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Climate Change: Future Bay Area Weather Will Be More Like San Diego’s

By Lisa M. Krieger, San Jose Mercury News (TNS)

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Like San Diego weather?

Northern California and the Pacific Northwest just might have get it in the next several decades.

A glimpse into the future reveals a Bay Area whose weather feels a lot like California’s balmy border city. Seattle could feel like present-day San Jose.

An analysis by Stanford University’s Ken Caldeira and intern Yana Petri, a graduate of Monta Vista High School in Cupertino, looks at climate change in a novel way, estimating how many days people will need to crank up the furnace — or the air conditioner — by the end of the century.

It’ll get hotter all over, they concluded, unless carbon emissions are curbed to slow climate change. Their study is published in the current issue of the journal Scientific Reports.

“Warm temperature bands are moving toward the North Pole,” said Caldeira, a climate scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science’s Department of Global Ecology at Stanford University. “We tried to give a concrete sense of climate change in terms people understand.”

The far north — say, North Dakota — could feel more comfy most of the year. Southerners? Buy more stock in Carrier air conditioners.

Caldeira conceived of the project while driving home through Redwood City.

He read the city’s famed sign — “Climate best by government test” — and wondered: Really? Says who? What test?

He said he could never verify Redwood City’s claims, despite long hours of research.

And he wondered how the city’s climate will change.

His calculation of the combined number of heating and cooling days found that San Diego probably deserves the title.

But Redwood City contractor Robert Lancer savors his hometown’s weather.

“I don’t need it hotter. It is nice right now, year-round,” said Lancer, who builds and remodels homes around the Peninsula. “San Diego has got a big advantage because it’s closer to the beach, with a breeze.”

Minneapolis is the least comfortable, with the largest number of days needing either heating or cooling.

The new study found that Redwood City and the rest of the Bay Area will have a more temperate climate in a century.

There will be less need for winter heating, and only a modest boost in air conditioning, Caldeira said. That will lower overall energy costs.

Other places won’t be so lucky. Sacramento will become like today’s Jacksonville, Fla.

Other predictions: A future New York City will feel like present-day Oklahoma City. Boston becomes similar to today’s Tulsa. Milwaukee becomes like today’s Wichita. Denver becomes like Raleigh, N.C. Colorado Springs will feel like Washington, D.C.

Seattle residents will have to buy air conditioners, which are now rarely needed.

Some Seattleites aren’t excited about having San Jose weather.

“I like light and heat, to a degree,” but not long stretches of hot, dry weather, said David Takami, of Seattle Parks and Recreation.

The new analysis is complicated to explain. In a nutshell, intern Petri, a Moscow native who will attend the University of California, Berkeley in the fall, looked at weather station data and counted how many days are above or below 65 degrees, because that influences heating and cooling demand for buildings. Then she compared it with what climate models predict about our warming Earth.

The study didn’t consider clouds or humidity.

Caldeira warned that the warming trend could persist into the 22nd century.

“If this continues,” Seattle’s Takami said, “we’ll have to change the nickname of the city from the Emerald City to … who knows what?”

(c)2015 San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: Caleb Knott

Fire Near Yosemite Turns Up Heat On California Wildfire Season

By Lisa M. Krieger, San Jose Mercury News

SAN JOSE, Calif. — For the second year in a row, flames in Yosemite National Park are turning up the heat on California’s wildfire season, fueled by one of the most severe droughts in decades.
But despite dangerously dry conditions, tens of thousands of lightning strikes and a remarkably early start, aggressive firefighting has helped keep this year’s fire season surprisingly mild — so far.

As of Sunday, a total of 51,903 acres have burned in California this year, slightly below the 60,379 five-year average for this time of year, according to totals from the U.S. Forest Service and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire.

But nobody is resting easy in and around Yosemite, where the El Portal fire threatened communities west of the park and the storied giant sequoias at the Merced Grove. The El Portal fire — like the dozens of other fires this year — ignited quickly like a matchstick.

“That thing ripped up 2,000 acres in an afternoon. That’s a big run,” said San Jose State University meteorologist Craig Clements, who traveled to Yosemite to study the fire.

Fires this time of the year tend to spread more slowly.

