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Updated: 4 min 46 sec ago
Significant strides in science have been made to better understand potential ground shaking from induced earthquakes, which are earthquakes triggered by man-made practices.
Earthquake activity has sharply increased since 2009 in the central and eastern United States. The increase has been linked to industrial operations that dispose of wastewater by injecting it into deep wells.
The U. S. Geological Survey (USGS) released a report today that outlines a preliminary set of models to forecast how hazardous ground shaking could be in the areas where sharp increases in seismicity have been recorded. The models ultimately aim to calculate how often earthquakes are expected to occur in the next year and how hard the ground will likely shake as a result. This report looked at the central and eastern United States; future research will incorporate data from the western states as well.
This report also identifies issues that must be resolved to develop a final hazard model, which is scheduled for release at the end of the year after the preliminary models are further examined. These preliminary models should be considered experimental in nature and should not be used for decision-making.
USGS scientists identified 17 areas within eight states with increased rates of induced seismicity. Since 2000, several of these areas have experienced high levels of seismicity, with substantial increases since 2009 that continue today. This is the first comprehensive assessment of the hazard levels associated with induced earthquakes in these areas. A detailed list of these areas is provided in the accompanying map, including the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Texas.
Scientists developed the models by analyzing earthquakes in these zones and considering their rates, locations, maximum magnitude, and ground motions.
“This new report describes for the first time how injection-induced earthquakes can be incorporated into U.S. seismic hazard maps,” said Mark Petersen, Chief of the USGS National Seismic Hazard Modeling Project. “These earthquakes are occurring at a higher rate than ever before and pose a much greater risk to people living nearby. The USGS is developing methods that overcome the challenges in assessing seismic hazards in these regions in order to support decisions that help keep communities safe from ground shaking.”
In 2014, the USGS released updated National Seismic Hazard Maps, which describe hazard levels for natural earthquakes. Those maps are used in building codes, insurance rates, emergency preparedness plans, and other applications. The maps forecast the likelihood of earthquake shaking within a 50-year period, which is the average lifetime of a building. However, these new induced seismicity products display intensity of potential ground shaking from induced earthquakes in a one-year period. This shorter timeframe is appropriate because the induced activity can vary rapidly with time and is subject to commercial and policy decisions that could change at any point.
These new methods and products result in part from a workshop hosted by the USGS and the Oklahoma Geological Survey. The workshop, described in the new report, brought together a broad group of experts from government, industry and academic communities to discuss the hazards from induced earthquakes.
Wastewater that is salty or polluted by chemicals needs to be disposed of in a manner that prevents contaminating freshwater sources. Large volumes of wastewater can result from a variety of processes, such as a byproduct from energy production. Wastewater injection increases the underground pore pressure, which may lubricate nearby faults thereby making earthquakes more likely to occur. Although the disposal process has the potential to trigger earthquakes, most wastewater disposal wells do not produce felt earthquakes.
Many questions have been raised about whether hydraulic fracturing—commonly referred to as “fracking”—is responsible for the recent increase of earthquakes. USGS’s studies suggest that the actual hydraulic fracturing process is only occasionally the direct cause of felt earthquakes.
Read the newly published USGS report, “Incorporating Induced Seismicity in the 2014 United States National Seismic Hazard Model—Results of 2014 Workshop and Sensitivity Studies.”
The Everglades, Florida, Earth Day, April 22, 2015
THE PRESIDENT: Hello, everybody! Please have a seat. It’s good to be back in Florida. So I can’t think of a better way to spend Earth Day than in one of our nation’s greatest natural treasures, the Everglades. And anybody who comes here to visit — and I advise everybody who’s watching who hasn’t been down here to come on down. You can see what makes this unique landscape so magical — what the poet Emma Lazarus called “the savage splendor of the swamp.” Although I was informed it’s not technically a swamp.
I want to thank our outstanding Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, who’s here. Her team at the Interior Department and the National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis for helping to protect places like this. The Everglades National Park Superintendent Pedro Ramos is doing outstanding work. I want to thank Miami-Dade Congressmen Murphy and Carvalho who are here doing outstanding work, as well as Debbie Wasserman Schultz. You’ll be pleased to know that they are all in when it comes to protecting the Everglades, and we’re very proud of the good work that they’re going. We even have the Science Guy, Bill Nye, here. There’s Bill.
