Conservation Science News August 30, 2013

Highlight of the WeekWildfire and Climate Change










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– Wildfire and Climate Change


Wildfires projected to worsen with climate change
(August 28, 2013)

Environmental scientists bring bad news to the western United States, where firefighters are currently battling dozens of fires in at least 11 states. The Harvard team’s study suggests wildfire seasons by 2050 will be about three weeks longer, up to twice as smoky, and will burn a wider area in the western states. The findings are based on a set of internationally recognized climate scenarios, decades of historical meteorological data, and records of past fire activity. The results will be published in the October 2013 issue of Atmospheric Environment and are available in advance online…. By examining records of past weather conditions and wildfires, the team found that the main factors influencing the spread of fires vary from region to region. In the Rocky Mountain Forest, for example, the best predictor of wildfire area in a given year is the amount of moisture in the forest floor, which depends on the temperature, rainfall, and relative humidity that season. In the Great Basin region, different factors apply. There, the area burned is influenced by the relative humidity in the previous year, which promotes fuel growth. Yue, who was a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard SEAS and is now at Yale University, created mathematical models that closely link these types of variables — seasonal temperatures, relative humidity, the amount of dry fuel and so forth — with the observed wildfire outcomes for six “ecoregions” in the West….. For example, the calculations suggest the following for 2050 in the western United States, in comparison to present-day conditions:

  • The area burned in the month of August could increase by 65% in the Pacific Northwest, and could nearly double in the Eastern Rocky Mountains/Great Plains regions and quadruple in the Rocky Mountains Forest region.
  • The probability of large fires could increase by factors of 2-3.
  • The start date for the fire season could be earlier (late April instead of mid-May), and the end date could be later (mid-October instead of early October).

…Air quality is also projected to suffer as a result of these larger, longer-lasting wildfires. Smoke from wildfires is composed of organic and black carbon particles and can impede visibility and cause respiratory problems. The U.S. Forest Service keeps a record of the amount of fuel (biomass) available across the entire United States, and another set of databases known as the Landscape Fire and Resource Management Planning Tools tracks specific types of vegetation for each square kilometer of land. Based on this information and known emission factors for combustion, the researchers predict that smoke will increase 20-100% by the 2050s, depending on the region and the type of particle. The main innovation of the new study is its reliance on an ensemble of climate models, rather than just one or two. One of the greatest uncertainties in the science of climate change is the sensitivity of surface temperatures to rising levels of greenhouse gases….…..> full story

Xu Yue, Loretta J. Mickley, Jennifer A. Logan, Jed O. Kaplan. Ensemble projections of wildfire activity and carbonaceous aerosol concentrations over the western United States in the mid-21st century. Atmospheric Environment, 2013; 77: 767 DOI: 10.1016/j.atmosenv.2013.06.003

Yosemite fire slowed on all sides

August 29, 2013 Firefighters have 30 percent containment of Rim Fire, believe full containment could come within two to three weeks.

  • Stienstra: Fires limit Labor Day outdoor recreational options

    in California

Full containment weeks away



August 30, 2013 Firefighters slow Yosemite fire, now 311 square miles, but it continues to spread further into the national park.

Los Angeles Times  – August 27, 2013‎

The massive Rim fire on Tuesday became the seventh-largest wildfire in California’s history, and remained 20% contained as it burned in and around Yosemite National Park.



9 Scary Facts About the Yosemite Fire

Mother Jones Maggie Severns | Updated: Wed Aug. 28, 2013 06:00 PM PDT

Just another wildfire? Nope. This one’s different. Here’s why.





The Yosemite Inferno in the Context of Forest Policy, Ecology and Climate Change

By ANDREW C. REVKIN NYT August 29, 2013

The growing intensity of Western fires is the result of many factors, with a drying, heating climate high on the list.

….Here’s a different visual showing the same pattern, but seen through four centuries of fire-frequency data in the Yosemite region gleaned from hundreds of tree-ring and wood samples:

Thomas Swetnam et al. A graph of 400 years of fire history derived from tree ring samples taken along transects near Yosemite National Park (the various horizontal lines) shows a sharp drop in frequency starting in the late 19th century (source). You can’t avoid seeing a fingerprint of fire-suppression policies in the region now ablaze. ….


Yosemite fire puts San Francisco on the front lines

By Glen M. MacDonald is John Muir Chair and director of the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability August 30, 2013

…..Our love for forest and other wild landscapes, coupled with astronomical real estate prices in urban cores, has led to expansive residential development on the edges of our wildlands. Today, fully one-third of U.S. homes lie within such interfaces, where vegetation and topography make them more susceptible to wildfire. If we think about the sprawling transportation, power and water systems that support our cities, the functional urban-wildland interface could be seen to extend hundreds of miles.
To support the millions of people living in the great mega-cities of the West such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City or Denver, we have built gigantic, and sometimes fire-vulnerable, infrastructure to capture and transfer water and energy from the wildlands to the urban cores. ….Studies of climate change and fire suggest that the annual area burned in the Sierra Nevada could triple with modest warming. At the same time, tight economic conditions and a popular groundswell for less government are producing a situation where the state is imposing mandatory landowner fees to support state’s rural firefighting, and the U.S. Forest Service has seen $212 million in congressional sequestration cuts.

What is the role of cities in meeting these challenges? Obviously smart and sustainable growth planning and decreasing carbon footprints. Initiatives such as the California Fire Service and Rescue Emergency Mutual Aid Plan, which has brought city firefighters from San Francisco and Los Angeles to fight the Rim Fire, are important. Fighting fires once they start is expensive though. The real solution is sound forest and wildland management practices, but this will take considerable money to implement on the scale needed. The political will to develop and fund sound fire policies in the 21st century must come from the San Francisco and other cities, because Western cities everywhere are on the wildland fire front lines. more »


Strengthen our forests – thin the trees

SF Chronicle August 30, 2013 by David A. Bischel is a registered professional forester and president of the California Forestry Association.

Firefighters Trever Winters (left) and Leno Estrada put out hot spots along Highway 120 near Groveland. Photo: Michael Macor, San Francisco Chronicle

The Rim Fire is one of the largest fires in recent California history. It highlights how every Californian has a stake in our forests, no matter how far away you are from the flames…As California experiences the effects of climate change, our forest environment will become hotter and drier. More severe and more frequent fires are predicted. About three-quarters of the state’s water, millions of homes, not to mention a multibillion-dollar tourism industry, are just a few of the benefits we reap from our forests. So, suppressing fires to protect our natural resources is not bad policy in itself, but it must be matched with efforts to create stronger, healthier forests that are more resilient to wildfire. One way to begin to strengthen our forests is to burn them. “Prescribed fire” – intentionally set and closely controlled fire – is an effective tool, and we should not ignore its benefits. In California’s forests, fire is a natural process that benefits forest health by eliminating brush and trees that would fuel hotter, more intense fires. Low-intensity fires also can rid the forests of disease and insect infestation. In the Sierra Nevada forests, where the Rim Fire is burning, low-intensity wildfires historically occurred every 10 to 20 years.

But prescribed fires have potential drawbacks, including smoke and the potential for escape, which preclude its use in many forested areas bordering homes. Another important tool is forest thinning, which is a process of selectively removing thick vegetation while leaving the majority of larger, more fire-tolerant trees in place. Trees from the thinning can be sold to cover the cost of the program. Thinning projects put people to work, create funding for the state and protect us from dangerous, costly wildfires. When thinning is used as a part of an integrated strategic fire-prevention approach, it can make forestlands not only resilient after wildfire but also resistant to erosion, which harms water quality. Thinning also can create openings or paths that can be used as escape routes and locations where firefighters can safely attack the flames. Forest management tools like prescribed fires and thinning imitate natural processes so that when fires do occur, our watersheds, our wildlife and our communities are all protected.


(see more pictures below)




New Point Blue publication:



John A. Wiens and Thomas Gardali
The Condor 115(3):456–464 The Cooper Ornithological Society 2013

Conservation-reliant species require continuing management to ensure their long-term persistence. We qualitatively assessed the extent of conservation reliance for 92 California bird taxa listed under federal or California endangered species acts or recognized as California bird species of special concern. Habitat loss and fragmentation are the major threats for over 90% of these taxa, whereas interactions with predators or brood parasites threaten less than half, and human actions imperil roughly 40%. Some form of habitat enhancement is proposed to reduce the threats for most taxa, reinforcing the value of habitat-conservation strategies. Protecting habitat for wetland taxa and restoring habitat for island taxa appear to be particularly costly actions. Importantly, the species of special concern are every bit as conservation reliant as are taxa listed as endangered or threatened; management of these yet-unlisted taxa may be especially effective in preventing them from slipping into a more precarious status. Consideration of the magnitude of threats together with the degree of conservation reliance may help in prioritizing taxa for conservation. The philosophy and practice of conservation and resource management must recognize that continuing actions will be required to maintain the viability of populations of a great many species.

Key words: at-risk species, California, conservation, conservation reliance, habitat, management, prioritization.


From the text:

Biodiversity is in a bind. Rates of extinction or imperilment are increasing and may become even greater as the effects of climate change amplify (Ricketts et al. 2005, Sekercioglu et al. 2008, Urban et al. 2012). Despite the growing awareness of the biodiversity crisis, conservation efforts are failing to keep pace with the growing queue of species meriting attention.….This situation is exacerbated by the recognition that many imperiled species will require continuing management to persist even after they have met mandated recovery goals—they are “conservation-reliant species” (Scott et al. 2005, Redford et al. 2011). Over 80% of the 1136 species listed under the Endangered Species Act (as of 2007) are likely to be conservation reliant, with only slight differences among taxa as diverse as plants, invertebrates, birds, or mammals (Scott et al. 2010). If this proportion is applied to the estimate of currently unlisted but imperiled species of Wilcove and Master (2005), then some 20, 000 species in the United States may be conservation reliant. Clearly, the financial resources (not to mention the political will) to support the management needed to conserve all of these species are unlikely to materialize. Choices about how to allocate scarce conservation resources will have to be made (Mace and Purvis 2007, Briggs 2009); the notion of conservation triage is no longer heretical (Bottrill et al. 2008, Schneider et al. 2010, Rudd 2011, Wiens et al. 2012; but see Parr et al. 2009)….

….. Our analysis suggests that active management of species and ecosystems may become the norm rather than the exception. The philosophy and practice of conservation and resource management must embrace a situation in which continuing action will be required to maintain the viability of populations of a great many birds in California and elsewhere. The financial resources needed to address these threats across the breadth of conservation-reliant taxa considered here (or by Scott et al. 2010) are not available now, nor are they likely to be available in the future (Underwood et al. 2009). The magnitude and extent of conservation reliance just among California birds make it clear that hard decisions must be made about how best to invest limited conservation resources. The Endangered Species Act dictates that federally listed taxa must receive attention (although attention is clearly greater for a salmon than for a butterfly). Our analysis suggests that the BSSC may be every bit as demanding of conservation attention, even though most are less immediately imperiled. In fact, investments in species that are not poised on the brink of extinction may yield a greater return, in terms of the probability of long-term population persistence (Possingham et al. 2002). The “low-hanging fruit” for conservation investment may be those conservation-reliant species that are still abundant enough to support functioning populations and that require only infrequent and inexpensive management of habitat or the other factors that threaten their persistence…. Conservation is challenging, and the task will only become more formidable as the environmental changes now unleashed play out. Recognizing that conservation reliance extends well beyond the species formally recognized as endangered or threatened is an essential first step toward the difficult task of prioritizing and optimizing our conservation actions. It will not be easy. But we must begin.

Future water levels of crucial agricultural aquifer forecast
(August 26, 2013) — A study focuses on future availability of groundwater in the High Plains Aquifer. It finds that if current irrigation trends continue, 69 percent of the groundwater stored in the aquifer will be depleted in 50 years. But immediately reducing water use could extend the aquifer’s lifetime and increase net agricultural production through the year 2110. The study investigates the future availability of groundwater in the High Plains Aquifer — also called the Ogallala Aquifer — and how reducing use would affect cattle and crops. The aquifer supplies 30 percent of the nation’s irrigated groundwater and serves as the most agriculturally important irrigation in Kansas. “Tapping unsustainable groundwater stores for agricultural production in the High Plains Aquifer of Kansas, projections to 2110″ appears in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, or PNAS. The study took four years to complete and was funded by the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Kansas State University’s Rural Transportation Institute. “I think it’s generally understood that the groundwater levels are going down and that at some point in the future groundwater pumping rates are going to have to decrease,” Steward said. “However, there are lots of questions about how long the water will last, how long the aquifer will take to refill and what society can do.”.. Using measurements of groundwater levels in the past and present day in those regions, Steward and colleagues developed a statistical model that projected groundwater declines in western Kansas for the next 100 years and the effect it will have to cattle and crops…. “The main idea is that if we’re able to save water today, it will result in a substantial increase in the number of years that we will have irrigated agriculture in Kansas,” Steward said. “We’ll be able to get more crop in the future and more total crop production from each unit of water because those efficiencies are projected to increase in the future.” Steward said he hoped the study helps support the current dialogue about decisions affecting how water can help build resiliency for agriculture in the future. “We really wrote the paper for the family farmer who wants to pass his land on to his grandchildren knowing that they will have the same opportunities that farmers do today,” Steward said. “As a society, we have an opportunity to make some important decisions that will have consequences for future generations, who may or may not be limited by those decisions.… > full story

David R. Steward, Paul J. Bruss, Xiaoying Yang, Scott A. Staggenborg, Stephen M. Welch, and Michael D. Apley. Tapping unsustainable groundwater stores for agricultural production in the High Plains Aquifer of Kansas, projections to 2110. PNAS, 2013 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1220351110



Turning Off The Spigot In Western Kansas Farmland

NPR August 27, 2013 3:03 AM

Listen to the Story 3 min 53 sec

An irrigation pivot waters a corn field in Nebraska. Many farmers in Nebraska and Kansas rely on irrigation to water their corn fields. But the underground aquifer they draw from will run dry. Nati Harnik/AP

Across the High Plains, many farmers depend on underground stores of water, and they worry about wells going dry. A new scientific of western Kansas lays out a predicted timeline for those fears to become reality. But it also shows an alternative path for farming in Kansas: The moment of reckoning can be delayed, and the impact softened, if farmers start conserving water now…..”The family farmer who’s trying to see into the future, and trying to pass on his or her land to their grandchildren.”

Farmers in western Kansas have good reason to worry about the future. They know that big irrigated fields of corn in this part of the country are taking water out of underground aquifers much faster than rain or snow can fill those natural reservoirs back up.

Steward decided to come up with better estimates for how soon the aquifers will go dry and how that will affect farmers. He got together with experts on growing corn and raising livestock. “We were trying to provide a little bit better glimpse into the future, so that people would have a better idea how to plan,” he says. According to their calculations, if Kansas farmers keep pumping water out of the High Plains aquifer as they have in the past, the amount of water they’re able to extract will start to fall in just 10 years or so. They’ll still be able to continue harvesting more corn for another generation, though, because technology — better irrigation systems and genetically improved corn — will let them use that water more efficiently. But after that, even the latest technology won’t save the corn fields. Irrigated fields will start to disappear, followed by cattle feedlots. The long expansion of agricultural production in western Kansas will end. Yet Steward and his colleagues also lay out some alternative paths that the farmers of Kansas could take. For instance, if farmers reduced their water use by 20 percent right now, it would take a big bite out of their corn production, but production then would resume growing. It wouldn’t peak until 2070, and then it would decline much more gradually. “If we’re able to save as much water as possible now, the more we save, the more corn we’ll be able to grow into the future,” Steward says….



Changing river chemistry affects Eastern US water supplies
(August 26, 2013) — Human activity is changing the basic chemistry of large rivers in the Eastern US, with potentially major consequences for urban water supplies and aquatic ecosystems, a new study has found. … In the first survey of its kind, researchers looked at long-term records of alkalinity trends in 97 streams and rivers from Florida to New Hampshire. Over time spans of 25 to 60 years, two-thirds of the rivers had become significantly more alkaline and none had become more acidic. Alkalinity is a measure of water’s ability to neutralize acid. In excess, it can cause ammonia toxicity and algal blooms, altering water quality and harming aquatic life. Increasing alkalinity hardens drinking water, makes wastewater disposal more difficult, and exacerbates the salinization of fresh water. Paradoxically, higher acid levels in rain, soil and water, caused by human activity, are major triggers for these changes in river chemistry, said associate professor Sujay Kaushalof the University of Maryland. Kaushal, a geologist, is the lead author of a paper about the study, published August 26 in the online edition of the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Science and Technology…..> full story




A group of ducks take off from a restored wetland in the Napa-Sonoma Marshes State Wildlife Area on Friday, Aug. 23, 2013 in Napa, Calif. About 10,000 acres of former salt ponds are being restored to wetlands in the North Bay. (Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group)

Massive new wetlands restoration reshapes San Francisco Bay

By Paul Rogers Posted:   08/29/2013 05:56:38 PM PDT Updated:   08/30/2013 07:31:49 AM PDT

NAPA — The Carneros region in southern Napa and Sonoma counties has been known for years for chardonnays, pinot noirs and merlots. But as the grapes hang plump on the vines awaiting the autumn harvest, this area along the northern shores of San Francisco Bay is growing a new bounty: huge numbers of egrets, herons, ducks, salmon, Dungeness crabs and other wildlife, all returning to a vast network of newly created marshes and wetlands.
Construction crews and biologists are in the final stretch of a 20-year project to restore 11,250 acres of former industrial salt ponds back to a natural landscape. The aquatic renaissance is already the largest wetlands restoration project ever completed in the Bay Area, turning back the clock 150 years and transforming the area between Vallejo and Sonoma Raceway, despite little public awareness because of the distance from the Bay Area’s large cities. “It’s a stunning achievement,” said Marc Holmes, program director with the Bay Institute, an environmental group in San Francisco. “It’s a phenomenal ecological restoration, one of the most important coastal wetlands projects ever done in the United States.” The restoration — encompassing an area as big as 8,500 football fields — is also offering a road map for similar projects now underway in the East Bay and Silicon Valley, particularly the massive restoration of 15,100 acres of former Cargill Salt ponds that extend from Hayward to San Jose to Redwood City. During a recent afternoon, fishermen in boats motored through parts of the new Napa-Sonoma marshes that look like the Florida Everglades, past flocks of ducks, thick grasses and even the occasional harbor seal. Only a decade ago the area was a dry, desolate expanse of mud caked with white salt crystals.


On Friday morning, a group of local political leaders, nonprofit groups and government agencies plan to meet at the Napa-Sonoma marsh area to commemorate one of the last steps in the restoration. They’ll mark the completion of a 3.4-mile pipeline to connect the Sonoma Valley County Sanitation District treatment plant with the marsh complex. The $10 million pipeline will take up to 550 million gallons a year of treated wastewater to two former salt ponds, where it will dilute a highly saline byproduct of salt-making called bittern, so it can be slowly released to the bay. “We are bringing back the bay,” said Grant Davis, general manager of the Sonoma County Water Agency, which oversaw the pipeline construction. “This is called the Bay Area for a reason. The bay is what defines us.”

After the bittern has been diluted, the recycled water will be used for growing grapes in the Carneros region, decreasing farmers’ reliance on pumping groundwater.

Since the Gold Rush of 1849, San Francisco Bay has shrunk by a third, as people diked, dredged and filled its waters to create hay fields, housing subdivisions like Foster City, even airport runways. The rampant filling largely stopped in the 1970s, with the advent of modern environmental laws such as the federal Clean Water Act. Since the 1990s, biologists, environmental groups and government agencies have been restoring wetlands around the bay, slowly pushing it back into its historic footprint. The new wetlands not only expand wildlife and public recreation, they also offer a buffer to reduce flooding as sea levels continue to rise because of global warming, scientists say. And unlike other environmental restoration projects — such as replanting a clear-cut redwood forest, which can take 100 years or more to come to fruition — the payoff with wetland restoration begins almost immediately. Once earthen levees are breached, bay waters thick with fish, crabs, plant seeds and other life come pouring in, which in turn draw everything from steelhead trout to avocets to snowy egrets looking for a meal. “Once you open these areas to the tides, Mother Nature takes care of it,” said Amy Hutzel, program manager with the state Coastal Conservancy, a government agency that oversaw the marsh restoration. “The sediment, the plants and eventually the animals come back really quickly.”

The Napa-Sonoma marsh area was part of the bay until the 1860s, when farmers began diking and filling it. In fact, the word “Carneros” is Spanish for “the ram,” a reference to the sheepherders and dairy farms of the 1800s. By the 1950s, salt companies began building huge salt evaporation ponds, cultivating salt for food, road de-icing and other uses. Everything changed in 1994, when the previous owner, Cargill Salt, sold the property to the state for $10 million. Much of the money came from a $10.8 million court settlement paid by Shell Oil to compensate for a 1988 oil spill it caused in Carquinez Strait. Crews working on the North Bay Cargill salt ponds restoration ran into numerous setbacks, including funding shortfalls and not knowing how to stop the ponds from making salt at first. Eventually the whole project, which will cost roughly $40 million, was funded through state and federal money, including bond funds. Agencies that worked on the project, including the Army Corps of Engineers, the Coastal Conservancy and the U.S. Geological Survey, learned lessons that are helping with other Cargill restoration projects further south. For now, outdoor lovers, fishermen, duck hunters and the project planners are reveling in their newfound creation. Striped bass, endangered shorebirds and even bat rays are back. “What’s the saying: If you build it, they will come?” said Larry Wyckoff, a biologist with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, which owns the site. “Well, that’s what’s happening.”

For information about how to visit the Napa-Sonoma marsh area, go to


Fifteen new species of Amazonian birds
(August 28, 2013) — Biologists have recently discovered 15 species of birds previously unknown to science. Not since 1871 have so many new species of birds been introduced under a single cover. … > full story


Power lines study hopes to reduce risk of bird collision

The Guardian  – August 30 2013‎

The research in Lancashire will examine the efficiency of different types of “diverters” – attachments to power lines to make them stand out better to flying birds – as well as look at agricultural, landscape and weather factors that affect their flights.


Evidence suggests bird migration patterns are learned, not genetic

Raw Story August 29 2013

Whooping cranes learn how to migrate by following elders in their midst, suggesting that social influence has a larger bearing than genetics on the birds‘ behavior, scientists said Thursday. The large, white birds are endangered in the wild of North


Woodland salamanders indicators of forest ecosystem recovery
(August 28, 2013)Woodland salamanders are a viable indicator of forest ecosystem recovery, according to researchers, … > full story


Not the end of the world: Why Earth’s greatest mass extinction was the making of modern mammals
(August 28, 2013) — The ancient closest relatives of mammals – the cynodont therapsids – not only survived the greatest mass extinction of all time, 252 million years ago, but thrived in the aftermath, according to new research… The first mammals arose in the Triassic period, more than 225 million years ago. These early fur balls include small shrew-like animals such as Morganucodon from England, Megazostrodon from South Africa and Bienotherium from China.

They had differentiated teeth (incisors, canines, molars) and large brains and were probably warm-blooded and covered in fur — all characteristics that stand them apart from their reptile ancestors, and which contribute to their huge success today. However, new research suggests that this array of unique features arose gradually over a long span of time, and that the first mammals may have arisen as a result of the end-Permian mass extinction — which wiped out 90 per cent of marine organisms and 70 per cent of terrestrial species. … > full story


Fukushima radioactive plume to reach US in 3 years
(August 28, 2013)
The radioactive ocean
plume from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear plant disaster will reach the shores of the US within three years from the date of the incident but is likely to be harmless according to new paper in the journal Deep-Sea Research 1.
While atmospheric radiation was detected on the US west coast within days of the incident, the radioactive particles in the ocean plume take considerably longer to travel the same distance. … > full story


Ocean fish acquire more mercury at depth
(August 25, 2013) — Mercury accumulation in the ocean fish we eat tends to take place at deeper depths, in part because of photochemical reactions that break down organic mercury in well-lit surface waters, according to new research. More of this accessible organic mercury is also being generated in deeper waters. … Bacteria in the oceans change atmospheric mercury into the organic monomethylmercury form that can accumulate in animal tissue. Large predatory fish contain high levels of methylmercury in part because they eat lots of smaller, mercury-containing fish. In 2009, researchers at UH Manoa determined that the depths at which a species feeds is nearly as important as its position in the food chain in determining how much methylmercury it contains….The finding that mercury is being converted to its toxic, bioavailable form at depth is important in part because scientists expect mercury levels at intermediate depths in the North Pacific to rise in coming decades. “The implication is that predictions for increased mercury in deeper water will result in higher levels in fish,” said Joel Blum of the University of Michigan, the lead author on the new paper and a professor in the department of earth and environmental sciences. “If we’re going to effectively reduce the mercury concentrations in open-ocean fish, we’re going to have to reduce global emissions of mercury, including emissions from places like China and India.”

