Science

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Saving Salmon: Newsom Unveils Blueprint for Ending Decades-long Decline

Posted By on Wed, Jan 31, 2024 at 11:39 AM

With salmon populations throughout California declining for decades and facing the threat of extinction, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday unveiled a state strategy aimed at protecting and restoring the iconic species “amidst hotter and drier weather exacerbated by climate change.”

The blueprint calls for tearing down dams and improving passages for migrating salmon, restoring flows in key waterways, modernizing hatcheries to raise fish and taking other steps to help Chinook, coho, steelhead and other migrating fish. 

“We’re doubling down to make sure this species not only adapts in the face of extreme weather but remains a fixture of California’s natural beauty and ecosystems for generations to come,” Newsom said in a statement

Fewer than 80,000 Central Valley fall-run chinook salmon — a mainstay of the state’s salmon fishery — returned to spawn in 2022, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. It’s a decline of nearly 40 percent from the previous year, and the lowest since 2009. Last year, all salmon fishing was canceled in California and much of Oregon due to low numbers projected to return from the Pacific.

The threats to California's salmon are many — dams that block migration, diversions that drain rivers, ocean conditions and climate change. And the effects of the decline are wide-ranging: loss of fishery jobs, impacts on tribes’ food security and cultures, no local supplies for restaurants and consumers, and more.

Many of the projects and solutions outlined in Newsom’s report are already underway, or under the direction of the federal government, tribes and conservation groups. Included are the historic demolition of four aging hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River, and reintroduction of endangered Sacramento River winter-run Chinook eggs to the McCloud River upstream of Lake Shasta.

Regulatory efforts include establishing minimum flows on the fiercely contested Scott and Shasta Rivers, and the long-delayed and controversial management plan for the Bay-Delta, the heart of the state’s water supply. 

Some environmental groups called the plan a ploy to burnish Newsom's image after taking other steps that jeopardized salmon: his waiver of water quality requirements in the Delta that protect salmon, his support of a controversial pact with major water suppliers, and his backing of the Delta tunnel project, which the state’s environmental assessment warned could put salmon at risk.



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Wednesday, September 6, 2023

California COVID Cases are Increasing, Again. Here’s the Latest on Boosters and More

Posted By on Wed, Sep 6, 2023 at 10:30 AM

Another COVID-19 wave is hitting California as the summer ends and kids head back to school. 

It’s a familiar story by now, but one that has become perhaps more confusing with time because of changing public health recommendations, new vaccine boosters and our evolving understanding of the virus.

There’s no reason to panic, state epidemiologist Dr. Erica Pan said, with population immunity at high levels. 

“Over the course of the last three-and-a-half years, we’re fairly sure everybody’s been exposed or vaccinated at least once, or exposed and infected whether they knew it or not,” Pan said. “There’s thankfully a lot more immunity overall.”

The test positivity rate has been growing steadily over the past two months, increasing about 8 percentage points since July to a 12.5 percent seven-day average. That’s a higher positivity rate than last winter’s surge, although testing data has become less reliable as access decreased and testing rates plummeted. But wastewater surveillance networks confirm what the testing data suggests: COVID-19 infections are on the rise across California.

The second indicator of COVID-19’s comeback — hospitalizations — is also trending upward. The number of daily new hospital admissions increased more than 87 percent since the start of summer. 

The Labor Day holiday will surely fuel more transmission and hospitalizations, but hospitals are nowhere near the brink of collapse that previous surges threatened. The uptick in cases is not having a “dramatic impact on hospitals” so far, California Hospitals Association spokeswoman Jan Emerson-Shea said.

Still, public health experts recommend people take the typical precautions to prevent a serious outbreak: vaccinate, mask and isolate.

“Some people are very terrified. Most people are not thinking about (COVID-19) at all. The right answer is somewhere in between,” said Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease specialist at UCSF Health. “At the minimum we have enough tools to have individual protection without having mandates.”

If you’re wondering what the latest uptick means, you’re not alone. Here are answers to common questions.



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Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Super Blue Moon Set to Rise

Posted By on Wed, Aug 23, 2023 at 12:10 PM

The phases of the Moon for August of 2023. - NASA/JPL-CALTECH
  • NASA/JPL-Caltech
  • The phases of the Moon for August of 2023.
The second full moon set to rise in the sky Aug. 30 will not be just a “blue moon” — as the two-in-one calendar month lunar phenomena that occurs every two to three years is known. No, it’s going to be a “super blue moon.”

