms at the bottom of the ocean food chain, and it therefore has dire implications for the rest of the world’s food web. Perhaps more acutely, carbon pollution is already creating hardship for the shellfish industry. Oyster growers in Washington state experienced a 60 percent to 80 percent drop in production from 2006 to 2009 as a direct result of acidifying waters in Puget Sound. Climate change’s greenhouse effect is also causing an increase in sea surface temperatures, which has had a dramatic impact on coral species and is leading to displacement of commercial and recreational fish stocks. In addition to being important for coastal economies, fish is the primary source of protein for more than 3 billion people. But as the oceans warm, fish populations are migrating north to find water that meets their biological needs, and fishermen and the people they feed are beginning to lose access to their traditional species.


Read more here.

Clean Air Act, Reinterpreted, Would Focus on Flexibility and State-Level Efforts

By JUSTIN GILLIS NYTimes June 26, 2013

President Obama is staking part of his legacy on a big risk: that he can substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions by stretching the intent of a law decades old.



At Last, an Action Plan on Climate

By THE EDITORIAL BOARD NY Times June 26, 2013

President Obama’s proposals to cut greenhouse gas emission will require a personal commitment.


Bittersweet Achievement on Climate – opinion

By JASON BORDOFF and MICHAEL LEVI NY Times June 26, 2013

Obama’s new rules are no replacement for Congressional action.



Calgary floods spotlight cities’ costly failure to plan for climate change June 28, 2013

Many Canadian cities and towns are ill-prepared for the rising frequency of catastrophic weather events like the southern Alberta floods, and it’s a problem that taxpayers will ultimately end up paying for, climate change experts say. “There are other


Soldiers, Cowboys, and Pilots: Report Finds that National Wildlife Refuges Deliver Surprising Benefits to People

Coalition Warns that Slashing Funds Will Be Rude Awakening for Americans

Washington, DC – As Congress wrestles with next year’s budget, the Cooperative Alliance for Refuge Enhancement (CARE) warns that proposed funding cuts to the nation’s federal conservation lands will have big impacts for more than just wildlife. While the National Wildlife Refuge System is charged with conserving wildlife and providing recreational opportunities to the public, a report released by CARE today describes some of the unlikely benefits that the nation’s 561 wildlife refuges add to the health, safety, and economic well-being of the American people. The broad coalition is urging Congress to provide the Refuge System with sufficient funds to allow these benefits to continue.   Among the most surprising benefits described in America’s Wildlife Refuges 2013: Delivering the Unexpected:

  • Eighty percent of the nation’s 561 wildlife refuges provide natural buffers against urbanization and other development pressures, thereby preserving undeveloped lands and airspace that enable military units to execute their vital training missions.
  • Conservation easements on nearly 3.5 million acres of refuge lands allow many private landowners to keep their ranches and farms in production.
  • Henderson Airfield on the remote Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, one of only a handful of emergency landing sites available for transpacific flights, has been estimated to save commercial airlines at least $28 million annually and, in 2012 alone, was used by nearly 50 private and military flights for emergency or refueling purposes.
  • Wildlife refuges generate more than $32.3 billion each year in natural goods and services, such as buffering coastal communities from storm surges, filtering pollutants from municipal water supplies, and pollinating food crops.
  • Refuge employees often double as first responders to natural disasters and other emergencies in their local communities.
  • The more than 47 million hunters, anglers, wildlife watchers, and other recreationists who visit wildlife refuges generate between $2.1 and $4.2 billion in sales to local communities each year.


States pressed for limits on gray wolf protections

JOHN FLESHER, Associated Press, MATTHEW BROWN, Associated Press Associated Press June 28, 2013

(AP) — Wildlife officials from western states lobbied for strict limits on federal protections for gray wolves before the Obama administration proposed to take the animals off the endangered list across most of the Lower 48 states, documents… more »


Livestock antibiotic use rampant despite warnings

June 24, 2013 SF Chronicle Carolyn Lochhead- ….Kathy Webster, program manager at Leftcoast Grassfed
Baucus, Whitehouse Act to Protect Tourism, Recreation Jobs from Climate Change

Senators’ Bill Provides Climate Adaptation Tools Called for in GAO Report

Washington, DC – As rising sea levels, more severe storms, raging wildfires and prolonged droughts continue to increase, U.S. Senators Max Baucus (D-MT) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) today introduced legislation to provide local communities with better tools to prepare for extreme weather and require federal agencies to work more efficiently by implementing a single coordinated strategy for protecting, restoring, and conserving the natural resources that American tourism and recreation jobs and local economies depend on. The bill, the Safeguarding America’s Future and the Environment (SAFE) Act (S. 1202), comes on the heels of a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that notes “recreation and tourism generate billions of dollars for regional economies through activities such as fishing, hunting, skiing, hiking, and diving and some of these economic benefits could be reduced or lost as a result of the impacts from climate change.”  The report highlights the need for additional tools provided in Baucus’ and Whitehouse’ SAFE Act, including grant funding for local communities and a central clearinghouse for climate science, so communities and agencies don’t have to reinvent the wheel and have access to a single source for good science.

“Outdoor heritage is part of who we are in Montana, and taking smart steps to protect our outdoor way of life from increased wildfires, prolonged drought and reduced snowpack is just plain commonsense,” Baucus said. “Outdoor recreation supports 64,000 Montana jobs each year, one in five Montana jobs is tied to agriculture, and our timber industry is critical to western communities – every single one of those jobs depends on maintaining our healthy wide open spaces, forests and waterways. This bill gives local communities the tools they need to protect Montana’s outdoor jobs and streamlines federal bureaucracy to make sure we have a smart, coordinated plan in place moving forward.”



Seattle Adopts Bold Climate Action Plan, Aims To Be Carbon Neutral By 2050

Posted: 18 Jun 2013 02:27 PM PDTKirsten Gibson is an intern for ThinkProgress.

The Seattle City Council unanimously passed a far-reaching Climate Action Plan Monday, with the ultimate goal of reaching zero net emissions by 2050.

The ambitious plan, crafted by city officials and community members, provides a long-term vision for reducing the city’s greenhouse gas emissions while building vibrant, prosperous communities.







Coastal Conservancy Announces Availability of “Climate Ready” Grants

The California State Coastal Conservancy has announced the availability of funding for projects through its Climate Ready program.  The grants are intended to encourage local governments and non-governmental organizations to act now to prepare for a changing climate by advancing planning and implementation of on-the-ground actions that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and lessen the impacts of climate change on California’s coastal communities and natural resources.

Applications must be received via email or on a CD by August 28, 2013.  The Coastal Conservancy expects to award grants in early 2014. The Climate Ready Grant Announcement can be obtained from the Conservancy’s website.


CA Dept of Water Resources—Regional Flood Atlases

On Wednesday, DWR released “regional flood atlases” detailing flood control facilities, levee conditions, etc. for 6 regions throughout the state.

Background on the development of these documents, as well as links to all six atlases can be found here:




New Moore Foundation Funding Supports UCSB Ecology Synthesis Center Embarking on a New Era

June 20, 2013 (Santa Barbara, Calif.) –– Whether it’s illuminating the causes of California’s exceptional plant diversity, dispelling the myth that jellyfish blooms are increasing throughout the world’s oceans, or identifying key pathways for introduction of non-native forest pests into the U.S., UC Santa Barbara’s National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) is always at the expanding frontier of ecology research. And those are only recent examples of the ambitious endeavors undertaken by NCEAS since its 1995 inception. In fact, the center itself was considered an innovative advancement at the time, and has since inspired similar synthesis centers worldwide. All of which makes NCEAS’s latest project perhaps its most intriguing yet: making over its successful model by broadening its reach to directly include the potential users of scientific information –– non-governmental organizations (NGOs), policymakers, and resource managers –– in the process itself. New funding from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation will enable NCEAS to do just that. A $2.4 million, three-year grant will help cover the center’s operating costs through 2015 –– and see the launch of new initiatives to ensure its viability, and relevance, far into the future…..




Skinks, Wrentits and the Genetics of AdaptationFramework for maximizing evolutionary potential in the Southern California protected areas

If you map it, you can conserve it, is the mantra for zoologist Tom Smith, Director of UCLA’s Center for Tropical Research, and a team of researchers who worked for the past three years to identify places in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area where birds, lizards, skinks, and bobcats are adapting fastest.  The maps that translate their cutting-edge genetic research will help land managers stack the odds in favor of preserving natural processes as temperatures climb. The success of their project, originally funded by the California Landscape Conservation Cooperative, helped convince the National Science Foundation to award them $5 million for similar work in Gabon and Cameroon.  These Central African countries are the last refuges of the African forest elephant, and a host of endemic and as-yet-undiscovered species.  With the feathers and drops of blood the researchers collect, they’ll be able to map genetic adaptation across the landscape of both countries, an area roughly the size of Colorado and California combined. “The take home message is that this is an expansion, in every way, of the work we did for the LCC in California,” said Ryan Harrigan, a post-doctoral researcher. To learn more about Tom Smith’s framework for maximizing evolutionary potential in the Southern California protected areas, view our recorded webinar by clicking here.


Corte Madera Innovative Wetland Adaptation Techniques Project webpage.  BCDC– On the project webpage you will find links to the recently completed technical report, a 4-page project overview, a brief presentation on the project, and the project science reports.

NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries National Condition Report
for the system of sanctuaries.  You can compare how well GFNMS resources are doing in comparison with the other national marine sanctuaries throughout the nation.  Also added are highlights of findings at each sanctuary and an event time line.



Sustainability for the Nation: Resource Connections and Governance Linkages
July 24, 2013
Event will be webcast.

The National Research Council’s Science and Technology for Sustainability Program (STS) and the University of California, Davis, will be holding a special event related to a new report, Sustainability for the Nation: Resource Connections and Governance Linkages, which provides a decision framework for policymakers to examine the consequences and operational benefits of sustainability-oriented programs.



Past, Present, Future of Redwoods: A Redwood Ecology & Climate Symposium

Wednesday, August 14, 2013 from 8:30 AM to 6:00 PM (PDT) Save the Redwoods League

David B Brower Center 2150 Allston Way Berkeley, CA 94704

  • The science of saving the redwoods – Emily Burns
  • Decoding millennium-old tree rings – Allyson Carroll
  • Phenomenal redwood growth – Stephen Sillett
  • Mighty forest footprints – Bob Van Pelt
  • Seedling responses to drought – Anthony Ambrose
  • Chemical signals of climate and physiology in redwoods – Todd Dawson
  • California climate trends – Healy Hamilton
  • Why we must study forests – Jerry Franklin

Please RSVP by August 1, 2013 to confirm your seat as Symposium space is limited. Invitations are nontransferable. Click here for transit and parking information.

Questions? Contact Emily Burns,


5-6 SEPTEMBER 2013 for Pacific Northwest Climate Science Conference

The 4th annual Pacific Northwest Climate Science Conference will be held in Portland 5-6 September 2013. The conference provides a forum for researchers and practitioners to convene and exchange scientific results, challenges, and solutions related to the impacts of climate on people, natural resources, and infrastructure in the Pacific Northwest. The conference attracts a wide range of participants including policy- and decision-makers, resource managers, and scientists, from public agencies, sovereign tribal nations, non-governmental organizations, and more.   As such, the conference emphasizes oral presentations that are comprehensible to a wide audience and on topics of broad interest. This conference is an opportunity to stimulate and showcase decision-relevant climate science in the Pacific Northwest….We seek presentations, either oral or poster, that describe the region’s climate variability and change over time; connections between climate and forest, water, fish, and wildlife resources; climate-related natural hazards such as wildfire, drought, flooding, invasive species and shoreline change; and the emerging science of ocean acidification.  We also seek case studies of efforts to incorporate science into planning, policy, and resource management programs and decisions; new approaches to data mining or data development; decision support tools and services related to climate adaptation; and fresh approaches or new understanding of the challenges of communicating climate science. We invite you to suggest or organize a cluster of abstracts around a theme that might be used to design a special session.  Abstract submission is now open.  Registration and lodging information will be available soon.  See




Listservers/Course Announcements

Listservers:  NCTC Climate Change Listserver (upcoming webinars and courses): send an email to Danielle Larock at   LCC listservers (see your LCC’s websiteOneNOAA Science Webinars  EPA Climate Change and Water E-Newsletter  CIRCulator (Oregon Climate Change Research Institute) Climate Impacts Group (Univ. Washington)

NCTC Course Announcements (Registration for these courses is through DOILearn )

July 15-19, 2013 – “Scenario Planing toward Climate Change Adaptation” ALC3194 – development led by the Wildlife Conservation Society
August 27-29, 2013 – “Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment” ALC3184
October 28-November 1, 2013 – “Climate Smart Conservation” ALC3195 – development led by the National Wildlife Federation. This pilot course is based on a forthcoming guide to the principles and practice of Climate-Smart Conservation.




