The Trump Administration draft budget eliminates funding for cleaning up estuaries, including the major effort ($73M) to reduce nutrient input to Chesapeake Bay (Washington Post editorial here) and the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (a change Republican Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin has pledged to fight). I am quite confident the smaller San Francisco Bay Water Quality Improvement Fund is slated to be eliminated as well (related SF Chronicle op-ed by David Lewis here).
The Guardian has a story about the ecological changes unfolding in the arctic triggered by the loss of sea ice and warming temperatures. Also in the Guardian is an article comparing sea level rise problems and planning in Atlantic City and Miami Beach (this article is accompanied by an excellent 7 minute video). Meanwhile, the arctic just passed through the peak of annual sea ice extent, and there was less than any other year during the satellite record.
The New York Times reports that huge sections of the Great Barrier Reef, stretching across hundreds of miles of its most pristine northern sector, were recently found to be dead, killed last year by overheated seawater that has been attributed to climate change. For a second year in a row a mass bleaching is underway, something unheard of in the past, accelerating reef damage beyond what coral scientists had predicted. The “Great Barrier Reef is Dying” is a narrative that is appearing in editorials (such as here in the Washington Post).
The New York Times reports on the devastation to ranchers from the wildfires that burned in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. These were the largest fires in the history of the state of Kansas. The Atlantic reports on the likely coming fight between California and the EPA regarding the waiver granted to California pursuant to the Clean Air Act to set tailpipe emissions for automobiles.
The Conversation has an excellent article about the how and why of the social cost of carbon (SCC), written by Joseph Aldy of Harvard University, who was a member of the working group that developed the first government-wide estimate of the SCC for the Obama administration. An op-ed in the New York Times presents the idea that the carbon emissions must drop in half each decade starting in 2020 to meet the 2°C target, a simple framing of a very challenging proposition.
The Emmy-winning first season of TV series the Years of Living Dangerously is now available for free on youtube. National Geographic will be re-airing all of Season Two as a block on Earth Day (April 22nd), so if you didn’t catch the second season the first time around, here’s your chance to watch. In addition, the DVD release of Season Two will occur on April 18th (DVDs of Season Two are already available for pre-order on Amazon).
UC Irvine is hosting a workshop on Coastal Resilience in California on July 20th. The Save-the-Date notice is attached. The New York Times has an interesting piece (The Seasons Aren’t What They Used to Be) that ponders the meaning of Spring as climate change impacts phenology.
The Conversation has an article entitled Should Scientists Engage in Activism? This is an important issue for all scientists, and those who support the use of scientific evidence as a foundation of public decision-making, to consider as the March for Science approaches. The article has many links to articles offering different perspectives, including the story of the scientists at Virginia Tech who uncovered the drinking water crisis in Flint, MI.
Finally, most of us are likely aware that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has stated publicly that carbon dioxide does not exert a controlling impact on the earth’s climate, discarding a century of scientific evidence (and changing his tune from his confirmation hearing). Of course, he offers no explanation for what is causing the observed rise in temperatures, nor does he explain how carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are not causing the temperature rise we are observing. Many refutations have been published (here in Forbes, for example). Dave Roberts at VOX notes that more important than Pruitt’s denial of the role of CO2 is the institutional rejection by the Republican party of science as a way of knowing truth. Pruitt and other conservative Republicans are rejecting the authority the scientific enterprise has earned based upon the application of the knowledge it has created over the last three centuries, and this can have profound impacts on our society. As Thomas Jefferson said, “Freedom (is) the first-born daughter of science.”
So…everybody out of their chairs! Nobody is allowed to sit this one out.
The San Jose Mercury reports on recent flooding of transportation infrastructure, projections for flooding in the future, and planning underway to make this infrastructure more resilient to sea level rise. The Almanac has an article about the planning work underway by the San Francisquito Joint Powers Authority as part of the SAFER Bay project
Fusion reports on the case of Ken Ward, who was arrested and tried for trespassing onto Kinder Morgan property and closing the valve on an oil pipeline. Ward argues that when individuals put their freedom and safety at risk for a cause it makes others think much harder about the issue that reports and articles. His first trial resulted in a hung jury, and he is now facing new charges.
Dave Roberts at Vox notes that the bi-partisan support for renewable power coming from the National Governor’s Association could lead to changing positions about climate change as people and states begin to identify with climate solutions for purely economic reasons. Bloomberg reports on how grid-scale battery storage is growing as large lenders become more comfortable with the technology, the stability of manufacturers, and the growing market demand.
There is a lot of current news about the arctic climate. InsideClimate News reports on the robust predictions of NASA scientist Clare Parkinson, the first researcher to project the impact of a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide on the arctic ice cap. She and her colleagues predicted in 1979 that such a rise in carbon dioxide concentrations would leave the arctic ice free in the middle of the 21st Century. Given the fact that January 2017 had the lowest ice cover for any January on record, Parkinson’s predictions appear to be holding up. The New York Times reports on the altered timing of the emergence of arctic plants in Greenland. One sedge species is initiating spring bloom 26 days earlier than a decade ago. The change corresponds to nearly an entire growing season, and breaks the record for the greatest shift in spring-bloom timing that the scientists have observed in the Arctic. InsideClimate News also reports on recent research documenting melting and slumping of permafrost soils in large areas of northern Canada and other arctic regions. The Washington Post reports on expanding acidification of the Arctic Ocean, including discussion of a variety of oceanographic processes that may be enhancing this impact of carbon dioxide.
Phys.org reports on a recent paper (abstract only) in Water Resources Research about the future of the Colorado River this century. The paper notes that measured declines in flow cannot be attributed solely to reduced precipitation, suggesting that the drying of the watershed is playing a role and this will grow as temperatures climb this century.
An article in Salon (Lawn and Disorder) reviews the cumulative environmental impacts of American’s infatuation with lawns, and Climate Central has an article about a California farmer capturing stormwater flows to recharge a groundwater aquifer. Think Progress reports on the remarkable sales of electric vehicles in Norway, where the transportation minister says it is “realistic” that sales of new fuel-burning cars could end by 2025. Reuters reports on the deployment of renewable energy by the military, and the continued commitment of the Department of Defense to this practice under President Trump.
Mother Jones has published a wonderful essay from an anonymous EPA employee about why this person (and others at EPA) remain committed to their agency’s public health mission, and former EPA Administrator William Ruckelshaus describes why the chemical industry wanted him to rebuild a strong EPA in 1983 after the agency was damaged during the first two years of the Regan presidency. Meanwhile, the Washington Post notes that President Trump has yet to nominate someone to lead the Council on Environmental Quality, but his administration is forcing CEQ to move after decades in the same location. The San Francisco Chronicle reports on the potential impact of EPA budget cuts on wetlands restoration in San Francisco Bay. The Washington Post reports on initial actions by the Trump administration with regards to NOAA’s budget, which include elimination of the Sea Grant program, and major cuts to satellite data management and “coastal resilience” efforts.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the Bay Area Resilient by Design Challenge will be moving ahead due to a grant from The Rockefeller Foundation of New York. Congratulations to all of our Bay Area colleagues who worked hard to make this idea a reality.
Climate Central reports January temperatures in the arctic were 35°F above normal, with sea ice at all-time lows for this time of year, and temperatures reaching the melting point of ice at the North Pole in December. As of February 10th the arctic was experiencing its third “heat wave” of the winter, as opposed to a previous frequency of once or twice per decade. Climate Central reports on a major calving event has been documented on the Pine Island Glacier (great slider in this article showing before and after photos), while a “watch” is in effect for a major calving event on the Larsen C ice shelf.
The Washington Post reports on a new study that synthesized vast amounts of data to detect a decline in the oxygen content of the ocean. This long-predicted change was attributed to warmer ocean temperatures (15 percent of the total oxygen loss) and other factors, such as enhanced thermal stratification that suppresses vertical mixing. The New York Times reports on the decline of seagrasses worldwide, the ecosystem services they provide, and recent research that suggest sea grass beds provide a valuable service by removing toxins that impact humans and coral reefs.
Nexus media has a portion of an interview with Professor Lynn Ingram of UC Berkeley regarding the history of catastrophic floods in California. A 2013 piece in Scientific American by Ingram (California megaflood: lessons from a forgotten catastrophe) is worth the read, as is the article (behind a paywall) co-authored with Michael Dettinger (Megastorms Could Drown Massive Portions of California).
Noah Diffenbaugh of Stanford has an op-ed in the New York Times that notes the issues facing Oroville Dam are partially a function of California’s changing climate, and he argues for a set of “climate-smart” water policies to make California more resilient to its new climate. The Times also has an excellent article reviewing the implications of climate change on dam maintenance in California. On the California Water Blog Megan Nguyen reviews the structure and function the Yolo Bypass, which is in full operation at present.
Wendy Palen of Simon Fraser University has an interesting op-ed in the New York Times about how scientists can respond to the anti-science/truth/reality attitude of the Trump administration, based upon her experience with the Harper administration in Canada. How scientists, and the broader fact-based community, respond to these developments has been a subject of discussions among my colleagues (and I'm sure yours as well). We will all need to be ready to act as we are comfortable; Yes Magazine is encouraging scientists to speak out, and the public to support them. John Oliver has taken an interesting (and amusing) action, while the Atlantic reports the views of scientists who support President Trump.
Wired has an article that discusses sea level rise planning in California, including the new scientific panel convened by Governor Brown to review recent literature to determine if sea level rise projections for California need to be changed. Scientific American summarizes a forum at the Woods Institute on adaptation to climate change that included discussion of managed retreat. Patrick Barnard of USGS and colleagues have published an analysis of coastal erosion in response to the strong El Niño in 2015-16, noting that shorelines in many areas retreated beyond previously measured landward extremes, particularly along the California coast (summarized here in the Christian Science Monitor).
An op-ed in Glamour (the first citation for this magazine in the BAECCC Brief!) by model (and Oklahoma native) Amber Valletta makes the case for why Scott Pruitt should not be appointed to lead the EPA. The New York Times reports on the remarkable open opposition of EPA employees to the Pruitt nomination. Despite these efforts, Pruitt’s nomination was approved by the US Senate.
