Posted on Categories ForestsTags , , ,

Sudden oak death rampant in Sonoma County after two wet winters, raising longterm fire risks

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Rejuvenated by two straight wet winters, the insidious pathogen that has killed more than 3 million trees in Central and Northern California in the past two decades reached a record level of infection this year, including major gains in Sonoma County.

The spread of sudden oak death could further transform North Coast forests already ravaged by drought and altered by climate change, increasing their vulnerability to catastrophic fire.

The lethal pathogen is spread largely by wind-blown water droplets and resides in bay laurel trees without harm but can infect and ultimately kill four species of oaks, the fire-resistant native hardwoods that cover coastal ranges and inland valleys and hillsides. Their displacement, in favor of bay trees and conifers, could raise fire risks across the region.

“If you’ve had sudden oak death for 20 years, my guess is the forests will be worse off,” said Matteo Garbelotto, director of the forest pathology and mycology laboratory at UC Berkeley, which oversees the annual sudden oak death survey.

Results of the latest survey showed a 10-fold increase over 2015 — from 3.8 percent to 37 percent this year — in the sudden oak death infection rate in an area that includes Healdsburg, Santa Rosa, Sonoma and Petaluma. That level of infection, which stunned researchers, was matched or exceeded in only three other parts of the 17-county survey area.

The infection rate doubled north of Healdsburg and increased slightly less west of Highway 101, where the infection is already rampant in the hills west of Sebastopol.

Read more at: Sudden oak death rampant in Sonoma County after two wet winters, raising longterm fire risks

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, Sustainable LivingTags , , , , ,

What a new report on climate science portends for the West

Maya L. Kapoor, HIGH COUNTRY NEWS

[But] the root causes of these symptoms remain societal and personal choices that lead the average American to burn more than twice as much fossil fuel as the global average. As California Gov. Jerry Brown and others have demonstrated, the West also could lead the way in addressing these root causes. See the website for the We Are Still In coalition.

The complexity of climate change means it’s hard to trace simple lines from cause to effect in daily life, much less plan for the future. That’s one reason the federal government updates its National Climate Assessment every four years — to provide lawmakers, policymakers and citizens with the information they need to plan everything from urban infrastructure, to insurance programs, to disaster readiness. After the third NCA came out in 2014, the world experienced three of the warmest years on record. In the same time the United States, along with 167 other signatories, agreed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to keep global temperatures below a dangerous tipping point.

But after last December’s presidential election, the odds of the U.S. willingly contributing to international climate change solutions dwindled. At this year’s United Nations climate conference, the Trump administration — which previously announced plans to withdraw from the international climate agreement — says it will promote fossil fuels and nuclear energy.

All of which makes the fourth NCA seem even more urgent. After all, the U.S. emits more greenhouse gases per person each year than almost every other country in the world. Last week, the government released the first part of its 2018 assessment. Focusing on the science of climate change, the report describes how greenhouse gas emissions are affecting the U.S. already and will continue to do so in future if we continue on the current trajectory.

Here are the takeaways for the West:

Read more at: What a new report on climate science portends for the West — High Country News

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, WildlifeTags , , ,

First freeze of winter coming ever later

Seth Borenstein, ASSOCIATED PRESS

Related story: Misplaced monarchs stuck too far north

Winter is coming … later. And it’s leaving ever earlier.

Scientists say it is yet another sign of the changing climate, and that it has good and bad consequences for the nation. There could be more fruits and vegetables — and also more allergies and pests.

“I’m happy about it,” said Karen Duncan of Streator, Illinois. Her flowers are in bloom because she’s had no frost this year yet, just as she had none last year at this time either. On the other hand, she said just last week it was too hot and buggy to go out — in late October, near Chicago.

The trend of ever later first freezes appears to have started around 1980, according to an analysis by The Associated Press of data from 700 weather stations across the U.S. going back to 1895 compiled by Ken Kunkel, a meteorologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Centers for Environmental Information.

Read more at: Science Says: Jack Frost nipping at your nose ever later

Posted on Categories Climate Change & EnergyTags , , ,

Op-Ed: It’s a fact: climate change made Hurricane Harvey more deadly 

Michael Mann, THE GUARDIAN

What can we say about the role of climate change in the unprecedented disaster that is unfolding in Houston with Hurricane Harvey? There are certain climate change-related factors that we can, with great confidence, say worsened the flooding. What we know so far about tropical storm Harvey Read more Sea level rise attributable to climate change – some of which is due to coastal subsidence caused by human disturbance such as oil drilling – is more than half a foot (15cm) over the past few decades (see here for a decent discussion). That means the storm surge was half a foot higher than it would have been just decades ago, meaning far more flooding and destruction.

