American Southwest threatened by heavy-rain monsoons

GR: The article below illustrates the value of scientific analysis. The Southwest Monsoon has always caused flooding. However, memory alone is an unreliable indicator of changes in storm strength; numerical comparison of time periods is better. The analysis mentioned in this article confirms the assertion that climate-change is bringing stronger storms to the Southwest.

Flooding is the primary danger from intense monsoon storms, but around my house you sometimes have to dodge falling branches too. Combining wind and rain-soaked leaves often breaks the brittle branches of the weeping willows surrounding my place. The one below fell on Sunday. It only weighs a few hundred pounds, but over recent years, branches weighing several tons have fallen. The ominous sounds of cracking and crashing lend wings to one’s feet.

Fallen weeping willow branch.

From LabRoots:

“A new study published recently in the Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology suggests that the North American Monsoon (NAM) is becoming more intense in the United States Southwest, particularly in Arizona. Their results show that while storms are not as frequent as they have been in the last 60 years, the rain episodes are heavier and include high winds, dust storms, and flooding, which often threaten residents and property. This pattern, the study concludes, is consistent with flux caused by climate change.

Monsoons often come on suddenly. Photo: The Arizona Experience

“Because of specific Department of Defense installations in the Southwest, and because the existing models of the NAM do not represent patterns in the climate accurately, the team analyzed Arizona rainfall data from 1950-1970 and compared it with data from 1991-2010. Defining severe weather events as days when the highest atmospheric instability and moisture occur within a long-term regional climate simulation, the scientists found that while the mean precipitation for the region stayed the same during the different time epochs, the later time period had more heavy-rain storms.” –Kathryn DeMuth Sullivan (More: American Southwest threatened by heavy-rain monsoons).

Birds of Dewey-Humboldt, Arizona Wins Gold

Birds of Dewey-Humboldt, Arizona Wins Literary Classics Gold

July 1, 2017 –Literary Classics International Youth Book Awards (LC) announced award winners today. LC previously awarded Birds of Dewey-Humboldt, Arizona the LC Seal of Approval. Today the book was honored with the LC Gold Award.

“Literary Classics, an organization dedicated to furthering excellence in literature for young readers, takes great pride in its role to help promote literature which appeals to youth while educating and encouraging positive values in the impressionable young minds of future generations.”

Literary Classics Awards Ceremony

This year, Literary Classics International presents awards on Sunday September 3, 2017. The awards event includes a round-table discussion for authors, a writers’ conference, book signing, and authors’ reception in conjunction with the Great American Book Festival.

Excerpt and Book Details

The past decade’s droughts, storms, and spreading deserts show that humanity is changing the Earth. Research coming from many sources shows that worldwide animal extinctions are occurring 100 times faster than in Earth’s previous mass-extinction events recorded in the fossil record.

Extinction isn’t the only concern. Total loss of a species results after years of decline. The Living Planet Index, which measures abundance levels of 14,152 monitored populations of 3,706 vertebrate species, shows that a worldwide crash is occurring. On average, monitored species declined by 58% between 1970 and 2012.

Loggerhead Shrike

Loggerhead Shrike

One of the oldest and most familiar citizen-participation activities is the Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count. Wildlife biologists have used the Bird Count to monitor bird species populations. A recent analysis of the Count’s results show that many U.S. bird species are declining. Some of our most familiar birds appear in current counts less than half as often as they did just 50 years ago. For example, over the past 50 years, sightings of Loggerhead Shrikes, a common Arizona species, declined by 72%. The Shrike in the photograph at left is the only one I have seen in 19 years of watching at my place.

Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) wildlife biologists conclude that at least 58% of Arizona’s native birds are definitely declining and . Another 20% are of possible long-term concern. The U.S. Endangered Species Act protects only 1% of Arizona bird species.

The reason for the declining numbers is not a mystery. Researchers have shown that the declines are due to the impact of human activities, chiefly:

  • habitat destruction (building and farming)
  • resource harvests (logging, livestock grazing, and water diversion)
  • habitat deterioration caused by introduced invasive plants
  • habitat poisoning with pesticides, toxic wastes, and in the case of the oceans, acidification due to CO2 increases and increases in organic runoff from the land.

The human impact is a direct result of human construction, land clearing, and resource consumption. Our total global population is nearing 7.5 billion and we are using the Earth’s renewable resources faster than natural processes replenish them.

