The High Sierra Diaries of Alexander Eells: Part 1 – Sonora Backcountry 1898

November 17, 2017

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Alexander Eells with John Muir and Muir’s daughters Wanda and Helen. Photo probably taken in Paradise Valley, above Kings Canyon, in July, 1902. Wanda and Helen would have been about 20 and 16 at the time. Eells later tried to bring his wife and young daughters to the high country, but his in-laws thought the idea was outrageous and strenuously objected.
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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:

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(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.


Summer 2017

August 31, 2017

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Santa Cruz Mountains
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New Seawater Intrusion Maps Confirm that Water Runs Downhill

July 31, 2017

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The Salinas Valley has a seawater intrusion problem for a very simple reason. Groundwater levels are lower than sea level. As long as this remains the case, it’s pretty obvious that seawater will not stop flowing downhill into the Salinas Valley aquifers. See this post, from 2015, if you’re interested in the details.
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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.

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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

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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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