Research that helps us to better understand mercury concentrations in fish has potential benefits for all fish-consuming societies, but is particularly relevant here in Hawai’i where marine fish consumption is among the highest levels in the United States. …> full story



Protect corridors to save tigers, leopards
(August 29, 2013) — Conservation geneticists makes the case that landscape-level tiger and leopard conservation that includes protecting the corridors the big cats use for travel between habitat patches is the most effective conservation strategy for their long-term survival. … > full story


Sea otters promote recovery of seagrass beds
(August 26, 2013) — Scientists studying the decline and recovery of seagrass beds in one of California’s largest estuaries have found that recolonization of the estuary by sea otters was a crucial factor in the seagrass comeback. … > full story

Desert tortoise faces threat from its own refuge as BLM closes Vegas rescue center

Washington Post August 25, 2013
Written by Hayley Tsukayama

LAS VEGAS – For decades, the vulnerable desert tortoise has led a sheltered existence. Developers have taken pains to keep the animal safe.


Snapping turtles finding refuge in urban areas while habitats are being polluted
(August 27, 2013) — Snapping turtles are surviving in urban areas as their natural habitats are being polluted or developed for construction projects. One solution is for people to stop using so many chemicals that are eventually dumped into the waterways, a scientist said. … > full story





Scientists analyze the effects of ocean acidification on marine species
(August 25, 2013)Ocean acidification (OA) could change the ecosystems of our seas even by the end of this century. Biologists have assessed the extent of this ominous change. They compiled and analyzed all available data on the reaction of marine animals to OA. While the majority of investigated species are affected, the respective
impacts are very specific. …
The AWI-researchers present their results as an Advance Online Publication on Sunday 25 August 2013 in Nature Climate Change. The oceans absorb more than a quarter of anthropogenic carbon dioxide emitted to the atmosphere. They form a natural store without which Earth would now be a good deal warmer. But their storage capacities are limited and the absorption of carbon dioxide is not without consequence. Carbon dioxide dissolves in water, forms carbonic acid and causes the pH value of the oceans to drop — which affects many sea dwellers. In recent years much research has therefore been conducted on how individual species react to the carbon dioxide enrichment and the acidifying water. So far the overall extent of these changes on marine animals has been largely unknown….The results of this new assessment are clear. “Our study showed that all animal groups we considered are affected negatively by higher carbon dioxide concentrations. Corals, echinoderms and molluscs above all react very sensitively to a decline in the pH value,” says Dr. Astrid Wittmann. Some echinoderms such as brittle stars have lower prospects of survival in carbon dioxide values predicted for the year 2100. By contrast, only higher concentrations of carbon dioxide would appear to have an impact on crustaceans such as the Atlantic spider crab or edible crab. However, the sensitivity of the animals to a declining pH value may increase if the sea temperature rises simultaneously. The presumption that fish can cope with ocean acidification better than corals also becomes evident on taking a look at the past. “We compared our results with the widespread deaths of species around 250 and 55 million years ago when CO2 concentrations were also elevated. Despite the relatively rough statements we were able to make with the assistance of sediment samples from the past, we discovered similar sensitivities in the same animal taxa,” explains Prof. Hans-Otto Pörtner. The spread of the corals and the size of the reefs slumped drastically 55 million years ago whilst
fish exhibited a great adaptive capacity and were able to further extend their dominance. The finding that in the past fish were not highly sensitive to acidic water surprises the scientists because current research results show that fish at the larval stage are quite sensitive to ocean acidification. “Not all effects we are currently measuring are decisive for the destiny of a species possibly in the long term,” explains Pörtner…..full story

Astrid C. Wittmann, Hans-O. Pörtner. Sensitivities of extant animal taxa to ocean acidification. Nature Climate Change, 2013; DOI: 10.1038/nclimate1982


Insight into marine life’s ability to adapt to climate change
(August 26, 2013) — A study into marine life around an underwater volcanic vent in the Mediterranean, might hold the key to understanding how some species will be able to survive in increasingly acidic sea water should anthropogenic climate change continue. Researchers have discovered that some species of polychaete worms are able to modify their metabolic rates to better cope with and thrive in waters high in carbon dioxide (CO2), which is otherwise poisonous to other, often closely-related species. The study sheds new light on the robustness of some marine species and the relative resilience of marine biodiversity should atmospheric CO2 continue to cause ocean acidification. … Project leader Dr Piero Calosi, of Plymouth University’s Marine Institute, said: “Previous studies have shown that single-cell algae can genetically adapt to elevated levels of carbon dioxide, but this research has demonstrated that a marine animal can physiologically and genetically adapt to chronic and elevated levels of carbon dioxide. Furthermore, we show that both plasticity and adaptation are key to preventing some species’ from suffering extinction in the face of on-going ocean acidification, and that these two strategies may be largely responsible to defining the fate of marine biodiversity.”… > full story


Climate change: Ocean acidification amplifies global warming
(August 26, 2013)
Scientists have demonstrated that ocean acidification may amplify global warming through the biogenic production of the marine sulfur component dimethylsulphide (DMS). Ocean acidification has the potential to speed up global warming considerably, according to new research. It is common knowledge that fossil fuel emissions of CO2 lead to global warming. The ocean, by taking up significant amounts of CO2, lessens the effect of this anthropogenic disturbance. The “price” for storing CO2 is an ongoing decrease of seawater pH (ocean acidification1), a process that is likely to have diverse and harmful impacts on marine biota, food webs, and ecosystems. Until now, however, climate change and ocean acidification have been widely considered as uncoupled consequences of the anthropogenic CO2 perturbation2… Recently, ocean biologists measured in experiments using seawater enclosures (mesocosms)3 that DMS concentrations were markedly lower in a low-pH environment. When DMS is emitted to the atmosphere it oxidizes to gas phase sulfuric acid, which can form new aerosol particles that impact cloud albedo and, hence, cool Earth’s surface. As marine DMS emissions are the largest natural source for atmospheric sulfur, changes in their strength have the potential to notably alter Earth’s radiation budget…In the journal Nature Climate Change it is demonstrated, that modeled
DMS emissions decrease by about 18 (±3)% in 2100 compared to preindustrial times as a result of the combined effects of ocean acidification and climate change. The reduced DMS emissions induce a significant positive radiative forcing of which 83% (0.4 W/m2) can, in the model, be attributed to the impact of ocean acidification alone. Compared to Earth system response to a doubling of atmospheric CO2 this is tantamount to an equilibrium temperature increase between 0.23 and 0.48 K. Simply put, their research shows that ocean acidification has the potential to speed up global warming considerably….. full story



Ocean Acidification May Amplify Global Warming This Century Up To 0.9°F

Posted: 26 Aug 2013 02:14 PM PDT ThinkProgress.

Nature: “Marine phytoplankton releases sulphur compounds into the atmosphere that contribute to cooling the planet. But ocean acidification could hinder this process.”

Ocean acidification may speed up total warming this century as much as 0.9°F, a new study finds. This amplifying feedback is not to be found in the forthcoming climate report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) — one more reason it provides an instantly out of date lowball estimate of future warming. The oceans are now acidifying 10 times faster today than 55 million years ago when a mass extinction of marine species occurred. We are risking a marine biological meltdown “by end of century.”

But unrestricted carbon pollution doesn’t merely threaten to wipe out coral reefs, oysters, salmon, and other ocean species we rely on. Researchers find “Global warming amplified by reduced sulphur fluxes as a result of ocean acidification,” in a new Nature Climate Change study (subs. req’d).

As an accompanying news article in Nature explains:

Atmospheric sulphur, most of which comes from the sea, is a check against global warming. Phytoplankton — photosynthetic microbes that drift in sunlit water — produces a compound called dimethylsulphide (DMS). Some of this enters the atmosphere and reacts to make sulphuric acid, which clumps into aerosols, or microscopic airborne particles. Aerosols seed the formation of clouds, which help cool the Earth by reflecting sunlight….

More recently, thinking has shifted towards predicting a feedback in the opposite direction, because of acidification. As more CO2 enters the atmosphere, some dissolves in seawater, forming carbonic acid. This is decreasing the pH of the oceans, which is already down by 0.1 pH units on pre-industrial times, and could be down by another 0.5 in some places by 2100. And studies using ‘mesocosms’ — enclosed volumes of seawater — show that seawater with a lower pH produces less DMS. On a global scale, a fall in DMS emissions due to acidification could have a major effect on climate, creating a positive-feedback loop and enhancing warming…..

So we have up to 0.9°F warming from acidification this century that isn’t in the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report models. You can add that to the carbon feedback from the thawing permafrost — also unmodeled by the new IPCC report — which is projected to add up to 1.5°F to total global warming by 2100.

That means actual warming this century might well be 2°F higher than the IPCC projects. In the case where humanity keeps taking little or no action to restrict carbon pollution, that means actual warming by 2100 from preindustrial levels could exceed 10°F.


Arctic sea ice update: Unlikely to break records, but continuing downward trend
(August 23, 2013) — The melting of sea ice in the Arctic is well on its way toward its annual “minimum,” that time when the floating ice cap covers less of the Arctic Ocean than at any other period during the year. While the ice will continue to shrink until around mid-September, it is unlikely that this year’s summer low will break a new record. Still, this year’s melt rates are in line with the sustained decline of the Arctic ice cover observed by NASA and other satellites over the last several decades. … > full story


East Antarctic Ice Sheet could be more vulnerable to climate change than previously thought
(August 28, 2013) — The world’s largest ice sheet could be more vulnerable to the effects of climate change than previously thought, according to new research. … Using measurements from 175 glaciers, the researchers were able to show that the glaciers underwent rapid and synchronised periods of advance and retreat which coincided with cooling and warming. The researchers said this suggested that large parts of the ice sheet, which reaches thicknesses of more than 4km, could be more susceptible to changes in air temperatures and sea-ice than was originally believed. Current scientific opinion suggests that glaciers in East Antarctica are at less risk from climate change than areas such as Greenland or West Antarctica due to its extremely cold temperatures which can fall below minus 30°C at the coast, and much colder further inland. But the Durham team said there was now an urgent need to understand the vulnerability of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet, which holds the vast majority of the world’s ice and enough to raise global sea levels by over 50m…. > full story


On warming Antarctic Peninsula, moss and microbes reveal unprecedented ecological change
(August 29, 2013) — By carefully analyzing a 150-year-old moss bank on the Antarctic Peninsula, researchers describe an unprecedented rate of ecological change since the 1960s driven by warming temperatures. … > full story


Climate change could turn Greenland green by 2100

The Guardian  – August 28, 2013‎

Climate change could bring about the greening of Greenland by the end of the century, scientists predict. Today only four indigenous tree species grow on the island, confined to small areas in the south.


NASA data reveals mega-canyon under Greenland ice sheet
(August 29, 2013) — Data from a NASA airborne science mission reveals evidence of a large and previously unknown canyon hidden under a mile of Greenland ice. The canyon has the characteristics of a winding river channel and is at least 460 miles (750 kilometers) long, making it longer than the Grand Canyon. In some places, it is as deep as 2,600 feet (800 meters), on scale with segments of the Grand Canyon. This immense feature is thought to predate the ice sheet that has covered Greenland for the last few million years. … > full story


Sea ice decline spurs the greening of the Arctic
(August 23, 2013) — Sea ice decline and warming trends are changing the vegetation in nearby arctic coastal areas, according to scientists. … > full story

Where can coral reefs relocate to escape the heat?
(August 29, 2013) — The best real estate for coral reefs over the coming decades will no longer be around the equator but in the sub-tropics, new research suggests. … > full story

Ozone depletion linked to extreme precipitation in austral summer
August 29, 2013) — The new study showed that the ozone depletion over the South Pole has affected the extreme daily precipitation in the austral summer, for Dec., Jan., and Feb. … > full story


Mitigation without adaptation can leave communities vulnerable — study

Source: Thu, 29 Aug 2013 09:03 AM Author: Mark Fos

Understanding the vulnerability of forest-dependent communities is a point of departure for building more effective climate mitigation and adaptation strategies, a study has found.

Among its findings, the study reported that mitigation activities might make communities more vulnerable to the effects of climate change and other factors. It also argued that positive outcomes from conservation depend on the willingness and motivation of communities to engage and participate in mitigation activities. The study, published in the International Journal of Biodiversity and Conservation, was written principally by Eugene Chia who conducted the research as part of a graduate thesis at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences….


Jamaica Bay As A Lab For Studying Climate Change

by Sarah Crean, Aug 18, 2013

Looking out at the Manhattan skyline from Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge (Photo: Flickr/Jeffrey Bary/Creative Commons).

NEW YORK — Jamaica Bay, the city’s largest wetland and open space, could be critical to the ongoing sustainability of the metropolis. The Bay’s marshes help to break waves from major storms and absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The Bay is also a refuge for hundreds of local and migratory species. While the Bay was already a focus of the city’s sustainability efforts, the devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy highlighted the need to maintain and strengthen the city’s natural defenses against rising sea levels. “Wetlands are among the most biologically productive ecosystems in the world; they also can dissipate the destructive energy of wave action during storm conditions,” Daniel Zarrilli, the city’s director of resiliency, said in an email last week. “Expected sea level rise and the increased frequency of the most intense storms associated with climate change will make this function even more important in the future.” In recognition of the Bay’s significance, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced Aug. 12 that a new Science and Resilience Institute will focus on the 18,000-acre estuary. A consortium of academic and other institutions, led by the City University of New York, will conduct research on “resilience in urban ecosystems and their adjacent communities.” ….


Vicious Cycle: Extreme Climate Events Release 11 Billion Tons Of CO2 Into The Air Every Year

Posted: 28 Aug 2013 02:44 PM PDT

Extreme weather like droughts, heat waves and superstorms affect the carbon balance of vegetation differently. Up arrows indicate extra CO2 in the air. Down arrows signify that CO2 is removed from the air more slowly. Orange arrows are for short-term effects, purple arrows for long-term. Via Nature. A major new study in Nature, “Climate extremes and the carbon cycle” (subs. req’d), points to yet another significant carbon cycle feedback ignored by climate models. The news release sums up the key finding of this 18-author paper: Researchers “have discovered that terrestrial ecosystems absorb approximately 11 billion tons less carbon dioxide every year as the result of the extreme climate events than they could if the events did not occur. That is equivalent to approximately a third of global CO2 emissions per year.”

Measurements indicate, for instance, that the brutal 2003 European heat wave “had a much greater impact on the carbon balance than had previously been assumed.” We’re already seeing a rise in extreme weather in North America. Last year, Munich Re, a top reinsurer, found a “climate-change footprint” in the rapid rise of North American extreme weather catastrophes: “Climate-driven changes are already evident over the last few decades for severe thunderstorms, for heavy precipitation and flash flooding, for hurricane activity, and for heatwave, drought and wild-fire dynamics in parts of North America.”

The new Nature study found that one type of extreme weather event is worse than the others:

Periods of extreme drought in particular reduce the amount of carbon absorbed by forests, meadows and agricultural land significantly. “We have found that it is not extremes of heat that cause the most problems for the carbon balance, but drought,” explains [lead author] Markus Reichstein…. Drought can not only cause immediate damage to trees; it can also make them less resistant to pests and fire. It is also the case that a forest recovers much more slowly from fire or storm damage than other ecosystems do.

And this is worrisome because as a major 2013 review of observations and climate models pointed out, “historical records of precipitation, streamflow and drought indices all show increased aridity since 1950 over many land areas.” That study, by Aiguo Dai, “Increasing drought under global warming in observations and models,” found:

… the observed global aridity changes up to 2010 are consistent with model predictions, which suggest severe and widespread droughts in the next 30–90 years over many land areas resulting from either decreased precipitation and/or increased evaporation.

According to Climate Central, “Reichstein singled out the ongoing drought in the Southwest as a particularly damaging extreme weather event that could affect ecosystems’ carbon dioxide absorption in the U.S.” And that is worrisome because, as Dai has explained, thanks to climate change, “The U.S. may never again return to the relatively wet conditions experienced from 1977 to 1999.”

The new study finds “a few major events dominate the global overall effect, while the more frequent smaller events occurring throughout the world play a much less significant part.” And that is worrisome because global warming — by shifting the bell curve and causing step-function changes in the climate — dramatically increases the odds of the most extreme events, like, say, Superstorm Sandy.

And so we may be headed to what Reichstein calls “a self-reinforcing effect” whereby increased CO2 in the air increases the frequency of the most extreme kinds of weather, which in turn puts more CO2 in the air. We can add this to the amplifying feedback I reported on Monday, whereby ocean acidification may amplify global warming this century up to 0.9°F. And there’s a third major carbon feedback unmodeled by the new IPCC report — the thawing permafrost — which is projected to add up to 1.5°F to total global warming by 2100.

Climatologist Michael Mann wrote in an email, “This study is another sober reminder that uncertainties in the science of climate change are a reason for concern rather than complacency. In this case, this new finding implies that the terrestrial biosphere is likely to become a less efficient ‘sink’ of carbon than previously acknowledged. That, in term, means that the airborne fraction of CO2, and, hence, the human-caused greenhouse warming, may well be greater than most previous assessments have suggested.

Reichstein issued a stark warning about this latest feedback:

I think counting on the biosphere’s ability to absorb carbon is a risky thing because you don’t know how long it will continue to take up carbon dioxide that we emit.

Is anyone listening? The time to act to slash manmade carbon emissions is NOW — before we devastate the biosphere’s ability to store carbon.

The post Vicious Cycle: Extreme Climate Events Release 11 Billion Tons Of CO2 Into The Air Every Year appeared first on ThinkProgress.

The Dung Beetle Is a Climate Change Hero (blog) August 28, 2013

If humans one day are able to bring greenhouse gas emissions under control and forestall the worst impacts of global warming, they may have an unlikely hero to thank. The lowly dung beetle, which feeds on animal feces and is found on every continent save Antarctica, helps reduce the amount of methane released into the atmosphere from farms by doing what it does best — burrowing into cow patties and other animal droppings. That makes it a surprisingly effective weapon in the battle against climate change, notes a study released this month in the science journal PLOS ONE, because methane is one of the most potent of the heat-trapping greenhouse gases. “We believe that these beetles exert much of their impact by simply digging around in the dung,” said Atte Penttilä, a masters student at the University of Helsinki and one of the study’s co-authors, in a press release. “Methane is primarily born under anaerobic conditions, and the tunneling by beetles seems to aerate the pats,” he added. “This will have a major impact on how carbon escapes from cow pats into the atmosphere.”…





Earlier peak for Spain’s glaciers
(August 26, 2013) — Over much of the planet, glaciers were at their greatest extent roughly 20,000 years ago. But according to geologists, that wasn’t true in at least one part of southern Europe. Due to local effects of temperature and precipitation, the local glacial maximum occurred considerably earlier, around 26,000 years ago. … > full story



Carbon-sequestering ocean plants may cope with climate changes over the long run
(August 26, 2013) — A year-long experiment on tiny ocean organisms called coccolithophores suggests that the single-celled algae may still be able to grow their calcified shells even as oceans grow warmer and more acidic in Earth’s near future. The study stands in contrast to earlier studies suggesting that coccolithophores would fail to build strong shells in acidic waters. … > full story


Reservoirs Average in Spite of Record Dry Spring

Marin Municipal Water District Newsletter July/August 2013

In spite of a record dry spring, as of June 2 MMWD’s reservoirs were 85 percent full—just slightly below the 88 percent average for that date. Thanks to good carryover storage from last year and abundant early rainfall in the fall, MMWD’s reservoirs filled to capacity in late December. Since then, however, the year has turned decidedly dry. In fact, rainfall for January through May totaled just over five inches at Lake Lagunitas, about 16 percent of average rainfall for the period and
the driest January-May ever recorded
. The previous record low January-May rainfall was ten inches in 1984. Even though reservoir levels were only slightly below average as of the beginning of June, we have taken proactive operational measures to optimize our supply this year. We also are reminding our customers this has been an unusually dry spring and water conservation is especially important this year.



Five Unusual Ways Scientists Are Studying Climate Change

Smithsonian Science Surprises August 23, 2013



Beachgoers In Spain Face Invasion Of Jellyfish

North Country Public Radio-NPR

Aug 27, 2013 (Morning Edition) — Known for its sparkling turquoise waters and white sand, Spain’s Mediterranean beaches are developing a new reputation  There’s been a spike in the number of jellyfish on Mediterranean beaches this summer. Scientists blame overfishing — and possibly climate change. The British government has put out a warning to its citizens vacationing near those waters….






Climate change our most serious security threat

San Francisco Chronicle ‎- August 25 2013

Ask Adm. Samuel Locklear III, commander of the U.S. military’s sprawling Pacific Command, what his most serious threat is, and you might be surprised. There’s a long list of possibilities, after all: North Korean nukes, rising Chinese military power and aggressive cyberespionage, multiple territorial disputes between major powers and persistent insurgencies from the Philippines to Thailand, not to mention protecting some of the world’s most vulnerable shipping choke points. Add all of that up, though, and there’s something even more dangerous to keep even the most seasoned military officer up at night: the looming disaster of climate change. Locklear is not alone in his assessment. He is one among a rising chorus of voices from the national security community, from senior military and intelligence officials to front-line combat veterans, united by what is fast becoming a consensus view. Climate change is much more than an environmental or public health issue. The phenomenon, and the dangerous fossil fuel dependency that drives it, is among the most serious national security threats we face. Our dependence on fossil fuels – oil, in particular – is a crucial part of the threat. A new generation of combat veterans has seen the consequences firsthand on the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq….



Drought And Heat Waves Are Costing The Federal Government Billions In Crop Insurance Payouts

Posted: 28 Aug 2013 05:49 AM PDT

CREDIT: AP/Nati Harnik

Extreme weather has cost the federal government billions in crop insurance payouts over the last few years, but according to a new report, certain farming practices have the potential to lower that amount in the future and prepare farmers for the effects of climate change.

According to the report, released Tuesday by the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Federal Crop Insurance Program paid out a record $17.3 billion in insurance claims to farmers in 2012, just one year after the program set a record at $10.8 billion in claims in 2011. Climate change played a large role in these historic payments — in 2012, 80 percent of all payments made by the FCIP were for farmers whose crops had been lost to heat, drought or high wind, according to the NRDC. Many Midwestern states were hit even harder by these impacts — in Illinois, 98 percent of FCIP payouts in 2012 were to farmers with losses from heat, drought or hot wind, along with 97 percent in Iowa and Indiana….



California needs controls on fracking

SF Chronicle Editorial August 30 2013

The risks and rewards of this potential oil boom are why the Legislature… more »


Plan would offer carbon offsets to timber owners

AP August 24, 2013 An Oregon conservation group has proposed a health initiative linking landowners with carbon offset buyers, getting money to the older owners for health care costs while more effectively managing their timber. Catherine Mater of the Pinchot…more »



New report details billion-dollar markets in Climate Change Adaptation

San Diego, Calif. August 29, 2013 — The increase in weather-related disasters worldwide has helped galvanize attention on the need for climate change adaptation and risk mitigation projects in the public and private sector. A comprehensive new study by Environmental Business International, Inc., publisher of Climate Change Business Journal, details a $700-million U.S. and $2-billion global climate change adaptation services market and forecasts annual growth in the 12-20% range to 2020. Today’s market is led by consulting & engineering and specialty firms working primarily for government agencies in analysis, risk management and planning, but increasingly the market will tilt to project implementation and construction. There are few assets in the world that will not be profoundly affected by climate change. Governments at the local, state, regional and national levels are in the midst of seriously considering the threat of climate change to public health and epidemiology, agriculture, power production, transportation, town planning, coastal protection, and water resources. Some have gone beyond serious consideration of these threats to detailed scenario analysis, planning, even initial design and construction of preventative measures. ….EBI Report 4800: Climate Change Adaptation
(updated for 2013) focuses on the U.S. climate change adaptation industry and prospects for global growth. The U.S. climate change adaptation industry is just emerging, led by consulting & engineering firms doing assessment and planning work. CCBJ estimates that adaptation will grow to a billion-dollar industry in the United States by 2015, followed by exponential growth once design and construction of adaptation measures begin in earnest. CCBJ’s assessment of climate change adaptation markets identified a small number of funded projects in a variety of regions including government agencies, non-profits, universities as well as a few well-placed consulting & engineering firms. Design, engineering and construction of responses or preventive measures will ultimately be the bulk of the market, but most believe this activity is unlikely to take off within a 10-year time frame in the U.S. However, markets in the developing world may see earlier movement depending on international funding agreements. This report maps out the Climate Change Adaptation Industry with market forecasts, and profiles of existing projects and companies engaged in the practice… TABLE OF CONTENTS



How the Arctic Ocean could transform world trade
Melting northern waters attract Asia’s commercial giants, but they will need the help of Arctic nations to succeed.

Last Modified: 27 Aug 2013 08:29 Opinion

Chinese companies are scoping out alternatives to the Panama Canal, including a parallel canal through Nicaragua and so-called “dry canals” – container ports linked by rail – in Honduras and Guatemala. Another dry canal could link Eilat and Tel Aviv by rail through Israel, allowing ships to bypass the Suez Canal. China, along with other Asian trading nations, is also looking towards the north for alternate shipping lanes. The Bering Strait is a deep, wide, pirate-free channel between Russia and Alaska that connects the Pacific and Arctic Oceans. Eastward from there, Canada’s Northwest Passage offers a 7,000-kilometre shortcut to the US’ Atlantic Seaboard. Westward, Russia’s Northern Sea Route offers a 10,000-kilometre shortcut to Europe. With time, a third route will open across the centre of the Arctic Ocean. These Arctic routes are becoming alternatives to conventional routes because of climate change. Rising temperatures are causing sea-ice to melt at an unprecedented rate; all six of the lowest ice-extents on record have occurred in the last six years. Last summer, the area of Arctic Ocean covered by ice was just half the average seasonal low from 1979 to 2000. In China, the media refer to the Northern Sea Route as the “Arctic Golden Waterway”. Professor Bin Yang of Shanghai Maritime University estimates the route could save his country $60bn to $120bn per year. In preparation for Arctic routes, shipyards in South Korea, Singapore and India are building ice-strengthened cargo ships and tankers. Some of these are equipped with dual-directional technology that enables them to use a high efficiency bow on open seas, and an icebreaking stern when moving backwards through ice….