“Usually, in the early part of the season, there’s more moisture in the vegetation. But the fires we’re seeing are growing rapidly, moving rapidly, which is very challenging,” said Sonoma-based fire captain Amy Head, a Cal Fire spokeswoman.

The soft humid skies lingering over much of California offer little relief — and can throw down dangerous spears of lightning into super-dry forests.

This is California’s monsoon season, when a high pressure system over the desert Southwest expands north, bringing thunderstorms to the Sierra.

But the rain evaporates as it falls, providing little relief to fire danger.

“You felt just small drops on your skin,” said SJSU meteorology graduate student Richard Bagley, who was also at Yosemite earlier this week. “There was zero accumulation.”

Even though the rain doesn’t hit the ground, flashes of lightning do, and they are the most common cause of California wildfires. And when a storm has passed, firefighters worry about what they call “holdover fires.”

“Lightning can hit a tree and just hang out,” particularly after rain, said Brenda Belongie, a meteorologist with the U.S. Forest Service in Redding. “It can smolder for several weeks. Think of a long, slow, glowing ember. Then, when it warms up and dries, a fire emerges,” she said.

But humans are to blame for some of this month’s most destructive wildfires. A car driven through high, dry grass July 25 started the Sand Fire in the Sierra foothills east of Sacramento. It destroyed 19 homes and 47 outbuildings, burning 4,240 acres and by Tuesday was 85 percent contained.

Car exhaust from suspected marijuana farmers ignited the Bully Fire on July 11 in Shasta County, killing one person and destroying 20 structures and burning more than 12,600 acres.

No cause has been determined for the El Portal fire, which by Tuesday night, had burned through more than 3,000 acres and was 19 percent contained. Residents were allowed to return home to Foresta and El Portal on Tuesday after evacuating earlier this week.

Ignition starts in tinder-dry brush and timber, accumulated over three years of drought.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, research from the federal government’s National Fuel Moisture database shows that vegetation is drier than normal. Samples of wild plants show 49 percent moisture content in the Mount Diablo area where 61 percent is average. In the Los Gatos mountains, moisture content is 63 percent; 68 is average. Sixty percent is considered a “critical,” or dangerous, level.

AFP Photo/Mike Mcmillan

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Researchers Aim To Build Database Of Brain Health

By Lisa M. Krieger, San Jose Mercury News

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Quick: Find the fruit! Feed the fish! List a sequence of steps, in reverse!

Your online test results aren’t pass-fail. You aren’t graded. But your scores give valuable snapshots of your mental flexibility and memory, contributing to what researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, hope will someday be a vast archive of information about brain health — and the first neuroscience project to use the Internet on such a scale to advance research.

By volunteering — repeatedly over time — participants join a pool of research subjects in the new Brain Health Registry, opened Tuesday, for studies on brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, as well as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and other neurological ailments.

You won’t learn your own scores; that disclosure could influence your future performance or trigger unwarranted “freak outs,” said UCSF’s Dr. Michael Weiner, founder of the registry and lead investigator of the Alzheimer’s disease Neuroimaging Initiative, the world’s largest observational study of the disease.

Rather, you will help speed up research by helping cut the time and cost of conducting clinical trials.

“To accelerate research, studies have to be done more quickly, and efficiently,” said Weiner.

One-third of the cost of running trial studies is patient recruitment — and many trials fail, or are delayed, due to problems getting enough of the right volunteers.

The traditional approach to finding participants is low-tech, such as posting notices on bulletin boards or buying ads in newspapers. And it’s time-consuming to determine if someone is even eligible to volunteer, then document that person’s family and personal medical history. Think clipboards, and pens and paper.

Frustrated by how much effort would be required to launch a giant San Francisco Bay Area-based study in Alzheimer’s prevention, “a light bulb went off in my mind,” said Weiner.

“Why not use the Internet as a way to enroll in trials,” he said, “where volunteers take a few minutes to take some online neuropsychological test to measure brain performance?”

Hundreds of other researchers could share this pooled and updated database of patient information — with participants’ identities removed — saving the time and expense of new recruitment with every new clinical trial.

“The large pool of data gathered by this registry can help the broader brain research community,” said Maria Carrillo, vice president of medical and scientific relations for the Alzheimer’s Association. “It’s paving the way or better treatment options for others,” she said.

