Categoria: Climate change

La Niña, Which Worsens Atlantic Hurricanes And Western Drought, Is Gone


WASHINGTON — After three nasty years, the La Niña weather phenomenon that increases Atlantic hurricane activity and worsens western drought is gone, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Thursday.

That’s usually good news for the United States and other parts of the world, including drought-stricken northeast Africa, scientists said.

The globe is now in what’s considered a “neutral” condition and probably trending to an El Niño in late summer or fall, said climate scientist Michelle L’Heureux, head of NOAA’s El Niño/La Niña forecast office.

“It’s over,” said research scientist Azhar Ehsan, who heads Columbia University’s El Niño/La Niña forecasting. “Mother Nature thought to get rid of this one because it’s enough.”

La Niña is a natural and temporary cooling of parts of the Pacific Ocean that changes weather worldwide. In the United States, because La Niña is connected to more Atlantic storms and deeper droughts and wildfires in the West, La Ninas often are more damaging and expensive than their more famous flip side, El Niño, experts said and studies show.

Generally, American agriculture is more damaged by La Niña than El Niño. If the globe jumps into El Niño it means more rain for the Midwestern corn belt and grains in general and could be beneficial, said Michael Ferrari, chief scientific officer of Climate Alpha, a firm that advises investors on financial decisions based on climate.

When there’s a La Niña, there are more storms in the Atlantic during hurricane season because it removes conditions that suppress storm formation. Neutral or El Niño conditions make it harder for storms to get going, but not impossible, scientists said.

Over the last three years, the U.S. has been hit by 14 hurricanes and tropical storms that caused a billion dollars or more in damage, totalling $252 billion in costs, according to NOAA economist and meteorologist Adam Smith said. La Niña and people building in harm’s way were factors, he said.

La Niña tends to make Western Africa wet, but Eastern Africa, around Somalia, dry. The opposite happens in El Niño with drought-struck Somalia likely to get steady “short rains,” Ehsan said. La Niña has wetter conditions for Indonesia, parts of Australia and the Amazon, but those areas are drier in El Niño, according to NOAA.

El Niño means more heat waves for India and Pakistan and other parts of South Asia and weaker monsoons there, Ehsan said.

This particular La Niña, which started in September 2020 but is considered three years old because it affected three different winters, was unusual and one of the longest on record. It took a brief break in 2021 but came roaring back with record intensity.

“I’m sick of this La Niña,” Ehsan said. L’Heureux agreed, saying she’s ready to talk about something else.

The few other times that there’s been a triple-dip La Niña have come after strong El Niños and there’s clear physics on why that happens. But that’s not what happened with this La Niña, L’Heureux said. This one didn’t have a strong El Niño before it.

Even though this La Niña has confounded scientists in the past, they say the signs of it leaving are clear: Water in the key part of the central Pacific warmed to a bit more than the threshold for a La Niña in February, the atmosphere showed some changes and along the eastern Pacific near Peru, there’s already El Niño-like warming brewing on the coast, L’Heureux said.

Think of a La Niña or El Niño as something that pushes the weather system from the Pacific with ripple effects worldwide, L’Heureux said. When there are neutral conditions like now, there’s less push from the Pacific. That means other climatic factors, including the long-term warming trend, have more influence in day-to-day weather, she said.

Without an El Niño or La Niña, forecasters have a harder time predicting seasonal weather trends for summer or fall because the Pacific Ocean has such a big footprint in weeks-long forecasts.

El Niño forecasts made in the spring are generally less reliable than ones made other times of year, so scientists are less sure about what will happen next, L’Heureux said. But NOAA’s forecast said there’s a 60% chance that El Niño will take charge come fall.

There’s also a 5% chance that La Niña will return for an unprecedented fourth dip. L’Heureux said she really doesn’t want that but the scientist in her would find that interesting.

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Drought Is Now Over In More Than Half Of California

Soaked by heavy rains in recent weeks, the biggest Sierra snowpack in 30 years and flooding from a parade of atmospheric river storms in January, the majority of California is no longer in a drought, federal officials reported Thursday.

Overall, 49.1% of California can be classified as in a drought, a dramatic drop from 84.6% last week, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, a weekly report issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the University of Nebraska.

That’s the lowest percentage in more than three years when 48.2% of the state was in a drought in July 2020, according to the report, which is based on rainfall totals, reservoir levels, snowpack, soil moisture and other measures.

“The Pacific weather systems of this week and last week added to copious precipitation that has been received from atmospheric rivers since December 2022, especially over California,” wrote Richard Heim, a meteorologist with NOAA.

RELATED: After Southern California’s spate of rare storms, is California’s drought over?

Tents at Curry Village are covered with snow in Yosemite National Park, Calif., Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2023. The park, closed since Saturday because of heavy, blinding snow, postponed its planned Thursday, March 2, 2023, reopening indefinitely. (National Park Service via AP)

Accumulated snow is seen around this sign in Pollock Pines at an El Dorado County Fire Station in El Dorado County March 2, 2023. (Andrew Innerarity / California Department of Water Resources)

State Route 138 winds through snow-covered trees near Hesperia, Calif., Wednesday, March 1, 2023. Tremendous rains and snowfall since late last year have freed half of California from drought, but low groundwater levels remain a persistent problem, U.S. Drought Monitor data showed Thursday, March 2. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

In this photo provided by the National Park Service, a structure at Yosemite Falls in Yosemite National Park, Calif., is covered in snow Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2023. Yosemite National Park, closed since Saturday because of heavy, blinding snow, postponed its planned Thursday, March 2, 2023, reopening indefinitely. (National Park Service via AP)

Accumulated snow is seen on a vehicle in this Pollock Pines parking lot in El Dorado County. This image is shown in advance of the Department of Water Resources’ Snow Survey scheduled for Phillips Station in the Sierra Nevada Mountains on March 3, 2023 . (Photo Taken March 1, 2023) Andrew Innerarity / California Department of Water Resources FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY

Folks take to the streets of Nevada City during the recent winter snow storm in the Sierra Nevada, Feb. 24, 2023. (Elias Funez/The Union via AP)

