Tag Archives: California

Something Wicked This Way Comes

El nino map1997-1998: the dawn of Girlpower, Harry’s first year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and the epic story between love, an iceberg and a ship. Oh, and yeah…..El Niño.

Documented as the strongest El Niño to ever occur within the past 50 years, the 1997-1998 ENSO (El Niño Southern Oscillation) event broke records for heightened sea surface temperatures, rainfall, and drought conditions globally. With ENSO occurring regularly every 4-5 years there’s no lack of expectation of what’s to naturally happen. It is, although, varied by intensity. 2015 marks the beginning of another El Niño event, and this year is anticipated to steal the cake. Recent trends give evidence to the possibility that this year could reach and even surpass 1997-1998 records with how high sea surface temperatures of the water have been.

Warm waterThis natural, cyclical phenomenon transpires when easterly trade winds along the equator weaken, shifting atmospheric and oceanic circulation patterns. Normally, cold-nutrient rich water is upwelled along the eastern Pacific coast near Peru due to strong trades pushing west. This keeps the areas around the eastern portion of the equator relatively cool and dry during portions of the year, and highly productive given the movement of bottom-dwelling nutrients to the surface. Along the western side, the warm water being pushed by the strong winds eventually warms the overlying air over Indonesia and other portions of Southeast Asia. The air then gets lifted into the atmosphere and produces variable stormy activity that keeps this area relatively warm and wet during the year.

What commences an El Niño event is the weakening of the easterly trade winds. The normal cold-water upwelling occurring along the eastern Pacific coast that we typically see comes to a halt, allowing warm water to pool up. Atmospheric weather patterns shift more eastward, producing more wet, stormy conditions along the eastern coastlines. As a result, we find more warm, wet, and non-productive conditions along the east side and more warm and dry conditions over towards the west.

SnakeThe intensity of ENSO events varies each year based upon the overlay of building oceanic and atmospheric conditions throughout the designated year. Only time will tell on how strong this year’s El Niño will be. What is anticipated to happen around California and Catalina Island, although, is higher than normal precipitation in the form of rain and even snow up in higher elevated areas, increased susceptibility of weather-induced natur al disaster events, including landslides and mudslides, and major ecological shifts within our local terrestrial and marine environments. We’ve already seen a number of non-native marine critters visit, including the recently sighted venomous Yellow-Bellied Sea Snake…..watch out!

The important thing to understand is that El Niño is a natural reoccurring phenomenon. It’s not alien that we are going to experience an intense shift in climate and weather patterns this winter seasons or quite possibly even see Godzilla emerging from the sea. What is curious, although, is the question of how intense that shift will be and how our ever changing world has contributed to that intensity.

Written by John Cornett

Blog Photo Credits

-“El Nino Pacific”
https://www.taskeasy.com/blog/2015/09/21/what-el-nino-could-mean-for-2015-16/

-“Global Climate Conditions”
http://www2.ucar.edu/news/backgrounders/el-nino-la-nina-enso

-“Yellow Bellied Sea Snake”
http://www.californiaherps.com/snakes/pages/p.platurus.html

Video Photo Credits

-“Landslide”
http://gallery.usgs.gov/search/Photos/landslide/thumbettes/08_18_2015_vbr1Uhg7SO_08_18_2015_0/1

-“Yellow Bellied Sea Snake”
http://www.californiaherps.com/snakes/pages/p.platurus.html

-“Mudslide”
http://www.smartgivers.org/smart_giving_in_response_to_california_mud_slide_2

Snow Caps
http://articles.latimes.com/2013/jun/14/science/la-sci-sn-southern-california-snow-20130614

RUN, RUN, RUN! It’s Godzilla…El Nino

Anticipated as the most intense El Niño since 1997, this winter is forecasted to be cold, immensely wet, and mushy along the southwest coast, including Catalina.

So what exactly is an El Niño?

ninoEl Niño, or more formally called ENSO (El Niño Southern Oscillation), is a climatological phenomenon that naturally occurs every few years, altering climate patterns globally. Atmospheric and oceanic circulations become disrupted as easterly trade winds along the equatorial pacific weaken. As a result, upwelling off the coasts of Ecuador and Peru diminish leading to an inc
rease in sea surface temperature and rainfall around the eastern Pacific, and more drought conditions along the western side. During a normal non-El Niño year, the opposite occurs. Trade winds are strong, cold, nutrient-rich water from the ocean floor upwells along the eastern equatorial pacific, productivity is high, and conditions are relatively more dry.

