Posts Tagged: Climate Change
A $4.6 million grant to UC Merced and UC Irvine will help UC Agriculture and Natural Resources researchers develop new tools and methods for California land owners to better manage the state's forests, shrub lands and grasslands.
California's Strategic Growth Council agreed to fund the Innovation Center for Advancing Ecosystem Climate Solutions, a three-year program co-led by UC Merced Professor Roger Bales and UC Irvine Professor Michael Goulden. The money comes through California Climate Investments, a statewide initiative that puts billions of cap-and-trade dollars to work
The goals include reducing wildfire risk, improving long-term carbon sequestration and bolstering resilience in the face of climate change, with an emphasis on California's rural regions and low-income communities.
“Our part of the project is to work with stakeholders and identify areas where we can focus management practices to promote healthy forests, minimize wildfires, improve water security and increase carbon sequestration,” said Toby O'Geen, UC Cooperative Extension soil resource specialist at UC Davis.
“Right now, many of California's forests, shrub lands and grasslands are carbon sources, and we need to change them into carbon sinks,” said Bales, director of the Sierra Nevada Research Institute and distinguished professor of engineering. “Our research will address information bottlenecks to guide decision making, build local capacity for science-based land management and develop methods for translating benefits of land restoration into financing for land restoration.”
California's recent drought, tree die-offs, wildfires and rising temperatures all point to the necessity of improved forest stewardship, Goulden said.
“Officials in the state government and agencies recognize this need, but uncertainty over how to proceed has sometimes slowed progress,” he said.
Most of the work will be conducted by scientists at Merced and Irvine, but collaborators from UC Berkeley, UC Davis, Stanford University, San Diego State University and the University of California Division of Agricultural and Natural Resources, as well as state agencies, will play important roles.
“This research will enable UC Cooperative Extension advisors to provide better advice to land managers to reduce the severity of wildfires,” said Glenda Humiston, UC vice president for agriculture and natural resources. “Severe wildfires are not only releasing greenhouse gases, but polluting the air of many communities, aggravating the health of people in less-affluent, inland areas such as Tulare, Yuba and Mariposa counties.”
At UC Merced, an interdisciplinary group of researchers from two departments — Civil & Environmental Engineering and Management of Complex Systems — will collaborate with UC Cooperative Extension and engage with local stakeholders. The group will study and identify the most-effective land-management practices, in terms of water conservation, forest health, fire resistance and carbon capture.
“We will develop the spatial data and analysis tools to plan landscape restoration, develop local capacity for better managing the state's wildlands in a warming climate, and enumerate the greenhouse gas and other benefits from investments in land management,” Bales said.
Goulden, professor of Earth systems science, said UC Irvine researchers will use a big-data approach to analyze observations collected by satellites since the 1980s to measure the efficacy of thousands of past and ongoing forest treatments, while UC Merced takes a different approach.
“We will work with groups in rural communities to systematically evaluate how well, or poorly, our products can support decision making,” Bales said, “and then develop both implementation pathways and policy recommendations to better and more-quickly implement landscape-restoration and carbon-capture projects across the state.”
Because there are critical gaps in the understanding of carbon cycles, uptake by forests and negative feedback from climate change, this project initiative has been established to develop new knowledge through measurements and modeling. Researchers will synthesize the resulting data to produce actionable information for stakeholders.
Bales and Goulden agreed the Innovation Center will target low-risk, high-yield opportunities to reduce California's greenhouse-gas contributions.
Just a small improvement in management efficiency will have meaningful benefits — on the order of several million metric tons of CO2 per year, Goulden said.
The program will also benefit low-income communities in the state by reducing wildfire risk, which disproportionately impacts poorer areas in California by maintaining water quality through better vegetation management; by fostering tourism in disadvantaged locales; and by preparing students in these areas for careers in sustainability and climate resilience.
While scientific reports continue to mount confirming that global climate change is increasing temperatures, causing more frequent weather extremes and raising the sea level in California, UC Cooperative Extension is working to ensure the worst predictions are avoided and California residents and businesses will be able to adapt to the change.
Each year, a diverse group of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources academics and program implementation professionals meet to share and collect the latest climate change experiences, ideas, science and solutions. The team works with farmers across the state to improve production practices and minimize environmental impact, conduct agricultural and natural resources conservation research, and coordinate programs like California Naturalist and UC Master Gardener, which recruit and educate volunteers to reach out to communities statewide to extend research-based information.
Reaching real people
In 2019, extension practitioners explored new approaches to delivery of information and services. For example, the first speaker addressed the way climate change impacts may be viewed through the lens of African-American or First Nation experiences, influenced by poverty, historical trauma and even spirituality.
