Thursday, February 14, 2019
There's a Giant Atmospheric River Storm Pummeling California...So of course I'm Headed to Death Valley to Experience it...
So it's probably radio silence for the next few days unless you want to follow our travels on Twitter (@geotripper). If I get a phone signal, I will try to post a few pictures. In the meantime, stay dry!
Monday, February 11, 2019
Here, courtesy of CalTopo.com is a guide to the peaks in the picture above.
Sunday, February 10, 2019
|All the pictures in this post are from the Tuolumne River Parkway Trail in Waterford.|
All in all, it's been a good year (so far). One can judge the quality of a year on the basis of many things, and in this instance I'm talking about water. So much of the time, my part of California is at an extreme in one direction or another. Last year it was a drought up until some late storms in March that salvaged the water year. The year previous was one of floods and threatened floods, unlike anything seen in twenty years, but at least it filled the state's reservoirs after an astounding five-year drought. This year finds us in the sweet spot, kind of in-between, but a bit above average.
The rainy season started a bit slowly, just enough to make one worry a little bit about drought. No storms in September. A single small storm in October. But then in late November the pace picked up with just over 3 inches in my rain gauge, and December added more than 2 inches. The same with January, nearly 3 inches, and now February has already produced 2.5 inches with more storms coming this week. Of course my backyard is not the measure of water conditions in the state. The news reports are full of stories on the incredible snowpack that has built up in the Sierra Nevada in the last few weeks, with single storms producing six feet of snow or more.
The critical Sierra Nevada snowpack sits at between 109% and 135% of normal (measuring from north to south), with a statewide average of 123%. If no more snow fell, our season would end at 84% of normal. It's a comfortable place to be.
But no water planner is ever comfortable. With so much snow in the mountains, the reservoir water masters always have to worry about the possibility of a big atmospheric river storm, the kind that combines the extreme low pressure of an Arctic storm with a stream of extremely humid air out of the tropics. Like the one that could happen this week. In a worst case scenario, such a storm could cause rain at high elevations, melting much of the snowpack and raising the specter of flooding downstream.
And that is why the Tuolumne River came alive this week. For many months, the river has remained at an unnaturally low flow of about 200 cubic feet per second, a minimal amount. There are large reservoirs upstream, especially Hetch Hetchy and Don Pedro, and the operative mode is to save as much water as possible. During the recent storms, inflow to Don Pedro reached as high as 8,000 cubic feet per second, but outflow remained at 200 cfs.
Last week the river was dramatically higher, flowing at 2,000 cubic feet per second. The water masters are clearing out some storage space in Don Pedro in case of a flood emergency. It looks like they intend to go as high as 3,500 cfs in the next few days. Certainly not a flood (it would have to reach 9,000 cubic feet per second for that), but enough to clear the channel of invasive water hyacinth, and enough to make one feel the river is closer to a natural seasonal condition.
It's a nice time of year to walk the Tuolumne.
Thursday, January 31, 2019
There's this suspicious storage container on our campus. It's been there for months, all through the construction of our much-anticipated Great Valley Outdoor Nature Lab. It's always closed and locked up and I've never seen what's inside. It's makes one wonder what could be stored there...
Monday, January 28, 2019
Does this sound intriguing, a kind of place that you might like to visit? You could be there in a few weeks, and learn the details of the geologic story of this unique and precious place. I'll be teaching a 2-unit course on the geology Death Valley through Modesto Junior College on Feb. 14-18. We'll be camping out and spending our days hiking and exploring this fascinating place. If this all sounds interesting, join us! If you live in the Modesto area, we'll have an informational meeting on Thursday, January 31 at 5:30 PM in Science Community Center Room 326. If you can't make the meeting, all the trip information is available at the class website at: http://hayesg.faculty.mjc.edu/Death_Valley_Field_Studies.html. Information on registration for classes at Modesto Junior College can be found at https://www.mjc.edu/.
Come and join us!
Sunday, January 20, 2019
Friday, January 18, 2019
Join the Geotrippers! British Columbia, the Channeled Scablands, the Olympic Peninsula and the North Cascades, June 26-July 10, 2019
From Nanaimo, we'll take a ferry back to the North America mainland at Howe Sound. We will spend several days in the Vancouver area, exploring both the coastal mountains and Fraser River delta, and also the extensive museums in the city.
When and How? The group will come together in Renton, Washington (near SeaTac Airport and Seattle) on June 26 and will return to SeaTac mid-day on July 10. We will travel in rental vans, and stay in hotels.
Costs: The trip will cost $1,600, which includes transportation, admission fees, accommodations, and teaching materials. Students will be responsible for getting to and from Seattle, and for meals (many of the hotels offer free breakfasts, and some rooms will have microwaves). There will be the tuition costs for six units of semester credit, and the fees for getting or renewing a passport.
Accommodations: We are staying in a variety of motels and hotels. We are assuming double occupancy for married couples, and double to triple occupancy for singles. We will try to accommodate requests for single rooms for a surcharge, but cannot guarantee it. (The earlier your request, the better the chance for getting extra rooms).
Academics: The field courses are worth three semester units each (total of six). Participants will be expected to keep field notes and to complete worksheets and quizzes during the trip.
There will be an informational meeting on Wednesday January 23rd at 7:00 PM in Science Community Center 326 on the West Campus of MJC. Contact the professors if you cannot attend (hayesg - at - Yosemite.edu or kerrs - at -Yosemite.edu).
For up-to-date announcements, check out the trip Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/groups/1920712791360611/ and the MJC Geology information page at http://hayesg.faculty.mjc.edu/GeologyPacificNorthwest.html