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Browse publications gathered by the California Energy Commission that focus on climate change issues relevant to the State of California. Find both PIER research papers as well as relevant articles published in peer reviewed journals.

Publications Published in 2011

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  1. 1,800 Years of abrupt climate change, severe fire, and accelerated erosion, Sierra Nevada, California, USA. Wathen, Stephen F.
    Climatic Change: 2011
    DOI: 10.1007/s10584-011-0046-4
    This paper provides both a detailed history of environmental change in the Sierra Nevada over the past 1,800 years and evidence for climate teleconnections between the Sierra Nevada and Greenland during the late Holocene. A review of Greenland ice core data suggests that the magnitudes of abrupt changes in temperature and precipitation increased beginning c. 3,700 and 3,000 years ago, respectively. Precipitation increased abruptly 1,300 years ago. Comparing paleotemperature data from Cirque Peak, CAwith paleoprecipitation data from Pyramid Lake, NV suggests that hot temperatures occurred at the beginnings of most severe droughts in the Sierra Nevada over the past 1,800 years. Severe fires and erosion also occurred at Coburn Lake, CA at the beginning of all severe droughts in the Sierra Nevada over the past 1,800 years. This suggests that abrupt climate change during the late Holocene caused vegetation and mountain slopes in some areas to be out of equilibrium with abruptly changed climates. Finally, the ending of drought conditions in Greenland coincided with the beginning of drought conditions in the Sierra Nevada over the past 1,800 years, perhaps as a result of the rapidly changed locations of the Earth's major precipitation belts during abrupt climate change events.

  2. A cellphone based system for large-scale monitoring of black carbon. N. Ramanathan, M. Lukac, T. Ahmed A. Kar P.S. Praveen T. Honles I. Leong I.H. Rehman J.J. Schauer V. Ramanathan.
    Atmospheric Environment: 2011
    Black carbon aerosols are a major component of soot and are also a major contributor to global and regional climate change. Reliable and cost-effective systems to measure near-surface black carbon (BC) mass concentrations (hereafter denoted as [BC]) globally are necessary to validate air pollution and climate models and to evaluate the effectiveness of BC mitigation actions. Toward this goal we describe a new wireless, low-cost, ultra low-power, BC cellphone based monitoring system (BC_CBM). BC_CBMintegrates a Miniaturized Aerosol filter Sampler (MAS) with a cellphone for filter image collection, transmission and image analysis for determining [BC] in real time. The BC aerosols in the air accumulate on the MAS quartz filter, resulting in a coloration of the filter. A photograph of the filter is captured by the cellphone camera and transmitted by the cellphone to the analytics component of BC_CBM. The analytics component compares the image with a calibrated reference scale (also included in the photograph) to estimate [BC]. We demonstrate with field data collected from vastly differing environments, ranging from southern California to rural regions in the Indo-Gangetic plains of Northern India, that the total BC deposited on the filter is directly and uniquely related to the reflectance of the filter in the redwavelength, irrespective of its source or how the particles were deposited. [BC] varied from 0.1 to 1 mgm-3 in Southern California and from 10 to 200 mgm-3 in rural India in our field studies. In spite of the 3 orders of magnitude variation in [BC], the BC_CBM system was able to determine the [BC] well within the experimental error of two independent reference instruments for both indoor air and outdoor ambient air. Accurate, global-scale measurements of [BC] in urban and remote rural locations, enabled by the wireless, low-cost, ultra low-power operation of BC_CBM, will make it possible to better capture the large spatial and temporal variations in [BC], informing climate science, health, and policy.

  3. Adapting California's water system to warm vs. dry climates. Connell-Buck, Christina R; Medellin-Azuara, Josue; Lund, Jay R & Madani, Kaveh.
    Climatic Change: 2011
    DOI: 10.1007/s10584-011-0302-7
    This paper explores the independent and combined effects of changes in temperature and runoff volume on California's water supply and potential water management adaptations. Least-cost water supply system adaptation is explored for two climate scenarios: 1) warmer-drier conditions, and 2) warmer conditions without change in total runoff, using the CALVIN economic-engineering optimization model of California's intertied water supply system for 2050 water demands. The warm-dry hydrology was developed from downscaled effects of the GFDL CM2.1 (A2 emissions scenario) global climate model for a 30-year period centered at 2085. The warm-only scenario was developed from the warm-dry hydrology, preserving its seasonal runoff shift while maintaining mean annual flows from the historical hydrology. This separates the runoff volume and temperature effects of climate change on water availability and management adaptations. A warmer climate alone reduces water deliveries and increases costs, but much less than a warmer-drier climate, if the water supply system is well managed. Climate changes result in major changes in reservoir operations, cyclic storage of groundwater, and hydropower operations.

