Today (September 30, 2014) marks the last day of the 2013-2014 water year.  Given that I have been otherwise occupied and the last water year I discussed was 2010, an update is certainly in order.

As everyone is aware, there has been a tremendous amount of discussion and a fair amount of concern about the current drought situation in California.  Indeed, the November ballot contains a measure to authorize a $7.5 billion bond offering to fund “water quality, supply, treatment, and storage projects.”  Without getting into the merits of the upcoming ballot measure, I wanted to offer a quick update of the precipitation situation, now that the 2014 water year is effectively in the books.

Northern Sierra 8-Station Index

For simplicity’s sake, and for direct comparison with my prior post, I will use the Northern Sierra 8-Station Annual Precipitation historical index as the basis for looking at precipitation over nearly a century.  The 8 stations used for the Northern Sierra precipitation index are: Mount Shasta City, Shasta Dam, Mineral, Quincy, Brush Creek, Sierraville RS, Blue Canyon, and Pacific House.  A map of the area covered is below (courtesy, the California Department of Water Resources): Continue Reading »

In follow up to my prior post regarding historical precipitation data for San Jose, California, I have now plotted the annual precipitation for the Northern Sierra 8 Station index maintained by the California Department of Water Resources.  The data are available at the California Data Exchange Center here:

The data do not go back quite as far as the San Jose data I previously showed (1921 rather than 1875), but do give us 90 years of data covering a much broader geographical area.  Again, in light of my friend’s recent concern about changing precipitation patters due to global warming (he was specifically concerned about reduced precipitation, not increased), what do the data for this large portion of the California Sierras show?

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Recently a friend and I were talking about precipitation and he suggested that global warming was contributing to changing precipitation patterns around the world.  This reminded me of something I had looked into a few years ago, so I thought I would share it.

In 2007-2008 there was some discussion in the news about the low rainfall in the San Francisco Bay Area.  As is often the case, some commentators ascribed the low rainfall to global warming. I was curious about what the precipitation data actually showed and did a bit of searching online for the historical data, finally finding data back to 1875 for San Jose.

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Sea ice generates quite a bit of interest in climate discussions, and is supposedly a canary in the coal mine for global warming. I have followed the sea ice extent in the Arctic and Antarctic for some time on nearly a daily basis, so I was particularly pleased a few weeks ago to be able to wake up to some late Summer sea ice formations on two separate mornings in Antarctica.

February 20, 2010
Early sea ice formation in Cierva Cove — Small formations of pancake ice.  Photograph taken at 10:00 a.m.  Given that this was an early formation before the oncoming Fall,  I expect that most, if not all, of this small pancake ice would have broken up and/or melted by the end of the day, with new formations to follow during subsequent cold nights.  Notice how some of the pancakes have formed around existing brash ice (the white ice) remaining from the breakup of icebergs and glacier calvings.

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I haven’t posted much recently, due to some work changes, as well as a trip I recently returned from to Antarctica (primarily the peninsula and surrounding region).  Hopefully will have a few more posts coming soon, and I promise to also show off some cool pics of the Southern Continent!

Just watched Hurricane on the Bayou, a simple yet poignant look at Hurricane Katrina through the eyes of two musicians.  The documentary tells the story of these two individuals, a man who lives in the wetlands and a teenage girl from New Orleans, who got together to raise awareness of the importance of the wetlands to hurricane mitigation specifically and the local biosphere in general.

The 40+ minute documentary is generally well done and provides an intriguing, if brief, look at the wetlands and their important role.  Hurricane on the Bayou never mentions global warming or climate change, focusing instead on man’s land use impacts, specifically (i) the levees that have prevented the seasonal flooding responsible for transporting silt that would otherwise rejuvenate and restore the wetlands, and (ii) the canals that were built through the wetlands for navigation convenience, but which have unfortunately allowed a significant influx of salt water, killing many of the plants that would normally inhabit this ecosystem.  The only thing that could even be construed as global warming related is the reference to the fact that the loop current in the Gulf was approximately 2 degrees warmer than usual at the time of Hurricane Katrina, which experts believe may have contributed to Katrina’s large size (although if memory serves, in terms of strength Katrina had dropped to a category 3 by the time it made landfall).

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Just finished watching the 2003 documentary, Coral Reef Adventure, featuring experienced divers Howard and Michele Hall.  The film is an enjoyable, if somewhat simple, documentary about the Halls’ 10-month long expedition to study coral reefs, with a particular eye toward determining why some reefs have experienced significant declines in health in recent years. 

In an effort to determine why some reefs are doing so poorly, the documentary highlights the Halls’ research into those reefs, as well as contrasting reefs that have enjoyed long-term good health or are quickly bouncing back from challenging circumstances.

The film makes a couple of (semi-anemic) references to increases in ocean temperatures and how they can affect the reefs.  However, in the Halls’ actual research into specific reef systems, the culprit is clearly shown to be other environmental factors, primarily land sedimentation flowing into the reef systems as a result of deforestation and a lack of mangrove groves (Louisiana, anyone?) that would otherwise filter out such sedimentation before it reaches the reefs.  The other primary culprit that emerges is overfishing of large coral reef dwellers.

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