InsideClimate News posts about a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (here) that suggests a strong relationship between outbreaks of Pseudo-nitzschia (producer of damoic acid) and ocean temperature going back to 1991. The Washington Post has an article reviewing the impact of sea level rise in the Bay Area, focusing on Highway 37 and the airports.
The New York Times has an excellent review of the use of batteries for energy storage on the grid, including the latest on developments in southern California that will be leading the nation in testing this technology. Jay Lund reviews the status of California’s drought and recovery, and the value of different drought indicators, at the California Water Blog.
The Washington Post reports on the growing unease in the scientific community that the Trump administration is not interested in scientific facts as part of policy development. A Scientists’ March on Washington is now it the planning stages. Nature Magazine describes four ways Trump can unravel Obama’s legacy on science, and the Atlantic has a profile of 500 Women Scientists, a group that has sprung up to protest against the Trump administration. Chris Mooney of the Post notes that scientists appear much more prepared to counter the manipulation of scientific evidence by the administration than during the Bush years.
The National Park Service (NPS) will not be silenced! After the main Twitter account for the Service has stopped posting after being criticized by President Trump for re-tweeting photos comparing his inaugural crowd to that of President Obama’s in 2009, Scientific American reports that Badlands National Park started tweeting out climate facts like the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (leading many to suggest Badlands NPS is Badass). These were deleted later the same day, but then anonymous NPS employees created the AltUSNatlParkService twitter account and announced “Mr. Trump, you may have taken us down officially. But with scientific evidence and the Internet our message will get out.” Salon reports about this action spreading to other national parks, including the Golden Gate NPS twitter account. Park Rangers to the Rescue, writes Tim Egan in the New York Times.
The New York Times reviews at how Scott Pruitt might approach reducing EPA’s workforce and scope (“using a scapel not a meat cleaver”). Climate Central reports on the possible closing of the Navajo Generating Station in Arizona, the largest coal-fired plant in the west, and about other coal plants closing due to the combination of plentiful natural gas and the cost of modern emissions controls.
The lies being told by President Trump are a serious attack on science and democracy, and will undermine the effectiveness of BAECCC and other science-based organizations in the public sphere. This article in the Guardian from Lawrence Douglas at Amherst College (my alma mater!), which points out that Trump lies are directed not to his opponents but his supporters, really hits the nail on the head. The Guardian describes the latest “fake news” about climate science regards NOAA’s ongoing effort to eliminate bias from their global temperature data set. RealClimate has a great post about how climate scientists have a lot to teach others about dealing with fake news.
And with sadness I note the passing of Art Rosenfeld, one of California’s great scientists and a global leader in the field of energy efficiency.
The New York Times reports on a massive increase in the death of moose in the northeast due to the impact of ticks. The insects, much more prevalent due to warm winters, have been identified as the cause of death for about 70% of moose calves based on tagging studies in certain regions. Scientists also note that the problem is enhanced by a rise in the abundance of moose, which provides more hosts for the growing tick population.
The Washington Post summarizes a new study suggesting that in existing climate models the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC; also know colloquially as the “ocean conveyor belt”) is represented to be less sensitive to climate change than it actually might be. This bias, also discussed at Real Climate here, suggests a tipping point at which this current slows or stops is closer than we might have thought. The new study applies a correction for freshwater fluxes into the Atlantic Ocean to better represent actual salt concentrations, and then investigates ocean circulation with a doubling of CO2 in the atmosphere. While the circulation is relatively stable in the uncorrected model, only declining by about 20% in response to a CO2 doubling, in the corrected model the AMOC breaks down completely in the centuries following a CO2 doubling.
The policy forum in Science Magazine (January 9, 2017), entitled The Irreversible Momentum of Clean Energy, was authored by President Obama (editorial comment: Is this cool or what? Have fun by selecting the “+” icon to display “author affiliation”; and read here about his other recent publications in academic journals). Dave Roberts at Vox takes issue with Mr. Obama’s use of “irreversible,” noting that the new administration can take many steps to halt a transformation in the energy sector that is only just getting underway. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) has a great op-ed explaining the political power of the fossil fuel industry in Congress. (“Talking to my Senate Republican colleagues about climate change is like talking to prisoners about escaping. The conversations are often private, even furtive.”)
Scientific American has an interview with Friederike Otto, deputy director of the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford, regarding attribution science; how we can test the role of climate change in extreme events. In the context of the major storm events in January, Salon has an excellent article that reviews recent developments regarding understanding atmospheric rivers now and in the future as climate changes. An excellent op-ed by Michael Greenstone and Cass Sunstein in the New York Times reviews the rationale and legal precedents for a social cost on carbon, an essential component of federal rule-making for climate policy.
The Washington Post reports on a new study (in Nature here )that revealed a massive peat-filled wetland in Africa’s central Congo Basin. The area is now believed to be the largest peatland system in the global tropics, estimated at 145,500 square kilometers (56,000 square miles). In Kenya, Reuters reports that a commercial farm has become Africa's first electricity producer powered by biogas to sell surplus electricity to the national grid, cutting the carbon emissions associated with oil-powered generation. The Gorge Farm Energy Park in Naivasha can produce two megawatts of biogas power, which is being sold a 10¢/kwh in comparison to 38¢/kwh for diesel-generated power. The Guardian reports that Dutch trains are now powered 100% by wind energy.
Jeff Goodell has an interesting interview in Rolling Stone with James Hansen (Will we Miss Our Last Chance to Survive Climate Change?). Dave Roberts at Vox reviews the latest “upgrade” to the “burning embers” graphic used by the IPCC to describe various risks from climate change. And oceanographers have named an oceanographic sampling station off the coast of the Antarctic peninsula Station Obama.
If you have friends or colleagues who would like to see the BAECCC Brief, please don’t hesitate to forward it along and let them know they can join the BAECCC list serve if they want!
The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that, with the Boulder 1 solar array having come on-line, the City of Las Vegas is now drawing 100% of its power from renewable sources. The City has reduced its energy consumption by 30% since 2008. Last summer 50% of the United Kingdom’s electricity came from low-carbon sources (including wood burning and nuclear power), according to the Guardian.
An article in the New York Times describes the challenges of managing fisheries along the Atlantic coast as fish populations move in response to changing ocean temperatures. Also in the Times, an in-depth look at how Jackson Family Wines (makers of Kendall-Jackson chardonnay and many other well-known northern California brands) is tackling the impacts of climate change as part of their sustainability program.
The Washington post reports on the findings of the Global Carbon Project, as reported in Earth Systems Science Data, that projected emissions for 2016 are similar to those for the last two years. This suggests that economic growth is being decoupled from carbon emissions, and that (for the moment) global carbon emissions growth has been slowed significantly. The Post also has a detailed review of the epidemic of forest pests that are at work in North America. According to an analysis in Ecological Applications, 63 percent of US forest is at risk through 2027, with a projected cost of several billion dollars annually in dead tree removal, declining property values, and timber industry losses.
I found this interview with outgoing FEMA Director Craig Fugate quite interesting. He points to the incentives within the FEMA system that force continued risk taking by the taxpayers, and how some of the basic procedures used in private insurance to encourage less risk-taking by insureds are absent in the federal system.
The British Met Office has projected that 2017 will be slightly cooler than 2016 due to the ending of El Niño. So, remember this article when all the talk of the end of global warming starts up again next year. Meanwhile, a huge crack in the Larsen C ice shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula continues to expand; experts are watching for a major calving event this winter.
Dr. Benjamin Santer of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has penned an eloquent op-ed for CNBC that is a letter to the President-elect about the need for him to understand and act on the conclusions of climate science he wants America to be “great.” Dr. Astrid Caldas of the Union of Concerned Scientists has a blog post that captures the issues discussed and general tenor at the American Geophysical Union meeting last month for those who could not attend.
A side note: While there has been much focus recently on the appointment of climate change deniers by President-elect Trump, and the threat this poses to our ability to reduce the impacts of climate change on future generations, we should all recognize that other critical threats also demand our efforts if we are to ensure public safety. One is the likely unwillingness of a Pruitt-led EPA to enforce existing health-based air quality regulations (as discussed here by Andy Rosenberg). For another, I encourage all to take a few minutes to read Eric Schlosser’s World War Three By Mistake in the New Yorker. The threat of accidental launch of missiles, or purposeful launch due to mistaken warnings, is an existential threat that receives little attention but is being recklessly enhanced by Trump and Vladimir Putin. Both of these men have recently made public statements about enhancing their respective country’s nuclear capabilities, an action that brings us closer to a war with no victors, particularly given the insistence of keeping our weapons on hair-trigger alert in this new age of cyber attacks. Schlosser quotes General George Lee Butler, previous head of US Strategic Command: “We escaped the Cold War without a nuclear holocaust by some combination of skill, luck, and divine intervention, and I suspect the latter in greatest proportion.”
Bloomberg Technology reports on the falling costs of solar in emerging markets. It has now reached parity with wind power, and a recent solar power deal in Chile came in at $29.10/MWh, roughly have the price of competing coal power (it should be noted that in at least some of these low-cost solar bids governments are providing leases of public land at very low prices).
At the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco scientists took to the streets (video here). Governor Brown also spoke at AGU, and he was really fired up. He received a standing ovation from the scientists in the audience when he walked on stage, and he gave a feisty speech supporting climate science in particular and science in general as a way of knowing truth (Sacramento Bee article here, video here). I recommend this for chasing away the Trump blues.
In The Nation Mark Hertsgaard reviews Obama’s climate legacy and how to move it forward under a Trump administration. On Salon Paul Edwards ponders the implications of Trump’s request for the names of individual scientists at the Department of Energy who have been engaged in climate science (including those representing the US at the Conference of Parties for the UNFCCC treaty to which the US is a signatory).
Michael Klare considers the implications of what would happen if Trump’s vision of expanded use of fossil fuels in the future actually came to pass. In addition to damaging (and likely irreversible) climate impacts, Trump’s plan to return to belching smokestacks as a sign of progress would actually bankrupt many fossil fuel companies due to downward pressure on fuel prices.
Scientific American interviews Obama’s Science Advisor John Holdren, who has served in this position longer than any other American. Holdren founded the Energy and Resources Group at UC Berkeley in 1973. Climate Central reviews the ten biggest climate change stories of the year.