A portion of the South Fork of the American River is seen running alongside. this section of US Highway 50 in El Dorado County. This image is shown in advance of the Department of Water Resources’ Snow Survey scheduled for Phillips Station in the Sierra Nevada Mountains on March 3, 2023 . (Photo Taken March 1, 2023) Andrew Innerarity / California Department of Water Resources FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY

Angie Gourirand walks down the snow-covered steps of her home with groceries on a sled in Running Springs, Calif., Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2023. Beleaguered Californians got hit again Tuesday as a new winter storm moved into the already drenched and snow-plastered state, with blizzard warnings blanketing the Sierra Nevada and forecasters warning residents that any travel was dangerous. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

The driveway entrance to the Sand Flat Campground is covered by snow, located between a bank of the South Fork of the American River and US Highway 50 in El Dorado County, the site was not accessable by car. This image is shown in advance of the Department of Water Resources’ Snow Survey scheduled for Phillips Station in the Sierra Nevada Mountains on March 3, 2023 . (Photo Taken March 1, 2023) Andrew Innerarity / California Department of Water Resources FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY

This photo provided by Palisades Tahoe shows snow covered Palisades Tahoe ski resort in Olympic Valley, Calif., on Wednesday, March 1, 2023. (Blake Kessler/Palisades Tahoe via AP)

The last time that no part of California was in at least a moderate-level drought was February 2020, the report noted.

While the Bay Area’s fortunes changed due to heavy rainfall, high stream flows, soil moisture and reservoir levels, a big part of the reason for the statewide shift has been massive snow accumulating in the Sierra.

“This is an epic snowpack, particularly in the central and southern Sierra,” said Jeffrey Mount, a professor emeritus at UC Davis and senior fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California’s water center. “In some places it’s off the charts. People will be skiing until summer.”

On Wednesday, the statewide Sierra snowpack was 192% of its historical average, according to a series of 107 automated snow sensors operated by the state Department of Water Resources.

That’s the highest March 1 reading since 1993 when it was 205%. In fact, there have only been four years back to 1950, when consistent statewide records began, where the Sierra snowpack was larger on March 1 than it is now. Those are 1969 (263% of average), 1952 (228%), 1983 (211%) and 1993.

The latest round of snow storms closed Yosemite National Park last weekend. The park was expected to reopen Thursday, but spokesman Scott Gediman said it remains closed indefinitely.

The storms also closed Highway 50 and Interstate 80 on Monday and Tuesday and shut down schools across the Lake Tahoe area. On Tuesday, there was so much snow that many of the major ski resorts, including Palisades, Heavenly and Kirkwood, closed due to avalanche danger, blocked roads and snow so deep it was impeding chairlifts.

“We have snow covering all of our second-floor windows. I’m going to have to shovel the roof soon,” said Andrew Schwartz, lead scientist at the UC Central Sierra Snow Lab at Donner Summit.

There was a brief respite Thursday and Friday but more snow and rain are expected across Northern California this weekend.

Schwartz reported that the snow lab received 35 inches of snow from Tuesday to Wednesday, 7 feet over the previous three days and 12 feet over the past 7 days.

In the coming months, that snow will melt, continuing to fill reservoirs across the state. It also will help replenish groundwater — although not restore areas that have been overpumped for generations such as the San Joaquin Valley. And all the snow will reduce the risk of wildfires because forests will be buried in snow longer into the summer than normal.

Yet, despite the heavy rain and snow, legally all 58 of California’s counties remain in a drought emergency that was declared by Gov. Gavin Newsom in October 2021. That status included a state order for local water agencies to impose conservation restrictions on homes and businesses.

As the current wet winter has unfolded, Newsom has directed officials at the state Department of Water Resources to report back to him in April after the winter rain and snow season is over, with recommendations on which parts of the state should be removed from the emergency declaration.

Lake Tahoe, California. I’ll never complain about snow again.

— We call it pop (@babapaul2_paul) March 1, 2023

California had endured three record-dry years in a row, marked by severe heat waves, massive wildfires, water restrictions for millions of people and water shortages at farms.

In November, 40.9% of the state was in extreme drought, the third worst of four categories the Drought Monitor uses, and 16.5% was in exceptional drought, the worst. After a series of nine atmospheric river storms from late December to mid-January, which triggered flooding, downed trees and killed at least 20 people, the Drought Monitor removed all of the state from those two most severe categories.

On Thursday, 24.9% of California remained in “severe drought,” the second-worst category, down from 91.8% in November. The Sacramento Valley, from Yolo County to the Oregon border, made up most of the area with the most serious drought conditions still remaining.

None of California’s 15 coastal counties, where many reservoirs are 100% full, are still in any kind of drought status. The Sierra Nevada also is completely out of drought from Fresno County’s higher elevations to Sierra County north of Lake Tahoe.

Although the nine-county Bay Area, and Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties are no longer in a drought, the areas are still classified “abnormally dry,” a level below drought.

State water officials have noted that while many reservoirs are full or above their historic averages, some, such as the state’s largest, Shasta, or the third largest, Trinity, both near Redding, fell so low during the drought they haven’t filled yet. Shasta on Thursday was 60% full, for example.

And while reservoirs are brimming in coastal counties such as Marin, Santa Cruz and Santa Barbara that took the brunt of January storms, Southern California has a water crisis with low levels on one of its key sources, the Colorado River, which hasn’t benefited much from the big storms.

“Some areas will likely come out of drought conditions because of the very wet conditions we’ve had,” said Jeanine Jones, a top official at the Department of Water Resources, last month. “But it really depends on a water supplier’s individual sources of supply.”

Lake Oroville, California’s second-largest reservoir, shown here on Feb. 14, 2023, was 70% full on Thursday March 2, 2023. Heavy winter storms have caused it to steadily rise from a low point of just 22% full in September, 2021, and melting snow from the Sierra Nevada will cause its level to continue to rise into the summer. (Photo: Justin Sullivan, Getty Images)

As San Onofre Comes Down, Bill Would Allow Small Reactors To Go Up

It was mid-December. The truckload of demolition debris was all loaded up and ready to depart the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

But before it could be released into the wild, radiation levels had to be checked several times to ensure they weren’t above “normal background.”

The needle on the hand-held meter twitched. Radiation levels were slightly above normal background.