  4. A methodology for predicting future coastal hazards due to sea-level rise on the California Coast. Revell, David L; Battalio, Robert; Spear, Brian; Ruggiero, Peter & Vandever, Justin.
    Climatic Change: 2011
    DOI: 10.1007/s10584-011-0315-2
    Sea-level rise will increase the risks associated with coastal hazards of flooding and erosion. Along the active tectonic margin of California, the diversity in coastal morphology complicates the evaluation of future coastal hazards. In this study, we estimate future coastal hazards based on two scenarios generated from a downscaled regional global climate model. We apply new methodologies using statewide data sets to evaluate potential erosion hazards. The erosion method relates shoreline change rates to coastal geology then applies changes in total water levels in exceedance of the toe elevation to predict future erosion hazards. Results predict 214 km2 of land eroded by 2100 under a 1.4 m sea level rise scenario. Average erosion distances range from 170 m along dune backed shorelines, to a maximum of 600 m. For cliff backed shorelines, potential erosion is projected to average 33 m, with a maximum potential erosion distance of up to 400 m. Erosion along the seacliff backed shorelines was highest in the geologic units of Cretaceous marine (K) and Franciscan complex (KJf). 100-year future flood elevations were estimated using two different methods, a base flood elevation approach extrapolated from existing FEMA flood maps, and a total water level approach based on calculations of astronomical tides and wave run-up. Comparison between the flooding methods shows an average difference of about 1.2 m with the total water level method being routinely lower with wider variability alongshore. While the level of risk (actual amount of future hazards) may vary from projected, this methodology provides coastal managers with a planning tool and actionable information to guide adaptation strategies.

  5. Atmospheric Rivers, Floods and the Water Resources of California. Michael D. Dettinger, Fred Martin Ralph, Tapash Das Paul J. Neiman Daniel R. Cayan.
    Water: 2011
    California's highly variable climate and growing water demands combine to pose both water-supply and flood-hazard challenges to resource managers. Recently important efforts to more fully integrate the management of floods and water resources have begun, with the aim of benefitting both sectors. California is shown here to experience unusually large variations in annual precipitation and streamflow totals relative to the rest of the US, variations which mostly reflect the unusually small average number of wet days per year needed to accumulate most of its annual precipitation totals (ranging from 5 to 15 days in California). Thus whether just a few large storms arrive or fail to arrive in California can be the difference between a banner year and a drought. Furthermore California receives some of the largest 3-day storm totals in the country, rivaling in this regard the hurricane belt of the southeastern US. California's largest storms are generally fueled by landfalling atmospheric rivers (ARs). The fractions of precipitation and streamflow totals at stations across the US that are associated with ARs are documented here and, in California, contribute 20-50% of the state's precipitation and streamflow. Prospects for long-lead forecasts of these fractions are presented. From a meteorological perspective, California's water resources and floods are shown to derive from the same storms to an extent that makes integrated flood and water resources management all the more important.

  6. California Climate ExtremesWorkshop Report . .
    Scripps Institution of Oceanography : 2011

  7. California perennial crops in a changing climate. David B. Lobell, Christopher B. Field.
    Climatic Change: 2011
    DOI: 10.1007/s10584-011-0303-6
    Perennial crops are among the most valuable of California's diverse agricultural products. They are also potentially the most influenced by information on future climate, since individual plants are commonly grown for more than 30 years. This study evaluated the impacts of future climate changes on the 20 most valuable perennial crops in California, using a combination of statistical crop models and downscaled climate model projections. County records on crop harvests and weather from 1980 to 2005 were used to evaluate the influence of weather on yields, with a series of cross-validation and sensitivity tests used to evaluate the robustness of perceived effects. In the end, only four models appear to have a clear weather response based on historical data, with another four presenting significant but less robust relationships. Projecting impacts of climate trends to 2050 using historical relationships reveals that cherries are the only crop unambiguously threatened by warming, with no crops clearly benefiting from warming. Another robust result is that almond yields will be harmed by winter warming, although this effect may be counteracted by beneficial warming in spring and summer. Overall, the study has advanced understanding of climate impacts on California agriculture and has highlighted the importance of measuring and tracking uncertainties due to the difficulty of uncovering crop-climate relationships.