A recent editorial in the New York Times concludes that “State governments will serve as an important bulwark against any attempt by President-elect Donald Trump to roll back the progress the United States has made in addressing climate change.” There is no doubt in my mind that California (and by extension, all of us in the BAECCC community) have an important role to play in making this happen (and the Times subsequently reports on California’s leadership on climate action and the willingness of our political leaders to challenge the Trump administration).
Happy New Year to everybody!
The New York Times reports on the largest coral die-off on record for the Great Barrier Reef. The die-off hit the northern part of the reef the hardest, the region that sees less anthropogenic impacts in general. The southern part of the reef was spared due to lower water temperatures caused by the remnants of cyclone Winston. A die-off of Yellow Cedar is being documented throughout the coastal northwest and into Alaska, with mortality exceeding 70 percent in many areas according to an article on adn.com that summarizes recent research. Researchers link the decline to reduced snow cover, which exposes the shallow root system of the cedars to colder temperatures.
Ecosystem Marketplace reports on the signing by Governor Jerry Brown of AB 2480, which declares that “source watersheds are recognized and defined as integral components of California’s water infrastructure.” This now makes it possible to apply billions of dollars in infrastructure finance towards the restoration of forests and the maintenance of meadows, streams and rivers (although there are many details to be worked out).
Hakai magazine reports on research that concludes coastal wetlands prevented up to $625 million in additional property damages during Hurricane Sandy. The modeling study, conducted by a team from UC Santa Cruz, The Nature Conservancy, and others, found that census tracts in the storm region experienced an average of 10% reduction in property losses, with some areas as high as 30%. The Ventura County Star reports on a partnership between The Nature Conservancy and the Navy to prepare Naval Base Ventura for rising sea levels.
The Washington Post reports on a new study published in Nature that provides empirical support for the hypothesis that warming soils will release carbon (as methane or carbon dioxide), creating a positive feedback loop that will drive global warming independent of human emissions. The authors compiled the results of 49 studies of emissions from research plots around the world. While in some areas carbon actually accumulated in the soil over time, overall carbon was released to the atmosphere with these losses generally tracking the degree of warming a region had seen. Extrapolating to 2050 the authors project 200 gigatons of carbon dioxide will be released, despite the fact that the study only examined the top 10 cm of soil.
SPUR has published the Mission Creek Sea Level Rise Adaptation Study, which examines different design concepts for “holding the line” to protect one of the lowest lying areas of San Francisco. Concepts examined include raising seawalls, filling and creating tidal basins through an outboard levee and building a tidal gate that could be closed during extreme high tides. Among the principles guiding the study was that "Nothing is off the table – despite concepts that may seem radical, difficult to implement, or hard to permit."
According to the Guardian a new movie called The Humanity Bureau will begin shooting next month in British Columbia. Starring Nicholas Cage, the story takes place in 2030, when much of the American midwest has been rendered uninhabitable due to climate change. And unfortunately, this is not a movie: Donald Trump’s pick to be head of the US EPA is the Attorney General of Oklahoma, Scott Pruitt, a climate-change denier and well established promoter of the interests of fossil fuel companies.
Lest I leave you on that sad note right before the holidays, Vanity Fair has an interesting article about the political and economic factors that will constrain the Trump administration’s ability to damage progress on decarbonization and other environmental issues. And in the New York Times William Buzbee of Georgetown Law School argues that “Collectively, law, reality and regulatory choices by states would create a bulwark against abrupt changes by Mr. Pruitt and the president.”
RealClimate has an article that provides an excellent technical summary for why the sun is not causing the global warming we are observing today.
The New York Times has a detailed report from South Florida about the growing challenge of living with high tides, and another about the impact of sea level rise on the real estate and mortgage markets. Motherboard reports that Vancouver, Canada, has issued a Coastal Flood Risk Assessment that includes discussion of retreat as an option for adapting to sea level rise. Bloomberg View reports on how intense storms and sea level rise are already forcing Americans to relocate, particularly those in public housing. The article discusses the concept of “climate gentrification,” and notes that HUD has "neither a plan for safeguarding the country's stock of public housing from [climate change], nor the funding to carry out such a plan. It has yet to even compile a list of which properties are at risk."
The National Estuarine Research Reserve Association has published a paper (summary here, manuscript here) looking at the resilience of coastal marshes in the US to sea level rise. Looking at 16 marshes in 13 coastal states, the paper concludes that marshes along the Pacific Coast appear more likely to survive than those along the Atlantic. The authors look at five factors (marsh elevation, change in elevation, sediment supply, tidal range, and rate of sea level rise) to provide guidance to managers interested in the future resilience of their marshes.
Brad Plumer and David Roberts review the possible environmental policy actions that can be taken by the Republicans now that they are in power (warning: it is not pretty).
Dan Rather has published an article in Scientific American about the importance of science to American democracy and to the health of the planet. He argues that the media must do much more reporting on science and its value to the country and the world. In case this isn’t already obvious, the Guardian reports that Donald Trump’s staffer overseeing transition issues for NASA has criticized the agency’s earth science mission (work on clouds, climate, ice, and temperature that he wants to eliminate) as “politically-correct environmental monitoring."
The California Water Blog has a post by Brett Milligan of UC Davis regarding restoration of landscapes in the Delta. He summarizes results of research to support an ecosystem reconciliation approach, which seeks synergies between ecosystem needs and the desires of humans. He argues that reconciling human uses with restoration objectives requires a broader view of stewardship, and provides an opportunity to address multiple issues of concern.
The San Francisco Bay Joint Venture has produced a one-minute video that is part of an ongoing effort to educate our region about the benefits of wetlands and wetland restoration. The San Francisco Chronicle has published the fourth part of John King’s excellent series of articles about sea level rise (called Rising Reality).
Carbon Brief reports on research regarding the relationship between projected changes in tropical cyclone tracks and sediment loads to the Mekong delta, where 20 million people live. Flooding from tropical cyclones contribute an important fraction of the sediment delivered to the delta, but this is projected to decline.
The San Antonio Express News did not endorse local Congressman Lamar Smith, citing Smith's “…abuse of his position as chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee.” The paper said Smith is using "bullying tactics" against state Attorneys General and non-profits investigating if ExxonMobil has committed fraud by misleading investors with regard to the impact of the use of their products on the atmosphere and climate.
Elizabeth Kolbert has published a lengthy article in the New Yorker called Greenland is Melting. She notes a wide array of feedback loops, some physical and some social, are already underway as the melting of the great ice sheet accelerates. Climate Central reports on a massive ice avalanche in Tibet. Brenda Ekwurzel of the Union of Concerned Scientists has a blog post summarizing a recent paper providing evidence of submarine melting of glaciers in Amundsen Sea, supporting the hypothesis that the destabilization of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet has begun.
The Conversation reports on how global warming is contributing to the deoxygenation of the world’s oceans, adding to the stress caused by runoff of wastewater and fertilizer. The mechanism for this includes both less oxygen being contained in warmer water, and enhanced stratification that leads to less mixing.
The San Francisco Estuary Institute has recently activated an on-line interactive map where users can view and download watershed sediment supply and dredged sediment volumes for 33 major flood control channels around the Bay. This is a product of the Flood Control 2.0 project.
An article in Nexus Media examines how tree planting can be used to help cool urban areas (using Cleveland as an example). The analysis also demonstrates how such a program can be implemented to produce outcomes that address concerns of economic and environmental justice by considering these goals in program design. The Guardian has an article about the growing movement for the design and construction of floating homes.
Boston.com reports on the recent king tides in Boston, and the Washington Post reports on a project in Hampton Roads, VA, to pump treated wastewater into aquifers to slow land subsidence in this community that is one of the most vulnerable in the nation to sea level rise. The Nation reports on the work of researchers investigating retreat from the shoreline, focusing on two communities impacted by Hurricane Sandy. Inside Climate News has a great article about the rebuilding of Toms River, New Jersey, after Hurricane Sandy. Toms River has a long history of major flood insurance claims. Despite the fact that all projections of sea level rise suggest more flooding in the future, what has emerged in Toms River is "a mentality of fortification, not retreat." FEMA is not allowed to use sea level rise projections to draw flood maps, compounding the problem (It should be noted that here in the Bay Area FEMA has prepared “non-regulatory mapping products” that project inundation due to sea level rise and these have been valuable in discussions of shoreline resilience to sea level rise.)
Salon has gathered the thoughts of several climate experts (including our own Laura Tam at SPUR) regarding the election of Donald Trump. Nature News has also gathered reactions of scientists. There is no doubt that this election result will be a political blow to our efforts to take action to mitigate the impacts of climate change at the national level. However, at the local and state level we have a tremendous amount of momentum and I plan to redouble my efforts for action. I hope you will, too.
The second season of the Years of Living Dangerously will premiere on the National Geographic Cable Channel on October 30th (8 PM). For those who are unfamiliar with this series, it is being produced by famed Hollywood producer/director David Cameron, in association with David Gelber and Joel Bach, two highly acclaimed producers who left 60 Minutes after 25 years to focus on climate change (disclaimer: I am an advisor to the show). The first season of the show, which features celebrities as reporters investigating climate change, appeared on Showtime and won an Emmy. The second season will start with David Letterman visiting India and Cecily Strong investigating the fight against solar power by utilities (with a special edition of USA Today). After the October 30th premiere the second season will air Wednesdays at 10 PM from November 2 through December 14. Other celebrity reporters involved include Jack Black, Ian Somerhalder, Don Cheadle, Thomas Friedman, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Gisele Bündchen, Joshua Jackson, Aasif Mandvi, Nikki Reed, Ty Burrell, Bradley Whitford, Sigourney Weaver, and America Ferrera.
In addition, Leonardo di Caprio’s new climate change movie Before the Flood will soon be released (it also will be on National Geographic Television on October 30th). Salon has in interesting interview with the movie’s director Fisher Stevens.
Science Daily reports that this year the Wildlife Conservation Society documented the successful fledging of Caspian terns at the Cape Kursenstern National Monument in Alaska, 1,000 miles farther north than previously recorded. The Sacramento Bee describes a trip in Yosemite to the dying Lyell Glacier.
The New York Times has a profile of Dr. Katharine Hayhoe of Texas Tech, who has become one of the most influential voices on climate change in the nation. Also in the Times is an op-ed from a geology professor about the non-sustainable and expensive approach of constantly rebuilding beaches on the Atlantic coast when they are eroded (as recently occurred due to Hurricane Matthew). And the Christian Science Monitor has an interesting article regarding attitudes about climate change in Colorado.