Theopia Jackson, clinical psychologist at Saybrook University in Oakland, encouraged the team to consider whether assisting Americans navigating the changing climate or suffering the consequences of extreme weather events have “the bandwidth to take in one more helping hand.” Jackson has a long history of providing therapy services, specializing in serving populations coping with chronic illness and complex trauma.
Jackson suggested helpers ask themselves, “Are we inadvertently causing more stress than good? Do I have a sense for what they are already dealing with before bringing something new into the community?”
Jackson said the conversation about climate change in many communities might be more productive focused less on whether climate change exists or not, and instead on how to “join with them around the human experience.”
“If I'm trying to ‘talk them into it,' I need to step back,” Jackson said. “The conversation could be about scarcity or lifestyle. We need to find a way to join and hope they will get it before we've done irreversible damage.”
The careful selection of terminology and approach in climate change conversations was also raised by Dan Sonke, director of sustainable agriculture for Campbell's Soup. The company's primary and best-known product is soup, but it owns other familiar brands, including Pepperidge Farms, Snyder Pretzels, Kettle Chips and Emerald Nuts.
In California, Sonke works closely with farmers producing fresh produce to be used in Campbell's products, particularly processing tomatoes. During his career, he also worked in Campbell's marketing, based on its “corporate purpose.”
“We make real food for real people,” says the Campbell's corporate purpose. “People love that our food fits their real lives, fuels their bodies, and feeds their souls. And they appreciate knowing what goes into our food, and why — so they can feel good about the choices they make, for themselves and their loved ones.”
Sonke was hired to increase the use of sustainable farming practices by the company's producers and help farmers apply for grant funding from the state to implement climate-smart irrigation practices. The company was able to track a 20 percent reduction in water use and document a significant reduction in the emission of nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas. The program is successful, but isn't driving their farmer communications or soup sales, Sonke said.
“Farmers don't think in terms of climate change, but they respond to what they know,” Sonke said. “Consumers don't respond to climate change adaptation in terms of what products they buy. They respect sustainability, but have no understanding of ‘sustainable agriculture' and ‘carbon sequestration.'”
Growing UCCE climate mitigation, adaptation and resilience programs
UC ANR is working on new ways to reach out to farmers and the public with information on climate change. Six community education specialists have been hired and four more are being recruited to work in counties around the state to help farmers access programs that will help them reduce greenhouse gas emissions on farms and dairies, build resilience to climate change and increase profit.
The Climate-Smart Farming Program is a collaborative effort with the California Department of Food and Agriculture focused on implementing on-farm solutions to improve soil health, nutrient management, irrigation management, on-farm composting and manure management.
The CDFA programs involved are:
- State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program
- Healthy Soils Program
- Alternative Manure Management Program
The new community education specialists are already deployed in Mendocino, Glenn, Yolo, Santa Cruz, Ventura and San Diego counties. The four positions under recruitment will serve Imperial, San Joaquin, Fresno and Kern counties. To get information about these programs, contact:
- Fresno County, UCCE advisor Dan Munk, email@example.com
- Glenn County, UCCE advisor Betsy Karle, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Imperial County, UCCE advisor Oli Bachie, email@example.com
- Kern County, UCCE advisor Brian Marsh, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Mendocino County, UCCE advisor Glenn McGourty, email@example.com
- San Diego County, UCCE advisor Laurent Ahiablame, firstname.lastname@example.org
- San Joaquin County, UCCE advisor Brent Holtz, email@example.com
- Santa Cruz County, UCCE advisor Mark Bolda, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Ventura County, UCCE advisor Ben Faber, email@example.com
- Yolo County, UCCE advisor Morgan Doran, firstname.lastname@example.org
To reach a broad swath of California residents with research-based information on climate change mitigation and adaptation, UC ANR's California Naturalist program is leveraging its well-established partnerships with formal and informal science education institutions across the state to create a legion of climate stewards. At the team meeting, CalNat coordinator Greg Ira announced that the California Naturalist program has hired an academic coordinator to develop curriculum that will allow existing partners to deliver the material as part of the California Naturalist program. The graduates of this California Naturalist course focused on climate change will be encouraged to engage in volunteer service that helps build community resilience to climate change. These include participation in local adaptation planning efforts, community and citizen science projects, or addressing issues of social justice. The coordinator begins Feb. 19.
Renata Brillinger of the California Climate Action Network shared optimistic thoughts about the opportunities for climate change mitigation, adaptation and resilience. In terms of politics, she said California leadership has accepted climate change as a settled matter and are supportive of programs to address the issue. At the federal level, it is not easy to talk about climate change, but “that will change,” she assured.
Brillinger said biodiversification of California is an exciting area for climate change adaptation. Research is needed to understand how to shift crop locations for future production, and determine where, for example, water-intensive crops or orchards with chill requirements should be grown. More information is needed, she said, on how healthy soil will relate to climate resilience in agriculture.
“We have to reinvest in extension and Resource Conservation Districts,” Brillinger said.