New Marin County climate action group:





Smart’s Battery Leasing Scheme Proves Popular

June 25, 2013 by Christopher DeMorro

Battery leasing for electric cars is all the rage in Europe, shaving thousands of dollars off of the asking price in exchange for a small monthly lease payment. Smart has deployed this strategy in the U.S. market, and almost 90% of ForTwo Electric Drive buyers opted to lease the battery for $5,000 off the asking price. As the single most expensive (and heavy) component of electric vehicles, battery packs have proven a significant drag on EV sales so far. But rather than selling batteries with EVs, why not drop some money off of the MSRP and lease the battery to buyers instead? I originally railed against this idea, but I’ve since had a change of heart. Seeing EV sales struggle will change a man’s mind.



21 Percent of Homes Emit 50 Percent of CO2

—By Julia Whitty Mother Jones| Thu Jun. 27, 2013 3:05 AM PDT

Not all homes pollute equally—even in the relatively homogeneous world of a mid-sized town in Switzerland. A study of a village of 3,000 finds that 21 percent of households belched half the town’s greenhouse gases. The biggest factors running up the carbon tabs of the disproportionate polluters: the size of their houses and the length of their commutes. Airline travel wasn’t factored into this research.

The energy people use to power their homes and drive their lives accounts for more than 70 percent of CO2 emissions, write the authors in  Environmental Science & Technology. But in addressing that problem policymakers and environmentalists mostly point their fingers at the supply side: power plants, heating and cooling systems, and the fuel efficiency of cars. The Swiss researchers chose to parse it differently and developed a lifecycle assessment model of how energy consumption for housing and car travel, per household and per capita, impacts greenhouse gas emissions.

Their conclusion: energy conservation in a small number of households could go a long way to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. If the super polluting homes cut their emissions in half, the authors write, “the total emissions of the community would be reduced by 25 percent.”


Bloomberg News

Renewable Energy to Beat Gas in Power Mix by 2016, IEA Says (1)

By Ehren Goossens

June 26, 2013

Renewable energy may supply more electricity than nuclear reactors or natural gas by 2016, spurred by declining costs and growing demand in emerging markets, the International Energy Agency said.

Wind, solar, bioenergy and geothermal use may grow 40 percent in the next five years, double the 20 percent pace in 2011, the Paris-based organization said today in a report on the industry. Excluding hydropower, cleaner sources of energy may reach 8 percent of total world electricity generation capacity by 2018, compared with 4 percent in 2011, the IEA said. The findings are another indication that renewables increasingly are rivaling fossil fuels on price without subsidy as the cost of wind and solar technologies declines. The report suggests ways that governments can do more to reduce the pollution blamed for global warming. “Renewable power sources are increasingly standing on their own merits versus new fossil-fuel generation,” IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven said in New York today. “Many renewables no longer require high economic incentives.”



A cheaper drive to ‘cool’ fuels
(June 21, 2013) — Chemists have developed an inexpensive catalyst that uses the electricity generated from solar energy to convert carbon dioxide into synthetic fuels. … > full story


Higher levels of stray gases found in water wells near shale gas sites
(June 24, 2013) — Homeowners living within one kilometer of shale gas wells appear to be at higher risk of having their drinking water contaminated by stray gases, according to a new study. … > full story


New York’s ‘Food Recycling’ Program Could Be The Future Of Waste And Energy

Posted: 17 Jun 2013 12:25 PM PDT

(Credit: Shutterstock)

New Yorkers’ food scraps will soon be turned into electricity, thanks to a new initiative announced Sunday by the office of Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The new “food recycling” program will call for the construction of a composting facility in the New York region to take 100,000 tons of food waste a year — just one tenth of the total one million pounds created by New York residents annually. Compost will be turned into biogas, with the express purpose of helping the city lower its electric bill.

The launch of the program will be voluntary, and city officials estimate that 150,000 homes will take part, along with 600 schools and 100 high-rise buildings, the New York Times reports. By 2015 or 2016, however, officials hope to have the whole city on board.

The program will be hugely beneficial for New Yorkers’ wallets. Just days ago, a report found that Americans throw out 40 percent of their food. That waste amounts to $400 per person annually.

Additionally, in 2012, the New York Citizens Budget Commission estimated that (PDF) New York would spend “$2 billion in tax dollars throwing out its garbage,” and about $300 million of that was on the process of disposing of the waste. Much of New York’s garbage is shipped out-of-state to landfills in Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Virginia. The Commission estimates that it cost taxpayers “$95 per ton for the three million tons the City exports to landfills,” meaning that New Yorkers are not just wasting money on food, they’re also wasting money on throwing it out.

The new program, however, will actually bring down costs of transporting waste by bringing a composting facility to the area. At the same time, by harnessing biofuels, it will introduce more sustainable and cheaper energy: Rotting food at landfills emit 17 percent of the total methane produced by the US. That methane goes up into the atmosphere and acts as one of the most potent greenhouse gases.


NOAA study finds fishing tops U.S. lightning death activities
(June 24, 2013) — NOAA’s National Weather Service has discovered that 64 percent of lightning deaths since 2006 occurred while people were participating in leisure activities, with fishing topping the list at 26 deaths. … > full story



A slimy marine organism fit for biofuel and salmon feed
(June 25, 2013) — It sounds too good to be true: a common marine species that consumes microorganisms and can be converted into much-needed feed for salmon or a combustible biofuel for filling petrol tanks. And it can be cultivated in vast amounts: 200 kg per square metre of ocean surface area. … > full story






Resilience in the wake of Superstorm Sandy
(June 24, 2013) — Researchers have released results of a major survey exploring resilience of people and neighborhoods directly affected by Superstorm Sandy. The study reveals the importance of social factors such as neighborhood bonds and social supports in coping with the storm and its aftermath. … > full story


Type 1 diabetes vaccine shows promise in early study: researchers

By Julie Steenhuysen. CHICAGO | Wed Jun 26, 2013 2:04pm EDT. CHICAGO (Reuters) – An early stage study suggests an experimental vaccine may be able to tame bits of the immune system that go haywire in people with type 1 diabetes, offering hope for a new way to delay or prevent the autoimmune disease, researchers said on Wednesday. For more than four decades, scientists have tried different ways of manipulating the immune system to stop the destruction of insulin-producing cells that is responsible for type 1 diabetes. The disease affects as many as 3 million Americans…..After 12 weeks of shots given once a week, patients who got the vaccine showed signs that they helped preserve some of the remaining insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas without causing serious side effects.The vaccine also reduced the number of killer immune cells known as T cells. And patients who got the active vaccine had higher levels of C-peptides – a remnant of insulin production in the blood that suggests the presence of more working beta cells. Steinman admits the vaccine is far from commercial use, but the study is promising enough to do a bigger study.”So far, it looks like it is doing what we want,” he said….

Could a diet high in fish and flax help prevent broken hips?
(June 27, 2013) — Higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the blood may reduce the risk for hip fractures in postmenopausal women, recent research suggests. … > full story


Link shown between Crohn’s disease and virus
(June 27, 2013) — A new study reveals that all children with Crohn’s disease that were examined had a commonly occurring virus — an enterovirus — in their intestines. This link has previously not been shown for this chronic inflammatory intestinal disorder. … > full story


Scientists find neighbor star with 3 planets in life-friendly orbits—we might need it!!

Tue Jun 25, 2013 8:27pm EDT

* Star located 22 light years from Earth

* Planets in star’s ‘habitable zone’ where water can exist

By Irene Klotz

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., June 25 (Reuters) – A neighbor star has at least six planets in orbit, including three circling at the right distance for water to exist, a condition believed to be necessary for life, scientists said on Tuesday.

Previously, the star known as Gliese 667C was found to be hosting three planets, one of which was located in its so-called “habitable zone” where temperatures could support liquid surface water. That planet and two newly found sibling worlds are bigger than Earth, but smaller than Neptune.

“This is the first time that three such planets have been spotted orbiting in this zone in the same system,” astronomer Paul Butler, with the Carnegie Institution in Washington, D.C., said in a statement.

Scientists say the discovery of three planets in a star’s habitable zone raises the odds of finding Earth-like worlds where conditions might have been suitable for life to evolve.
















Conservation Science News July 5, 2013










PRBO is now Point Blue Conservation Science:  We have changed our name to Point Blue Conservation Science (formerly PRBO) reflecting the expanded depth and reach of our work, building on our long-term bird ecology expertise.  Our 140 Point Blue
scientists and educators work with hundreds of partners, pointing the way forward to secure a healthy, blue planet well into the future.  We have changed our name to Point Blue
to more directly address climate change, together with other environmental threats, through nature-based solutions that benefit wildlife and people.  For more information please see From Point Reyes to Point Blue as well as our first Point Blue Quarterly.  You might also enjoy viewing our inspiring ~6 minute video introducing Point Blue that includes partner and staff highlights as well as a brief congratulatory video from Congressman Jared Huffman (CA-2).  Our new website,, is under construction through the summer. Until then, our existing website,, will remain active.




SF Bay Restoration: Lines in the Mud-The Battle for Softer Shores

by Ariel Rubissow Okamoto on June 30, 2013 BAY NATURE in Habitats: Freshwater, Bay, Marine, Stewardship

A complex of mature tidal channels at Arrowhead Marsh in Oakland. Photo: Steven dosRemedios

There’s a line in the mud in the Bay Area. It’s a blue line for hydrologists, a green line for biologists, and a red line for environmentalists. Moving the line, which was painstakingly drawn in the 1990s by those who care about wetland ecology and endangered species protection, is considered beyond the pale. ….Once upon a time we had 196,000 acres of tidal wetlands ringing San Francisco Bay. The Bay formed when ice caps melted and the seas rose 10,000 years ago, flooding river valleys as far inland as present-day Napa. Those were the days when the baylands were much more than a patch of pickleweed or a meadow of cordgrass: Creeks and rain emptied the soils and runoff of whole watersheds onto the marsh plain. Each marsh had high and low spots, varied vegetation, and branching channels so labyrinthine it wasn’t clear where one ended and another began. Forty percent of the land area of California drained into this vast estuary and through its marshes. Then, in short order, settlers dug ditches and heaped up walls of dirt, and later concrete, around all these wetlands. They drained them and sent in the horse and plow, the cow and oats. Soon thereafter cities and towns grew up on the shore and we piled up more dirt in the water–filling the Bay to get more real estate. Along the way, we lost 90 percent of our tidal wetlands…..


The impact of climate change on the Bay’s natural systems will be profound. Storms will be more intense and more frequent; droughts could be longer and hotter; the timing of snowmelt and runoff into the estuary will change too. “There’s big uncertainty about our end points,” says Grenier, who in the spring of 2013 was coordinating the ambitious effort to update the 1999 Goals, largely to adjust for the rising sea levels.

The climate change curveball means the Goals’ focus needs to shift to a dynamic, rather than static, end product. In pressing the “reset” button on the Goals, Grenier and the rest of her update team are concentrating on building adaptability. For example, Goals teams are talking about getting freshwater back into the marsh, to better re-create the natural gradient from land to sea and from fresh to brackish to salty marshes. This more complex marsh not only builds up elevation faster, but also sequesters more carbon. And they’re promoting using wetlands and transitional zones, rather than conventional levees, to buffer developed areas from waves and storm surges.

Selling the idea to local planning groups, experts are quick to invoke the memory of New Orleans, and to suggest that wetlands do a much better job of protecting shorelines and regional infrastructure than big levees can. “We switched gears on wetland restoration at a critical time,” says Jeremy Lowe. “The threat of more frequent flooding brought the value of these public lands more to the fore. Instead of throwing up our hands or building big structures to keep the Bay out, we’re in a good place to allow the estuary to evolve naturally and provide protection for our developed areas.”