Now, they’re all here and we’re all here because this 1.5 million acres is unlike any place on Earth. It’s no wonder that over a million people visited last year alone. The sawgrass prairies and mangrove forests are home to an incredible diversity of wildlife – bald eagles, herons, hundreds of plant species, from pine trees to wild orchids. Believe it or not, south Florida is the only place in the world where you can find both alligators and crocodiles in the same habitat. I’m told this is a good thing.
In the words of Marjory Stoneman Douglas, who helped preserve this land: “There are no other Everglades in the world.” But part of the reason we’re here is because climate change is threatening this treasure and the communities that depend on it, which includes almost all of south Florida. And if we don’t act, there may not be an Everglades as we know it.
2014 was the planet’s warmest year on record. Fourteen of the 15 hottest years on record have all fallen in the first 15 years of this century. Yes, this winter was cold in parts of our country, including Washington. Some people in Washington helpfully used a snowball to illustrate that fact. But around the world, in the aggregate, it was the warmest winter ever recorded.
This is not a problem for another generation. Not anymore. This is a problem now. It has serious implications for the way we live right now. Stronger storms. Deeper droughts. Longer wildfire seasons. The world’s top climate scientists are warning that a changing climate already affects the air that our children are breathing. The Surgeon General and I recently met with doctors and nurses and parents who see patients and kids grappling with the health impacts. The Pentagon says that climate change poses an increasing set of risks to our national security.
And here in the Everglades, you can see the effect of a changing climate. As sea levels rise, salty water from the ocean flows inward. And this harms freshwater wildlife, which endangers a fragile ecosystem. The saltwater flows into aquifers, which threatens the drinking water of more than 7 million Floridians. South Florida, you’re getting your drinking water from this area, and it depends on this. And in terms of economic impact, all of this poses risks to Florida’s $82 billion tourism industry on which so many good jobs and livelihoods depend.
So climate change can no longer be denied. It can’t be edited out. It can’t be omitted from the conversation. And action can no longer be delayed. And that’s why I’ve committed the United States to lead the world in combatting this threat.
The steps we’ve taken over the last several years are already making a difference. We’re using more clean energy than ever before. America is number one in wind power, and last year we generated 20 times more electricity from sunlight than we did in all of 2008 — 20 times.
We’ve committed to doubling the pace at which we cut carbon pollution. China, in part because of our actions, has now committed for the first time to limit their emissions. And this means that there’s new hope that this year the world will finally reach an agreement to prevent the worst impacts of climate change before it’s too late.
We’re wasting less energy, with more fuel-efficient cars that save people money at the pump, and more energy-efficient buildings that save us money on our electricity bills.
So more clean energy, improved energy efficiency – these steps can help us avoid some of the worst effects of climate change down the road. But we also have to prepare for the effects of climate change that we’re already too late to avoid. If you think about it, this is like we’re hitting the brakes on a car, but the car is not going to come to a complete halt right away. So some of these changes are already happening, and even if we take the right steps, we’re going to have to make some adaptations.
And that’s why we’ve been working with cities and states to build more resilient infrastructure and restore natural defenses like wetlands. And today, I want to announce new actions to protect our national parks and our public lands, and the communities that rely on them.
First, we’re releasing a report showing that every dollar invested in the National Park Service generates $10 for the economy. That’s a good investment. I don’t run a private equity fund, but I know that if you invest a dollar and you get $10 back, that’s a good investment.
In 2014, almost 300 million visitors to our national parks spent almost $16 billion and supported 277,000 jobs. So protecting our parks is a smart thing to do for our economy. That’s why I’ve set aside more public lands and waters than any administration in history.
Here in the Everglades, we’ve already invested $2.2 billion in restoration efforts. With the support of some outstanding members of Congress, I’ve proposed another $240 million this year. We want to restore the natural water flow of the Everglades, which we know is one of the best defenses against climate change and rising sea levels. And I’m calling on Congress to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which supports this work across the country.
I’m also announcing $25 million in public and private money for restoration projects at our national parks. And this is part of our broader effort that we’ve launched to encourage every American to “Find Your Park.” Chances are, there’s one closer than you think.
Just last weekend, Michelle and I took the girls for a hike in a national park just 20 minutes outside of Washington, D.C. As we were walking a trail along the Everglades, we saw a group of school kids – couldn’t have been more excited about mostly seeing the gators, not seeing me – but also learning about the science of the planet that they live on. And I want every child to have that opportunity.