Other possible climate change outcomes in California may be returning farmland to less-intensive uses, such as grazing. Fallowing land was one way that the agriculture industry coped with the drought of 2011-16, and implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act – a direct result of the drought – is estimated to take 1 million acres of farmland out of production. This approach won't be a solution for all farmers and ranchers, said David Lile, UC Cooperative Extension natural resources advisor.
“Ranchers and farmers interested in long-term sustainability, keeping the farm in place, will need help to integrate competing forces,” Lile said. “Economics will not be the only driving force.”
Bigcone Douglas-fir is an evergreen conifer native to the mountains of Southern California. Repeated wildfires and drought are threatening the species' existence in its native range, reported Bettina Boxall in the Los Angeles Times.
The reporter visited a Santa Barbara County site peppered with tall, dead trees where UC Cooperative Extension fire specialist Max Moritz is studying the species' fate.
"You don't see anything," he said. "It has a fairly depressing quality to it, given the mortality and no regeneration."
The area was burned by the Zaca Fire 11 years ago, something the fire-resistant conifer can generally withstand. Moritz and research assistant Ryan Salladay found evidence that the trees survived the fire, but then died sometime later. They are trying to determine what did them in by recording the aspect of the slope, collecting tree core samples, measuring the water stress in living trees, looking for wildfire impacts, and checking for seedlings.
“The drought-following-fire issue is a total reshuffling of what might come back or survive,” Moritz said.
How they survived: Owners of the few homes left standing around Paradise, Calif., took critical steps to ward off wildfires
(Washington Post) Sarah Kaplan, Frances Stead Sellers, Nov. 30
…Though the United States spends upwards of $2 billion each year on fire suppression and billions more helping communities recover, the current budget for the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grant Program is just over $200 million — and it must address hurricanes, earthquakes and a host of other natural hazards as well as fires. Cal Fire provides grants for forest management and tree removal, but not structure modification.
The budget for the University of California Cooperative Extension program, which conducts fire research and outreach to homeowners, has been cut by almost half since 2000. There are now fewer than 20 extension advisers in forestry and fire serving a state with 40 million people and 15 million acres of public lands.
Opinion | To Help Prevent the Next Big Wildfire, Let the Forest Burn
(NY Times) Ash Ngu and Sahil Chinoy, Nov. 29
Before Euro-American settlement in the 1800s, fires burned about 1.5 million acres of forest each year, on average, according to an analysis of fire return intervals by Scott Stephens, a professor of fire science at the University of California, Berkeley. Skies were most likely smoky through much of the summer and fall, and most forests in California burned every five to 25 years from wildfires caused by lightning or Native American burning practices, he said.
Farmers make a “Romaine Recovery” after E. coli Outbreak
(NBC PalmSprings) Daytona Everett, Nov. 28
The FDA has now connected the Central Coast of California to 43 cases of E. coli across the country. However, romaine lettuce farmers in the Coachella Valley are just now bringing in their first winter harvest.
...The FDA now requires every package to “clearly and prominently label all individually packaged romaine products to identify growing region and harvest date for romaine; and to clearly and prominently label at the point of sale the growing region when it is now possible for romaine lettuce suppliers to label the package (e.g. individual unwrapped whole heads of romaine lettuce available in retail stores).”
“That also gets difficult because they harvest the lettuce and they stick a bunch of these in a box and then they go to a processing facility and you may be combining several different fields at once when you're processing that,” Milt Mcgiffen, an extension vegetable specialist from UC Riverside, said.
Wildfire, Landscapes and Debris Fields: Mapping Risks After Major Wildfire
(Capital Public Radio) Beth Duncan, Nov. 27
Geologist spend a lot of time creating landslide risk maps after a major wildfire happens. The slope of the landscape, amount of rainfall and underlying geology of an area all play a role in how likely an area might be affected.
Forestry Specialist William Stewart explains what geologists are concerned about as winter storms move through the areas hit by wildfire this year.
“After the wildfire, there's a lot of burnt logs and other things there, but what happens when it starts raining is it'll saturate the soil and you'll start to get soil movement. And once you get a fair bit of it moving down, it can pick up boulders and other things in the soil, and pull down whole trees. So a debris flow has both mud and water and big chunks of rocks and logs in there and that's what if it hits a bridge or a home, or commercial center, can just wipe it out. It's just a huge amount of force that just levels everything in its path.”
California Economic Summit Looks to Elevate Rural California
(AgNetWest) Brian German, Nov. 27
…“One of the things we really started digging into these last few years there, as part of our Working Landscapes Action Team and the summit as a whole, is this concept of there's two California's here,” said Vice President of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, Glenda Humiston. “You've got predominately coastal, large, urban areas here that are doing pretty well. But then you've got the rest of California that's still really hurting. High poverty, high unemployment, not the economic opportunities that they ought to have.”
