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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 2012

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  1. A Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment of California's At-Risk Birds. Gardali, Thomas; Seavy, Nathaniel E.; DiGaudio, Ryan T. & Comrack, Lyann A..
    PLoS ONE: 2012
    DOI: 10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0029507
    Conservationists must develop new strategies and adapt existing tools to address the consequences of anthropogenic climate change. To support statewide climate change adaptation, we developed a framework for assessing climate change vulnerability of California's at-risk birds and integrating it into the existing California Bird Species of Special Concern list. We defined climate vulnerability as the amount of evidence that climate change will negatively impact a population. We quantified climate vulnerability by scoring sensitivity (intrinsic characteristics of an organism that make it vulnerable) and exposure (the magnitude of climate change expected) for each taxon. Using the combined sensitivity and exposure scores as an index, we ranked 358 avian taxa, and classified 128 as vulnerable to climate change. Birds associated with wetlands had the largest representation on the list relative to other habitat groups. Of the 29 state or federally listed taxa, 21 were also classified as climate vulnerable, further raising their conservation concern. Integrating climate vulnerability and California's Bird Species of Special Concern list resulted in the addition of five taxa and an increase in priority rank for ten. Our process illustrates a simple, immediate action that can be taken to inform climate change adaptation strategies for wildlife.

  2. Adaptation of California's electricity sector to climate change. Vine, Edward.
    Climatic Change: 2012
    DOI: 10.1007/s10584-011-0242-2
    Climate change is likely to pose considerable new challenges to California's electricity sector. This paper primarily focuses on the adaptation challenges of an important component of the energy arena: electricity demand in the residential and commercial sectors and electricity supply. The primary challenge to California's electricity sector will likely be the increase in demand for air conditioning as a result of rising temperatures. In addition, renewable energy sources, which are an increasing share of the electricity portfolio, are particularly vulnerable to climate change. Many of the key players have been actively considering the implications of climate change. Because electricity generation accounts for nearly 30% of greenhouse gas emissions, this sector has been a target of the state's efforts to reduce emissions. Fortunately, many of the same tools can simultaneously improve the sector's resilience to a changing climate. Demand management strategies and supply diversification are both important strategies. Local governments can play a central role in encouraging the adoption of more energy efficient building codes and the use of more renewable sources, such as solar energy. The positive steps taken by many local governments are encouraging. Steps to increase public awareness are an important, often missing component, however. Increases in research, development, and demonstration to improve system resiliency and develop new energy conservation tools are also needed.

  3. Adapting California's water management to climate change. Ellen Hanak, Jay R. Lund.
    Climatic Change: 2012
    DOI: 10.1007/s10584-011-0241-3
    California faces significant water management challenges from climate change, affecting water supply, aquatic ecosystems, and flood risks. Fortunately, the state also possesses adaptation tools and institutional capabilities that can limit vulnerability to changing conditions. Water supply managers have begun using underground storage, water transfers, conservation, recycling, and desalination to meet changing demands. These same tools are promising options for responding to a wide range of climate changes. Likewise, many staples of flood management'including reservoir operations, levees, bypasses, insurance, and land-use regulation'are available for the challenges of increased floods. Yet actions are also needed to improve response capacity. For water supply, a central issue is the management of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, where new conveyance, habitat investments, and regulations are needed to sustain water supplies and protect endangered fish species. For flood management, among the least-examined aspects of water management with climate change, needed reforms include forward-looking reservoir operation planning and floodplain mapping, less restrictive rules for raising local funds, and improved public information on flood risks. For water quality, an urgent priority is better science. Although local agencies are central players, adaptation will require strong-willed state leadership to shape institutions, incentives, and regulations capable of responding to change. Federal cooperation often will be essential.