So starting this fall, we’re going to give every fourth grader in America an “Every Kid In A Park” pass, and that’s a pass good for free admission to all our public lands for you, your families for an entire year. Because no matter who you are, no matter where you live, our parks, our monuments, our lands, our waters – these places are your birthright as Americans.
And today, I’m designating America’s newest national historic landmark, the Marjory Stoneham Douglas House in Miami, so that future generations will know how this amazing woman helped conserve the Everglades for all of us.
We’re also working with farmers and ranchers and forest land owners to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions. I’m going to keep doing everything I can to prepare and protect America from the worst effects of climate change, including fighting for clean air, clean water. Because in places like this, folks don’t have time, we don’t have time – you do not have time to deny the effects of climate change. Folks are already busy dealing with it. And nowhere is it going to have a bigger impact than here in south Florida. No place else. It has to be paying closer attention to this and acknowledging it, and understanding that if we take action now we can do something about it.
This is not some impossible problem that we cannot solve. We can solve it if we’ve got some political will. And we can solve it in a way that creates jobs. We can solve it in a way that doesn’t disrupt our economy but enhances our economy. And it’s a bipartisan issue.
On the way in, I was talking to some folks about the fact that Teddy Roosevelt, he’s a Republican – started our National Park System. Richard Nixon started the EPA. George H.W. Bush was the first President, globally, to acknowledge the impacts of climate change and that we needed to do something about it. This is not something that historically should be a partisan issue.
Five years ago, local leaders down here, Republicans and Democrats, formed the bipartisan Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact – an agreement to work together to fight climate change. And it’s become a model not just for the country, but for the world.
It’s the type of mission that Americans from all walks of life are taking on – from the CEOs of some of our biggest corporations and utilities, to student organizations across the country. Because they know that simply refusing to say the words “climate change” doesn’t mean that climate change isn’t happening.
And we know that in our own lives. If you’ve got a coming storm, you don’t stick your head in the sand; you prepare for the storm. You make sure our communities are prepared for climate change. And that’s an economic imperative. Protecting the one planet we’ve got is what we have to do for the next generation. I want Malia and Sasha not only to be able to enjoy this amazing view; I want my grandchildren – a way, way long time from now – to enjoy this amazing view. And their children, and their children after that. That’s what we do as Americans, take responsibility and leave behind for our children something special.
And we are blessed with the most beautiful God-given landscape in the world. It’s an incredible bounty that’s been given to us. But we’ve got to be good stewards for it. We have to take care of it. We only get to enjoy things like our amazing national parks because great Americans like Teddy Roosevelt and Marjory Stoneman Douglas and a whole bunch of ordinary folks whose name aren’t in the history books, they fought to protect our national inheritance. And now it’s our turn to ensure that this remains the birthright of all Americans for generations to come. So many people here are active in your communities, doing what’s needed. The young people who are here, the next generation, they’re way ahead of us in understanding how important this is. Let’s make sure we don’t disappoint them. Let’s stand up and do what’s right before it’s too late.
Thank you very much, everybody. Thank you.
NASA has joined forces with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and U.S. Geological Survey to transform satellite data designed to probe ocean biology into information that will help protect the American public from harmful freshwater algal blooms.
Algal blooms are a worldwide environmental problem causing human and animal health risks, fish kills, and taste and odor in drinking water. In the United States, the cost of freshwater degraded by harmful algal blooms is estimated at $64 million annually. In August 2014, officials in Toledo, Ohio, banned the use of drinking water supplied to more than 400,000 residents after it was contaminated by an algal bloom in Lake Erie.
The new $3.6 million, multi-agency effort will use ocean color satellite data to develop an early warning indicator for toxic and nuisance algal blooms in freshwater systems and an information distribution system to aid expedient public health advisories.
“The vantage point of space not only contributes to a better understanding of our home planet, it helps improve lives around the world,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “We’re excited to be putting NASA’s expertise in space and scientific exploration to work protecting public health and safety.”
Ocean color satellite data from NASA’s Aqua, the USGS-NASA Landsat, and the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-2 and -3 are currently available to scientists, but are not routinely processed and produced in formats that help state and local environmental and water quality managers. Through this project, satellite data on harmful algal blooms developed by the partner agencies will be converted to a format that stakeholders can use through mobile devices and web portals.
“Observations from space-based instruments are an ideal way to tackle this type of public health hazard because of their global coverage and ability to provide detailed information on material in the water, including algal blooms,” said Paula Bontempi of the Earth Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
NOAA and NASA pioneered the use of satellite data to monitor and forecast harmful algal blooms. Satellites allow for more frequent observations over broader areas than water sampling. The satellite data support NOAA’s existing forecasting systems in the Gulf of Mexico and Great Lakes.