The Next Hurricane, and the Next

By THE EDITORIAL BOARD NY Times Published: August 23, 2013

Hurricane Sandy, the monster storm that hit the Atlantic Seaboard on Oct. 29, left at least 159 dead and caused $65 billion in damages. But as a presidential task force made clear this week, Sandy cannot be considered a seasonal disaster or regional fluke but as yet another harbinger of the calamities that await in an era of climate change. With that in mindthe report says that individuals, local governments and states that expect federal help cannot simply restore what was there but must adopt new standards and harden community structures to withstand the next flood or hurricane.

This report, from the President’s Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force, identifies 11 climate-related disasters costing an estimated $110 billion in damages in the last year alone. It makes 69 recommendations that Shaun Donovan, the task force chairman and secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, calls “the most important step the federal government has taken so far to incorporate the realities of climate change into the way we recover from disasters.” The proposals range from urging better cooperation among government agencies to recommendations for hardening and backing up the electrical grid to ensuring the availability of fuel and cellphone coverage. Some of the detail is telling. There are, for instance, federally funded projects that require as many as 40 different permit and review procedures, stalling rebuilding or relief projects for up to four years.

The report noted that three states hardest hit by Sandy — New York, New Jersey and Connecticut — have been slow in adopting internationally accepted building codes, making it too easy for homeowners to patch what they have rather than spend extra to prepare for another Sandy. This warning could be applied nationally. The report also noted that Congress made important changes last year to the financially distressed National Flood Insurance Program, reducing subsidies that have made this insurance affordable. Now homeowners who live in risk-prone areas are faced with an expensive predicament: they can either pay much higher insurance rates if they leave things the way they are or they can reconfigure their houses to prepare for the next disaster. Reconfiguring could mean raising the house on pylons above the high-water level, as predicted on the latest federal flood maps, a potentially expensive proposition. This makes perfect sense, harsh as it sounds, though there should be some way to ease the blow for those who can’t afford either the insurance or the pylons. In the end, taxpayers should not be paying to rebuild and then re-rebuild as the sea level rises. Even those politicians who say they still don’t believe in climate change must see that the system needs fixing.



From the report:

This Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Strategy
from HUD (August 2013) establishes guidelines for the investment of the Federal funds made available for recovery and sets the region on the path to being built back smarter and stronger with several outcomes in mind:

• Aligning this funding with local rebuilding visions.

• Cutting red tape and getting assistance to families, businesses, and communities efficiently and effectively, with maximum accountability.

• Coordinating the efforts of the Federal, State, and local governments and ensuring a regionwide approach to rebuilding.

Ensuring the region is rebuilt in a way that makes it more resilient – that is, better able to withstand future storms and other risks posed by a changing climate.

Resilience involves enabling the region to respond effectively to a major storm, recover quickly from it, and adapt to changing conditions, while also taking measures to reduce the risk of significant damage in a future storm. Sustainability involves ensuring the long-term viability of the people and economy of the region and its natural ecosystems, which requires consideration of the risks posed by a changing climate, the practicality of maintaining a long-term presence in the most vulnerable areas, and the need to protect and restore the natural ecosystems. ….











Updating Your County’s Green Building Toolbox

September 5, 2:00-3:15 PM (EDT) Building green provides many benefits: efficient operations, higher property value, comfortable and healthy spaces, creation of skilled jobs, and more. County governments can support local construction economies and meet growing demand for green buildings with thoughtfully designed policies, mandatory codes, and voluntary incentive programs. In this National Association of Counties (NACo) webinar, the first of two, industry experts will outline best-available building rating systems, standards, and model codes, highlighting recent updates.

Webcast Registration



EPA- Sustainability and Adaptation

September 18, 1:00–2:00 PM (EDT) –This webinar is an introduction to EPA’s Climate Ready Water Utility initiative and climate change adaptation planning. The recently updated CRWU Adaptation Strategies Guide highlights strategies for pursuing both adaptation and sustainability goals, specifically those related to green infrastructure and energy management. This webinar will provide an in depth look at the new sustainability information in the Guide and utility representatives will share their experience planning and implementing sustainable strategies.

Webcast Registration




As a focal point for the national dialogue on resource recovery and green infrastructure, this Leadership Summit has been driving the notion of water as an integrating strategy for the urban environment.

• Spotlight Communities panels, including the City of Atlanta and others, will feature cross-agency, cross-department, community and business leaders to share their models of creative integration and innovative approaches.

• One half day focused on communities in Southern California

• Multi-disciplinary and geographically diverse presentations will demonstrate the flexibility of green infrastructure to serve a multitude of needs.

• Strategic Sidebar conversations will allow those at the cutting edge to compare notes and tackle obstacles.

• Roundtable discussions will shed light on emerging opportunities and challenges.

Attendees and presenters will reflect the broad scope of stakeholders needed to recreate our cities with resource recovery and green infrastructure.  Join water leaders, sustainability directors, transportation, parks and recreation officials, as well as business leaders, non-profit organizations, and U.S. EPA regulators as we drive the paradigm shift for water sustainability.   The Leadership Summit is organized annually by the U.S. Water Alliance’s Urban Water Sustainability Council.  Through this Leadership Summit the Council seeks to connect the dots among water, land use, parks, forests, transportation, energy, and other sectors around a goal of revitalizing cities with multi-benefit projects that produce triple bottom-line results.




The San Francisco Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve  is excited to announce this upcoming workshop!
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 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 



Building Business Resilience to Climate Change: Weyerhaeuser

Join us for a Webinar on September 25 Space is limited. Reserve your Webinar seat now at:

This webinar will take a detailed look at resilience planning at one of the world’s leading forestry companies.

Sara Kendall will discuss Weyerhaeuser’s strategic initiatives, opportunities, and challenges for building resilience to the impacts of a changing climate on forestry and land use.

Building Business Resilience to Climate Change: Weyerhaeuser

Date: Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Time: 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM EDT



Analytical Frameworks for Wetland and Riparian Buffers in Agricultural Settings

October 4, 2013 8:30 – 5:00

Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve Including field site training at ALBA’s Triple M Ranch, Las Lomas; Carlie Henneman- POINT BLUE CONSERVATION SCIENCE, Dale Huss, Marc Los Huertos, and Paul Robins, Instructors

This one-day workshop trains participants in how to improve their analyses in consideration of the use of buffers for wetland and riparian areas in agricultural settings.  Presenters will train participants in analytical frameworks for determining if and how buffers could be effective at providing pollution prevention and wildlife habitat benefits, how implementation of buffers affects farming, and how to engage with stakeholders when considering buffer implementation.  The workshop includes hands-on, skills-improving exercise, including field exercises, to improve integration of course material.

Instructors have expertise in the wide range of subjects key to better understanding the subject matter.  Workshop instructor Marc Los Huertos, with CSU Monterey Bay, has extensive research and practical experience in analyzing buffer effects on reducing water pollution in agricultural settings.  Instructor Carlie Henneman, with Point Blue Conservation Science, draws on her own as well as her organization’s experience with wildlife ecology and buffers in training others in improved conservation approaches.  Presenter Dale Huss, with Ocean Mist Farms, has extensive experience with successful farming operations and management practices that reduce agricultural impacts to surrounding lands.  Paul Robins, Executive Director of the Resource Conservation District (RCD) of Monterey County, will share the region’s wealth of RCD experience engaging stakeholders with conservation practices such as buffers.  During an in-depth field training session , participants will also have opportunities to discuss farming operations and buffers with Agriculture and Land-Based Training Association (ALBA) affiliated Francisco Serrano (Serrano Organic Farm), Hector Mora (Hector’s Organic Farm), and Guilebaldo Nuñez (Nuñez Farms) as well as Kaley Grimland- ALBA’s Triple M Ranch Wetland Restoration Project Manager. To register and for more information:



Quivira Conference 2013– Inspiring Adaptation

“The Westerner is less a person than a continuing adaptation. The West is less a place than a process.” – Wallace Stegner

Deadline – Nov 5 2013

From prehistoric times to the present, human societies have successfully adapted to the challenges of a changing West, including periods of severe drought, limitations created by scarce resources and shifting cultural and economic pressures. Now, the American West is entering an era of unprecedented change brought on by new climate realities, which will test our capacity for adaptation as well as challenge the resilience of the region’s native flora and fauna. It is therefore paramount that we find and share inspiring ideas and practical strategies that help all of the region’s inhabitants adapt to a rapidly changing world.  We will hear from scientists, ranchers, farmers, conservationists, urban planners and others who have bright ideas and important tools to share from their adaptation toolbox.




The Ecological Society of America, American Geophysical Union, and US Geological Survey are co-sponsors of the upcoming

Soil Science Society of America ecosystems services conference–abstracts are now being invited and are due by 12/1/2013.

March 6-9, 2014
Sheraton Grand Hotel, Sacramento, CA

Purpose of Conference:  Soils provide provisioning and regulating ecosystem services relevant to grand challenge areas of 1) climate change adaptation and mitigation, 2) food and energy security, 3) water protection, 4) biotechnology for human health, 5) ecological sustainability, and 6) slowing of desertification. The purposes of this conference will be to evaluate knowledge strengths and gaps, encourage cross-disciplinary synergies to accelerate new learning, and prioritize research needs.

More info is available here:


99th Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America
Sacramento, California  August 10-15, 2014

Call for Proposals– Symposia, Organized Oral Sessions, and Organized Poster Sessions

Deadline for Submission: September 26, 2013

Only proposals that are complete and submitted by 5:00 PM Eastern Time will be considered.

We invite proposals for Symposia, Organized Oral Sessions, and Organized Poster Sessions for ESA’s 99th Annual Meeting to be held in Sacramento, California. The theme for the 2014 meeting is “From Oceans to Mountains: It’s All Ecology.” That’s right! Ecology is everywhere. Whether we are exploring the depths of the ocean, arid desert communities, or frigid mountaintops, we find abundant ecological interaction among organisms and environment. These fascinating relationships abound in every setting. California is an especially interesting setting for studying ecology. It has all these and more! Its 160,000 square miles is a center of extraordinary biodiversity and endemism, containing more plant and animal species and more endemic species than any other state in the United States. Our theme emphasizes the inherent ecological diversity of the state, fitting well between the theme of the 99th Annual Ecological Society of America Meeting’s emphasis on learning from the past and the 100th Annual Meeting in 2015 which will develop a blueprint to shape the future.





NOAA Climate Program Office Releases FY14 –Federal Funding Opportunity

NOAA is accepting individual applications for nine competitions organized around the Climate Program Office’s Climate Observations and Monitoring; Earth System Science; Modeling, Analysis, Predictions, and Projections; and Climate and Societal Interactions (CSI) programs. Letters of intent are due by September 10, 2013; final applications are due by November 14, 2013. For the CSI programs, watch here for an FAQ and information about an informational teleconference on August 29 at 3pm eastern time to specifically discuss the letters of intent.
For announcements:


National Science Foundation Solicits Proposals for Water Sustainability and Climate Program

This solicitation from the seeks proposals to determine how our built water systems and our governance systems can be made more reliable, resilient, and sustainable to meet diverse needs. Successful proposals are expected to study water systems in their entirety and to enable a new interdisciplinary paradigm in water research. Projects supported under this solicitation may establish new observational sites or utilize existing observational sites and facilities already supported by NSF or other federal and state agencies. The application deadline is September 10, 2013.
For more information, click here

NOAA Announces Solicitation for the U.S. Marine Biodiversity Observation Network
This funding opportunity invites proposals for projects that demonstrate how an operational Marine Biodiversity Observation Network could be developed for the nation by establishing one or more prototype networks in U.S. coastal waters, the Great Lakes, and the EEZ. Applications are due on December 2, 2013.

For more information, click here.








Cost gap for Western renewables could narrow by 2025
(August 27, 2013) — A new study indicates that by 2025 wind and solar power electricity generation could become cost-competitive without federal subsidies, if new renewable energy development occurs in the most productive locations. … > full story


Report: The More Carbon Emissions We Cut, The Better The World Economy Does

Posted: 27 Aug 2013 05:47 AM PDT


Work from an international effort to model climate change’s effects show that the more carbon emissions humanity cuts, the better the global economy will perform over the next century. The report is part of the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which was set up by the United Nations to offer a comprehensive assessment of climate science. The last report — the AR4 — was put out in 2007. And while the AR5 is not due until 2014, numbers from it are already making their way out….




CREDIT: Carnegie Wave Energy

How The Power Of Ocean Waves Could Yield Freshwater With Zero Carbon Emissions

Posted: 30 Aug 2013 06:27 AM PDT

A new project in Australia aims to create freshwater by harnessing the kinetic force of ocean waves, RenewEconomy reports. Run by the Perth-based firm Carnegie Wave Energy in cooperation with the Water Corporation, and supported by a $1.27 million grant from the Australian Federal Government’s AusIndustry Clean Technology Innovation Program, the plant will use Carnegie’s proprietary CETO wave energy technology to power reverse osmosis desalination. The resulting process, free of carbon emissions, “will be a world first” according to CEO Michael Ottaviano.

Reverse osmosis desalination has been in use for several decades, and works simply enough: high pressure is used to force saltwater through a membrane, producing drinkable freshwater on the other end. Traditionally the pressure is provided with electric pumps powered by fossil fuels, resulting in both carbon dioxide emissions and lots of points for energy loss. But instead of relying on those electric pumps, Carnegie is using the latest iteration of its CETO technology — CETO 5 — to supply that pressure with wave energy instead. Underwater buoys eleven meters in diameter are installed offshore, and as ocean waves catch them, the movement supplies hydraulic power to pump seawater up underground pipes to shore. At that point, the water runs into the desalination plant, where it directly supplies the pressure for the reverse osmosis. Some of that hydraulic energy is also converted into electric power as needed. The resulting system not only cuts out all carbon dioxide emissions, it also greatly reduces the points where energy can be lost, making the process much more energy efficient and cost-effective….



Suwon takes the stage as the world’s first ecomobile city

August 27, 2013 ICLEI- Local Governments for Sustainability When it kicks off the world’s first EcoMobility Festival on 1 September, Suwon, a city 30 km from Seoul, South Korea will prove that a truly ecomobile city – one where citizens can move freely, safely and sustainably – can exist. Showcasing the world’s first ecomobile city, Suwon will engage 4,300 residents to swap some 1,500 cars for ecomobile vehicles, and adopt an ecomobile lifestyle for the entire September. Haenggung-dong, one of the most crowded neighborhoods in Suwon, will be designated as a car-free zone, where various cultural and arts performance will take place. This unique undertaking is backed by a €9 million euro (13 billion KRW) public investment to regenerate the inner city of Suwon. It is part of Suwon’s Mayor Yeom Tae-young’s program to transform the neighborhood into one that prioritizes sustainability and accessibility – particularly for low-income residents whose access to employment and services was impaired. Around 5,000 international visitors, led by influential Mayors, policy makers, CEOs and concerned citizens, will witness the transformation of a neighborhood and test the suite of human-powered and electric vehicles from around 39 manufacturers from eight countries including the United States, Germany, Taiwan and South Korea.  The newest line-up of ecomobile vehicles are: Yikebike, the smallest foldable bike; Trimobile, a tricycle that can carry three people at a time but only requires one to pedal; Nordic Cab’s multipurpose bike trailer made out of eco-friendly aluminum and hardened plastic; Gobax, a customized ambulance bike; Egretta, a bike that consolidates both sophistication and practicability; MoVi, a safe and robust light electric vehicle, and many more….

For more information, visit the EcoMobility World Festival and the EcoMobility 2013 Suwon congress 
REGISTER as Media Representative CHECK OUT the latest Festival Program DOWNLOAD the Media Kit



No evidence of residential property value impacts near US wind turbines
(August 27, 2013) — After analyzing more than 50,000 home sales near 63 wind facilities in 27 counties across nine US states, researchers were unable to uncover any impacts to nearby home property values. … > full story






Worth reading (from Andy Gunther/BAECCC):

The Collapse of Western Civilization: A view from the future By Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway 2013
In the prehistory of “civilization,” many societies rose and fell, but few left as clear and extensive an account of what happened to them and why as thetwenty-½rst-century nation-states that referred to themselves as Western civilization. Even today, two millennia after the collapse of the Roman and Mayan empires and one millennium after the end of the Byzantine and Inca empires, historians, archaeologists, and synthetic-failure paleoanalysts have been unable to agree on the primary causes of those societies’ loss of population, power, stability, and identity. The case of Western civilization is different because the consequences of its actions were not only predictable, but predicted. Moreover, this technologically transitional society left extensive records both in twentieth-century-style paper and in twenty-½rst-century electronic formats, permitting us to reconstruct what happened in extraordinarily clear detail….


Does Your iPhone Use As Much Electricity As A New Refrigerator? Not Even Close.

Posted: 25 Aug 2013 06:25 AM PDT

Jonathan Koomey, Ph.D. is a Research Fellow, Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance, Stanford University and the author of Cold Cash, Cool Climate: Science-based Advice for Ecological Entrepreneurs and Turning Numbers into Knowledge: Mastering the Art of Problem Solving.

For 14 years, the coal industry has been pushing the myth the Internet is an energy hog. For 14 years, I (and other scientists) have been debunking that myth. Last week, I promised a detailed debunking of the iPhone=Refrigerator calculation from Dr. Jon Koomey, the world’s foremost authority on the electricity consumption of the Internet. Here it is — JR.

Last week, several friends alerted me to a claim that the iPhone supposedly uses as much electricity as two refrigerators — when you count the energy needed to make it, run it and power the “behind-the-wall” equipment to deliver data to the device. Discussion of the original report (“The Cloud Begins with Coal,” hereafter CBC) showed up on the Breakthrough Institute site, Time Magazine Online, MSN News, the Huffington Post, MarketWatch, and Grist, among others (with most focusing on the comparison between a smart phone and one refrigerator).

When I heard this claim, it took me back to the year 2000, when Mark P. Mills and Peter Huber first made the claim that the networking electricity for a wireless Palm VII exceeded the electricity for running a refrigerator (1000 to 2000 kWh, they claimed, the lower bound of which was a bit higher than the average installed base for US fridges at that time). It didn’t sound plausible, and so I and some colleagues investigated, finding that Mr. Mills and Mr. Huber had overestimated the electricity needed to feed data to a wireless Palm VII by a factor of 2000 (Koomey et al. 2004).

Just as happened last time, Mr. Mills, in the CBC report, has made attention-getting claims that don’t stand up to scrutiny (Kawamoto et al. 2002, Koomey 2000, Koomey 2003, Koomey 2008, Koomey et al. 1999, Koomey et al. 2002, Koomey et al. 2004, Romm et al. 1999, Roth et al. 2002). He cherry picks numbers to achieve his desired results, and his report has vague or non-existent references (but lots of footnotes). This appears to be an attempt to create a patina of respectability for his calculations while obfuscating his methods, but I don’t know for sure…..


MidwayA film this simple, beautiful, and heartbreaking comes along so rarely — and to get its point across, we hardly need to hear a word.


Climate Name Change—naming extreme storms after ? or:

This Is Probably The Funniest, Most Effective Way To Deal With People Who Ignore Science Facts Ever

‘Hurricane Marco Rubio’ – A Winning Climate Campaign?


An edgy climate campaign names hurricanes for politicians rejecting action on global warming.


For ‘The Birds’



August 29, 2013 Bodega festival marks the 50th anniversary of Alfred Hitchcock’s classic thriller.

Safe’ levels of environmental pollution may have long-term health consequences
(August 29, 2013) — If you’re eating better and exercising regularly, but still aren’t seeing improvements in your health, there might be a reason: Pollution. According to a new research report what you are eating and doing may not be the problem, but what’s in what you are eating could be the culprit. … > full story








Yosemite Rim Fire Photos….


A fire restrictions sign is partially burned away by the Rim Fire in the Stanislaus National Forest Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013, in California. California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency due to the huge fire, one of several blazes burning in or near the nation’s national parks and one of 50 major uncontained fires burning across the western U.S. Photo: Andy Alfaro, Associated Press


Smoke from the Rim Fire is visible from satellite images. Photo: NOAA



Faller Craig Morgan who is responsible for cutting down unstable burned trees walks through a burned area off of Packard Canyon Rd. near Groveland, Ca., as the 16,000 acre Rim Fire continues to grow on Wednesday August 21, 2013. Photo: Michael Macor, San Francisco Chronicle


Fire consumes trees along US highway 120 as the Rim Fire burns out of control on August 21, 2013 in Buck Meadows, California. The Rim Fire continues to burn out of control and threatens 2,500 homes outside of Yosemite National Park. Over 400 firefighters are battling the blaze that is only 5 percent contained. Photo: Justin Sullivan, Getty Images




Conservation Science News August 23, 2013

Highlights of the Week



We’ve been asking the wrong questions about conservation; the Natural Capital debt









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


We’ve been asking the wrong questions about conservation



Stop worrying about how species will respond to climate change – focus on how our adaptations are going to affect them

By James Watson, Monday 29 July 2013 06.24 EDT

Heavy flood waters sweep through Beichuan in southwest China’s Sichuan province. Extreme weather events are now occurring more frequently because of climate change. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

In looking at how best to protect wildlife from the growing climate change crisis, conservation scientists usually ignore the single most significant impact on fauna and flora: the changes warming drives in the behaviour of its dominant species – humans – and resultant effects on the living world and natural processes. Those effects are already driving many of the climate-related ecological shifts we are witnessing across the globe.

For example, the opening up of the Arctic for oil and gas, mining and transport routes as sea-ice retreats directly impacts polar biodiversity. Expansion of agricultural activities due to changing rainfall in the mountains of Africa’s Albertine Rift and the valleys of the Congo Basin now threatens gorilla habitat there.

Elsewhere, the construction of ineffective seawalls in Papua New Guinea to slow down the impact of sea-level rise has led to the wholesale destruction of some of the most biodiverse and protein-productive coral reefs in the world. Increasing temperatures across the high-altitude Tibetan plateau likewise contribute to a shift in the formerly stable balance between indigenous herders and wildlife, both of which graze the delicate grasslands.

The list is endless but is it not all negative. For example, in the Maya Biosphere Reserve in Guatemala, efforts by local communities to control a growing number of wildfire incidents, associated with a drying climate, are having a positive impact on vulnerable populations of threatened species like jaguar.

Nevertheless, it would appear that in their work on climate change, conservation scientists have forgotten a basic tenet of our field: that conservation is fundamentally about people.

A survey of the literature shows that in 2013, more than 6,500 climate-change-related papers have been published in peer-reviewed conservation journals. The vast majority of these examine how and where future temperature and rainfall changes will make species more vulnerable.

While direct threats to species are often less challenging to identify, quantify and predict, indirect threats can often be far more significant and lasting. Nowhere is this more true than with climate change. For example, while hard to perceive on the ground, the risk that a national park will likely become the best place to grow food can be the most relevant threat to species found there.

The misdirection of conservation science when it comes to climate change is not due to a lack of data or a lack of time to undertake relevant research. It is more basic than that. We’ve been asking the wrong questions.

Understanding the ecology of species and their likely responses to climate change is helpful, but understanding how humans are going to be affected by climate and what this impact will be on those species is far more important.

As a conservationist who has spent his career looking at climate change impacts, I have largely stopped worrying about working out how species are going to respond and begun focusing on how human adaptations will affect those species. It is clear to me that this is what our immediate priority should be.

Failure to predict likely human adaptations to climate change commits us to a future of reactive, emergency responses likely to be wholly inadequate to the demands of the coming century. With greater attention to this subject, we can target conservation resources preemptively to meet more effectively and efficiently what many of us believe to be the greatest global challenge of our time.

Dr James Watson directs the Global Climate Change program for the Wildlife Conservation Society and is the chair of the International Union for Nature Conservation (IUCN) climate change specialist group. He is an adjunct professor at the University of Queensland and has recently become president-elect of the Society for Conservation Biology.


