Sorting out water in the West

Increasing demand for water from the Colorado River to satisfy the needs of 30 million people prompts concerns about how to manage the resource in coming decades. Estimated declines of future flows range from six to 45 percent, by 2050. A new analysis by eight institutions, including Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, puts all the scientific studies in a single framework and identifies how they are connected.  While the paper does not determine a new estimate for future flows, it does provide policymakers and the public with context for evaluating the current numbers.

For example, the six percent reduction estimate did not include some climate model data that predicts a dryer West. And the 45 percent decrease estimate relied on models that could not capture the effects of topography in the headwater regions.

A trend toward warmer temperatures in the region means more evaporation and thus less water flow. Changes to precipitation are less certain, but climate change will likely decrease the rain and snow that drains into the Colorado basin. It also turns out that the early 20th century, upon which water allocation in the basin is based, was a period of unusually high river water flow. The paleoclimate record – using data from tree rings and other sources – indicates that the Colorado River has experienced severe droughts in the past and suggests it will do so again, even without human-caused climate change.

—The study appears in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. News release at

ProtectMyPrivacy app

Almost half of the mobile apps running on Apple’s iOS operating system access the unique identifier of the devices where they’re downloaded, according to a UCSD study of 130,000 users of “jailbroken” iOS devices, where users removed restrictions that keep apps from accessing the iPhone’s operating system. In addition, more than 13 percent of mobile apps access the devices’ location and more than six percent the address book.

With this in mind, researchers in the UCSD Department of Computer Science and Engineering developed an app called ProtectMyPrivacy (PMP) that detects what personal information and data other apps are trying to access. PMP enables users to selectively allow or deny access to this information on an app-by-app basis — for example, a map app accessing the location of a device to provide driving directions.

—More information at

Restoring brain connections in Alzheimer’s

The first experimental drug to boost brain synapses lost in Alzheimer’s disease has been developed by researchers at Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute. The drug, called NitroMemantine, combines two FDA-approved medicines to stop the destructive cascade of changes in the brain that destroy the connections between neurons, leading to memory loss and cognitive decline.

The decade-long study, conducted in animal models as well as brain cells derived from human stem cells, mapped the pathway that leads to synaptic damage in Alzheimer’s. Amyloid beta peptides, which were once thought to injure synapses directly, were found instead to induce the release of excessive amounts of the neurotransmitter glutamate.  Normal levels of glutamate promote memory and learning, but excessive levels are harmful. NitroMemantine mitigated this hyperactivity, leading to the restoration of synapses between neurons.

—Findings appear in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. News release at

Lynne Friedmann is a science writer based in Solana Beach.

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Posted by Staff on Jul 25, 2013. Filed under Columns, Editorial Columns, Research Report. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

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