Yes, Manmade Global Warming Is Worsening California’s Epic Drought

March 23, 2014 by admin  
Filed under Global Warming


By Joe Romm on

March 23, 2014 at 1:29 pm

California’s epic drought got even worse last week. The U.S. Drought Monitor reports that the area of California under moderate drought (or worse) rose from 94.6 percent of the state to a stunning 99.8 percent. The area under extreme or exceptional drought rose from 65.9 to 71.8 percent, encompassing the entire agriculture-rich Central Valley

Back in January, we interviewed 8 of the leading climate and drought experts in the country, who explained in great detail how climate change is worsening California’s epic drought in multiple ways. As I discussed in my 2011 literature review in the journal Nature — even in regions where climate change does not alter the amount of precipitation, it will have these effects:

What precipitation there is will probably come in extreme deluges, resulting in runoff rather than drought alleviation. Warming causes greater evaporation and, once the ground is dry, the Sun’s energy goes into baking the soil, leading to a further increase in air temperature…. Finally, many regions are expected to see earlier snowmelt, so less water will be stored on mountain tops for the summer dry season.

The president’s science advisor John Holdren made precisely the same points in a recent paper.

These points are disputed by very few. So why is there any confusion? A relatively small subset of experts are focused very narrowly on the issue of whether global warming caused a reduction in precipitation — but they generally fail to make clear how narrow their perspective is. NOAA’s Martin Hoerling did this in a recent New York Times piece, asserting “At present, the scientific evidence does not support an argument that the drought there is appreciably linked to human-induced climate change.”

Now, in fact, there is science supporting the argument that the reduction in precipitation is directly linked to human-induced climate change, specifically Arctic ice loss. I broke that story last June (see here) and updated it again in March.

But even setting aside the precipitation issue, our leading scientists have repeatedly made clear that global warming is worsening the drought. In a letter to the NY Times, three top drought experts — Peter Gleick, Jonathan Overpeck, and Connie Woodhouse — explain that the issue of what “caused” the drought “is the wrong question to ask”:

The current drought has certainly been exacerbated by climate change for one simple reason: Temperatures in California are now higher today, as they are globally. This alone increases water demand by crops and ecosystems, accelerates snowpack loss, and worsens evaporation from reservoirs. There are other complicating effects, but the influence of higher temperatures on drought is already real and cannot be ignored.

We are now unambiguously altering the climate, threatening water supplies for human and natural systems. This is but one example of how even today we are paying the cost of unavoidable climate changes.

As if to underscore this point, last week NOAA released its climate analysis of the U.S. winter, reporting:

California had its warmest winter on record…. The California winter temperature was 48.0°F, 4.4°F above the 20th century average, far exceeding the previous record, set in 1980/81, by 0.8°F.

And as Tamino explains, in California, “If we look at an actual measure of drought — the Palmer Drought Severity Index, or PDSI — then there is a decreasing trend (which means, toward more and/or more extreme drought) which is statistically significant.”

Finally, our favorite climate videographer Peter Sinclair has interviewed a variety of scientists on this subject in yet another must-see video:

Article source: http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2014/03/23/3417814/global-warming-california-drought/

Fukushima radiation found in California milk, fruit, vegetables

May 28, 2011 by admin  
Filed under Toxic Spills

radioactive

Commentary by Steven Hoffman

As the crippled reactors in Japan continue to emit radiation into the environment, the risk grows that it will appear in our food. Radiation has already been detected in trace amounts in milk across the U.S., and in strawberries, kale and other vegetables in California.

“The Swiss government Wednesday decided to exit nuclear energy, phasing out the country’s existing nuclear plants and seeking alternative energy sources to meet Switzerland’s energy needs, following widespread security concerns in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan.”  – Dow Jones, May 25, 2011

“We believe we can show those countries who decide to abandon nuclear power—or not start using it—how it is possible to achieve growth, creating jobs and economic prosperity while shifting the energy supply toward renewable energies.”  – Chancellor Angela Merkel when announcing on May 30 that Germany would abandon nuclear power by 2022.

Nuclear energy is clean…until it isn’t.

The emerging reality of the ongoing nuclear reactor crisis in Fukushima, Japan—now in its third month after a devastating earthquake and tsunami caused nuclear explosions at the plant 150 miles north of Tokyo—is that it is not under control at all. Three of the six reactors are in meltdown. The crippled reactors are acting like a huge dirty bomb, emitting significant quantities of radioactive isotopes that are, in fact, contaminating our air, water, soil and food in a steady stream that may continue for a long time.

And it’s not just affecting Japan, though they’re certainly getting the worst of it. Since the accident on March 12, radioactive fallout from Fukushima has been spreading to the U.S. and across the northern hemisphere. Elevated levels of radiation caused by the meltdowns in Japan have been detected in drinking water across the country, in rainwater, in soil, and in food grown on U.S. farms.