Humiston explained that at last year's summit they were able to launch the Elevate Rural California initiative, with a goal of addressing three specific areas over the next few years. “Water infrastructure, biomass, high-value biomass opportunities I want to qualify that strongly, and then the broadband, particularly rural broadband,” Humiston noted.
Why There Are Challenges To Doing More Prescribed Burns As Part Of Forest Management
(NPR All Things Considered) Ezra David Romero, Nov. 27
…But can the use of prescribed burns be expanded?
Roger Bales with the Sierra Nevada Research Institute at UC Merced says yes. “They can be scaled up as long as we can provide the financing to do them,” Bales said. “As long as we do them in a way that doesn't degrade the air quality.”
…The cost of a prescribed burn varies depending on time of year and resources. Robert York with UC Berkeley's Blodgett Forest Research Station says the warmer and drier the climate, the more expensive a burn.
Still, York supports burning year-round. “If the conditions are good, let's have lots of burns going on in the Sierra Nevada,” he said.
Field Scouting Guide: Palmer Amaranth
(Growing Produce) Karli Petrovic, Nov. 27
This month's field scouting guide concentrates on Amaranthus palmeri S. Watson (Palmer amaranth). We've reached out to weed scientists to learn how to spot and treat this weed.
Our contributors are Lynn Brandenberger, Oklahoma State University; W. Carroll Johnson, III, Ph.D., USDA-ARS; Mohsen B. Mesgaran, Ph.D., University of California, Davis; and Lynn M. Sosnoskie, Ph.D., University of California Cooperative Extension.
Who is Responsible for Burned Trees After a Wildfire?
(NPR Morning Edition) Eric Whitney, Nov. 26
…SCOTT STEPHENS: I would be very nervous about big oaks and potential for them to come down because the oaks, a lot of times, have heart rot. They have rotten material inside the center. And a lot of times a smoldering fire can burn in there for days and days and days. I've been around oaks like that. And all of a sudden, a week later - boom - it comes down.
WHITNEY: The danger can persist a lot longer than a week, Stephens says, as burned trees that are strong now continue to deteriorate.
STEPHENS: Probably by year four, five, they start to really get less structurally sound. Then, of course, you get a wind event, big storms, and they start coming down in earnest. And by year 10, they're coming down a great deal.
California dairy program celebrates 20 years
DairyBusiness, Nov. 26
…Recognizing a need to respond and be proactive, a committee of dairy producers, government agency representatives, industry leaders, and university specialists gathered to create the California Dairy Quality Assurance Program (CDQAP), ensuring high-quality milk production and continuous improvement in environmental stewardship. It was also a prime opportunity to demonstrate the commitment of the California dairy industry to producing high quality, safe products, in an environmentally friendly, animal-care conscience manner. Initial funding was provided by the California Farm Bureau Federation, California Department of Food and Agriculture and the California Dairy Research Foundation (CDRF). Dr. Michael Payne, a University of California veterinary researcher was brought on board to direct the program and Dr. Deanne Meyer, University of California Cooperative Extension specialist, was enlisted to develop educational programs. Continued CDRF funding provided an important direct tie to dairy producers through check off dollars, and industry expertise.
Are Your Vineyards Smart Enough to Beat the Heat?
(Growing Produce) Matthew Fidelibus, Nov. 24
…A number of strategies can be considered to adapt to increasing temperatures. Small increases in temperature might be mitigated by employing various cultural practices including pruning, irrigation and fertilization, canopy management, and crop protectants, which may help reduce fruit exposure and reduce crop load.
Irrigation and fertilization can be used to help establish sufficient canopy shade before heat waves occur. The possibility of having overexposed fruit during heat waves should be considered when evaluating canopy management practices such as leafing and shoot positioning. Crop protectants such as particle films may provide protection for overexposed fruit.
Fighting fire with fire via ‘pyrosilviculture'
(Davis Enterprise) Jeannette Warnert, Nov. 21
…The event also raised awareness of “pyrosilviculture,” a new forest management term coined by UC fire scientist Rob York to emphasize the importance of fire in silviculture, the management of forests for wood.
Fixing state's fire problem: Costly, complex, next to impossible
(SF Chronicle) Kurtis Alexander, Nov. 21
…Bill Stewart, a forestry specialist at UC Berkeley, said that technology has helped fire scientists pinpoint areas where wind, heat, vegetation and other factors conspire to pose the greatest threats. It's just that the risk maps aren't being used to guide development.
“We need more than an academic paper here and there on wind,” Stewart said. “The number of windy days per year should help determine new zoning policy for planners.
Actually, Even California Says Trump Is Right About the Wildfires
(RealClear Politics) Betsy McCaughey, Nov. 21
President Donald Trump's critics are belittling him for not buying the politically correct narrative that global warming is to blame for the California wildfires. Instead, Trump correctly points to decades of mistakes by state and federal forest agencies that caused the woodlands to be become overly dense and blanketed with highly flammable dead wood and underbrush.
