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ben's blog

Understanding Farmers’ Choices, Trade-Offs, and Barriers for Selecting Land Management Practices in Northern Ghana

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

In June and July of 2018, I conducted field work in the Bawku East and Nabdam Districts located in the Upper East region of northern Ghana. This is a semi-arid region that has been historically one of the least developed areas in the country. This regional inequality is in part related to the country’s colonial past, a growing population, low soil fertility, increasing environmental degradation, period droughts, and erratic rainfall.

My research focuses on understanding the socio-economic and ecological drivers of land degradation in this region of Ghana as well as understanding the barriers that prevent farmers from adopting sustainable land management practices (SLM) to combat land degradation. SLM practices are one of the best ways to combat and reverse land degradation and enable farmers to maximize the economic and social benefits from the land while maintaining and enhancing the ecological functions of the land. These practices include soil fertility and crop management, soil erosion control measures, water harvesting, forest management etc. (read more)

Beyond the Ranchers-Versus-City Narrative of the Owens Valley Water Conflict

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

The conflict over the City of Los Angeles’ extraction and export of water from California’s Owens Valley has long captivated the public and policymakers alike. However, narratives about the Owens Valley water conflict, chronicled in Mark Reisner’s Cadillac Desert and sensationalized in the movie Chinatown, have often fixated on the demise of the agricultural economy at the hands of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) in the early 20th century. Though often described as an act of theft and lawlessness, Los Angeles’ acquisition of 95% of the valley’s land and water was in fact authorized under the law and facilitated by the federal government in the name of “the greatest good of the greatest number in the long run.” But, over the 105 years since the Los Angeles Aqueduct was completed, notions of what constitutes the greatest good – and the long run, for that matter – have shifted, opening plenty of space for contention and debate in what once seemed a simple calculus. (read more)

Hunting for Black Gold

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

With the aid of my headlamp, I carefully check the contents of my backpack in the pre-dawn darkness.  Food, water, vials, coin envelopes...check.  I strap a shovel to the outside of my pack and swing it across my shoulders with a huff, shrugging to adjust the weight.  Two and a half gallons of water is not light, but I’ll drink most of it over the course of the next 12 hours.  And I always carry a little extra when traipsing around the Sonoran desert in summer.  I enjoy the June morning, about 70 degrees Fahrenheit, knowing the temperature will rise at least 30 degrees by midafternoon.  A warm breeze blowing across the Pinta Sands, a remote area on the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, hints at the heat to come.  I sling the strap of my binoculars over my shoulder and start walking at a brisk pace so I can cover the three plus miles to the first wildlife water before sunrise.  If I’m lucky, I’ll see a pronghorn at the edge of the playa—a dried lakebed—like I did last year. (read more)

Groundwater in Southern Arizona: People, Perceptions, and Policies

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

The fan made it difficult to hear, but the room was hot. Attendees were seated in tightly spaced rows, shoulder-to-shoulder. It was the Southeast Arizona Citizen’s Forum—a public meeting of the International Boundary and Water Commission that brings together stakeholders interested in water resources in the U.S.-Mexico border region. From my seat near the back, the rows of attendees looked like a motley assortment that together resembled a patchwork quilt—their clothing of various colors and styles—some wore suit jackets, others plaid shirts. There were cowboy boots, slacks, jeans, dress shirts, cardigans and work boots. As each person stood up to introduce themselves the diversity of stakeholders became even more apparent—representatives from U.S. Senator’s offices, state agency scientists, water utility professionals, local farmers, citizen activists, NGO employees, and concerned residents. Each raised their voice to be heard above the din of the air conditioner. They gathered to discuss water—each bringing a unique perspective. (read more)

August 2018 SW Climate Outlook - Monsoon Tracker

Friday, August 17, 2018

Monsoon precipitation totals vary considerably across the Southwest. Monthly totals for select locations reveal near or below-average amounts compared to long-term averages (Fig. 1). There are widespread regions with above-average totals as well (see p. 5), revealing the challenge of characterizing monsoon performance using single stations. (read more)

 

Southwest Climate Outlook August 2018 - Climate Summary

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Precipitation and Temperature: Precipitation in July ranged from below average to much-above average in Arizona and New Mexico (Fig. 1a), illustrating the extent to which monsoon precipitation varies across the region. July temperatures were warmer than average in nearly all of Arizona and New Mexico (Fig. 1b), and since July 1, most of the daily temperature anomalies (deviations above or below the average temperature) have been warmer across the region (Fig. 2). (read more)

July 2018 SW Climate Outlook - Monsoon Tracker

Friday, July 20, 2018

In 2008, the National Weather Service (NWS) changed the definition of the start of the Southwest monsoon from a variable date based on locally measured conditions to a fixed date of June 15 (and a fixed end date of Sept 30). Prior to 2008, the flexible start date reflected the seasonal progression of the monsoon, with a considerable temporal gradient across the region (Fig. 1). (read more)

July 2018 SW Climate Update - ENSO Tracker

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Oceanic and atmospheric conditions remained ENSO-neutral over the last month (Figs. 1-2) and most ENSO forecasts and outlooks reflect that. On July 10, the Japanese Meteorological Agency (JMA) identified neutral conditions in oceanic and atmospheric indicators, but with indications of warming oceanic temperatures in the coming months. The agency forecast equal chances (50 percent) of either ENSO-neutral or El Niño by fall 2018. (read more)

 

Southwest Climate Outlook July 2018 - Climate Summary

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Precipitation and Temperature: Precipitation in June ranged from record driest to much-above average (Fig. 1a); the wetter-than-average areas were those impacted by the remnants of Hurricane Bud in mid-June. June is typically dry, barring an early onset of monsoon activity, so any pre-monsoon precipitation will boost percentile rankings. June temperatures were warmer than average across all of Arizona and New Mexico (Fig. 1b), including record-warm conditions in eastern Arizona and central New Mexico. (read more)

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