The mainstream media is not really reporting on this. Since the initial weeks of the accident, there has been a disturbing silence. Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the utility that owns and operates the reactors, and the government of Japan have handled public relations around this monumental disaster about as well as BP handled the Gulf oil spill last summer, and they are losing credibility fast. The radiation has leaked much faster than TEPCO’s disclosure of information related to the crisis; it’s only now that we know that three of the six reactors at the plant are in full meltdown. One of the meltdowns occurred within hours of the accident on March 12, but was not revealed until May 15, more than two months later.

Crisis, What Crisis?

In announcing the news, TEPCO admitted that it did not want the public to know the extent of the accident early on to avoid panic. They continue to downplay the time it will take to get the reactors under control and the threat this unprecedented crisis presents to our food, health and environment. While TEPCO has given a time estimate of six to nine months to control the reactors, on May 29 a senior TEPCO official admitted that it may be impossible to stabilize the crippled plant by the beginning of 2012. One U.S. official, John Kelly, deputy assistant secretary for nuclear reactor technologies at the U.S. Energy Department, told the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in late May that the Fukushima reactors are still in grave danger and may continue to vent radioactive steam for a year or more, according to the Washington Post.

With the reactors in meltdown, TEPCO employees are racing to avoid a potential “China Syndrome” as superhot nuclear fuel melts down through holes burned into the steel and concrete containment vessels into the earth, thus liberating it into the environment.

Additionally, highly toxic radioactive iodine, cesium, strontium, plutonium and other toxic man-made radionuclides have leaked unabated since March 12 into the ocean and atmosphere. The radiation is contaminating large areas of Japan. Monitoring the ocean around the Fukushima plant, Greenpeace reported on May 26 that the contamination is spreading over a wide area and accumulating in sea life, rather than simply dispersing like the Japanese authorities claimed would happen.

Also, radiation continues to blow in a steady stream across the Pacific Ocean toward North America, following the course of the jet stream in the atmosphere, and major currents in the ocean that flow from Japan to America. It took less than a month for radioactive iodine and cesium from the Fukushima nuclear accident to first show up in U.S. milk, and it continues to be detected in trace amounts in milk produced in California, one of the only states conducting any kind of testing for radiation in food.

- Next page: Independent Tests Indicate Radiation Is Entering the U.S. Food Chain

More on nuclear power:

Article source: http://redgreenandblue.org/2011/06/01/fukushima-radiation-found-in-california-milk-fruit-vegetables/

California’s Marine Life Gets New Protections

January 6, 2011 by admin  
Filed under Protecting Habitats

Californias marine habitats have received a big boost from new regulations which have banned or restricted fishing across a range of about 350 square miles. The new regulations come ten years after the creation of the California Marine Life Protection Act. This law was passed because of the degradation of various marine habitats, to the point where life might not have been sustainable in those habitats. What follows is an interview about the new conservation regulations with Zack Bradford, an ocean policy analyst with the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

The California Fish and Game Commission recently restricted fishing in 49 areas of Californias coastal waters. Why did they do this?

The Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) that have now been designated along the Central Coast, North Central Coast and South Coast regions of California are not a blanket ban on fishing; only some of these MPAs are fully-protected marine reserves where fishing is prohibited. These MPAs are designated depending on the degree of restrictions as either State Marine Reserves (SMRs), which prohibit commercial and recreational fishing; State Marine Conservation Areas (SMCAs), which generally allow some form of commercial or recreational take; State Marine Parks (SMPs), which may allow recreational fishing but generally do not permit commercial fishing; and State Marine Recreational Management Areas (SMRMAs), which may limit or restrict take of marine resources.

The MPAs along Californias coast were created in order to protect Californias living marine resources its fish, shellfish, kelp, and other marine life in perpetuity, not only to allow the recovery of certain fish populations, but to also protect entire ecosystems for future generations of Californians.

What species live in these now protected areas, and why do they need protection?

The number of species living in these protected areas is almost too many to count. But its not the individual species that were the driver for creating these MPAs; these MPAs were designed to protect the entire ecosystem. Thats why these areas restrict take of all marine life, not just certain species. That being said, there are a number of fish species in California, most notably many species of rockfish, that have been depleted over the years, and which will benefit from these protected areas. Setting aside areas where these fish are safe from fishing will allow populations to rebound as they will allow fish to get older and larger, and thus produce more young young which will spread to areas outside the reserves.

What are some of the worst threats to Californias marine life?

The threats facing our ocean today are almost too many to count; they include things like overfishing, coastal development, pollution, habitat damage, and of course climate change. Of these, climate change may prove to be the worst threat to Californias coastal waters and oceans around the world.

How significant is the ban, and how will it be enforced?

For the South Coast Study Region, the Marine Protected Areas cover approximately 8 percent of the regions state waters (not including the MPAs around the Channel Islands with those MPAs the total percentage is 15 percent). About 4.9 percent of state waters in the region are now no-take areas (11.7 percent with the Channel Islands MPAs). Compliance with the restrictions of each MPA will be enforced by the California Department of Fish and Game.

Article source: http://www.care2.com/greenliving/californias-marine-life-gets-new-protections.html