… This multifaceted approach is too much to put in a mere tweet. But University of California forest expert Yana Valachovic concedes that Trump's "general sentiment is correct."
Living on the Edge
(Slate Magazine) James B. Meigs, Nov. 20
…But the photos tell a different story. Within Paradise itself, the main fuel feeding the fire wasn't trees, nor the underbrush Trump suggested should have been raked up. It was buildings. The forest fire became an infrastructure fire. Fire researchers Faith Kearns and Max Moritz describe what can happen when a wildfire approaches a suburban neighborhood during the high-wind conditions common during the California fall: First, a “storm of burning embers” will shower the neighborhood, setting some structures on fire. “Under the worst circumstances, wind driven home-to-home fire spread then occurs, causing risky, fast-moving ‘urban conflagrations' that can be almost impossible to stop and extremely dangerous to evacuate.” The town of Paradise didn't just experience a fast-moving wildfire, its own layout, building designs, and city management turned that fire into something even scarier.
…Of course, when fires do occur, the residents of these areas suffer the most. The question is how to provide the right incentives for people so that we limit the chances of this happening again. Looking ahead, “We need to ensure that prospective homeowners can make informed decisions about the risks they face in the WUI,” Moritz, Tague, and Anderson say.
Why California Can't Chainsaw Its Way Out Of A Raging Inferno
(BuzzFeed) Peter Aldhous, Nov. 20
…Still, supporters of thinning argue that it is a viable option in some forests, especially dry pine and mixed-conifer forests at lower elevations. Historically, forests like these burned with low intensity every decade or so, keeping them patchy and fairly sparse. There, decades of fire suppression should be countered with careful thinning to mimic the natural state, according to Scott Stephens, a forestry scientist at the University of California, Berkeley.
Stephens has compared low-elevation forests in Southern California with those over the border in Baja California, Mexico, where fire suppression didn't begin until the 1970s. The naturally patchy Mexican forests, he has found, are much more resilient: Even in the face of a four-year drought and a 2003 wildfire, only 20% of the trees died. (In the Cedar fire in San Diego County that same year, between 40% and 95% of trees in the affected areas perished.)
California's Fire Season Extends Beyond Summer Months (AUDIO)
(NPR Morning Edition) Nov. 20
Steve Inskeep talks to Lenya Quinn-Davidson, fire adviser for the University of California Cooperative Extension, about what an extended fire season means for state residents.
Santa Maria-Bonita School Districts teams up with 4H for kids career day
(KEYT) Naja Hill, Nov. 18
Santa Maria-Bonita School Districts came together for a career and leadership day at Liberty Elementary. The event, called 4H SNAC, was a collaboration between UC CalFresh Nutrition and the youth organization 4 H. SNAC stands for Student Nutrition Advisory Council.
The goal of the youth program is to advocate child development to 5th and 6th graders in underserved, low-income communities. Various guest speakers came to teach kids how to live a healthy lifestyle.
The event was 4H's 4th annual career day. One topic of focus was presentation skills. The students also got an opportunity to speak to professionals from different fields such as firefighters, a nurse, and a dentist.
Trump suggests Californians can rake their forests to prevent wildfires. (He is wrong.)
(Washington Post) Avi Selk, Nov. 18
“His general sentiment is correct — that we need to manage fuels,” said Yana Valachovic a forest adviser with the University of California's Cooperative Extension program. “And yeah, managing that pine litter adjacent to our homes and buildings is super important. … But the reality is, to manage every little bit of fuel with a rake is not practical.”
Raking is an effective way to clear light debris like leaves and pine needles away from residences, she said. It's of much less use on the forest floor, where infernos burn through swaths of brush and large debris that only heavy machinery can clear.
California's problems are complicated, she said — a combination of hot, dry climates, poor community design and “100 years of fire suppression” that helped turn forests into tinder boxes.
How Trump administration pressure to dump 4-H's LGBT policy led to Iowa leader's firing
Katherine Soule, the chair of an LGBT working group in 2016 and a leader of California's 4-H, said group leaders were asked to adapt the Obama administration's Dear Colleague letter protecting gender-identity rights for 4-H.
Soules and a group of Western 4-H leaders created a best-practices document that became the foundation of a national guidance document.
...The about-face on the LGTB policy by national 4-H headquarters left some 4-H volunteers angry and program officials confused, according to the Register's investigation.
“I feel bad for the folks at USDA,” Glenda Humiston, the vice president of the University of California's Agriculture and Natural Resources, told other 4-H leaders during a May training video. “I think they are in between a rock and a hard place.”