The Natural Capital Debt Bubble

By Jonathan Hughes, Councillor at the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature), | 4 August 2013

A quiet but steady revolution is taking place in the environmental movement which is having profound implications for the business community. Environmentalism in the first half of the 20th century was characterised by two main responses to the rapid intensification of man’s impact on the natural environment. The first was targeted protection of endangered species; the second was the designation of specially protected parks and nature reserves. These remain the two pillars on which the foundations of modern conservation movement are built, and have led to many notable successes from the return of the once critically endangered otter to every county in the United Kingdom, to the protection of now world-famous national parks like Yellowstone or the Serengeti. Yet, these conservation successes represent minor skirmishes in a war being lost on almost all fronts. Despite targeted species conservation projects backed by legal protection in most countries and around 13% of the world’s land surface now designated as protected areas, the global species extinction rate is running at around one thousand times the background rate as calculated from the fossil record. A quarter of all plant species are considered by the United Nations Convention of Biological Diversity to be threatened with extinction and these are the same plants we rely on for our medicines, food and other raw materials. In the latter part of the 20th century, we built on the two pillars and began to deepen our understanding of our impacts on the delicate balance of environment as a system on which we are ultimately dependant for our health, well -being and prosperity. A new wave of environmental NGOs campaigned as much about the plight of humanity on a failing planet, as they did for the plight of nature. The 21st century has seen a further evolution of systems thinking to the point where we now at least understand that to restore the 60% of those ecosystems already degraded worldwide, we need a radical overhaul of economic and social policy, not just environmental policy. In effect , we are now working on building a third pillar – an ecosystems pillar – which if we succeed in getting right, might just mean we can accommodate 9 billion people on earth by the year 2050…..

The difference now is that we are getting serious about quantifying the value of nature’s stocks (natural capital) and nature’s flows (ecosystem services) in a way we have never attempted in the past. By valuing natural capital in a similar way to financial, manufactured, social and human capital, we can make decisions on the stewardship of the natural environment based on hard-nosed economics, and not just on the vitally important moral case for saving nature for nature’s sake.








New Point Blue paper with SF State and NOAA NMS published:


Using Seabird Habitat Modeling to Inform Marine Spatial Planning in Central California’s National Marine Sanctuaries

PLoS ONE August 13 2013 Jennifer McGowan, Ellen Hines, Meredith Elliott, Julie Howar, Andrea Dransfield, Nadav Nur, Jaime Jahncke


Understanding seabird habitat preferences is critical to future wildlife conservation and threat mitigation in California. The objective of this study was to investigate drivers of seabird habitat selection within the Gulf of the Farallones and Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuaries to identify areas for targeted conservation planning. We used seabird abundance data collected by the Applied California Current Ecosystem Studies Program (ACCESS) from 2004–2011. We used zero-inflated negative binomial regression to model species abundance and distribution as a function of near surface ocean water properties, distances to geographic features and oceanographic climate indices to identify patterns in foraging habitat selection. We evaluated seasonal, inter-annual and species-specific variability of at-sea distributions for the five most abundant seabirds nesting on the Farallon Islands: western gull (Larus occidentalis), common murre (Uria aalge), Cassin’s auklet (Ptychorampus aleuticus), rhinoceros auklet (Cerorhinca monocerata) and Brandt’s cormorant (Phalacrocorax penicillatus). The waters in the vicinity of Cordell Bank and the continental shelf east of the Farallon Islands emerged as persistent and highly selected foraging areas across all species.
Further, we conducted a spatial prioritization exercise to optimize seabird conservation areas with and without considering impacts of current human activities. We explored three conservation scenarios where 10, 30 and 50 percent of highly selected, species-specific foraging areas would be conserved. We compared and contrasted results in relation to existing marine protected areas (MPAs) and the future alternative energy footprint identified by the California Ocean Uses Atlas. Our results show that the majority of highly selected seabird habitat lies outside of state MPAs where threats from shipping, oil spills, and offshore energy development remain. This analysis accentuates the need for innovative marine spatial planning efforts and provides a foundation on which to build more comprehensive zoning and management in California’s National Marine Sanctuaries.


Citation: McGowan J, Hines E, Elliott M, Howar J, Dransfield A, et al. (2013) Using Seabird Habitat Modeling to Inform Marine Spatial Planning in Central California’s National Marine Sanctuaries. PLoS ONE 8(8): e71406. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0071406


Dams Destabilize River Food Webs: Lessons from the Grand Canyon

ScienceDaily Aug. 20, 2013 — Managing fish in human-altered rivers is a challenge because their food webs are sensitive to environmental disturbance. So reports a new study in the journal Ecological Monographs, based on an exhaustive three-year analysis of the Colorado River in Glen and Grand Canyons. Food webs are used to map feeding relationships. By describing the structure of these webs, scientists can predict how plants and animals living in an ecosystem will respond to change. Coauthor Dr. Emma Rosi-Marshall, an aquatic ecologist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, comments, “Given the degraded state of the world’s rivers, insight into food webs is essential to conserving endangered animals, improving water quality, and managing productive fisheries.”… Lead author Dr. Wyatt Cross of Montana State University comments, “Glen Canyon Dam has transformed the ecology of the Colorado River. Immediately downstream, cold, low-sediment waters have favored exotic plants and animals that haven’t co-evolved with native species. We now see reduced biodiversity and novel species interactions that have led to the instability of these river food webs.”…. Today, many ecosystems are like the Colorado River: an amalgam of native and non-native species living in human-altered habitat. The study’s authors demonstrated that large-scale modifications, like dams, can have far-reaching effects on how energy flows through food webs, altering their stability and leading to less resilient ecosystems. Cross concludes, “Looking to the future, we need to develop predictions about how disturbances spread through ecosystems, affecting the species or services upon which we depend, so we can implement proactive strategies.”…


Wyatt F. Cross, Colden V. Baxter, Emma J. Rosi-Marshall, Robert O. Hall, Theodore A. Kennedy, Kevin C. Donner, Holly A. Wellard Kelly, Sarah E. Z. Seegert, Kathrine E. Behn, Michael D. Yard. Food-web dynamics in a large river discontinuum. Ecological Monographs, 2013; 83 (3): 311 DOI: 10.1890/12-1727.1


Epic ocean voyages of coral larvae revealed
(August 20, 2013) — A computer simulation has revealed the epic, ocean-spanning journeys traveled by millimeter-sized coral larvae through the world’s seas. The model is the first to recreate the oceanic paths along which corals disperse globally, and will eventually aid predictions of how coral reef distributions may shift with climate change. … > full story



Species diversification in biodiversity hotspots
(August 19, 2013)
Biodiversification isn’t always favored by living in a hotspot of biodiversity, suggests a study of Australian wood shrubs. The finding goes against previous thinking and boosts our understanding of the factors driving biodiversity. A common view is that species in biodiversity hotspots diversify more quickly than species in less biodiverse areas. But that’s not the case for the spikey-flowered Banksia. … Bi
odiversity hotspots are frequently found in Mediterranean-climate regions, where they rival tropical rainforests for flowering plant biodiversity. But these environments typically lack features such as high rainfall or productivity that are usually linked with high plant diversity. Indeed, some of the most species-rich Mediterranean communities are found in semi-arid regions, on nutrient-poor soils. Understanding these apparent outliers on global biodiversity gradients may yield insights into the factors driving the diversification of flowering plants.full story


Forest-interior birds may be benefiting from harvested clearings
(August 21, 2013) — Wildlife biologists suggest that forest regrowth in clearcuts may be vital to birds as they prepare for fall migration. .
In an article published recently in the American Ornithologist Union’s publication
The Auk, research wildlife biologist Scott Stoleson of the U.S. Forest Service’s Northern Research Station suggests that forest regrowth in clearcuts may be vital to birds as they prepare for fall migration. The study suggests that declines in forest-interior species may be due in part to the increasing maturity and homogenization of forests. Openings created by timber harvesting may increase habitat for some forest interior birds, according to Stoleson. “Humans have really changed the nature of mature forests in the Northeast,” Stoleson said. “Natural processes that once created open spaces even within mature forests, such as fire, are largely controlled, diminishing the availability of quality habitat.”.. > full story


Scott H. Stoleson. Condition varies with habitat choice in postbreeding forest birds. The Auk, 2013; 130 (3): 417 DOI: 10.1525/auk.2013.12214


Hue of barn swallow breast feathers can influence their health
(August 21, 2013) — A new study shows the outward appearance of female barn swallows, specifically the hue of their chestnut-colored breast feathers, has an influence on their physiological health. … > full story


Honeyguide birds destroy own species’ eggs to eliminate competition
(August 21, 2013) — Like cuckoos, honeyguides are parasitic birds that lay their eggs in other birds’ nests and dupe them into raising their young. Now scientists reveal that, unlike in cuckoos, the resemblance between honeyguide eggs and those of their bee-eater bird hosts hasn’t evolved to trick hosts into accepting the imposter egg as one of their own. … > full story


Rising mountains, cooling oceans prompted spread of invasive species 450 million years ago
(August 21, 2013) — New research suggests that the rise of an early phase of the Appalachian Mountains and cooling oceans allowed invasive species to upset the North American ecosystem 450 million years ago. … > full story


Do herbicides alter ecosystems around the world? Scant research makes it hard to prove
(August 16, 2013) — The number of humans on the planet has almost doubled in the past 50 years — and so has global food production. As a result, the use of pesticides and their effect on humans, animals and plants have become more important. Many laboratory studies have shown that pesticides can harm organisms which they were not meant to affect. Intensive farming is also linked to collapsing populations of wild animals and the endangerment of species such as amphibians. Can the biochemical effects of pesticides upset entire ecosystems? … > full story

Crowdsourcing, for the Birds

Mapping Bird Species
Heat maps show the northward migration of the chimney swift as modeled by the eBird network. Brighter colors indicate higher probabilities of finding the species.

By JIM ROBBINS NY Times Published: August 19, 2013

HELENA, Mont. — On a warm morning not long ago on the shore of a small prairie lake outside this state capital, Bob Martinka trained his spotting scope on a towering cottonwood tree heavy with blue heron nests. He counted a dozen of the tall, graceful birds and got out his smartphone, not to make a call but to type the number of birds and the species into an app that sent the information to researchers in New York. Mr. Martinka, a retired state wildlife biologist and an avid bird-watcher, is part of the global ornithological network eBird. Several times a week he heads into the mountains to scan lakes, grasslands, even the local dump, and then reports his sightings to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, a nonprofit organization based at Cornell University….

The system is not without problems. Citizen scientists may not be as precise in reporting data as experienced researchers are, like the ones in the Breeding Bird Survey. Cornell has tried to solve that problem by hiring top birders to travel around the world to train people like Mr. Martinka in methodology. And 500 volunteer experts read the submissions for accuracy, rejecting about 2 percent. Rare-bird sightings get special scrutiny. The engine that makes eBird data usable is machine learning, or artificial intelligence — a combination of software and hardware that sorts through disparities, gaps and flaws in data collection, improving as it goes along. “Machine learning says, ‘I know these data are sloppy, but fortunately there’s a lot of it,’ ” Dr. Fitzpatrick said. “It takes chunks of these data and sorts through to find patterns in the noise. These programs are learning as they go, testing and refining and getting better and better.”

Still, some experts question eBird’s validity. John Sauer, a wildlife biologist with the United States Geological Survey, says that bird-watchers’ reports lack scientific rigor. Rather than randomness, he said, “you get a lot of observations from where people like to go.” And he doubts that Cornell has proved the reliability of its machine learning efforts. Still, the information has promise, he said, “and it’s played a powerful role in coordinating birders for recording observations, and encouraging bird-watching.” And the data are being used by a wide array of researchers and conservationists.

Cagan H. Sekercioglu, a professor of ornithology at the University of Utah who has used similar bird-watching data in his native Turkey to study the effects of climate change on birds, called eBird “a phenomenal resource” and said that it was “getting young people involved in natural history, which might seem slow and old-fashioned in the age of instant online gratification.”

…The data is also being combined with radar and weather data by BirdCast, another Cornell bird lab project that forecasts migration patterns with the aim of protecting birds as they move through a gantlet of threats. “We can predict migration events that would be usable for the timing of wind generation facilities to be turned off at night,” Dr. Fitzpatrick said. In California, biologists use the migration data to track waterfowl at critical times. When the birds are headed through the Central Valley, for example, they can ask rice farmers to flood their fields to create an improvised wetland habitat before the birds arrive. “The resolution is at such a level of detail they can make estimates of where species occur almost at a field-by-field level,” Mr. Kelling said. …



Tiny fish make ‘eyes’ at their killer

Posted: 19 Aug 2013 07:27 AM PDT

Small prey fish can grow a bigger ‘eye’ on their rear fins as a way of distracting predators and dramatically boosting their chances of survival, new research has found. Researchers have made a world-first discovery that, when constantly threatened with being eaten, small damsel fish not only grow a larger false ‘eye spot’ near their tail — but also reduce the size of their real eyes.



Newly discovered ocean plume could be major source of iron

Posted: 19 Aug 2013 02:18 PM PDT

Scientists have discovered a vast plume of iron and other micronutrients more than 1,000 kilometers long billowing from hydrothermal vents in the South Atlantic Ocean. The finding calls past estimates of iron abundances into question, and may challenge researchers’ assumptions about iron sources in the world’s seas.


Old Concrete Can Protect Lakes and Streams from Phosphorus-Laden Run-Off



August 22, 2013 — Lakes and streams are often receiving so much phosphorus that it could pose a threat to the local aquatic environment. Now, research shows that there is an easy and inexpensive way to prevent phosphorus from being discharged to aquatic environments. The solution is crushed concrete from demolition sites.. “We have shown that crushed concrete can bind up to 90 per cent of phosphorus, “says PhD student and environmental engineer, Melanie Sønderup, Department of Biology at the University of Southern Denmark….. … > full story

Sara Egemose, Melanie J. Sønderup, Malde V. Beinthin, Kasper Reitzel, Carl Christian Hoffmann, Mogens R. Flindt. Crushed Concrete as a Phosphate Binding Material: A Potential New Management Tool. Journal of Environment Quality, 2012; 41 (3): 647 DOI: 10.2134/jeq2011.0134


Ecologists get first bumblebees’ eye view of the landscape
(August 22, 2013) — Ecologists have produced the most detailed picture yet of how bumblebees use the landscape thanks to DNA technology and remote sensing. The results – which come from the largest ever study of wild bumblebee nests – could help farmers and policy makers ensure the countryside is better suited to the needs of these vital but declining pollinators. … > full story

Relating Animals to Humans Could Help Conservation Projects



August 22, 2013 — New research suggests that people’s tendency to relate more to animals that bear a resemblance to humans (anthropomorphism) could help improve public engagement with conservation … by making conservationists more aware of how people construct anthropomorphic meanings around species and how they engage with species and attribute value to their characteristics — e.g. people may attribute personhood or emotions to species that they play with, such as pets or even livestock — they can create conservation programmes which speak to people through their cultural expectations and emotional connections…. > full story


After Today, Humanity Will Spend The Rest Of 2013 Taking More Than The Earth Can Give

By Jeff Spross on August 20, 2013 at 9:20 am

Today is Earth Overshoot Day 2013: the day humanity uses up all the natural resources the planet can sustainably provide for a given year. Our ecological footprint — our pollution, fishing, agriculture, fresh water use, greenhouse emissions, etc. — uses up the planet’s biocapacity — the ability of an ecosystem to regenerate resources and absorb waste. After today, the former will overwhelm the latter for the rest of the year. We’ll be in ecological deficit, inflicting more damage on the global ecology than it can naturally repair.

It’s like drawing more money out of a bank account than the interest can replace. The account gets smaller every year, and eventually hits zero. As a result, Earth Overshoot Day has arrived earlier each year. We first overshot in the early 1970s, then in 1993 Earth Overshoot Day arrived October 21, and then on September 22 in 2003. So the gap between our ecological footprint and Earth’s total biocapacity is growing…. our ecological footprint actually leveled off in the 1970s. Because it’s like drawing down the principle in a bank account, the degeneration of biocapacity is now the main driver of overshoot. The story is basically the same for the United States specifically. Different parts of the planet overuse natural resources in different ways, thanks to unsustainable land use, waste production, air and water pollution, and of course carbon emissions and the failure to properly price the damage they cause. Those emissions now make up over half of our ecological footprint, and its fastest-growing contingent.

Population growth is a big part of this, but so is growth in the ecological footprint per capita: how much bio capacity an individual person uses up. China, for instance, has a far bigger population than the United States, but our per capita footprint is much larger.

The good news is our per capita footprint is amenable to reform. Technological innovation and energy efficiency can help us maintain productivity while consuming fewer resources. By eliminating carbon emissions, improving farming methods, reforming fishing practices, managing water and waste better, and a host of other efforts, we can reduce the strain we place on the Earth’s systems. That would hopefully give the Earth’s biocapacity a chance to regenerate.



Stranded fin whale
dies on Stinson Beach

San Francisco Chronicle ‎- August 20, 2013

A young fin whale stranded on Stinson Beach died Monday
despite veterinarians’ rescue efforts. The gray and white whale, about 42 feet long, 


Fin whale’s beach autopsy offers rare, fresh samples

Ellen Huet Updated 7:12 pm, Thursday, August 22, 2013

An excavator can’t move a 42-foot fin whale calf that beached itself then died in Stinson Beach, Calif., Monday, August 19, 2013. Crews had to work to dismantle the whale before it could be buried. It was estimated to be about a year old, and full grown fin whales can be between 40-80 tons. Photo: Sarah Rice, Special To The Chronicle

The whale, a 42-foot juvenile, had washed ashore on Upton Beach near Stinson Beach early Monday morning and stayed alive for hours, struggling to breathe as the pressure of being on land – not suspended in water – weighed on its internal organs….The team found bruising in the membrane around the whale’s heart, a huge organ about the size of a mini fridge. They found air in the subcutaneous tissue between the muscle and fat, an indication of a blow to the animal’s right side…..


Divers willingness to pay for biodiversity could help conservation efforts (August 20, 2013) — New research shows divers were willing to pay to improve the reef’s attributes and were able to differentiate and rank their preferences of biodiversity, numbers of fish and corals, coral species richness, fish species richness, coral size, coral abundance, and fish abundance. Respondents ranked biodiversity as the most desirable value, while fish abundance was the least important. … > full story


UC Davis forms ocean institute, with new undergraduate major

Sacramento Bee  – ‎August 23, 2013‎

Leveraging its little-known marine lab in Bodega Bay, the University of California, Davis, announced the formation Thursday of a new institute – and an undergraduate major – focusing on marine sciences. “People don’t think about Davis as being strong in the marine sciences because we’re in the middle of the Central Valley,” said Rick Grosberg, founding director of the new Coastal and Marine Sciences Institute. “However, the university has led many efforts in marine science and policy in the last few decades, especially coastal ocean sciences in California.”

A key component of the new institute will be an interdisciplinary undergraduate degree in marine sciences, which is expected to launch in 2014. The institute also will host the Center for Coastal Ocean Issues as a forum for collaboration among scientists, government agencies, and policymakers.

Most of the marine research emanating from UC Davis is done at its Bodega Marine Laboratory, one of the largest marine labs in California. The lab hugs a foggy and windy promontory at Bodega Bay. Its location places the lab within several marine environments, including the waters of the Bodega Marine Reserve. UC Berkeley originally owned the lab, opened in 1966, but it was taken over by UC Davis in 1984. During the summer, 160 staff members and students work at the center. About 100 are there during the school year….The research and classroom activity at the institute will continue its focus on coastal Northern California, with its research area starting north of Monterey and stretching up to the Lost Coast in Humboldt and Mendocino counties….









Antarctic krill. (Credit: Image courtesy of British Antarctic Survey)

Food Source for Whales, Seals and Penguins at Risk: Warming Antarctic Seas Likely to Impact on Krill Habitats

August 22, 2013 — Antarctic krill are usually less than 6 cm in length but their size belies the major role they play in sustaining much of the life in the Southern Ocean. They are the primary food source for many species of whales, seals, penguins and fish. Krill are known to be sensitive to sea temperature, especially in the areas where they grow as adults. This has prompted scientists to try to understand how they might respond to the effects of further climate change. Using statistical models, a team of researchers from the British Antarctic Survey and Plymouth Marine Laboratory assessed the likely impact of projected temperature increases on the Weddell Sea, Scotia Sea and Southern Drake Passage, which is known for its abundance of krill. This region has experienced sea surface warming of as much as 1°C over fifty years. Projections suggest this could rise by another 1°C by the end of the 21st century. The models are based on equations which link krill growth, sea surface temperature, and food availability. An analysis of the results, published this week in the online journal PLOS ONE, suggests warming, if continued, could reduce the area of growth habitat by up to 20%….Lead author, Dr. Simeon Hill, a marine biologist at BAS, said: “Each year, growth of Antarctic krill in the Southern Ocean produces new material that weighs twice as much as all the sugar produced in the world. Krill grow fastest in cold water and any warming can slow down or stop growth, reducing the food available for wildlife. Our research suggests that expected warming this century could severely reduce the area in which krill can successfully grow.” Although there is evidence that warming seas pose a threat to Antarctic krill habitats the team of researchers believe this can be mitigated with effective fisheries management systems in place… > full story


Simeon L. Hill, Tony Phillips, Angus Atkinson. Potential Climate Change Effects on the Habitat of Antarctic Krill in the Weddell Quadrant of the Southern Ocean. PLoS ONE, 2013; 8 (8): e72246 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0072246


New IPCC Report: Climatologists More Certain Global Warming Is Caused By Humans, Impacts Are Speeding Up

By Joe Romm on August 18, 2013 at 1:13 pm

Temperature change over past 11,300 years (in blue, via Science, 2013) plus projected warming over the next century on humanity’s current emissions path (in red, via recent literature, much of which is reviewed in the new IPCC report.) The Fifth — and hopefully final — Assessment Report (AR5) from the UN Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change (IPCC) is due next month. The leaks are already here: Drafts seen by Reuters of the study by the UN panel of experts, due to be published next month, say it is at least 95 percent likely that human activities – chiefly the burning of fossil fuels – are the main cause of warming since the 1950s. That is up from at least 90 percent in the last report in 2007, 66 percent in 2001, and just over 50 in 1995, steadily squeezing out the arguments by a small minority of scientists that natural variations in the climate might be to blame. This is a doubly impressive story since, as we’ve reported, Reuters has slashed climate coverage and pressured reporters to include false balance. Leading climatologists who have seen drafts of the report confirm this story’s accuracy.

Of course, nothing in the report should be a surprise to readers of Climate Progress, since the AR5 is just a (partial) review of the scientific literature (see my 12/11 post, It’s “Extremely Likely That at Least 74% of Observed Warming Since 1950″ Was Manmade; It’s Highly Likely All of It Was). The draft AR5 confirms that natural forces played a very small role in warming since 1950, which again means that human activity is highly likely be a source of virtually all of the recent warming. I say the AR5 is a “partial” review that is “hopefully” the last because, like every IPCC report, it is an instantly out-of-date snapshot that lowballs future warming because it continues to ignore large parts of the recent literature and omit what it can’t model. For instance, we have known for years that perhaps the single most important carbon-cycle feedback is the thawing of the northern permafrost.

The IPCC’s Fifth Assessment climate models completely ignore it, thereby lowballing likely warming this century. No doubt some in the media will continue to focus on the largely irrelevant finding that the equilibrium climate sensitivity (ECS) may be a tad lower than expected. In terms of real world warming and its impact on humans, the ECS is a mostly theoretical and oversimplified construct — like the so-called spherical cow. The ECS tells you how much warming you would get IF we started slashing emissions asap and stabilized carbon dioxide concentrations in the air around 550 parts per million (they are currently at 400 ppm, rising over 2 ppm a year, and accelerating) — AND IF there were no slow feedbacks like the defrosting permafrost.

The climate however is not a spherical cow. Every climate scientist I’ve spoken to has said we will blow past 550 ppm if we continue to put off action. Indeed, we’re on track for well past 800 ppm. And a 2012 study found that the carbon feedback from the thawing permafrost alone will likely add 0.4°F – 1.5°F to total global warming by 2100.

So the alarming disruption in our previously stable, civilization-supporting climate depicted in the top figure is our future. On our current emissions path, the main question the ECS answers is whether 9°F warming happens closer to 2080, 2100, or 2120 — hardly a cause for any celebration. Quite the reverse. Warming beyond 7F is “incompatible with organized global community, is likely to be beyond ‘adaptation’, is devastating to the majority of ecosystems & has a high probability of not being stable (i.e. 4°C [7F] would be an interim temperature on the way to a much higher equilibrium level,” as climate expert Kevin Anderson explains here.

Dr. Michael Mann emailed me:

The report is simply an exclamation mark on what we already knew: Climate change is real and it continues unabated, the primary cause is fossil fuel burning, and if we don’t do something to reduce carbon emissions we can expect far more dangerous and potentially irreversible impacts on us and our environment in the decades to come.

As for the seeming slowdown in global warming, that turns out to be only true if one looks narrowly at surface air temperatures, where only a small fraction of warming ends up. Arctic sea ice melt has accelerated. Disintegration of the great ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica has sped up. The rate of sea level rise has doubled from last century.

Finally, very recent studies of the ocean, which has absorbed the vast majority of the heat, also show global warming has accelerated in the past 15 years. Sadly, the AR5 appears to have stopped considering new scientific findings before the publication of this research….


Climate Panel Cites Near Certainty on Warming

Tim Wimborne/Reuters A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change states that the authors are now 95 percent to 100 percent confident that human activity is the primary influence on planetary warming. The level of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, is up 41 percent since the Industrial Revolution. Emissions from facilities like coal-fired power plants contribute.

