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Abrupt Climate Change: Causes and Ecosystem Responses
Released: 5/11/2007 8:09:44 AM

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U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
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U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists who study trends in climate change will be presenting the results from new studies at a workshop held in Pacific Grove, California, May 13-16, 2007.

In popular movies, freak tornados tear the "Hollywood" sign from the hills above Los Angeles and New York City is flooded and frozen.  Both events are in response to abrupt changes in the global climate.  While the events depicted in the movie are overly dramatic, there are real, if less exciting, responses to relatively rapid changes in climate that are currently taking place.  In the west, trees are flowering earlier in the year, affecting the animals that rely on them as a food source; there is less snow in the Sierra Nevada, and it is melting earlier in the year, leaving less water available for irrigation in the summer; and flood events and winter storms are increasing in intensity.  Evidence from past rapid changes in climate is being used to project possible responses to future rapid, large-scale changes in temperature and precipitation. USGS scientists use a variety of tools to uncover evidence of abrupt climate change including tree-ring patterns, ocean and lake sediments, geochemistry, micropaleontology, and climate modeling.  The ecosystem responses to these rapid changes in climate are the topic of the 23rd Pacific Climate Workshop (PACLIM) which will be held May 13-16, 2007.

Organized and partially funded by the USGS, the conference brings together university, state, and federal government scientists from around the country for presentations and discussions on various aspects of climate variability, from the impact of rapid warming on the Sierra Nevada snowpack and the role of sea surface temperature in the drying of coastal California, to the record of freshwater variability over the past several thousand years in San Francisco Bay marshes and changes is vegetation distribution in the southwest and indicators of a possible warmer future in the western U.S.

As noted in the schedule below, USGS scientists will be presenting the results of new analyses on the connection between sea surface temperatures in the North Atlantic Ocean and precipitation in the Great Basin (Benson), the increased risk of flooding in a warmer world (Dettinger, Cayan, Florsheim, and Lundquist), changing in storm intensity and frequency in southwestern California (Miller, Mahan, McGeehin, Barron, and Owen), vegetation response to rapid climate change (Shafer, Bartlein, Edwards, and Hostetler), and the impact of climate change on the Navajo Nation (Redsteer).

Download the complete Agenda for the 23rd Pacific Climate Workshop (PDF, 100KB).


Highlighted USGS research to be presented at the Pacific Climate Workshop

Oral Presentations
All oral presentations will be held in the Fred Farr Forum, Asilomar Conference Grounds

Santa Barbara basin diatom record suggests coincidence of cooler SST with widespread occurrence of drought in the west during the past 2,200 years.
John Barron (USGS, Menlo Park, Calif.) - Tuesday, May 15, 11:25-11:50 a.m.

The relation of Great Basin late Quaternary hydrologic and cryologic variability to North Atlantic climate oscillations
Larry Benson (USGS, Boulder, Colo.) - Monday, May 14, 3:30-3:55 p.m.

Post-Younger Dryas warming, an analog for the next 100 years?
Kenneth Cole (USGS, Flagstaff, Ariz.) - Tuesday, May 15, 2:45-3:10 p.m.

Rain-fed flood risks in a warming west
Michael Dettinger (USGS, UCSD-SIO), Dan Cayan (USGS, UCSD-SIO), Jessica Lundquist (University of Washington) - Monday, May 14, 9:00-9:25 a.m.

Flood variability in response to climate variability, Sacramento-San Joaquin River system, California
Joan Florsheim (U.C. Davis), Michael Dettinger (USGS, UCSD-SIO) - Monday, May 14, 9:25-9:50 a.m.

Impacts of climate change and land use on the Navajo Nation in the southwestern United States
Margaret Hiza Redsteer (USGS, Flagstaff, Ariz.) - Tuesday, May 15, 3:30-3:55 p.m.

Vegetation responses to climate change: 11 ka, 6 ka, and twenty-first century vegetation simulations for Beringia
Sarah Shafer (USGS, Corvallis, Ore.), Patrick Bartlein (University of Oregon), Mary Edwards (University of Southampton),
Steven Hostetler (USGS, Corvallis, Ore.) - Monday, May 14, 1:30-1:55 p.m.

Too cunning to be understood: The record of late Holocene central California climate from San Francisco Bay marsh sediments
Scott Starratt (USGS, Menlo Park, Calif.) - Tuesday, May 15, 1:30-1:55 p.m.

Climate change and wildfire
Anthony Westerling (U.C. Merced), Hugo Hidalgo (UCSD-SIO), Dan Cayan (USGS, UCSD-SIO), Thomas Swetnam (University of Arizona) - Monday, May 14, 9:50-10:15 a.m.


All poster presentations will be held in the Kiln Room, Asilomar Conference Grounds

Joint variability of global runoff and global sea-surface temperatures
Gregory McCabe (USGS, Denver), David Wolock (USGS, Lawrence, Kan.)

Holocene landscape response to seasonality of storms in the Mojave Desert
David Miller (USGS, Menlo Park, Calif.), Shannon Mahan (USGS, Denver, Colo.), John McGeehin (USGS, Reston, Va.), John Barron (USGS, Menlo Park, Calif.), Lewis Owen (University of Cincinnati)

Preliminary data on a long sediment core from Lower Red Rock Lake, southwest Montana
Stephanie Mumma (Montana State University), Cathy Whitlock (Montana State University), Kenneth Pierce (USGS, Bozeman, Mont.)

Examination of drought tolerance in Pinyon pine using ancient DNA
Bethany Riggins (Northern Arizona University), Amy Whipple (Northern Arizona University), Kris Haskins (Northern Arizona University, Kenneth Cole (USGS, Flagstaff, Ariz.)

Correlating late glacial and Holocene marine and lacustrine climate records in northern California
Scott Starratt (USGS, Menlo Park, Calif.), John Barron (USGS, Menlo Park, Calif.)

Evaluating isotope tracers of paleosalinity, freshwater input, and environmental change at Celestun Lagoon, Yucatan
Joseph Street (Stanford University), Megan Young (USGS, Menlo Park, Calif.), Michelle Goman (Cornell University), Jorge Herrera-Silveria (CINVESTAV, Mexico), Adina Paytan (Stanford University)

USGS provides science for a changing world. For more information, visit www.usgs.gov.

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