“Material and equipment shall not be released from radiological controls if they are contaminated with plant-related radioactive material that is distinguishable from background,” the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said in its most recent inspection report for San Onofre. “This two-step survey process was implemented, in part, to help prevent the accidental release of contaminated material.”

The truck returned to a restricted area for offloading. Workers found contaminated “radwaste discharge piping” that had been improperly marked. The remaining debris was scanned for radioactivity and cleared, while the recovered piping was “properly dispositioned as radioactive material,” the inspection report says.

The tear-down of a nuclear plant is a sensitive thing, and redundant checks are built into the process. They worked exactly as they were supposed to here, the NRC said. Southern California Edison’s demolition contractor completed a “condition report” to pinpoint the causes of the error and figure out how to keep it from happening again.

SOURCE: Southern California Edison As San Onofre comes down piece by piece — the reactor vessels are being sliced up, the turbine buildings demolished, the racks removed from spent fuel pools and pressure-washed to remove “gross contamination” — the nuclear industry is positioning itself as the bridge from a fossil fuel past to a renewable energy future.

It comes a bit late for San Onofre and Southern California.

Nuclear bridge The need for a better energy transition strategy has been driven home by skyrocketing natural gas prices in California and painful monthly bills.

Nuclear energy is “absolutely critical” to addressing climate change, the U.S. Department of Energy insists, and the NRC recently gave the thumbs up to a small modular reactor (SMR) design that has many in the industry excited for the “nuclear renaissance” that always seems just around the corner, but never quite arrives.

Why? Partly because many states ban the construction of new nuclear plants — including California, which says “no new nukes!” until the feds figure out where to put all that radioactive waste. Millions of pounds of spent fuel will remain on San Onofre’s bluff, entombed in concrete and steel, long after the last pieces of its reactors are carted away.

Pacific Gas and Electric’s Diablo Canyon Power Plant in Avila Beach. (AP Photo/Michael A. Mariant, File) But, as Diablo Canyon gets a life extension to help bridge this nettlesome energy transition (it’s the Golden State’s only operating nuclear power plant), California may join the states that are reconsidering.

Bills to allow new nuclear construction have been introduced all over the country, including in West Virginia, Connecticut, Oregon, Minnesota and Illinois. Here in California, Assembly Bill 65 would exempt small modular reactors from the state’s ban.

Folks in Orange County are inclined to agree. Fifty-seven percent of residents said we should revisit nuclear energy in the last Orange County Annual Survey out of Chapman University — but, of course, they don’t want those nuclear plants near their homes.

Small is beautiful? “Under existing law, it is the policy of the state that eligible renewable energy resources and zero-carbon resources supply 100% of all retail sales of electricity to California end-use customers and 100% of electricity procured to serve all state agencies by December 31, 2045,” says the Legislative Counsel’s digest of the bill.

If the state is to meet its ambitions goal, California must step up its game, a fact sheet on AB 65 says.

“Currently, California has a reliance upon imported energy production. In fact, California imports more electricity than any other state – about 30%, much of which is generated from harmful and unsustainable sources, such as coal-fired plants….

NuScale VOYGR™ SMR power plant (SOURCE: U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission) “To address these challenges, AB 65 would both expand the current energy portfolio by authorizing the development of SMRs within California, as well as require the Public Utilities Commission to adopt a plan to increase the procurement of electricity generated from nuclear facilities and to phase out the procurement of electricity generated from natural gas facilities.”

Small modular reactors offer advantages over conventional nuclear reactors and fossil fuel plants, it asserts: They have a smaller physical footprint, allow for greater flexibility in energy production, are cheaper and have enhanced safety and security designs. The PUC would have to adopt a plan to get more electricity from nuclear, and to phase out the procurement of electricity from natural gas, on or before Jan. 1, 2026.

Similar legislation was introduced in 2008, and 2019, and 2022. It never got far. This bill — by Assemblymember Devon Mathis, R-Porterville — is in committee. We aren’t holding our breath. But after $300 and $400 gas bills, Californians might be willing to take a look at next-generation nuclear.

Add to this the DOE’s renewed push to find temporary sites to store nuclear waste — it has set aside $26 million to help communities learn more about “consent-based siting” and management of spent nuclear fuel while it figures out the long-term solutions (which will have to involve deep geologic burial) — as well as a worldwide flirt with the possibility of clean fusion energy, and we find ourselves firmly in the 21st century.

So last century Meanwhile, the 20th-century technology that created San Onofre continues to disappear.

“While the decommissioning work may not be visible to passersby, for us at the plant, the site changes weekly,” said a recent update by Edison Vice President and Chief Nuclear Officer Doug Bauder.

Demolition work at San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. (Image courtesy Southern California Edison) To wit: More than half of the buildings on site — 33 of 62 — have been demolished. More than 144 million pounds of waste has been shipped off-site. Cooling water intake systems have been isolated, drained and cleaned out. Racks have been removed from the Unit 2 spent fuel pool.

Once all the racks are removed from that pool, work will start on the racks from the Unit 3 pool, according to the NRC. Then the remaining water from the two pools will be drained, processed “and released in accordance with the Offsite Dose Calculation Manual.”

Meanwhile, the contractor doing the demo work will do a better job of clearly marking potentially contaminated pieces and parts, said Edison spokesman Dave Eisenhauer. The piping had been identified as potentially contaminated, but could have been better marked, he said.

The marking color for radioactive and potentially radioactive pieces: Magenta.

Striking color or no, it would be hard for a contaminated piece to slip off-site unnoticed. In the initial check, a radiation tech uses a handheld monitor to sweep the truck the load. That’s when the above-background level was found in this instance, Eisenhauer said.

Trucks are also scanned as they drive through a large truck monitor, and are scanned again by a handheld monitor before leaving the site, he said. Once they arrive at recycling centers, loads are scanned again before they’re accepted.

“There are several checks, and those systems worked as intended,” he said.

But, going forward, expect more generous use of magenta.

SOURCE: Southern California Edison

Climate Action Corps Expands, Paying More Californians To Fight Climate Change

Inside a small warehouse, tucked behind a shuttered pawn shop in the heart of Hollywood, Crystal Lipps took the handle of a large black rolling cart loaded with donated boxes of carrots, bananas and other fresh food that once would have been destined for a landfill.