“Observing harmful algae is critical to understanding, managing, and forecasting these blooms,” said Holly Bamford, acting NOAA assistant secretary for conservation and management and deputy administrator in Washington. “This collaboration will assure that NOAA’s efforts will assist the coastal and inland public health officials and managers across the country to distribute this information to the community in an easily understandable fashion, making them more resilient to environmental events.”
The new network builds on previous NASA ocean satellite sensor technologies created to study the global ocean’s microscopic algal communities, which play a major role in ocean ecology, the movement of carbon dioxide between the atmosphere and ocean, and climate change. These sensors detect the color of the sunlit upper layer of the ocean and are used to create indicators that can help identify harmful algal blooms.
Under certain environmental conditions, algae naturally present in marine and fresh waters rapidly multiply to create a bloom. Some species of algae called cyanobacteria produce toxins that can kill wildlife and domestic animals and cause illness in humans through exposure to contaminated freshwater and the consumption of contaminated drinking water, fish or shellfish. Cyanobacteria blooms are a particular concern because of their dense biomass, toxins, taste and odor.
“EPA researchers are developing important scientific tools to help local communities respond quickly and efficiently to real-time water quality issues and protect drinking water for their residents,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “Working with other federal agencies, we are leveraging our scientific expertise, technology and data to create a mobile app to help water quality managers make important decisions to reduce negative impacts related to harmful algal blooms, which have been increasingly affecting our water bodies due to climate change.”
The project also includes a research component to improve understanding of the environmental causes and health impacts of cyanobacteria and phytoplankton blooms across the United States. Blooms in lakes and estuaries are produced when aquatic plants receive excess nutrients under suitable environmental conditions. Various land uses, such as urbanization and agricultural practices, change the amount of nutrients and sediment delivered in watersheds, which can influence cyanobacterial growth.
Researchers will compare the new freshwater algal blooms data with satellite records of land cover changes over time to identify specific land-use activities that may have caused environmental changes linked to the frequency and intensity of blooms. The results will help to develop better forecasts of bloom events.
NASA uses the vantage point of space to increase our understanding of our home planet, improve lives, and safeguard our future. NASA develops new ways to observe and study Earth’s interconnected natural systems with long-term satellite data records. The agency freely shares this unique knowledge and works with institutions around the world to gain new insights into how our planet is changing.
For more information on NASA’s Earth science activities, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/earth
By Jose Zayas
With utility-scale wind turbines installed in 39 states, wind energy accounts for 4.5 percent of our nation’s annual electricity generation. At this level, wind energy already supports more than 50,000 industry-related jobs in manufacturing, construction, operations and maintenance, and supporting services, all while improving the environment and strengthening our economy.
So, what could the United States energy picture look like in 2020, 2030, and 2050, and what is the role of wind? That’s the question the Energy Department and an elite team of researchers, academics, scientists, engineers and wind industry experts set out to answer over the past two years.
These experts revisited and built on the findings of the Energy Department’s 2008 20% Wind by 2030 report to envision a new future for wind energy through 2050. Taking into account every type of wind energy deployment (land-based, offshore, distributed), the new Wind Vision Report defines the societal, environmental and economic benefits of wind power in a scenario with wind energy supplying 10 percent of the country’s electricity in 2020, 20 percent in 2030 and 35 percent in 2050, established through rigorous analysis and deployment scenario sensitivities.Key Findings of the Wind Vision Report
This comprehensive analysis has a number of key takeaways:
- As wind power becomes a larger part of the country’s energy mix and investments aim at cost reductions, the price of wind energy is projected to be directly competitive with conventional energy technologies within the next decade.
- Wind can be a viable source of renewable electricity in all 50 states by 2050.
- Wind has the potential to support more than 600,000 jobs in manufacturing, installation, maintenance and supporting services.
- By 2050, most wind turbine components could be manufactured in the United States.
- By 2050, wind energy can help offset 12.3 gigatonnes of greenhouse gases, equivalent to $400 billion in avoided carbon emissions at current global economic values.
- By 2050, wind energy can help offset 2.6 million metric tons of sulfur dioxide, 4.7 million metric tons of nitrogen oxides, and 0.5 million metric tons of fine particulate matter, equivalent to $108 billion in savings from avoided healthcare costs and economic damages.