The San Francisco Estuary Partnership (SFEP) just released The Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan for the San Francisco Estuary (Estuary Blueprint). The Blueprint remains true to the intent of the original 1993 CCMP while building on the accumulated scientific knowledge and development of many other key plans and strategies over the past 20+ years.
A recent paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (summarized here at Phys.org and in the New York Times here) concludes human-induced climate change has doubled the area affected by forest fires in the U.S. West over the last 30 years. Key to this conclusion is that 55 percent of the increase in fuel aridity expected to lead to fires could be attributed to human-influenced climate change. The work also does not account for some factors that could be offshoots of climate warming, and thus they may be understating the effect. These include millions of trees killed in recent years by beetles that prefer warmer weather, and declines in spring soil moisture brought on by earlier snowmelt.
Dana Nuccitelli has an nice piece in the Guardian debunking some key current arguments of climate change denialists. And here’s a report from Snopes.com (cited on the New York Times' Dot Earth blogs) on a small article in an obscure New Zealand newspaper about the impact of coal burning on the earth’s climate. The date of the article is August 14, 1912.
It is widely known that sea level in the eastern Pacific has been been rising very slowly over the last decade, especially compared to the global average. This has been attributed to wind fields associated with the warm phase of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation. A recent paper (behind paywall) in the Journal of Geophysical Research (summarized here) now suggests that the PDO began oscillation into a cold phase starting in 2011, and that sea level in the western Pacific is rising as a result. Rates of rise of around 1 cm/yr could increase by 5-10 mm/yr in the coming decade, which will have important implications for the Bay Area. (h/t Roger Levanthal)
On September 20, 375 members of the National Academy of Sciences, including 30 Nobel laureates, published an open letter to draw attention to the serious risks of climate change. It includes a specific challenge to the position on the issue of climate action (and adherence to the Paris Accord) taken by “the Republican nominee for President.” Two signatories, Ben Santer and Kerry Emanuel, have penned an op-ed explaining the letter in the Washington Post.
A recent analysis in Nature Climate Change (summarized here) has projected where climate change will most likely drive novel species assemblages. The Washington Post reports on a new study in Science that estimates carbon sequestration rates by soil maybe only half of the rates normally incorporated in carbon models. The new study uses radio-carbon dating to estimate the age of soil carbon, which turns out to be significantly older than the age predicted by modeling studies. So although the soil will still take up carbon, the rate may be much slower, which implies the soil will not remove as much carbon from the atmosphere over the next 100 years as has been previously assumed.
The Washington Post reports on a recent paper in Nature Communications that suggests that the eastern Antarctic Ice Sheet might be less stable than previously believed. The paper developed a novel explanation for the well established observation of fossilized diatoms a mile up in the mountains of the Antarctic. This explanation ties together much existing information, but it relies on concept that ice retreat during the Pliocene in eastern Antarctica was much more significant than previously supposed. The Post also reports on a recent paper that clarifies the importance of methane emissions from water reservoirs as part of the global greenhouse gas budget.
BAECCC (in conjunction with the Climate Readiness Institute at UC Berkeley) convened a workshop entitled Responding to Sea Level Rise in the South Bay: Local and Regional Implications of Alternative Future Shoreline Configurations. The workshop explored the influence of regional and local actions on our efforts to increase South Bay shoreline resilience to sea level rise. Participants helped develop scenarios to be considered in modeling studies, identified the key issues that require regional collaboration, and reviewed the first comprehensive illustration of planned South Bay shoreline projects. More information the goals, objectives, and background for the workshop, the agenda, and the presentations made can be found here.
Christian Schwägerl has an interesting op-ed at Yale e360 about the growth of anti-science thinking globally, based on comments and attitudes prevalent in the positions of right wing parties in the US and Europe. He highlights the attacks on fisheries science as part of the Brexit campaign, and notes that German Chancellor Angela Merkel (a trained chemist) recently warned that Western societies are faced with a "post-fact world" in which emotions and ideology threaten to suppress scientific knowledge and evidence. (h/t Lauren Kahn)
An article in the New Yorker discusses how cities (Louisville, KY, is used as the example) are recognizing that the urban heat island effect exacerbates heat waves now and into future. Louisville and other cities have adopted tree planting and cool roof programs to reduce this impact. The Sacramento Municipal Utility District has had such a program in place for many years, focused on using shade trees to reduce air conditioning loads.
John Sutter at CNN has a profile on George Divoky, a scientist who has been studying Black Guillemots in the high arctic for over 30 years. The piece focuses on the biological impacts of arctic sea ice retreat, and the alarm of the scientists studying the region at the rate of change. Divoky notes “'you get very anxious and depressed' watching this unfold. It's like being in an animal shelter where you (thought) the animals were always adopted in the past, and now you realize they have to be euthanized."
The San Francisco Chronicle reports on the progress made since the signing of AB32 at enhancing the production of electricity from renewable sources in California. In PG&E’s service area, another homeowner now installs a rooftop solar array every seven minutes, and the Bay Area has become a national center for electric vehicles. However, we still have a long way to go to meet California’s new emission targets (40% reduction by 2030).
Scientific American has climate denial slide show of Tom Toles' cartoons.
John King of the San Francisco Chronicle has a great article about how major developments underway along the San Francisco shoreline are integrating preparation for sea level rise. In many instances we can see the evolution of thinking as the reality of the need to plan for sea level rise is setting in. New Yorker Magazine has a fascinating article about the future of New York City as sea level rises, which explores managed retreat/living with water and what that might mean for the city.
Business Insider summarizes a recent paper by Columbia’s Geoff Heal that estimates the cost of reducing carbon emissions 80% by 2050. While the estimate seems like a lot ($42–176 billion), this is 0.2% - 1% of GDP. Key assumptions that contribute to the variability include the cost of large-scale electrical storage that does not currently exist and the speed with which we can build power lines for sharing capacity across longer distances. The work also assumes a general political agreement that produces policy direction from Congress, which some consider very unlikely.
Justin Gillis of the New York Times has an excellent piece on the sea level impacts that are already apparent on the Atlantic Coast. He notes the Federal government continues to subsidize the building (and rebuilding) of infrastructure in vulnerable areas. Norfolk has installed what are essentially huge vertical rulers at low-lying intersections so people know the depth of floodwaters. The Washington Post reports on the threat of sea level rise and coastal erosion in Barrow, Alaska, where the shoreline is retreating at 30-65 feet per year.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has released a report (summarized in the Guardian) describing the current and projected impacts of the heat being stored in the ocean by the enhanced greenhouse effect.
Inside Science reports on a recent paper by Chris Field and colleagues at Stanford that reports on a 17-year experiment conducted at the Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve examining the response of grasslands to four interacting environmental variables -- temperature, precipitation, atmospheric carbon dioxide and nitrogen pollution. They found plant growth in the grassland was highly variable from year to year but that total annual growth declined the further away the experimental conditions veered from the historic average over the last several decades, suggesting sequestration of carbon by natural grasslands would not have a large mitigating impact on carbon concentrations in the atmosphere.
BCDC’s Adapting to Rising Tides program (ART) is partnering with AGU’s Thriving Earth Exchange (TEX) to connect local agencies with volunteer scientists who are willing to offer their assistance with planning challenges. The ART Program has already connected TEX with the Contra Costa Flood Control Agency, and TEX is interested in working with other local agencies and organizations that are ready and able to take advantage of this service. TEX will be hosting a workshop at the Fall AGU meeting (14 December from 8:30am – 1pm) where community leaders can discuss preliminarily scoped project ideas with relevant scientists.
For those like me who find the continued repetition of the lie “no global warming in the last 15 [or whatever] years” painful and dangerous, I recommend a great short post by Tamino at Open Mind (Deniers: Is this the hill you really want to die on?). He thinks that because the denial community (and political leaders like Ted Cruz) relied heavily on an argument that is now so obviously false, they will have difficulty maintaining their position that the climate is not changing. We can only hope (Dave Roberts reports on recent sociological research that suggests climate change denial will remain as intense as ever in Congress). Joe Romm notes that all major datasets, including the satellite data, now show warming.
The webcomic XKCD has produced A Timeline of the Earth’s Average Temperature that is definitely worth a look.
Bill McKibben published an article in the New Republic about the need to mobilize against climate change as we did during World War II. He not only reports on the threats we all know, but provides great detail about the physical and political aspects of the WWII mobilization and reports recent analyses that describe what a new mobilization looks like (building 15 mega-factories a year similar to the SolarCity plant opening outside Buffalo that will produce 1GW of solar panels a year). Dave Roberts has an good review of a critique of McKibben’s article.
The New York Times reports that low flows and high temperatures in the Yellowstone River have resulted in an outbreak of fish disease that as caused the Montana State Fish and Game Commission to close the Yellowstone to fishing at the height of the outdoor recreation season. The Washington Post reviews the latest planning in the Colorado Basin for the initiating of reduced diversions from Lake Mead; it appears this year's wet May will delay the onset of the diversion reductions from January 2017 to January 2018
Nature Magazine reviews Obama’s legacy of action to combat climate change. Bloomberg examines the threat to oil and gas infrastructure due to loss of land in southern Louisiana (600 miles of pipelines could be exposed to open water in the next 25 years), and various ways wetlands restoration activities are being funded in the region. There are major lawsuits seeking more funding from the oil and gas industry for restoration, and recently the State of Louisiana has joined as a plaintiff.
As an alternative to the many items I’ve included in past editions of the BAECCC Brief that highlight the lack of action in southern Florida given the threat sea level rise presents, an article at The Conversation reviews progress in climate change planning in this region. The Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact has produced a unified sea level rise projection (this includes recommendations for infrastructure with an expected lifetime of greater than 50 years), and a Regional Climate Action Plan. The Compact negotiated the creation of Adaptation Action Areas by the State Legislature as part of a local government comprehensive plan’s Coastal Management Element. The intent of such a designation is to address coastal hazards and potential impacts to sea level rise in a specific location, and Fort Lauderdale is serving as a pilot location for this new planning option.
Dave Roberts at VOX has posted a time-lapse video of the construction of a 379 foot high wind turbine with a concrete tower. These taller turbines greatly increase the area in the United States where wind power can be generated effectively.
