Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Ridiculously Resilient Ridge Loses Grip!

Rock  Dock
Pillar Point Harbor 12/12/14

It’s been about a year since I’ve blogged about the local climate here in Moss Beach, on the California coast, see Perpetual Summer
In that post I commented on the weather changes I've experience Coastside and I stated the weather patterns have changed during the 2013 year based on my observation over 16 years of being a Coastside resident. So far it’s not been easy to quantify these changes thru temperature variation, rain fall, historical humidity data and other variables. Recently we’ve had a nice change to our weather pattern where the persistent high pressure ridge that has blocked much of Northern California’s rain has dissipated allowing more normal winter weather for much of December. At this point I’m going to do a re-cap of the recent past with respect to weather, ecology, the local environment, human and animal habitat and the effects on our coastal habitat wellbeing!

Ridiculously Resilient Ridge (RRR):
There has been much talk and speculation about the high pressure ridge that has been parked over California now for 2-3 years, deflecting storms to the north. In the past high pressure ridges come and go as normal weather patterns; however this unprecedented ridge seems to be self-reinforcing with a positive feedback loop that maintains itself.  Its persistence is unheard of in the normal meteorology realm and has been christened the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge RRR by David Swain, a Stanford University Doctoral Candidate who blogs at weatherwest.com. As mentioned before, this RRR has appeared to have dissipated at least temporarily as evidence by our nice December rain fall. Nobody knows why this high pressure ridge has been so tenacious and persistent; there are many factors in play here, ocean temperature, current and wind patterns, increased carbon distribution, pollution, solar flares. Again, the problem cannot be understood on a local level, it’s the entire earth universe interconnected system that needs understanding, no easy task and not likely in the near future.

Pescadero Creek Flow to Ocean

Let’s look at ocean temperatures: 
Higher than normal temperatures have been observed along the Northern California coast. This amounts to a 5-6 ° F temperatures increase over historic averages, ranking among the warmest recorded in the last 30 years. In October, it was 65 degrees off the Farallon Islands and in Monterey Bay, and 69 degrees off Point Conception near Santa Barbara. Normally these temperatures would be I the upper 50’s to low 60’s! The last time the ocean off California was this warm was in 1983 and 1997, both strong El Niño years that brought drenching winter rains to the West Coast. Recently, the water temperature at the Scripps pier in La Jolla was 71 degrees. The historic average back to 1916 for late October is 65 degrees.
I’m not exactly sure of how El Niño conditions are predicted, looks like it’s based on ocean temperatures and winds especially around the equator. Winds blowing from the north at the equator move warm water closer to the equator. This wind has apparently slackened somewhat allowing warmer water to move north.

What's happening are winds that normally blow from the north, trapping warm water closer to the equator, have slackened since the summer. That's allowed the warm water to move north. However, the water at the equator has only warmed slightly making an El Niño event predicted to be mild. The warmer ocean temperatures have negatively affected upwelling a critical food chain event where churning cold water from down below pushes up ocean nutrients such as plankton and krill. More warm water southern species of birds and marine mammals and turtles have been observed recently in Northern California. Other common species such as Cassin’s Auklets have been gravely impacted by mediocre upwelling and scarcity of krill in the northern ocean. 

Pumpkins Moss Beach, California 

Personal Observations and Comments:
I would also like to point out; I’ve lived in the Bay Area for 46 years and have been a frequent visitor to the coast before I actually moved to the coast. As we are all aware of the devastating drought that continues into its third year, it should be noted the last 3 years has the least precipitation in a 3 year stretch in recorded California History.  It’s now becoming apparent to me that the ground level effects of the drought are now visible in plain sight. We’ve all seen the dramatic pictures of lakes and reservoirs drying up, boat docks sitting on dry ground, the water receding, at Folsom Lake, San Luis Reservoir, Shasta Lake and many more. Shasta Lake is at 35% capacity as of July 2014. Here locally vegetation is dying all around, trees, shrubs, native and non-native plants. My yard Ceanothus, normally a hardy native plant when mature now requires frequent watering or it starts to turn yellow and die. Fires are raging all around the state, the air is often dirty or smoggy and Spare the Air Days are frequent. Blue Oaks, the most widely distributed oak trees in California are in bad shape, soil moisture levels are at 2.5%, and normally they are 12-18%.
All year, scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have been forecasting an El Niño, conditions in which warm ocean water at the equator near South America can affect the weather in dramatic ways. But now the water is only slightly warmer than normal at the equator, leading scientists to declare a mild El Niño is on the way. And although strong El Niños often have brought wet winters to California, mild ones have just as often resulted in moderate or dry winters.