Lessons from Camp Fire: Staying alive in California fire country
(Mercury News) Lisa Krieger, Nov. 17
Even as smoke chokes the sky and shrouds the sun, millions of Bay Area and other California residents remain unprepared for the next inferno.
…“You can only pour so many cars into different arteries at the same time,” said J. Keith Gilless, professor and dean emeritus at UC Berkeley's College of Natural Resources.
…“Fewer than half of families in our area have taken the time to sit down, write out an emergency plan, discuss it with family members and maybe even do a practice run,” said UC Berkeley's Gilless.
Facts Matter: President's posts on wildfires misleading
(Chicago Daily Herald) Bob Oswald, Nov. 17
The current wildfires aren't forest fires and are not the responsibility of forest management, the Times said.
"These fires aren't even in forests," Max Moritz, a wildfire specialist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, told the Times.
The Camp and Woolsey fires began where communities are close to undeveloped areas, the Times said. Fires in these locations are more deadly and costly because of the proximity to homes and towns.
Why didn't PG&E shut down power in advance of deadly Camp Fire? Here's the data.
(Mercury News) Matthias Gafni, Nov. 17
…Thomas Scott, who has written about fire management in California's wildland urban interface and works with the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, wonders if the decision to keep power on may have had to do with the complaints the utility received after its October shutdown.
“Any rationale they had for keeping the lines hot has tragically backfired for everyone involved,” he said. “Can't understand what they were contemplating; perhaps they maintained power until the last possible moment because that action breeds unhappy customers and dangerous situations if power is turned off.”
Examining Jerry Brown's veto of California wildfire legislation and the criticism of it
(Politifact) Chris Nichols, Nov. 16
Bill Stewart, a forestry specialist at UC Berkeley, reviewed the bill and Brown's veto message. He said in an email, "I do not think it would have made much of a difference, as the amount of funds was not that great ($582,000 that may have just led to some hiring of consultants and a lot interaction with the communities) and, more importantly, no new advances would have been made."
Stewart, however, went on to describe the legislation as "a good shot across the bow to the (Brown) administration to do more. This area of risk assessment and mitigation has been woefully underfunded for decades."
How fierce fall and winter winds help fuel California fires
(The Conversation) Faith Kearns and Max Moritz, Nov. 16
… Fire hazard is determined by a variety of factors that include vegetation, topography and weather. Add people and homes, and you get fire risk. While wind is one of the biggest factors in fire spread, it also generates flying embers far ahead of the fire itself.
… Managing the type and amount of vegetation, or “fuel,” in an area provides a set of tools for altering fire behavior in wildland fires. But during wind-driven urban conflagrations, homes are usually a major – if not the main – source of fuel.
…As residents and researchers who have worked extensively on fire in California, we believe the state and its newly elected leadership face a formidable challenge and an opportunity to reinvest in a robust, interdisciplinary approach to wildfire risk reduction that combines the best of both research and practice. It must integrate both new (and potentially controversial) urban planning reforms as well as novel thinking about evacuation alternatives.
California Citrus Network Now Available as Grower Resource
(AgNetWest) Nov. 16
The University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) has launched the California Citrus Network as a means to address industry concerns through a collaborative approach. The new website will be another resource available to those involved with citrus production who may have questions or concerns about their operation.
“If they see something out in the field that's unusual, they can snap some pictures with their smartphone or their tablet and they can go onto the forum site,” said UCCE Area Citrus Advisor for Tulare, Fresno, and Madera Counties Greg Douhan. “Let's say you think something is some sort of disease issue, you can go in there and look on that and see if anybody else has been seeing the same thing. Or you can post a question and say, ‘hey I'm finding this unusual situation out in my field, is anybody else seeing this?' so it's just a way to communicate.”
Editorial: Horrifying infernos in California
(Providence RI Journal) Nov. 16
California deals with wildfires on an annual basis. Parts of the state were ravaged earlier this summer. But what has happened this month alone will make 2018 the worst year on record.
Five separate wildfires (named Camp, Nurse, Hill, Woolsey and Peak) in November have burned more than 245,000 acres of land.
…Max Moritz, a wildfire specialist with the University of California, told the AP that there are “so many ways that can go wrong, in the warning, the modes of getting the message out, the confusion ... the traffic jams.” He suggested local officials consider building “local retreat zones” and “local safety zones” in urban communities to protect residents from the deadly wildfires.
See how a warmer world primed California for large fires
(National Geographic) Alejandra Borunda, Nov. 15
…Over the past century, California has warmed by about three degrees Fahrenheit. That extra-warmed air sucks water out of plants and soils, leaving the trees, shrubs, and rolling grasslands of the state dry and primed to burn.
That vegetation-drying effect compounds with every degree of warming, explains Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles, meaning that plants lose their water more efficiently today than they did before climate change ratcheted up California's temperatures.
…Changes in precipitation are another factor. California's summer dry season has also been lengthening. Each extra day lets plants dry out more, increasing their susceptibility to burning.
