Science

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Halloween Forecast: Light Rain and Sneaker Waves

Posted By on Sun, Oct 30, 2022 at 1:23 PM

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Halloween is almost here and rain is in the forecast.

According to the Eureka office of the National Weather Service, a cold front will push through on the spookiest night of the year, bringing rain and nighttime temperatures in the 40s on the coast and inland, so bundle up.

Sunset is set for 6:14 p.m. with complete darkness setting in by 6:42 p.m. The moon is at the first quarter mark but will likely be mostly hidden by clouds, making for an even darker night, according to NWS.

In addition, a beach hazard statement has been issued for Monday between 3 a.m. and 9 p.m. due to a threat of sneaker waves along the North Coast, with “larger and unexpected waves expected along the coast during the morning hours” and the afternoon and evening seeing “larger breaking waves from 15 to 20 feet.”
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Friday, October 28, 2022

CDC’s Move Paves Way for California to Require School COVID Vaccines — But Lawmakers Have Given Up for Now

Posted By on Fri, Oct 28, 2022 at 12:01 PM

Amaya Palestino, 6, receives a COVID-9 vaccine from assistant Domonic Flowers at one of St. John’s Well Child and Family Center mobile health clinics outside of Helen Keller Elementary School in Los Angeles on March 16, 2022. - PHOTO BY ALISHA JUCEVIC FOR CALMATTERS
  • Photo by Alisha Jucevic for CalMatters
  • Amaya Palestino, 6, receives a COVID-9 vaccine from assistant Domonic Flowers at one of St. John’s Well Child and Family Center mobile health clinics outside of Helen Keller Elementary School in Los Angeles on March 16, 2022.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s vaccination advisors voted last week to recommend all children get the COVID-19 vaccine, a move that does not change California’s list of vaccines required for children to attend school. 

The addition of the COVID-19 vaccine to the CDC’s recommended vaccines for kids is not a mandate for states’ school attendance requirements. Any additions to California’s list must be made by the state Legislature or the state Department of Public Health. In the last 12 months, the Newsom administration and the Legislature separately tried to mandate the COVID-19 vaccine for kids to attend school, and both failed.

People involved in those efforts said they do not expect the Legislature to consider a mandate for children again next year, barring a big spike in hospitalizations or deaths.

“Our goal should be getting the immunization rate up,” said Sen. Richard Pan, a pediatrician Sacramento Democrat, whose bill last session would have mandated the vaccine for children to attend school, with only a medical exemption. “We have work to do on outreach, making sure people have access and educating people about the vaccine.” 

Since the federal government approved vaccines for children on an emergency use basis, children have received the COVID-19 vaccine at much lower rates than adults. So far, 67 percent of 12-to-17-year-olds have received the first series of the vaccine, 38 percent of children 5 to 11 have received the first series and of those under 5 years of age, 5 percent have received the shots, according to state data.



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Sunday, October 23, 2022

UPDATED: 4.1 Quake Shakes Fortuna

Posted By on Sun, Oct 23, 2022 at 11:29 AM

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A magnitude-4.1 earthquake struck 3 miles from Fortuna at 11:16 a.m., according to the United States Geological Survey. There were no immediate reports of damage.

The USGS initial report states the temblor struck at a depth of nearly 15 miles.

There is no danger of a tsunami being generated, the National Tsunami Warning Center said in a statement.

Editor's note: This story was updated to correct the depth and  to reflect a change in magnitude made by USGS.
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Monday, October 10, 2022

Congenital Syphilis Rates Soar Across California as Public Health Funding Dwindles

Posted By on Mon, Oct 10, 2022 at 2:42 PM

STD Investigator Hou Vang (left) works in his office as Jena Adams (right), Communicable Disease Program Manager, checks in on him on June 8, 2022. - PHOTO BY LARRY VALENZUELA, CALMATTERS/CATCHLIGHT LOCAL
  • Photo by Larry Valenzuela, CalMatters/CatchLight Local
  • STD Investigator Hou Vang (left) works in his office as Jena Adams (right), Communicable Disease Program Manager, checks in on him on June 8, 2022.
In the Central Valley, where two-thirds of the nation’s fruit and nuts are grown, the pastoral landscape masks entrenched racial and economic disparities. Life expectancy in Fresno County drops by 20 years depending on where you live, and it’s those who live in historically poor, redlined or rural neighborhoods who are most impacted by a resurgence of maternal and congenital syphilis.