An important point I make when I speak about climate change is that climate science was used to make predictions, and these predictions have now been observed. Tamino at Open Mind has a nice post reviewing the predictions that Hansen et al. (1981) made about the world in 2010.
Finally, the New York Times is producing a multi-part series called The Obama Era, and one of the six parts is entitled The Threat to the Planet. This includes a 15 minute interview with the President about climate change.
The New York Times has an interesting article about peat bogs, their role in the carbon cycle, and how rising temperatures could increase carbon emissions from these ecosystems through fire and reduce their capacity to store carbon in the future. The Times also reports on World Weather Attribution, a project of Climate Central that is generating relatively fast assessment of the role of climate change in extreme weather events.
The Miami New Times reports on an email discussion among local building officials in south Florida that demonstrates the continued denial of climate change by those who should be planning for it. Meanwhile, the Washington Post has an excellent report on the public planning process underway to reduce the vulnerability of Hoboken, NJ, to storm surges.
An ongoing question among oceanographers is why the expected acceleration in sea level rise has not been apparent, as the rate of rise declined in the 2000s compared to the 1990s. The Washington Post reports on recent research that answers this question by investigating the impact of the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo, which occurred one year before satellite altimeter measurements of sea level rise began in 1992. The eruption actually depressed sea level rise in the few years after it occurred, and the resulting recovery later in the decade created an apparently higher rate of sea level rise in the 1990s than the 2000s. Removing this effect shows the two decades to be much more similar, and the researchers expect that “…barring another major volcanic eruption, a detectable acceleration is likely to emerge from the noise of internal climate variability in the coming decade.”
While in the Bay Area we are working to restore wetlands, the Statesman reports that the wetlands around Houston are being paved over. Fort Bend County outside of Houston showed a 53 percent increase in impervious surfaces between 2001 and 2011. The Guardian has an article reviewing some of the challenges of offshore (floating) wind turbines, such as those proposed by Trident Wind for a site 25 miles offshore of Cambria.
Bloomberg reports on information from NOAA regarding the increased frequency in the US of intense rainstorms (termed “rain bombs” in the vernacular or “microbursts” by meteorologists), and Chris Mooney in the Washington Post also reviews this topic in the light of the Louisiana flooding. The Bloomberg article includes an extraordinary photograph of a microburst taken from a helicopter above Phoenix, AZ. The Sacramento Bee reports on how warm and dry conditions (including less snowfall) are leading to a reduction in the famous clarity of Lake Tahoe, a situation of concern to the editorial board of the Fresno Bee.
The Western Ecological Research Center of the US Geological Survey has just published an Open File Report to support coastal management and conservation efforts in California by examining the projected effects of three recent SLR scenarios produced for the West Coast of North America on tidal marshes. They conclude that California marshes are vulnerable to major habitat shifts under mid or high rates of SLR, especially in the latter part of the century, with a concomitant loss of the ecosystem services these marshes provide. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports on the reduction in salt marsh extent in coastal Georgia, which has been attributed to higher temperatures and drought.
Joe Romm notes that the Atlantic “major hurricane drought” in recent headlines is simply a function of the specific definition of a major hurricane (maximum wind velocity at the time of landfall), as neither Irene [2011; $8 billion in damage], Sandy (2012; $88 billion), or Ike (2008; $30 billion) qualify (Ike made landfall with a maximum windspeed of 110 mph, 1 mph less than the definition of major hurricane). Many are suggesting hurricanes should be categorized based upon barometric pressure, not windspeed.
Finally, Margaret Hetherman has a great article in Scientific American Are We Feeling Collective Grief Over Climate Change? I recommend this article to all those who (like me) are engaged with the realities of climate change on a regular basis.
Michael Klare has written an article about the recent International Energy Outlook produced by the Energy Information Administration of the Department of Energy, which projected an increase in fossil fuel consumption worldwide in the next two decades. Despite the amazing growth of wind and solar, we are still on track to obtain over 75% of our energy from fossil fuels by 2040. This is a depressing trend, but I hope that EIA is under-predicting the rate of expansion of renewable energy as they have done in the past.
Here’s a great article from the New York Times about President Obama’s interest in science. I had a chance to talk to John Holdren, the President’s Science Advisor, at Berkeley last year, and he told the same story of a President who is deeply engaged with science and its role in public policy.
The hottest June ever continues the trend that is likely to make 2016 our hottest year ever. This short article summarizes how “the pause in global warming” argument, a red herring to begin with, is not in vogue with deniers anymore due to recent temperature data. The New York Times reviews climate change as an issue in the Presidential election.
Alaska Dispatch News reports on the planning for shoreline resilience in Barrow, Alaska, a region experiencing significant coastal erosion (3 m/yr over the last 60 years). This includes discussion of the Barrow Area Information Database, an on-line system with several tools to support display of spatial information to support planning.
Climate Central reviews a recent study from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (in Geophysical Research Letters) that concludes (as others have) that negative carbon emissions will be required toward the end of this century if global average temperatures are not to exceed 2°C above pre-industrial average. The required amount of negative emissions can be greatly reduced by even small decreases in emission rates over the next few years.
As part of NOAA’s Digital Coast, there is a new online training entitled How to Consider Climate Change in Coastal Conservation. This is one of seventeen self-guided resources on this site offering training on coastal planning issues and techniques.
A couple of years ago a fantastic series about climate change appeared on the Showtime network called The Years of Living Dangerously. Developed and produced by two TV producers with years of experience working for 60 Minutes, the documentary series (which is available on iTunes, Hulu, Vimeo, and other outlets) used celebrity “reporters” to investigate key aspects of climate change. This fall a second season will be produced for National Geographic Television, a much larger network than Showtime, and you can watch the trailer for the second season here.
Jeff Goodell at The Rolling Stone has produced another great piece about sea level rise adaption, Can New York Be Saved in the Era of Global Warming? I have often pointed people to his excellent article from 2013 (Goodbye, Miami), and I think he is clearly establishing himself as one of our premier journalists covering the impact of sea level rise on American cities.
The written summary of the May 26th BAECCC meeting is now available. This meeting included presentations about the San Francisco Bay Living Shorelines project, the North End Wetlands Enhancement and Sea Level Rise Adaptation Project in Bolinas Lagoon, Climate Action through Conservation that examined carbon sequestration by natural lands in Sonoma County, and recent state policy developments related to climate change resilience.
Dave Roberts at VOX has an interesting article on why pricing carbon alone is an inadequate policy response to the problem of carbon emissions. Issues of political economy, need for technology development, and opportunities to address related problems (such public health, social justice, and equity) will not be addressed if we only drive change at the margin with a price on carbon.
The Baltimore Sun reports on the National Park Service’s management planning for the Assateague Island National Seashore, a 37 mile long barrier island along the Atlantic shore of Maryland (extending a bit into Virginia). The Park Service is thinking a lot about accepting natural changes rather than fighting them, including the possibility of replacing the auto bridge with a ferry if the bridge is damaged in the future.
The LA Times reports on the declining water levels in Lake Mead and its implications for Arizona and California. The article focuses on incremental actions being taken now by Arizona to keep water in Lake Mead and avoid mandatory cuts in diversions that might trigger a “water war.”
The Washington Post reports on a paper in Nature that documents a shift in the earth’s cloud cover over the last several decades. Cloud cover has shifted northward, and cloud tops are higher, both changes that have been projected by climate models. The Post also has another article reporting on the response of other scientists to this important finding.
The San Jose Mercury News reports that recent research from Humbolt State has documented that redwood forests store vast amounts of carbon, even larger than some previous estimates. Particularly important characteristics include how large the trees get, how long they live, and how resistant they are to degradation.
In Puget Sound kelp farming is being tested as a method for buffering local waters against the impacts of ocean acidification. Kelp uptake of carbon dioxide could influence local ocean chemistry. In kelp farms in Maine’s Casco Bay, the carbon saturation rate of seawater was measured as 25 percent higher than surrounding waters, which would make it easier for organisms such as oysters, clams and mussels to form hard shells.
The New York Times reports about a major landslide on a glacier in southeast Alaska (great photo). These type of landslides are expected to become more common as glaciers melt. A landslide event last October at the Tyndall glacier caused a wave in the Taan Fjord of Icy Bay that sheared off trees 500 feet above sea level, one of the largest such wave events on record.
There are some great products now available on the Climate Commons from the work of the Terrestrial Biodiversity Climate Change Collaborative and Climate Ready North Bay. These include a knowledge-base for regions in the northern Bay Area, a set of factsheets detailing projected impacts of climate on vegetation for select Landscape Units identified by the Conservation Lands Network, and the beta release of the San Francisco Bay Area Climate-Smart Watershed Analyst that allows you to access climate and hydrology information by watershed in the Bay Area.
Climate Central has an interactive graphic that allows you to view long-term temperature trends at major national parks. They also review the status of California’s drought, noting how atmospheric high pressure during the El Niño that just finished kept California (and particularly southern California) drier than expected as the storm track stayed north.
The Davis Enterprise reports on SB 1386 (Wolk, D-Davis), which declares it to be state policy that protecting and managing natural and working lands is key to meeting California’s climate change goals. The bill passed through the Assembly Committee on Natural Resources on June 27. Dave Roberts at VOX reviews the current status of California’s carbon market (cap & trade system), which is facing legal and administrative challenges.
The Los Angeles Times reports on a new study from UCLA projecting future temperatures in the Los Angeles region. The number if extreme heat days (>95°F) in downtown Los Angeles is expected to climb from 6 in the 1990s to 54 by 2100 under a business as usual scenario, but only to 15 under a scenario of aggressive carbon emissions reduction.
PRI has an article about sea level rise adaption in Rotterdam, which includes the worlds largest tidal surge barrier in addition to natural infrastructure as well (check out the Sand Motor). WGBH has a report about adaptation planning and actions underway in Boston, including a living shoreline created as part of a private development. A short summary is available here of a recent assessment by Risk Management Solutions of vulnerable property in San Francisco. An interesting article in Scientific American focuses on the serious efforts in south Florida to prepare for climate change, no matter how much denial is still rampant in the State government. The New Miami Times reports on a proposal to place impact fees on new development to support sea level rise adaptation in Miami-Dade County.