Declines in ecosystem productivity fueled by nitrogen-induced species loss
(July 3, 2013) — Humans have been affecting their environment since the ancestors of Homo sapiens first walked upright, but never has their impact been more detrimental than in the 21st century. Human-driven environmental disturbances, such as increasing levels of reactive nitrogen and carbon dioxide, have multiple effects, including changes in biodiversity, species composition, and ecosystem functioning. Pieces of this puzzle have been widely examined but this new study puts it all together by examining multiple elements. …
According to the team’s recent findings,
adding nitrogen to grasslands led to an initial increase in ecosystem productivity. However, that increase proved unsustainable because the increased nitrogen resulted in a loss of plant diversity. “In combination with earlier studies, our results show that the loss of biodiversity, no matter what might cause it, is a major driver of ecosystem functioning,” said Tilman. According to the authors, previous studies have underestimated the impact of biodiversity on ecosystem functioning. “Many people expect that only rare or subordinate species will be lost and that their loss will have negligible effects on ecosystem functioning,” says lead author Forest Isbell, a postdoctoral associate in the Department of Ecology, Evolution & Behavior at the University of Minnesota in Saint Paul. “But we found that the most common species were lost under fertilization, creating a substantial decrease in productivity over time.” Furthermore, the results of this study show that changes in biodiversity can be important intermediary drivers of the long-term effects of human-caused environmental changes on ecosystem functioning. For example, accounting for the effects of nitrogen on plant diversity could improve predictions of the long-term impacts of nitrogen on productivity. While the researchers expect their results will be relevant in other ecosystems, they also hope to explore the practical implications of their results for sustaining forage yields in diverse pastures and hay meadows. In particular, they hope to determine whether maintaining plant diversity over time can sustain the productivity of these managed grasslands…..full story

F. Isbell, P. B. Reich, D. Tilman, S. E. Hobbie, S. Polasky, S. Binder. Nutrient enrichment, biodiversity loss, and consequent declines in ecosystem productivity. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2013; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1310880110



POINT BLUE in the news:


Snowy Plovers nest at Stinson Beach for first time in 30 years

by Claire Peaslee Bay Nature blog on June 26, 2013

An adult snowy plover leads the way. Photo: Ben Pless.

This year, a tiny shorebird that lives on sandy beaches returned to some of its former breeding locales for the first time in decades – in one instance spawning a science mystery story.

The snowy plover is a year-round resident along our coast. Its western population has been federally listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act since 1993. In Central California many scientists, resource managers, and trained volunteers monitor plovers and work to protect their nests from predation and disturbance. Carleton Eyster, on the staff of Point Blue Conservation Science (formerly PRBO), is one such individual. He helps study snowy plovers near Monterey. In mid-April, on a busman’s holiday of sorts, Carleton took a stroll along the shore of Stinson Beach. From habit, he scanned the sands for plovers ‒ small, sand-colored birds that most people overlook. To his amazement, Carleton detected a handful of snowy plovers grouped at a single nest. The last time this species bred at Stinson Beach, to anyone’s knowledge, was in 1983 – fully three decades ago…..




Cattle Grazing and Clean Water Are Compatible On Public Lands, Study Finds

June 28, 2013 — Cattle grazing and clean water can coexist on national forest lands, according to research by the University of California, Davis. The study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, is the most comprehensive examination of water quality on National Forest public grazing lands to date. “There’s been a lot of concern about public lands and water quality, especially with cattle grazing,” said lead author Leslie Roche, a postdoctoral scholar in the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences. “We’re able to show that livestock grazing, public recreation and the provisioning of clean water can be compatible goals.” Roughly 1.8 million livestock graze on national forest lands in the western United States each year, the study said. In California, 500 active grazing allotments support 97,000 livestock across 8 million acres on 17 national forests.

“With an annual recreating population of over 26 million, California’s national forests are at the crossroad of a growing debate about the compatibility of livestock grazing with other activities dependent upon clean, safe water,” the study’s authors write. “We often hear that livestock production isn’t compatible with environmental goals,” said principal investigator Kenneth Tate, a Cooperative Extension specialist in the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences. “This helps to show that’s not absolutely true. There is no real evidence that we’re creating hot spots of human health risk with livestock grazing in these areas.”

The study was conducted in 2011, during the grazing and recreation season of June through November. Nearly 40 UC Davis researchers, ranchers, U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service staff and environmental stakeholders went out by foot and on horseback, hiking across meadows, along campsites, and down ravines to collect 743 water samples from 155 sites across five national forests in northern California. These areas stretched from Klamath National Forest to Plumas, Tahoe, Stanislaus, and Shasta-Trinity national forests. They included key cattle grazing areas, recreational lands and places where neither cattle nor humans tend to wander. UC Davis researchers analyzed the water samples for microbial and nutrient pollution, including fecal indicator bacteria, fecal coliform, E. coli, nitrogen and phosphorus.

The scientists found that recreation sites were the cleanest, with the lowest levels of fecal indicator bacteria. They found no significant differences in fecal indicator bacteria between grazing lands and areas without recreation or grazing. Overall, 83 percent of all sample sites and 95 percent of all water samples collected were below U.S. Environmental Protection Agency benchmarks for human health. The study noted that several regional regulatory programs use different water quality standards for fecal bacteria. For instance, most of the study’s sample sites would exceed levels set by a more restrictive standard based on fecal coliform concentrations. However, the U.S. EPA states that E. coli are better indicators of fecal contamination and provide the most accurate assessment of water quality conditions and human health risks.

The study also found that all nutrient concentrations were at or below background levels, and no samples exceeded concentrations of ecological or human health concern. The study was funded by the USDA Forest Service, Region 5.


Leslie M. Roche, Lea Kromschroeder, Edward R. Atwill, Randy A. Dahlgren, Kenneth W. Tate. Water Quality Conditions Associated with Cattle Grazing and Recreation on National Forest Lands. PLoS ONE, 2013; 8 (6): e68127 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0068127



The Balancing Act of Producing More Food Sustainably

July 5, 2013 — A policy known as sustainable intensification could help meet the challenges of increasing demands for food from a growing global population, argues a team of … The article stresses that while farmers in many regions of the world need to produce more food, it is equally urgent that policy makers act on diets, waste and how the food system is governed. The authors emphasise that there is a need to produce more food on existing rather than new farmland because converting uncultivated land would lead to major emissions of greenhouse gases and cause significant losses of biodiversity. full story



A Route for Steeper, Cheaper, and Deeper Roots



July 5, 2013 — Plants with thinner roots can grow deeper, a trait which could be exploited in lands affected by drought and nutrient deprivation. New research shows that maize roots which have fewer cortical cells … > full story

Insecticide Causes Changes in Honeybee Genes, Research Finds



July 2, 2013 — Exposure to a neonicotinoid insecticide causes changes to the genes of the … > full story


200-Year-Old Rockfish Is Largest Fish Caught In Alaska At 40 Pounds: Oldest Ever Found?

KpopStarz July 3, 2013

200-year-old rockfish found, possibly oldest and largest rockfish

A 200-year-old rockfish was caught off the coast of Alaska by Henry Liebman, a real estate developer from Seattle. The shortraker rockfish was found 10 miles off the coast of Sitka, Alaska….


Powerful Animal Tracking System Helps Research Take Flight

July 3, 2013 — Call it a bird’s eye view of migration. Scientists are taking a fresh look at animal movement with a big data approach that combines GPS tracking data with satellite weather and terrain information. The new Environmental-Data Automated Track Annotation (Env-DATA) system, featured in the journal Movement Ecology, can handle millions of data points and serve a hundred scientists simultaneously, said co-founder Dr. Roland Kays, a zoologist with North Carolina State University and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. “This is a powerful tool for understanding how weather and land forms affect migration patterns,” Kays said. “Ultimately it will help us answer global questions about how changes to our planet affect animal populations and movement.”


Bat maps: The conservation crusade
(July 2, 2013) — Conservation efforts have taken an important step forward, thanks to observations of bats — creatures that make up a quarter of all of the UK’s native mammal species. … > full story

Surviving fasting in the cold
(July 2, 2013) — King penguin chicks survive harsh winters with almost no food by minimizing the cost of energy production. A new study shows that the efficiency of the mitochondria, the power house of the cell, is increased in fasted king penguin chicks. … > full story


Cockatoos ‘pick’ puzzle box locks: Cockatoos show technical intelligence on a five-lock problem
(July 4, 2013) — A species of Indonesian parrot can solve complex mechanical problems that involve undoing a series of locks one after another, revealing new depths to physical intelligence in birds. … > full story


Spider webs more effective at ensnaring charged insects
(July 4, 2013) — Flapping bees build up a charge of several hundred volts, enough to electrostatically draw pollen from a flower. But researchers have discovered a downside to being charged: it attracts spider silk and increases the chance that the bee or any insect will be snared by a web as it passes by. Perhaps, they say, the more flexible silk of an orb’s spiral evolved to allow wind and electrostatic charge to improve capture success. … > full story


Antarctic crabs may be native, evidence suggests
(July 4, 2013) — A new study has cast doubt on the claim that crabs may have disappeared from Antarctica only to return due to warming seas. … > full story


First supper is a life changer for lizards
July 3, 2013) — For young lizards born into this unpredictable world, their very first meal can be a major life changer. So say researchers who report evidence that this early detail influences how the lizards disperse from their birthplaces, how they grow, and whether they survive. A quick or slow meal even influences the lizards’ reproductive success two years later in a surprising way. … > full story



Environmental policy: Tallying the wins and losses of policy
(July 1, 2013) — In the past decade, China has sunk some impressive numbers to preserve its forests, but until now there hasn’t been much data to give a true picture of how it has simultaneously affected both the people and the environment. Scientists now offer a complete picture of the environmental and socioeconomic effects of payments for ecosystem services programs. … > full story



Major changes needed for coral reef survival
(June 28, 2013) — To prevent coral reefs around the world from dying off, deep cuts in carbon dioxide emissions are required, says a new study. Researchers find that all existing coral reefs will be engulfed in inhospitable ocean chemistry conditions by the end of the century if civilization continues along its current emissions trajectory. … > full story




New method for assessing risks from alien species
(June 28, 2013) — A new semi-quantitative method that enables researchers and others to assess the environmental impacts posed by alien species is now in use in Norway. While the method is tailored to the Norwegian environment, it can easily be adapted to other countries, and fills an international need for a quantifiable, uniform approach to classifying and assessing alien species. The publication that details the potential impacts of alien species in Norway has also just been released in English. … > full story



Nuke test radiation can fight poachers who kill elephants, rhinos, hippos
July 1, 2013) — Researchers have developed a new weapon to fight poachers who kill elephants, hippos, rhinos and other wildlife. By measuring radioactive carbon-14 deposited in tusks and teeth by open-air nuclear bomb tests, the method reveals the year an animal died, and thus whether the ivory was taken illegally. … > full story



July 2, 2013 This fourth State of the Birds report highlights the enormous contributions private landowners make to bird and habitat conservation, and opportunities for increased contributions. Roughly 60% of land area in the United States (1.43 billion acres) is privately owned by millions of individuals, families, organizations, and corporations, including 2 million ranchers and farmers and about 10 million woodland owners. More than 100 species have 50% or more of their U.S. breeding distribution on private lands.

Download the 2013 report  (PDF)

News Release (PDF)

Fact Sheet 



Hawkmoths use ultrasound to combat bats
(July 4, 2013) — For years, pilots flying into combat have jammed enemy radar to get the drop on their opponents. It turns out that moths can do it, too. … > full story





New Point Blue/CA Coastal Conservancy Publication:

Scenario planning for climate change adaptation: A guidance for resource managers.

Moore, S.S., N.E. Seavy, and M. Gerhart. 2013.  Point Blue Conservation Science and California Coastal Conservancy. Available on-line at:

This document is a step-by-step guide to develop scenarios and use them to plan for climate change adaptation. The intended audience includes natural resource managers, planners, landowners, scientists and other stakeholders working at a local or regional scale to develop resource management approaches that take climate change impacts and other important uncertainties into account. Scenario planning is a tool that embraces uncertainty rather than trying to reduce or eliminate it. It can help resource managers generate creative approaches to climate change adaptation by thinking outside the historical or most obvious trends to incorporate uncertainty as a factor in prioritizing and taking climate-smart management actions today.  For more information, contact



 The Global Climate 2001-2010: a decade of climate extremes – Summary Report

Available online at:


GENEVA 3 July 2013 – The world experienced unprecedented high-impact climate extremes during the 2001-2010 decade, which was the warmest since the start of modern measurements in 1850 and continued an extended period of pronounced global warming. More national temperature records were reported broken than in any previous decade, according to a new report by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). The report, The Global Climate 2001-2010, A Decade of Climate Extremes,
analysed global and regional temperatures and precipitation, as well as extreme events such as the heat waves in Europe and Russia, Hurricane Katrina in the United States of America, Tropical Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar, droughts in the Amazon Basin, Australia and East Africa and floods in Pakistan.