By JUSTIN GILLIS NY Times Published: August 19, 2013 756 Comments

An international panel of scientists has found with near certainty that human activity is the cause of most of the temperature increases of recent decades, and warns that sea levels could conceivably rise by more than three feet by the end of the century if emissions continue at a runaway pace. The scientists, whose findings are reported in a draft summary of the next big United Nations climate report, largely dismiss a recent slowdown in the pace of warming, which is often cited by climate change doubters, attributing it most likely to short-term factors. The report emphasizes that the basic facts about future climate change are more established than ever, justifying the rise in global concern. It also reiterates that the consequences of escalating emissions are likely to be profound. “It is extremely likely that human influence on climate caused more than half of the observed increase in global average surface temperature from 1951 to 2010,” the draft report says. “There is high confidence that this has warmed the ocean, melted snow and ice, raised global mean sea level and changed some climate extremes in the second half of the 20th century.”

The draft comes from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a body of several hundred scientists that won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007, along with Al Gore. Its summaries, published every five or six years, are considered the definitive assessment of the risks of climate change, and they influence the actions of governments around the world. Hundreds of billions of dollars are being spent on efforts to reduce greenhouse emissions, for instance, largely on the basis of the group’s findings.

The coming report will be the fifth major assessment from the group, created in 1988. Each report has found greater certainty that the planet is warming and greater likelihood that humans are the primary cause. …


Changes in Ecologically Critical Terrestrial Climate Conditions

Noah S. Diffenbaugh1,2
Christopher B. Field3
Science 2 August 2013:
Vol. 341 no. 6145 pp. 486-492
DOI: 10.1126/science.1237123

Terrestrial ecosystems have encountered substantial warming over the past century, with temperatures increasing about twice as rapidly over land as over the oceans. Here, we review the likelihood of continued changes in terrestrial climate, including analyses of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project global climate model ensemble. Inertia toward continued emissions creates potential 21st-century global warming that is comparable in magnitude to that of the largest global changes in the past 65 million years but is orders of magnitude more rapid. The rate of warming implies a velocity of climate change and required range shifts of up to several kilometers per year, raising the prospect of daunting challenges for ecosystems, especially in the context of extensive land use and degradation, changes in frequency and severity of extreme events, and interactions with other stresses.



NOAA: July global temperatures sixth highest on record

August 20, 2013

According to NOAA scientists, the globally-averaged temperature for July 2013 was the sixth highest July since record keeping began in 1880. It also marked the 37th consecutive July and 341st consecutive month (more than 28 years) with a globally-averaged temperature above the 20th century average. The last below-average July temperature was July 1976 and the last below-average temperature for any month was February 1985. Many areas of the world experienced much warmer-than-average monthly temperatures, including northern South America, the western and northeastern United States, much of Africa, western and central Europe, parts of southern Asia, and most of Australia. Parts of the central and southeastern United States, small regions across northern Canada, eastern Greenland, and parts of Mongolia and eastern Siberia were cooler than average. Far northwestern Canada and part of the eastern United States were much cooler than their long-term averages. …. Record dryness was present among regions that included part of central Europe, eastern Turkey, some scattered regions in western Africa, east central Brazil, and northern coastal Chile. …Austria observed its driest July since national precipitation records began in 1858, with just 35 percent of the 1981-2010 average. Several regions received only 5 to 20 percent of their typical July rainfall. Additional information can be found on the following web sites: NOAA Climate Portal: National Snow and Ice Data Center,


Max Whittaker / Reuters Los Angeles County firefighters hike in on a fire line on the Rim Fire near Groveland, Calif., on Aug. 22. Slideshow: Western wildfires
Launch slideshow=

Raging, fast-moving California wildfire threatens Yosemite National Park

A wildfire in California is burning out of control even as more than 1,300 firefighters rush to stop its spread.

By Matthew DeLuca, Staff Writer, NBC News August 23, 2013

An out-of-control wildfire blazed near Yosemite Park on Friday as nearly 2,000 fire personnel worked to contain the Northern California blaze, the latest in a number of major wildfires to sweep the country in recent weeks. The Rim Fire had burned over 63,366 acres by 8 p.m. local time on Thursday, destroying nine structures and causing one injury as it burned in Stanislaus National Forest, according to an incident report. With more than 1,800 responders battling the blaze, the fire stood one percent contained. The fire grew on Thursday, licking the western boundaries of Yosemite National Park and sweeping away gains firefighters had made to bring the fire to five percent containment on Wednesday. California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in Tuolumne County on Thursday, as costs fighting the fire hit $5.4 million. The rugged terrain consumed by the fire made it difficult for firefighters to drag in their gear, a Forest Service spokesman said. “The terrain is so difficult that you can’t go into direct attack,” U.S. Forest Service spokesman Trevor Augustino said, according to Reuters…..



Beaver Creek fire threatens Sun Valley resort in Idaho

Written by
Max Ehrenfreund
Published: August 19

A wildfire that has been burning in central Idaho for 12 days continues to threaten the popular ski resort of Sun Valley:


Idaho Wildfire Rages On As Media Avoids Mentioning Climate Change

Posted: 19 Aug 2013 01:40 PM PDT

Much has been made of the fact that the Beaver Creek Fire currently sweeping through central Idaho are endangering the favorite getaways of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tom Hanks and Bruce Willis. Garnering much less attention in the media, however, is the role that climate change is playing in this devastating fire which now covers over 126,000 acres and is only nine percent contained in its twelfth day. The fire, now considered the top firefighting priority in the nation, despite fires burning in ten other states, was started by lightning on August 8, and has proven itself an erratic and powerful force. The combination of drought-parched land and strong winds have made it nearly impossible to contain, although 1,200 firefighters are hard at work trying to keep the blaze away from the nearly 10,000 homes believed to be currently in danger. The link between climate change and more devastating fire seasons in the west is clear. In fact, just a week or so into the Idaho blaze, Michigan State University published a paper showing that “climate change may favor larger and more destructive wildfires in the American West in the future,” and NASA just released a new animation breaking down the connection.
“A 100,000-acre wildfire used to be unusual, you would see one every few years,” Forest Service employee Carl Albury says in a NASA article. “Those type of fires are becoming a yearly occurrence.”
History speaks for itself — wildfires are becoming longer, more acres are burning, and the costs and fatalities are on the rise as well. Climate change is setting the stage for the new age of conflagration, bringing warmer temperatures and extensive, prolonged drought. Insect infestations made possible by warmer winters are also killing off huge areas of forests in the West, leaving acres of dead standing trees, ready to burn.
The seven largest U.S. fire seasons since 1960 have burned in the last thirteen years, and although 2013 may not go on record nation-wide, it has already resulted in the most destructive wildfire in in Colorado history and caused the death of nineteen firefighters in Arizona.
While aware that drought is part of the problem, major media outlets seem to avoid making the explicit connection between climate change and the Idaho wildfires.



Wildfires are increasingly expensive and dangerous to fight as more housing is built in dry areas in the West where the vegetation is highly flammable. A single spark can ignite a fire. A warning sign near Mt. Baldy, above the San Gabriel Valley in Southern California. – David Weinberg

Living with fire: In the dry West, it’s not if a house will burn, it’s when

By David Weinberg Marketplace Rado Aug 19, 2013

Wildfires are burning across the West and are expected to get worse as global temperatures rise. One problem: people living in high-risk fire zones….”In Southern California, we have a total suppression strategy,” says Lorine Buckweld, a suppression battalion chief with the U.S. Forest Service. “In other words, that means every fire will be suppressed with as many resources as we can throw at them to keep them small. Because of the threat to the Wildland-Urban Interface.” The Forest Service now spends more than half of its budget fighting wildfires. Most of which they are spending fighting in and around structures, housing developments and the like, not in and around  wilderness areas.
Environmental history professor Char Miller is one of many critics who doesn’t think the public should be footing the bill to protect homes in high-risk fire zones. And he says we’re not factoring in the human cost when we build in these areas…..




Record rainfall: more than 60% of Philippine capitol under water

Posted on August 20, 2013

ABC News

August 20, 2013 MANILAFlooding caused by some of the Philippines’ heaviest rains on record submerged more than half the capital Tuesday, turning roads into rivers and trapping tens of thousands of people in homes and shelters. The government suspended all work except rescues and disaster response for a second day. Officials reported at least seven people dead, 11 injured and four missing. The dead included a 5-year-old boy whose house was hit by a concrete wall that collapsed. His two adult relatives also were injured. Throughout the sprawling, low-lying capital region of 12 million people, floodwaters made most of the roads impassable and reached waist- or neck-deep along rivers and creeks…..


Future flood losses in major coastal cities: Costly projections

Posted: 19 Aug 2013 07:26 AM PDT

Climate change combined with rapid population increases, economic growth and land subsidence could lead to a more than nine-fold increase in the global risk of floods in large port cities between now and 2050. “Future Flood Losses in Major Coastal Cities,” published in Nature Climate Change, is part of an ongoing project by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to explore the policy implications of flood risks due to climate change and economic development. This study builds on past OECD work which ranked global port cities on the basis of current and future exposure, where exposure is the maximum number of people or assets that could be affected by a flood. The authors estimate present and future flood losses — or the global cost of flooding — in 136 of the world’s largest coastal cities, taking into account existing coastal protections. Average global flood losses in 2005, estimated at about US$6 billion per year, could increase to US$52 billion by 2050 with projected socio-economic change alone….

An important finding of this study is that, because flood defences have been designed for past conditions, even a moderate rise in sea-level would lead to soaring losses in the absence of adaptation. Inaction is not an option as it could lead to losses in excess of $US 1 trillion. Therefore, coastal cities will have to improve their flood management, including better defences, at a cost estimated around US$50 billion per year for the 136 cities.
Robert Nicholls, Professor of Coastal Engineering at the University of Southampton and co-author of the study, says: “This work shows that flood risk is rising in coastal cities globally due to a range of factors, including sea-level rise.
Hence there is a pressing need to start planning how to manage flood risk now.” Even with better protection, the magnitude of losses will increase, often by more than 50 per cent, when a flood does occur. According to Dr Stephane Hallegatte, from the World Bank and lead author of the study: “There is a limit to what can be achieved with hard protection: populations and assets will remain vulnerable to defence failures or to exceptional events that exceed the protection design.” To help cities deal with disasters when they do hit, policy makers should consider early warning systems, evacuation planning, more resilient infrastructure and financial support to rebuild economies.


Stephane Hallegatte, Colin Green, Robert J. Nicholls, Jan Corfee-Morlot. Future flood losses in major coastal cities. Nature Climate Change, 2013; DOI: 10.1038/nclimate1979


U.S. federal agencies remapping coastal areas damaged by Hurricane Sandy
(August 22, 2013) — A day after the administration released the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force progress report, three U.S. federal agencies have announced plans for remapping parts of the East Coast, where Hurricane Sandy altered seafloors and shorelines, destroyed buildings, and disrupted millions of lives last year. … > full story

Hotter, Drier Conditions Forcing Desert Plants To Migrate

Posted: 21 Aug 2013 11:39 AM PDT

Desert plants living in Arizona’s Santa Catalina Mountains have moved surprisingly far upslope in the past 50 years, a trend that’s likely due to warmer, drier temperatures in the region, new research has found. The study, led by researchers from the University of Arizona, surveyed the locations of desert trees and shrubs that grow along the Catalina Highway, which stretches from desert lowlands to the top of Mount Lemmon in the Santa Catalina Mountains. Researchers compared the present-day data to a 1963 survey of plant life along the road. The results were striking: of the 27 most common plant species found along the road, 15 had shifted their lower boundaries upslope, and eight of those shifted more than 800 feet upward from their 1963 lowermost boundaries. The researchers think that a warmer, drier climate is causing some plants at lower elevations to undergo water stress and die, thus moving the plant population’s range upslope. But only four of the plants extended their upper regions in order to compensate for their reduced lower boundaries, while eight lowered their upper boundaries and 15 remained unchanged — a finding that suggests shifts in climate are not just moving some plants to higher elevations, but may also also be restricting their overall habitat size. Researchers said the findings could spell trouble for the future of some plant species, especially those that experienced the most dramatic shifts in elevation: the alligator juniper, for instance, began growing at 3,500 feet in elevation in 1963, and today is found no lower than 5,000 feet up the mountainside. “If climate continues to warm, as the climate models predict, the subalpine mixed conifer forests on the tops of the mountains — and the animals dependent upon them — could be pushed right off the top and disappear, ” said Richard C. Brusca, a lead researcher on the study….


Arctic warming and our extreme weather: no clear link new study finds

By Jason Samenow, Published: August 19 at 2:59 pm

Arctic sea ice minimum 1980 vs. 2012 (NASA)

Is the dramatic decline of Arctic sea ice, spurred by manmade global warming, making the  weather where we live more extreme?  Several recent studies have made this claim.

But a new study finds little evidence to support the idea that the plummeting Arctic sea ice has meaningfully changed our weather patterns.  The research, published today in Geophysical Research Letters, says links between declining Arctic sea ice and extreme weather are “an artifact of the methodology” and not real. Earlier work, suggesting a connection between the disintegrating Arctic ice and weather mania in the mid-latitudes, is intriguing.  It is based on the idea that the jet stream – the river of high altitude winds that steers our storms and positions cold snaps and heat waves – is slowing down and weakening due to a pronounced warming in the Arctic compared to other places, a phenomenon known as Arctic amplification. Rather than zipping right along a straight path, a more listless jet stream is now prone to straying so the theory goes. “Just as a river of water tends to meander when it reaches the gentle slopes of coastal plains, a weaker jet stream tends to have steeper north-south waves,” explained Rutgers University atmospheric professor Jennifer Francis, in a guest blog post here at CWG. “The slower the waves move, the longer the weather associated with them will persist.”… While Barnes’ study did not identify jet stream changes in the last 30 years, the most rapid decline in Arctic sea ice has occurred in the last decade – so it’s possible the Barnes’ analysis smoothed over a very recent change in jet stream behavior.  A NOAA-led study last year noted a change in Arctic winds beginning in 2007, which may have signaled the point at which this mechanism became observable. “This shift demonstrates a physical connection between reduced Arctic sea ice in the summer, loss of Greenland ice, and potentially, weather in North America and Europe,” said James Overland, of NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory and study lead author….


Graze and end climate change, biologist says



By Doug Struck Globe Correspondent August 6, 2013 01:39 PM

Jim Laurie figures he’s heard the solution to climate change: bring on the cows. Or sheep. Or just about any grazing animals. Laurie is a proponent of a method of restoring exhausted land that is causing a stir—if not yet an avalanche—of interest among ranchers, farmers and environmentalists. It involves bringing livestock onto spent and unproductive land for a short tour of munching—maybe a day, a few days, or a week. If there’s not enough to eat, bring feed to them, he says…..This is the theory espoused by Allan Savory, a Rhodesian biologist who has become a TED Talk star ….

Savory now says that culling was exactly the wrong approach. Without animals to disrupt the soil and fertilize it, farmlands, prairies and grasslands die. His “holistic management” approach is to let animals graze on land for short periods and then move them on, as they did naturally, before fences. Microbes, dung beetles and worms go to work, converting the animal manure to new soil—humus that holds water, loosens the ground and fosters natural grasses……… “There’s this idea that the soil will grow back if you take all the animals away,” he says. “But grasslands want to be grazed. Where you have a grazing plan, things get better.”



Global sea level rise dampened by Australia floods

Posted: 19 Aug 2013 11:16 AM PDT

When enough raindrops fall over land instead of the ocean, they begin to add up. New research led by shows that three atmospheric patterns drove so much precipitation over Australia in 2010 and 2011 that the world’s ocean levels dropped measurably.




The creatures who will let us all know when climate is in trouble

Coastal sea birds will be impacted by higher sea levels Tom McDonnell

Simon de Bruxelles Last updated at 12:01AM, August 23 2013 The Times of London

They are the trip wire — the most vulnerable species whose struggles will alert us to the consequences of climate change. The National Trust has drawn up a list of “coastal canaries” to monitor the direct impact of global warming on Britain’s wildlife. The six species include seabirds, butterflies and rare plants living on the fringes of Britain, whose environment is threatened by rising sea levels, changing weather patterns and loss of habitat. The list of “canaries” also includes species that will benefit from warmer global temperatures, such as the triggerfish, whose range has extended from the Mediterranean to North Wales in recent years. They are being called canaries after the songbirds taken underground by miners to warn of dangerous gases. Unfortunately, the precedent is not promising as by the time the mine canaries keeled over, it was often too late.

The National Trust claims that Britain’s 8,050-mile coastline is becoming increasingly “dynamic”, with the pace of change accelerating. David Bullock, the organisation’s head of nature conservation, said: “Over the past decade we’ve been developing a better understanding of how the coastline will be affected by increased coastal erosion or flooding in the future. Our six coastal ‘canaries in the mine’ indicate how plants, animals and ourselves will have to live with an increasing rate of environmental change.” The impact of climate change is already being felt, with a fourfold to fivefold increase in the number of landslips and cliff falls between July and December last year, compared with previous years. Many were caused by the higher than average rainfall. Sea levels are also predicted to rise by at least half a metre by the end of the century, which will increase the risk of flooding in low-lying coastal areas. Rising sea levels also threaten to destroy mud flats on which many species, particularly wading birds, depend.

Matthew Oates, the National Trust’s wildlife expert, said: “Wildlife which relies on the gradual erosion of soft rock cliffs, or lives on loose sand and shingle habitats, could be caught out by an increasingly mobile landscape as a result of extremes in weather.

“Climate change could change the face of our coastal flora and fauna. With rising sea levels, our rich mud flats could simply disappear,” he added. “Even on hard rock cliffs less affected by increased erosion, we are likely to see the boom and bust of more specialist plants and animals, as they suffer from increased flooding, salt deposition or drought stress.”…



How Americans Communicate About Global Warming, April 2013  

August 21, 2013 Center for Climate Change Communication George Mason University

  • Non-violent civil disobedience 

    Nearly a quarter (24%) of all Americans would support an organization that engaged in non-violent civil disobedience against corporate or government activities that make global warming worse.

    Moreover, 13% say they would be willing to personally engage in non-violent civil disobedience for the same reason.

  • Communication about global warming 

    In the year leading up to the survey, Americans were more likely to discuss global warming with family and friends (33% did so often or occasionally) than to communicate about it using social media (e.g., 7% shared something about global warming on Facebook or Twitter, 6% posted a comment online in response to a news story or blog about the topic, etc.).     

  • Influence of friends and family

    Americans are most likely to identify their own friends and family, such as a significant other (27%), son or daughter (21%), or close friend (17%), as the people who could motivate them to take action to reduce global warming.

The report includes an Executive Summary, reports trends in key indicators over the past several years, and provides a breakdown of the results across Global Warming’s Six Americas. It can be downloaded here: How Americans Communicate About Global Warming, April 2013  


Indian Farmers Cope With Climate Change and Falling Water Tables
NatGeo News Watch (blog) August 19, 2013

Climate changeis predicted to negatively impact millions of farmers across the globe, with some studies predicting up to a 40% decline in crop yields over the upcoming decades.


Warming trend a sign of climate change in Clear Lake (CA)

Santa Rosa Press Democrat  – ‎August 19, 2013 ‎

….Satellite measurements of the shallow, 68-square-mile lake’s surface water temperature show a pronounced warming since 1992, matching the trend at five other lakes in California and Nevada, including Lake Tahoe. The lakes’ warming is “primarily due to climate change,” said Geoffrey Schladow, director of the Tahoe Environmental Research Center. “No other factor could produce this degree of warming in all six lakes.” Furthermore, the warming “will impact the biology” of Clear Lake, said Schladow, a UC Davis professor of water resources and environmental engineering. Warming of the six lakes was included in a report by the California Environmental Protection Agency documenting 36 indicators of climate change from the coast to the Central Valley and the Sierra Nevada. The indicators include rising sea levels ..






Farm Bill and Agriculture Appropriations – Clear as Mud

July 26th, 2013 National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition

The congressional month-long August recess is just a week away.  In more normal times, as those types of deadlines loom, deals get done on Capitol Hill.  Not so this year.  The path forward on a new five-year farm bill and on the set of appropriations bills to fund the government for the coming fiscal year are clear as mud.  With the federal debt ceiling to be hit this fall, it promises, sadly, to be another season of manufactured, interlocking crises in the nation’s Capitol. Unless something breaks on the farm bill next week, the situation upon Congress’ return after Labor Day will be quite stark.  There will be a total of nine legislative days before the farm bill and before all the appropriations bills, including agriculture, expire at the stroke of midnight on October 1.  To see why nine days is not a rosy prospect, let’s review where things stand, starting with the farm bill….


Climate Change: Flood Losses in Major Cities Could be Over $50 Billion by 2050

Science World Report August 19, 2013

It turns out that climate change is a lot more expensive than we may have given it credit for. As temperatures warm and sea levels rise, there’s expected to be more than a nine-fold increase in the global risk of floods in large port cities.


Al Gore: Climate change could undo gains at Tahoe (watch video)

Aug. 19, 2013 9:18 PM   |

Much has been accomplished since he and President Bill Clinton convened the first Lake Tahoe Summit in 1997, but all stands to be lost under the impacts of a warming climate, former Vice President Al Gore said Monday.

As the keynote speaker during the 17th annual summit, Gore told a crowd of hundreds at Sand Harbor State Park that global warming continues to pose a dire threat to the planet and to the natural wonder that is Lake Tahoe, where substantial environmental gains have been achieved over the last 16 years.

He said the effective approach to dealing with Tahoe’s ecological problems could serve as a model with what needs to occur regarding climate change elsewhere….


Al Gore explains why he’s optimistic about stopping global warming

By Ezra Klein, Published: August 21 at 3:23 pmE-mail the writer

Al Gore was vice president of the United States from 1993-2001. Since leaving politics, he’s been heavily involved in the campaign to fight global warming, even winning a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts. And he says he’s more optimistic than ever that the issue has reached “a tipping point.” In this lightly edited interview transcript, he explains why.

Ezra Klein: In 2005, when “An Inconvenient Truth” came out, I remember that the hope was we could keep the carbon load in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million, and the fear was we would hit 400ppm. Now we’ve hit 400ppm and people are hoping to avoid 450ppm. This seems to be getting out of hand, and fast.

Al Gore: We have already crossed the 400 parts per million mark. We crossed it earlier this year. The question now is how high it will go before we begin bending the curve. But in spite of the continued released of 90 million tons of global warming pollution every day into the atmosphere, as if it’s an open sewer, we are now seeing the approach of a global political tipping point.

The appearance of more extreme and more frequent weather events has had a very profound impact on public opinion in countries throughout the world. You mentioned my movie back in the day. The single most common criticism from skeptics when the film came out focused on the animation showing ocean water flowing into the World Trade Center memorial site. Skeptics called that demagogic and absurd and irresponsible. It happened last October 29th, years ahead of schedule, and the impact of that and many, many other similar events here and around the world has really begun to create a profound shift.

A second factor is the sharp and unexpectedly steep decrease in prices for electricity produced from wind and solar and the demand destruction for fossil fuel energy from new efficiency improvements. The difference between 32 degrees fahrenheit and 33 degrees fahrenheit seems larger than just one degree. It’s the difference between water and ice. And by analogy there’s a similar difference between renewable electricity that’s more expensive than electricity from coal and renewable electricity that’s less expensive. And in quite a few countries in the world and some parts of the United States we’ve crossed that threshold and in the next few years we’re going to see that crossed in nations and regions containing most of the world’s population.

Another way to think about this is that back when mobile telephones first appeared, the market projections for how quickly they would increase market share turned out to be not just wrong but way wrong. This is a point made by Dave Roberts at Grist, but the projections made 5-10 years ago for the installation of solar and wind technologies were, similarly, not just wrong but way wrong. We’ve seen a dramatic increase that’s far more rapid than anybody projected and it’s accelerating — not just in the United States but even more rapidly in developing countries….

But you see it at the local level a bit more than at the national level. You see these state initiatives and laws. And you see maybe the biggest shift of all in the business community. I think that in order to be competitive internationally we’ll have to make the shift towards a price on carbon. People are increasingly aware that we’re already paying the costs of carbon and so it makes sense to put a price on it….

….The conversation on global warming has been stalled because a shrinking group of denialists fly into a rage when it’s mentioned. It’s like a family with an alcoholic father who flies into a rage every time a subject is mentioned and so everybody avoids the elephant in the room to keep the peace. But the political climate is changing. Something like Chris Hayes’s excellent documentary on climate change wouldn’t have made it on TV a few years ago. And as I said, many Republicans who’re still timid on the issue are now openly embarrassed about the extreme deniers. The deniers are being hit politically. They’re being subjected to ridicule, which stings. The polling is going back up in favor of doing something on this issue. The ability of the raging deniers to stop progress is waning every single day.

When that conversation is won, you’ll see more measures at the local and state level and less resistance to what the EPA is doing. And slowly it will become popular to propose steps that go further and politicians that take the bit in their teeth get rewarded. I remember when the tide turned on smoking in public places. People thought the late Frank Lautenburg was crazy for proposing a ban on smoking in airplanes, but he was rewarded politically and then politicians began falling all over themselves to do the same. That’s the optimistic scenario. And it’s not just a scenario! It’s happening now!

