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THE WATERFALL              


                                             interconnectivity, environmental interconnectedness, ecosystems, climate change, COMET

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A Study of Interconnectivity

Seeing and understanding all of the connections between air, water, land and the living things on or in them in context can actully be beyond our ability.  Now environmental and computer scientists atUC Davis are working together to get a "God's-eye view" of part of California, from the ocean off Monterey Bay to Lake Tahoe.  A program covering coasts, forests, farmland, urban and suburbanareas has begun to explore some of California's environmental issues, including a forecast of how climate change will affect the state.

                                        interconnectivity, environmental interconnectedness, ecosystems, climate change, COMET     

 The Coast to Mountain Environmental Transect, or COMET, project was recently funded with three-year grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) as part of the agency's program "Cyberinfrastructure for Environmental Observatories".  COMET is an ambitious attempt to understand how ocean and land are linked together.

 Issues to be explored include:  How is climate change going to alter precipitation patterns, summer droughts or snowfall?  Will there be more wildfires, and how will that affect climate change?  To track events more closely to understand what’s happening, a better network of sensors and a common data base are needed. 

COMET will integrate data from hundreds of environmental sensors and put it into a "virtual library" for geosciences.  The library will include data ranging from animal counts to climate and chemistry, over distances from a few feet to hundreds of miles, and spanning timelines from minutes to decades.  The data will be combined and available through a single web portal.  Part of the idea of scientific workflow systems is to allow scientists to spend less time managing data and more time studying it.  With COMET, researchers will be able to look at that swath of land and ocean in great detail.  Cyberinfrastructure, or "e-infrastructure" is meant to allow scientists to do their work in a better way.  Researchers will be able to build models of environmental change and turn them loose within the system, to see if they can recreate real-world events.

                                  interconnectivity, environmental interconnectedness, ecosystems, climate change, COMET                                    

 During spring off the California coast, cold water wells up from the deep ocean,drawing tothe surface carbon dioxide and nutrients that create some of the world's most productive waters and trigger climate changes hundreds of miles inland.

 The upwelling is seasonal and affected by other climate phenomena, such as El Nino events.  In years when the upwelling is weak or ends early, ocean production dives, affecting fish and birds.  Animals that move back and forth between the sea and land, such as migrating birds or salmon running upriver, may change in numbers or behavior -changing how nutrients move around.

Cold upwelling water generates clouds and fog that move inland, carrying water and trapping carbon dioxide and tiny particles in the air.  Researchers want to understand more about how fluctuations in upwelling influence the weather over time periods from a few weeks to months.

Examples include use of a sophisticated radar system to track ocean surface currents over a grid of two-kilometer (one and a quarter-mile) squares stretching 25 miles off the coast.

The marine boundary layer, the cause of the coastal fog that can roll inland from the ocean, is also being studied.  When that cold, damp air moves over land, it limits carbon exchange between plants and the atmosphere, trapping carbon dioxide.

                                                      interconnectivity, environmental interconnectedness, ecosystems, climate change, COMET


 On part of Lake Tahoe, researchers are recording water clarity, particles in the air andthe movement of water in the lake.  They plan to add moisture probes in the forest tomeasure fire risk around the lake.  There are observations of birds, fish and other wildlife.

                                  interconnectivity, environmental interconnectedness, ecosystems, climate change, COMET

On land, a similar project,the National Environmental Observatory Network or NEON,has been proposed by the NSF.  It would collect environmental data and address issues such asclimate change, biodiversity and infectious diseases.  The tools developed for COMET will potentially be prototypes for NEON, and the area covered by COMET will be California 's primary contribution to the national network.

                                          interconnectivity, environmental interconnectedness, ecosystems, climate change, COMET

Congress expects the various federally funded networks on land and in the ocean to link up. 

It is not easy to work across disciplines.  For example, it can be difficult to write papers that are comprehensible to both computer scientists and ecologists.  The opportunity though, is to create a dramatic shift in how science is done.  The result should be a quantum leap in our ability to see changes across wide distances and extended timelines.

                  This story was based on information in the UC Davis News.

                              For a related story, see Interconnectedness.




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Warning of 50% decrease in water supplies in Middle East

The World Bank has predicted a dramatic decline in water availability in the Middle East and north Africa, and urged countries in the region to re-examine how they use the water they do have. It's estimated that per capita water availability in the region will fall by at least 50% by 2050.  The bank warned of serious social and economic consequences if countries failed to improve their water management practices. The Mid-East region is one of the most arid on earth, with 85% desert. It contains five per cent of the world's population, but only one per cent of the world's water.
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Effects of Climate Change

A report from the authoritative Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says to expect widespead water shortage in 20 years as changes now affect every continent. Within a couple of decades hundreds of millions of people won't have enough water. Hundreds of millions could face starvation by 2080. At the same time, tens of millions of others will be flooded out of their homes each year as temperatures and therefore sea levels rise. Tropical diseases like malaria will spread. By 2050, polar bears will mostly be found in zoos, their habitats gone. Pests like fire ants will thrive. (The report is in draft form now, but isn't expected to change much.)

This report, considered by some scientists the "emotional heart" of climate change research, focuses on how global warming alters the planet and life here, as opposed to the more science-focused report by the same group last month. Things are happening faster than we expected, reported one contributing scientist.

The document says scientists are highly confident that many current problems - change in species' habits and habitats, more acidified oceans, loss of wetlands, bleaching of coral reefs, and increases in allergy-inducing pollen - can be blamed on global warming. Substantial changes have already been noted, but are insignificant compared to the future.

Hundreds of millions of Africans and tens of millions of Latin Americans will be short of water in less than 20 years. By 2050, more than one billion people in Asia could face water shortages. By 2080, water shortages could threaten 1.1 billion to 3.2 billion people, depending on the level of greenhouse gases that cars and industry put into the air.

Death rates for the world's poor from such global warming-related illnesses as malnutrition and diarrhea will rise by 2030. Malaria and dengue fever, as well as illnesses from eating contaminated shellfish, are likely to grow.

Europe's small glaciers will disappear, with many of the continent's large glaciers shrinking dramatically by 2050. Half of Europe's plant species could be vulnerable, endangered or extinct by 2100. About 100 million people each year could be flooded by 2080 by rising seas.

By 2080, between 200 million and 600 million people could be hungry because of global warming's effects. Smog in U.S. cities will worsen and ozone-related deaths will increase. At first, more food will be grown and some areas will see longer growing seasons and healthier forests. The most positive benefits are apt to be in forestry and some improved agriculture and transportation in polar regions.

The biggest damage is likely to come in ocean and coastal ecosystems, water resources and coastal settlements.

Many - not all - of those effects can be prevented, if within a generation the world slows down its emissions of carbon dioxide and if the level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere stabilizes. In that case, "most major impacts on human welfare would be avoided, but some major impacts on ecosystems are likely to occur."

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          interconnectivity, environmental interconnectedness, ecosystems, climate change, COMET

         interconnectivity, environmental interconnectedness, ecosystems, climate change, COMET

            interconnectivity, environmental interconnectedness, ecosystems, climate change, COMET

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