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Mixed message on Sierra climate change

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Mixed message on Sierra climate change

Postby ERIC » Tue Jan 24, 2006 8:25 am

Mixed message on Sierra climate change

Presentation focuses on gloom, hope

By Dave Moller
Senior staff writer , davem@theunion.com
January 23, 2006

Scientists fear rising temperatures and a dwindling snowpack are the sign of ongoing climate change in the Sierra, but there's still time to turn things around.

Former South Yuba River Citizens League director Janet Cohen and Tahoe National Forest watershed ecologist Carole Kennedy delivered that message at a special presentation for the Yuba/Bear Watershed Council last week.

Among the startling statistics they presented were:

• The Sierra ski industry is being threatened by dwindling snowpack, and the annual runoff from the Sierra has been declining for 50 years.

• That decline could continue to the point where the Sierra might lose 90 percent of its snowmelt through continuing early spring runoffs.

• Annual stream flow into Sierra reservoirs is expected to be 10 to 20 percent less by 2050 and 25 to 30 percent less by the end of the century.

• Warmer and drier conditions could lead to more major wildfires.

Although there was plenty of gloom in the presentation, "we can make a change locally," Kennedy said, by cutting fuel emissions and using the forest to store carbons that would add to the problem if released.

"Emission reduction is terribly important," Cohen said. "Just in the lifetime of my son, the polar ice cap has decreased greatly ... It is quite stunning."

Cohen began studying climate change for the Sierra Nevada Alliance environmental group last year. Her research led her to a large body of work done by the independent, nonprofit Union of Concerned Scientists, which drew on academic studies from all over the world.

Cohen also looked at other climate change information, including work done by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego. Some of that work includes computer models where historic information is altered, with possible scenarios to see what could happen in the future.

One of Cohen's first sources was Kennedy, and they decided to make the presentation together.

"In the Sierra, we deal with extremes," Kennedy said. "It's a cycle. We've had ups and downs (in temperatures and precipitation), but the rate of change now is beyond what we can see in the historical record."

"Scientists say this time the difference is we have man-made emissions, and no one knows how that has affected those cycles," Cohen said.

"Winters have shortened by two weeks in the last 100 years," Kennedy said.

"Essentially, we'll get two more months of summer" if things don't change, Cohen said. "There were 150 glaciers in Glacier National Park in 1911 when it opened. There are now 30, and it's predicted in 70 years there will be none."

The longer warm months could also mean snow pack will melt earlier in the west, causing lower summer flows and more heat-related deaths.

In urban centers like Los Angeles, weather-related mortality will be one of the things to wake people up to climate change, Cohen said. It will occur "when the woman next door dies because of no air conditioning."

Cohen said studies of the Sierra and its future should include climate change information in order to be accurate. At the same time, "we need more data on the Sierra," Cohen said. "There's a pitifully small amount and it's needed to help understand the effects of climate change."

It may come to the point where some conservation projects are not pursued in light of climate change information, Cohen said. "You'll have to go to your successes, where it will work, and you may have to abandon some favorite projects" that are not as important.

Climate change should be involved in things "as basic as town planning," Cohen said, because it could overload wastewater treatment plants and systems.

Kennedy said it will also be advantageous to get forests to a point "so when a fire burns through, you don't lose it all" and add more carbon dioxide emissions.

Cohen said forest biomass waste could be pulled out to thin stands and then used for energy production in cogeneration plants. Cohen said she was recently speaking with a state forestry veteran near retirement "and he saw a (congeneration) plant in every small Sierra town."

In the end, "the message isn't all gloom and doom," Cohen said. "The scientists want to get this work out there, and that's why we wrote this" presentation.

To contact senior staff writer Dave Moller, e-mail davem@theunion.com or call477-4237.
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Postby AldeFarte » Wed Jan 25, 2006 1:41 am

So what's the beef? Longer summers? Ya! Better apple season for people like me. Maybe I can grow some eggplant. I thought evil white man was responsible for co night emmisions. Hey, I want to see what is underneath those dadgum glaciers. We all know wildfire is good for the environment. If we could just get over our strange view of the world "In our lifetime". In my lifetime ,I have seen giant redwoods fall . At least 1500 years old! Through no fault of my own , or anyone I know. Computer models of climate change! Petooy! Cogeneration plants! Don't get me started. My prediction is in 100 years there will be more timber above 10,000 feet and they will eliminate the STUPID law that forbids zip stoves above 10g feet! On a lighter note. I still think the froggie is present in more places than is known. It won't be the first time "scientists" Have missed the last cockroach. Life has a tenacity. Henceforth , I will be taking notes on where I see the leetle critter and be prepared to refute the no frog claim. jls
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Postby hikerduane » Wed Jan 25, 2006 8:27 pm

I guess the state or water districts will need to place more propane tanks on ridges to seed clouds so as to ring more precip out of storms when they come thru.
Piece of cake.
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