Limiting global warming is not enough

July 4, 2013

So far, international climate targets have been restricted to limiting the increase in temperature. But if we are to stop the rising sea levels, ocean acidification and the loss of production from agriculture, CO2 emissions will have to fall even more sharply. This is demonstrated by a study published in Nature that has been carried out at the University of Bern. The ultimate objective of international climate policy is to prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. To do this, greenhouse gases are to be stabilised at a level that is acceptable for humans and for the environment.

This climate goal is commonly expressed as an increase in the global mean temperature by a maximum of two degrees since pre-industrial times. This general direction is recognised by the majority of the world’s governments.

But now, a study carried out by climate researchers based in Bern shows that the focus on the temperature increase alone is by no means enough to meet the ultimate, overarching objective – to protect the climate system from dangerous anthropogenic interference. This is because, according to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change from 1992, the climate system comprises the “totality of the atmosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere, geosphere and their interactions”. The Framework Convention also calls for the sustainability of ecosystems and food production. All of this can scarcely be realised by the two-degree target alone.

Six targets proposed

This is why Dr. Marco Steinacher, Prof. Fortunat Joos and Prof. Thomas Stocker are proposing a combination of six different specific global and regional climate targets (Figure 1) in their work, which has just been published in the “Nature” journal.

They say that a global temperature target is “neither sufficient nor suitable” to avoid further damage that is relevant for communities and ecosystem services. These include in particular: rising sea levels, ocean acidification – which threatens coral reefs – and production on agricultural land. ….

And the researchers ask the crucial question of what would be required in order for all of the climate targets to be met. Their unambiguous answer is that CO2 emissions have to be lowered even more radically than provided for by the two-degree target (Figure 2). “When we consider all targets jointly, CO2 emissions have to be cut by twice as much than if we only want to meet the two-degree target”, explains Steinacher. The objective of limiting ocean acidification proved particularly challenging and is achievable only through a massive reduction in the emissions of CO2.

Marco Steinacher, Fortunat Joos, Thomas F. Stocker: Allowable carbon emissions lowered by multiple climate targets. Nature, 3. Juli 2013, doi:10.1038/nature12269


Posted: 30 Jun 2013 09:36 AM PDT Joe Rommm

Scientists predicted a decade ago that Arctic ice loss would bring on worse western droughts. Arctic ice loss has been much faster than the researchers — and indeed all climate modelers — expected (see “CryoSat-2 Confirms Sea Ice Volume Has Collapsed“).

It just so happens that the western U.S. is in the grip of a brutal, record-breaking drought. Is this just an amazing coincidence — or were the scientists right and what would that mean for the future? I ask the authors.

Here is the latest drought monitor:

And that drought monitor predates the record-smashing heat wave now gripping the West.

Back in 2004, Lisa Sloan, professor of Earth sciences at UC Santa Cruz, and her graduate student Jacob Sewall published an article in Geophysical Research Letters, “Disappearing Arctic sea ice reduces available water in the American west” (subs. req’d). As the news release at the time explained, they “used powerful computers running a global climate model developed by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) to simulate the effects of reduced Arctic sea ice.” And “their most striking finding was a significant reduction in rain and snowfall in the American West”: Where the sea ice is reduced, heat transfer from the ocean warms the atmosphere, resulting in a rising column of relatively warm air. The shift in storm tracks over North America was linked to the formation of these columns of warmer air over areas of reduced sea ice in the Greenland Sea and a few other locations, Sewall said.

I contacted Sloan to ask her if she thought there was a connection between the staggering loss of Arctic sea ice and the brutal drought gripping the West, as her research predicted. She wrote (back in late March):Yes, sadly, I think we were correct in our findings, and it will only be worse with Arctic sea ice diminishing quickly. California is currently in a drought (as I watch every day — our reservoirs are at about 50% capacity right now, and I fear for the coming fire season, owning a house that backs up to greenspace and forest).


She directed me to her ex-student, now Assistant Professor of Geology at Kutztown University of Pennsylvania because he had done some additional work. Sewall wrote me:

“I am attaching a more definitive study (multiple fully dynamic models with greenhouse gas forcing) on the topic from 2005. The end result is about the same as the original 2004 study, just nailed down better.Comparing current changes (2011 summer ice and 2011/2012 winter precipitation season) to the 2004 paper:

(1) Ice concentrations in August 2011 weren’t too far off from the ‘future’ in the 2004 paper. The “future” in the 2004 paper was 2050, so it seems we are moving faster than predictions (which has been seen in multiple studies of Arctic sea ice). That is likely due to the relatively conservative greenhouse gas scenarios that were used for the earlier IPCC assessments and associated simulations. Potentially the forthcoming AR5 will have more accurate/realistic/extreme responses in Arctic ice.

(2) Observed precipitation seems to be lower than in the 2004 simulations (50 – 70% of ‘normal’ in the Sierras vs ~85 – 90% of normal in the simulations) based on snowfall data from 2011/2012.

(3) The pattern of wetter conditions to the north of California is as predicted in the 2004 paper, Washington State reporting 107 – 126% of ‘normal’ precipitation, Southern Alaska reporting 106 – 148% of ‘normal’ precipitation for 2011/2012.

I think the hypothesis from 2004 and 2005 is being borne out by current changes. The only real difference is that reality is moving faster then we though/hoped it would almost a decade ago.”


The “more definitive” study is “Precipitation Shifts over Western North America as a Result of Declining Arctic Sea Ice Cover: The Coupled System Response” (available here). That study found that “as future reductions in Arctic sea ice cover take place, there will be a substantial impact on water resources in western North America.”


I asked NCAR’s Kevin Trenberth to comment on these findings and he was concerned that using an artificially high CO2 level to get the models to explore what happens when Arctic sea ice collapses might conflate the CO2 effect with the ice loss. He also added “Variations from year to year are quite large and depend hugely on ENSO in the west of N America. You cannot say whether they have come true at this point.” I asked Sewall for a reply to those comments and he wrote:


“Re. the point that Kevin Trenberth raises below and your e-mail just now: I am quite confident that the changes are due to the decline in Arctic sea ice. The 2004 study did not alter CO2. The study was done with a prescribed decrease in Arctic sea ice cover (and a corresponding increase in local sea surface temperatures to reflect “non-freezing” conditions). The climate response presented in the 2004 study is, thus, a clean response due only to the imposed decline in Arctic sea ice cover. In the 2005 study, I then moved to look at fully coupled models where the decline in Arctic sea ice cover was the result of warming temperatures, which were, in turn, the result of elevated CO2. This is presumably the same response we are now seeing. Those coupled simulations showed the same response in storm tracks and western precipitation that we had found earlier in the 2004 study. Kevin is correct that if I had only looked at the coupled simulations, it would be very difficult to determine if the changes in rainfall were due to the CO2 or to the Arctic ice reduction. However, because the 2004 study was a clean sensitivity study, I can confidently attribute the exact same changes seen in the simulations I viewed in 2005 as being a direct result of the declining Arctic sea ice (and, thus, an indirect result of elevated CO2). Kevin is also correct that variations from year to year are large and that the impact of Arctic ice on storm tracks varies significantly with ENSO state.

(1) In unpublished work that a student of mine did, we found that under strong El Nino conditions, Arctic ice concentration had less impact on storm tracks and precipitation in the west. Under more neutral (weak El Nino or weak La Nina) conditions, Arctic sea ice had a larger impact on storm tracks and precipitation in the west.

(2) Both the 2004 paper and the 2005 paper present results as 50 year averages. This, to some extent, takes care of the annual variability issue and suggests that sum total changes on climatic time scales will, indeed, result in dryer conditions in the west.

(3) While neither study employed ensembles, the 2005 study looks at seven different models (all with slightly different parameterizations, resolutions etc. so the effect is similar to that of a seven member ensemble) and the response, in spite of differences between the models, shows declining sea ice and declining precipitation in the American west with increases in precipitation from Oregon on northward.

If indeed this research is being confirmed, it suggests that on average — allowing for yearly variations due to ENSO — the West is going to become hotter and drier faster than people had expected.


NOTE: Top figure (Arctic ice) by Andy Lee Robinson.

Related Posts:

NOAA Bombshell: Warming-Driven Arctic Ice Loss Is Boosting Chance of Extreme U.S. Weather

My Nature Piece On Dust-Bowlification And the Grave Threat It Poses to Food Security

El Nino Was Unusually Active in Possible Link to Climate Change

By Rudy Ruitenberg – Jul 1, 2013 1:20 AM PT

The El Nino weather pattern that can bring drought to Australia and rain to South America was “unusually active” at the end of the 20th century, possibly due to climate change, a University of Hawaii study found.

Researchers studied 2,222 tree-ring records as proxies for temperature and rainfall over the past 700 years, the university wrote in an online statement dated yesterday. The records indicate the El Nino-Southern Oscillation weather phenomenon has been increasingly active in recent decades relative to the past seven centuries. The drought associated with El Nino’s warm phase can cause smaller rice crops in Asia and cut wheat production in Australia, while the rains can cause flooding in South America and weaker cold ocean currents reduce anchovy catches off Peru. Accurately forecasting El Nino is challenging because it varies naturally over decades and centuries, the university said. “If this trend of increasing ENSO activity continues, we expect to see more weather extremes such as floods and droughts,” Shang-Ping Xie, a meteorology professor at the University of Hawaii’s International Pacific Research Center and study co-author, was cited as saying in the statement. The study found that in the year after a large tropical volcanic eruption, the east-central tropical Pacific is “unusually cool,” followed by warming a year later, the university wrote. Volcanic aerosols, like greenhouse gases, disturb the Earth’s radiation balance, it said. …


El Nino unusually active in the late 20th century: Is it because of global warming?
(June 30, 2013) — Reliable prediction of El Nino response to global warming is difficult, as El Nino varies naturally over decades and centuries. Instrumental records are too short to determine whether recent changes are natural or attributable to increased greenhouse gases. An international team of scientists now show that recent El Nino activity is the highest for the past 700 years, possibly a response to global warming. … > full story

Li, J., S.-P. Xie, E. R. Cook, M. Morales, D. Christie, N. Johnson, F. Chen, R. D’Arrigo, A. Fowler, X. Gou, and K. Fang. El Niño modulations over the past seven centuries. Nature Climate Change, 2013 DOI: 10.1038/nclimate1936


Rate of temperature change along world’s coastlines changed dramatically over past three decades
(July 1, 2013) — Locally, changes in coastal ocean temperatures may be much more extreme than global averages imply. New research highlights some of the distinct regional implications associated with global climate-change. …

Their results showed a great regional diversity in warming and cooling patterns. For example, the South American Pacific coasts have been cooling over the last few decades. To some, these cooling trends may be counterintuitive, but they are consistent with global climate change predictions, such as increases in upwelling (i.e., a process that brings cold, deep ocean water to the coast).

In the North Pacific and North Atlantic, however, there has been warming trend. In some areas, the authors detected changes in temperature of +/-2.5 degrees Celsius, which is 3 times higher than the global average. Climate change is happening everywhere — just not necessarily at the same rate, or even in the same direction.” For example, if you live on Cape Cod, your conditions are warming three times faster than global averages imply, while in Santiago, Chile, coastal waters have been getting cooler. “The world is getting flatter,” said Baumann. “Coastal waters at high (cold) latitudes warm much faster than at low (warm) latitudes, hence the majority of the world’s coastal temperature gradients are getting shallower. This could cause dramatic reorganization of organisms and ecosystems, from small plankton communities to larger fish populations….
We already know, in general, that marine life changes in its characteristics along these North-South temperature gradients,” Baumann explains. “For example, many coastal fish populations differ genetically from north to south, an adaptation to grow best a local temperature conditions. With further study, we want to explore how changes in coastal ocean temperature gradients could predict large-scale changes in the ecosystem.” Baumann and Doherty’s work is especially poignant in that it echoes the importance of regional and community resiliency in dealing with the effects of climate change, which was stressed in President Obama’s address earlier this week. Regional consequences of climate change may be quite different. This study steps away from global average temperature predictions, and puts climate change in a more meaningful regional context…..full story

Hannes Baumann, Owen Doherty. Decadal Changes in the World’s Coastal Latitudinal Temperature Gradients. PLoS ONE, 2013; 8 (6): e67596 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0067596




Greenhouse gas likely altering ocean foodchain: Atmospheric CO2 has big consequences for tiny bacteria
(July 2, 2013) — Climate change may be weeding out the bacteria that form the base of the ocean’s food chain, selecting certain strains for survival, according to a new study. … n climate change, as in everything, there are winners and losers. As atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and temperature rise globally, scientists increasingly want to know which organisms will thrive and which will perish in the environment of tomorrow.