Unless we control our population and consumption or unless drought, disease, pollution, and rising temperature control them for us, the environmental impacts of our growth will eventually eliminate upwards of 80% of our bird species.

I believe nature conservation was the great challenge of the 20th Century, and we failed the challenge. Human beings are imposing a mass extinction that now appears destined to wipe out most animals on Earth. I hope readers of this book will recognize the danger and help me find ways to stop the extinctions.

Bird Species Numbers

According to the information published by AZGFD, 551 bird species and subspecies occur in Arizona. Regular residents number 451.

  • World estimate: 10,000
  • U.S. estimate: 1,000
  • Arizona total: 551
  • Arizona birds regularly present: 451
  • Arizona regulars of concern (S1 to S3): 260 (58%)
  • Arizona regulars of possible long-term concern (S4): 95 (21%).
  • ESA Arizona regulars listed endangered: 6 (1%)
  • ESA Arizona regulars listed threatened: 1 (<1%)
  • ESA Arizona regulars of concern: 26 (6%)

Book Details

  • Title:               Birds of Dewey-Humboldt, Arizona
  • Pages:           128
  • Identifiers: ISBN 978-1539511786 | LCCN 2016918263
  • Subjects: LCSH Dewey-Humboldt (Ariz.) | Agua Fria River Valley (Ariz.) | Birds–Arizona. | BISAC NATURE / Birdwatching Guides
  • Classification: LCC QL684.A6 .R63 2016 | DDC 598.09791–dc23
  • Download a FREE PDF copy.
  • List Price:       $24.95
  • Description:  This book describes the birds seen around the author’s home in the center of Dewey-Humboldt, a small Arizona town. A desert stream, the Agua Fria River, passes through the town and across land owned by the author. There, the river flood plain supports a 20-acre willow-cottonwood forest. Without houses or trails in its core area, the forest is a safe zone for wildlife. Thousands of birds belonging to more than 100 species stop to rest and forage in the small forest. The Southwest Willow Flycatcher (on the U. S. Endangered Species List) and several other rare bird species use the forest to build nests and raise families. The book lists 127 species observed in and around the forest. For each, the book includes seasonal abundance, conservation status, and a photograph.
  • Reviews
  • Purchase from:
  • Independent bookstores with books in stock
    • Gifts and Games, Humboldt Station, Humboldt, AZ, (928) 227-2775
    • Other bookstores can order the book from their distributor.
  • Internet

 

 

Butterflies and Moths of Yavapai County, Arizona

My Butterfly and Moth Checklist, Yavapai County, Arizona is complete. The book includes species lists from the Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA) website with minor adjustments from the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD). Conservation ranks are from the AZGFD website. All the species names link to photos and descriptions on the BAMONA website.

Yavapai County covers a large, diverse region in central Arizona. It includes mountains with mixed coniferous forests, foothills with evergreen woodlands and shrublands, and wide valleys with desert grasslands. My place is on the edge of a small riparian forest beside the Agua Fria River in Lonesome Valley. The site is home to many butterflies, moths, and other wildlife. The discussion and photographs in the book focus on this area.

The book has only 30 pages. I might have it printed for my use, but I don’t expect to offer it for sale. Since it has color pictures, it will be expensive to print (around $12). The PDF version of the book is free.  Look the PDF over and let me know if you want a printed copy. If there are several requests, I’ll have it formatted and printed.

The PDF has some advantages over a print copy. It has fillable fields and links to species descriptions and photographs. Used on a tablet, it will serve as a notebook and reference for field use.

Specialists reviewed the species lists, but I proofed the introduction myself, never a good idea, so there might be an error or two.  Please add a comment or send an email if you find a mistake (thank you!).

Turtle Update

Turtles at Coldwater Farm

Our turtle population is doing well. I photographed the Sonora Mud Turtle at top left in 2014 and the others today (March 18, 2017). Four of them were basking on one log, but I couldn’t get the shot–perhaps tomorrow.

The turtle at top right is also a Sonora Mud Turtle, but I’m not sure about the two below. All of them are too wary to approach closely. I made these shots with a Nikon Coolpix P510 with the 42x lens fully extended. I’ll update this post if I learn more.

Turtles at Coldwater Farm

Arizona has only six native turtle species and three recognized subspecies. A southern Arizona subspecies of the Sonora Mud Turtle (Kinosternon sonoriense longifemorale)  is of critical concern and may soon be added to the U. S. Endangered Species List (or not, sad). All of Arizona’s native and five introduced species are in danger from human activities. Full list with conservation status.