May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

Extreme Drought and Warmth of 2013-14 Across California – Looking Back to Forecast Our Summer

Posted: Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

by Alex Tardy

The winter of 2013-14 will go into the record books in the top five warmest and driest for California. The record warmth is an average of low and high temperatures from October to April, which is typically the wet, cooler season for the West Coast. The lack of precipitation this past winter, and since January 2011, has led to the severe-to-extreme drought conditions in California. Precipitation deficits for most areas range from one to two seasons of missing precipitation, which equates to 12 to 30 inches below normal across southern California. For the period October to April 2014, the precipitation was between 25 and 50 percent of normal for most areas.

The extreme drought conditions have taken a toll on water supplies with major reservoirs in California only 50 percent full and at 65 percent of the historical average for April. Normal snowmelt is not expected to result in the typical late spring runoff and replenishment of water supply. The snowpack in the Sierra Nevada, where much of the source of the water supply originates, is at all-time low levels that are 10 to 25 percent of normal. This is the lowest observed snowpack water content since 1976-77, which was the worse drought on record for California. The winter of 2013-14 featured a very dry start but did have significant precipitation from mid-February to late March. This resulted from a few significant Atmospheric River events and led to most of the seasonal total. The precipitation deficit has been most severe in south central California where the agriculture has been impacted, wells have dried up, and local water supplies are very low.

Satellite depiction of Atmospheric River episodes in the Pacific which impacted the West Coast with heavy precipitation in 2014. Courtesy of Sheldon Kusselson at NOAA

Satellite depiction of Atmospheric River episodes in the Pacific which impacted the West Coast with heavy precipitation in 2014.
Courtesy of Sheldon Kusselson at NOAA

For more about water and water supply issues in California, visit Aquapedia and Aquafornia. As part of the Water Education Foundation’s goal of educating the public on water issues in the West and in California, Aquapedia uses Foundation publications and other vetted resources to reach the growing number of people who receive their information via digital formats. Use this valuable information and site the Water Education Foundation as your resource. Aquapedia centers on resource articles supplemented with photos, videos, interactive maps and other online tools, which provide background and context to understand California’s complex water issues.

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After the record warm winter season (October to April) and much below average precipitation (third year in a row), the outlook for summer 2014 is warmer than normal conditions with periods of active monsoon thunderstorms in the deserts and mountains.

Due to the ongoing drought, the fire danger is much higher than normal and those fires that occur will have the potential for extreme behavior and growth. Drought monitoring maps (updated weekly) are available from the National Drought Mitigation Center. Across the equatorial Pacific Ocean, average sea surface temperatures are expected to warm into an El Niño state this summer and fall. (For current information about El Niño, including educational resources, visit the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center website.) However, it is uncertain how much impact this may have in the 2014-15 winter wet season. Historically, several El Niño winters have brought normal to below normal precipitation. Only the strong phase of the El Niño has been the most consistent with above normal precipitation for southern California such as 1977-78, 1982-83 and 1997-98, which were also seasons that ended ongoing drought. In general, California would need about 150 percent of its average precipitation for the rainy season to significantly reduce the drought and raise the low water supply in reservoirs to near normal levels.

Temperature (left) and precipitation (right) outlook for the period  July, August, and September 2014.

Temperature (left) and precipitation (right) outlook for the period
July, August, and September 2014.

Alexander Tardy Warning Coordination Meteorologist, Manager at NOAA/National Weather Service in San Diego, CA and a member of CSTA.

Written by Guest Contributor

From time to time CSTA receives contributions from guest contributors. The opinions and views expressed by these contributors are not necessarily those of CSTA. By publishing these articles CSTA does not make any endorsements or statements of support of the author or their contribution, either explicit or implicit. All links to outside sources are subject to CSTA’s Disclaimer Policy: http://www.classroomscience.org/disclaimer.

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CSTA Annual Conference Early Bird Rates End July 14

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Jessica Sawko

Teachers engaged in workshop activity

Teachers engaging in hands-on learning during a workshop at the 2016 CSTA conference.

Don’t miss your chance to register at the early bird rate for the 2017 CSTA Conference – the early-bird rate closes July 14. Need ideas on how to secure funding for your participation? Visit our website for suggestions, a budget planning tool, and downloadable justification letter to share with your admin. Want to take advantage of the early rate – but know your district will pay eventually? Register online today and CSTA will reimburse you when we receive payment from your district/employer. (For more information on how that works contact Zi Stair in the office for details – 916-979-7004 or zi@cascience.org.)