The 25-year-old guided the cart into a refrigerated room, where the food would be stored until one of 40 local nonprofits swung by her Hollywood Food Coalition site to “shop” for ingredients to help feed hungry people throughout Los Angeles.

Lipps is part of the second cohort of 112 annual fellows in the California Climate Action Corps, which is the first such state-level initiative in the nation. The program uses a combination of state, federal and private funds to pay $30,000 in stipends and $10,000 toward college tuition or student loan debt to state residents who help lead climate-focused efforts in communities throughout the state. Lipps is about halfway through her 11-month stint, which she described as a “gap year” of sorts, after graduating from UC San Diego. She’s said the work is helping her bank experience, network and narrow down what she wants to do with the rest of her life.

California Climate Action Corps fellow Crystal Lipps sorts food in Los Angeles, Tuesday, Feb 21, 2023. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

California Climate Action Corps fellow Crystal Lipps sorts food in Los Angeles, Tuesday, Feb 21, 2023. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

California Climate Action Corps fellow Crystal Lipps sorts food in Los Angeles, Tuesday, Feb 21, 2023. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

California Climate Action Corps fellow Crystal Lipps sorts food in Los Angeles, Tuesday, Feb 21, 2023. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

“I feel like I’ve gained so much valuable knowledge,” the Riverside native said. “I think it’s a great opportunity, especially if you’re not sure what you want to do.”

California Volunteers, a team in the governor’s office that runs the program, is now recruiting people to serve summer and full-year positions that will start in the fall. And with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposed January budget calling to double the previously announced $4.7 million in funding for California Climate Action Corps — even as funds for other climate efforts may shrink as inflation strains state revenues — the team aims to offer positions to even more fellows for the upcoming terms.

“We’re living in the middle of an existential crisis with climate change,” said Josh Fryday, chief service officer for California, who oversees service projects for the state.

“People want to take action. They just need to be given the opportunity to do that.”

Newsom created the program by executive action in 2020, and the first teams were recruited, trained and deployed in 2021.

California modeled the initiative after the federal service program AmeriCorps, which places more than 200,000 people each year to support a broad range of organizations across the nation. The climate corps similarly partners with government agencies, nonprofits and colleges, but it focuses on placing fellows where support is needed for programs that can have a positive impact either on slowing climate change or lessening the climate crisis’ impact on Californians.

That includes food recovery efforts, like the one Lipps champions to ensure viable food makes its way to hungry people or to compost piles instead of adding climate-warming methane to the atmosphere as it rots in the landfills. Other climate corps fellows are supporting wildfire prevention and recovery projects, efforts to boost green spaces in urban communities, and programs to educate their communities about climate issues.

Interest so far has been solid on both ends. California Volunteers reports 1,726 applications to date, with about five applications for every position available in the past two full-time terms. And Fryday said they got about three to four times as many requests from organizations wanting help as they had workers to fill the slots.

Phil Meister, who oversees the Hollywood Food Coalition site where Lipps and another fellow work, said the pair have helped his team think more about how diverting food waste from local restaurants, grocery stores and warehouses not only helps needy residents but also how it can positively affect climate change.

“It was truly a night and day difference once they started,” Meister said. And — standing in front of a chalkboard with sketches of produce and Star Wars characters and words of encouragement for supporters — he said they’d jump at the chance to get more fellows for the year ahead.

In Southern California, 180 fellows so far have served with 42 host partners in Orange, Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties, from the Koreatown Youth and Community Center to the city of Long Beach.

Together, fellows in those four counties so far have planted, maintained or given away 141,860 trees, per data from program leaders. They’ve diverted more than 1 million pounds of food or organic waste, helping to get 732,110 pounds of recovered food to people in need. They’ve also worked with more than 4,000 community volunteers to put in 18,424 hours of climate action work and helped launch Long Beach’s first Climate Ambassador Program.

Kali Krishan, 22, is serving this year as a fellow with University of Redlands doing work focused on urban greening. That’s included planting trees in lower income parts of Redlands, which tend to have less shade and therefore are more vulnerable to health impacts during increasingly severe heat waves. Krishan said she’s also enjoyed talking with people in the community, sharing information about native plants and public gardening. And she’s particularly proud of efforts to turn part of the university’s garden into a space that pays homage to local Native Americans.

Krishan said she wasn’t quite sure what direction to head when she graduated last spring from UC Riverside with a dual-major degree in environmental science and applied mathematics. She thought about going directly into a masters program, but felt she first needed to take a step back.

“It’s only experience that can help show what kind of roles I prefer vs roles I don’t like as much,” she said. “Schooling doesn’t necessarily do that.”

Plus, Krishan said she finds the work fulfilling.

It’s not, however, going to fill anyone’s bank account.

“You certainly don’t do the program to get rich,” Fryday acknowledged.

Finances are tight for Lipps. She has two roommates at her place in East L.A. But once she finishes the program, she’ll get $10,000 to help pay off her student loan debt. She owes about $22,000, and the money from the state will take a big weight off her shoulders. She said she never would have been able to pursue this sort of work without the climate corps stipend.

With cost of living in mind, Fryday said his team pushed to make both the annual stipend and school scholarship a few thousand dollars higher in California than the federal payments for AmeriCorps volunteers. They also try to place fellows in their home communities, so they can tap into support from family and friends if needed.

That’s what Krishan does. Since she’s able to live with her parents, she said she’s been comfortable on payments that work out to about $1,400 every two weeks.

Year-long fellows also get health insurance and may be eligible for child care and food stamp benefits. They also can receive training and professional development. And Fryday said it’s been exciting to see that experience translate into new careers for former fellows.

During a recent Climate Action Day in San Diego — where the corps brings hundreds of volunteers together to tackle a big project at the request of local cities or organizations — Fryday said a young man tapped him on the shoulder. He told him he participated in the pilot program back in 2021, then got a job with the Audubon Society.

President Joe Biden tried to champion a new federal Civilian Climate Corps, which would have paid tens of thousands of young people to help fight climate change. The concept was in the version of the Inflation Reduction Act passed by the House, but it was stripped away before the bill got through the Senate and become law in late 2021.

Other states are following California’s model, though, with similar climate corps programs taking off in more than a dozen other states from Maine to Colorado.