Don’t get me wrong. We’ve got a long way to go. We’re still increasing emissions. But we’re approaching this tipping point. Businesses are driving it. Grass roots are driving it. Policies and changes in law in places like india and China and Mexico and California and Ireland will proliferate and increase, and soon we’ll get to the point where national laws will evolve into global cooperation.

It Isn’t Easy Being Gore: Media Creates A Category 6 Tempest In A Teapot

By Joe Romm on August 23, 2013

Al Gore’s recent remarks regarding hurricanes were well within the spectrum of views of the climatology community on our emerging understanding of global warming’s impact on hurricane’s destructiveness.


Is Al Jazeera America Going to Change the Way Networks Cover Climate Change…

Mother Jones August 22 2013

On its first day of broadcasting, Al Jazeera America devoted 30 minutes to climate change—more time than top shows on CNN and Fox News have given to this issue in the past four-and-a-half months, combined.



How Climate Change Became A Major Factor In Australia’s Upcoming Election

ThinkProgress August 19, 2013

The economy and climate change are two of the key issues going into the election. Climate change-related events have battered Australia so severely in recent years that many of them have their own names: the Big Dry, the Black Saturday Bushfires and …



Sandhill cranes, one of the species the Interior Department says would be impacted by a spill along Keystone XL’s route.

It’s Not Just Carbon Emissions: Keystone XL Would Have ‘Permanent Impacts’ On Wildlife, Interior Department Says

Posted: 19 Aug 2013 11:28 AM PDT

If approved, the Keystone XL pipeline could have serious impacts on wildlife, natural resources and visitors’ experiences in national parks, according to a letter from the Department of the Interior.

The letter was sent to the State Department on April 29 and was recently posted on the department’s website as one of the 1.2 million public comments it’s processing on its strongly-contested Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed pipeline. In the letter, the Interior Department says Keystone XL’s proposed route would cross five trails within the National Trail System as well as lands that may drain into two nationally-managed rivers. The letter also expresses concerns that the Interior Department’s comments from a previous environmental impact statement were not taken into account on the most recent one: the Interior Department said it requested the pipeline avoid wetlands and that the operations should provide certain measures to ensure water safety, comments the letter says were not addressed “in any substantive manner” by the most recent DEIS. …



California’s Carbon Trading System Is Going So Well They Sold Out Of Permits



By Jeff Spross on August 22, 2013

The latest auction for California’s carbon emissions permits had 1.62 bids for every permit available — the first time demand outpaced supply.



How One Organization Is Making Solar Energy Available To Those Who Can’t Afford It

By Katie Valentine on August 22, 2013

California-based GRID Alternatives installs solar systems on low-income households in California, Colorado and soon, in New York and New Jersey.



Raising Shasta Dam: Reclamation releases the Draft Environmental Impact Statement; public review period

June 29, 2013 by Maven

Shasta Dam Photo by Bureau of Reclamation

The Bureau of Reclamation has released the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for raising Shasta Dam, opening up a 90-day public comment and review period.  The draft EIR evaluates five different alternatives that would raise the dam from 6.5 feet to 18.5 feet, enlarging the reservoir by 256,000 to 634,000 acre-feet.  A  no-action alternative is analyzed as well.

Reclamation says the project, formally called the Shasta Lake Water Resources Investigation, would improve the operational flexibility of the Delta watershed and increase the survival of salmon and other fish species in the Sacramento River by increasing the amount of cold water available to be released to improve downstream temperature conditions for fish during critical periods.  The project would also increase water supply and water supply reliability for CVP contractors, particularly in dry years.  There would be other benefits as well, including reducing flood damage, providing additional hydropower supplies, and improving water quality in the Sacramento River and the Delta.

Project impacts include inundation of places of Native American cultural significance, take and loss of habitat for numerous special-status species at Shasta Lake and vicinity, and cumulative effects on south Delta water levels, X2 position, and Delta outflow.  The project would also affect the McCloud River’s eligibility for listing as a federal Wild & Scenic River.

In February of 2012, the Bureau of Reclamation released a Draft Feasibility Study that determined the project was both technically and environmentally feasible, as well as economically justified; the study determined that raising the dam 18.5 feet would cost just over $1 billion dollars and would produce from $18 to $63 million in net economic benefits per year.

The project is just in its beginning stages; the Draft Feasibility Report, the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, and the public comments received on both documents will be used to determine next steps.  If the project is approved, it could be completed by 2021.

The 90-day formal comment period opens on July 1st.  Public workshops are scheduled in July in Redding, Sacramento, and Los Banos to discuss the documents and the upcoming public comment process.  Public hearings are being planned for September to receive formal comments.  For information on the upcoming workshops and how to submit written comments, click here. 


New group CARE worries about energy prices

David R. Baker SF Chronicle Updated 5:30 pm, Monday, August 19, 2013

California’s fight against climate change has, so far, proved popular with voters. But among businesses, it’s a very different story. While some support the state’s policies to rein in greenhouse gas emissions, others emphatically don’t. Manufacturers and oil companies in particular have sought to delay, alter or kill some of those policies, saying they will push electricity and gasoline prices through the roof. The latest salvo in this fight arrived Monday with the launch of a business group called Californians for Affordable and Reliable Energy also known as CARE. The group’s home page makes its position clear. “California is approaching an energy crisis – state policies are forcing higher costs and reliability problems.”….



Raising beefier cattle just got harder

By Adriene Hill Aug 19, 2013 Marketplace

Merck withdraws, at least temporarily, a supplement widely used to bulk up cattle at feedlots….


Bloomberg: Why Sandy forced cities to take lead on climate change

From Michael Bloomberg, Special to CNN August 21, 2013 —

Water from Hurricane Sandy rushes into the Carey Tunnel in the Financial District of New York on October 29, 2012.


  • New York City Mayor Bloomberg is chairman of C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group
  • City leaders are taking action, not debating climate science, says Mayor
  • Hurricane Sandy emphasized importance of stronger infrastructure
  • New York is prepping for future storms and cutting emissions

Editor’s note:
Michael R. Bloomberg is the Mayor of New York City and is the Chair of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, a network of the world’s largest and innovative cities taking climate actions on a local level. “The City” is a CNN special theme week series that airs from Monday Aug 19 on “World Business Today” at 1300 GMT and “Connect The World” at 2000 GMT.

(CNN) — For the first time in human history, more than half the world’s population is living in cities, which now produce approximately 70 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. That puts cities on the frontlines of the battle against climate change — and more and more cities are leading the charge. In New York, we began a frontal attack on climate change in 2007 with the release of our sustainability blueprint, PlaNYC — and since then we’ve made major progress. For instance, we are well on our way to meeting our goal of reducing our greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2030. For coastal cities like New York, the risks of climate change are especially serious: sea levels are expected to rise by another two and a half feet in the next 40 years, making storm surges even more powerful and dangerous. And intense storms are likely to increase as the ocean’s temperatures continue to rise. But it’s not just storms. Droughts and heat waves may be longer and more intense for urban populations everywhere in the years to come. Around the world, city leaders are not wasting time debating the science of climate change or waiting around for international treaties to be signed; we are taking action. There’s simply too much to do and too much at stake. For the past two years, I have been chairman of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, which includes some of the biggest and most innovative cities in the world. Thanks to C40’s research, we know that C40 Cities have taken more than 4,700 actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the possible effects of climate change. In fact, C40 has the potential to reduce emissions by more than one billion tons a year by 2030 — which is equivalent to making both Canada and Mexico entirely carbon-neutral.

…..Mayors are pragmatists, not partisans; innovators, not ideologues. We are responsible for delivering results, not debating politics. And as the world becomes increasingly more urban, the importance of bold local action — particularly on climate change — will continue to grow.

Read: Five cities battling floods, heat and storm








NPS offers new Scenario Planning Handbook

Monday, August 5, 2013

The National Parks Service announced its new guidance document: Using Scenarios to Explore Climate Change: a Handbook for Practitioners. Developed under the National Park Service Climate Change Response Strategy, this guide is part of an interdisciplinary, cross-cutting approach to addressing climate change. The overall program supports NPS efforts to understand climate science in national parks and surrounding areas and to adapt to a changing climate to promote the resiliency of our cultural and natural heritage. Actively engaging ourselves and our audiences in park stewardship is a key ingredient of the climate change communication strategy and an integral component in addressing the effects of climate change. To learn more about the National Park Service Climate Change Response Strategy, visit For more resources on Scenario Planning, see the Scenario Planning page on the California Climate Commons:



FROM EPA: To subscribe to or unsubscribe from EPA’s newsletter, go to the Newsletters page.

* Explore Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation by Region or Sector on EPA’s Climate Change Website
The changing climate impacts society and ecosystems in a broad variety of ways. For example, climate change can increase or decrease rainfall, influence agricultural crop yields, affect human health, cause changes to forests and other ecosystems, or even impact the nation’s energy supply. Climate-related impacts are occurring across regions of the country and across many sectors of the U.S. economy. EPA’s Climate Change website provides relevant resources to those interested in learning more about expected climate change impacts and adaptation options. More specifically, the website lists impacts from climate change and adaptation efforts by region or sector, and provides resources to help public officials and others with climate change adaptation planning.

*A Handbook for Local Governments on Adapting to Climate Change

The Coastal Hazards Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has developed a handbook to help local governments in North Carolina adapt to climate change. The handbook demonstrates the need for local action and explains the options that are open to local governments. The handbook was written by UNC graduate student Sierra C. Woodruff with Anna K. Schwab and Dylan Sandler and with advising from Professor David Brower and Gavin Smith, Executive Director of the Coastal Hazards Center at UNC. You can download the complete handbook here.

* Federal Agencies Prepare for Climate Adaptation
For the first time, agencies across the federal government have detailed plans identifying vulnerabilities to climate impacts and ways to reduce them. For example, the Agriculture Department’s adaptation plan describes how land restoration, wildfire management, watershed conservation and biotechnology can make the nation’s public and private lands more resilient to climate change impacts. C2ES has compiled the plans, the product of a 2009 executive order.


The San Francisco Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve  is excited to announce this upcoming workshop!
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 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 


Quivira Conference 2013– Inspiring Adaptation

“The Westerner is less a person than a continuing adaptation. The West is less a place than a process.” – Wallace Stegner

Deadline – Nov 5 2013

From prehistoric times to the present, human societies have successfully adapted to the challenges of a changing West, including periods of severe drought, limitations created by scarce resources and shifting cultural and economic pressures. Now, the American West is entering an era of unprecedented change brought on by new climate realities, which will test our capacity for adaptation as well as challenge the resilience of the region’s native flora and fauna. It is therefore paramount that we find and share inspiring ideas and practical strategies that help all of the region’s inhabitants adapt to a rapidly changing world. We will hear from scientists, ranchers, farmers, conservationists, urban planners and others who have bright ideas and important tools to share from their adaptation toolbox.



Resilient Cities 2013 Congress Report

This publication summarizes key issues and outcomes based on the recently concluded Resilient Cities 2013 Congress, which took place in Bonn, Germany on May 31-June 02, 2013.






99th Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America
Sacramento, California August 10-15, 2014

Call for Proposals– Symposia, Organized Oral Sessions, and Organized Poster Sessions

Deadline for Submission: September 26, 2013

Only proposals that are complete and submitted by 5:00 PM Eastern Time will be considered.

We invite proposals for Symposia, Organized Oral Sessions, and Organized Poster Sessions for ESA’s 99th Annual Meeting to be held in Sacramento, California. The theme for the 2014 meeting is “From Oceans to Mountains: It’s All Ecology.” That’s right! Ecology is everywhere. Whether we are exploring the depths of the ocean, arid desert communities, or frigid mountaintops, we find abundant ecological interaction among organisms and environment. These fascinating relationships abound in every setting. California is an especially interesting setting for studying ecology. It has all these and more! Its 160,000 square miles is a center of extraordinary biodiversity and endemism, containing more plant and animal species and more endemic species than any other state in the United States. Our theme emphasizes the inherent ecological diversity of the state, fitting well between the theme of the 99th Annual Ecological Society of America Meeting’s emphasis on learning from the past and the 100th Annual Meeting in 2015 which will develop a blueprint to shape the future.


The Ecological Society of America, American Geophysical Union, and US Geological Survey are co-sponsors of the upcoming

Soil Science Society of America ecosystems services conference–abstracts are now being invited and are due by 12/1/2013.

March 6-9, 2014
Sheraton Grand Hotel, Sacramento, CA

Purpose of Conference: Soils provide provisioning and regulating ecosystem services relevant to grand challenge areas of 1) climate change adaptation and mitigation, 2) food and energy security, 3) water protection, 4) biotechnology for human health, 5) ecological sustainability, and 6) slowing of desertification. The purposes of this conference will be to evaluate knowledge strengths and gaps, encourage cross-disciplinary synergies to accelerate new learning, and prioritize research needs.

More info is available here:






NOAA Climate Program Office Releases FY14 

Federal Funding Opportunity


NOAA is accepting individual applications for nine competitions organized around the Climate Program Office’s Climate Observations and Monitoring; Earth System Science; Modeling, Analysis, Predictions, and Projections; and Climate and Societal Interactions (CSI) programs. Letters of intent are due by September 10, 2013; final applications are due by November 14, 2013. For the CSI programs, watch here for an FAQ and information about an informational teleconference on August 29 at 3pm eastern time to specifically discuss the letters of intent.

For announcements:


National Science Foundation Solicits Proposals for Water Sustainability and Climate Program


This solicitation from the seeks proposals to determine how our built water systems and our governance systems can be made more reliable, resilient, and sustainable to meet diverse needs. Successful proposals are expected to study water systems in their entirety and to enable a new interdisciplinary paradigm in water research. Projects supported under this solicitation may establish new observational sites or utilize existing observational sites and facilities already supported by NSF or other federal and state agencies. The application deadline is September 10, 2013.

For more information, click here.

NOAA Announces Solicitation for the U.S. Marine Biodiversity Observation Network

This funding opportunity invites proposals for projects that demonstrate how an operational Marine Biodiversity Observation Network could be developed for the nation by establishing one or more prototype networks in U.S. coastal waters, the Great Lakes, and the EEZ. Applications are due on December 2, 2013.

 For more information, click here.








Is big desert solar killing birds in Southern California?

Judith Lewis Mernit | Aug 18, 2013 03:25 PM

The threat large-scale solar developments pose to tortoise in the desert Southwest has been well established, but what about the technology’s effect on birds?

The question has been asked before — David Danelski of the Riverside Press Enterprise reported on it in Feburary of 2012 — but it emerged most dramatically last winter during the California Energy Commission hearings on a five square mile-sized concentrating solar facility that Oakland-based BrightSource, Inc. had proposed to build near Pahrump, Nev. Concentrating solar technology uses mirrors, or “heliostats,” to focus the sun’s energy on a “power tower” where fluid flashes to steam and spins a turbine. Those mirrors create a field of solar flux up to 750 degrees Fahrenheit; biologists from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, among others, worried that “elevated levels of solar flux generated by the focused energy from the heliostats may burn and damage exposed skin and feathers” of birds flying through those fields.

Glare from Nevada Solar One, a concentrating solar plant.

Now, however, the relationship between large-scale desert solar and the avian community may be getting even worse. In July, Chris Clarke, a journalist who lives in the Mojave town of Joshua Tree, Calif., blogged about another potential impact of large-scale solar on birds, involving an entirely different type of solar technology: Large fields of photovoltaic solar panels, which turn solar radiation into electricity. Several species of water birds — great blue herons, bufflehead ducks, grebes and even a common loon — were recently found dead near First Solar’s Desert Sunlight photovoltaic field near Joshua Tree National Park. And those kinds of birds aren’t typically seen in such places — dead or alive.

What’s happening? Clarke suspects that from above, a shiny field of glass might look a refreshing respite to water birds migrating along the Pacific Flyway, the ancestral migratory route that extends from South America to the Arctic. When they land and find they’re wrong, they’re too overheated or exhausted to take off again. “With millions of years of evolutionary experience telling birds that broad expanses of glare and reflectivity on the ground mean ‘water,'” he writes, “it’s not hard to figure out why water birds might veer miles out of their way to head for solar facilities.”

Dead water birds have also been found not far southeast of Desert Sunlight, at NextEra Solar’s Genesis plant, another concentrating solar facility that uses parabolic troughs of mirrors to heat fluid. If Clarke’s theory proves true, it might be that arrays of mirrors might have the same water-mimicking effect in certain regions. With 91 percent of California’s wetlands having disappeared in the past century, this stretch of desert is a particularly challenging one for migrating birds, with not much to offer between the Salton Sea to the south and wetlands farther north.

So far, though, it’s all speculation. No one expected to find these birds in the desert, and no one knows what to do now that they’re turning up dead. “We really need more robust monitoring information,” says Jane Hendron, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Palm Springs, Calif. “We don’t know if the deaths are occurring during specific times of day or night, when the moon is in a particular phase or what other complicating factors exist.” For that matter, it’s not clear that the birds deaths aren’t normal.” Absent these solar farms, how many birds would get overcome with the heat, weakness or fatigue in that part of the desert?” Hendron asks.

It’s a reasonable question, says Garry George, the director of renewable energy projects for California Audubon. Birds’ bodies decompose quickly, and the desert is full of scavengers. “A coyote would be happy to come across a great blue heron dying on the desert floor,” George says. “You’d never even know it was there.”

The bird puzzle poses the same problem that comes up almost every time an energy company develops on unoccupied desert land: The southwestern deserts just haven’t been studied enough to predict what the impact of development might be. That’s been true with the elusive desert tortoise, and now it’s proved true with birds. “Movement of birds in the desert isn’t something we know a lot about,” George says. “We know where the stopovers are, but we don’t know how they get there.” It’s one thing to map landscape corridors for migrating bighorn sheep, quite another to map migratory routes in the sky. “There’s a big data gap,” George says. Hendron says that in the future, bird monitoring will be built into applications for solar development, just as it is with wind. George is hoping that opens up new opportunities for research, such as more comprehensive mapping of migratory pathways with radar. “It’s something we’ve been advocating for years,” says George, who’s been contributing ideas to the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP), a massive collaborative effort to assign appropriate sites for renewable energy, due out in draft form later this year. In the meantime, he recommends following the sound guidance given by the DRECP’s independent science advisor in 2010. “Don’t permit anything you might regret,” George paraphrases. “In the desert, the impacts are permanent.”

Judith Lewis Mernit is a contributing editor for High Country News. Image courtesy of Flickr user e pants.



How shale fracking led to an Ohio town’s first 100 earthquakes
(August 19, 2013) — Since records began in 1776, the people of Youngstown, Ohio had never experienced an earthquake. However, from January 2011, 109 tremors were recorded and new research reveals how this may be the result of shale fracking. … > full story

Indian pilgrim cities to go green
June 2013
Aiming to help various faiths to make their holy cities as environmental friendly and sustainable as possible according to their religious beliefs, the International Green Pilgrimage Network (GPN) has recently launched its India chapter in July, along with ICLEI South Asia and the Alliance of Religions and Conservation.

Launched in 2012, the GPN has founding 12 cities from India, Italy, Armenia, Israel, Nigeria, China, United Kingdom and Norway. In a recent meeting in Trondheim, Norway, the network saw its membership double in size, with 16 new cities and places joining the global initiative.

Until the end of this year, ICLEI South Asia will assist member cities of the India Chapter to take green actions, conducting environmental assessment in terms of water, sanitation, ecology and energy, preparing action plans, and developing a financial opportunity report or guidebook for implementing actions on the ground.

City profiles will also be created for holy places of different faiths, including Hindu cities Rishikesh, Muni Ki Reti and Ujiain, the Muslim Nizamuddin area, Buddhist city Ladakh, Sikh city Nanded and the Christian quarter in old Goa.

For more information, write to ramiz.khan(at)




Ecuador Ditches Plan To Protect Amazon From Oil Drilling

Posted: 19 Aug 2013 06:29 AM PDT

Ecuador is abandoning an innovative plan that would have protected the Amazon rainforest from oil drilling due to lack of support from other nations and pressure to fulfill its international debts. The move not only comes as a blow to the environmentalists and indigenous groups that were fighting to protect an ecological treasure, but to those hoping it would serve as a model for providing developing countries the economic incentive to leave fossil fuel reserves untapped.

President Rafael Correa made the announcement in a televised address on Thursday, saying, “With deep sadness but also with absolute responsibility to our people and history, I have had to take one of the hardest decisions of my government.” Six years ago, Correa made the international community an offer:
come up with half of the $7.2 billion value of a 4,000 square mile section of the Amazon jungle and Ecuador would refrain from drilling for oil. Essentially, pay us to keep our oil in the ground. Despite support from celebrities such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Bo Derek and the backing of the United Nations, government response was weaker than anticipated and the Yasuni-ITT initiative only collected $13 million of the $3.6 billion target. Not only was the plan groundbreaking in its approach but designed to protect a critical habitat and slow the onslaught of climate change. This particular section of the Amazon, Yasuni national park, contains more tree species in a single hectare than in all of North America and is home to multiple indigenous tribes living in voluntary isolation. And leaving the reserves in the ground would prevent the release of an estimated 400 million tons of carbon pollution into the atmosphere. “I believe that the initiative was ahead of our time and could not, or would not, be understood by those who are responsible for climate change,” said Correa….




Your iPhone uses more electricity than your fridge

By Claire Thompson

The global digital economy, also known as the ICT system (information-communications-technologies), sucks up as much electricity today as it took to illuminate the entire planet in 1985. The average iPhone requires more power per year than the average refrigerator. It’s like you’re walking around all day with a fridge’s worth of electricity in your pocket (but no hummus!).

This info comes from a report [PDF] by Mark Mills, CEO of the Digital Power Group, sponsored by the National Mining Association and the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity. So part of the report’s point is that coal keeps the iPhones on. But instead of inspiring gratitude for coal and all the blessings it bestows on us, knowing the source of all that juice just makes the digital economy’s ginormous energy footprint of even greater concern.



The ‘Whole’ Problem With Recycling



August 22, 2013 — People are psychologically hard-wired to believe that products that are damaged or that aren’t whole — such as small or ripped paper or dented cans — are useless, and this leads users to trash them … > full story


Tesla Model S Achieves Best Safety Rating of Any Car Ever Tested

Sets New NHTSA Vehicle Safety Score Record

Monday, August 19, 2013

Palo Alto, CA — Independent testing by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has awarded the Tesla Model S a 5-star safety rating, not just overall, but in every subcategory without exception. Approximately one percent of all cars tested by the federal government achieve 5 stars across the board. ….the Model S set a new record for the lowest likelihood of injury to occupants. While the Model S is a sedan, it also exceeded the safety score of all SUVs and minivans. This score takes into account the probability of injury from front, side, rear and rollover accidents.

The Model S has the advantage in the front of not having a large gasoline engine block, thus creating a much longer crumple zone to absorb a high speed impact. This is fundamentally a force over distance problem – the longer the crumple zone, the more time there is to slow down occupants at g loads that do not cause injuries. Just like jumping into a pool of water from a tall height, it is better to have the pool be deep and not contain rocks. The Model S motor is only about a foot in diameter and is mounted close to the rear axle, and the front section that would normally contain a gasoline engine is used for a second trunk. For the side pole intrusion test, considered one of the most difficult to pass, the Model S was the only car in the “good” category among the other top one percent of vehicles tested. Compared to the Volvo S60, which is also 5-star rated in all categories, the Model S preserved 63.5 percent of driver residual space vs. 7.8 percent for the Volvo. Tesla achieved this outcome by nesting multiple deep aluminum extrusions in the side rail of the car that absorb the impact energy (a similar approach was used by the Apollo Lunar Lander) and transfer load to the rest of the vehicle. This causes the pole to be either sheared off or to stop the car before the pole hits an occupant…..







Op-Ed Contributor

Welcome to the Age of Denial

By ADAM FRANK NY TIMES Op-Ed Published: August 21, 2013 759 Comments

Adam Frank, a professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Rochester, is the author of “About Time: Cosmology and Culture at the Twilight of the Big Bang” and a founder of NPR’s 13.7 Cosmos and Culture blog.

In 1989, when “climate change” had just entered the public lexicon, 63 percent of Americans understood it was a problem. Almost 25 years later, that proportion is actually a bit lower, at 58 percent.

The timeline of these polls defines my career in science. In 1982 I was an undergraduate physics major. In 1989 I was a graduate student. My dream was that, in a quarter-century, I would be a professor of astrophysics, introducing a new generation of students to the powerful yet delicate craft of scientific research. Much of that dream has come true. Yet instead of sending my students into a world that celebrates the latest science has to offer, I am delivering them into a society ambivalent, even skeptical, about the fruits of science.


This is not a world the scientists I trained with would recognize. Many of them served on the Manhattan Project. Afterward, they helped create the technologies that drove America’s postwar prosperity. In that era of the mid-20th century, politicians were expected to support science financially but otherwise leave it alone. The disaster of Lysenkoism, in which Communist ideology distorted scientific truth and all but destroyed Russian biological science, was still a fresh memory. The triumph of Western science led most of my professors to believe that progress was inevitable. While the bargain between science and political culture was at times challenged — the nuclear power debate of the 1970s, for example — the battles were fought using scientific evidence. Manufacturing doubt remained firmly off-limits.