In addition to that, sea surface temperatures in the region have risen about 0.5C (close to 1F) over the past few decades from roughly 30C (86F) to 30.5C (87F), which contributed to the very warm sea surface temperatures (30.5-31C, or 87-88F).

There is a simple thermodynamic relationship known as the Clausius-Clapeyron equation that tells us there is a roughly 3% increase in average atmospheric moisture content for each 0.5C of warming. Sea surface temperatures in the area where Harvey intensified were 0.5-1C warmer than current-day average temperatures, which translates to 1-1.5C warmer than “average” temperatures a few decades ago. That means 3-5% more moisture in the atmosphere.

That large amount of moisture creates the potential for much greater rainfalls and greater flooding. The combination of coastal flooding and heavy rainfall is responsible for the devastating flooding that Houston is experiencing.

Not only are the surface waters of the Gulf of Mexico unusually warm right now, but there is a deep layer of warm water that Harvey was able to feed upon when it intensified at near record pace as it neared the coast. Human-caused warming is penetrating down into the ocean. It’s creating deeper layers of warm water in the Gulf and elsewhere.

Read more at: It’s a fact: climate change made Hurricane Harvey more deadly | Michael E Mann | Opinion | The Guardian

Posted on Categories Climate Change & EnergyTags , , , , , ,

Scientists fear Trump will supress new climate report

Lisa Friedman, THE NEW YORK TIMES

Read the draft of the Climate Change Report.

The average temperature in the United States has risen rapidly and drastically since 1980, and recent decades have been the warmest of the past 1,500 years, according to a sweeping federal climate change report awaiting approval by the Trump administration.

The draft report by scientists from 13 federal agencies, which has not yet been made public, concludes that Americans are feeling the effects of climate change right now. It directly contradicts claims by President Trump and members of his cabinet who say that the human contribution to climate change is uncertain, and that the ability to predict the effects is limited.

“Evidence for a changing climate abounds, from the top of the atmosphere to the depths of the oceans,” a draft of the report states. A copy of it was obtained by The New York Times.

The authors note that thousands of studies, conducted by tens of thousands of scientists, have documented climate changes on land and in the air. “Many lines of evidence demonstrate that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse (heat-trapping) gases, are primarily responsible for recent observed climate change,” they wrote.

The report was completed this year and is a special science section of the National Climate Assessment, which is congressionally mandated every four years. The National Academy of Sciences has signed off on the draft report, and the authors are awaiting permission from the Trump administration to release it.

Read more at: Scientists Fear Trump Will Dismiss Blunt Climate Report – The New York Times

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, Climate Change & EnergyTags , , ,

Sonoma County’s Gravenstein apple crop a mixed bag this year

Robert Digitale, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Apple farmer Lee Walker also has noticed more falling fruit this year. He and other farmers speculate the numerous hot days this summer may be partly to blame.

“Normally we get maybe one” hot spell per summer that hovers around 100 degrees, he said. However, this year there have been several heat waves.

The Gravenstein apple crop is a mixed bag this season for Sonoma County farmers.

As they gear up for the typically short harvest, some apple farmers said they expect a good crop of the red-and-green streaked fruit, an iconic but fairly delicate local variety and the earliest to be picked in the orchards around Sebastopol.

But others report their gravs suffered from long spring rains during bloom or from prolonged heat this summer.

Joe Dutton, an apple and grape grower outside Graton, said that this season, one block of trees in an orchard shows plenty of fruit, while another nearby block didn’t fare as well.

“The microclimates are for sure showing what they can do,” said Dutton, who farms grapes and apples at Dutton Ranch with his brother, Steve Dutton. Joe Dutton called the farm’s Gravenstein crop “spotty” and advised consumers to get fresh gravs soon because “they will not last long.”

The west county is gearing up for apple season, where for decades the Gravenstein has been a staple in juices and pies.

Apples remain one of the county’s million-dollar crops, though the value lags far behind such areas as livestock, nursery products, eggs, dairy and wine. Last year, the Gravenstein crop amounted to nearly $1.6 million, while the value of late variety apples, such as Jonathans and Golden Delicious, totaled almost $3.9 million.

Read more at: Sonoma County’s Gravenstein apple crop a mixed bag this year | The Press Democrat

Posted on Categories Climate Change & EnergyTags , , ,

It’s like it never left: Another El Niño may be on the way

Henry Fountain, THE NEW YORK TIMES

Less than a year after one of the strongest El Niños on record, forecasters see an increasing possibility that another will begin later this year.