For Californians, applications are open online for all ages interested in serving 1,700 hours between Sept 18, 2023 and Aug. 15, 2024. California Volunteers also is taking applications for a summer program, which includes a $5,294 stipend plus $1,374 school award for anyone who serves at least 300 hours between June 5 and Aug. 4. Applications received by May 15 will get priority consideration, though agency spokesperson Shaleeka Powell said they’ll accept them on a rolling basis until every slot is full.

The California Climate Action Corps also offers tips online for climate action that anyone can take at home and it helps connect residents with one-time or recurring volunteer opportunities. Options can be filtered and searched by ZIP code on their website,

Startups Turning To The Ocean To Capture More Carbon Off Southern California’s Coast

Picture a can of Coke.

When you first pop the top, carbon dioxide pumped into the sugary liquid delivers that beloved effervescent fizz. But soon, the soda starts to go flat. That’s because gases tend to move from areas of high to low concentration. And since our atmosphere is only 0.04% carbon, the concentrated carbon dioxide in the Coke will bubble out until it’s more balanced with the non-effervescent air around it.

The process also works in reverse. If the liquid has less carbon than the air, it’ll draw carbon from the atmosphere.

That principle is the basis for a nascent industry bubbling up in Southern California that aims to use the ocean itself as a tool to fight climate change.

To date, most proposals to remove carbon from the atmosphere have focused on trying to scrub the greenhouse gas directly from the air. But that form of carbon capture is proving to be a pricey and underperforming endeavor, prompting pushback from environmental groups. So some interest and funding is now pivoting to a process known as direct ocean carbon capture, where technology is used to remove carbon from the ocean so it will naturally pull more carbon out of the air.

Thanks to recent infusions of public and private dollars, two local startups are testing different ocean carbon capture systems off the coasts of Orange and Los Angeles counties. Each hopes to scale up the technology for commercial markets within the next few years, which advocates say could slow global warming that’s already raising sea levels, triggering more intense weather patterns and posing other challenges around the globe.

“It’s huge. It’s existing. It’s free of charge. It’s already built,” Steve Oldham, CEO of Captura, which is running a pilot test off Newport Beach, said of the sea.

“So it’s a very powerful method, we think, of removing CO2 from the atmosphere.”

Steve Oldham, CEO of Captura, right; with Eric Marks, mechanical engineer, left; Fenfang Wu, lead pilot engineer and lab manager; and Maya Kashapov, with business development at their laboratory in Pasadena, CA, on Wednesday, February 15, 2023. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG) Lots of questions remain, from the cost and scalability of the technology to where the carbon will go and how it will get there. That’s why Victoria Bogdan Tejeda, an environmental attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, said she has serious concerns about the safety and viability of such technologies.

The debate boils down to a fundamental disagreement over a question that’s dividing even some of the most ardent green energy supporters.

If you believe — as Oldham, the U.S. Department of Energy and some researchers do — that we won’t be able to keep the planet from reaching the 1.5 degree Celsius spike identified as a key turning point for worsening impacts from global warming simply by reducing emissions alone, then projects like these are well worth exploring.

“We can be more efficient with fossil fuel usage. We cannot completely stop using it,” said Dante Simonetti, a chemical and biomolecular engineering professor at UCLA who is helping to spearhead ocean carbon capture pilot programs along the Los Angeles and Singapore coasts.

“We need every technology because every technology does indeed have benefits and downsides. That’s what makes the problems complex.”

But if you believe — as Tejeda, some major environmental organizations and other researchers do — that we can avoid the worst impacts of global warming by rapidly eliminating our reliance on fossil fuels while using trees, wetlands and other natural spaces to draw down residual greenhouse gases, then ventures like ocean carbon capture removal aren’t worth the risks and resources.

“It just seems like there are far too many questions,” Tejada said.

How does it work? Direct ocean carbon capture operations look a bit like desalination or wastewater treatment plants, though something quite different is going on inside their systems of filters, tubes, pumps and tanks.

With Pasadena-based Captura, water is pulled from the surface of the ocean and passed through filters before it gets into the guts of the plant. A fraction of that water is diverted to flow through the company’s proprietary electrodialysis system, which was developed at CalTech by two professors who co-founded Captura in 2021. Their system uses a jolt of electricity (currently generated, in pilot projects, via solar power) to split the salt and water into an acid and an alkaline base. The acid is added to the original flow of ocean water, triggering a chemical process that extracts carbon dioxide and leaves acidic ocean water behind. The alkaline base then is used to neutralize the acidity, and that water is poured back into the ocean to absorb more carbon.

Other than scrubbing out carbon, which has been acidifying the ocean and leading to problems such as coral bleaching, Oldham said he’s confident their process doesn’t change the sea in ways that harm marine life. Fine-mesh filters prevent creatures from being pulled into the system on the front end, while the water coming out the other side is the same temperature, with no added absorbents or byproducts.

“Captura’s process adds nothing and takes nothing from the ocean,” he said.

Captura’s direct ocean carbon capture pilot project on the south side of Newport Harbor. The solar-powered project can remove 1 ton of carbon from the ocean each year. (Photo courtesy of Captura Corporation)

Membrane filters are part of Captura’s direct ocean carbon capture plant, which is under development at their laboratory in Pasadena, CA, on Wednesday, February 15, 2023. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

A carbon capture tank is part of Captura’s direct ocean carbon capture plant, which is under development at their laboratory in Pasadena, CA, on Wednesday, February 15, 2023. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

An electrodialysis system is part of Captura’s direct ocean carbon capture plant, which is under development at their laboratory in Pasadena, CA, on Wednesday, February 15, 2023. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Captura launched its first pilot project on the shores of Newport Harbor in August, at CalTech’s Kerckhoff Marine Laboratory. That project, funded with founders’ seed money and $1 million won through Elon Musk’s XPRIZE Carbon Removal competition, can remove a ton of carbon from the atmosphere each year.

A system 100 times larger is nearing completion at the company’s headquarters in Pasadena through funding from Southern California Gas. Captura aims to launch that plant at an undisclosed location along the California coast by June. And the startup says $12 million recently raised from a half-dozen investors will pay for a third pilot program to  remove 1,000 tons of carbon from the air each year through the ocean.