- By 2050, wind energy can save 260 billion gallons of water that would have been used by the electric power sector, equivalent to roughly 400,000 Olympic-size swimming pools.
- With wind energy, the United States can save $280 billion in natural gas costs by 2050. Natural gas is currently used to help quickly supply power to the electrical grid during spikes in energy use, such as those caused by seasonal heating and cooling.
- Local governments will be able to collect additional tax revenue from land lease payments and property taxes, reaching $3.2 billion annually by 2050.
In order to quantify the impacts and benefits of wind energy through 2050, the Wind Vision Report models three different scenarios:
- The “Baseline Scenario” holds wind energy capacity constant, at the level of installed capacity at the end of 2013.
- The “Business-as-Usual Scenario” factors in variables such as electricity demand, fossil fuel prices, wind power and other renewable energy costs, as well as existing transmission expansion patterns. Under this scenario wind economically competes as part of the U.S. electricity generating fleet, and with federal and state policies as enacted as of January 1, 2014.
- The “Study Scenario,” derived through analytical modeling, defines wind contributions as 10% of national end-use electricity demand by 2020, 20% by 2030 and 35% by 2050 and all other electricity sources economically compete for generation, while federal and state policies are held as enacted as of January 1, 2014. The Study Scenario used current (as of 2013) and projected trend data to inform inputs, assumptions, and other constraints.
While the Wind Vision Report does not make any policy recommendations, it does provide a Roadmap for Targeted Actions. The Wind Vision Roadmap sets forth actions the wind energy industry, research community and others can take to accelerate the deployment of wind energy nationwide. The nine core “action areas” focus on technology advancement, grid integration, workforce development and other topics and provide a comprehensive framework for future wind power deployment and further cost reductions.
Some of the key actions that would help achieve the Wind Vision Study Scenario include:
- Reducing wind power costs: Reducing the cost of wind energy will primarily be influenced by continued cost improvements and advancements in overarching wind energy technologies.
- Expanding the developable areas for wind power: This includes expanding wind power to new areas, such as the southeastern United States, as well as the installation of new transmission lines to high quality wind resource locations.
- Deploying wind in ways that increase its value for the nation: This includes the use of domestically manufactured components for all phases of wind project development and considering the impact of wind energy growth on surrounding communities, the environment, wildlife and the general public.
The Energy Department is proud to have worked with more than 100 companies and organizations such as the American Wind Energy Association, the Union of Concerned Scientists, Vestas American Wind Technology, General Electric Energy, Defenders of Wildlife, Renewable Energy Systems America, EDF Renewables, Arcadia Windpower, the University of Iowa, PJM Interconnection, the academic sector, and our National Laboratories to develop this vision for America’s wind energy future. As a viable source of renewable power that will help our country achieve energy independence, wind has the potential to push the boundaries of energy further than ever before.
Explore the Wind Vision Report in full at wind.energy.gov/vision.
By Nadia Prupis
Canadian glaciers may shrink by 70 percent by the end of the century, a development which could have devastating environmental effects, according to a new report published Monday in Nature Geoscience.
The report, titled Projected Deglaciation of Western Canada in the Twenty-First Century, used digital models of current glaciers and the physics of ice flow, measured against predictions of long-term global warming from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, to predict how rising greenhouse gases will affect glaciers in that region.
As the New York Times explains, “glaciers in Western Canada will shrink to less than 10 percent of the area they covered in 2005, and glaciers in the coastal regions will be reduced to about 30 percent of their 2005 size.”
In the drier interior of the Rocky Mountains, up to 90 percent of the glaciers could be lost. Western Canada is home to more than 17,000 glaciers.
“Few glaciers will remain in the Interior and Rockies regions, but maritime glaciers, in particular those in northwestern British Columbia, will survive in a diminished state,” the report states. “Our projected changes of ice cover in western Canada have broader ramifications for aquatic ecosystems, agriculture, forestry, alpine tourism, water quality and resource development.”
The loss of glaciers is a major contributing factor to rising sea levels and could also have a profound effect on the survival rates of aquatic animals and the quality and supply of potable water, the researchers state.
“These glaciers act as a thermostat for freshwater ecosystems,” lead author and University of British Columbia professor emeritus Garry Clarke said in a press release Monday. “Once the glaciers are gone, the streams will be a lot warmer and this will hugely change fresh water habitat. We could see some unpleasant surprises in terms of salmon productivity.”
