Southern California environment news and trends

NASA's "Age of Aquarius" - and the future of climate satellites

So, NASA sent a new satellite up at Vandenburg Air Force Base today here in Southern California. The Aquarius observatory - their materials promise - will, within a few months, "collect as many sea surface salinity measurements as the entire 125-year historical record from ships and buoys." They expect to cover the earth's surface once every seven days. It's so accurate it can measure a pinch of salt in a gallon of water. Aquarius has research related goals, too: 

The water cycle - 86% of global evaporation and 78% of global precipitation occur over the ocean; thus SSS is the key variable for understanding how fresh water input and output affects ocean dynamics

Ocean circulation - With temperature, salinity determines seawater density and buoyancy, driving the extent of ocean stratification, mixing, and water mass formation

Climate - As computer models evolve, Aquarius will provide the essential SSS data needed to link the two major components of the climate system: the water cycle and ocean circulation


Carbon-cutting cap and trade plan on pause; Brown to weigh in on California's global warming plans?

We haven't heard too much yet from Governor Jerry Brown on his climate plans, other than that, you know, he backs having some, in general. But that's probably going to change now that a San Francisco Superior Court judge has ruled that - while most of AB 32 plans can go forward - the state needs to do a real, comprehensive, deep analysis of its centerpiece plans to cut carbon to 1990 levels by2020 under AB 32.

California chose cap-and-trade over...well, I guess over a carbon tax, though there was little to no meaningful public debate about that. Which was a problem for the Environmental Justice advisors to the state's climate change policies. They've been beating the same drum since they were convened in 2007. Their concern has been the potential benefits and harms to poor, vulnerable, and often racially diverse communities of carbon reduction plans. In 2008, AB 32 EJ advisory committee chair Angela Johnson Meszaros wrote to CARB chair Mary Nichols


Jay Carson goes global with C40-Clinton Climate Intiative

The one-time deputy mayor of Los Angeles has hit the big time. Jay Carson worked for the Villaraigosa administration for just over a year, leaving last fall. That's around when tthe Clinton Climate Initiative got its peanut butter all up in the chocolate of C40, a group of large cities working together to cut their emissions (well, someone's got to do it). So now Carson is the chief executive of the Reese's peanut butter cup that is the C40-Clinton Climate Intiative. And with a budget of $15 mil and 70 people working for him, Carson recently rated a Q&A in Fortune magazine.

Working for the city of LA seems to have made a strong impression on Carson. He told Fortune cities don't have the luxury of throwing around a lot of talk on climate change; instead, he said, they have to act: 

Mayor Villaraigosa was the genius behind this. He said I can get four or five of my mayoral colleagues and we're 100 million people. I love Montana, but instead of trying to get Montana, let's get a few like-minded mayors around the world on board to really take action. And then bring that action to scale with other similar cities. What worked in Moscow may not work in Los Angeles, but sometimes in surprising ways the policies are transferable.


A change in wind patterns could speed sea level rise in California. Is anyone ready?

Scripps Oceanography researchers say they've uncovered evidence suggesting that a changing wind pattern could raise sea levels along California's coast. Peter Bromirski is an associate project scientist at Scripps. His study, published in a journal of the American Geophysical Union (subscription required), points out that worldwide, sea level rise boomed upward 50% during the nineties:

Global sea level rose during the 20th Century at a rate of about two millimeters (.08 inches) per year. That rate increased by 50% during the 1990s to a global rate of three millimeters (.12 inches) per year, an uptick frequently linked to global warming. Rising sea level has consequences for coastal development, beach erosion and wetlands inundation. Higher sea levels could cause increased damage to coastal communities and beaches, especially during coincident high tides, storm surges and extreme wave conditions.


Deepwater Horizon: oil impacts in Louisiana, science interest for California

In the future, I'll be bringing you a blog entry about water in California on Wednesdays. But yesterday I was winging my way to the coast...the Gulf Coast. New Orleans, Louisiana, where I lived before I came to work at KPCC.

I was en route to a science seminar here about emerging science from the spill: but even before I got here, I checked back into a Louisiana tradition: eating locally. As reported in the Times-Picayune in December, trained toxicologists are facing off over whether local seafood is a good idea. Honestly, it never crossed my mind NOT to eat post-spill oysters at Katie's in Mid-City New Orleans. Still fine for now.

This isn't just a boondoggle though. Some part of what we're talking about here centers on how hydrocarbons behave in the water, particularly deep in the water, and particularly after dispersants including Corexit were shot into the well and spread on the sea last year. California's already come up: even after talking to UCSB researchers last year about seep science and chemical oceanography research, I was surprised to learn that two-thirds of naturally seeping oil in US waters is here in the Gulf of Mexico. The other third is in Santa Barbara.