Cassin’s Auklet Die-off:
Hundreds of HY hatch year Cassin’s Auklets have been found dead on northern California beaches recently due to starvation. Cassin’s Auklets are krill eaters solely and that source of food has diminished greatly and is believed responsible for the current Cassin’s Auklet die-off!

Warm Water and Southern Ocean Observations:
Folks at Point Blue Science, a nonprofit group from Petaluma, Ca have documented more than 100 Common Dolphins off the Farallon Islands, a species normally found off of Southern California.  
The Point Blue scientists have scooped up a tiny species of ocean snail called the tropical sea butterfly, normally found far to the south. They have documented a Guadalupe fur seal, normally found off Baja California in Mexico; blue buoy barnacles and purple-striped jellyfish, which usually drift off Southern California; and a Guadalupe murrelet, a tiny seabird that frequents Mexico. Other observations noted by Point Blue are as follows quoted directly from Point Blue:
In September, a fisherman off San Francisco caught an endangered green sea turtle, an extremely rare find for Northern California, since the species usually lives off Mexico and the Galapagos Islands. He returned it to the sea unharmed.
Similar tales are turning up in Southern California, where fishermen and scientists have found Hawaiian ono, along with tripletail, a fish species commonly found between Costa Rica and Peru, and other warm-water species.
In August and September there were even sightings of skipjack tuna and giant sunfish, or mola mola, off Alaska.

From a local standpoint, I’ve continued to make an effort to identify a smoking gun so that we have a starting point in which to begin turn around action. I’ve not been able up to now to identify that gun on a local level but it’s apparent there are many smoking guns and it’s surprising that many people want to suppress evidence of those smoking guns. It’s surprising in that some deniers will accept the possibility of climate change, but not the notion it’s caused by human beings? If not human beings….WHO OR WHAT? We are aiding and abetting corporations in their incessant sledge hammering our planet into oblivion. Want smoking guns; just follow the money and the corporations that wield large piles of money around buying countries, and their natural resources and politicians in an insane effort to sustain unbridled growth that can only destroy our economic system along with the planet that sustains it!

While about 97% of climate scientist are agreeing that human activity is affecting our climate, there is a smaller number and growing number of scientist that insist we have already passed the tipping points of self-re-enforcing climate feedback loops and in essence the human population is doomed!  The term Near Term Human Extinction is being bandied around by some people and may well be a common term in the near future. I don’t know if we have reached a tipping point somewhere in our bio system, but a tipping point we have not reached is our ambivalence and indifference to what the powerful greed heads of our population are doing to this small planet! There should be a worldwide outcry and unprecedented action to stop the destruction and rape of planet earth. What we get instead is SILENCE!

We need a tipping point of indignation and disgust at what we are allowing to happen to our habitat and the future habitat of our children. We cannot depend on the bought and sold politicians we have elected, not only are they driven by stupidity and greed, they are shallow inferior people that have no credentials to be leaders and yet they dominate and control all decisions that affect the world population. Let’s look at some of the people we have chosen to represent us and make decisions for us. We have a Supreme Court justice that is a publically admitted homophobe and racist. A large portion of our Republican politicians not only deny climate change but insist evolution is bunk and the earth is 6000 years old! These people make decisions that impinge our lives and those of our children. Look at the class of morons that the Republican Party paraded before us in the last two presidential primaries. The pizza salesman was probably the most innocuous, but how low can you go with Sara Palin, Michelle Bachman, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, and Mike Huckabee! How can anybody consider electing these religious zealots and war mongers to run the most powerful country in the world? There is a name for this kind of government it’s called a Kakistocracy, a system of rule by the worst men!  I don’t hold out a lot of hope for the future of mankind on this planet; we even seem to want to strengthen our Kakistocracy as evident by our recent elections.