“Usually—or, I don't want to even say usually anymore because things are changing so fast—we get some rains around Halloween that wet things down,” says Faith Kearns, a scientist at University of California Institute for Water Resources in Oakland. But in the past few years, those rains haven't come until much later in the autumn—November, or even December.
Why Wildfires Are Burning So Hot and Moving So Fast
(NPR) Kirk Siegler, Nov. 15
…One recent study predicted several million homes built in the West are at immediate risk. Susie Kocher is a forester with the University of California's Cooperative Extension service here in the Sierra.
“We haven't caught up, and to retrofit our existing housing stock to fend off embers is a long-term, expensive proposition.”
Californians received bleak news last month when the state released its fourth assessment of climate change in California. The report predicts severe wildfires, more frequent and longer droughts, rising sea levels, increased flooding, coastal erosion and extreme heat.
“It's great to be living in a state where science and facts around climate change are valued,” said UC Cooperative Extension specialist Adina Merenlender, “but the recent forecasts may make you want to devour a quart of ice cream in a pool of salty tears.”
Modern civilization has changed the world climate, and even dramatic reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions at this point won't turn back the clock. The warming now predicted by Cal-Adapt is likely already “baked in,” even with our best mitigation efforts, said Igor Lacan, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in the Bay Area of California.
California has been a leader in facing the future climate head on. The state's first comprehensive assessment on climate change was produced in 2006 under then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. The second assessment, released in 2009, concluded that adaptation could reduce economic impacts of loss and damage from a changing climate. The third assessment was shaped by a request for more information on the adaptation options in the 2009 report. The fourth assessment was the first effort to break down global climate predictions and their impacts onto specific regions of California.
Author of the North Coast Region Report of the Fourth Assessment, Ted Grantham, praised state leaders for pushing forward efforts to slow climate change and adapt to the new weather conditions expected in California.
“California is playing a unique role in filling the void of leadership on this issue that the federal government was beginning to address under the Obama administration,” Grantham, a UC Cooperative Extension specialist based at UC Berkeley, said.
Across California, UC Cooperative Extension specialists and advisors are working in their local communities to prepare for warming temperatures and adapt to the changing climate. Following are examples of the efforts now underway.
Managing forests to survive the future
Among the suggested adaptation strategies in the 81-page North Coast Region Report, written by Grantham and his colleagues, the authors encourage government agencies and private forest owners to use prescribed fires and active forest management to reduce an overgrowth of trees and shrubs that fuel the more frequent and intense fires expected in the future.
Although climate change will create conditions conducive to catastrophic wildfire, the reason for dangerous forest overgrowth is related to decades of fire suppression on the landscape.
“Our forests are much denser and have more fuel buildup than they would have under a natural fire regime,” Grantham said. “Mechanical thinning, removing wood from the landscape and prescribed fires can help limit the impacts of wildfire.”
Native American tribes are being tapped to share their traditional ecological knowledge to inform this practice.
“Native Americans have used fire since time immemorial to manage their landscapes,” Grantham said.
Connecting habitats to allow species movement
When climate changes, plant and animal species may find their current habitats no longer fit the environment where they evolved. The fourth assessment technical report, Climate-wise Landscape Connectivity: Why, How and What Next, written by UCCE specialist Adina Merenlender, documented potential techniques to erase barriers to plant and animal movement.
“When we talk about wildlife corridors today, we might view a road as a barrier,” Merenlender said. “With climate change, the movement is over a much longer range for species to find suitable habitat at the end of the century.”
The report says research is needed to compare different approaches to designing climate-wise connectivity, determining how wide corridors need to be, and quantifying the impact of natural and anthropogenic barriers on possible range shifts.
California's wine industry is based on international varieties that come from Northern France, where the climate is cool, mild and consistent.
“They really require a cool to warm climate, not a hot climate,” said Glenn McGourty, UCCE viticulture advisor in Mendocino County.
There are many wine grape cultivars from Southern Europe – areas in Italy, Portugal and Spain – that are adapted to heat and make quality wines, but aren't well known. The varieties include Monepulciano, Sagrantino, Periquita and Graciano.
McGourty is studying how these cultivars perform in the warm interior of Mendocino County at the UC Hopland Research and Extension Center.
“We have many options as climates warm in the interior part of California to make wine that needs less amelioration in the winery compared to cultivars from Northern France,” McGourty said.
Recruiting and training climate stewards
California Naturalist, with trained volunteers across the state working with myriad conservation organizations, will be using its educational network to improve the public's understanding of climate change and engage the public in community action and local conservation.
“Climate stewards will offer in-person communication with your neighbors, tapping into science,” Merenlender said. “Improving climate literacy is an important outcome, but that won't happen through a website.”