Clarke told the Times, “The glaciers don’t respond to weather; they respond to climate. Last year’s bad winter is not going to save the glaciers. On average, climate is changing, and it’s not changing in ways that are good for glacier survival. And it’s not good for a lot of other things, including California water.”
What’s more, the report’s findings are “a conservative scenario,” Clarke told the Washington Post on Tuesday. “All the others [models] lead to total loss of ice in the mountains there.”
Andreas Vieli, corresponding author and a professor of geography at the University of Zurich, said the report’s analysis could “potentially be applied to a wide range of glacierized regions” around the world.
Clarke highlighted the importance of reducing humanity’s carbon footprint to battle the lasting effects of climate change, on the glaciers and elsewhere.
“We have to have a peak occur in the mid-2040s so carbon dioxide is on downward path hereafter,” Clarke told the Post. “We don’t have a lot of time to get there.”
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License
Following the lowest snowpack ever recorded and with no end to the drought in sight, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. today announced actions that will save water, increase enforcement to prevent wasteful water use, streamline the state’s drought response and invest in new technologies that will make California more drought resilient.
“Today we are standing on dry grass where there should be five feet of snow. This historic drought demands unprecedented action,” said Governor Brown. “Therefore, I’m issuing an executive order mandating substantial water reductions across our state. As Californians, we must pull together and save water in every way possible.”
High resolution photos of previous snow surveys are available here.
For more than two years, the state’s experts have been managing water resources to ensure that the state survives this drought and is better prepared for the next one. Last year, the Governor proclaimed a drought state of emergency. The state has taken steps to make sure that water is available for human health and safety, growing food, fighting fires and protecting fish and wildlife. Millions have been spent helping thousands of California families most impacted by the drought pay their bills, put food on their tables and have water to drink.
The following is a summary of the executive order issued by the Governor today.Save Water
For the first time in state history, the Governor has directed the State Water Resources Control Board to implement mandatory water reductions in cities and towns across California to reduce water usage by 25 percent. This savings amounts to approximately 1.5 million acre-feet of water over the next nine months, or nearly as much as is currently in Lake Oroville.
To save more water now, the order will also:
-Replace 50 million square feet of lawns throughout the state with drought tolerant landscaping in partnership with local governments;
-Direct the creation of a temporary, statewide consumer rebate program to replace old appliances with more water and energy efficient models;
-Require campuses, golf courses, cemeteries and other large landscapes to make significant cuts in water use; and
-Prohibit new homes and developments from irrigating with potable water unless water-efficient drip irrigation systems are used, and ban watering of ornamental grass on public street medians.
The Governor’s order calls on local water agencies to adjust their rate structures to implement conservation pricing, recognized as an effective way to realize water reductions and discourage water waste.
Agricultural water users – which have borne much of the brunt of the drought to date, with hundreds of thousands of fallowed acres, significantly reduced water allocations and thousands of farmworkers laid off – will be required to report more water use information to state regulators, increasing the state’s ability to enforce against illegal diversions and waste and unreasonable use of water under today’s order. Additionally, the Governor’s action strengthens standards for Agricultural Water Management Plans submitted by large agriculture water districts and requires small agriculture water districts to develop similar plans. These plans will help ensure that agricultural communities are prepared in case the drought extends into 2016.
Additional actions required by the order include:
-Taking action against water agencies in depleted groundwater basins that have not shared data on their groundwater supplies with the state;
-Updating standards for toilets and faucets and outdoor landscaping in residential communities and taking action against communities that ignore these standards; and
-Making permanent monthly reporting of water usage, conservation and enforcement actions by local water suppliers.
-Prioritizes state review and decision-making of water infrastructure projects and requires state agencies to report to the Governor’s Office on any application pending for more than 90 days.
-Streamlines permitting and review of emergency drought salinity barriers – necessary to keep freshwater supplies in upstream reservoirs for human use and habitat protection for endangered and threatened species;
-Simplifies the review and approval process for voluntary water transfers and emergency drinking water projects; and
-Directs state departments to provide temporary relocation assistance to families who need to move from homes where domestic wells have run dry to housing with running water.
The order helps make California more drought resilient by:
-Incentivizing promising new technology that will make California more water efficient through a new program administered by the California Energy Commission.
The full text of the executive order can be found here.
For more than two years, California has been dealing with the effects of drought. To learn about all the actions the state has taken to manage our water system and cope with the impacts of the drought, visit Drought.CA.Gov.