According to NASA, so-called blue moons — and the accompanying phrase “once in a blue moon” — come about because the moon’s lunar cycle runs just shy of a regular month.

“So, eventually a full moon will happen at the beginning of a month, with enough days left for a complete lunar cycle,” NASA’s skywatching site What’s Up states. “When that happens, we get a blue moon.”

But this month, the phenomena brings a little something extra special. It’s happening when the moon is closer to Earth — since the moon’s orbit is not a perfect circle.

“At its closest point, called perigee, it's 14 percent closer than at its farthest,” the NASA post states.”About three to four times a year, the full moon phase happens to coincide with the moon reaching perigee, and we call that event a supermoon. While it technically appears a little bit bigger (and a tad brighter) than the average full moon, the difference is not super noticeable to the eye.”
Comparison of the size of an average full moon, compared to the size of a supermoon. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech - NASA/JPL-CALTECH
  • NASA/JPL-Caltech
  • Comparison of the size of an average full moon, compared to the size of a supermoon. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech


Having a blue moon and a supermoon coincide — and hence the super blue moon — “occurs about every 10 years, on average,” according to NASA, which notes “the time between any two occurrences can vary from two months to two decades or more.”

So, here’s to clear skies for this month’s super blue moon.
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Monday, April 10, 2023

What Can California Do About Abortion Pill Ruling? Not Much

Posted By on Mon, Apr 10, 2023 at 11:05 AM

California’s Democratic lawmakers have spent the past year enacting legislation to protect abortion rights in the wake of Roe v. Wade’s reversal, but an April 7 ruling by a Texas federal judge is one thing they can’t touch. 

U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk suspended the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s approval of mifepristone more than 20 years ago, arguing that it was flawed and invalid. Kacsmaryk issued a temporary stay on his ruling for seven days to allow the Biden administration to appeal. The ruling is likely to pull the drug from pharmacy shelves unless a higher court intervenes while the case moves through the appeal process. 

But just hours later, a district judge in Washington state issued a conflicting ruling in a separate case, prohibiting the FDA from taking the drug off the market. Despite the confusion caused by these dueling decisions, legal experts say even the threat of a legal gray area is likely to cause providers to stop distributing the drug.

Mifepristone is the first of a two-drug regimen that makes up the majority of abortions in the U.S., according to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health research and policy center. It blocks the pregnancy hormone progesterone and is also used to manage miscarriages.

While the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision last June rescinded federal abortion protections, it left intact states’ ability to set their own abortion laws. California legislators and Gov. Gavin Newsom jumped at the chance to make the state a beacon for progressive politics, even approving financial assistance for people in other states seeking abortions in California. 

But Kacsmaryk’s ruling addresses the FDA’s authority nationally, and leaves little room for states to mitigate the fallout.

“We’re in uncharted territory,” Lisa Matsubara, an attorney for Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California and vice president of policy, told CalMatters a day after Kacsmaryk heard arguments in the case in mid-March. “It will take some time to understand how this will play out in California.”



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Tuesday, March 21, 2023

UPDATED: Preliminary 4.6 Quake Hits Near Ferndale

Posted By on Tue, Mar 21, 2023 at 4:30 PM

screenshot-2023-03-21-4.30.04-pm.png
A preliminary magnitude 4.6 earthquake struck 4.3 miles west-southwest of Ferndale at 4:18 p.m., according the USGS.

The temblor struck at a depth of 9.6 miles, the initial report states. The quake is one of the largest to hit our actively seismic area since the 6.4 Dec. 20 quake and 5.4 New Year's Day aftershock.

"Today's M4.6 is an aftershock of the Dec 20 M6.4 Ferndale earthquake. It is the third largest aftershock recorded to date. It is not unusual for aftershocks to continue for months and to die down and then pick up again," a post on the Redwood Coast Tsunami Work Group's Facebook page states.


Find more information here
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Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Humboldt Sees Another COVID Death

Posted By on Wed, Jan 18, 2023 at 6:27 PM

Humboldt County Public Health reported today that the county has confirmed another new COVID-19 death, a resident in their 70s, since its last report Jan. 11.

One new hospitalization was also reported and, according to a state database, nine people are currently hospitalized with the virus locally, including three receiving intensive care. The death reported today is Humboldt County's 167th since the pandemic began.

