Sunday, February 25, 2007

Record dry year - so far....

I have been pining for the mountains. I have been to busy to visit. The bug study, for me, is over but there are a few this and thats to do. I had to see what the few rains had done - if anything - to encourage weedy grasses and such.

As I drove up Highway 38 I noticed that the face of the hillside where the new community was built a few years ago in the mouth of the San Gabriel River as it leaves the foothills, was particularly dry looking. The soils around the vegetation was obviously exposed and light colored (dry), but the brush was brown. I stopped to shoot this image just as the local police were coming down the hill. The highway to the top veers to the right.

As I drove up the mountain, the slant of the faces were brown - I did not see much green from the Laural Sumac which dots the landscape. All around me, the valley looked dead.

The lower part of the San Gabriel Dam had water, but above, there were only tiny streams.

A section of the running water had red algae and the deeper section had green. The Forest Service and County people suspended a red tape so that the Off Road Vehicles would not run through our drinking water.

I just could not get over how bad the valley looked. How much of the vegetation was dead and how deep did the plants die? If we don't get more rain this could be the worst fire season ever. And, even if we do get enough rain to bring these plants back from the brink, there is something else needs addressing. Slides.

Roads into forests bring people with their weedy non-native grasses and other invasive plants, hitchhiking on shoes, tires, clothes, dogs, and hair. Roads also bite into the basic fragile structure of mountains and hillsides. It is normal for areas around roads to look different then areas without roads. This spot shows that the construction of the road plus the erosion and weeds, have created a situation where the integrity of the slope is becoming weak and, in a sense, is becoming fluid. This section of the slope near the road even looks like it is pouring and ready to slump onto the road below.

This area is were a hill slide occurred last year and the year before. There is nothing to prevent further erosion. Plants that could prevent further slumping do not have the time to grow and set roots. This area will continue to degrade until the flat stabilizes as a deep furrow... However, that may undermine the road and other hill side structures.

And... there is something else going on here.... The rains that did come may have caused more slumping and slides. The weather has been so dry for so long that plant roots are shallow. The dirt below the plants are bone dry and very friable. When the rains come, the soils at the surface become wet and heavier then the soil below, and the loose dry dirt act as ball-bearings carrying the plants and the hillside with them.

This slide is brand new. It was not there this last summer. You can see the dead sumac rinding down the slope on their shallow rooted toboggans.

Just as I turned around to go back, I noticed that there was the beginning of a new slide. The dust was rising and little cones of piled dirt had just formed. Sometime, soon this section will have a great bite out of the face of the mountain.

The mountains look sick. The vegetation seems not to be doing well. We need to do better.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Los Angeles Rain and "CARB" car

California Air Resource Board and its CARB car

It rained last night. Finally! Yesterday was sunny, warm and beautiful. My friend and I had lunch at the Port of Los Angeles, outside, under an umbrella. After we finished around 5 p.m., a huge Tsunami of clouds enveloped the Port community and the Peninsula and 'splashed' against the bridges and container hoists.

At 7 am I met my friend at USC. She was prepping the Toyota EV and checking all the air quality devices. There were at least two computers manning diesel particulates (both newly emitted and ones older, larger, and stuck together in clumps), NOx, CO, CO2, NO, NO2, weather conditions, video and sound, and our global position. About 500 lbs of stuff whirring, clicking, and humming made noise even though the car did not.

When we left USC, the CO2 levels were fairly normal. When we got on the freeway we found the CO2 levels to be double the normal ambient amounts. It stayed that way until the weather changed....

When we got on the road, I watched the laptop and looked at what the instruments were detecting. When a truck passed us there were spikes in the number of minute diesel particles - the ones that contribute to cardiopulmonary disease - and from cars and SUVs as well.

We had stops where we monitored intersections and residential areas for spikes in particulates and other combustion by-products. We video taped the areas to identify sources and recorded our voices for particular issues that we may experience during the drive. We didn't talk exclusively of science matters, my friend and the other people will have a good time listening to our stories.

At the end of the run, our beautiful weather turned peculiar. Not far from us was an oncoming rainstorm. On the west, where all of the cranes and containers for miles, high dark clouds started forming. Then, a bank of low clouds poured over the peninsula north-east of the Port, covering the community with a thick layer of cold moist clouds. It then pushed forward towards the Port litteraly splashing into the container cranes and hoists. Then the world turned very dark and it was time to be home.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Dry as Dry Bones

The Los Angeles Times, on February 2, 2007....

"For perspective, consider the driest year in L.A.'s documented record: In 2001-02, 3.66 inches of rain fell between July 1 and Jan. 31. Then it got really dry. February, Southern California's wettest month, produced virtually no rain, and March was no better.

Up to now, the 2006-2007 season has been even drier. But forecasters still believe it's possible the region will see more rain later this month and next. If it continues dry, however, officials said L.A. could be on the road to setting another record.

The dry spell has stretched from the northern Sierra to San Diego."

I must shoot the mountains this weekend. This shot was done in fall/winter 2006. I will go to the same spot and see what the differences might be.

Notice the ridges on the side of the mountain and the dried grasses that grew when there was water... The winter is when the County lets the water run out of the reservoirs and down into the spreading grounds in Irwindale... which is pumped out down stream near Whittier and distributed to 1.5 million people in the San Gabriel Valley. Our 'soiled' water is filtered clean at Whittier and is pumped out in Orange County for drinking water.

We need rain to fill these dams.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Passion and Climate Change

I eagerly awaited the day I would meet up with others in Nashville, Tennessee who wanted to change the public stance in the US on Climate Change. I did worry about not knowing enough. There is so much to understand. I tried to read original literature prior to driving from Los Angeles. I did worry how I would be able to do what I promised to do - 10 talks this year. But, this problem would be solved when I got back home. I wondered if Al Gore actually would teach the session, and he did.

I was in the last group of the thousand speakers Mr. Gore said he would give his presentation to, to disseminate the issues of this hot button topic. He gave his all giving his talk. There was no forced quality to his speech or actions. He was graceful and touching as he told personal stories interpreting this gargantuan and complex problem into something an individual could grasp in a very emotional way. I cried when he talked of his nearly loosing his son from a car accident, and how this close encounter with his death, was like humanity just 'this close' to loosing this world.

I wanted to take pictures during his talk, but I felt I would interfere and break the connection between audience and speaker.... However, at the end I thought I could get in a few shots when everyone would be clapping. I tried to shoot with the widest opening and the most sensitive setting in my camera while using my long lens. The images were blurry and so I shot one shot at the end with a flash using my wide angle.

Looking at the blurry shots, there is no doubt of Al Gore's conviction and passion. there is no hiding these facts. The image with the flash captures his last moment with the last slide of earth. That image of earth - so vulnerable so beautiful...