Today, however, it is politically effective, and socially acceptable, to deny scientific fact. Narrowly defined, “creationism” was a minor current in American thinking for much of the 20th century. But in the years since I was a student, a well-funded effort has skillfully rebranded that ideology as “creation science” and pushed it into classrooms across the country. Though transparently unscientific, denying evolution has become a litmus test for some conservative politicians, even at the highest levels. Meanwhile, climate deniers, taking pages from the creationists’ PR playbook, have manufactured doubt about fundamental issues in climate science that were decided scientifically decades ago. And anti-vaccine campaigners brandish a few long-discredited studies to make unproven claims about links between autism and vaccination.

The list goes on. North Carolina has banned state planners from using climate data in their projections of future sea levels. So many Oregon parents have refused vaccination that the state is revising its school entry policies. And all of this is happening in a culture that is less engaged with science and technology as intellectual pursuits than at any point I can remember.

Thus, even as our day-to-day experiences have become dependent on technological progress, many of our leaders have abandoned the postwar bargain in favor of what the scientist Michael Mann calls the “scientization of politics.”

What do I tell my students? From one end of their educational trajectory to the other, our society told these kids science was important. How confusing is it for them now, when scientists receive death threats for simply doing honest research on our planet’s climate history? Americans always expected their children to face a brighter economic future, and we scientists expected our students to inherit a world where science was embraced by an ever-larger fraction of the population. This never implied turning science into a religion or demanding slavish acceptance of this year’s hot research trends. We face many daunting challenges as a society, and they won’t all be solved with more science and math education. But what has been lost is an understanding that science’s open-ended, evidence-based processes — rather than just its results — are essential to meeting those challenges.

My professors’ generation could respond to silliness like creationism with head-scratching bemusement. My students cannot afford that luxury. Instead they must become fierce champions of science in the marketplace of ideas. During my undergraduate studies I was shocked at the low opinion some of my professors had of the astronomer Carl Sagan. For me his efforts to popularize science were an inspiration, but for them such “outreach” was a diversion. That view makes no sense today. The enthusiasm and generous spirit that Mr. Sagan used to advocate for science now must inspire all of us. There are science Twitter feeds and blogs to run, citywide science festivals and high school science fairs that need input. For the civic-minded nonscientists there are school board curriculum meetings and long-term climate response plans that cry out for the participation of informed citizens. And for every parent and grandparent there is the opportunity to make a few more trips to the science museum with your children.

Behind the giant particle accelerators and space observatories, science is a way of behaving in the world. It is, simply put, a tradition. And as we know from history’s darkest moments, even the most enlightened traditions can be broken and lost. Perhaps that is the most important lesson all lifelong students of science must learn now.



To Help The Environment, Watch Sports At Your Neighborhood Bar

Posted: 19 Aug 2013 08:31 AM PDT

The English soccer season began Saturday, and thanks to NBC Sports, Americans can now add to the millions of people who watch Barclays Premier League matches each week. Combine that with the menu of viewing options already available to Americans — baseball is nearing the postseason, the NFL and college football begin soon, and basketball will be back in mere months — and we’ll be watching a lot of sports television in the fall. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but sports have a tremendous impact on our environment. The vast majority of that impact comes from fans attending games: a single match in England last year had a carbon footprint of 5,160 tons, with most of it coming from fan travel, according to a new study from environmental advocacy group Carbon Trust. Sports leagues, including England’s Football Association, the NFL, the NBA, and Major League Baseball, have been trying to reduce the environmental impact of their stadiums and games in recent years, but fans who don’t attend events can help by choosing cleaner ways to consume sports remotely, Carbon Trust found….watching on television is maybe the most environmentally-friendly way to consume sports, which is good news, since tens of millions of people do it worldwide each week. The better news is that we can make watching on TV even more environmentally-friendly by teaming up to watch with friends. And if sports fans really want to make games a cleaner experience, they can join their friends to watch at a bar with dozens of other people. That’s something they should care about, since climate change is wreaking havoc on sports, from surfing to football and everything else. Drinking too much beer, eating gobs of food, or driving separately would offset some of the positive effects of watching at a bar, so the environmentally-conscious may want to take public transit or find a neighborhood watering hole and avoid getting too sloshed during the game. Even if you’re not the type that considers your impact on the environment in daily decisions, though, this may give us all a new excuse to join our friends at the bar for the big game — as if we needed another one. The post To Help The Environment, Watch Sports At Your Neighborhood Bar appeared first on ThinkProgress.


Earliest known iron artifacts come from outer space
(August 19, 2013) — Researchers have shown that ancient Egyptian iron beads held at the UCL Petrie Museum were hammered from pieces of meteorites, rather than iron ore. The objects, which trace their origins to outer space, also predate the emergence of iron smelting by two millennia. … > full story

Native Californians followed the greenery: Environment shaped 12,000 years of ethnic and linguistic diversity
(August 19, 2013) — California’s rich diversity of Native American ethnic-and-language groups took shape during the past 12,000 years as migrating tribes settled first on the lush Pacific coast and then in progressively drier, less-vegetated habitats, says a new study. … > full story


How sleep helps brain learn motor task

Posted: 20 Aug 2013 03:56 PM PDT

Sleep helps the brain consolidate what we’ve learned, but scientists have struggled to determine what goes on in the brain to make that happen for different kinds of learned tasks. In a new study, researchers pinpoint the brainwave frequencies and brain region associated with sleep-enhanced learning of a sequential finger tapping task akin to typing, or playing piano.


Celery, artichokes contain flavonoids that kill human pancreatic cancer cells
(August 15, 2013) — Celery, artichokes, and herbs, especially Mexican oregano, all contain apigenin and luteolin, flavonoids that kill human pancreatic cancer cells in the lab by inhibiting an important enzyme, according to two new studies. … > full story






More lightning in the forecast— SF

Kurtis Alexander Updated 8:33 pm, Tuesday, August 20, 2013

(08-20) 09:40 PDT SAN FRANCISCO — Thousands of lightning flashes lit up Bay Area skies Monday night, giving residents a show seldom seen in the region. The unusual weather – and the mostly dry lightning – is forecast to continue through Wednesday. The National Weather Service has issued a red-flag warning for much of the area because of the threat of lightning touching off brushfires on dry hillsides. Little rainfall has accompanied the storm….


Lightning strikes happened over San Francisco and the Bay Area on Monday night, August 19th, 2013. Photo: Vicki Mar, Courtesy To The SF Gate

Lightning strikes over Pacifica. Lightning strikes happened over San Francisco and the Bay Area on Monday night, August 19th, 2013. Photo: Michael Konvolinka, Courtesy To The SF Gate / Mike Konvolinka




Gorgeous Glimpses of Calamity

Man-made perils to the universe’s garden of life are evident from space.

NY Times August 18, 2013






Conservation Science News August 16, 2013

Focus of the WeekRedwoods and Climate Change; Remembering John Warriner …









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.




Focus of the Week– Redwoods and Climate Change; Remembering John Warriner …


By taking pencil-thin corings from 78 redwoods in California and studying tree rings, researchers have compiled a chronology going back to the year 328. They have also analyzed tree rings from giant sequoias dating to 474. Above, sunlight filters through trees in Redwood National Park in Northern California. (Brian van der Brug, Los Angeles Times)

Climate change may be speeding coast redwood, giant sequoia growth

Scientists find that since the 1970s, some California coast redwoods have grown at the fastest rate ever.

By Bettina Boxall LA TIMES August 14, 2013, 12:05 a.m.

Finally, some good news about the effects of climate change. It may have triggered a growth spurt in two of California’s iconic tree species: coast redwoods and giant sequoias. Since the 1970s, some coast redwoods have grown at the fastest rate ever, according to scientists who studied corings from trees more than 1,000 years old. “That’s a wonderful, happy surprise for us,” said Emily Burns, science director at the Save the Redwoods League, which is collaborating on a long-term study with university researchers on the effect of climate change on redwoods, the world’s tallest trees, and giant sequoias, the largest living things by total mass. “The forests are not experiencing detrimental impacts of climate change,” Burns said. Researchers doing fieldwork for the study also made a bonus discovery. They came across an ancient, shaggy tree that corings revealed to be the oldest coast redwood on record. At 2,520 years of age, the ancient tree beats the previous record-holder by 300 years. Humboldt State forestry professor Stephen Sillett, one of the researchers, said a variety of factors besides climate change could explain the increased growth rates. “We really do not know,” Sillett said. “What we can say is that … it’s not like a doom and gloom scenario by any means.” Conducted by scientists from UC Berkeley, Humboldt State and the Marine Conservation Institute, the research program was launched in 2009.



So Far, The World’s Tallest Trees Are Handling Climate Change OK — But They Aren’t Out Of The Woods Yet

Posted: 15 Aug 2013 09:12 AM PDT

Two species may be making it through climate change unscathed — at least for now.

New research has found that in spite of — or perhaps even due to — rising temperatures, coast redwoods and giant sequoias in California are growing at their fastest rates since the 1970s. The research is part of a study that’s expected to continue for at least another ten years, the initial findings of which were presented at a Berkeley symposium Wednesday. So far, by examining the tree’s ring data, the researchers have created a chronology of the redwoods’ girth expansion since the year 328 and the sequoias’ growth since 474. The redwoods, in particular, have seen large growth spurts recently, with rates up to 45 percent higher today than at any time in the last 200 years.

There are multiple explanations for why redwoods — the world’s tallest trees — and sequoias could be growing so quickly in California. The surge could be climate related — researcher Stephen Sillett told the LA Times that the trees could be responding to an extended growing season made possible by rising temperatures in the Sierra Nevada. Another researcher, Emily Burns, said the reduction in fog due to rising temperatures might mean the trees are getting more sun. But it could have nothing at all to do with climate change: Sillett said a reduction in North Coast air pollution also increased light in redwood forests, which could have upped the trees’ growth rate, and wildfire suppression in the area may have also played a role.

The scientists aren’t sure yet which of these factors contributed most to the trees’ growth. But they warn that, while the growth spurt is a promising sign, it isn’t necessarily a permanent one. If rising temperatures bring less rainfall to the California coast, the trees — especially young sequoia seedlings, which studies have shown have a hard time surviving when soil moisture drops below a certain threshold — could suffer.

“There’s a tipping point,” the research team’s lead scientist Todd Dawson told the San Jose Mercury News. “As we go into warmer and drier times, particularly with snowpacks on the decline — which means less water for giant sequoias — we’re concerned that this growth surge is probably not going to be sustainable.”

The future looks uncertain for other types of trees as well — previous studies have yielded varying results on trees’ ability to adapt to climate change. A 2011 study found more than half of tree species in the eastern U.S. were not adapting to climate change as well as models had predicted: nearly 59 percent of the species showed signs that their habitat ranges were getting smaller, contracting both from the north and south, and that only 21 percent seemed to be moving their ranges northward as temperatures warmed.

Last month, a study’s findings were a bit more hopeful: the research found trees in some parts of the world may use water more efficiently as atmospheric carbon levels rise, which could mean the trees will be able to become more drought-resilient. And a 2010 study also provided some hope for the future of forests, discovering that ancient rain forests bloomed with diversity, rather than went extinct, during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, an era associated with rapid warming and doubling of CO2 levels.

But other factors associated with climate change are already making survival difficult for many trees. Some face harrowing challenges — warmer winters have allowed mountain pine beetles to expand their range into higher latitudes, regions that were off limits to them in the past. The insects have killed millions of acres of trees from New Mexico to British Columbia, and have even reached as far north as Alaska. The beetles prey most heavily on old trees or those weakened by drought or wildfires — two factors that climate change is already exacerbating in many parts of the world. Wildfires have consumed more than 6.25 million acres of forest in Alaska alone — an area which, as the EPA notes, is roughly the size of Massachusetts. And hundreds of thousands of U.S. trees died during last summer’s historic drought, and scientists predict many more weakened by the drought will continue to die in in the next two to three years.

–The post So Far, The World’s Tallest Trees Are Handling Climate Change OK — But They Aren’t Out Of The Woods Yet appeared first on ThinkProgress



Very sad news—long time PRBO researcher and friend:

Posted: Friday, Aug 9th, 2013

John Sherman Warriner, 88, of Watsonville, CA and previously of Portola Valley, CA, passed away July 27. John was born and raised in Pennsylvania. He attended The Fay and St. Mark’s Schools in MA and graduated from Princeton with a degree in Geology. John served in WWII in the infantry where he earned a Bronze Star. In 1949, he married Jane (Ricky) Cunningham in South Bend, IN. After graduation, he worked in gold mines in Perron, Quebec and Grass Valley, CA. He then moved into publishing and lived with his wife in Menlo Park and Portola Valley. Eventually he became co-owner of Fearon Publishing of San Francisco until his early retirement. In 1977 they moved to the beach outside Watsonville

While living in Portola Valley, John loved playing tennis. He was member #11 at the Alpine Hills Tennis Club. He later organized tennis tournaments including several California State Tennis Championships. John was an avid birder. He was a founding board member of the Elkhorn Slough Foundation on which he served for many years. He was involved in the Snowy Plover Project at PRBO from the beginning. He was also Co-Compiler of the Moss Landing Christmas Bird Count since its inception in 1976. His love of nature, birding and traveling sent him and his wife all over the world to over 40 countries including those in: Africa, Central and South America, New Zealand and Australia. He particularly enjoyed expedition cruising.

John leaves his wife of 63 years, Jane “Ricky” two daughters, Barbara Indra and Sue Delmanowski; four grandchildren and one great-grandchild. He also leaves two nephews and nine nieces and their families. He was preceded in death by his brother, Lendall P. Warriner. In lieu of services, there will be an informal gathering of family and friends on Sunday, September 15 between 2 & 5 p.m. at the Sanderling Center (Rec hall) at Pajaro Dunes in Watsonville. Contributions can be sent to The Elkhorn Slough Foundation (P.O. Box 267, Moss Landing, CA 95039) or The Snowy Plover Project at PRBO (3820 Cypress Dr., Petaluma, CA 94954). The family would like to thank the doctors and staff of Dominican Hospital for their attentive care during John’s final weeks. John will be remembered for his intellect, love of books, quick wit and generosity.








Extinctions of large animals sever the Earth’s ‘nutrient arteries’
(August 13, 2013)A new study has demonstrated that large animals have acted as carriers of key nutrients to plants and animals over thousands of years and on continental scales.
The paper in the advance online publication of the journal
Nature Geoscience explains that vital nutrients are contained in the dung and bodies of big animals. As they eat and move more than small animals, they have a particularly important role in transporting nutrients into areas where the soil is otherwise infertile.

In the study, the researchers use a new mathematical model to calculate the effect of mass extinctions of big animals around 12,000 years ago, focusing on a case study of the Amazon forest. They estimate that extinctions back then reduced the dispersal of phosphorus in the Amazon by 98%, with far-reaching environmental consequences that remain to this day. The model also enables them to forecast the likely environmental effects of the extinction of large animals currently under threat in Africa and Asian forests….. The study finds that the effect of the mass extinction of megafauna 12,000 years ago was to switch off a nutrient pump — vital nutrients, such as phosphorus, were no longer spread around the region but became concentrated in those areas bordering the floodplains and other fertile areas. It concludes that even thousands of years after the extinctions, the Amazon basin has not yet recovered from this step change. Nutrients may continue to decline in the Amazon and other global regions for thousands of years to come, says the paper.… > full story


Christopher E. Doughty, Adam Wolf, Yadvinder Malhi. The legacy of the Pleistocene megafauna extinctions on nutrient availability in Amazonia. Nature Geoscience, 2013; DOI: 10.1038/ngeo1895



New species of carnivore looks like a cross between a house cat and a teddy bear
(August 15, 2013) — Observed in the wild, tucked away in museum collections, and even exhibited in zoos around the world — there is one mysterious creature that has been a victim of mistaken identity for more than 100 years. A team of Smithsonian scientists, however, uncovered overlooked museum specimens of this remarkable animal, which took them on a journey from museum cabinets in Chicago to cloud forests in South America to genetics labs in Washington, D.C. The result: the olinguito (Bassaricyon neblina) — the first carnivore species to be discovered in the American continents in 35 years. … > full story


Smithsonian scientists discover new species of carnivore: the olinguito

/ 15 August 2013 / 7 comments

Observed in the wild, tucked away in museum collections, and even exhibited in zoos around the world―there is one mysterious creature that has been a victim of mistaken identity for more than 100 years. A team of Smithsonian scientists, however, uncovered overlooked museum specimens of this remarkable animal, which took them on a journey from museum cabinets in Chicago to cloud forests in South America to genetics labs in Washington, D.C. The result: the olinguito (Bassaricyon neblina)―the first carnivore species to be discovered in the American continents in 35 years. The team’s discovery is published in the Aug. 15 issue of the journal ZooKeys.

A team, led by Smithsonian scientist Kristofer Helgen, spent 10 years examining hundreds of museum specimens and tracking animals in the wild in the cloud forests of Ecuador. The result―the newest species of mammal known to science, the olinguito (Bassaricyon neblina) (Photo by Mark Gurney)

The olinguito (oh-lin-GHEE-toe) looks like a cross between a house cat and a teddy bear. It is actually the latest scientifically documented member of the family Procyonidae, which it shares with raccoons, coatis, kinkajous and olingos. The 2-pound olinguito, with its large eyes and woolly orange-brown fur, is native to the cloud forests of Colombia and Ecuador, as its scientific name, “neblina” (Spanish for “fog”), hints. In addition to being the latest described member of its family, another distinction the olinguito holds is that it is the newest species in the order Carnivora―an incredibly rare discovery in the 21st century. “The discovery of the olinguito shows us that the world is not yet completely explored, its most basic secrets not yet revealed,” said Kristofer Helgen, curator of mammals at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and leader of the team reporting the new discovery. “If new carnivores can still be found, what other surprises await us? So many of the world’s species are not yet known to science. Documenting them is the first step toward understanding the full richness and diversity of life on Earth.“…



California seafloor mapping reveals hidden treasures
(August 12, 2013) — Science and technology have peeled back a veil of water just offshore of California, revealing the hidden seafloor in unprecedented detail. … > full story



Point Blue in the news:

Lucky plover: Threatened shorebirds get help from researchers, aquarium program

By Donna Jones Posted:   08/08/2013 07:07:11 PM PDT MOSS LANDING — The three tiny western snowy plovers hopped out of the crate and onto the sand at Moss Landing State Beach mid-morning Thursday.

A few moments later, the first bird spread its wings and flapped away. The other two slightly younger birds meandered up the beach until their perfect white-and-brown camouflage merged with the sand and they were no longer visible to the naked eye.

“This is what we want, wild birds out in the wild,” said Aimee Greenebaum, assistant curator of aviculture at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The aquarium has been working with Point Blue Conservation Science to release birds raised in captivity for the past 15 years. This was the third release of the summer, bringing the total to 11 birds.

Also: watch a report.



New Whale Spotter App:

We are excited to announce the launch of a new iPhone and iPad application (App) for use by marine biologists and boaters to help track and further protect whales off our coast.  “Whale Spotter” was developed by Conserve IO working with our marine ecologists to track whale populations in real time (available for free through Apple’s iTunes). If you have an old iPhone 4 or iPad, please consider donating it.  We will help commercial ship captains use “Whale Spotter” on these donated devices to report whale sightings and reduce possible strikes.  If you would like to help us track whales while you are on the water, let us know.  Please be in touch with Dr. Jaime Jahncke ( to follow up!   


Purple sea urchins spoiling kelp forest

LA Times ‎- August 16, 2013

Millions of sea urchins – scrawny, diseased and desperate for food – have overrun a band of the shallow seafloor, devouring kelp and crowding out most all other life at a time the giant green foliage is making a comeback elsewhere along the California coast. In an effort to remedy the situation, scientists and divers will spend the next five years culling the urchins from more than 152 acres of coastal waters degraded years ago by pollution. Once the purple, golf ball-size creatures are under control, young kelp should be able to take hold on the rocky seafloor and grow into the undulating canopies that sustain hundreds of species of marine life. “Trillions of kelp spores are out there, falling on the seafloor,” said Tom Ford, director of marine programs for the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Foundation, the nonprofit leading the project in conjunction with environmental groups, aquariums, fishermen and research institutions. “They just can’t get established because they’re getting mowed down.”….


Huge owls need huge trees
(August 15, 2013) — The world’s largest owl – and one of the rarest – is also a key indicator of the health of some of old-growth Russian forests. … > full story


Shortening tails gave early birds a leg up



Phys.Org  – ‎Aug 13 2013‎

A radical shortening of their bony tails over 100 million years ago enabled the earliest birds to develop versatile legs that gave them an evolutionary edge, a new study shows.

A team led by Oxford University scientists examined fossils of the earliest birds from the Cretaceous Period, 145-66 million years ago, when early birds, such as Confuciusornis, Eoenantiornis, and Hongshanornis, lived alongside their dinosaur kin. At this point birds had already evolved powered flight, necessitating changes to their forelimbs, and the team investigated how this new lifestyle related to changes in their hind limbs (legs).

The team made detailed measurements of early bird fossils from all over the world including China, North America, and South America. An analysis of this data showed that the loss of their long bony tails, which occurred after flight had evolved, led to an explosion of diversity in the hind limbs of early birds, prefiguring the amazing variety of talons, stilts, and other specialised hind limbs that have helped to make modern birds so successful.

A report of the research is published this week in Proceedings of the Royal Society B……


More information: Rates of dinosaur limb evolution provide evidence for exceptional radiation in Mesozoic birds,

Science | Eric Wagner
The Tiniest Tsunami Refugees
Thursday, August 15, 2013, at 12:02 PM EDT
They came from Japan, clinging to wreckage. They made it to the U.S., only to be destroyed. They are crabs, sea stars, and kelp.


Bright birds make good mothers

Phys.Org  – ‎Aug 13 2013 ‎

Unlike humans, birds can see ultra-violet (UV) light. While the crown of a blue tit looks just blue to us, to another bird it has the added dimension of appearing UV-reflectant. The three-year study of blue tits, which also involved researchers from ..



Tahiti: A very hot biodiversity hot spot in the Pacific
(August 9, 2013) — Picturesque Tahiti may be the hottest spot for evolution on the planet. A recent biological survey of tiny predatory beetles has found that over 100 closely related species evolved on the island in about 1.5 million years. Given Tahiti’s small area, slightly more than 1000 square kilometers, this adaptive radiation is the geographically densest species assemblage in the world. … > full story


Dolphins display memory better than elephants, study finds

Fox News  – ‎aug 6 2013‎

Forget elephants. Dolphins can swim circles around them when it comes to long-term memory. Scientists in a new study repeatedly found that dolphins can remember the distinctive whistle — which acts as a name to the marine mammal — of another dolphin …







Young or old, song sparrows experience climate change differently from each other
(August 12, 2013) — What’s good for adults is not always best for the young, and vice versa. At least that is the case with song sparrows and how they experience the effects of climate change, according to recent studies.
Both studies show the importance of considering the various stages and ages of individuals in a species — from babies to juveniles to adults — to best predict not only how climate change could affect a species as a whole, but also why. “To learn how climate change is expected to affect an individual population, you have to look at demography,” said lead author Kristen Dybala, a postdoctoral scholar in the UC Davis Department of Wildlife, Fish and Conservation Biology. “If you don’t break it down by these different stages, you get a different understanding that may be misleading, or worse, that’s just wrong.”… Both studies were conducted at Point Blue’s Palomarin Field Station in the Point Reyes National Seashore in California. While song sparrows are found throughout North America, the local population is nonmigratory, and Point Blue (formerly PRBO Conservation Science) biologists have collected survivorship data on them for 34 years. Dybala combined that information with weather data collected at the field station to see how different weather factors influenced survival rates over the years. The scientists said that efforts to understand or project demographic responses to climate change could be used to inform climate change adaptation plans, help prioritize future research, identify where limited conservation resources could be best spent and help soften the impacts of climate change for individual species…..full story

Kristen E. Dybala, John M. Eadie, Thomas Gardali, Nathaniel E. Seavy, Mark P. Herzog. Projecting demographic responses to climate change: adult and juvenile survival respond differently to direct and indirect effects of weather in a passerine population. Global Change Biology, 2013; 19 (9): 2688 DOI: 10.1111/gcb.12228


How 9 Well-Known Critters are Weathering a Changing Climate

By Katie Fleeman DISCOVER

Our changing climate presages a world with less coffee, more cases of tropical disease, and more adorable Adélie penguins—but the science of which species will win and which will lose is a work in progress…. [references Point Blue’s Grant Ballard’s recent work:]

Receding glaciers and increased breeding habitat have led to population increases for Adélie penguins, left, in the South Antarctic sea, according to New Zealand researchers. However these same increased open-water conditions translate to a loss of breeding ground for emperor penguins, right.