Find the full public health press release, which includes a schedule of upcoming vaccination clinics, including for booster shots that now combative Omicron sub variants BA.4 and BA.5, and information on flu testing, by clicking here.

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Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Humboldt County Sees Another COVID Death

Posted By on Wed, Dec 28, 2022 at 3:30 PM

Humboldt County Public Health reported today that the county has confirmed one new COVID-19 death, a resident in their 70s, since its last report Dec. 21.

Nine new hospitalizations were reported and, according to a state database, five people are currently hospitalized with the virus locally, including one receiving intensive care. The death reported today is Humboldt County's 163rd since the pandemic began.

Find the full public health press release, which includes a schedule of upcoming vaccination clinics, including for booster shots that now combative Omicron sub variants BA.4 and BA.5, and information on flu testing, by clicking here.
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Monday, December 19, 2022

NWS Citizen Science Network Needs Your Help

Posted By on Mon, Dec 19, 2022 at 10:52 AM

cocorahsraindec2022.jpg
Got a couple minutes each day to help your community?

The Eureka office of the National Weather Service is looking for volunteers to join the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow network, or CoCoRaHS, to gather data about local conditions.

“This grassroots effort is part of a growing national network of home-based and amateur rain spotters with a goal of providing a high density precipitation network that will supplement existing observations,” a NWS release states.

According to NWS, the network was spurred by a flash flood that hit Fort Collins, Colorado, in 1997, causing $200 million in damage, after a thunderstorm poured down more than a foot of rain over the course of several hours in certain areas while other portions of the city only saw moderate rainfall.

“CoCoRaHS was born in 1998 with the intent of doing a better job of mapping and reporting intense storms. As more volunteers participated, rain, hail, and snow maps were produced for every storm showing fascinating local patterns that were of great interest to scientists and the public,” the NWS release states. “Recently, drought reporting has also become an important observation within the CoCoRaHS program across the nation. In fact, drought observations from CoCoRaHS are now being included in the National Integrated Drought Information System.”

Find more information on how to become a volunteer here.

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Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Two More California Condors Set to Fly Free

Posted By on Tue, Nov 8, 2022 at 12:48 PM

A7, (right) a young female that recently recovered from minor surgery, is up for release Nov. 9. - MATT MAIS/THE YUROK TRIBE
  • Matt Mais/The Yurok Tribe
  • A7, (right) a young female that recently recovered from minor surgery, is up for release Nov. 9.
If all goes as planned, two more California condors will be taking a first flight into the wild Wednesday, bringing to eight the number of the endangered birds now flying free over the North Coast as part of a Yurok Tribe-led effort to bring back the bird they know as prey-go-neesh to its former territory.

The birds set to try out their wings are A6 and A7, the last of the four in a second cohort of condors that arrived in mid-August. A7, a young female, recently returned from the Oakland Zoo after recovering from minor surgery by vets there to remove what appeared to be an embedded bone fragment that caused an infection in her jaw.

Those two will join four others — Ney-gem' 'Ne-chween-kah (She carries our prayers, A0), Hlow Hoo-let (Finally, I/we fly, A1), Nes-kwe-chokw' (He returns/arrives, A2) and Poy'-we-son (The one who goes ahead, “leader,” A3) — that took their historic flights in May and July, becoming the first of massive birds with a nearly 10-foot wingspan to do so locally in more than a century — as well as Cher-perhl So-nee-ne-pek' (I feel strong, A4); and Neee'n (Watcher, A5) that were released last month.

After A6 and A7 fly the coop, they, too, will receive Yurok names.


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Monday, November 7, 2022

'Blood Moon' Lunar Eclipse Starts Just After Midnight

Posted By on Mon, Nov 7, 2022 at 1:10 PM

The red hue of the blood moon . - NASA
  • NASA
  • The red hue of the blood moon .
Election Day is being ushered in by a lunar eclipse that will turn the moon a red-coppery color —sometimes called a “Blood Moon” — during totality, which is the stage when it passes into the Earth’s shadow.

That red hue, according to NASA, is “because the only sunlight reaching the moon passes through Earth’s atmosphere.”

“The more dust or clouds in Earth’s atmosphere during the eclipse, the redder the moon will appear,” the space agency stated in a post on the event. “It’s as if all the world’s sunrises and sunsets are projected onto the moon.”

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