‘Terns’ of ‘Snow Drought’

October 4, 2016

SurrealPaintingOvercast this early Tuesday on California’s north coast, maybe some sunshine later.

Last Friday, the state’s water year 2016 ended, and no surprise, drought continues.
Via Sci-Tech Today on Monday:

“If you had to put a one-word descriptor on this water year, it would be ‘dry,'” said Doug Carlson, a spokesman for the California Department of Water Resources.
“The [precipitation] indexes have been flat-lining since June,” he said. “If this was a body, it would be in cardiac arrest.”

(Illustration found here).

The water year — Oct. 1 thru Sept. 30 — hydrologically speaking, was not real-good, despite the fabled El Nino effect, and even parts of the northern Sierra Nevada receiving about 116-percent of normal precipitation.
Yet the BIG ‘but’ —

According to water officials, warm temperatures melted a below-average snow pack earlier than usual.
And since the water contained in California’s snow pack measured only about 85-percent of average this spring, the state actually had suffered a “snow drought.”

Weird shit.
Yet with climate change, warming should naturally mean,’weird.’
During the last couple of weeks, I’ve gathered some ‘weird’ — and not in a funny way — news stories, indicating a shifting world being shifted.

First from the Russian Arctic, where early last month five scientists got trapped by more than a dozen polar bears on Troynoy Island, north of eastern Russia and inside the Arctic Circle (McClatchy):

A spokesperson for the group told TASS that climate change was in part to blame for the siege.
“The bears usually go to other islands, but this year they didn’t. The ice receded quickly and the bears didn’t have time to swim to other islands,” she said.
“There’s no food . . . so they came up to the station.”

They were rescued eventually, scaring off the bears with flares.

In our region, though, still in colder climes, researchers have discovered a sign of species reaction to climate change — via the Guardian last week:

In July, researchers in Cape Krusenstern national monument on the north-west coast of Alaska were startled to discover a nest containing Caspian terns on the gravelly beach of a lagoon.
The birds were an incredible 1,000 miles further north than the species had been previously recorded.
“There was plenty of shock, it is a very unusual situation,” said Dr Martin Robards, Arctic program director at the Wildlife Conservation Society, which found the nest.
“We checked with Caspian tern experts and they were all very surprised they were this far north. We get Arctic terns here but these terns are much bigger, they really stand out.”
The terns, usually found in Washington state, successfully bred and chicks have now flown the nest. While it remains to be seen whether Caspian terns will become ensconced long-term within the Arctic circle, the epic relocation is emblematic of how warming temperatures are causing a huge upheaval in the basic rhythms of Alaska’s environment.
Next week, scientists will gather at the White House’s first ever Arctic science meeting to deliver the confronting news.
“I’ve been up here 25 years and the amount of change that has occurred in Alaska is shocking,” said Robards.
“We’ve been focusing on things such as the temperature and sea ice here but now we are thinking ‘oh my God what is going on with the wildlife?’”
Alaska is warming at twice the rate of the rest of the US, with the winter temperature 6F (3.3C) warmer than it was 60 years ago.
Snow and ice has retreated, spring is coming earlier.
The landscape is changing and so are its residents.
“To be 1,000 miles further north attests to how much the globe has warmed,” said Terry Root, a biologist and senior fellow at Stanford University.
“Birds follow their physiology, nothing else. If they think they should move, they move. Alaska has warmed so much that it is causing havoc to a lot of nature.”

And remnants of what’s caused the warming is causing further shit.
A study published in Environmental Science & Technology in mid-September reported US rivers and streams are packed with microplastic debris, fragments, films, foams, and pellets (most prevalent in urban areas) to tiny fibers, and potentially originating from fishing line, nets, and synthetic textiles.
Details at Quartz, also last week — key points:

The most common debris throughout were the thin plastic fibers that come from textiles like clothing, carpet, and fishing gear, and which account for about 71 percent of the total plastic pollution in the samples.
The researchers could not pin down a single source for the plastic fibers; in the study, they note they did not find higher concentrations near cities, wastewater treatment plants, and other likely contributing sites.
That, in turn, suggests either multiple local sources or that the particles remain suspended in the water over long-distances.

The problem is worsening.
Microplastic concentrations in lakes and rivers now rival or exceed what’s been found in oceanic gyres, such as the infamous Great Pacific Garbage Patch, say the authors.
Yet removing microplastics from the water is virtually impossible.
“I think the best solution is to try and reduce the source,” said hydrologist Austin Baldwin of the U.S. Geological Survey, the study’s lead author in the publication Take Part.
Banning microbeads was a start, but, Baldwin said, that was “easy.”
Microbeads, after all, are a single component that can be taken out of the supply chain in one fell swoop.
“Stopping litter from breaking down and washing into the stream is a lot harder,” he said.
Other contributors to microplastic pollution—textiles, washing machines, fishing gear—are much more difficult to untangle from the products they come from, and there’s not yet easy way for treatment plants to filter out microplastic

And this past weekend, I came across one of the most-intense, yet really-close depiction of the subtle-horror of climate change — an interview segment from the Aaron Sorkin TV journalism-show, “The Newsroom,” and pessimism vs optimism concepts of the situation.
Most-alarming, but way-close to reality…I can’t/don’t understand how to embed video — see it here via YouTube.

Provoking thoughts of…

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