Potential La Niña conditions may signal dry California winter – from Discover Magazine

La Niña

This animation shows how temperatures at the surface and subsurface of the tropical Pacific ocean departed from average over five-day periods starting in early August 2017. The vertical axis shows the depth below the surface in meters. The cross-section is right along the equator. Note the blue blob indicative of relatively cool water rising from the depths and spreading eastward. (Source: NOAA ENSO Blog)

By Tom Yulsman

Here we go again?

Following a mild and short-lived La Niña episode in 2016/2017, the climatic phenomenon stands a 55 to 60 percent chance of developing once again this fall and winter. That’s the most recent forecast from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Based on observations of what’s happening in the Pacific Ocean, and modeling to predict what may be coming, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center has issued a La Niña watch, indicating that conditions are favorable for its development.

La Niña can strongly shift weather patterns, bringing anomalously cool or warm, and wet or dry, conditions to large parts of the world. In the United States, La Niña tends to bring wetter than normal conditions to the Pacific Northwest and parts of the Midwest. Unfortunately for southern and central California, things tend to dry out.

A number of factors have climatologists convinced that La Niña is brewing again. Among them are changes to Pacific Ocean trade winds.But it’s important to note that with La Niña or its opposite, El Niño, for that matter, (you can never be sure about the outcome). For example, last winter, despite the presence of La Niña, incredibly heavy precipitation drenched large parts of California. This was thanks to another phenomenon, known as the “pineapple express“.

These ordinarily blow from east to west across the equatorial Pacific, helping to bottle up warm surface waters in the western part of the ocean basin. As a La Niña episode gets going, those winds tend to strengthen, shoving even harder on warm surface waters, pushing them out of the way, and thereby allowing cooler water to well up from the ocean depths.

This is precisely what began to happen during August. At about 160 to 500 feet beneath the surface of the Pacific, a blob of cooler-than-average water formed and began rising and spreading to the east along the equator.

You can see this blob, called a “kelvin wave,” in the animation at the top of this story. The visualization depicts a cross-section of the Pacific Ocean along the equator, and it shows the evolution of the cold blob starting in early August.

This shift in conditions in the Pacific had its origins even prior to August. “During the second half of July, the trade winds puffed a bit harder over the western half of the Pacific, likely helping this current Kelvin wave form,” writes Emily Becker in NOAA’s informative and compellingly clear ENSO Blog.

Parts of the blob reached the surface in August, resulting in anomalously cool surface waters along the equator. This is characteristic of La Niña. But it’s important to note that this and other features have to strengthen and persist before NOAA will declare the official start of a La Niña episode.

La Niña

This animation compares sea surface temperature anomalies in the Pacific Ocean on May 12 and Sept. 12, 2017. The blue swath that forms along the equator indicates cooler than normal temperatures that have developed since May. (Images: Earth Nullschool. Animation: Tom Yulsman)

In the animation above, watch the equatorial region of the Pacific west of South America. The colors indicate how temperatures at the sea surface vary from the long-term average.  The warmish hues along the equator in one of the two frames are indicative of slightly warmer than normal temperatures at the surface in mid-May of this year.

In that same frame, orange and yellow tones hugging the west coast of South America reveal particularly warm water — evidence of a “coastal El Niño.” This phenomenon sometimes is a prelude to a full-fledged El Niño, in which a spear of unusually warm water extends westward from the coast of South America along the equator.

But as the second frame in the animation shows, that’s not what happened this time. That second frame shows sea surface temperature anomalies in mid-September. And the spear of blue along the equator indicates a cool-down.

Will conditions continue along this path, resulting in a La Niña? That’s the forecast of computer models. As Emily Becker writes at the ENSO blog:

The ensemble of models from the North American Multi-Model Ensemble (NMME) is predicting that La Niña will develop this fall, and last just through the winter. Back-to-back La Niña winters are not uncommon, and have occurred at least five times since 1950, most recently in 2010-2011 and 2011-2012.

There are good scientific reasons to feel confident in the model predictions. But as Becker is quick to point out, the interactions between the ocean and atmosphere are very complex. So things may very well evolve differently.

One thing is for sure, of course: Time will tell.