Then there’s SeaChange, which grew out of UCLA’s Institute for Carbon Management. In April, the startup plans to launch its first pilot plants at AltaSea, in the Port of Los Angeles, and on the coast of Singapore. Each shore-side pilot will be capable of drawing more than 40 tons of carbon down from the air each year. The company’s financing includes a $1 million grant from the Department of Energy, $1.5 million from Volkswagen’s settlement over an emissions cheating scandal and a $21 million pledge from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.

SeaChange systems also use a jolt of electricity (currently generated by natural gas pulled from the grid) but applies it to all of the surface water pulled into their plants. The reaction causes minerals in the seawater to form solids, Simonetti explains, creating sand-like bits of limestone and brucite that lock carbon dioxide inside. The alkalized and decarbonized water is then released back into the ocean.

SeaChange’s process also creates pure hydrogen along the way, which it aims to capture and sell as a potential source of emissions-free energy.

Where does the carbon go? When it comes to the carbon-containing solids created in SeaChange’s process, Simonetti said that material can be used to replenish sand on beaches or made into building materials such as cement. But much of it, he said, would likely be released back into the ocean.

As for the stream of pure carbon dioxide Captura’s process captures, it can either be sequestered underground (typically by injecting it into rock formations), or it could be used to make products such as plastics. Lots of ideas for such recycled carbon products are floating around, though most are still in the demonstration phase.

Captura also has a unique proposal for carbon sequestration that it believes could lower the price tag and speed the timeline for deploying its technology: put the plants on decommissioned offshore oil and gas platforms. That way, Oldham explained, the carbon could be sent back under the ocean floor for storage using the same permitted infrastructure that oil and gas companies installed to extract the fossil fuels that led to the carbon being in our atmosphere in the first place.

An artist’s rendering of an industrial-scale version of Captura’s ocean carbon capture technology at sea. (Photo courtesy of Captura Corporation) That proposal raises flags for Tejeda, since she said she’s not aware of any good research on potential impacts or regulations that would permit that process. Also, she noted serious concerns about the reliability of aging offshore oil infrastructure. If companies start using those systems to inject carbon underground, would they then take responsibility for maintaining that equipment and liability if something goes wrong, such as a carbon leak that could prove disastrous for marine life? After all, while carbon dioxide occurs naturally in the environment at low concentrations, elevated levels can trigger headaches, confusion and heart issues, while high doses can lead to suffocation.

Asked about such concerns, Maya Kashapov, who oversees business development for Captura, noted their business model is to license their technology to partners who want to permit, build, operate and maintain the plants. But she said one of the reasons oil and gas platforms are appealing sites for these projects is because there are permits already in place “to ensure their continued use is done in a safe way in accordance with local regulations.”

With any other sort of sequestration plan, one of the biggest concerns Tejeda and other some other environmentalists always have is with how the carbon is transported.

Using trucks means burning fossil fuels to move the carbon around, plus it poses safety concerns in case of crashes. It’s not a great time to discuss using trains to transport hazardous materials, with the Ohio derailment top of mind. And when it comes to pipelines, environmental groups cite a disaster that happened three years ago in Mississippi, when a pipe carrying liquefied carbon dioxide ruptured. The nearby community of Satartia was blanketed in a plume of carbon that caused health problems, including breathing and stomach issues, that a Huffington Post investigation found lingered for many residents a year later.

The Satartia incident prompted the federal Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to announce in May that it was updating safety standards for carbon dioxide pipelines. Those rules, and California guidelines for carbon capture and storage, are still under development.

“The energy industry has actually been managing and safely storing carbon dioxide within their oil and gas operations for decades, with millions of tons of CO2 successfully stored in geological sites worldwide,” Kashapov noted. And she said they have faith that regulators will have stringent oversight for these projects as the carbon sequestration industry takes off over the next decade.

Is it scalable? If direct ocean carbon capture projects can overcome such hurdles, they still need to make the process much more cost effective than it is today. They’ll also have to scale up the technology so its big enough and fast enough to make a dent in global warming.

Even if all five pilot plants Captura and SeaChange are working on today were up and running, they’d only remove around 1,181 tons of carbon a year — about the equivalent of taking 236 cars off the road. But both startups say they’re confident they can quickly scale up to plants that could help the ocean draw down 1 million tons of carbon annually.

Around 37 billion tons of carbon are emitted globally each year. Oldham cites an estimate from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that says up to 30% of the world’s emissions “will have to be removed, rather than stopped,” leaving natural systems, such as forests, and manmade systems, such as carbon capture plants, to absorb at least 11 billion tons of carbon each year.

The SeaChange team estimates roughly 1,800 industrial-scale versions of its ocean carbon capture plants would sequester about 10 billion tons of carbon per year. Building that many plants would cost trillions of dollars. But if even a fraction of that total gets built, SeaChange says it could make a serious dent in the problem.

Theoretically, the plants could go anywhere. Ocean carbon capture systems aren’t nearly as finicky as, say, offshore wind or wave energy projects, with no particular weather patterns or ocean temperatures needed to make them viable. So Simonetti said they can set up shop wherever regulators and the community welcome them.

While there’s some potential market for the carbon produced through ocean capture projects (and hydrogen, with SeaChange’s process), the main moneymaker here will be from companies willing — or forced — to pay to offset their own carbon production. Simonetti said that makes places like Singapore, which is pushing carbon taxes, attractive for these projects since the market already exists.

The Department of Energy has set a target for projects like these to reach a price of $100 per ton of removed carbon to make them viable.

Neither company shared how much their processes pencil out to now. But both acknowledged costs still need to come down signficantly, while also saying they’re confident they can get to a competitive price point soon.

Tree Warriors Halt LA Plan To Destroy Up To 13,000 Trees For Sidewalk Repairs

Trees of Los Angeles can let out a deep breath of fresh oxygen after a recent court ruling halted the City of L.A.’s plan to chop down as many as 13,000 shade trees citywide, in the name of sidewalk repairs.

The Los Angeles Superior Court Mitchell Beckloff sided with tree advocates and declared the Environmental Impact Report for the city’s proposed repair program “fundamentally flawed” in late January.

The lawsuit was filed by advocates from Angelenos for Trees and United Neighborhoods for Los Angeles who were distressed by the plan to kill thousands of trees without considering alternative repair methods that would preserve trees.