The New York Times has a superb, in-depth article about the island of Tangier, Virginia, one of the towns in the US most vulnerable to sea level rise. The article highlights our struggle to determine where to retreat and where to fortify our coast line. The story focuses on the work of an engineer with the US Army Corps of Engineers, and also describes the major restoration project the Corps is undertaking at Poplar Island, MD, (using dredged material from the Port of Baltimore to rebuild the island as a wildlife refuge). The Times also reports on managed retreat underway on Cape Cod.
The Washington Post reports on a recent research paper that documents the expansion of the Indo-Pacific warm pool over the last sixty years, the vast area of warm ocean water that influences many features of regional and global climate. The authors attribute over 80% of this expansion to warming from greenhouse gases. The Post also reports on an op-ed in Nature Climate Change that suggests the temperature target range in the Paris Accord (1.5 – 2°C increase over pre-industrial level) would avoid some of the tipping points that would induce further climate change (but not others). The authors suggest the target is necessary, feasible, and simple (the latter being vital for developing political will).
Newsweek has an article about melting permafrost, focusing on central Alaska with an interesting case study of a homeowner who is watching his house slowly fall into a lake (article has an imbedded This is Not Cool video from Peter Sinclair as a bonus). The Washington Post reports on Alaska’s warmest spring in the 91-year state meteorological record, and Nuuk, the capital of Greenland, recorded its highest June temperature ever on June 9.
Slate reports on the recent extraordinary flooding in Houston, which experienced two 100-year rainstorms in less than a week last month. The problem is exacerbated by land use practices in Houston, which like many cities has replaced wetlands with urban hardscape. The Washington Post reports on the meteorological pattern that contributed to the recent historic flooding in France and Germany.
The Washington Post reports on the changes to the grassland ecosystems of North Dakota. In just six years, North Dakota lost half of its acreage that was protected under the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) as biodiverse grasslands were destroyed to plant commodity crops like corn and soybeans. And another article the Post reports that despite the benefits of street trees for human health and welfare, recent research suggests that in US cities we are removing more trees than are being planted.
I have found that discussing the history of climate science is a very valuable way for encouraging doubtful audiences or individuals to reconsider their opinions (two great resources are The Discovery of Global Warming from the American Institute of Physics and The History of Climate Science from Skeptical Science). The Washington Post has a great article that discusses Senate hearings chaired 30 years ago by John H. Chaffee (R- RI) regarding climate change (these hearings occurred two years before the more famous Senate hearings where Jim Hansen stated that the anthropogenic warming signal had been detected).
Professor Alexander Forrest of UC Davis has published an article at The Conversation (based upon a 2015 paper in Limnology & Oceanography [abstract]) about the potential impact of climate change on large lake ecosystems including Lake Tahoe. Using climate change projections to drive a hydrodynamic model of Lake Tahoe they conclude that increased surface temperatures and decreased wind speeds could enhance eutrophication by interrupting vertical water movements (lake “turnover”).
The City of Carlsbad, CA, has published a sea level rise vulnerability assessment (news report here, full assessment here). The Voice of San Diego reports the vulnerability of the city of Imperial Beach to sea level rise, and the city of Monterey is also conducting a vulnerability assessment.
Clemson University reports that their faculty has collaborated on a habitat connectivity analysis of the eastern seaboard that integrates sea level rise, which demonstrates how rising seas and changed rural land uses will be pressuring key predators in the future (journal paper here). They conclude that using corridors to reconnect fragments of natural habitat is essential for promoting the survival of many species.
The New Yorker has reprinted a wonderful commencement address by Atul Gawande, the author of Being Mortal, delivered at CalTech in June 2016, about the growing mistrust of science.
Inside Climate news reports on NOAA’s announcement that greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere continue to increase, with CO2 reaching 399 ppm as an annual average in 2015 (1.5% increase from the previous year). Methane and nitrous oxide concentrations also continue to increase at accelerating rates.
The Christian Science Monitor reports that a new study indicates subsidence rates in New Orleans are accelerating, exacerbating the impacts of sea level rise. Andy Horowitz, a professor of history at Tulane, has an op-ed in the New York Times arguing that the new FEMA flood plain maps for New Orleans underestimate flood risk and lead to residents misunderstanding their vulnerability. Also in the Times, a report on the impact of the drought and related intrusion of saline water on rice production in the Mekong Delta, and how hydropower dam construction upstream is projected to reduce sediment inflows to the delta in coming decades.
Cephalopod populations (squid, octopus, and cuttlefish) are increasing worldwide, according to a new study summarized in the New York Times. It is interesting to see an article such as this from the Business Insider that describes how the rate of global warming has been accelerating (1900-1958 = 0.007 °C per year; 1958 - 2015 = 0.015 °Celsius per year, and February 1998 to February 2016 = 0.025 °Celsius per year). It is important that the business community is receiving accurate information.
Lake Mead has dropped to an all time low elevation (1,074 ft; you can track the water level in real time here). If the Lake remains at this level in January, a first step in rationing supply, and by treaty Arizona, Nevada, and Mexico will have to cut their withdrawals (it is likely that water will be released from Lake Powell to prevent this from happening). Paul Rogers reports in the San Jose Mercury on a Department of Fish and Wildlife Study that documents shifts over time by tree species in the Sierra Nevada. More temperature sensitive species are moving to higher elevations, consistent with predicted response to global warming.
It is clear that we will need to reach negative CO2 emissions this century to keep global average temperature increases to no more than 2°C. Yale e360 interviews physicist Klaus Lackner about the role for air capture technology in achieving this goal by removing CO2 from the atmosphere, and the feasibility of doing this on a large scale. Scientific American has an interview with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in which he stresses the importance of carbon sequestration in working lands as a climate solution.
The New Yorker reports on a recent report from the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Union of Concerned Scientists regarding the projected impacts of climate change on UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Andrew Revkin reports in the New York Times that Donald Trump signed a letter with other business people in 2009 urging action in Copenhagen ("If we fail to act now, it is scientifically irrefutable that there will be catastrophic and irreversible consequences for humanity and our planet.”) Now, of course, he has a very different position, and ThinkProgress recently reported on the implications of Mr. Trump’s energy plan by interviewing some leading climate scientists.
The Washington Post summarizes a recent study that describes the potential for de-oxygenation of parts of the world’s oceans at a faster rate than previously estimated. Another article in the Post summarizes recent research supporting the contention that sea ice declines are a major factor in the frequency of blocking events over Greenland. Such a blocking event contributed to Hurricane Sandy taking a westward turn over the United States instead of following the more normal path of late-season hurricanes into the north Atlantic.
The Guardian has an article about sea level rise in the Bay Area, with a focus on the vulnerability of Facebook and Google (h/t Anne Morkill). An article from the Long Beach Press Telegram discusses sea level rise planning underway in Long Beach. Newsweek reports on flood control planning in Honolulu, which is focused on the interaction of fluvial and tidal flooding. And National Geographic reports on coastal resilience efforts in Atlantic City, New Jersey, a community hard hit by Hurricane Sandy that is still suffering from its effects.
Meanwhile, there is appears to be a slow awakening to the scale of the problems sea level rise poses for south Florida. The Charlotte Observer reports about the efforts of some Republican members of Congress from the region to build momentum for addressing the problem. Climate Progress has an article about the challenges of action at the City level that focuses on two mayors from south Florida, and this includes an interactive graphic from Climate Central that presents sea level in Miami in 2100 under differing emission scenarios. I recently spent an afternoon with Henry Briceno, a professor at Florida International University who has documented that king tides in Miami are forcing polluted groundwater to the surface that greatly exceeds federal health standards. After a year of frustration getting government officials to pay attention, Henry reluctantly shared his results with the Miami Herald to call attention to this issue.
Stefan Ramsdorf at RealClimate reviews multiple lines of recent data which suggest the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Current (AMOC) slowed down in the later part of the 20th century, and again recently, contributing to cold waters in the north Atlantic and warmer waters in the Gulf of Maine and elsewhere. An article in Yale’s environment360 reviews the growing evidence that dynamic ice sheet processes could greatly increase projected rates of sea level rise from those published by the IPCC.
The New York Times reports about the factors, including global warming, that have increased fire danger in Canada and contributed to the massive fire burning in the area of Fort McMurry, Alberta. A subsequent article reviews the increase in fire frequency and severity across the entire boreal region, including Russia, Canada, and Alaska. A guest post at Carbon Brief by Professor Richard Betts reviews the carbon fertilization effects for plant growth in a higher-CO2 world.
The California Ocean Science Trust has released a report about ocean acidification on the west coast (news report with Puget Sound focus here). The report highlights the importance of additional “co-stressors” in the environment, such as biological oxygen demand that drives respiration and CO2 production, as important to understanding the impacts of acidification in the field.
The Washington Post reports on the Danish Meteorological Society announcement of a record-breaking melt of the Greenland Ice Sheet. Likely due to the warm weather conditions that have brought rain, nearly 12 percent of the ice sheet’s surface is covered with a layer of meltwater at least a millimeter deep, a condition never before seen in April.
An article in Environment 360 considers the question of what constitutes a native plant in a changing world, and how horticulture is serving as a mechanism for the movement of plant species north.
Here’s a good article from The Desert Sun summarizing information suggesting that transitioning away from fossil fuels will not lead to economic ruin, and Hal Harvey has a great summary of policy solutions to the climate problem as an op-ed in The Hill. The Washington Post reports that EPA has increased its estimate for methane emissions in the United States, due primarily to increasing the estimate for emissions from the oil and gas sector.
Reuters has an interesting article about how drought and dam operations are contributing to salt water intrusion in the Mekong Delta, an area that is an important producer of rice and seafood for Vietnam and is home to 20 million people. Saltwater has penetrated 56 miles inland, and the saltwater intrusion is exacerbated by subsidence due to groundwater withdrawals. An article in Forbes (search on Mekong Delta) notes the implications of these impacts in the Mekong for political conflict in the region.
The Miami Herald reports on sea level rise planning effort for the Southeast being started by the US Army Corps of Engineers, and the New York Times reports on one of our nation’s first efforts to move a community in Louisiana due to the impacts of sea level rise. Here’s a brief report on how higher sea levels during El Niño helped southern California scientists study shoreline impacts. The Texas Monthly poses the question of sustainability in Houston, which has experienced historic floods in each of the last two years.