Every Californian should take steps to conserve water. Find out how at SaveOurWater.com.
California has become the first state with more than 5% of its annual utility-scale electricity generation from utility-scale solar power, according to EIA’s Electric Power Monthly. California’s utility-scale (1 megawatt (MW) or larger) solar plants generated a record 9.9 million megawatthours (MWh) of electricity in 2014, an increase of 6.1 million MWh from 2013. California’s utility-scale solar production in 2014 was more than three times the output of the next-highest state, Arizona, and more than all other states combined.
Several large plants were phased into operation in California during 2014, including two 550 MW solar photovoltaic plants, Topaz and Desert Sunlight (Phases 1 and 2), as well as the 377 MW Ivanpah (Phases 1, 2, and 3) and the 250 MW Genesis solar thermal plants. In total, nearly 1,900 MW of new utility-scale solar capacity was added, bringing the state’s utility-scale capacity for all solar technologies to 5,400 MW by the end of 2014.
California has promoted solar power through a series of state policies, including a renewable portfolio standard (RPS) that requires electricity providers to obtain 33% of the power they sell from eligible renewable sources by 2020. In 2014, the state obtained 22% of its electricity from nonhydropower renewables including wind, solar, and biomass.
California also created incentives, including rebates and net-metering policies, to encourage rooftop and other small-scale solar capacity, whose generation is not captured in the above figure. By the end of 2014, more than 2,300 MW of small-scale solar capacity was installed on homes and businesses, according to the California Public Utilities Commission.
The top three states in utility-scale solar generation in 2014 were California, Arizona, and Nevada. These states in the southwestern United States have some of the best solar resources in the world. However, states with less-favorable solar resources, such as New Jersey and Massachusetts, also are among the top 10 states in total solar generation. All of the top 10 states—with the exception of Florida—have a renewable portfolio standard in place. Most of those policies include a specific target for solar power or customer-sited generation.
The increase in California’s solar production came the same year that drought conditions caused hydroelectric generation to fall 46% compared to the previous five-year average. Although solar is only available at certain times of the day, the annual increase in California’s solar generation in 2014 offset 83% of the decrease in hydroelectric generation. Along with increases in generation from wind power and geothermal energy, solar power helped make California the top state producer of nonhydroelectric renewable electricity in 2014, narrowly topping Texas.
Principal contributor: Allen McFarland
On Saturday, 28 March 8:30 p.m. local time, individuals, businesses, cities and landmarks around the world will switch off their lights for one hour to focus attention on climate change. As the lights go out, Earth Hour supporters will also be contributing real climate solutions to combat the globe’s biggest environmental challenge.
This year, Earth Hour is set to be a record-breaking celebration of our planet with an unprecedented 172 countries and territories having confirmed their participation, including nations on the climate frontlines like the Philippines, Maldives and Madagascar and key climate actors such as Brazil, the United States and China.
Since its origin as a symbolic lights off event in Sydney in 2007, WWF’s Earth Hour has grown into the world’s largest grassroots movement for the environment igniting public awareness and action on climate in more than 7,000 cities across the world.
From Cambodia to Cameroon to Colombia, homes, offices, skylines and monuments will go dark as the world unites to inspire collective action to change climate change. Over 1,200 landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower in Paris and the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco will turn off their lights. Close to 40 UNESCO World Heritage Sites including the Acropolis in Athens and Edinburgh Castle in Scotland are also scheduled to go dark in support of Earth Hour.
As landmarks flip their switches off, WWF and Earth Hour teams will switch on the power of the crowd to address local climate issues. By empowering people to take concrete actions for climate — be it by raising their voice for stronger climate action or donating to WWF conservation projects — Earth Hour will bring people together to ensure the momentum to change climate change continues well beyond the hour.
“As Earth Hour continues to break records for global participation, our supporters continue to reach new heights for energy and creativity in using their power to make a difference. Every light switch turned off, every signature collected and every project funded, gives us renewed hope that together we can change climate change,” said SudhanshuSarronwala, Chair, Board of Directors, Earth Hour Global.
Even before Earth Hour sweeps across twenty-four time zones on Saturday, WWF teams are already using the power of the movement to drive concrete action and solutions on climate change. From collecting 100,000 signatures to urge a ban on the exploration of Arctic oil in Russia to reducing people’s dependency on firewood and forests by building sustainable livelihoods in Uganda, Earth Hour is empowering people to be a part of a global movement to take climate action.