New Information Now Available On-line:

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Goodbye Outgoing and Welcome Incoming CSTA Board Members

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

Jill Grace

Jill Grace, CSTA President, 2017-2019

On July 1, 2017 five CSTA members concluded their service and four new board members joined the ranks of the CSTA Board of Directors. CSTA is so grateful for all the volunteer board of directors who contribute hours upon hours of time and energy to advance the work of the association. At the June 3 board meeting, CSTA was able to say goodbye to the outgoing board members and welcome the incoming members.

This new year also brings with it a new president for CSTA. As of July 1, 2017 Jill Grace is the president of the California Science Teachers Association. Jill is a graduate of California State University, Long Beach, a former middle school science teacher, and is currently a Regional Director with the K-12 Alliance @ WestEd where she works with California NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative districts and charter networks in the San Diego area.

Outgoing Board Members

  • Laura Henriques (President-Elect: 2011 – 2013, President: 2013 – 2015, Past President: 2015 – 2017)
  • Valerie Joyner (Region 1 Director: 2009 – 2013, Primary Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Mary Whaley (Informal Science Education Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Sue Campbell (Middle School/Jr. High Director: 2015 – 2017)
  • Marcus Tessier (2-Year College Director: 2015 – 2017)

Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Finding My Student’s Motivation of Learning Through Engineering Tasks

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Huda Ali Gubary and Susheela Nath

It’s 8:02 and the bell rings. My students’ walk in and pick up an entry ticket based on yesterday’s lesson and homework. My countdown starts for students to begin…3, 2, 1. Ten students are on task and diligently completing the work, twenty are off task with behaviors ranging from talking up a storm with their neighbors to silently staring off into space. This was the start of my classes, more often than not. My students rarely showed the enthusiasm for a class that I had eagerly prepared for. I spent so much time searching for ways to get my students excited about the concepts they were learning. I wanted them to feel a connection to the lessons and come into my class motivated about what they were going to learn next. I would ask myself how I could make my class memorable where the kids were in the driver’s seat of learning. Incorporating engineering made this possible. Learn More…

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Written by NGSS Early Implementer

NGSS Early Implementer

In 2015 CSTA began to publish a series of articles written by teachers participating in the California NGSS k-8 Early Implementation Initiative. This article was written by an educator(s) participating in the initiative. CSTA thanks them for their contributions and for sharing their experience with the science teaching community.

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Unveils Updated Recommended Literature List

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson unveiled an addition of 285 award-winning titles to the Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list.

“The books our students read help broaden their perspectives, enhance their knowledge, and fire their imaginations,” Torlakson said. “The addition of these award-winning titles represents the state’s continued commitment to the interests and engagement of California’s young readers.”

The Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list is a collection of more than 8,000 titles of recommended reading for children and adolescents. Reflecting contemporary and classic titles, including California authors, this online list provides an exciting range of literature that students should be reading at school and for pleasure. Works include fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama to provide for a variety of tastes, interests, and abilities. Learn More…

Written by Guest Contributor

From time to time CSTA receives contributions from guest contributors. The opinions and views expressed by these contributors are not necessarily those of CSTA. By publishing these articles CSTA does not make any endorsements or statements of support of the author or their contribution, either explicit or implicit. All links to outside sources are subject to CSTA’s Disclaimer Policy: http://www.classroomscience.org/disclaimer.

Teaching Science in the Time of Alternative Facts – Why NGSS Can Help (somewhat)

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn

The father of one of my students gave me a book: In the Beginning: Compelling Evidence for Creation and the Flood by Walt Brown, Ph. D. He had heard that I was teaching Plate Tectonics and wanted me to consider another perspective. The book offered the idea that the evidence for plate tectonics could be better understood if we considered the idea that beneath the continent of Pangaea was a huge underground layer of water that suddenly burst forth from a rift between the now continents of Africa and South America. The waters shot up and the continents hydroplaned apart on the water layer to their current positions. The force of the movement pushed up great mountain ranges which are still settling to this day, resulting in earthquakes along the margins of continents. This had happened about 6,000 years ago and created a great worldwide flood. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the Region 4 Director for CSTA.