And finally, Jimmy Kimmel talks about Sarah Palin, climate change, and shows a video with scientists who tell it like it is.
RealClimate has an excellent post that tracks how the myth that volcanoes produce more greenhouse gases than human activities developed and propagated through the media. A speculative paper about HCl emitted in a volcano 700,000 years ago is the progenitor of statements claiming greenhouse gases from volcanoes compare to all industrial emissions in a year, 100 years, or since the industrial revolution.
Climate Progress reports on the first pilot effort to generate carbon offsets for rice farmers through alternative growing techniques that reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. Bloomberg has an interesting article about the early career of Charles David Keeling, including his discovery of the seasonal cycle in atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide and his determination that annual average concentrations were rising.
While coal company bankruptcies and coal plant retirements are a hopeful sign that the world is moving away from this fossil fuel, Carbon Brief reports that new coal plant construction is still very large in China, and vast numbers of plants are on the drawing board. If constructed, these facilities would siphon away capital that would support the transition away from fossil fuels, and would make meeting the 2°C target very difficult.
The Washington Post reports on how new bathymetric maps of the coast of Greenland are influencing models of ocean/ice sheet interactions in the region. The new maps, now only available for part of the coast, show that many fjords are actually much deeper than previously thought.
The Desert Sun has published an interesting interview with Don Cameron, for 35 years the vice president and general manager of Terranova Ranch near Fresno, about the need for California growers to take proactive steps to prepare for climate change. Among the activities underway at Terranova Ranch is a project to capture floodwaters for groundwater recharge (1,000 acre-ft per day when the project is complete). The Christian Science Monitor reports on a new study published in Nature that documents how changing agricultural practices can result in sequestration of carbon from the atmosphere. These practices will also produce benefits in terms of healthier soils, and ecosystem services such as less runoff, less soil erosion, and less nitrate leaching into waterways.
John Sutter at CNN has an in-depth look at British Columbia’s carbon tax, which has been in place since 2008. Citizens in the State of Washington will be voting on a carbon tax this year.
The Los Angeles Times reports on carbon sequestration in the desert mangroves of the Baja Peninsula (research conducted by scientists at Scripps Institution of Oceanography). Measurements suggest that despite their smaller areal extent, these ecosystems can sequester carbon at rates that exceed their tropical counterparts.
The San Francisco Chronicle has endorsed Measure AA (The San Francisco Bay Clean Water, Pollution Prevention, and Habitat Restoration Measure), joining a long list of Bay Area organizations and elected officials that are supporting the measure that will be on the June ballot.
James Hansen and colleagues have published a paper identifying the potential for much more significant sea level rise in the coming century than previous studies, based mainly on feedbacks triggered by cold surface meltwater in Greenland and Antarctica. They conclude global climate models (including their own) are less sensitive to surface meltwater than the real climate system because the models have too much surface mixing. In an interesting development for climate communications, Hansen narrates a video abstract here. Chris Mooney reviews the paper here for the Washington Post; Joe Romm for Climate Progress here.
RealClimate has a post about the many different sources of uncertainty when planning for sea level rise beyond just the physical uncertainty of future tidal heights. The New York Times has an update on NASA’s approach for protecting the launch facilities at Cape Canaveral from sea level rise and storm surge.
The NASA Earth Observatory has published comparative images of the Sacramento Valley from March 2015 and March 2016. Using the “View Image Comparison” button below the second photo, you can swipe back and forth to compare the images. Not only does this show the difference in the abundance of water, but also the huge burn scars from the Valley and Rocky/Jerusalem fires and the smaller Wragg fire SE of Lake Berryessa. (h/t David Asbury)
The Washington Post reports that maximum winter arctic sea ice was likely reached on March 24th. At 5.607 million square miles, this is the smallest maximum ever recorded for the arctic ice cap. Climate Central reports on the impact of climate change on the maple syrup industry (It was reported to me that altered maple syrup production was a key climate change impact that caught the attention of President Clinton during a scientific briefing on climate change in the mid-1990s).
Venkat Srinivasan, a San Francisco based writer, has a guest blog in Scientific American about the need for sediment to restore wetlands in San Francisco Bay.
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), one of the great climate champions in the US Senate, has asked the Department of Justice to investigate if certain oil companies are guilty of racketeering for fraudulent statements about climate science. This request has led to the Senator being compared to Spanish Inquisitors on the pages of the Wall Street Journal. The Senator has responded to these accusations. Professor Michael Mann, whose work was also attacked by the WSJ, has responded as well.
The New York Times reports on the world-wide coral bleaching event now underway due to elevated ocean temperatures, and Brad Plumer at Vox also reports this event with a focus on the Great Barrier Reef.
The San Francisco Bay Clean Water, Pollution Prevention, and Habitat Restoration Program, known as the “Clean and Healthy Bay Ballot Measure,” will be on the June ballot as Measure AA in the nine-county Bay Area. The measure would raise $500 million over 20 years, administered by the San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority, to fund critical Bay restoration and flood protection projects. The funds would be derived from a parcel tax of $12/yr. The passage of this measure would be an extremely valuable step in preparing the Bay Area for sea level rise. More about the measure is on the Save The Bay website here.
The New York Times has an article and video about the partial decommissioning of offshore oil platforms in California waters. The submerged portion of oil rigs can support rich assemblages of native species, causing some to suggest that leaving the deeper part of rig structures in place (below 80 feet) will benefit the coastal environment.
An article at Inside Climate News focuses on resiliency planning in Fort Lauderdale, and documents the current expectation for enormous growth in the City despite the clear and growing impacts of sea level (there are “no wake" signs in certain neighborhoods that are meant for drivers on flooded streets to limit the creation of waves that force water onto nearby properties). The Miami Herald has a recent article and great video about sea level rise adaptation in Miami. The Mayor of Pinecrest (in South Florida) demands climate action in a recent op-ed. Ahead of the Tide, a coalition of groups in Florida, has produced an excellent 10-video video series about sea level rise.
The Bismarck Tribune reports on shifts in agricultural productivity due to climate change, and quotes the North Dakota State Climatologist that the average temperature in North Dakota has increased at a pace exceeding all of the other states in the country since 1890. From the unusual impact department, the BBC reports that flooding in the Cumbria region of England from Storms Desmond and Eva has resulted in a shortage of popular tea biscuits (h/t Robert Blizzard).
Climate Central reports on the sediment management in San Francisco Bay as an important component of wetlands restoration and building resilience to sea level rise. The article references the Baylands Ecosystem Habitat Goals Update, and quotes many eloquent BAECCC participants as well! The Contra Costa times has published an editorial supporting the parcel tax on the June ballot that will provide funding for the San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority.
The Washington Post reports on the significant increase in average atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration in 2015, driven in part by impacts of El Niño. Also in the Post is an article about how New Yorkers ate a storm surge barrier over the last 400 years (hint: oysters are tasty).
Reuters reports on a coastal bloom of micro algae that is decimating portions of Chile’s salmon-farming industry. Higher ocean temperatures driven by El Niño is likely a key driver of the bloom. The New York Times reports on the spread of the Southern Pine Beetle into New England. As with the spread of the Mountain Pine Beetle in the West, warmer winter temperatures due to climate change are a key driver of these infestations.
And from the not climate-smart department: The Provincial Government of the Northwest Territories increased the weight limit on a key ice road after the warmest February in history (oops).
Science Daily reports on a recent study in Nature Climate Change (preview here) suggesting that salt marshes may be more resilient to sea level rise than previously thought. The lead author notes that "simple models that don't simulate the dynamic feedbacks that allow marshes to adapt not only to present rates of sea-level rise but the accelerated rates predicted for coming decades.” This leads to the conclusion that salt marshes with restricted sediment supplies are particularly vulnerable to sea level rise, a finding of importance to the marshes in San Francisco Bay.
The New York Times has an interesting article about how the notion of “invasive species” is evolving given our advancing knowledge of historic distributions and the rate of change in the present-day environment. This is an issue that I expect will be revisited frequently in coming decades as change accelerates and decisions such as relocation or assisted migration become more common.
Here is an interesting article from a Cairo-based writer (Peter Schwartzstein) about sea level rise in Alexandria, Egypt, with a focus on the historic cultural sites that are being damaged. Alexandria, which is located in the Nile delta, is suffering from the combination of sea level rise and loss of sediment inputs from the Nile. 40 million people live in Alexandria and the Nile delta (half of Egypt’s population), and many parts of the delta are already up to 5 meters below sea level.
John Sutter of CNN interviews Susanne Torriente, Chief Resilience Officer for the City of Miami Beach, about adapting to rising sea level. Here’s an interesting article from the Williston Herald (N. Dakota) that describes the results of a regional climate change impact study on agricultural productivity in eastern Montana and western North Dakota. Clearly, across the country more and more people are taking the time to understand the regional impacts of climate change, and the results of these studies are influencing how Americans think about the issue.
The Atlantic has a nice summary of issues surrounding the Aedes mosquitos, zika virus, and climate change. Bloomberg reports on the drought in South Africa, which is escalating the price of corn and other staples. Joe Romm reports on recent developments regarding satellite measurements of tropospheric temperatures. RSS has published corrections to their satellite dataset that increase the rate of warming by 60%, and UAH has announced that February 2016 was the hottest month ever recorded in their dataset, 1.5°F above their baseline.
The Los Angeles Times reports on a recent study that has found a strong correlation between the type of forage fish consumed by adult female sea lions and the weight of sea lion pups. The data (from the Channel Islands) indicate that the abundance of sardines and anchovies is positively correlated with the weight of sea lion pups, while the opposite is true when rockfish and squid are plentiful in adult diets. The more nutritious fish are less available in the foraging region of the adult sea lions during El Niño years, although there may be other explanations as well for the observed changes in fish populations.
Al Gore delivered the latest version of his 20-minute presentation as a TED talk in Vancouver last month in which he talks about his optimism for our ability to address the climate crisis.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has just produced a Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment of California’s Terrestrial Vegetation. This study, which highlights the relative vulnerability to projected climate impacts of all vegetation communities in California, was conducted by UC Davis as part of CDFW’s State Wildlife Action Plan 2015 update.