The answer to this question for nitrogen-fixing cyanobacteria (bacteria that obtain energy through photosynthesis, or “blue-green algae”) turns out to have implications for every living thing in the ocean. Nitrogen-fixing is when certain special organisms like cyanobacteria convert inert — and therefore unusable — nitrogen gas from the air into a reactive form that the majority of other living beings need to survive. Without nitrogen fixers, life in the ocean could not survive for long. “Our findings show that CO2 has the potential to control the biodiversity of these keystone organisms in ocean biology, and our fossil fuel emissions are probably responsible for changing the types of nitrogen fixers that are growing in the ocean,” said David Hutchins, professor of marine environmental biology at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and lead author of an article about this research that appeared in Nature Geoscience on June 30. “This may have all kinds of ramifications for changes in ocean food chains and productivity, even potentially for resources we harvest from the ocean such as fisheries production,” Hutchins said….full story


Climate change threatens forest survival on drier, low-elevation sites
(June 28, 2013)Predicted increases in temperature and drought in the coming century may make it more difficult for conifers such as ponderosa pine to regenerate after major forest fires on dry, low-elevation sites, in some cases leading to conversion of forests to grass or shrub lands, a report suggests.
Researchers from Oregon State University concluded that moisture stress is a key limitation for conifer regeneration following stand-replacing wildfire, which will
likely increase with climate change. This will make post-fire recovery on dry sites slow and uncertain. If forests are desired in these locations, more aggressive attempts at reforestation may be needed, they said. The study, published in Forest Ecology and Management, was done in a portion of the Metolius River watershed in the eastern Cascade Range of Oregon, which prior to a 2002 fire was mostly ponderosa pine with some Douglas-fir and other tree species. The research area was not salvage-logged or replanted following the severe, stand-replacing fire. “A decade after this fire, there was almost no tree regeneration at lower, drier sites,” said Erich Dodson, a researcher with the OSU Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society. “There was some regeneration at higher sites with more moisture. But at the low elevations, it will be a long time before a forest comes back, if it ever does.” … > full story


Erich Kyle Dodson, Heather Taylor Root. Conifer regeneration following stand-replacing wildfire varies along an elevation gradient in a ponderosa pine forest, Oregon, USA. Forest Ecology and Management, 2013; 302: 163 DOI: 10.1016/j.foreco.2013.03.050



Sierra a ‘living lab’ for climate change

By TRACIE CONE, Associated Press Posted:   07/01/2013 11:43:25 AM PDT Updated:   07/01/2013 11:43:27 AM PDT SEQUOIA NATIONAL FOREST — In parts of California’s Sierra Nevada, marshy meadows are going dry, wildflowers are blooming earlier and glaciers are melting into ice fields. Scientists also are predicting the optimal temperature zone for giant sequoias will rise hundreds and hundreds of feet, leaving trees at risk of dying over the next 100 years. As indicators point toward a warming climate, scientists across 4 million acres of federally protected land are noting changes affecting everything from the massive trees that can grow to more than two-dozen feet across to the tiny, hamsterlike pika. But what the changes mean and whether humans should do anything to intervene are sources of disagreement among land managers. “That’s the tricky part of the debate: If humans are causing warming, does that obligate us under the laws of the National Park Service to try to counteract those effects?” said Nate Stephenson, a research ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey…..Already the American pika, a cold-loving rodent, is moving to higher elevations, and a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report says, “Climate change is a potential threat to the long-term survival.” The USGS’s Klinger, however, said pikas might be more resilient than the wildlife service predicts. “It doesn’t hibernate and it has dealt with expanding and contracting snow packs and changing temperatures — and yet it persists,” Klinger said. If the trends continue, some species are expected to adapt by finding more hospitable environments, scientists say. One potential place is Devil’s Postpile National Monument in the eastern Sierra, where 40 data collection devices are showing that temperature inversions caused by atmospheric pressure are filling the region of steep canyons with colder air. Scientists are studying whether other areas with similar features might serve as refuges for some species. They’re looking at establishing seed banks in the 800-acre park where several climatic regions overlap and more than 400 plants, 100 birds and 35 animals coexist. “We have an incredible living laboratory to understand what’s happening with this cold air pool,” said monument Superintendent Deanna Dulen. “We’re really trying to get a good baseline of knowledge so we can look at the changes over time. We have the potential to be a refuge, but also to be a place of increased vulnerability. There’s so much to learn.”



Farming carbon: Study reveals potent carbon-storage potential of manmade wetlands
June 24, 2013

IMAGE: This shows co-authors Blanca Bernal and Bill Mitsch taking soil cores in the Okavango Swamp in Botswana, Africa.

Click here for more information.

After being drained by the millions of acres to make way for agriculture, wetlands are staging a small comeback these days on farms. Some farmers restore or construct wetlands alongside their fields to trap nitrogen and phosphorus runoff, and research shows these systems can also retain pesticides, antibiotics, and other agricultural pollutants. Important as these storage functions of wetlands are, however, another critical one is being overlooked, says Bill Mitsch, director of the Everglades Wetland Research Park at Florida Gulf Coast University and an emeritus professor at Ohio State University: Wetlands also excel at pulling carbon dioxide out of the air and holding it long-term in soil.
Writing in the July-August issue of the Journal of Environmental Quality, Mitsch and co-author Blanca Bernal report that two 15-year-old constructed marshes in Ohio accumulated soil carbon at an average annual rate of 2150 pounds per acre—or just over one ton of carbon per acre per year. The rate was 70% faster than a natural, “control” wetland in the area and 26% faster than the two were adding soil carbon five years ago. And by year 15, each wetland had a soil carbon pool of more than 30,000 pounds per acre, an amount equaling or exceeding the carbon stored by forests and farmlands. What this suggests, Mitsch says, is that researchers and land managers shouldn’t ignore restored and man-made wetlands as they look for places to store, or “sequester,” carbon long-term. For more than a decade, for example, scientists have been studying the potential of no-tillage, planting of pastures, and other farm practices to store carbon in agricultural lands, which cover roughly one-third of the Earth’s land area….Mitsch cautions: It’s easy to undervalue wetlands if we become too focused on just one of their aspects—such as whether they’re net sinks or sources of GHGs. Instead, people should remember everything wetlands do. “We know they’re great for critters and for habitat, that’s always been true. Then we found out they cleaned up water, and could protect against floods and storms,” he says. “And now we’re seeing that they’re very important for retaining carbon. So they’re multidimensional systems—even though we as people tend to look at things one at a time.”



Climate change: Disequilibrium will become the norm in the plant communities of the future
(July 1, 2013) — Global climate change will induce large changes to the plant communities on Earth, but these will typically occur with major time lags. Many plants will remain long after the climate has become unfavorable — and many new species can take thousands of years to make an appearance. Humans will play a key role in such disequilibrium dynamics. …
“Consequently, if you’re trying to practise natural forest manag
ement with natural regeneration, you may see completely different plants regenerating compared with what you had before, because the climate has shifted to become suitable for another set of species. This also makes it challenging to adhere to a management plan granting preservation status to a particular type of nature at a certain site. At such a site, the existence of a large number of fully grown specimens of an endangered species is no guarantee that there will be a next generation. This would be challenging for everyone — for the managers, for the people who use the countryside in one way or another, and also for the researchers who are used to working with ecosystems that are much more balanced. Plant life and ecosystems will become much more dynamic and often out of sync with the climate.

We’re causing so many changes to the climate, but at the same time nature is SO slow. Just think of a tree generation. Our entire culture is based on something that was, if not in complete equilibrium, then at least relatively predictable. We’re used to a situation where flora, fauna and climate are reasonably well matched. In future, this equilibrium will shift on an ongoing basis, and there will be plenty of mismatches. That’s what we’ll have to work with.”

Professor Svenning also calls for caution: “With nature in such a state of disequilibrium, human introduction of new species will play a key role. Take cherry laurel, for example, which we see in many gardens in Denmark. It’s ready to spread throughout the Danish countryside. If it were to migrate unaided from its nearest native site in South-East Europe to Denmark, it would take thousands of years. Horticulturists now help it along. This will help the species survive, but can also cause northern species in Denmark to become extinct more rapidly. The cherry laurel is an evergreen, and if it disperses on the forest floor, it may create too much shade for the existing flora on the forest floor to survive. At the same time, the disequilibrium presents the advantage that such dispersal will take decades despite the contribution of horticulturists,” Professor Svenning concludes. …> full story



Deserts ‘greening’ from rising CO2


Increased levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) have helped boost green foliage across the world’s arid regions over the past 30 years through a process called CO2 fertilisation, according to CSIRO research.

In findings based on satellite observations, CSIRO, in collaboration with the Australian National University (ANU), found that this CO2 fertilisation correlated with an 11 per cent increase in foliage cover from 1982-2010 across parts of the arid areas studied in Australia, North America, the Middle East and Africa, according to CSIRO research scientist, Dr Randall Donohue “In Australia, our native vegetation is superbly adapted to surviving in arid environments and it consequently uses water very efficiently,” Dr Donohue said. “Australian vegetation seems quite sensitive to CO2 fertilisation. This, along with the vast extents of arid landscapes, means Australia featured prominently in our results.” “While a CO2 effect on foliage response has long been speculated, until now it has been difficult to demonstrate,” according to Dr Donohue. “Our work was able to tease-out the CO2 fertilisation effect by using mathematical modelling together with satellite data adjusted to take out the observed effects of other influences such as precipitation, air temperature, the amount of light, and land-use changes.” …..This study was published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters and was funded by CSIRO’s Sustainable Agriculture Flagship, Water for a Healthy Country Flagship, the Australian Research Council and Land & Water Australia.


Global Warming Behind Australia’s ‘Angry Summer’: Study

By Andrew Freedman

Published: June 27th, 2013 , Last Updated: June 27th, 2013

Manmade global warming was likely a significant contributing factor in Australia’s “Angry Summer” of 2012-2013, according to a new study. It was the country’s [Australia’s] hottest on record and featured devastating wildfires as well as widespread flooding. The research, to be published in an upcoming issue of the journal Geophysical Research Letters, shows that global warming has increased the chances of Australians experiencing extremely hot summers by more than five times, and is likely to raise the odds by even more in the coming decades. The study comes from researchers at the University of Melbourne, and follows the approach taken in other analyses of recent extreme heat events, such as the 2003 European Heat Wave and Russian heat wave and wildfires of 2010. Such fractional attribution studies don’t seek a single cause of a particular weather or climate event, but instead examine how some factors may have altered the risk that such an event would occur….




Experts See a New Normal: A Tinderbox West, With More Huge Fires


Scientists said the deadly blaze in Arizona and 15 others that remained uncontained from New Mexico to California were part of a warmer trend in the West that would bring more catastrophic fires.


Deadly Heat Wave in the West Brings Fires and Travel Delays

Joshua Lott for The New York Times People seeking refuge from the heat on Sunday went tubing on the Salt River in Arizona, east of Phoenix. The temperature in the city reached 119 degrees.

By FERNANDA SANTOS NY Times Published: June 30, 2013

PHOENIX — An unforgiving heat wave held much of the West in a sweltering embrace over the weekend, tying or breaking temperature records in several cities, grounding flights, sparking forest fires and contributing to deaths.

Chris Carlson/Associated Press The Furnace Creek area of Death Valley lived up to its name on Friday; Sunday’s high was expected to be 130 degrees.