  8. Case study on potential agricultural responses to climate change in a California landscape. L. E. Jackson, S. M. Wheeler, A. D. Hollander, A. T. O’Geen, B. S. Orlove, J. Six, D. A. Sumner, F. Santos-Martin, J. B. Kramer, W. R. Horwath, R. E. Howitt, T. P. Tomich.
    Climatic Change: 2011
    DOI: 10.1007/s10584-011-0306-3
    Agriculture in the Central Valley of California, one of the USA's main sources of fruits, nuts, and vegetables, is highly vulnerable to climate change impacts in the next 50 years. This interdisciplinary case study in Yolo County shows the urgency for building adaptation strategies to climate change. Climate change and the effects of greenhouse gas emissions are complex, and several of the county's current crops will be less viable in 2050. The study uses a variety of methods to assemble information relevant to Yolo County's agriculture, including literature reviews, models, geographic information system analysis, interviews with agency personnel, and a survey of farmers. Potential adaptation and mitigation responses by growers include changes in crop taxa, irrigation methods, fertilization practices, tillage practices, and land use. On a regional basis, planning must consider the vulnerability of agricultural production and the tradeoffs associated with diversified farmlands, drought, flooding of cropland, loss of habitat for wild species of concern, and urbanization.

  9. Climate change and growth scenarios for California wildfire. Westerling, A. L.; Bryant, B. P.; Preisler, H. K.; Holmes, T. P.; Hidalgo, H. G.; Das, T. & Shrestha, S. R..
    Climatic Change: 2011
    DOI: 10.1007/s10584-011-0329-9
    Large wildfire occurrence and burned area are modeled using hydroclimate and landsurface characteristics under a range of future climate and development scenarios. The range of uncertainty for future wildfire regimes is analyzed over two emissions pathways (the Special Report on Emissions Scenarios [SRES] A2 and B1 scenarios); three global climate models (Centre National de Recherches Météorologiques CM3, Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory CM2.1 and National Center for Atmospheric Research PCM1); three scenarios for future population growth and development footprint; and two thresholds for defining the wildland-urban interface relative to housing density. Results were assessed for three 30-year time periods centered on 2020, 2050, and 2085, relative to a 30-year reference period centered on 1975. Increases in wildfire burned area are anticipated for most scenarios, although the range of outcomes is large and increases with time. The increase in wildfire burned area associated with the higher emissions pathway (SRES A2) is substantial, with increases statewide ranging from 36% to 74% by 2085, and increases exceeding 100% in much of the forested areas of Northern California in every SRES A2 scenario by 2085.

  10. Climate change effects on walnut pests in California. Eike Luedeling, Kimberly P. Steinmann, Minghua Zhang, Patrick H. Brown, Joseph Grants, Evan H. Girvetz.
    Global Change Biology: 2011
    DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2486.2010.02227.x
    Increasing temperatures are likely to impact ectothermic pests of fruits and nuts. This paper aims to assess changes to changes. For two past (1950 and 2000) and 18 future climate scenarios (2041-2060 and 2080-2099; each for three General Circulation Models and three greenhouse gas emissions scenarios), 100 years of hourly temperature were generated for 205 locations. Degree-day models were used to project mean generation numbers for codling moth (Cydia pomonella L.), navel orangeworm (Amyelois transitella Walker), two-spotted spider mite (Tetranychus urticae Koch), and European red mite (Panonychus ulmi Koch). In the Central Valley, the number of codling moth generations predicted for degree days accumulated between April 1 and October 1 rose from 2-4 in 1950 to 3-5 among all future scenarios. Generation numbers increased from 10-18 to 14-24 for two-spotted spider mite, from 9-14 to 14-20 for European red mite, and from 2-4 to up to 5 for navel orangeworm. Overall pest pressure can thus be expected to increase substantially. Our study did not include the possibility of higher winter survival rates, leading to higher initial pest counts in spring, or of extended pest development times in the summer, factors that are likely to exacerbate future pest pressure. On the other hand, initiation of diapause may prevent an extension of the season length for arthropods, and higher incidence of heat death in summer may constrain pest population sizes. More information on the impact of climate change on complex agroecological food webs and on the response of pests to high temperatures is needed for improving the reliability of projections.

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