What does this mean for the southwest and Catalina?

With an El Niño, California and the majority of the southwest typically experience cooler temperatures and more stormy conditions. Since this year has been overwhelmingly dry, the forecast for large quantities of rainfall will provide some relief towards the current drought situation.

Well if it’s not actually Godzilla, then why are we concerned?

BlobAs this years El Niño is anticipated to be the strongest on record, in conjunction with California’s current drought situation, the excessive quantity of rain is feared to cause a reaction of natural disaster events bringing devastation to the land and its surrounding environments. Increased susceptibility of flooding, along with land- and mudslides are expected, posing concerns of heightened structural damage, losses in property, and alterations within terrestrial and marine ecosystems. Looking into the life aquatic, higher than average water temperatures are, and will continue to chase away some of our natural residents and attract more of a warm-water-thriving variety of species.

As fall beings to age and winter quickly approaches, batten down the hatches, grab what you can, and run for the hills Southern California! Godzilla is coming!…. Or maybe call the Justice League???

For more recent information visit: 7 News

Written by John Cornett

Sheephead are Protogynous Hermaphrodies

Hermaphrodites are animals that start out as one sex and switches to the opposite sex at a point in their life. This process is called sequential hermaphroditism, differing from simultaneously hermaphroditism in which the animals can produce sperm and eggs at the same time. Protogynous hermaphroditism is the change in gender from a female to a male over some time. Protogyny is the most common form of hermaphroditism in which 75% of all sequentially hermaphroditic fish change to male in their lifespan.

female 1

Wrasses are a common fish species of protogynous hermaphroditism, which belong to the Labridae family. The California sheephead, a type of wrasse, is an excellent example, born a female with light pink coloration and turning into a male after about 4-6 years. Male sheephead have two black stripes on the head and tail with bright red in the middle of their body. The ovaries degenerate and sperm appears in the gonads.

male

California sheephead form a harem of one large male and multiple smaller females. The primary role of the male is defending its territory against other males and to fertilize females in its territory. If the male dies whether being fished or natural causes, a female in the harem will undergo a sex change and can take anywhere from five days to two weeks transforming to a male. The new male will take the responsibilities of the previous male.

Spring Wildflowers on Catalina Island

Spring is the season of new growth and blossoming life. Visiting CIMI during the spring feels dreamlike as you walk through the trails flecked with wildflowers of all shapes and sizes. Catalina Island is home to over 400 native plant species, and 200 non-native plant species. There are even 7 endemic plant species only found on the island, including the Catalina Ironwood and the Catalina Liveforever.

Since southern California does not get copious amounts of rain, our ecosystem is dominated by chaparral foliage. This ecoregion is characterized by woody shrubs, heat tolerant flora, and drought resistant plants. Many of the plants on Catalina Island have beneficial adaptations, making them perfectly equipped to live in this dry and rocky environment. One example is a flower called theBlue Hyacinth (Dichelostemma capitatum). Blue Hyacinth grow well in dry climates because of its ability to colonize after a fire. Their seedpods can lie dormant for over a decade until a fire scorches the plants around it; once the other plants have been removed, the Blue Hyacinth can quickly spread.

Though the wildflowers on Catalina are tough and resilient, they can’t do it all alone; angiosperms (flowering plants) are dependent on animals to carry their pollen around the island as part of the fertilization process. During the day, flowers open up wide and produce nectar to attract bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and more. When these animals brush up against the anther (the male part of the flower), they collect pollen on their bodies, and as they travel from flower to flower, the animals deliver the pollen to other plants’ stigmas (the female part of the flower). This process fertilizes the angiosperms, allowing them to germinate and spread.

You may have noticed that many flowers fold up their petals at night. Are they doing this as a way to tuck themselves in for bed? Or is there a scientific reason for this? This behavior, called nyctinasty, is common in many angiosperms – including Catalina Island’s Bush Poppy and Mariposa Lily. Scientists aren’t sure exactly why this happens, but there are many theories. As mentioned before, these flowers are dependent on biological pollinators to move their pollen. Many of these animals are asleep at night, meaning that the flowers have no reason to stay open. Some think that closing the flowers is a way to keep morning dew from dampening the pollen, making it too wet and heavy to stick to pollinators. Another theory is that flowers fold up in order to reduce the risk of freezing. Still others think that by closing, the flowers are conserving energy and odor for the next day. Do you have any other ideas why flowers might close at night?