An elderly man was found dead on Saturday in a home without air-conditioning in Las Vegas, where the city’s temperature reached 115 degrees, tying the record for the hottest June 29 since 1994. Also, more than 200 people at an outdoor concert there were treated for heat-related problems that day, 34 of them at hospitals, the authorities said. At trailheads at the Lake Mead National Recreation Area in Nevada, park rangers were trying to dissuade people from hiking the same area where a Boy Scout troop leader died of heat exposure early last month, when temperatures were lower.

At Death Valley National Park in California, whose temperature of 134 degrees a century ago stands as the highest ever recorded in the world, the digital thermometer became a busy tourist attraction over the weekend. The forecast called for a high of around 130 degrees at the park’s Furnace Creek area on Sunday. Because summer brings the highest rate of deaths among migrants trying to enter the United States illegally through Arizona, the Border Patrol added extra members to its elite search and rescue team. At least seven migrants had been found dead in the desert over the past week.



Goodbye, Miami

By century’s end, rising sea levels will turn the nation’s urban fantasyland into an American Atlantis. But long before the city is completely underwater, chaos will begin

Miami after Hurricane Wilma in 2005. Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images

By Jeff Goodell June 20, 2013 Rolling Stone 1:20 PM ET

When the water receded after Hurricane Milo of 2030, there was a foot of sand covering the famous bow-tie floor in the lobby of the Fontainebleau hotel in Miami Beach. A dead manatee floated in the pool where Elvis had once swum. Most of the damage occurred not from the hurricane’s 175-mph winds, but from the 24-foot storm surge that overwhelmed the low-lying city. In South Beach, the old art-deco buildings were swept off their foundations. Mansions on Star Island were flooded up to their cut-glass doorknobs. A 17-mile stretch of Highway A1A that ran along the famous beaches up to Fort Lauderdale disappeared into the Atlantic. The storm knocked out the wastewater-treatment plant on Virginia Key, forcing the city to dump hundreds of millions of gallons of raw sewage into Biscayne Bay. Tampons and condoms littered the beaches, and the stench of human excrement stoked fears of cholera. More than 800 people died, many of them swept away by the surging waters that submerged much of Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale; 13 people were killed in traffic accidents as they scrambled to escape the city after the news spread – falsely, it turned out – that one of the nuclear reactors at Turkey Point, an aging power plant 24 miles south of Miami, had been destroyed by the surge and sent a radioactive cloud over the city….


Improving crop yields in a world of extreme weather events
(July 1, 2013) — When plants encounter drought, they naturally produce abscisic acid (ABA), a stress hormone that helps them cope with the drought conditions. Specifically, the hormone turns on receptors in the plants. Botanists have identified an inexpensive synthetic chemical, quinabactin, that mimics ABA. Spraying ABA on plants improves their water use and stress tolerance, but the procedure is expensive. Quinabactin now offers a cheaper solution. … > full story






Church Dropping Fossil Fuel Investments


The United Church of Christ has become the first American religious body to vote to divest its pension funds and investments from fossil fuel companies because of climate change concerns.



President Obama’s Climate Action Plan: Infographic, Video 


Obama’s New Climate Plan KQED Forum July 2, 2013

“Last week, President Obama unveiled his plan to impose new regulations on power plants, establish conditions for approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline and include climate change impacts in all important government decisions. We look at how effective his initiatives will be in limiting carbon pollution and what they will mean for the future of coal, natural gas and renewables. Does his plan go too far or not far enough?”



Cost of Battling Wildfires Cuts Into Prevention Efforts

Michael Ciaglo/The Colorado Springs Gazette, via Associated Press Jeremy and Kelly Beach after their home in Colorado burned down this month in the most destructive wildfire in state history. More Photos »

By JACK HEALY Published: June 27, 2013 NY Times

WOODLAND PARK, Colo. — A light breeze riffled the tops of ponderosa pines and old Douglas firs on the mountains above this tourist town. It was a serene summer day, but as Jonathan Bruno wandered through the trees, he wondered how long before it all went up in flames. “It’s just a matter of time,” said Mr. Bruno, who works on forest restoration projects for a local environmental group. “I’ve been losing sleep. There’s just not enough money.” As another destructive wildfire season chars the West, the federal government is sharply reducing financing for programs aimed at preventing catastrophic fires. Federal money to thin out trees and clear away millions of acres of deadfall and brittle brush has dropped by more than 25 percent in the budgets for the past two years, a casualty of spending cuts and the rising cost of battling active wildfires. The government has cut back on programs to reduce fire risks in areas where homes and the wilderness collide. The United States Forest Service treated 1.87 million acres of those lands in 2012, but expects to treat only 685,000 acres next year. Conservation advocates say that is likely to mean fewer people working to prevent runaway fires, fewer controlled burns and fewer trucks hauling away dry brush and tinder. Trimming trees and clearing brush can make blazes less destructive, and the Forest Service said it had treated more than 26 million acres since 2000. But as the government spends an increasing amount to battle wildfires, critics say it makes little sense to cut back on prevention. “There is a growing consensus in the West that dollar for dollar, these kinds of prevention efforts are paying off,” said Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon. “And when the big fires break out, the bureaucracy steals money from the prevention fund and the problem gets worse. The Forest Service has become the fire service.” Twenty years ago, the Forest Service spent 13 percent of its budget on fighting fires. These days, 40 percent of its money goes to firefighting, and that is still not enough to cover the bills. Forest officials went $400 million over budget fighting last year’s fires, and they expect to run over again this year. ..

Deadly fire engulfed 19 Arizona firefighters in seconds

Hotshots faced “worst case scenario” 5:35pm EDT Arizona wildfire
Hotshots faced “worst case scenario” (01:21)

By Tim Gaynor PRESCOTT, Arizona | Mon Jul 1, 2013 5:54pm EDT

(Reuters) – An elite squad of 19 Arizona firemen killed in the worst U.S. wildland firefighting tragedy in 80 years apparently was outflanked by wind-whipped flames in seconds, before some could scramble into cocoon-like personal shelters.

Details of Sunday’s deaths of all but one member of a specially trained, 20-man “Hotshots” team remained vague a day after they perished in a blaze that destroyed scores of homes and forced the evacuation of two towns in central Arizona.

But fragments of the firefighters’ final moments painted some of the picture as investigators launched a probe into exactly how the disaster unfolded.

Fire officials said the young men fell victim to a highly volatile mix of erratic winds gusting to gale-force intensity, low humidity, a sweltering heat wave and thick, drought-parched brush that had not burned in some 40 years

Senators protest cuts to wildfire prevention funds

Updated 12:08 pm, Friday, June 28, 2013

DENVER (AP) — A bipartisan group of U.S. Senators is urging the Obama administration to focus more on preventing wildfires.

The administration is proposing a 31 percent cut in funding for fire prevention programs one year after record blazes burned 9.3 million acres. The federal government routinely spends so much money fighting increasingly-destructive fires that it uses money meant to be spent on clearing potential fuels like dead trees and underbrush in national forests.

In a letter to the administration, four senators call the habit “nonsensical” and said it just leads to bigger fires. They also strongly object to the proposed budget cut.

The senators who signed the letter are U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore), U.S. Senator Mark Udall (D-Colo), U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and U.S. Senator James Risch (R-Idaho).


6 of the World’s Most Extensive Climate Adaptation Plans

New York City’s ambitious $19.5 bln climate plan is one of many globally that seeks to adapt to higher temperatures, higher sea levels and extreme weather.

By Maria Gallucci, Inside Climate News

Jun 20, 2013

Floating pavilions in Rotterdam, Netherlands, part of a climate resiliency program launched in 2008. The bubble-shaped domes are anchored off the city’s waterfront and are a pilot for future floating urban districts that will be able to rise with the changing sea levels. Credit: The City of Rotterdam

New York City’s $19.5 billion plan to adapt to climate change may be the world’s most ambitious. But Mayor Michael Bloomberg is hardly alone in trying to find ways to prepare his city for rising seas and extreme weather as the global fight to limit warming to 2 degrees Celsius fades.

Roughly 20 percent of cities around the globe have developed adaptation strategies, according to a 2011 estimate by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In the United States, city, county and state governments have developed more than 100 adaptation plans, a separate count by the Georgetown Climate Center found. And through a UN-financing initiative, wealthy nations have poured $11 billion into developing countries to help on adaptation in the past few years.  

Experts interviewed by InsideClimate News said that unlike Bloomberg’s plan—which detailed 250 climate adaptation strategies and put a price tag on most of them—few other cities have outlined specific actions or provided concrete details on how government agencies should implement initiatives or pay for them.”A lot of them tend to be an overarching, big vision document,” or focus on a single, massive project, like a floodwall, said JoAnn Carmin, a professor in urban studies and planning at MIT. “In some cases, there’s no clear work plan in place.”

A lack of funding to pay for comprehensive analysis, a focus on other municipal priorities and a shortage of qualified staff is often to blame, she said. And unlike New York, which has its own panel of climate change scientists tapped from some of the best research universities, local governments rarely have access to data on the specific risks that global warming poses to their particular city. Still, adaptation strategies around the world are maturing as cities and countries build on initial efforts. And no place embodies that trend better than New York City, said Jessica Grannis, a staff attorney for the Georgetown Climate Center. “It’s a huge step forward in terms of the quality of adaptation plans that are coming up”—one that could provide a useful framework as other cities create and refine their own strategies, she said. The world could end up spending between $49 billion and  $171 billion a year through 2030 on adaptation, according to UN figures. Some scientists put the figure at up to three times that amount. Here’s a sampling of cities with some of the world’s most comprehensive initiatives…..


Invest, Divest and Prosper

By PAUL KRUGMAN Published: June 27, 2013 NY Times 586 Comments

It has been a busy news week, what with voting rights, gay marriage and Paula Deen. Even so, it’s remarkable how little attention the news media gave to President Obama’s new “climate action plan.” Discount, if you like, the terrific speech he gave when unveiling the proposal; this is, nonetheless, a very big deal. For this time around, Mr. Obama wasn’t touting legislation we know won’t pass. The new plan is, instead, designed to rely on executive action. This means that, unlike earlier efforts to address climate change, it can bypass the anti-environmentalists who control the House of Representatives.


Environmentalists seek new review of Keystone pipeline plan

By Juliet Eilperin, Published: June 27 2013 Washington Post

Six advocacy groups have asked the State Department to prepare a new environmental review of the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline, saying that evidence has emerged showing it will hurt the environment. The demand, contained in a 48-page letter, comes as President Obama has pledged to block the project, which would carry heavy crude from Canada to the Gulf Coast, if it would “significantly exacerbate the climate problem.” The letter sent Monday says that several new analyses show that the project will speed heavy crude extraction in Canada’s oil sands region. Activists say the State Department should refuse to approve the pipeline because of adverse impact on the environment. The State Department is currently responding to more than 1.2 million comments on a draft environmental assessment issued in March, which suggested that denying a permit to the pipeline firm TransCanada would have little overall climate impact because the oil would be extracted and shipped out anyway.

“Limitations on pipeline transport would force more crude oil to be transported via other modes of transportation, such as rail which would probably (but not certainly) be more expensive,” the assessment said.

The six environmental advocacy groups — Bold Nebraska, the Center for Biological Diversity, the National Wildlife Federation, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Oil Change International and the Sierra Club — said that conclusion relies on “an overly-simplistic, outdated view of a rapidly-changing oil market.”


Bob Inglis: Conservatives Have A Climate Solution



By Climate Guest Blogger on Jul 5, 2013 at 9:26 am

by Marcia G. Yerman via Moms Clean Air Force

“Conservatives have the answer. We just need to raise our hands.” This statement is from Bob Inglis, former representative of South Carolina’s 4th District. Inglis told me he believes Conservatives are an “indispensible part of the solution” to energy and environmental issues.

We spoke by telephone in a conversation that covered topics from the background of his grassroots organization, Energy and Enterprise Initiative (E&EI), to his thoughts on fracking and renewable energy. His attitude was upbeat. He is convinced that “free enterprise and accountability” can pave the way toward solving America’s energy concerns.

Inglis was clear about the need for Conservatives and Republicans to “step up and lead.” He noted that the “climate change matter was started by liberals,” so Conservatives think they have no place in the dialogue. His response to this is, “Don’t shrink in science denial.”….


The U.S. will stop financing coal plants abroad. That’s a huge shift.