The initial focus will be on the San Francisco Bay Area, and the goal is to recruit 100,000 people by the end of 2017. Nearly 2,000 people have already signed up during the registry’s test phase.

Volunteer Jackie Boberg of Saratoga, Calif., called the fast-paced tests “a little nerve-racking,” but enjoyed the challenge.

“I want to help any scientific efforts,” said Boberg, 62, an artist recently retired from high-tech sales and marketing at Adobe Systems Inc. “I am watching a lot of my friends help with their parents and relatives who are suffering from Alzheimer’s or other dementia, and see the toll it is takes the entire family. I feel like it is just the tip of the iceberg, as aging Baby Boomers come along.”

She cares less about her personal results than broader population-based findings.

“It is not about me. It is more about being able to contribute,” she said. “Anything I can do to help with science moving forward.”

Volunteers provide a brief personal overview — such as family history of dementia and health status — and take online neuropsychological tests designed by companies Lumosity and Cogstate to evaluate memory, attention and response times.

Later tests will reveal information about how volunteers’ brains are changing as they age.

“We’re seeking people with all kinds of problems — or are completely normal — to build this database,” said Weiner.

“It will open up the research world,” he said.

AFP Photo

 

Stanford’s New School For Aspiring Retirees To Mold Satisfying Second Careers

By Lisa M. Krieger, San Jose Mercury News

SAN JOSE, California—Stanford University is looking for a new kind of student: proven leaders, with 20 to 30 years of work experience, seeking to reinvent their futures.

A small experiment launched this week offers older students the opportunity not to retire but retrain — and commit to new and meaningful projects.

The yearlong Distinguished Careers Institute is not for everyone. It will pluck 20 high achievers and place them in one of the most elite educational environments in the world to swap experiences and insights with their generations younger classmates.

But the model, if successful, could be adapted by community colleges and other universities so the nation’s growing ranks of Baby Boomers could apply their knowledge, skills and professional relationships in new realms.

“Retirement in the traditional sense is not really healthy,” said Institute director Dr. Phil Pizzo, a 69-year-old pediatrician, researcher, and former dean of the Stanford School of Medicine who awakens by 4:30 a.m. each day to run six to seven miles.

“What you need to stay healthy is to be physically well, intellectually motivated and stimulated to take on new challenges and form social communities,” he said. “And to continue to do that over time.”

Enrollment is open now, for a school year that starts in January. The school is looking for candidates with 20- to 30-year histories of significant career achievement who are ready to explore new professional trajectories and who can pay the $60,000 tuition.

They’ll be mentored by some of the university’s brightest lights, such as Pizzo, School of Engineering Dean James D. Plummer and School of Business professor Margaret Neale, who will help develop personalized “scholarly pathways” toward achieving their goals. Participants can audit any of the university’s hundreds of academic offerings, take part in think tanks and seminars, and meet regularly with faculty and students.

Pizzo has met with nearly 100 experts, on campus and off, to plan ways to harness older workers’ skills and experience to catapult them into new endeavors. The university will work with global job placement centers to connect fellows with volunteer or paid employment.

The institute is on the frontier of a new range in higher education, “essentially school for the second half of life,” said Marc Freedman, founder and CEO of Encore.org, a nonprofit organization focused on social careers for Baby Boomers. “The initiative holds the potential to pioneer a new model,” said Freedman, author of The Big Shift: Navigating the New Stage Beyond Midlife.

In traditional retirement, elders are supposed to get out of the way and out of work. But a growing number of “second actors,” people like Jimmy Carter, Al Gore and Bill Gates, show what experienced second-career executives can accomplish.

Universities can expand their role in not just stimulating the first phase of a career but helping create mid- to later-career life transitions, as well, said Pizzo.

Few programs now exist to help. The leader is Harvard’s Advanced Leadership Initiative that began in 2008. Its fellows are dedicated to finding solutions for societal problems. Unlike Stanford’s program, Harvard fellows come with a specific project mapped out.

Pizzo said that in a decade of thinking about the issues, two demographic facts caught his attention: Baby Boomers will represent one-quarter of the U.S. population by 2029. And they’re living longer and healthier lives.