Link to story


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Parcel inspection dog “Cosmo” sniffs out Citrus Canker, keeps it out of California

Alameda County parcel inspection dog “Cosmo” and handler Lisa Sampson recently worked together to detect an unmarked package of limes from Florida at an Oakland US Postal Service facility. The shipment was found to be infected with Citrus Canker.


These are the limes. Citrus Canker is a bacterial disease of citrus trees that can cause premature leaving and fruit drop. It is prevalent in Florida but is not established in California.

Learn more about the California Dog Teams.

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Secretary Ross welcomes delegation from Mexico, stresses importance of ag in achieving climate change goals

California Department of Food And Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross addressed a delegation of Cochran fellows from the United Mexican States on Friday morning.

California Department of Food And Agriculture (CDFA) Secretary Karen Ross addressed a delegation of Cochran fellows from the United Mexican States this morning at CDFA headquarters in Sacramento. Ross spoke on the importance of bolstering the relationship between Mexico and California and emphasized the need for international collaboration in combating climate change. The delegation, which was composed of public and private representatives from Mexico, visited CDFA to learn more about the agency’s climate smart agricultural programs housed in the Office of Environmental Farming and Innovation (OEFI). 


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Arrrrr – Pirates may be responsible for U.S. rejection of the metric system – from the New York Post

By Lauren Tousignant

The United States could be using the metric system — the universal system of measurement that every industrialized nation uses except the U.S. — if it wasn’t for a bunch of pirates 224 years ago.

French philosophers developed the metric system in Paris in the late 18th century to make trade easier and calculations simpler. They sent an aristocrat and fellow academic, Joseph Dombey, to the U.S. in 1793 to meet with then Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson, according to the Washington Post.

At the time, the U.S. was desperate for some semblance of a measurement system. In his first State of the Union address, George Washington called the need for a standard unit of measurement “an object of great importance.”

Jefferson was appointed to make this happen. Since France had recently helped the U.S. win the Revolutionary War, the philosophers believed Dombey could easily persuade Jefferson to convince Congress to adopt the new system.

The metric system was then made up of two standards of measurement — a rod that measured one meter and a copper cylinder that weighed one kilogram. Dombey traveled with both items.

But on his way across the Atlantic, Dombey’s ship hit a nasty storm and he ended up in the Caribbean where pirates captured him. He died in prison shortly after.

By the time France sent someone else to the U.S., Edmond Randolph had become Secretary Of State and he didn’t really care about what measurements were used.

Though the metric system has, nevertheless, slowly made its way into American life — we buy soda in liters and U.S. companies conduct international trade using meters — we’re still kilometers, er, miles behind the rest of the world.

“The Dombey event is probably a bit of a footnote to history,” Keith Martin, a research librarian at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, told the Washington Post. But had Dombey completed his journey, “it could have made a big difference.”

Link to article

Learn more about CDFA’s Division of Measurement Standards

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Secretary Ross kicks-off annual State Employees Food Drive

CDFA secretary Karen Ross today visited Sacramento’s Capitol Mall Farmers’ Market to kickoff the annual State Employees Food Drive. Consumers were welcome to purchase fruits and vegetables and donate them to the Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services. Secretary Ross is chair of the food drive.

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California continues to lead in certified organic farms, acres, sales

California, with $2.9 billion in certified organic sales, continued to lead the nation in certified sales, accounting for 38 percent of the U.S. total in 2016. It also had the largest share of certified organic acres and farms. Three states had more than 1,000 certified farms: California (2,713), Wisconsin (1,276), and New York (1,059).

Ten states accounted for 77 percent of U.S. certified organic sales, virtually the same share as in 2015 and 2014.

Crops accounted for 56 percent of the sale of certified organic production; livestock, poultry, and their products accounted for 44 percent. Organic production encompasses a wide range of commodities, including livestock and poultry products (primarily milk and eggs), with 2016 sales of $2.2 billion; vegetables, $1.6 billion; fruits, tree nuts, and berries, $1.4 billion; livestock and poultry, $1.2 billion; and field crops, $763 million.