By Brad Plumer, Published: June 27, 2013 at 3:07 pm Washington Post

One of the more significant lines in President Obama’s climate-change speech this week got relatively scant notice. In a major policy shift, Obama said he would place sharp restrictions on U.S. government financing for new coal plants overseas.

Power lines running to a coal power station in the early morning light near Johannesburg, South Africa. (EPA/KIM LUDBROOK)

The announcement comes after years of federal support for coal projects abroad, and it’s a shift that could divert billions of dollars away from a cheap source of electricity that contributes heavily to global warming.

Obama’s coal pledge also comes at a time when the World Bank is mulling a proposal to limit its lending for coal projects in developing countries.

“Today, I’m calling for an end to public financing for new coal plants overseas unless they deploy carbon-capture technologies, or there’s no other viable way for the poorest countries to generate electricity,” Obama said in his speech at Georgetown University on Tuesday.



Lake USFS bought for $43.5M to restore above Tahoe may instead return to natural wetland


RENO, Nevada — The U.S. Forest Service is leaning toward abandoning plans to restore a small lake overlooking Lake Tahoe to the way it was when the rich and famous vacationed at the private enclave a half century ago and instead let it return to a natural wetland.

The federal government bought Incline Lake for $43.5 million in a land deal five years ago with the intention of repairing a small dam built in 1942 and refilling the scenic Sierra lake that sits at an elevation above 8,000 feet.

Forest Service officials drained it in 2009 because the dam was unstable and vulnerable to failure in the event of an earthquake.

But now the agency is seeking public comment on a preferred alternative that would leave most of the lake empty to capitalize on its rich system of natural ponds and marshes that are rare at such high elevations.

“That’s the direction we’re proposing to head, to remove the dam and restore the area,” Cheva Heck, spokeswoman for the Forest Service’s Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, told the Reno Gazette-Journal ( ).



Agency says Pacific great white shark not in danger of extinction

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announces that the northeastern Pacific Ocean population of great white sharks does not warrant listing under the Endangered Species Act.

A great white shark plies waters at Guadalupe Island in 2007. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times / November 15, 2007)

By Louis Sahagun June 28, 2013, 9:36 p.m.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Friday that the northeastern Pacific Ocean population of great white sharks is not in danger of extinction and does not warrant listing under the Endangered Species Act. NOAA had been researching the health of the great white population since last year, when the environmental groups Oceana, Shark Stewards and the Center for Biological Diversity filed a petition calling for endangered species protection.

The petitioners were reacting to the first census of great whites ever attempted. Conducted by UC Davis and Stanford University researchers, and published in the journal Biology Letters in 2011, the census estimated that only 219 adult and sub-adult great whites lived off the Central California coast, and perhaps double that many were in the entire northeastern Pacific Ocean, including Southern California. “We are disappointed and feel this is the wrong decision, one that flies in the face of best available science,” said Geoff Shester, Oceana’s California program director. “This battle is far from over.” NOAA scientists concluded that the white shark population is a distinct genetic group with a low to very low risk of extinction now and in the foreseeable future.

“Our team felt that there were more than 200 mature females alone, an indication of a total population of at least 3,000,” Heidi Dewar, a fisheries research biologist at NOAA, said in an interview.

NOAA’s analysis, which will be made public Monday, was based on a comprehensive review of threats to the population, direct and indirect indicators of abundance trends and analysis of fisheries by catch in the United States and Mexico, Dewar said.

Some of the data reviewed by NOAA was provided by the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which was encouraged by the results. “We will continue this work so we can gain a better understanding of population trends and the overall health of sharks that play a vital role in ocean health,” said Margaret Spring, vice president of conservation and science at the aquarium. Chris Lowe, a professor of marine biology at Cal State Long Beach who has been conducting state and federally permitted white shark research since 2002, said NOAA’s findings confirm his own conclusion: The white shark population is rebounding for reasons that include federal laws that curb pollution, ban near-shore gill netting, protect sharks and halt the slaughter of marine mammals that sharks prey on for food.

The state Department of Fish and Wildlife later this year is expected to announce its own determination of the status of the great white population. George H. Burgess, curator of the Florida Museum of Natural History‘s International Shark Attack File, is among nine scientists who recently completed an independent census that will show there are more than 2,000 adult and sub-adult white sharks off Central California. That study was not submitted for review by NOAA until after it reached its conclusion, Dewar



Penguins support gorillas as biscuit makers respond to palm oil threat

Many of the biggest biscuit manufacturers have pledged to reduce the amount of palm oil in their products

Rebecca Smithers, consumer affairs correspondent, Monday 1 July 2013 01.45 EDT

Penguins are coming to the aid of gorillas, according to a survey which reveals that the UK’s leading biscuit manufacturers are responding to the environmental threats of palm oil production.

Many of the biggest names in biscuits including Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s and United Biscuits – which makes some of the UK’s most popular biscuits including McVitie’s Digestive and Penguin – have pledged to reduce the amount of palm oil in their products.

The Rainforest Foundation UK (RFUK) and Ethical Consumer magazine together surveyed over 50 of the UK’s biggest biscuit manufacturers about their use of palm oil or its derivatives.

The top scoring companies were the Co-op, M&S, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and United Biscuits. Those at the bottom of the ranking were mostly American-based companies including Asda/Walmart, PepsiCo and Kraft, makers of Ritz and Oreo biscuits.

The project was carried out in response to the increasing threat that palm oil production is posing to the world’s rainforest and to the people that rely on these forests for their livelihoods. Palm oil is a core ingredient in many food products but companies are not required by EU law to label products containing it until December 2014…..



Is Google Funding Climate Science Denial? Jim Inhofe Fundraiser Planned For July 11

By Brad Johnson, Guest Blogger on Jul 5, 2013 at 12:14 pm

by Brad Johnson, campaign manager for Forecast the Facts

Google’s motto is “Don’t Be Evil,” but it is supporting one of the worst deniers of climate science in the world: Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK). On July 11, Google is hosting a lunchtime $250-$2500 a plate fundraiser for Inhofe with the National Republican Senatorial Committee at its Washington, DC headquarters at 1101 New York Ave NW.

The Washington Post also recently revealed that Google was the biggest single donor to the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s annual dinner on Thursday, June 20, dropping $50,000 in support of this anti-science group. The dinner was headlined by radical global warming denier Sen. Rand Paul. CEI’s other donors include a who’s who of polluters: American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, Altria (Phillip Morris), Koch Companies, and Koch’s Americans For Prosperity. CEI is famed for its ad promoting carbon dioxide emissions: “They call it pollution. We call it life.”

CO2 does not cause catastrophic disasters,” Sen. Inhofe claimed in 2003, the first time of many he call global warming a “hoax” on the Senate floor. “Actually, it would be beneficial to our environment and the economy.”

This May, Inhofe claimed that “activists are relentless in their attempts to drum up global warming hysteria blaming our state’s successful energy sector for extreme heat temperatures.”










Coastal Conservancy Announces Availability of “Climate Ready” Grants

The California State Coastal Conservancy has announced the availability of funding for projects through its Climate Ready program.  The grants are intended to encourage local governments and non-governmental organizations to act now to prepare for a changing climate by advancing planning and implementation of on-the-ground actions that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and lessen the impacts of climate change on California’s coastal communities and natural resources.

Applications must be received via email or on a CD by August 28, 2013.  The Coastal Conservancy expects to award grants in early 2014. The Climate Ready Grant Announcement can be obtained from the Conservancy’s website.



Sustainability for the Nation: Resource Connections and Governance Linkages
July 24, 2013
Event will be webcast.

The National Research Council’s Science and Technology for Sustainability Program (STS) and the University of California, Davis, will be holding a special event related to a new report, Sustainability for the Nation: Resource Connections and Governance Linkages, which provides a decision framework for policymakers to examine the consequences and operational benefits of sustainability-oriented programs.



Past, Present, Future of Redwoods: A Redwood Ecology & Climate Symposium

Wednesday, August 14, 2013 from 8:30 AM to 6:00 PM (PDT) Save the Redwoods League

David B Brower Center 2150 Allston Way Berkeley, CA 94704

Please RSVP by August 1, 2013 to confirm your seat as Symposium space is limited. Invitations are nontransferable. Click here for transit and parking information.

Questions? Contact Emily Burns,


5-6 SEPTEMBER 2013 for Pacific Northwest Climate Science Conference

The 4th annual Pacific Northwest Climate Science Conference will be held in Portland 5-6 September 2013. The conference provides a forum for researchers and practitioners to convene and exchange scientific results, challenges, and solutions related to the impacts of climate on people, natural resources, and infrastructure in the Pacific Northwest. The conference attracts a wide range of participants including policy- and decision-makers, resource managers, and scientists, from public agencies, sovereign tribal nations, non-governmental organizations, and more.   As such, the conference emphasizes oral presentations that are comprehensible to a wide audience and on topics of broad interest. This conference is an opportunity to stimulate and showcase decision-relevant climate science in the Pacific Northwest….We seek presentations, either oral or poster, that describe the region’s climate variability and change over time; connections between climate and forest, water, fish, and wildlife resources; climate-related natural hazards such as wildfire, drought, flooding, invasive species and shoreline change; and the emerging science of ocean acidification.  We also seek case studies of efforts to incorporate science into planning, policy, and resource management programs and decisions; new approaches to data mining or data development; decision support tools and services related to climate adaptation; and fresh approaches or new understanding of the challenges of communicating climate science. We invite you to suggest or organize a cluster of abstracts around a theme that might be used to design a special session.  Abstract submission is now open.  Registration and lodging information will be available soon.  See




Listservers/Course Announcements

Listservers:  NCTC Climate Change Listserver (upcoming webinars and courses): send an email to Danielle Larock at   LCC listservers (see your LCC’s websiteOneNOAA Science Webinars  EPA Climate Change and Water E-Newsletter  CIRCulator (Oregon Climate Change Research Institute) Climate Impacts Group (Univ. Washington)

NCTC Course Announcements (Registration for these courses is through DOILearn )

July 15-19, 2013 – “Scenario Planing toward Climate Change Adaptation” ALC3194 – development led by the Wildlife Conservation Society
August 27-29, 2013 – “Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment” ALC3184
October 28-November 1, 2013 – “Climate Smart Conservation” ALC3195 – development led by the National Wildlife Federation. This pilot course is based on a forthcoming guide to the principles and practice of Climate-Smart Conservation.



Coordinator for the Integrated Waterbird Management and Monitoring program (IWMM)

(Note – this announcement closes July 17, 2013)

Looking for a bird conservation challenge and opportunity? A position is available to serve as coordinator for the Integrated Waterbird Management and Monitoring program (IWMM). The position is a one-year position, renewable for up to three years, located in either Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland or at the USFWS Regional Office in Bloomington, Minnesota. To find out more about the position offering, visit Federal Business Opportunities at or FedConnect and enter Reference Solicitation No. F13PS00628 in the search field.

You can find out more about IWMM by visiting

Visit Avian Knowledge Alliance at:




How big is the ocean? – Scott Gass

TEDEducation·477 videos

Published on Jun 24, 2013 View full lesson:…
While the Earth’s oceans are known as five separate entities, there is really only one ocean. So, how big is it? As of 2013, it takes up 71% of the Earth, houses 99% of the biosphere, and contains some of Earth’s grandest geological features. Scott Gass reminds us of the influence humans have on the ocean and the influence it has on us.







Can Electric School Buses Help Solve Our Grid Problems?

Posted: 02 Jul 2013 11:22 AM PDT

An all-electric school bus. (Credit: Barry Sloan)

Renewable energy is America’s future. Climate change makes that inevitable. But America’s electricity grid will face tough new challenges as we transition away from dirty fossil fuels, and move toward clean technologies like wind and solar. For the electricity grid to operate properly, supply must always be in balance with demand. Wind and solar are variable resources, although we are getting better at predicting their availability a day or more in advance. Utilities understand that incorporating renewables to the grid has its benefits, but in order to get the most out of these energy sources, technological innovation is needed. Energy storage can allow supply at certain hours of the day to be held in reserve, and tapped to meet demand later. This makes it a unique complement to variable renewable resources like solar and wind. Utilities already use energy storage in the form of pumped hydropower, which pumps water uphill when energy supply is high, then allows the water to flow back down and generate electricity when it is needed. However, according to Scott Baker of PJM Interconnection, this process is expensive and is running out of room to grow in a renewable future. Enter an idea backed by National Strategies (NSI), PJM Interconnection, and Clinton Global Initiative with a creative solution: use electric school bus fleets as a big renewable energy storage battery


Antifreeze, cheap materials may lead to low-cost solar energy
(July 4, 2013) — A process combining some comparatively cheap materials and the same antifreeze that keeps an automobile radiator from freezing in cold weather may be the key to making solar cells that cost less and avoid toxic compounds, while further expanding the use of solar energy. … > full story



New system to harness energy from ocean currents
(July 2, 2013) — Researchers have created and are testing a prototype of a device to harness energy from ocean currents. … > full story







Let’s Not Braise The Planet

By MARK BITTMAN NYTimes Opinion July 2, 2013

Our ability to turn around the rate of carbon emissions and slow the engine that can conflagrate the world is certain. But do we have the will?