He saw that some people resist the traditional retirement ideal of leisure, so continue working even though their skills have lost their edge. Others embrace retirement but quickly grow bored. Still others don’t have the financial ability to fully retire, yet don’t know what other work they can do. These people represent a huge untapped societal resource, he believes.

Photo: Phillip Taylor via Flickr

Stanford’s New School For Aspiring Retirees To Mold Satisfying Second Careers

By Lisa M. Krieger, San Jose Mercury News

SAN JOSE, Calif.—Stanford University is looking for a new kind of student: proven leaders, with 20 to 30 years of work experience, seeking to reinvent their futures.

A small experiment launched this week offers older students the opportunity not to retire but retrain — and commit to new and meaningful projects.

The yearlong Distinguished Careers Institute is not for everyone. It will pluck 20 high achievers and place them in one of the most elite educational environments in the world to swap experiences and insights with their generations younger classmates.

But the model, if successful, could be adapted by community colleges and other universities so the nation’s growing ranks of Baby Boomers could apply their knowledge, skills and professional relationships in new realms.

“Retirement in the traditional sense is not really healthy,” said Institute director Dr. Phil Pizzo, a 69-year-old pediatrician, researcher, and former dean of the Stanford School of Medicine who awakens by 4:30 a.m. each day to run six to seven miles.

“What you need to stay healthy is to be physically well, intellectually motivated and stimulated to take on new challenges and form social communities,” he said. “And to continue to do that over time.”

Enrollment is open now, for a school year that starts in January. The school is looking for candidates with 20- to 30-year histories of significant career achievement who are ready to explore new professional trajectories and who can pay the $60,000 tuition.

They’ll be mentored by some of the university’s brightest lights, such as Pizzo, School of Engineering Dean James D. Plummer and School of Business professor Margaret Neale, who will help develop personalized “scholarly pathways” toward achieving their goals. Participants can audit any of the university’s hundreds of academic offerings, take part in think tanks and seminars, and meet regularly with faculty and students.

Pizzo has met with nearly 100 experts, on campus and off, to plan ways to harness older workers’ skills and experience to catapult them into new endeavors. The university will work with global job placement centers to connect fellows with volunteer or paid employment.

The institute is on the frontier of a new range in higher education, “essentially school for the second half of life,” said Marc Freedman, founder and CEO of Encore.org, a nonprofit organization focused on social careers for Baby Boomers. “The initiative holds the potential to pioneer a new model,” said Freedman, author of The Big Shift: Navigating the New Stage Beyond Midlife.

In traditional retirement, elders are supposed to get out of the way and out of work. But a growing number of “second actors,” people like Jimmy Carter, Al Gore and Bill Gates, show what experienced second-career executives can accomplish.

Universities can expand their role in not just stimulating the first phase of a career but helping create mid- to later-career life transitions, as well, said Pizzo.

Few programs now exist to help. The leader is Harvard’s Advanced Leadership Initiative that began in 2008. Its fellows are dedicated to finding solutions for societal problems. Unlike Stanford’s program, Harvard fellows come with a specific project mapped out.

Pizzo said that in a decade of thinking about the issues, two demographic facts caught his attention: Baby Boomers will represent one-quarter of the U.S. population by 2029. And they’re living longer and healthier lives.

He saw that some people resist the traditional retirement ideal of leisure, so continue working even though their skills have lost their edge. Others embrace retirement but quickly grow bored. Still others don’t have the financial ability to fully retire, yet don’t know what other work they can do. These people represent a huge untapped societal resource, he believes.

Los Angeles-based investment banker Skip Victor used the Harvard program to shift from a stellar career in corporate restructuring to build Academic Exchange, which organizes educational missions to Israel for scholars in political science, international relations, history, law and journalism. He also studied music composition, neuroscience, China and health-care law and policy.

“When you’re young, you’re trying to figure out what you want to do. Then you become focused on a specific set of questions and problems. It is just not possible to explore,” Victor said. “There is great freedom in being a beginner again,” he said. Now he mentors Harvard students who seek his advice in business and public service.

The Stanford program will “create change, 20 people at a time,” said Pizzo.

“If our fellows become models that deliver new organizations, they’ll be champions of the future.”

AFP Photo/Justin Sullivan