“We saw that they were proposing to remove over 12,000 trees and we felt that that was excessive. Other cities manage their sidewalk tree conflict easily and for whatever reason L.A. does not,” said said Jeanne McConnell of Angelenos for Trees.

The city argued that its sidewalk repair program and associated tree removals was a justified effort to comply with the Willits settlement — a 2016 class action settlement that requires the city to spend $1.4 billion to improve its sidewalks and walkways for those with disabilities.

“The city decided to prepare a new ordinance, the Sidewalk Repair Program, to protect the urban forest as much as possible while streamlining procedures so as to not hinder implementation of the Willits Settlement,” wrote then-City Attorney Mike Feuer in a July 2022 response to the petition filed against the city.

“As the comprehensive EIR is more than amply supported by substantial evidence, none of Petitioners’ claims have merit,” said the city’s attorneys.

Judge Beckloff, however, disagreed. He ruled that the EIR failed to thoroughly examine the impacts to wildlife and the environmental consequences of trading mature trees for young replacement trees.

His ruling grants trees a temporary reprieve from the chopping block.

Advocates say it’s a good thing for residents, too. The presence of trees in a neighborhood helps cool the temperature, lower electricity bills, clean the air, increase biodiversity and has even been shown to reduce crime, said McConnell.

The city may now appeal the court’s decision, create a new EIR to address the problems identified, or return to the drawing board with a new sidewalk repair plan.

Attorneys Jamie Hall and Sabrina Venskus, who represented the advocates, said they recognize the dire need for sidewalk repairs and hope the city opts to redo the plan.

“They can say ‘You know what? These things that we said were infeasible alternatives, we have now determined that they’re feasible’,” said Hall. “Like maybe meandering the sidewalks (around trees), building sidewalks out of different materials that are more flexible, using more root pruning.”

Tree advocate Joanne D’Antonio pictured with one of the oak trees she helped to preserve near Magnolia Blvd in North Hollywood, CA, Friday, February 10, 2023. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG) McConnell said Santa Monica, Pasadena, Ojai, Portland, Seattle, New York are all cities where local governments have managed to balance sidewalk repairs and tree preservation.

In addition to the environmental benefits, advocates also say that there is an economic and racial justice imperative to save trees.

“In low-income communities, street trees play a more important role than they do in communities that have high canopy cover,” said Hall. “If you look to South L.A. or other areas, you’ll see far less green and that’s because there’s more apartment complexes, there’s multi-family units, and also where there are single-family homes there’s not as many trees.”

Environmentalist and tree advocate Lynetta McElroy has been fighting for years to draw attention to the shortage of trees in predominantly Black communities in Los Angeles like her own.

“I am huge on planting trees in every community, especially here in South L.A. where we really need it,” she said.

While this was seen as a victory for trees and community members in South LA, McElroy said the problem has only worsened since then as new apartment complexes replace single family homes and their mature trees and greenery.

“We’ve seen how our State legislators along with developers are working hard to destroy communities and to put up lots of apartments, put up more concrete, thereby removing trees and greenery, which will make South LA a very hot, unlivable and unnatural area,” she said.

Trees play a major role in mitigating the urban heat island effect, in which buildings and paved surfaces trap heat and increase the temperature of a neighborhood.

“It’s been shown that under a tree canopy it can be 30 degrees cooler than the surrounding area,” said McConnell.

Jeanne McConnell with oak trees in North Hollywood, CA, Friday, February 10, 2023. McConnell participated in a lawsuit against the city of LA seeking to halt the planned removal of 13,000 trees in the name of sidewalk repairs. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG) The cooling effect of trees is especially valuable in the San Fernando Valley where McConnell lives and temperatures can be blistering during summer heat waves. Their presence can also help residents decrease their electricity bills by using less air conditioning.

Trees are also helpful in times of intense rainfall like Los Angeles experienced in January.

“When you have trees you’re less likely to have flooding as they capture vast amounts of water in their roots and then give it back to their leaves,” said environmentalist Joanne D’Antonio, adding that these leaves in turn will help clean the air.

D’Antonio is not a formal party in the lawsuit, but is a representative on the City’s Community Forest Advisory Committee. In this role she helped write a letter on the environmental impacts of tree removals, which the court cited in its decision.

CFAC members are particularly worried about the effects of tree removal on local and migratory birds.

“When a tree is removed it’s not ‘mitigation’ to plant two trees, because the birds don’t have the same services of a mature tree while those two trees grow,” said D’Antonio.

The letter from CFAC pointed out that the North American bird population had declined by 30 percent since 1970 and explained that because Los Angeles is “on the Pacific Flyway and trees provide nesting and foraging habitat, preserving (the) urban forest will have a profound impact on attempts at stabilizing bird populations.”

D’Antonio is also a supporter of using alternative sidewalk repair methods to preserve trees.

While the city has shied away from some methods — such as meandering sidewalks around trees — due to their price tag, D’Antonio pointed out that money could be secured for this under the urban forestry program of the new federal infrastructure bill.

“Street trees are the only city infrastructure that actually increases in value over time,” said attorney Sabrina Venskus in a written statement. “The (city’s) EIR pits mature street trees against repaired sidewalks, yet that is a false choice: other cities are able to preserve their mature street trees while ensuring safe sidewalks, and Los Angeles can too if it will make its urban forest infrastructure a priority.”

Drought And Disease In California Forests Leaves Behind An Estimated 36 Million Dead Trees, Survey Finds

By Stephanie Elam | CNN

An estimated 36.3 million trees died last year in California, a massive jump from the 9.5 million trees that died in 2021, according to an aerial survey report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service.

The trees, which are on federal, state and private land, were killed by the effects of the state’s prolonged drought in its overgrown forests, insect outbreaks and disease, the Forest Service said in a news release earlier this week, adding that it is working with its partners throughout California to remove the dead trees to improve forests’ health.

“Since 2020, California has experienced the driest and warmest years on record causing serious drought conditions. Without enough water, trees are susceptible to bark beetle attacks and disease. Their susceptibility rises when trees are crowded and temperatures are abnormally high,” the Forest Service said in the release. “Even with the recent storms from atmospheric rivers, increased tree mortality should be expected in forests until precipitation returns to normal or above normal for a few years.”