“Are you familiar with syphilis?” Hou Vang, a county communicable disease specialist, asks a pregnant woman standing in the shade of a tree outside her home.

She lives with her parents in Reedley, California, a small town 30 minutes southeast of the city of Fresno, surrounded by neat rows of grapevines, orange groves and almond trees.

“I mean, you hear things,” she says, distractedly eyeing a family member’s car pulling into the driveway. The woman allowed CalMatters to report on her diagnosis on the condition of anonymity.

“It’s an STD (sexually transmitted disease). We like to disclose in-person in case there are any questions,” Vang says. “You did test positive.”

“Oh my god,” she breathes, tearing up. “I have a lot of questions for my kid’s dad.”

Vang works for the county health department, where he’s on the frontlines of California’s fight against maternal and congenital syphilis. Rates of infection have ballooned to numbers not seen in two decades. Congenital syphilis occurs when the infection is passed from mother to baby during pregnancy. If untreated, the infection has devastating consequences, causing severe neurological disorders, organ damage, and even infant death. In few places is it worse than California’s Central Valley. Fresno was the first county to sound the alarm, alerting the state health department in 2015 when the number of cases more than doubled in one year.

It has only gotten worse since then. Today, California has the sixth-highest rate of congenital syphilis in the country, with rates increasing every year. In 2020, 107 cases per 100,000 live births were reported, a staggering 11-fold increase from a decade prior. That rate far exceeds the California Department of Public Health’s 2020 target to keep congenital syphilis numbers below 9.6 cases per 100,000 live births — a goal it outstripped almost as soon as it was set.

Even more shockingly, the syphilis rate among women of childbearing age was 53 times higher than the 2020 goal.

In October of 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sent out a health alert warning about an "alarming increase in congenital syphilis (CS) and syphilis among females of childbearing age" in 18 Northern California counties, including Humboldt. Around the same time, the Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Service put out an alert stating that CS had "resurfaced in Humboldt after more than a decade."

DHHS urged sexually active individuals to be test for sexually transmitted diseases at least once a year.

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Friday, October 7, 2022

Condor Release Attempt Set for Monday

Posted By on Fri, Oct 7, 2022 at 2:24 PM

California condor A4 in the enclosure. - COURTESY OF THE YUROK TRIBE
  • Courtesy of the Yurok Tribe
  • California condor A4 in the enclosure.

If all goes as planned, the number of California condors flying free over Humboldt County will increase to six on Monday as part of a Yurok Tribe-led effort to return the endangered species they know as prey-go-neesh to the northern reaches of its former territory.


The two birds that will take their first foray into the wild are part of a cohort of four — currently known as A4, A5, A6 and A7 — that arrived on the North Coast in mid-August. The rest are set to follow over the next month.


Once out, the condors 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.


According to a Yurok Tribe news release, those first four are “thriving in the redwood region.”

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Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Four in a Row: California Drought Likely to Continue

Posted By on Wed, Sep 28, 2022 at 8:16 AM

Nearby mountain peaks with only small patches of snow near the Phillips Station meadow, shown shortly before the California Department of Water Resources conducted the forth media snow survey of the 2022 season at Phillips Station in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The survey is held approximately 90 miles east of Sacramento off Highway 50 in El Dorado County. Photo taken April 1, 2022. - KEN JAMES / CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF WATER RESOURCES
  • Ken James / California Department of Water Resources
  • Nearby mountain peaks with only small patches of snow near the Phillips Station meadow, shown shortly before the California Department of Water Resources conducted the forth media snow survey of the 2022 season at Phillips Station in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The survey is held approximately 90 miles east of Sacramento off Highway 50 in El Dorado County. Photo taken April 1, 2022.
As California’s 2022 water year ends this week, the parched state is bracing for another dry year — its fourth in a row.