  4. Addendum to 'Simulating cold season snowpack: Impacts of snow albedo and multi-layer snow physics. Waliser, Duane E; Guan, Bin; Li, Jui-Lin F & Kim, Jinwon.
    Climatic Change: 2012
    DOI: 10.1007/s10584-012-0531-4

  5. Airborne observations of methane emissions from rice cultivation in the Sacramento Valley of California. J. Peischl, T. B. Ryerson, J. S. Holloway M. Trainer A. E. Andrews E. L. Atlas D. R. Blake B. C. Daube E. J. Dlugokencky M. L. Fischer A. H. Goldstein A. Guha T. Karl 9 J. Kofler E. Kosciuch P. K. Misztal A. E. Perring I. B. Pollack G. W. Santoni J. P. Schwarz J. R. Spackman S. C. Wofsy D. D. Parrish.
    Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres: 2012
    DOI: 10.1029/2012JD017994
    Airborne measurements of methane (CH4) and carbon dioxide (CO2) were taken over the rice growing region of California's Sacramento Valley in the late spring of 2010 and 2011. From these and ancillary measurements, we show that CH4 mixing ratios were higher in the planetary boundary layer above the Sacramento Valley during the rice growing season than they were before it, which we attribute to emissions from rice paddies. We derive daytime emission fluxes of CH4 between 0.6 and 2.0% of the CO2 taken up by photosynthesis on a per carbon, or mole to mole, basis. We also use a mixing model to determine an average CH4/CO2 flux ratio of −0.6% for one day early in the growing season of 2010. We conclude the CH4/CO2 flux ratio estimates from a single rice field in a previous study are representative of rice fields in the Sacramento Valley. If generally true, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) greenhouse gas inventory emission rate of 2.7 × 1010 g CH4/yr is approximately three times lower than the range of probable CH4 emissions (7.8–9.3 × 1010 g CH4/yr) from rice cultivation derived in this study. We attribute this difference to decreased burning of the residual rice crop since 1991, which leads to an increase in CH4 emissions from rice paddies in succeeding years, but which is not accounted for in the CARB inventory.

  6. A method for physically based model analysis of conjunctive use in response to potential climate changes. R. T. Hanson, L. E. Flint, A. L. Flint, M. D. Dettinger, C. C. Faunt, Dan Cayan, and Wolfgang Schmid.
    Water Resources Research: 2012
    DOI: DOI: 10.1029/2011WR010774
    <p><span style="text-transform: none; background-color: #ffffff; text-indent: 0px; display: inline !important; font: 12px/18px Arial, 'Lucida Grande', Geneva, Verdana, Helvetica, 'Lucida Sans Unicode', sans-serif; white-space: normal; float: none; letter-spacing: normal; color: #000000; word-spacing: 0px;">Potential climate change effects on aspects of conjunctive management of water resources can be evaluated by linking climate models with fully integrated groundwater&ndash;surface water models. The objective of this study is to develop a modeling system that links global climate models with regional hydrologic models, using the California Central Valley as a case study. The new method is a supply and demand modeling framework that can be used to simulate and analyze potential climate change and conjunctive use. Supply-constrained and demand-driven linkages in the water system in the Central Valley are represented with the linked climate models, precipitation-runoff models, agricultural and native vegetation water use, and hydrologic flow models to demonstrate the feasibility of this method. Simulated precipitation and temperature were used from the GFDL-A2 climate change scenario through the 21st century to drive a regional water balance mountain hydrologic watershed model (MHWM) for the surrounding watersheds in combination with a regional integrated hydrologic model of the Central Valley (CVHM). Application of this method demonstrates the potential transition from predominantly surface water to groundwater supply for agriculture with secondary effects that may limit this transition of conjunctive use. The particular scenario considered includes intermittent climatic droughts in the first half of the 21st century followed by severe persistent droughts in the second half of the 21st century. These climatic droughts do not yield a valley-wide operational drought but do cause reduced surface water deliveries and increased groundwater abstractions that may cause additional land subsidence, reduced water for riparian habitat, or changes in flows at the Sacramento&ndash;San Joaquin River Delta. The method developed here can be used to explore conjunctive use adaptation options and hydrologic risk assessments in regional hydrologic systems throughout the world.</span></p>