In past months, Earth Hour supporters have also used their power on the Earth Hour crowdfunding platform to help build community climate resilience in India, Indonesia, Colombia and Portugal. WWF teams are also building on Earth Hour’s potential to inspire action from individuals, businesses and governments by advocating climate-friendly policy and legislation on themes such as access to renewable energy and reforestation.
“Earth Hour shows us what we can achieve together. From creating a forest in Uganda to lighting up entire villages with solar power in India and the Philippines, the power of the crowd to make change happen is phenomenal,” added Sarronwala. “With Earth Hour, every light switch turned off is hope for climate action turned on.”
Lights around the world will go out for one hour this weekend, but the need to take climate action extends throughout the year. As Earth Hour brings temporary darkness to many of the world’s most recognizable landmarks, WWF hopes to shed permanent light on the power each individual has to change climate change.
Earth Hour 2015 will take place on Saturday 28 March at 8:30 p.m. local time.
Visit the Earth Hour Tracker to see events happening near you or to create your own Earth Hour activity. Log on to our website www.earthhour.org for more stories and articles on using the power of the crowd to change climate change.
Link to videos and photos on Earth Hour activities around the world (to be updated live on the night): http://www.earthhour.org/media-centre
About Earth Hour:
Earth Hour is WWF’s global environmental movement. As one of the first open-sourced climate change campaigns, Earth Hour has grown from a symbolic event in one city to the world’s largest grassroots movement for the environment. In 2014, Earth Hour engaged individuals, businesses and organizations in over 7,000 cities and 162 countries and territories during the hour and beyond. In 2015, Earth Hour aims to harness the power of its millions of supporters worldwide to change climate change.
WWF is one of the world’s largest and most respected independent conservation organizations, with over five million supporters and a global network active in more than 100 countries. WWF’s mission is to stop the degradation of the earth’s natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world’s biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption.
UC San Diego News CenterNew study reveals accelerating losses over two decades
A new study led by Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego researchers has revealed that the thickness of Antarctica’s floating ice shelves has recently decreased by as much as 18 percent in certain areas over nearly two decades, providing new insights on how the Antarctic ice sheet is responding to climate change.
Data from nearly two decades of satellite missions have shown that the ice volume decline is accelerating, according to a study published on March 26, 2015, in the journal Science and supported by NASA. Scripps graduate student Fernando Paolo, Scripps glaciologist Helen Amanda Fricker, and oceanographer Laurie Padman of Earth & Space Research (a non-profit institute specializing in oceanography research) constructed a new high-resolution record of ice shelf thickness based on satellite radar altimetry missions of the European Space Agency from 1994 to 2012.
Merging data from three overlapping missions, the researchers identified changes in ice thickness that took place over more than a decade, an advancement over studying data from single missions that only provide snapshots of trends.
Total ice shelf volume (mean thickness multiplied by ice shelf area) across Antarctica changed very little from 1994 to 2003, then declined rapidly, the study shows. West Antarctic ice shelves lost ice throughout the entire observation period, with accelerated loss in the most recent decade. Earlier gains in East Antarctic ice shelf volume ceased after about 2003, the study showed. Some ice shelves lost up to 18 percent of their volume from 1994 to 2012.
“Eighteen percent over the course of 18 years is really a substantial change,” said Paolo. “Overall, we show not only the total ice shelf volume is decreasing, but we see an acceleration in the last decade.”
While melting ice shelves do not contribute directly to sea-level rise, the researchers indicate that there is an important indirect effect.
“The ice shelves buttress the flow from grounded ice into the ocean, and that flow impacts sea-level rise, so that’s a key concern from our new study,” said Fricker.
Under current rates of thinning, the researchers estimate the ice shelves restraining the unstable sector of West Antarctica could lose half their volume within the next 200 years.
“This work demonstrates the power of satellite observations to understand change in the great polar ice sheets,” said Thomas Wagner, Program Manager for Cryospheric Sciences at NASA Headquarters. “And with data spanning decades, we can understand some of the most important changes and their implications for sea-level rise.”
Fricker said future studies will concentrate on the causes behind changes in ice shelf volume, including the effects of the atmosphere and ocean.
“We’re looking into connections between El Niño events in the tropical Pacific and changes in the Antarctic ice sheet,” said Paolo. “It’s very far apart but we know that these teleconnections exist. That may ultimately allow us to improve our models for predicting future ice loss.”