So far, in California’s recorded history, six previous droughts have lasted four or more years,  two of them in the past 35 years. 

Despite some rain in September, weather watchers expect a hot and dry fall, and warn that this winter could bring warm temperatures and below-average precipitation

Conditions are shaping up to be a “recipe for drought”: a La Niña climate pattern plus warm temperatures in the Western Tropical Pacific that could mean critical rain and snowstorms miss California, according to Daniel Swain, a climate scientist with UCLA and The Nature Conservancy. 

Swain said California’s fate will depend on how exactly the storm track shifts, and that seasonal forecasts are inherently uncertain. Even so, “I would still put my money on dry, even in the northern third of the state,” he said. “It’s not a guarantee. But if you were to see 50 winters like this one, most of them would be dry.”



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Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Red Flag Warning: Increased Risk of Fire Starts

Posted By on Wed, Aug 17, 2022 at 10:36 AM

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A swath of interior Humboldt County, and surrounding counties, is under a red flag warning today from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., the Eureka office of the National Weather Service reports.

The culprit is an upper level disturbance that will move through the region and mix with "monsoon moisture and an unstable atmosphere," the NWS reports.

"Thunderstorms producing abundant lightning across dry fuels are expected," a NWS post states, "resulting in an increased threat for fire starts."
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Wednesday, July 20, 2022

California Poised to Restrict Bee-killing Pesticides

Posted By on Wed, Jul 20, 2022 at 11:20 AM

A bee on a lavender plant. - KIMBERLY WEAR
  • Kimberly Wear
  • A bee on a lavender plant.
Widely used insecticides that harm bees and songbirds would face far-reaching restrictions in California under regulations proposed by the state’s pesticide agency.

The new limits would be among the nation’s most extensive for agricultural use of neonicotinoids, a class of insecticides used to kill plant-damaging pests like aphids. The highly potent pesticides have been shown to harm bees, birds and other creatures.

Aimed at protecting bees that pollinate crops, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation’s proposed rules would restrict four closely-related neonicotinoid chemicals: imidacloprid, thiamethoxam, clothianidin and dinotefuran.

Unveiled in February, the rules would limit when and how much can be applied, depending on the specific chemical, the crop and, in some cases, the presence of honeybees or other pollinators. California’s pesticide regulators are still evaluating public feedback and there is no specific timeframe for finalizing the proposal.

Neonicotinoids are the most popular insecticides in the world — although not in California, according to the state pesticide agency.

“Pollinators play a very important role in the ecosystem at large as well as for crops and being able to produce food in the state.”

Karen Morrison, California Department of Pesticide Regulation

More than a decade in the making, California’s reevaluation of neonicotinoids began in 2009, after the agency received a report from pesticide manufacturer Bayer CropScience that “showed potentially harmful effects of imidacloprid to pollinators.” A 2014 law set a series of deadlines for reevaluating their risks and adopting “any control measures necessary to protect pollinator health.”

In addition, a bill in the Legislature would ban use of neonicotinoids in homes, yards and other outdoor non-agricultural settings, starting in 2024. A variety of consumer products are registered for use in California, such as BioAdvanced All-in-One Rose and Flower Care Liquid Concentrate, which contains imidacloprid.

The bill trails other states, including New Jersey and Maine, that have already banned outdoor uses in gardens and residential areas. New Jersey’s ban extends to commercial landscapes, like golf courses, too.

The European Union banned several neonicotinoids for all outdoor uses because of the risks to bees. And other states already have some restrictions on agricultural use, largely by allowing the chemicals to be bought or used only by those with specific training. Rhode Island has also barred neonicotinoids when crops are blooming.

If finalized, California’s proposal to restrict agricultural use could “significantly impact when and how” neonicotinoid products can be used in the nation’s No. 1 agricultural state, according to an analysis by the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

“This is critical,” said Karen Morrison, acting chief deputy director of the Department of Pesticide Regulation. “Pollinators play a very important role in the ecosystem at large as well as for crops and being able to produce food in the state.”

