Climate Change and the Yellow Leg Frog (Updated)

Yesterday I attended the Nevada County Congressional Forum on the Proposed Critical Habitat Designation for the yellow leg frog in the Sierra sponsored by Congressman Doug LaMalfa. The forum was held in the Board of Supervisors’ Chamber on 4 September 2013. Union article HERE (paywall)

After the political introductions, Dr. Jennifer Norris, Field Director, Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office gave a presentation on the proposed critical habitat designation process, under the watchful eye of her minder Robert Moler, Assistant Field Supervisor, External Affairs.  One of the items in her presentation caught my attention. One of the reasons give for the decline of the yellow leg from was increased temperatures combined with reduced precipitation.

While is it clear the main reason for the decline of the yellow leg was a fungus introduced in the 1970s by the importation of the African Clawed Frog for pregnancy testing, and the introduction of non-native trout in to high altitude lakes by the Fish and Game which eat the frogs eggs and tadpoles, it was inferred that climate change was a contributing factor by Dr. Norris.   Although she did not use the term climate change, referring instead to increased temperatures and declining participation.

Well that set off some bells as I have been tracking the temperatures and snow fall in the Sierra for several years now, and have not detected any significant long term reduction in snow fall or reduced precipitation. Yes, there are year to year variation, but over all no major trends.

Three of the points I have monitored were in the designated critical habitat area, Big Trees (near Yosemite), Lake Spaulding and Truckee:

Map of the proposed designated area HERE

Here are some plots, first 1949 to 1977, cool phase PDO and then 1977 to 2003, warm phase PDO.

Big Trees (Before AGW)


Lake Spaulding (Before AGW)


Truckee (Before AGW)


Big Trees


Lake Spaulding




Did your notice that in two cases, Big Trees and Truckee, the snow fall increased during the warming phase of the PDO.

I was not the only one interest in monitoring the snow fall in the Sierra. Dr John Christy also looked at the Sierra from 1916 to 2003 and found not significant trend in the snow pack.  Report can be found HERE.


Dr Christy’s Conclusion
With the available data from six mid-elevation stations in the Southern Sierra region of California we reconstructed annual snowfall totals for 36 missing years of the Huntington Lake record to complete the time series (1916–2009). The standard error of the missing years is calculated to be ±36 cm, or 6% of the 94-year annual mean of 624 cm in the most robust estimation method (though we utilized the average of six methods which reduces the standard error further.)

The results of both the annual and spring snowfall time series indicate no remarkable changes for the 1916–2009 period in the basins drained by the Merced, San Joaquin, Kings and Kaweah Rivers. In the six reconstructions the range of trend results varied only slightly from −0.3% to +0.6 % decade−1. With a consensus trend of only +0.5 cm (+0.08%) decade−1 ±13.1 cm decade−1 there is high confidence in the “no-significant-trend” result. The corroborating information on temperature trends (Christy et al. 2006), stream flow, precipitation and shorter period snow water equivalent trends presented here are consistent with “no-significant-trend” in So. Sierra
snowfall near 2000m elevation since 1916.

My conclusion:  Fish and Game is drinking the EPA and CARB global warming cool aid,  there is no significant warming or reductions in precipitation in the yellow leg frogs habitat.

Update (09-06-13): Sue McGuire, local Tea Party Vice President writes about the USF&W Designation of 2.2 Million Acres to “Save the Frog” a “Taking” from the People? in an article on the Tea Party Web Site: Constitutionally Limited Government: Proposed USF&W Designation of 2.2M Acres of N. Cal. Lands

About Russ Steele

Freelance writer and climate change blogger. Russ spent twenty years in the Air Force as a navigator specializing in electronics warfare and digital systems. After his service he was employed for sixteen years as concept developer for TRW, an aerospace and automotive company, and then was CEO of a non-profit Internet provider for 18 months. Russ's articles have appeared in Comstock's Business, Capitol Journal, Trailer Life, Monitoring Times, and Idaho Magazine.
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