Year of Fire

July 31, 2018

IMG_0952

Smokey Sunrise near Redding California

Only nine months ago, winds gusting to 60mph blew the Tubbs Fire across miles of Napa, Lake and Sonoma Counties. The fire effortlessly crossed a well-maintained 100-foot wide firebreak to enter and decimate the upscale Fountaingrove neighborhood, then drove deep into the City of Santa Rosa – eventually destroying about 5% of the housing stock in a city with a population of over 175,000. 22 people were killed and nearly 6,000 structures were destroyed. Santa Rosa alone suffered more than a billion dollars in damage. It was the most destructive, and third deadliest, fire in California history.

At the same time, the nearby Nuns, Atlas, and Redwood Valley fires each ranked, on their own, among the top-twenty most destructive fires in state history. Collectively, these four fires burned over 8,000 structures and killed 40 people.

Just two months later, strong winds blew the Thomas Fire across portions of Ventura and Santa Barbara counties at a rate of advance that sometimes reached an acre per second. The 282,000 acres that eventually burned made it the largest fire in modern state history. Two people were killed and the 1,063 structures destroyed made it the 8thmost destructive fire in state history – the third fire to make the top ten list in a three month period. Damages amounted to more than 2 billion dollars.

This week, fires in Northern California have already burned close to 200,000 acres. The Carr Fire, without aid of significant wind, developed a rotating column that generated what amounted to a fire tornado in suburbs of the City of Redding – a terrifying sight that resulted in an astonishing level of destruction. So far, 1,236 structures, including nearly 900 homes have been confirmed destroyed and 6 bodies, including the bodies of two firefighters, have been recovered. Additional people remain missing. The Carr Fire will rank as at least the 7thmost destructive fire in California history – the 6thfire to rank in the top 20 in the past 10 months.

This is the price we are paying right now, today, for inaction on climate change. The bill will only grow steeper in the days, months and years ahead.

Advertisements

With Restrooms Locked, Big Sur Roadsides Sink Deeper into Squalor

June 25, 2018

IMG_2809

Human waste next to locked restrooms at the Forest Service’s Willow Creek Picnic Area

When ya gotta go, ya gotta go and when ya gotta go in Big Sur, finding an appropriate spot can be difficult – especially when the public is locked out of the few facilities that do exist.

Word is that two or three restrooms on the South Coast, which means pretty much all the public restrooms on the South Coast, have been locked for several weeks now. We don’t know why, but this is the predictable result.

IMG_2808

Meanwhile, illegal campfires, like this one lit directly on top of dry grass, continue to threaten new conflagrations.

Welcome to summer…

(Photos by Branham Rendlen) 


Wildflower of the Week: Dudleya

May 13, 2018

IMG_3479

It will take a bold poacher to snag this Dudleya

If a year ago someone had said that Dudleya poaching was about to become a problem along the California Coast, it would have been difficult to believe. But in an increasingly globalized and irrational world, we should probably not be surprised when the not-so-invisible hand of a distant market suddenly reaches out to rip a random thread from the local web of life.
Read the rest of this entry »


Local Streams Shrug Off Atmospheric River

March 22, 2018

IMG_0714

The rain is still falling out there, but it looks like our multi-day storm is beginning to wind down.
Read the rest of this entry »


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

January 27, 2018

IMG_2266

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.
Read the rest of this entry »


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:

carbon

(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.