The dead trees span nearly 2.6 million acres compared to 1.2 million acres in 2021, with the average severity of mortality becoming “significantly higher.” The highest mortality rates were in the central Sierra Nevada Range and areas farther north, the Forest Service said.

“Mortality was particularly severe and widespread in the north interior in several conifer species where drought conditions were most exceptional,” the report said.

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The survey’s findings come weeks after torrential rain from a series of deadly storms caused extensive flooding, mudslides and landslides — which killed at least 20 people, turned streets into rivers and destroyed many homes.

The back-to-back downpours helped alleviate California’s severe drought conditions, but most of the state is still experiencing some level of drought, according to the US Drought Monitor’s latest report. That’s mainly due to the dire severity of the drought before the storms lashed the state.

After more than a century of suppressing fires, the USDA said California’s forests are overgrown. And human-induced climate change has been leading to hotter, more intense fires that threaten the increasing number of homes being built in what was wildland. All these factors are behind “what is now a full-blown wildfire and forest health crisis,” the Forest Service said.

In December, CAL Fire announced it is offering its local partners up to $120 million in grants to improve forest health by reducing fuels, conducting prescribed burns and managing pests. The grant money may also be put toward reforestation, conservation easements and or land purchases.

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Weekend Storm Adds To California’s Big Snowpack

SACRAMENTO  — A blustery weekend storm added to California’s big mountain snowpack, leaving icy conditions in the Sierra Nevada early Monday.

Chains were required on sections of Sierra highways, but a backcountry avalanche warning for the greater Lake Tahoe area expired around sunrise.

For a time on Sunday, about 74 miles (119 kilometers) of U.S. 395 were closed due to whiteout conditions, according to the California Department of Transportation.

The storm dropped 16 inches to 24 inches (40-61 centimeters) of snow at Mammoth Mountain in the Eastern Sierra and the season total so far at its main lodge surpassed 400 inches (1,016 cm), the resort’s website said.

“It is incredibly cold out there,” the resort said.

Dirty Truth: UC Riverside Study Suggests New Way Climate Change Is Fueling Itself

Healthy, undisturbed soil sinks carbon, storing what’s generated when plants and other living things decompose so it doesn’t get released as a planet-warming greenhouse gas.

But a new study out of UC Riverside suggests nitrogen pollution from cars and trucks and power plants might make soil release that carbon in Southern California and other similarly dry places – worsening, rather than helping to fight, climate change.

Dryland ecosystems like ours cover roughly 45% of land on Earth. They also store 33% of the carbon found in the top layer of soil worldwide. So if nitrogen pollution is making the carbon stored in these soils vulnerable, that definitely rings some alarm bells, said Peter Homyak, an environmental sciences professor at UC Riverside who co-authored the study.

The findings offer new motivation, then, to speed the transition away from fossil fuels and cut back on nitrogen-rich fertilizer if we want to slow global warming that’s already creating climate refugees due to worsening heat waves, droughts, floods and wildfires.

“Our study highlights once again how nitrogen pollution can affect even the non-living environment around us, beyond the well-established detrimental effects of air pollution on us humans,” said Johann Püspök of Austria, who started the study while he was Homyak’s student at UC Riverside. “So, getting a grip on air pollution and fertilizer overuse is still an important task.”

Southern California hills may be alive with the gift of winter rains today. But a new study shows our typically dry climate makes soils vulnerable to acidification, which can add climate-warming carbon to the air. (Photo by Getty Images/iStockphoto) In places that get more regular rain and snow, other studies have shown that adding nitrogen to soil can increase carbon storage. Nitrogen fuels plant growth, which captures carbon and draws it down into the soil. It also helps slow decomposition of whatever is in the soil.

That’s not what happened when Püspök’s team analyzed nitrogen-enriched soil across Southern California, which has some of the worse nitrogen pollution levels in the world.

They took samples from areas at Irvine Ranch National Landmark in Orange County, Sky Oaks Field Station in San Diego County and Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve in Riverside County that have been fertilized with nitrogen in long-term experiments to study the effects of such pollution. Püspök’s team found that while adding nitrogen to soil in drylands did still increase plant growth and decrease decomposition, it did not increase the amount of carbon stored in the soils. Instead, they found extra nitrogen caused some dryland soil to acidify, then leach calcium as it tried to rebalance its pH levels. Since calcium binds to carbon, the two elements left the soil together, sending previously sequestered carbon into the atmosphere.

Carbon bound to calcium and other minerals in soils has previously been thought to be pretty stable, Homyak said. That’s because the minerals seem to help hide carbon from microbes, which otherwise feed on decaying plant and animal matter and release that carbon in the process. Dryland soil also has been thought to be good at buffering itself from too much acidification. So Homyak said learning that nitrogen could upend both of those bits of accepted wisdom was concerning.

In the San Diego study area, the report published in the journal Global Change Biology says the team saw a 16% drop in once-stable carbon in the soil when it absorbed nitrogen.

“That means bare patches of soil with no plant cover and low microbial activity, which I always thought of as areas where not much is going on, appear to be affected by nitrogen pollution, too,” Püspök said.

It’s a tricky balance, Homyak acknowledged, since nitrogen fertilizers in agricultural sites do increase plant production. But use too much, and he said that nitrogen can end up all over the surrounding land, potentially triggering the acidification his team saw.

Even in places where fertilizer isn’t being added to soil, nitrogen is increasingly present in the atmosphere. Thanks to modern industrial and agricultural practices and the advent of vehicles, the study states levels of nitrogen in Earth’s atmosphere have tripled since 1850.

More research is needed to see if dryland soil emits carbon the same way when it gradually absorbs nitrogen in the atmosphere vs. when nitrogen is added to the soils all at once through fertilizer, as with samples the UC Riverside team tested. But Homyak said they expect the process to be pretty similar, since atmospheric nitrogen can build up, then get dumped in substantial amounts during the first big rain of the season.

There’s no easy way to remediate soil that’s acidified by nitrogen, Homyak said. You’d need to make the soil more alkaline. But short of having helicopters dump lime or some such substance on these lands, he said the only thing that will help is reducing emissions in the atmosphere and then giving the soil time to repair itself.

That’s a very slow process. So Homyak said there’s no time like the present to get started.