|Dry Creek at 9AM this morning, just a few cubic feet per second|
Except during intense storms...
Dry Creek is one of the few waterways in the Sierra Nevada with no reservoirs or flood control measures. When big storms roll through, the water can rise quickly and overflow its banks. We had such a storm last night. Rain throughout California from Eureka to San Diego. I saw that some coastal areas received 7" or more. Less rain fell in the arid Central Valley, with about 0.70" in Modesto and 1.21" in the rain gauge in my backyard. But several inches fell upstream in the Dry Creek drainage, and I expected to see some high water today. I headed out this morning for a look and...nothing. I was briefly surprised, but then I remembered that I teach about this stuff. It's a perfect example of flood lagtime. Should you care? Yes, if you live anywhere near a river.
|Dry Creek at 2,000 cubic feet per second this afternoon.|
|Dry Creek at 4,000 cubic feet per second, as expected after nightfall tonight (March, 2011)|
Accurate scientific data is fundamental to the health of our society. There is not a single place in our country (and indeed the world) that is free of geological hazards. Hydrologists analyze the storm data and report to government officials who then take action to protect the populace from flooding. Seismologists analyze fault activity in hopes of minimizing the damage from major earthquakes. Volcanologists monitor the dangers of active volcanoes. Climate scientists track the effects of global warming.
In a healthy society, the politicians and government officials accept the findings of those who know the dangers best, and act accordingly. I hope that the new administration will come to understand this. If they were to deny the existence of earthquakes or volcanoes (however strange that might seem; Bobby Jindal once famously complained about "volcano monitoring"), disaster would happen. And likewise, if those in government deny global warming, then it would be like a politician predicting that the rivers won't rise, despite the massive storm upstream.