The Washington Post reports on harmful algal blooms in the north Pacific and Alaska that are likely driven by warmer water temperatures, and the apparent impact of the toxins from these alga on marine mammals. Another Washington Post report summarizes recent research linking sea star wasting and lobster shell diseases to warmer oceans.
New research on carbonate metabolism in mussels suggests a mechanism by which these organisms may be able to adapt, in a limited fashion, to ocean acidification. This interesting interview with Harvard geophysicist Jerry Montrovica summarizes how the gravitational changes due to mass loss as ice sheets melt can produce some counter-intuitive changes to sea level. You can also learn why geophysicists are interested in eclipses recorded by the Babylonians. (h/t Lauren Kahn)
Inside Climate News has a perspective on how the death of Justice Scalia will impact climate related decisions of the Supreme Court. Ken Kimmel, President of the Union of Concerned Scientists, blogs that many people are over-reacting to the Supreme Court’s decision to stay implementation of the Clean Power Plan (among other points, he notes that 21 states are already on target for surpassing the Plan’s requirements due to their own policies).
Senator Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) held a hearing (Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation) on December 8, 2015 “Data or Dogma: Promoting Open Inquiry in the Debate over the Magnitude of Human Impact on the Earth’s Climate.” At this hearing he made a point (as he repeatedly does on the campaign trail) of claiming the satellite measurements of atmospheric temperatures show “no global warming” in the last 18 years. Lawrence Livermore scientist Ben Santer, and Carl Mears of Remote Sensing Systems (RSS is the curator of one of the two satellite temperature records), have prepared a joint blog post explaining why Senator Cruz’s interpretation of these data is incorrect and misleading. Phil Plait at Slate reviews why bias-correction of land-based thermometer data make the dataset more accurate, not less accurate as many deniers claim.
Several papers recently appeared in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences regarding sea level rise in the past (last 2,500 years) and future. Among other interesting findings is that sea level has risen more during the 20th century than during any previous century. A post on RealClimate by Stefan Ramsdorf reviews these papers (New York Times summary of one paper here).
A former Congressman and Attorney General from Kentucky is calling for developing renewable energy in his state. Andy Revkin of the New York Times reports on his recent interview with Bill Gates regarding the new investment fund for transition to nonpolluting energy sources called the Breakthrough Energy Coalition that Gates and several other wealthy individuals have created (an interview of Gates by Revkin is here).
Newsweek’s Nina Burleigh produced a excellent article last month about the politics of sea level rise in south Florida. As we are all aware, without state and federal leadership the local governments of south Florida have been left to deal with the current and impending problems, and some panic is beginning to set in. The article notes that Presidential candidate Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) has been missing in action, and suggests that climate denial in Florida will become a growing political problem for the the Republican party.
Andy Revkin at the New York Times reports on the emergence of a bi-partisan Climate Solutions Caucus in the House of Representatives, founded by a Democrat and a Republican from south Florida. The Miami Herald reports that the Mayors of 12 cities in Southern Florida have sent a letter to Presidential candidates Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush asking them "to meet with local leaders to "discuss the risks facing Florida communities due to climate change and help us chart a path forward to protect our state and the entire United States.”
The Chronicle reports on the rising Folsom Lake (with a great comparative photo of lake levels), but notes we’ve got a ways to go to alleviate the drought.
NBC-TV in the Bay Area reports on the horizontal levee demonstration project at Oro Loma. The Chronicle also reports on a major Forest Service study (Effects of Drought on Forests and Rangelands of the United States). The report describes how hotter, drier and more extreme weather will spark massive insect outbreaks, tree and plant die-offs, bigger and more costly wildfires, and economic impacts to timber and rangeland habitat.
The Washington Post has an interesting article summarizing the arguments suggesting that the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Current (AMOC) is weakening, as evidenced by the cold water off of southern Greenland and warming along the US East Coast. These arguments imply that the northwest Atlantic will be a place of significant climatic change in the future, that this could include more precipitation (including major snow storms) on the east coast of North America.
The IUCN has produced a video about Marine Protected Areas in the Mediterranean Sea, highlighting their role in providing ecosystem services, mitigating the impacts of climate change and increasing ecological and socioeconomic resilience of biodiversity and surrounding coastal communities. (h/t Sara Hutto)
I think it’s always great to pause now and then and reflect on progress we’ve made. I found time to do that this week when I watched the President’s weekly address (Doubling Our Clean Energy Funding to Address the Challenge of Climate Change). In a decade we’ve gone from this issue being “off the radar" to the agreement in Paris and having the President of the United States routinely remark about the climate crisis and our capacity to address it. We have a long way to go, but there is no doubt we started the journey.
The Mercury News reports on the impact of El Niño driven storms on beach and bluff erosion in Monterey and Pacific Grove. High waves in combination with high tides are removing a lot of sand from beaches along the coast. And it is good to remember that El Niño is a global phenomenon: Reuters reports on the impact of drought on livestock and people in Zimbabwe, and on agriculture in Zambia affected by El Niño.
The Carbon Brief has an interesting interview with Myles Allen and Friederike Otto of Oxford University about the attribution of extreme events. They point out how varied their results are (about half show no influence of increased concentrations of greenhouse gases), and that climate change is making some extreme events less likely (e.g., springtime flooding in England driven by snowmelt).
Inside Climate News reports that the Omnibus budget bill passed by Congress and signed by the President included the administration’s new policies about flood protection that call for preparation for more frequent and intense floods in the future. The new policies are based on the President’s Executive Order No. 13690. The California Water Blog has a short article describing the restoration of the Consumnes River floodplain. And here’s a great op-ed in The Hill from Rep Cohen (D-Tenn) using the recent flooding in the midwest to argue for the need to mitigate carbon emissions.
I’ve noted recently how the retreat of specific glaciers are serving as iconic indicators of a changing climate for specific communities where these glaciers have been fixed components of the environment. These include Lyell Glacier in the Sierras, Walker Glacier in Nevada, and now the AP reports on the retreat of the Arikaree Glacier in the mountains above Boulder, CO.
The New York Times reports what is no surprise I’m sure to BAECCC participants: 2015 was the hottest year on record. Here’s a brief addendum from RealClimate.org. AP has a concise story about the difference between ground-based thermometer measurements and high-altitude temperature estimate from satellites. The latter dataset is receiving a lot of attention recently as Senator Cruz is using these data to claim there “has been no global warming in the last 18 years."
The Washington Post reports on the mass death of Common Murres in Prince William Sound from starvation. There is much speculation that the unusually warm water in this part of Alaska is impact the bird’s food resources. And Reuters reports that a warm Indian Ocean also appears to reducing phytoplankton productivity and contributing to less productive fisheries.
Jeff Goodell has written an interesting analysis in Rolling Stone of the Paris Accord based upon his experience at the meeting, that includes the “play-by-play” of the final edits and adoption. BusinessGreen reports on the influence of corporate/business voices in Paris.
VOX has a video about sea level rise that focuses on the recent king tides in San Francisco (starring our own Marina Psaros and David Behar). And The New York Times has published an article about the San Francisco Estuary Institute’s Resilient Landscapes program, which focuses on the restoration of the Napa River.
On January 13th the San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority voted to place the San Francisco Bay Clean Water, Pollution Prevention, and Habitat Restoration Program, known as the Clean and Healthy Bay Ballot Measure, on the June 2016 ballot in all nine Bay Area counties. Passage of the measure will require approval by 2/3 of the total voters casting ballots cumulatively across all nine Bay Area counties in the June 2016 election.
The measure would raise $500 million over 20 years to fund critical Bay restoration and flood protection projects. This is a very exciting and important opportunity to further the goals of the BAECCC Strategic Plan, and related goals of many other organizations in the region.
The Press Release announcing the action indicates the broad support the measure enjoys among elected officials, business leaders, and environmental organizations around the region.
AndyBAECCC Brief: January 13, 2016
The New York Times reports on flooding in Northern England, which follows last year’s major flooding in the southern part of the country. Flood defenses were overwhelmed, the Army has been brought in to protect life and property, and a public debate about adapting to a world with more extreme storm events is underway. Meanwhile, USA today reports that the cost of the flooding along the Mississippi will exceed $1Billion according to NOAA. This El-Nino driven flooding is highly unusual for this time of year, with the Mississippi River at Cape Girardeau, Mo., setting an all-time flood record of 48.86 feet last week (breaking the record set during the floods of 1993). And here’s a perspective from St. Louis on the need to re-think river policy in that region in light of recent flooding, and an editorial about The Great Holiday Week Flood from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
The AP reports on land subsidence in the Central Valley due to groundwater pumping that is costing California billions of dollars.
The Washington Post reports on the impact hardening shorelines on wildlife habitat and ecological productivity in Chesapeake Bay. Grist reports on the shift in the Pacific Decadal Oscillation and the likelihood that the planet has entered a period more rapid heating than in the previous 20 years.
Climate Change News reports on the major impact the California drought is having on the state's forests. Using remote sensing techniques Stanford researchers have documented a loss of water content in the canopy of California forests that is “extremely threatening” to their long term health. In addition, the same article reports on the results of analysis by University of Delaware scientists that suggest under business-as-usual carbon emissions, 72% of the evergreen forests of the Southwest will be dead by 2050, with nearly 100% mortality by 2100. And the US Forest Service has announced (reports by Ecowatch here) that 2015 was the most severe fire season on record (as USFS had previously predicted), with over 10 million acres burned (approximately the combined acreage of Connecticut and Massachusetts). Half of this acreage burned was in Alaska, and the past season also saw the Olympic rainforest burn in the Paradise fire (Washington Post report here). The Vancouver Sun reports on the record fire year in Canada.
Robert Brulle of Drexel University has published an op-ed that does a great job summarizing the misinformation campaign about climate change that has been waged over the last 30 years. Brulle suggests that the coordinated efforts by conservative foundations and fossil fuel corporations to mislead the public has not only delayed action in an unethical manner, but undermined the functioning of our democracy. This piece in the Washington Post explores evolving Republican attitudes towards climate action.
Bloomberg reports that Arch Coal, the second largest coal-miner in the US, filed for bankruptcy on January 11, becoming the fourth major coal company to do so in the past year (others are Patriot Coal Corp., Walter Energy Inc. and Alpha Natural Resources Inc). The EIA credits climate policies targeting emissions and low natural gas prices for coal’s decline.
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