There is no word yet on how strong a new El Niño might be, but even a mild one could affect weather patterns around the world. Among the potential effects are wetter conditions across the southern United States, including Southern California; a drier Midwest; and drought in parts of Africa, Asia and South America.

An El Niño can also influence global temperatures that are already rising because of greenhouse gas emissions. The strong El Niño of 2015-16 contributed to those years’ being the two warmest on record.

An El Niño occurs when warm water in the equatorial Pacific shifts, creating an immense warm zone in the central and eastern Pacific. This adds heat and moisture to the air, releasing energy that affects the high-altitude winds known as jet streams that circle the planet.

Read more at: It’s Like It Never Left: Another El Niño May Be on the Way – The New York Times

Posted on Categories WaterTags , , , ,

Wet winter banishes Northern California drought, fills North Bay reservoirs

Nick Rahaim, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Rain storms this winter have swelled water in Lake Sonoma to near-record levels, submerging once-dry boat ramps, repeatedly flooding the dockside marina and banishing the bath tub rings that for years were a telltale sign of the state’s prolonged and withering drought.

Only in the El Niño winter of 1995 did the reservoir in northwestern Sonoma County — the North Bay’s largest, created behind Warm Springs Dam in 1982 — rise higher than it did early this week, when it topped 125 percent of its capacity, with enough water to cover 300,000 football fields 1-foot-deep. The bountiful supply is more than twice the volume of water held in the lake in November 2014, amid the five-year drought that forced conservation of drinking water and cut into recreational opportunities for boaters and others.

The outlook now could hardly be more different.

With torrents of runoff coming into Lake Sonoma and Lake Mendocino, the Russian River’s smaller reservoir to the north, dam managers are now cranking up their releases to preserve room for additional storms. Another front is expected to arrive Wednesday night.

“We’re releasing a lot of water like we’re supposed to — we need to keep space open for the next big storm,” said Mike Dillabough, chief of Operations and Readiness division for the United States Army Corps of Engineers’ San Francisco Division. “But we’re told it’s burgeoning on a record year.”

Read more at: Wet winter banishes Northern California drought, fills North Bay reservoirs | The Press Democrat

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, WaterTags , ,

California drought is made worse by global warming, scientists say 

Justin Gillis, THE NEW YORK TIMES

Global warming caused by human emissions has most likely intensified the drought in California by 15 to 20 percent, scientists said on Thursday, warning that future dry spells in the state are almost certain to be worse than this one as the world continues to heat up.

Even though the findings suggest that the drought is primarily a consequence of natural climate variability, the scientists added that the likelihood of any drought becoming acute is rising because of climate change. The odds of California suffering droughts at the far end of the scale, like the current one that began in 2012, have roughly doubled over the past century, they said.

“This would be a drought no matter what,” said A. Park Williams, a climate scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University and the lead author of a paper published by the journal Geophysical Research Letters. “It would be a fairly bad drought no matter what. But it’s definitely made worse by global warming.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also reported Thursday that global temperatures in July had been the hottest for any month since record-keeping began in 1880, and that the first seven months of 2015 had also been the hottest such period ever. Heat waves on several continents this summer have killed thousands of people.

Read more at: California Drought Is Made Worse by Global Warming, Scientists Say – The New York Times

Posted on Categories Sustainable Living, WaterTags , , , ,

Don’t count on El Niño, rain could miss Northern California altogether

CBS SF-BAY-AREA

Don’t count on El Niño to end California’s historic drought. That’s the warning from one of California’s top water officials.

Felicia Marcus, chair of the State Water Resources Control Board, said El Niño could soak Los Angeles and miss Northern California altogether.

“Don’t count on El Niño,” said Marcus. “If we get an El Niño, worry about flooding and property damage, loss of life and all that.”

Marcus worries Northern Californians will back off their record-setting conservation because they keep hearing El Niño is coming to the rescue.

“We’ll take the water if it comes,” said Marcus. “I just don’t want folks to think they don’t have to conserve because El Niño will save us, or to not understand that a strong El Niño has a downside.”

Marquez says conservation remains the key. Fortunately, Californians exceeded the state’s water-saving targets in June. Some customers cut their consumption by more than 40 percent. She predicts the July statistics will be even better “because people get it, and their water agencies are helping them.”

Still, Marquez is optimistic Californians will weather this drought whether El Niño delivers or not. People just need to keep conserving.

“This is not your garden variety drought — not your mother’s drought, not your grandmother’s drought,” warns Marcus. “This is not only the drought of the century, this could be the drought of many millennia.”

Source: Don’t Count On El Niño, Rain Could Miss Northern California Altogether