  7. Assessing surface water consumption using remotely-sensed groundwater, evapotranspiration, and precipitation. Ray G. Anderson, Min-Hui Lo, James S. Famiglietti.
    Geophysical Research Letters: 2012
    DOI: 10.1029/2012GL052400
    Estimates of consumptive use of surface water by agriculture are vital for assessing food security, managing water rights, and evaluating anthropogenic impacts on regional hydrology. However, reliable, current, and public data on consumptive use can be difficult to obtain, particularly in international and less developed basins. We combine remotely-sensed precipitation and satellite observations of evapotranspiration and groundwater depletion to estimate surface water consumption by irrigated agriculture in California's Central Valley for the 2004-09 water years. We validated our technique against measured consumption data determined from streamflow observations and water export data in the Central Valley. Mean satellite-derived surface water consumption was 291.0 ± 32.4 mm/year while measured surface water consumption was 308.1 ± 6.5 mm/year. The results show the potential for remotely-sensed hydrologic data to independently observe irrigated agriculture's surface water consumption in contested or unmonitored basins. Improvements in the precision and spatial resolution of satellite precipitation, evapotranspiration and gravimetric groundwater observations are needed to reduce the uncertainty in this method and to allow its use on smaller basins and at shorter time scales.

  8. California coastal management with a changing climate. Hanak, Ellen & Moreno, Georgina.
    Climatic Change: 2012
    DOI: 10.1007/s10584-011-0295-2
    With over 2,000 miles (3,218 km) of ocean and estuarine coastline, California faces significant coastal management challenges as a result of climate change-induced sea level rise. Under high emission scenarios, recent models predict 1.4 m or more of sea level rise by 2100, accompanied by increasing storm surges. This article investigates the most important issues facing coastal managers, explores the policy tools available for adapting to the impacts of climate change, assesses institutional constraints to adaptation, and identifies priorities for future research and policy action. We find that adaptation tools exist for dealing with anticipated increases in coastal erosion and flooding, but they involve significant costs and tradeoffs. In particular, coastal armoring, such as seawalls, can protect developed coastal lands, but destroys beaches and habitat. Although California already has policies and institutions that aim to balance the competing objectives for coastal development,management agencies are at the early stages of understanding how to facilitate adaptation. Research priorities to inform coastal adaptation planning include: (i) inventorying coastal resources to provide a firmer basis for balancing decisions on property and habitat protection, (ii) identifying opportunities for coastal habitat migration, (iii) assessing the vulnerabilities of existing and planned coastal infrastructure, and (iv) experimenting with alternatives to armoring as a way of managing the changing coastline.

  9. California's local health agencies and the state's climate adaptation strategy. Bedsworth, Louise.
    Climatic Change: 2012
    DOI: 10.1007/s10584-011-0245-z
    A changing climate will exacerbate many of the problems currently faced by California's public health institutions. The public health impacts of climate change include: an increase in extreme heat events and associated increases in heat-related morbidity and mortality, increases in the frequency and severity of air pollution episodes, shifts in the range and incidence of vector-borne diseases, increases in the severity of wildfire, increased risks of drought and flooding, and other extreme events. This article assesses the readiness of California's public health institutions to cope with the changes that will accompany a changing climate and how they relate to strategies laid out in the state's Climate Adaptation Strategy. County-level health offices are the front line actors to preserve public health in the face of numerous threats, including climate change. Survey results show that local health officers in California believe that climate change is a serious threat to public health, but feel that they lack the funding and resources to reduce this risk. Local health agencies also have a number of tools in place that will be helpful for preparing for a changing climate.

  10. Changes in winter precipitation extremes for the western United States under a warmer climate as simulated by regional climate models. F. Dominguez, E. Rivera, D. P. Lettenmaier C. L. Castro.
    Geophysical Research Letters: 2012
    DOI: 10.1029/2011GL050762
    We find a consistent and statistically significant increase in the intensity of future extreme winter precipitation events over the western United States, as simulated by an ensemble of regional climatemodels (RCMs) driven by IPCC AR4 global climate models (GCMs). All eight simulations analyzed in this work consistently show an increase in the intensity of extreme winter precipitation with the multi-model mean projecting an area-averaged 12.6% increase in 20-year return period and 14.4% increase in 50-year return period daily precipitation. In contrast with extreme precipitation, the multi-model ensemble shows a decrease in mean winter precipitation of approximately 7.5% in the southwestern US, while the interior west shows less statistically robust increases.

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