The Declaration of Interdependence And Jefferson’s ‘Brilliant Statement Of Intergenerational Equity Principles’

By Joe Romm on Jul 4, 2013 at 12:30 pm

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of Nature
and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness….


The Saddest, Scariest Sound Ever—Global Warming (VIDEO)

Young cellist Daniel Crawford orchestrates a new way to reveal the devastating effects of climate change—through music.

July 3, 2013 by Anna Hess

… University of Minnesota undergrad Daniel Crawford has crafted an innovative way of interpreting graphs and data into a one-man concerto—his composition allows its listeners to feel the planet’s toasty metamorphosis. ….Crawford used surface-temperature data from NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies to create a data sonification that transforms climate records into musical notes. In Crawford’s resulting “Song of Our Warming Planet,” each ascending halftone represents about 0.03°C of planetary warming. Each note represents a year from 1880 to 2012, and the notes are portrayed over a range of three octaves. The coldest year, 1909, is embodied by the lowest possible note on the cello, open C…..



Stanford students capture the flight of birds on very high-speed video

By Bjorn Carey Stanford Report, July 2, 2013 VIDEO

….In order to build a robot that can fly as nimbly as a bird, Lentink began looking to nature. Using an ultra-high-speed Phantom camera that can shoot upwards of 3,300 frames per second at full resolution, and an amazing 650,000 at a tiny resolution, Lentink can visualize the biomechanical wonders of bird flight on an incredibly fine scale….



Scenes from a Melting Planet: On the Climate-Change Novel

Cli-Fi- books on climate change

Posted by Carolyn Kormann
July 3, 2013

The New Yorker

“We don’t have time for a meeting of the Flat Earth Society,” President Obama said last week as he outlined his climate-change plan. The gibe was widely tweeted and repeated, the message clear: when it comes to global warming, Obama won’t tolerate any more anti-science bunk. He will direct the Environmental Protection Agency to limit greenhouse-gas emissions from power plants, adapt the country’s infrastructure to protect against extreme weather, and use federal funds to increase renewable-energy production. To justify all this, the President cited recent national disasters, like Hurricane Sandy, the worst wildfires in recorded history, and the most severe droughts since the Dust Bowl. He even mentioned a long-running drought that has “forced a town to truck in water from the outside.”

That town is Spicewood Beach, a subdivision in the hill country outside of Austin, Texas. In February, 2012, according to the Times, the town’s well ran dry. Four thousand gallons of water still have to be hauled in many times a day. …



From the Mouths of Babes and Birds

New York Times  – ‎Jun 30, 2013‎

Babies learn to speak months after they begin to understand language. As they are learning to talk, they babble, repeating the same syllable (“da-da-da”) or combining syllables into a string (“da-do-da-do”). But when babies babble, what are they actually doing? And why does it take them so long to begin speaking?

Insights into these mysteries of human language acquisition are now coming from a surprising source: songbirds.

Researchers who focus on infant language and those who specialize in birdsong have teamed up in a new study suggesting that learning the transitions between syllables — from “da” to “do” and “do” to “da” — is the crucial bottleneck between babbling and speaking. “We’ve discovered a previously unidentified component of vocal development,” said the lead author, Dina Lipkind, a psychology researcher at Hunter College in Manhattan. “What we’re showing is that babbling is not only to learn sounds, but also to learn transitions between sounds.”

The researchers piped in the song of an adult male zebra finch to teach young birds one song (A-B-C), then piped in a new song that required the birds to use the same syllables in a different order (A-C-B). The birds could learn the new song only after …


Getting kids to eat their veggies: A new approach to an age-old problem
(July 1, 2013) — Every parent has a different strategy for trying to get his or her kid to eat more vegetables, from growing vegetables together as a family to banning treats until the dinner plate is clean. New research suggests that teaching young children an overarching, conceptual framework for nutrition may do the trick. …researchers assigned some preschool classrooms to read nutrition books during snack time for about 3 months, while other classrooms were assigned to conduct snack time as usual. Later, the preschoolers were asked questions about nutrition. The children who had been read the nutrition books were more likely to understand that food had nutrients, and that different kinds of nutrients were important for various bodily functions (even functions that weren’t mentioned in the books). They were also more knowledgeable about digestive processes, understanding, for example, that the stomach breaks down food and blood carries nutrients. These children also more than doubled their voluntary intake of vegetables during snack time after the three-month intervention, whereas the amount that the control group ate stayed about the same. > full story




Sun Food vs. Oil Food

Michael Pollan on how changing agriculture could reverse climate change.

By Mark Hertsgaard|Posted Tuesday, July 2, 2013, at 8:41 AM


Eating meat is bad for the planet, right? That hamburger you’re contemplating for lunch comes from a cow that, most likely, was raised within the industrial agriculture system. Which means it was fed huge amounts of corn that was grown with the help of petroleum, the carbon-based substance that has helped drive Earth’s climate to the breaking point. In industrial agriculture, petroleum is not only burned to power tractors and other machinery used to plant, harvest, and process corn—it’s also a key ingredient in the fertilizer employed to maximize yields…. Despite its large carbon footprint, the agricultural sector is invariably overlooked in climate policy discussions.  The latest example: In his 50-minute speech on climate change last week, President Barack Obama did not even mention agriculture except for a half-sentence reference to how farmers will have to adapt to more extreme weather. ….


These days, however, Pollan is delivering a deeper yet more upbeat message, one he shared in an interview while promoting his new book, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation. (Disclosure: Pollan and I have been friendly colleagues since we met at Harper’s in the early 1990s, when he was executive editor.) Now, instead of just exposing the faults of the industrial agricultural system, Pollan is suggesting radical new ways to make agriculture work for both people and the planet….


With the right kind of technology, Pollan believes that eating meat can actually be good for the planet. That’s right: Raising livestock, if done properly, can reduce global warming. That’s just one element of a paradigm shift that Pollan and other experts, including Dennis Garrity, the former director general of the World Agroforestry Center in Nairobi, Kenya, and Hans Herren of the Millennium Institute in Washington, D.C., are promoting. They believe that new agricultural methods wouldn’t just reduce the volume of heat-trapping gases emitted by our civilization—they would also, and more importantly, draw down the total amount of those gases that are already in the atmosphere. “Depending on how you farm, your farm is either sequestering or releasing carbon,” says Pollan. Currently, the vast majority of farms, in the United States and around the world, are releasing carbon—mainly through fertilizer and fossil fuel applications but also by plowing before planting. “As soon as you plow, you’re releasing carbon,” Pollan says, because exposing soil allows the carbon stored there to escape into the atmosphere.


One method of avoiding carbon release is no-till farming: Instead of plowing, a tractor inserts seeds into the ground with a small drill, leaving the earth basically undisturbed. But in addition to minimizing the release of carbon, a reformed agriculture system could also sequester carbon, extracting it from the atmosphere and storing it—especially in soil but also in plants—so it can’t contribute to global warming. Sequestering carbon is a form of geoengineering, a term that covers a range of human interventions in the climate system aimed at limiting global warming. It’s a field that is attracting growing attention as climate change accelerates in the face of continued political inaction. Last month, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere passed 400 parts per million, its highest level since the Pliocene Epoch 2.6 million years ago (when a warmer planet boasted sea levels 30 feet higher than today’s—high enough to submerge most of the world’s coastal capitals). Meanwhile, human activities, from driving gas-guzzlers to burning coal to leveling forests, are increasing this 400 ppm by roughly 2 ppm a year…..


According to Pollan, photosynthesis is “the best geoengineering method we have.” It’s also a markedly different
method than most of the geoengineering schemes thus far under discussion—like erecting giant mirrors in space or spraying vast amounts of aerosols into the stratosphere to block the sun’s energy from reaching Earth. Whether any of these sci-fi ideas would actually work is, to put it mildly, uncertain—not to mention the potential detrimental effects they could have.

By contrast, we are sure that photosynthesis works. Indeed, it’s only a slight exaggeration to say that photosynthesis is a major reason we humans can survive on this planet: Plants inhale CO2 and turn it into food for us, even as they exhale the oxygen we need to breathe.

What does all this have to do with eating meat? Here’s where Pollan gets positively excited. “Most of the sequestering takes place underground,” he begins.

“When you have a grassland, the plants living there convert the sun’s energy into leaf and root in roughly equal amounts. When the ruminant [e.g., a cow] comes along and grazes that grassland, it trims the height of the grass from, say, 3 feet tall to 3 inches tall. The plant responds to this change by seeking a new equilibrium: it kills off an amount of root mass equal to the amount of leaf and stem lost to grazing. The [discarded] root mass is then set upon by the nematodes, earthworms and other underground organisms, and they turn the carbon in the roots into soil. This is how all of the soil on earth has been created: from the bottom up, not the top down.”

The upshot, both for global climate policy and individual dietary choices, is that meat eating carries a big carbon footprint only when the meat comes from industrial agriculture. “If you’re eating grassland meat,” Pollan says, “your carbon footprint is light and possibly even negative.”

Some, but not all, of Pollan’s analysis here resembles the holistic management of grasslands advocated by Allan Savory, a biologist from Zimbabwe whose TED talk earlier this year provoked widespread interest. Savory has his critics, though, including James McWilliams, a historian at Texas State University, who wrote in Slate that the most comprehensive scholarly analyses of holistic grazing found that it did not improve plant growth or, by implication, carbon sequestration. Savory and his allies argue that the studies cited by McWilliams did not follow his prescribed methods of holistic management and thus prove nothing about it.

For his part, Pollan emphasizes that switching from corn-fed to properly grazed cows brings other benefits as well. Sequestering carbon improves the soil’s fertility and water retentiveness, thus raising food yields and resilience to drought and floods alike. Says Pollan: “I’m a believer in geoengineering of a very specific kind: when it is based on bio-mimicry”—that is, it imitates nature—”rather than high-tech interventions and when instead of being a silver bullet solution it solves multiple problems—in this case, climate change and soil quality and food security.”

Pollan calls this approach “open source carbon sequestration.” He emphasizes that more research is needed to understand how best to apply it, but he is bullish on the prospects. Using photosynthesis and reformed grazing practices to extract atmospheric carbon and store it underground “gets us out of one of the worst aspects of environmental thinking—the zero sum idea that we can’t feed ourselves and save the planet at the same time,” says Pollan. “It also raises our spirits about the challenges ahead, which is not a small thing.”
Farming Started in Several Places at Once: Origins of Agriculture in the Fertile Crescent

July 5, 2013 — For decades archaeologists have been searching for the origins of agriculture. Their findings indicated that early plant domestication took place in the western and northern Fertile Crescent. In a … > full story



Climate Change: Summer Bummer For Your Fourth Of July? (INFOGRAPHIC)

The Fourth of July in the United States means backyard barbecues, beach outings and fireworks displays for millions of Americans. But thanks to climate change, some of your favorite activities face an uncertain future.

Temperatures are rising, drought and wildfire risks are growing and coastal areas face the threat of devastating storm surges. Some of your favorite foods and beverages even face threats due to water shortages and greater losses to U.S. bee populations.

Learn more about this summer bummer in the infographic below.

Infographic by Jan Diehm for The Huffington Post.

For more information about the climate risks in this infographic:



Get outside with the kids: Bay Nature’s top family picks

July 03, 2013 by Jaquelyn Davis

Lazy summer days on your hands? Now’s the time to explore nature with the kids.







8 New Cities Submerged as Oceans Rise in Climate Change GIFs



July 3, 2013


NOW, under 5 ft SLR, and under 25 ft SLR



NOW, under 5 ft SLR, 12 ft SLR and under 25 ft SLR