LaRue MA, Ainley DG, Swanson M, Dugger KM, Lyver PO, Barton, G Ballard (2013) Climate Change Winners: Receding Ice Fields Facilitate Colony Expansion and Altered Dynamics in an Adélie Penguin Metapopulation. PLoS ONE 8(4): e60568. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0060568



Soil biodiversity will be crucial to future land management and response to climate change
(August 12, 2013) — Maintaining healthy soil biodiversity can play an important role in optimizing land management programs to reap benefits from the living soil. The findings extend the understanding
about the factors that regulate soil biodiversity.
The team says more research on soil food webs — the community of organisms living all or part of their lives in the soil — and their response to land use and climate change could also improve predictions of climate change impacts on ecosystems….Soils contain a vast diversity of organisms which are crucially important for humans. These organisms help capture carbon dioxide (CO2) which is crucial for helping to reduce global warming and climate change. “This research highlights the importance of soil organisms and demonstrates that there is a whole world beneath our feet, inhabited by small creatures that we can’t even see most of the time. By liberating nitrogen for plant growth and locking up carbon in the soil they play an important role in supporting life on Earth.” “We hope that this research will in the longer term will help us to devise ways for farmers, landowners and conservation agencies to optimise the way they manage land to reap benefits from the living soil and reduce carbon emissions.” … > full story


Franciska T. de Vries, Elisa Thébault, Mira Liiri, Klaus Birkhofer, Maria A. Tsiafouli, Lisa Bjørnlund, Helene Bracht Jørgensen, Mark Vincent Brady, Søren Christensen, Peter C. de Ruiter, Tina d’Hertefeldt, Jan Frouz, Katarina Hedlund, Lia Hemerik, W. H. Gera Hol, Stefan Hotes, Simon R. Mortimer, Heikki Setälä, Stefanos P. Sgardelis, Karoline Uteseny, Wim H. van der Putten, Volkmar Wolters, and Richard D. Bardgett. Soil food web properties explain ecosystem services across European land use systems. PNAS, August 12, 2013 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1305198110


Heat waves to become much more frequent and severe
(August 15, 2013)
Climate change is set to trigger more frequent and severe heat waves in the next 30 years regardless of the amount of carbon dioxide we emit into the atmosphere, a new study has shown.

Extreme heat waves such as those that hit the US in 2012 and Australia in 2009 — dubbed three-sigma events by the researchers — are projected to cover double the amount of global land by 2020 and quadruple by 2040. Meanwhile, more-severe summer heat waves — classified as five-sigma events — will go from being essentially absent in the present day to covering around three per cent of the global land surface by 2040. The new study, which has been published on 15 August, in IOP Publishing’s journal Environmental Research Letters, finds that in the first half of the 21st century, these projections will occur regardless of the amount of CO2 emitted into the atmosphere. After then, the rise in frequency of extreme heat waves becomes dependent on the emission scenario adopted. …Lead author of the study, Dim Coumou, from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, said: “We find that up until 2040, the frequency of monthly heat extremes will increase several fold, independent of the emission scenario we choose to take. Mitigation can, however, strongly reduce the number of extremes in the second half of the 21st century.”According to the research, tropical regions will see the strongest increase in heat extremes, exceeding the threshold that is defined by the historic variability in the specific region. The results show that these changes can already be seen when analysing observations between 2000 and 2012. “Heat extremes can be very damaging to society and ecosystems, often causing heat-related deaths, forest fires or losses to agricultural production. So an increase in frequency is likely to pose serious challenges to society and some regions will have to adapt to more frequent and more severe heat waves already in the near-term,” continued Coumou.full story


Dim Coumou, Alexander Robinson. Historic and future increase in the global land area affected by monthly heat extremes. Environmental Research Letters, 2013; 8 (3): 034018 DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/8/3/034018


Climate change threatens crunchy, tart apples

Warmer temperatures mean varieties such as Fuji are softer and sweeter than 40 years ago.

Heidi Ledford 15 August 2013

Those who remember how Fuji apples tasted four decades ago may find that the current fruits have become sweeter and softer as climate has changed.

Those who find satisfaction in the crunch of a hard apple have reason to be worried about climate change: a 40-year study of Japanese apple orchards has found that global warming is producing softer — but sweeter — apples.

The work, published today in Scientific Reports1, joins a growing body of research that describes how changes in climate are affecting iconic foods. The findings mean that Japan’s beloved Fuji apples join the ranks of other plants that are likely to have their harvests altered by warming temperatures, such as wine grapes and the sugar maple trees used to make maple syrup….


Warming climate pushes plants up the mountain
(August 14, 2013) — In a rare
opportunity to directly compare plant communities in the same area now with a survey taken 50 years ago, biologists have provided the first on-the-ground evidence that Southwestern plants are being pushed to higher elevations by an increasingly warmer and drier climate.
In a rare opportunity to directly compare today’s plant communities with a survey taken in the same area 50 years ago, a University of Arizona-led research team has provided the first on-the-ground evidence that Southwestern plants are being pushed to higher elevations by an increasingly warmer and drier climate. The findings confirm that previous hypotheses are correct in their prediction that mountain communities in the Southwest will be strongly impacted by an increasingly warmer and drier climate, and that the area is already experiencing rapid vegetation change. In a rare opportunity to obtain a “before — after” look, researchers studied current plant communities along the same transect already surveyed in 1963: the Catalina Highway, a road that winds all the way from low-lying desert to the top of Mount Lemmon, the tallest peak in the Santa Catalina Mountains northeast of Tucson…. … > full story

Richard C. Brusca, John F. Wiens, Wallace M. Meyer, Jeff Eble, Kim Franklin, Jonathan T. Overpeck, Wendy Moore. Dramatic response to climate change in the Southwest: Robert Whittaker’s 1963 Arizona Mountain plant transect revisited. Ecology and Evolution, 2013; DOI: 10.1002/ece3.720


Effects of climate change in California are ‘significant and growing’

Los Angeles Times

August 11, 2013

Written by

Tony Barboza

California is feeling the effects of climate change far and wide, as heat-trapping greenhouse gases reduce spring runoff from the Sierra Nevada, make the waters of Monterey Bay more acidic and shorten winter chill periods required to grow fruit and nuts in the Central Valley, a new report says.

Though past studies have offered grim projections of a warming planet, the report released Thursday by the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment took an inventory of three dozen shifts that are already happening. “The nature of these changes is that they’re occurring gradually, but the impacts are significant and growing,” said Sam Delson, a spokesman for the health hazard assessment office, a branch of the California Environmental Protection Agency. Among the effects detailed in the report: The number of acres burned by wildfires in California has been increasing since 1950, with the three worst fire seasons occurring in the last decade. Sea surface temperatures at La Jolla have risen by about 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit over the last century, twice as much as the global average. Glaciers in the Sierra Nevada are shrinking, and water in lakes, including Lake Tahoe and Mono Lake, has warmed over the last few decades. The changes associated with global warming can be irregular. Sea level rise in California, for instance, has bucked the global pattern and leveled off over the last two decades, the report notes. But the overall trend is overwhelming, scientists say.

“These environmental indicators are leaning very dominantly in a single direction that is consistent with the early phases of climate change,” said Dan Cayan, a climate scientist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the U.S. Geological Survey who contributed to the report. “It’s not something that’s 100 years away; it’s already starting to play out.” The report also describes some of the ways plants and animals appear to be responding to a warming climate. Butterflies in the Central Valley are emerging earlier in the spring, and Sierra Nevada conifer trees have retreated upslope over the last 60 years, the report says. About half of the small mammals in Yosemite National Park have moved to higher elevations compared with decades ago….



Indicators of Climate Change in CA California Environmental Protection Agency with contributions from Point Blue

We are pleased to inform you that the above report has been released.  The full report, its summary, and a press release  can be viewed at:



NASA, via Reuters The fast-retreating Sheldon Glacier in Antarctica. A collapse of a polar ice sheet could result in a jump in sea level.

By Degrees

Timing a Rise in Sea Level

By JUSTIN GILLIS August 13, 2013

Thirty-five years ago, a scientist named John H. Mercer issued a warning. By then it was already becoming clear that human emissions would warm the earth, and Dr. Mercer had begun thinking deeply about the consequencesAlong with how high oceans may swell, researchers are also trying to determine how fast. His paper, in the journal Nature, was titled “West Antarctic Ice Sheet and CO2 Greenhouse Effect: A Threat of Disaster.” In it, Dr. Mercer pointed out the unusual topography of the ice sheet sitting over the western part of Antarctica. Much of it is below sea level, in a sort of bowl, and he said that a climatic warming could cause the whole thing to degrade rapidly on a geologic time scale, leading to a possible rise in sea level of 16 feet. While it is clear by now that we are in the early stages of what is likely to be a substantial rise in sea level, we still do not know if Dr. Mercer was right about a dangerous instability that could cause that rise to happen rapidly, in geologic time. We may be getting closer to figuring that out. …Dr. O’Leary’s group found what they consider to be compelling evidence that near the end of the Eemian, sea level jumped by another 17 feet or so, to settle at close to 30 feet above the modern level, before beginning to fall as the ice age set in. In an interview, Dr. O’Leary told me he was confident that the 17-foot jump happened in less than a thousand years — how much less, he cannot be sure. …If you are the mayor of Miami or of a beach town in New Jersey, you may be asking yourself: Exactly how long is all this going to take to play out? On that crucial point, alas, our science is still nearly blind. Scientists can look at the rocks and see indisputable evidence of jumps in sea level, and they can associate those with relatively modest increases in global temperature. But the nature of the evidence is such that it is hard to tell the difference between something that happened in a thousand years and something that happened in a hundred. On the human time scale, of course, that is all the difference in the world. If sea level is going to rise by, say, 30 feet over several thousand years, that is quite a lot of time to adjust — to pull back from the beaches, to reinforce major cities, and to develop technologies to help us cope. But if sea level is capable of rising several feet per century, as Dr. O’Leary’s paper would seem to imply and as many other scientists believe, then babies being born now could live to see the early stages of a global calamity.



How will crops fare under climate change? Depends on how you ask
(August 14, 2013) — The damage scientists expect climate change to do to crop yields can differ greatly depending on which type of model was used to make those projections, according to new research. …
The report in the journal
Global Change Biology is one of the first to compare the agricultural projections generated by empirical models — which rely largely on field observations — to those by mechanistic models, which draw on an understanding of how crop growth and development are affected by the environment. Building on similar studies from ecology, the researchers found yet more evidence that empirical models may show greater losses as a result of climate change, while mechanistic models may be overly optimistic.full story


Lyndon D. Estes, Hein Beukes, Bethany A. Bradley, Stephanie R. Debats, Michael Oppenheimer, Alex C. Ruane, Roland Schulze, Mark Tadross. Projected climate impacts to South African maize and wheat production in 2055: A comparison of empirical and mechanistic modeling approaches. Global Change Biology, 2013; DOI: 10.1111/gcb.12325



Report highlights climate change threats to nation’s estuaries

NOAA  – Aug 7 2013

The nation’s 28 National Estuarine Research Reserves (NERR) are experiencing the negative effects of human and climate-related stressors according to a new NOAA research report from the National Ocean Service.


How Two Reservoirs Have Become Billboards For What Climate Change Is Doing To The American West

By Tom Kenworthy, Guest Blogger on August 12, 2013 at 8:11 am

Lake Mead’s “bathtub ring” at the top of the white band shows how high the water used to be. CREDIT: (Credit: AP)

This week, to see how climate change will pull a nasty water surprise on the desert Southwest, you only need to look at one river.

Lake Powell is the giant reservoir on the Utah-Arizona border that backs up behind Glen Canyon Dam and is the linchpin for managing the Colorado River. The Colorado basically makes modern life possible in seven western states by providing water for some 40 million people and irrigating 4 million acres of crops. It is also depended upon by 22 native American tribes, 7 national wildlife refuges and 11 national parks. As soon as Monday, the federal government’s Bureau of Reclamation will announce the results of some very serious number crunching and model running focused on falling water levels in Lake Powell. It is widely expected that the bureau will announce that there is a serious water shortage and that for the first time in the 50-year-history of the dam, the amount of water that will be released from the reservoir will be cut. Not just cut, but cut by 750,000 acre feet — an acre foot being enough water to cover an acre one foot deep. That’s more than 9 percent below the 8.23 million acre feet that is supposed to be delivered downstream to Lake Mead for use in the states of California, Nevada and Arizona and the country of Mexico under the 81-year old Colorado River Compact and later agreements….


Extreme weather events fuel climate change
(August 14, 2013) — In 2003, Central and Southern Europe sweltered in a heatwave that set alarm bells ringing for researchers. It was one of the first large-scale extreme weather events which scientists were able to use to document in detail how heat and drought affected the carbon cycle (the exchange of carbon dioxide between the terrestrial ecosystems and the atmosphere). Measurements indicated that the extreme weather events had a much greater impact on the carbon balance than had previously been assumed. It is possible that droughts, heat waves and storms weaken the buffer effect exerted by terrestrial ecosystems on the climate system. In the past 50 years, plants and the soil have absorbed up to 30% of the carbon dioxide that humans have set free, primarily from fossil fuels. … > full story


Greenland ice is melting — even from below: Heat flow from the mantle contributes to the ice melt
(August 11, 2013) — The Greenland ice sheet is melting from below, caused by a high heat flow from the mantle into the lithosphere. This influence is very variable spatially and has its origin in an exceptionally thin lithosphere. Consequently, there is an increased heat flow from the mantle and a complex interplay between this geothermal heating and the Greenland ice sheet. New research finds that this effect cannot be neglected when modeling the ice sheet as part of a climate study. … > full story


Baby corals pass the acid test
(August 13, 2013) — Corals can survive the early stages of their development even under the tough conditions that rising carbon emissions will impose on them says a new study. Globally, ocean acidification remains a major concern and scientists say it could have severe consequences for the health of adult corals, however, the evidence for negative effects on the early life stages of corals is less clear cut. … > full story


Climate benefit for cutting soot, methane smaller than previous estimates
(August 12, 2013) — Cutting the amount of short-lived, climate-warming emissions such as soot and methane in our skies won’t limit global warming as much as previous studies have suggested, a new study shows. … > full story


Seasonal carbon dioxide range expanding as more is added to Earth’s atmosphere
(August 12, 2013) — Levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere rise and fall each year as plants, through photosynthesis and respiration, take up the gas in spring and summer, and release it in fall and winter. Now the range of that cycle is expanding as more carbon dioxide is emitted from burning fossil fuels and other human activities. … > full story


Caribbean policymakers get climate adaptation tool

Reuters AlertNet  – ‎Aug 14, 2013‎

The Caribbean Climate Online Risk and Adaptation TooL (CCORAL), unveiled last month (12 July) in Saint Lucía, allows users to identify whether their activity is likely to be influenced by climate change and how to deal with this. It helps project .


Novel worm community affects methane release in ocean
(August 12, 2013) — Scientists have discovered a super-charged methane seep in the ocean off New Zealand that has created its own unique food web, resulting in much more methane escaping from the ocean floor into the water column. It will not make it into the atmosphere, where it could exacerbate global warming. However, the discovery does highlight scientists’ limited understanding of the global methane cycle — and specifically the biological interactions that create the stability of the ocean system. … > full story

Ozone hole might slightly warm planet, computer model suggests
(August 8, 2013) — A lot of people mix up the ozone hole and global warming, believing the hole is a major cause of the world’s increasing average temperature. Scientists, on the other hand, have long attributed a small cooling effect to the ozone shortage in the hole. Now a new computer-modeling study suggests that the ozone hole might actually have a slight warming influence, but because of its effect on winds, not temperatures. The new research suggests that shifting wind patterns caused by the ozone hole push clouds farther toward the South Pole, reducing the amount of radiation the clouds reflect and possibly causing a bit of warming rather than cooling. … > full story







Can China clean up fast enough?

The Economist  – ‎Aug 10, 2013‎

The place is vulnerable to climate change: in absolute terms, more people live at sea level in China, and so are threatened by rising oceans, than in any other country.


Two Mexican Towns Try To Save Fishing — By Banning Fishing



By Andrew Breiner on August 15, 2013

The 21st century hasn’t been kind to fish. While overfishing was largely halted in U.S. waters thanks to a 2006 fishery law, we’re a long way from repopulating already-depleted species, and most nations don’t have legally-mandated fishery management.


Enviros not happy with Calif. carbon offsets

Updated 3:28 pm, Sunday, August 11, 2013

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A component of California’s landmark offensive against greenhouse gas emissions is not sitting well with some environmental groups.

Under the measure, companies would be able to meet the state’s strict greenhouse gas restrictions in part by purchasing offsets, or credits that are generated when others achieve carbon emission reductions.

Those others could be a tree planter on California’s North Coast or an Arkansas company that destroys gaseous coolants from old refrigerators, the Sacramento Bee reported (

Some environmental groups are critical of offsets, saying they allow companies to get credit for greenhouse gas cuts that would have occurred anyway instead of cutting their own emissions further.

“What we actually need is straightforward, meaningful reductions in emissions,” said Mark Reynolds of Citizens Climate Lobby, one of two groups that sued the state last year to prevent the use of offsets. The case was dismissed in January, the Bee reported.


San Anselmo dilemma: closing a popular park to create a floodplain

Peter Fimrite San Francisco Chronicle August 8, 2013

An innovative plan to turn a popular park in San Anselmo into a flood control basin has generated a torrent of opposition from neighbors, who say the $17.4 million project to help prevent catastrophic flooding in Marin County’s Ross Valley… more »


An Entire New Jersey Town Considers Elevating Itself To Escape Future Storms



By Jeff Spross on August 10, 2013

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Highlands, New Jersey is considering dropping hundreds of millions to lift itself ten or more feet out of the path of future storms.


Judge halts Klamath River flows, for now; order on salmon releases in effect through Friday

Times-Standard ‎- Aug 14 2013

A U.S. District Court judge in Fresno halted water releases meant to prevent a fish kill on the lower Klamath River on Tuesday, granting a temporary restraining order sought by farmers in the San Joaquin Valley who filed a lawsuit against the federal government last week.

Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill noted that the runs were meant to stave off a potential “serious fish die off,” but said holding off for a few days wouldn’t change the outcome of the releases.


An accurately informed public is necessary for climate policy

Posted on 29 July 2013 by dana1981

Last week, the University of Nottingham Making Science Public blog published a guest post by Ben Pile, What’s behind the battle of received wisdoms?, which focused on Andrew Neil’s interview with Ed Davey on BBC Sunday Politics and my articles
at The Guardian discussing the scientific errors Neil made on the show and in a subsequent BBC blog post.  This is a re-post of my guest post response.

Response to Professor Hulme’s Comments

Before addressing this post, I would like to respond to some comments made by Professor Mike Hulme regarding a paper I co-authored, Quantifying the consensus on anthropogenic global warming in the scientific literature, which was one of the topics discussed on Sunday Politics and in Pile’s post.  Professor Hulme said, “It seems to me that these people are still living (or wishing to live) in the pre-2009 world of climate change discourse. Haven’t they noticed that public understanding of the climate issue has moved on?”

With all due respect to Professor Hulme, his perception of the public understanding of climate science is not reflected in the polling data.  In fact, we discussed this in our paper (which is open access and free to download),

“…the perception of the US public is that the scientific community still disagrees over the fundamental cause of GW. From 1997 to 2007, public opinion polls have indicated around 60% of the US public believes there is significant disagreement among scientists about whether GW was happening (Nisbet and Myers 2007). Similarly, 57% of the US public either disagreed or were unaware that scientists agree that the earth is very likely warming due to human activity (Pew 2012).”



Media Slammed For ‘Surprisingly Limited Analysis’ Of Major Report On Climate Change’s ‘New Normal’

By Joe Romm on August 13, 2013 at 5:28 pm
The Columbia Journalism Review has criticized the NY Times and other major media outlets for inadequate coverage of NOAA’s annual State of the Climate report. In its critique, CJR points out “Considering the importance of the information, the mainstream press provided surprisingly limited analysis.”

The report is a “a hefty, 258-page document” that is “used to set and influence domestic climate policy and distributes statistics that form the baseline for discussions of climate change.” Acting NOAA Administrator Kathryn Sullivan said of the report:…


India Calls Dolphins ‘Non-Human Persons’, Bans In-Captivity Shows



Source: Epoch Times of India May 24 2013
India’s Ministry of Environment and Forests, has banned public entertainment shows by captive dolphins calling it morally unacceptable. “Cetaceans in general are highly intelligent and sensitive, and various scientists who have researched dolphin behavior have suggested that the unusually high intelligence compared to other animals means that dolphins should be seen as ‘non-human persons’ and as such should have their own specific rights and it is morally unacceptable to keep them captive for entertainment purposes.”








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

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


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:







Simulating flow from volcanoes and oil spills
(August 12, 2013) — Some time around 37,000 BCE a massive volcano erupted in the Campanian region of Italy, blanketing much of Europe with ash, stunting plant growth and possibly dooming the Neanderthals. While our prehistoric relatives had no way to know the ash cloud was coming, a recent study provides a new tool that may have predicted what path volcanic debris would take. … > full story


Plastic solar cells’ new design promises bright future
(August 14, 2013) — Harvesting energy directly from sunlight to generate electricity using photovoltaic technologies is a very promising method for producing electricity in an environmentally benign fashion. Polymer solar cells offer unique attractions, but the challenge has been improving their power-conversion efficiency. Now a research team reports the design and synthesis of new polymer semiconductors and reports polymer solar cells with fill factors of 80 percent — a first. This number is close to that of silicon solar cells. … > full story


New Energy Star Rules Raise The Question Of How To Make Energy Efficiency Accessible To All



By Joanna M. Foster on August 13, 2013

EPA’s popular Energy Star program wrestles with the balance between efficiency and affordability….






Scientists have a moral obligation to take action on climate change

The Guardian  – ‎Aug 15, 2013‎

Calling on all scientists to refrain from public advocacy and leadership is wrong. We are in a global crisis, and the scientific fraternity has an ethical obligation to act


Climate change may have caused demise of Late Bronze Age civilizations

Los Angeles Times August 15, 2013

Archaeologists have debated for decades over what caused the once-flourishing civilizations along the eastern Mediterranean coast to collapse about 1300 BC.


Dot Earth

Is the Internet Good for the Climate?


An exploration of the role of the Web in fostering, or impeding, public engagement on global warming.


It’s all about the birds in Israel

Israel is building more birding centers, a new conservation center, and an urban wetland in the heart of Tel Aviv to protect birds, and attract international bird-watchers.

By Viva Sarah Press July 23, 2013,  No Comments

The planned new building for the International Center for the Study of Bird Migration in Latrun.

Birding in Israel is serious business. With more than one billion feathered friends flying over Israel during spring and autumn, and an amazing variety of resident bird species, the country is one of the world’s best places for bird-watching all year long. “Israel sits on the junction of three continents,” Prof. Yossi Leshem, director of Israel’s International Center for the Study of Bird Migration (ICSBM), tells ISRAEL21c. “Politically, it’s a disaster, but for bird migration, it’s heaven. We have a huge bird bottleneck — it’s a superhighway.” A new report indicating that the international bird-watching community comprises some 100 million people has prompted private and governmental Israeli organizations to put more resources into birding tourism…..


Shining stem cells reveals how our skin is maintained
(August 15, 2013) — All organs in our body rely on stem cells in order to maintain their function. The skin is our largest organ and forms a shield against the environment. New research challenge current stem cell models and explains how the skin is maintained throughout life. … > full story


Kansas and Al Qaeda

By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN NY Times Op-Ed Published: August 10, 2013 148 Comments

SALINA, Kan. — I’VE spent the last few months filming a Showtime documentary about how climate and environmental stresses helped trigger the Arab awakening. ….Our film crew came to look at the connection between the drought in Kansas and the rise in global food prices that helped to fuel the Arab uprisings. But I stumbled upon another powerful environmental insight here: the parallel between how fossil fuels are being used to power monoculture farms in the Middle West and how fossil fuels are being used to power wars to create monoculture societies in the Middle East. And why both are really unhealthy for their commons. …. “We have to stop treating soil like dirt,” he says. Jackson knows this has to be economically viable. That’s why his goal is to prove that species of wheat and other grains that scientists at The Land Institute are developing can be grown as perennials with deep roots — so you would not need to regularly till the soil or plant seeds. The way to do that, he believes, is by growing mixtures of those perennial grains, which will mimic the prairie and naturally provide the nutrients and pesticides. The need for fossil-fuel-powered tractors and fertilizers would be much reduced, with the sun’s energy making up the difference. That would be so much better for the soil and the climate, since most soil carbon would not be released. ….


Exploratorium cuts 18% of staff

August 16 2013 S.F. museum’s attendance in the four months since it opened at its new location reached only half of what had been anticipated, directors say.


More than 28 cups of coffee a week may endanger health in under 55s
(August 15, 2013) — Drinking large amounts of coffee may be bad for under 55 year olds. A study of more than 40,000 individuals found a statistically significant 21 percent increased mortality in those drinking more than 28 cups of coffee a week and death from all causes, with a greater than 50 percent increased mortality risk in both men and women younger than 55 years of age. Investigators warn that younger people in particular may need to avoid heavy coffee consumption. … > full story


CIA: The mysterious Area 51 exists!

USA TODAY  – ‎August 16 2013‎

New document shows the CIA is becoming less secretive about Area 51’s existence. area 51. A car moves along the Extraterrestrial Highway near Rachel, Nev.


Simplify Your Tech Life,Thoreau-Style



Wall Street Journal ‎- Aug 10 2013

When Henry David Thoreau began his grand experiment, in 1845,
Michael Hsu has tips to tweaking your lifestyle to encourage a more 







Orca in the Gulf of the Farallones, Jaime Jahncke, Point Blue/GOF NMS, NOAA, August 2013