The top commodities in 2016 were:

  • Milk – $1.4 billion, up 18 percent
  • Eggs – $816 million, up 11 percent
  • Broiler chickens – $750 million, up 78 percent
  • Apples – $327 million, up 8 percent
  • Lettuce – $277 million, up 6 percent

Other top organic crops were strawberries, grapes, tomatoes, corn, potatoes, hay, spinach, and mushrooms.

NASS (the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service) conducted the 2016 Certified Organic Survey in conjunction with USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA). “RMA relies on the information to expand crop insurance options and set price elections for organic production, “said RMA Acting Administrator Heather Manzano.

The survey is a census of all known U.S. farmers and ranchers with certified organic production in 2016. Producers must meet the standards set out by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service’s National Organic Program and be certified compliant by an approved agent of the program. Survey results are available at www.nass.usda.gov/organics or the Quick Stats database at https://quickstats.nass.usda.gov.

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Kern County lands top spot in Ag Production for first time – from the Fresno Bee

By Robert Rodriguez

Lousy milk prices spoiled Tulare County’s chances of holding on to its title as the state’s No.1 agriculture county.

Marilyn Kinoshita, Tulare County agricultural commissioner, delivered the bad news to the Board of Supervisors Tuesday. The county’s total production value for 2016 tumbled 8 percent to $6.3 billion.

That crop value wasn’t enough to keep Kern County from seizing the top spot with a total agriculture value of $7.2 billion. It was a record for Kern County and put them in the No. 1 position for the first time. Strong markets for grapes, almonds and citrus, helped push the county to the top.

Tulare County may be the leading dairy county in the state but that’s also part of the reason it slipped to No. 2, just ahead of Fresno County, which had a total crop value of $6.1 billion.

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A reminder to leave invasive species behind

CDFA joins the USDA in reminding all travelers this fall to make sure they’re not carrying invasive species with them. Destructive pests may tag along for the ride and, undetected, begin to infest regions where natural defenses don’t exist. US agriculture loses an estimated $13 billion a year due to these pests and, more broadly, all invasive species cost the US an estimated $120 billion annually. For more information visit the HungryPests and Don’t Pack a Pest web sites.

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A look at a grocery store of the future – from FastCompany.com

By Adele Peters

In Shanghai, a prototype of a new 24-hour convenience store has no staff, no registers, and the whole thing is on wheels, designed to eventually drive itself to a warehouse to restock, or to a customer to make a delivery.

The startup behind it believes that it’s the model for the grocery store of the future–and because it’s both mobile and far cheaper to build and operate than a typical store, it could also help bring better access to groceries to food deserts and rural areas.

For consumers, it’s designed to be an easier way to shop. To use the store, called Moby, you download an app and use your phone to open the door. A hologram-like AI greets you, and, as you shop, you scan what you want to buy or place it in a smart basket that tracks your purchases. Then you walk out the door; instead of waiting in line, the store automatically charges your card when you leave (Amazon is testing a similar system).

The tiny shop will stock fresh food and other daily supplies, and if you want something else you can order it using the store’s artificial intelligence. The packages will be waiting when you return to shop the next time. When autonomous vehicles are allowed on roads, the store could also show up at your home, and the company is also testing a set of drones to make small deliveries.

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Kern County makes a run at top Ag producer in California – from the Fresno Bee

By Robert Rodriguez

Can Kern County, home of Buck Owens, oil wells and tumbleweeds, dethrone Tulare County as the No. 1 agriculture county in the state, and possibly the nation?

It could happen. And if it does, it will be a first for the south San Joaquin Valley county.

Who becomes the undisputed agriculture champion will be revealed on Tuesday. That’s the day Marilyn Kinoshita, Tulare County’s agricultural commissioner, delivers the 2016 crop report to her board of supervisors.

Tulare County will have to do better than Kern County’s $7.2 billion to keep its No. 1 ranking.

As the nation’s leading milk producer, Tulare County has led the state in overall crop values for the last several years, stripping that title from Fresno County, the one-time ag champ.

For years, the two counties shared a friendly rivalry over who would come out on top. But California’s four-year drought took a heavy toll on Fresno County as farmers fallowed thousands of acres or shifted production to counties with more reliable water supplies.

Last year Tulare was on top with a total value of $6.9 billion.

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