 Written by: Max Veenema

Encelia Californica – Bush Sunflower

Bush Sunflowers on Lion's

Dichelostemma Pulchellum – Blue Hyacinth

Blue Dick

Calochortus Catalinae- Catalina Mariposa Lily (white flower at the bottom of photo, also shows cimi students kayaking at Cherry Cove)

2015-02-25 09.05.46

Eschscholzia Californica – California Poppy

California Poppy (Heather Peterson)

 

 

Happy Anniversary National Wildlife Refuge

Here at CIMI, we are a proud proponent of keeping wild places wild. That’s why we’re celebrating the anniversary of the first National Wildlife Refuge. Using an executive order, the conservation-minded President Theodore Roosevelt established the Pelican Island Refuge on March 14, 1903. Since that day, over 560 national wildlife refuges have been created across the United States. The Wildlife Refuge System is an extensive network of protected areas created with the intention of conserving, managing, and even restoring animal and plants populations. Over 150,000,000 acres of our country are dedicated to nation wildlife refuges, protecting over 220 species of mammals, 250 reptiles and amphibians, 700 species of birds, and 1,000 species of fish! These refuges are incredibly important to plants and animals, seeing as over 380 threatened and endangered species call them home.

The California Condor Recovery Program (Recovery Program) is a multi-entity effort, lead by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, to recover the endangered California condor.

CACO_63_512pix

Photo Credit: www.fws.gov “California Condor Recovery Program”

There are 39 National Wildlife Refuges in California starting as far south as Tijuana and reaching as far north as Castle Rock on the border between California and Oregon. The Hopper Mountain National Refuge Complex is a system of 4 national wildlife refuges that were established in California to protect the endangered California condor. Due to lead poisoning, poaching, and habitat destruction, California condors were nearly driven extinct in the 29th century. With only 22 individuals left in the wild, drastic measures needed to be taken! Combined efforts to both protect the condors’ habitats with National Wildlife Refuges as well as capture the condors breeding programs has led to a recent boom in their population. Today, California condors are released into the Hopper Mountain National Refuge to roost and live out their lives with minimal human interference; this has led to an increase in numbers to more than 425 in captivity or in the wild, protected by wildlife refuges.

Written by: Max Veenema

Garibaldi: The California State Marine Fish

The Garibaldi, or Hypsypops rubicundus, is the official California state marine fish and is protected in Californian coastal waters. They are found in shallow water up to 100 ft in depth usually in rock reefs and rocky sea bottoms.  This species of damselfish inhabits the waters of the Pacific Ocean from Monterey Bay, California to Baja, California along rocky coastal reefs and among kelp forests. They are especially common to the more southern Channel Islands.

Extremely visible by their bright orange coloration, adult fish may reach up to 15 inches in length. Juvenile garibaldi fish are yellow-orange with iridescent blue spots and which signify to adults in the area that they are not a threat.  As they grow, the blue spots disappear until they are solid orange.  These fish are not considered mature until five or six years old and are about eight inches long. They feed on various sponges, algae, and invertebrates including tubeworms, nudibranchs, and bryozoans.

Adult male garibaldi carefully construct circular nest sites about one foot in diameter in shallow reef habitats weeding out all organisms except for red algae.  The more well-prepared and maintained the nests are, the more likely a female will choose that nest to deposit her eggs for fertilization by the hosting male.  As soon as a female has laid her eggs, the male chases her away before she has the chance to munch on any other eggs in his nest.  Once the eggs are fertilized, the male continues to guard the nest often warning divers of their close proximity with a loud thumping noises.

WECOME TO THE CIMI BLOG

We would like to thank you for visiting our blog. Catalina Island Marine Institute is a hands-on marine science program with an emphasis on ocean exploration. Our classes and activities are designed to inspire students toward future success in their academic and personal pursuits. This blog is intended to provide you with up-to-date news and information about our camp programs, as well as current science and ocean happenings. This blog has been created by our staff who have at least a Bachelors Degree usually in marine science or related subjects. We encourage you to also follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Google+, Twitter, and Vine to see even more of our interesting science and ocean information. Feel free to leave comments, questions, or share our blog with others. Please visit www.cimi.org for additional information. Happy Reading!

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