Forest Service Lifts Fire Restrictions Just in Time for a Red Flag Warning

January 27, 2018


7:30 pm; June 16, 2016: Sundowner winds blow the Sherpa Fire down from the Santa Ynez Mountains and onto the coastal terraces west of Santa Barbara (as viewed from the comfort of Cojo Anchorage). Dry season conditions of this kind have been common so far this winter.

The Los Padres National Forest covers about 1.75 million acres. The northern boundary, near Carmel Valley, is over 200 miles from the Forest’s southernmost point, near Los Angeles. As fire restrictions are imposed Forest-wide, strict prohibitions on campfires tend to remain in place in the Big Sur area, even after substantial rain, so long as the southern end of the Forest remains dry.
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Halloween Horror

October 31, 2017

Just in time for Halloween comes news that the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has reached 404.39 parts per million.

For those who think this is a normal variation, here’s a handy graphic covering the rise and fall of carbon dioxide concentrations over the past 800,000 years:


(Image created by Scripps Institution of Oceanography)

As it is painfully obvious that those who run the planet have zero interest in reducing carbon emissions by anything like the amount, and at anything like the speed, necessary to avert disaster, that line will only continue to climb toward the stratosphere and the impacts of climate change will only worsen.

While no one knows just how bad things may get, it’s worth noting that the biggest mass extinction event in earth’s history, the Permian-Triassic Extinction, which wiped out as many as 96% of marine species and 70% of terrestrial vertebrates, is thought to have been driven by runaway global warming. In that case, increased ocean acidity, caused by higher carbon dioxide concentrations, and decreased ocean oxygen levels, caused by warming, turned the oceans into hypoxic cesspools inhabited by sulfurous bacteria whose noxious gasses left the atmosphere unbreathable. Following the P-T Extinction, it took life on earth as much as 30 million years to rebuild functioning ecosystems with the kind of biodiversity we enjoy today.

We may or may not wipe out most of earth’s species this time, but our carbon emissions have already increased the acidity of the ocean surface by a whopping 30% over the past 200 years and hypoxic “dead zones” are emerging and growing larger. There is little question we are facing, and utterly failing to seriously address, the most serious crisis in history.

That’s the real Halloween horror.

Meanwhile, the fires, floods, and crippling heat waves that global warming has already made more frequent, continue unabated.

This month’s Northern California fires, which burned over 8,000 structures and killed at least 43 people, are a good example of an event made more likely by climate change – and also an outstanding example of how people will focus on anything else.

Lazy reporters repeat tired bromides about fire suppression resulting in unnatural accumulations of fuel – regardless of how frequently the area in question has actually burned – while less sober online commentators take for granted that the fires were deliberate government actions designed to clear away existing housing stock so that new housing designed in compliance with UN Agenda 21 can be constructed.

The main point of disagreement among these commentators is whether the fires were caused by space-based lasers (known to insiders as Directed Energy Weapons) or by some kind of electromagnetic “weather weapon” (the same one used to create and steer this year’s hurricanes). Both agree that highly flammable nano aluminum particles, distributed by “chemtrails” (which are either causing or preventing global warming, depending on who you listen to) played an important role, because “everything on the ground” is now covered with them.

The weather weapon people are angry with the laser people for pushing a preposterous theory and the laser people feel the same way about the weather weapon people. Both accuse the other of harming the credibility of the movement to warn the masses of the UN’s nefarious activities.

And the planet continues to warm.

Happy Halloween!

Ventana Wilderness Raked by Lightning

September 11, 2017

A line of thunderstorms produced hundreds of lightning strikes over the Ventana Wilderness this morning. While the lightning was accompanied, at least in places, by torrential rain, it is unclear whether the heavy rain was as widespread as the lightning.

The Black Cone rain gauge, in the center of the Ventana Wilderness, recorded a healthy .63 inches of rain, and over a tenth of an inch was recorded along the coast between Lucia and the Big Sur Valley. Unfortunately, gauges further north, like White Rock, Ponciano Ridge, Hastings and Los Padres Dam have, apparently, received less than a hundredth of an inch – and multiple lightning strikes have been detected in these areas.

Hopefully, any smokes that appear over the next few days can be extinguished quickly.

10:30 am Update: A new, more northerly, line of rain has brought .08 inches to the White Rock, Ponciano, and Los Padres Dam gauges during the past hour. All rain has now moved offshore, so let’s hope that was enough.

Noon Update: At least one of this morning’s lightning strikes has already resulted in fire. Forest Service crews are currently putting out a lightning caused fire near the Indians.

6:00 pm Update: Lightning and showers continued throughout the day, but have now mainly moved north into Santa Cruz and Santa Clara Counties. It looks like nearly all the spot fires started in Monterey County by lightning today, including the Milpitas Fire near the Indians, have been contained. The largest so far has been the Gloria Fire, in the Gabilan range, which was contained at just 9 acres. A great job by firefighters to stay ahead of things on such a difficult day.