California regulators anticipate the rule would reduce neonicotinoids applied to plants and soil by 45 percent. Seeds coated in neonicotinoids — a major use of the chemicals — would not be restricted.

California growers say the restrictions could hamstring their power to protect crops and could ultimately lead to worse outcomes for pollinators.

Limiting the use of neonicotinoids could force the citrus industry, for instance, to use other pesticides that are “not necessarily what the state of California wants” and could require “multiple sprays, something that may pose more risk to bees,” said Casey Creamer, president and CEO of California Citrus Mutual, a trade association of citrus growers.

Almonds, cherries, citrus, cotton, grapes, strawberries, tomatoes and walnuts are major crops expected to be highly affected by the restrictions. These crops make up about half of the state’s agricultural exports and two-thirds of the acreage treated with neonicotinoids from 2017 to 2019. Fresno, Kern, Tulare, Monterey and San Joaquin top the list of counties where the most neonicotinoids were applied.

Some replacement chemicals may be more toxic to pests’ natural enemies — worsening infestations, the California agriculture department warned in its analysis.

Such alternatives like pyrethroids, for instance, are also “very toxic to bees, in that they hit the bee, the bee dies. If they're in the spray, they all die,” said Robert Van Steenwyk, a cooperative extension specialist emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley and one of the authors of the report. “So, that isn’t a great alternative.”



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Monday, July 11, 2022

Fourth California Condor Readied for Release (with Video)

Posted By on Mon, Jul 11, 2022 at 12:33 PM

A1 is set to be released on Tuesday. - MATT MAIS/YUROK TRIBE
  • Matt Mais/Yurok Tribe
  • A1 is set to be released on Tuesday.
The Northern California Condor Restoration Program is readying to release a fourth California condor Tuesday to join three others currently flying free in the skies over Humboldt County.

Known as A1, the young male’s first out-of-enclosure debut was delayed by a faulty satellite transmitter, which was replaced last week (see video below). If all goes as planned, he will soon join his fellow cohort members A2, A3 and A4 out in the wild sometime tomorrow.


“The timing of the release is contingent upon a few factors. The NCCRP will wait for free-flying prey-go-neesh to be present at the management facility before they initiate the release procedure,” a news release from the Yurok Tribe states. “The presence of additional prey-go-neesh will ensure A1 is as calm as possible during the transition into the wild. Prior to the release, A1 must voluntarily enter and exit a staging pen with access to the outside world.”

Read more about the Yurok Tribe's effort to return the endangered bird they know as prey-go-neesh to the northern reaches of its once vast territory here. (Just a note, when the story went to print A0 — the cohort’s sole female — had been on a long sojourn but she has since safely returned to management and release site.)


Tomorrow’s anticipated release can be viewed live via the Yurok Condor Cam, which can be found here: https://www.yuroktribe.org/yurok-condor-live-feed.

Another cohort of young condors is expected to arrive on the North Coast in late summer or early fall, a process that will continue each year for at least the next two decades, with the ultimate goal of building a self-sustaining condor population in the region that will eventually spread to the Pacific Northwest.


Read the Yurok Tribe release below:



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Monday, June 20, 2022

Hot Opening to Summer

Posted By on Mon, Jun 20, 2022 at 7:24 PM

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It's going to warm up tomorrow and the next day, especially inland, for the first official two days of summer.

According to the Eureka office of the National Weather Service, a high pressure aloft "will result in increasingly hot interior temperatures through mid-week."

Garberville and Hoopa are forecast to hit 100 degrees Tuesday and 98 and 99, respectively, on Wednesday while Willow Creek is expected to hit 101 followed by 100.

On the coast, "cool northerly winds will persist" each afternoon over the next two days, with Eureka expected to hit 73 tomorrow and 70 on Wednesday, according to NWS.

For more local weather information, visit weather.gov/eka.
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