Helping growers modify farming practices due to changing climate
USDA Climate Hub has awarded a grant to UC Cooperative Extension to support tools to assist growers in making strategic decisions in season and long term.
“We have many credible sources of weather and climate data, but often times we are challenged with translating it into decision support tools tailored to growers' needs,” said Tapan Pathak, UCCE specialist in climate change adaptation in agriculture. “It's too early to say which specific tools we will develop, but we are aiming to help farmers use weather and climate information in decision making processes.”
Pathak is also working with colleagues to analyze how generations of navel orangeworm, a significant almond pest, might shift for the entire Central Valley under climate change and how growers can adapt their practices to manage the higher pest pressure.
Using epigenetics to impart drought tolerance
At the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Parlier and the UC West Side Research and Extension Center in Five Points, sorghum nurseries are being grown under drought and well-watered conditions to compare the environmental impacts on the plants' gene expression.
“We hope to tease out the genetics of drought tolerance in sorghum,” said Jeff Dahlberg, UCCE specialist, who is managing the trials at Kearney. “Using sorghum as a model, we expect this research to help us understand drought tolerance in other crops as well.”
Historically, the genetic manipulation of crops, which has been critical to increasing agricultural productivity, has concentrated on altering the plant's genetic sequence, encoded in its DNA.
Recent studies have shown that environmental stresses – such as drought – can lead to epigenetic changes in a plant's genetic information. Because epigenetic changes occur without altering the underlying DNA sequence, they allow plants to respond to a changing environment more quickly.
Cities can plant street tree species suited to future climate
Many common street trees now growing in the interior of California are unlikely to persist in the warmer climate expected in 2099, according to research published in the July 2018 issue of the journal Urban Forestry & Urban Greening. (Read the research report here until Sept. 27, 2018)
“Urban foresters in inland cities of California should begin reconsidering their palettes of common street trees to prepare for warmer conditions expected in 2099 due to climate change,” said the study's co-author, Igor Lacan, UC Cooperative Extension environmental horticulture advisor in the Bay Area.
Common trees in Coastal California cities appear to be better suited to withstand the 2099 climate.
“Our research shows that some trees now lining the streets of cities like Fresno, Stockton and Ukiah are likely to perform poorly in 2099,” Lacan said. “Those cities need to look at the conditions – and trees – now found in El Centro, Barstow and Fresno respectively.”
Trees to shade California in a warmer future
The changing climate predicted for California – including less rain and higher day and nighttime temperatures – is expected to cause chronic stress on many street tree species that have shaded and beautified urban areas for decades.
Realizing that popular trees may not thrive under the changing conditions, UC Cooperative Extension scientists are partnering with the U.S. Forest Service in a 20-year research study to expand the palette of drought-adapted, climate-ready trees for several of the state's climate zones.
“The idea is to look at available but under-planted, drought-tolerant, structurally sound, pest resistant trees for Southern California that do well in even warmer climates,” said Janet Hartin, UCCE horticulture advisor in San Bernardino County.
Twelve tree species were selected for each climate zone in the comparative study, with several area parks used as control sites.
Managing the forest for survival in warmer conditions
UC Cooperative Extension scientists are part of a collaborative research project with the University of Nevada, Reno, CAL FIRE and the U.S. Forest Service aimed at developing new strategies to adapt future forests to a range of possible climate change scenarios in the Sierra Nevada.
“It includes the idea that we may be struggling just to keep forests as forests, let alone having the species we value,” said Rob York, manager of UC Berkeley's Blodgett Forest Research Station near Georgetown.
Forests sequester a tremendous amount of carbon. As the climate changes, foresters will need to be proactive to reduce the risk of these massive carbon sinks becoming carbon sources.
“We're working to mitigate predicted impacts to forests, including regeneration failures, drought mortality and catastrophic wildfire,” Ricky Satomi, UCCE natural resources advisor in Shasta County.
At three separate study sites across the Sierra Nevada, novel approaches to forest management are being implemented to develop treatments that scientists believe will increase resilience, resistance and adaptability of Sierra Nevada mixed conifer forests.
The 2018-21 project is led by Sarah Bisbing, forest ecology professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, and funded with $2.7 million from CAL FIRE.
Climate change impacts on vulnerable communities
The latest climate assessment also reports on the serious nature of climate threats to vulnerable communities and tribal communities in California, with a focus on working collaboratively with these communities on research and solutions for resilience.
“The impacts of climate change will not be experienced equally among the population,” Grantham said. “The most significant public health and economic impacts – from flooding, extreme heat, air quality degradation, etc. – will be disproportionately experienced by vulnerable populations, including people of color, the poor and the elderly.”
The assessment includes a Climate Justice Report, which shares the idea that no group of people should disproportionately bear the burden of climate impacts or the costs of mitigation and adaptation. The report suggests collaborating with these communities on research and solutions for resilience.