Southern California environment news and trends

L.A.’s Car-free Mad Man: Vincent Kartheiser

If you’re a car-free Angeleno who doesn’t miss an episode of Mad Men, you’ll love NY Times’ profile of Vincent Kartheiser, a.k.a. Pete Campbell in AMC’s Mad Men. The character may be kind of creepy — but the actor himself sounds like a very down to earth guy into a simple, car-free, and care-free lifestyle that could make many eco-minded L.A. inhabitants green with envy!

Forgetting that walking is actually a convenient way of getting around compact urban neighborhoods, Tricia Romano’s NY Times piece opens by saying mass transit is Kartheiser’s “only” mode of transportation. From there, Kartheiser shows the reporter how he gets around town via Metro — whistling and gliding down the stairs to the Metro Red Line station, talking car-free travel with a fellow imbiber at Gold Room in the Echo Park, and explaining that the transit ride to the Mad Men set gives him time to read, do puzzles, and go over lines.


UC Irvine researchers see the sea, and more of it, in satellite images

A team of scientists - led by researchers at UC Irvine - has made new estimations of sea level rise from freshwater flowing into the world's oceans.

Jay Famiglietti, UC Irvine Earth system science professor and principal investigator on the study, says rivers and melting polar ice fed 18 percent more water into the world's oceans by 2006. That's an average annual rise of 1.5 percent.

"In general, more water is good," Famiglietti said in a UC Irvine-penned release. "But here's the problem: Not everybody is getting more rainfall, and those who are may not need it. What we're seeing is exactly what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted - that precipitation is increasing in the tropics and the Arctic Circle with heavier, more punishing storms. Meanwhile, hundreds of millions of people live in semiarid regions, and those are drying up."


Travel green, win prizes in October


Need an incentive to get out of your car? Then I hope you love shopping at Best Buy — because this week you have not just one, but two chances to win a $100 gift card to your favorite store by thinking outside your personal vehicle.

Your first chance to win comes thanks to Rideshare Week 2010, which began today and continues until Fri., Oct. 8. While ridesharing implies sharing a vehicle, Metro’s letting anyone but solo drivers join in the fun. Simply pledge online to walk, bike, ride public transit, van or carpool — or even telecommute. For your e-promise, you’ll be entered to win dozens of prizes, including a $100 gift card to Best Buy, a Flip cam, tickets to Disneyland and other local attractions — and rather ironically, $50 gas cards.

Metro will have a hard time holding e-pledgers to their promises — but a second green commuting contest requires photographic proof of its entrants. The UCLA Transit Photo Project invites anyone living in the greater L.A. area to photo document their trips on public transit for a chance to win a $100 Best Buy gift card — and one of 3 smaller gift cards to Trader Joe’s or Starbucks.


Morning greens: Malibu's new park, L.A.'s green street, and cleaner cars

Car sharing will get easier in California, since Governor Schwarzenegger signed AB 1871 into law. “The new law means Californians can contribute their cars to carsharing pools without invalidating their insurance policies,” reports GOOD.

Relatedly, Car fuel standards could be 47 to 62 mpg by 2025 if the Obama Administration’s goals become reality, reports the LA Times.

California’s renewable energy must get stored, since Governor Schwarzenegger signed AB 2514 into law. Reports the NY Times: “The state will now require utilities (first, investor-owned utilities, and later, publicly owned ones) to have storage capacity on hand that can quickly be put into use when the wind dies down.”

Los Angeles got a new green street! Riverdale Avenue in Elysian Valley has a parkway swale planted with native vegetation and rainwater “catch basins designed to filter pollutants before infiltrating water into the earth,” according to Joe Linton of L.A. Creek Freak.


Check your bucket: climate changes could widen Lake Mead's bathtub ring

Seen Lake Mead lately? The bathtub ring - what locals call the white walls of the canyon covered with mineral deposits - keeps growing taller. If UCLA researchers are right, a confluence of natural circumstances will continue to make the bathtub ring grow - and that spells trouble for states that depend on Colorado River water.

UCLA's Glen MacDonald and a former graduate student of his, Abbie Tingstad, went to the Uinta Mountains region in northeastern Utah to examine tree rings in that region. Studying the rings of Pinyon Pines, they reconstructed about a millenium of snowpack and river flow information for the region - whose climate is representative of the upper Colorado River.

They compared their data to three already-available climate signifiers - variations in sea surface temperature. One was records for La Nina - a climate phenomenon where sea surface temperatures at the equator in the Pacific have cooled over time as much as 18 degrees or more (before cycling back upward). The second was records for the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, a monthly indicator of variable sea surface temperature in the North Pacific. The third was records for the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation - another sea surface temperature measurement that's variable, this one over a 20-40 year period.