A Day on the Arroyo Seco

July 23, 2017

I joined Ventana Wilderness Alliance staff and volunteers in marking the one year anniversary of the ignition of the Soberanes Fire by cleaning up trash and dismantling fire rings along the Arroyo Seco River.


The Arroyo Seco River, with mile after mile of spectacular swimming holes, is a popular place to beat the heat – especially on days, like yesterday, when temperatures in the canyon climb into the triple digits.

While we found, and hauled out, a lot of junk, this area is less trashed than popular locations on the coast. This might seem surprising, considering the large crowds and heavy alcohol consumption, but it’s probably because Salinas Valley locals outnumber tourists.
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Fourth of July in the Hills

June 30, 2017


What harm could there be in having a little campfire?

Those who live in, or near, California’s fire-prone wildlands tend to get pretty jumpy around the Fourth of July. Many refuse to travel to town for parades and parties; preferring instead to stay at home re-checking water systems and sharpening chain saw blades. Their eyes crawl up to scan the sky for smoke so frequently it becomes a nervous tic. They sniff the air so often that they appear to be suffering from nasal congestion. They fly into a rage at the sight of anyone building campfires or using fireworks.
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Mud Creek Now Mud Point

May 23, 2017


Punta Barro: Big Sur’s newest geographical feature (photo credit: Rock Knocker)

The Santa Lucia Mountains are very young. At just 5 million years old, they are still in the process of being born – punching upward out of the Pacific faster than the forces of wind, waves, rain, and gravity can wear them down. Their steep, unstable seaward wall, rising to over 5,000 feet at Cone Peak, is constantly eroding, sliding and collapsing into the sea.
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Big Sur River Above Flood Stage for Fifth Time This Year

February 20, 2017


South Coast oaks in the rain

Heavy pre-dawn rain has pushed the Big Sur River above the 10-foot level that marks its official “flood stage” for the fifth time in less than two months.

As of 9:00 am, the river was at 10.30 feet, which indicates a flow of 3,530 cubic feet per second.

On January 12, the Big Sur River hit 12.34 feet (or 7,650 cfs – more than twice the current flow); the second highest peak recorded since the gauge was installed. The highest was an amazing 10,700 cfs, recorded in January 1978, following the Marble Cone Fire.

This morning’s rain can’t be helping the situation at Pfeiffer Gulch, where a slide has been slowly pulling down the Highway bridge. Interestingly, when the bridge was built in the 1960’s, Caltrans erroneously signed it as the Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge and, taking their cue from the sign on the collapsing bridge, everyone now seems to be referring to the place as Pfeiffer Canyon.

It’s not the first time this ravine has undergone a name change or, apparently, had bridge trouble. According to Clark’s Monterey County Place Names, the Pfeiffers themselves knew the place as Burnt Bridge Creek.

See the Big Sur River Gauge here.

Noon Update: As of 11:45 the Big Sur River was still rising and had reached 10.85 feet, or 4,370 cfs.

1:00 pm Update: As of 12:45, the Big Sur River had reached 11.07 feet (4,730 cfs). The Carmel River is also rising and is projected to crest more than a foot above its January high water mark. If this happens, there will almost certainly be some flood damage.

2:00 pm Update: The Big Sur River has been level at 11.10 feet (4,790 cfs) for the past half hour. Rain is expected to become more intense this evening, so another rise will be possible tonight.

5:30 pm Update: As of 5:15 pm, the Big Sur River had receded to 10.3 feet (3,530 cfs); which is still above flood stage. Rain is beginning to pick up again over the Big Sur watershed and, if that continues, the river may begin rising again soon.

7:00 pm Update: Hard rain is falling and the Big Sur River is on the rise again. 10.40 feet (3,680 cfs) as of 6:30 pm.

9:00 pm Update: The Big Sur River is rising quickly and has surpassed this afternoon’s peak. As of 8:45 it was at 11.78 feet (5,960 cfs).

10:00 pm Update: Has the Big Sur River found its peak? It made it to around 12.22 feet, just shy of last month’s high water mark of 12.34 feet (the 2nd highest peak ever recorded), but has now (as of 9:45 pm) dropped back to 11.97 feet (6,310 cfs).

11:30 pm Update: The Big Sur River is rising again and, as of 11:15 pm, was back to 12.13 feet (6,570 cfs).

Midnight Update: That rise was short-lived. The Big Sur River is back under 12 feet and falling. Unless unexpectedly heavy rains arrive, it should continue to fall throughout the night.

12:30 pm 2-21-17 Update: The Big Sur River finally went back below flood stage around 11:00 this morning. Its twin peaks last night may have been a bit lower than the January high water mark, but the fact that it remained above flood stage for more than 24 hours is probably some kind of record.

As of 11:45 am, it was at 9.9 feet (2,940 cfs).