Yosemite NP’s Rim Fire time-lapse

September 18, 2013

USDA/Flickr photo via Mother Jones: A National Park Service fire crew builds a sprinkler system around a grove of sequoias. USDA/Flickr

USDA/Flickr photo via Mother Jones: A National Park Service fire crew builds a sprinkler system around a grove of sequoias. USDA/Flickr

It’s a rolling tragedy, in time-lapse.  Fire always offers a chance at beauty, if we don’t think about the destruction the fire wreaks.

A lot of cameras around Yosemite, and some were set to do time-lapse photos of the recent Rim Fire.  One hopes there is some academic value to these films, perhaps in demonstrating how the diurnal rhythms of the atmosphere changes the behavior of fire (notice how smoke often changes directions at sunset, and then at sunrise, and back again).

All that smoke.  Much of it was living plant material just a few weeks ago, and we watch it turned to tiny particles and gases, and spread by the winds.

More information from the filmmakers and posters:

Published on Aug 28, 2013

Time-lapse photography shows various perspectives of the 2013 Rim Fire, as viewed from Yosemite National Park. The first part of this video is from the Crane Flat Helibase. The fire [was]  . . .burning in wilderness and  . . . not immediately threatening visitors or employees. The second half of the video is from Glacier Point, showing Yosemite Valley, and how little the smoke from the fire has impacted the Valley.

In this next piece, you’ll see footage of fire fighting operations, including a back-burn, and helicoptering of supplies to firefighters on the front lines.  It’s the non-time-lapse version, with wildtrack sound.

Published on Sep 7, 2013

Fire crews in Yosemite conducted firing operations along the Tioga Road this week to provide a buffer of protection from the Rim Fire. As you can see in this video, the fire mostly burns debris on the forest floor rather than the trees. It’s only when the forest floor accumulates too much debris or too many young trees that a small fire like this gets hot enough to torch mature trees and spread from treetop to treetop.

Later in the video, we give you a behind-the-scenes peek at Yosemite’s Helicopter 551 ferrying supplies from the Crane Flat helibase.

The timelapse, from August, has over a million-and-a-half views on YouTube; the non-timelapse, a few weeks later, has fewer than 6,000 views, as I write this.  Time-lapse is very popular.

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Yosemite’s Horsetail Falls at its fiery best

February 26, 2013

Photo Tweeted from the National Park Service:

Bethany Gediman photo of Horsetail Falls, Yosemite NP, glowing orange

Horsetail Fall flows over the eastern edge of El Capitan in Yosemite Valley. It’s a small waterfall that many people don’t notice, but it has gained popularity as more and more people have noticed it can glow orange during sunset in mid to late February. The most popular place to see Horsetail Fall seemingly afire is El Capitan picnic area, west of Yosemite Lodge and east of El Capitan (see map below). The “firefall” effect generally happens during the second half of February. A clear sky is necessary for the waterfall to glow orange. Photo: Bethany Gediman, NPS

People living close to National Parks are lucky to do so; people who work in them luckier still, in the lifetime sweepstakes for seeing breathtaking sites.  NPS employee (Ranger?) Bethany Gediman caught this image of Horsetail Fall in Yosemite National Park.

Be sure to see the video of Yosemite Nature Notes No. 14, posted here earlier. It shows Horsetail at sunset in full glory.  Great photography.

How to get there:

Map to Horsetail Falls, Yosemite NP

Map of Yosemite National Park, showing Horsetail Falls and hiking trail to get to viewpoint in the photograph.

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Anybody got photos of Texas’s Big Lake with, you know, water in it?

February 15, 2013

Contrary to popular rural and redneck legend, Caddo Lake is not Texas’s only natural* lake.  There’s also Big Lake, near the town of Big Lake.

Problem being, of course, that Big Lake’s water sources these days generally don’t flow.  So Big Lake is often dry.

Which produces a further problem for site like Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub:  If Big Lake is really a lake, why are there no photos of the lake with water in it?

A comment at AustinBassFishing.com got me thinking about this again, no photos of Big Lake as a Lake.  In the previous post here, we featured a photo of Big Lake Playa, sans water.  I searched the internet at the time and found no photos showing water in the lake.  My authority on Big Lake, Brad Wachsmann, swore that he had recently seen water in the thing (“recent” being “in the last decade or so”).

So, sorta good news:  A few photos of Big Lake, with water, plopped onto the internet since our last search.  Here are a couple from Panaramio:

Big Lake, Texas, with water in it.  Photo by doning

Water in Big Lake, near the city of Big Lake, Texas, laps at the State Highway 137 passing nearby. This photo comes from 2004, by doning.

Water in Big Lake, Texas, June 2005; photo by evansjohnc

Photo of water in Big Lake from June 2005. Photo by evansjohnc.  This photo appears to be about midway along the intersection of the lake with State Highway 137.

Big Lake, Texas, in dry phase, by cwoods

Big Lake in its dry phase, from looking north from the southern end of State Highway 137’s transection of the lake. Photo by cwoods.

Sign noting location of Big Lake, Texas, during dry phase. Photo by cwoods

Non-historic marker for Big Lake, also along State Highway 137, looking west. Photo by cwoods. Photo taken during Big Lake’s dry humor phase.

Now:  Can we track down the rumors of other natural lakes in TexasSabine Lake?  Green Lake?  Natural Dam Lake?

And, Dear Reader, can you find good photos of Big Lake with, you know, water in it?

_____________

* Is Caddo Lake a natural lake?  Originally, the lake seems to have been formed by an enormous blowdown of trees, probably during a hurricane, well over 400 years ago.  In that sense, it was a natural lake when European explorers first found it, and during all of Texas’s “six flags” historic periods.  Or, what is known as the Great Raft, a log jam, dammed up the Red River near the confluence of the Big Cypress Bayou, in about 1799.  By 1800, Caddo Lake was wet all year-round, and deep enough for shallow boat navigation.  In 1835, Capt. Henry Shreve blew up enough of the logjam that steamboat traffic could get past (the guy after whom Shreveport, Louisiana, is named).  After the Civil War, locals tried to expand boat traffic by completely removing the logjam.  Instead of making traffic easier, this removal led shrinking water levels in the lake, and it destroyed navigation farther up the Red River.  Several efforts to restore higher water levels achieved some success by about 1915.  When oil was discovered under the swamp, pressures came from oil companies to make drilling easier — travel in the mud was difficult.  After the invention of the Hughes drill bit (by Howard Hughes‘s father, the founder of Hughes Tool Co.) to allow drilling through water and mud into oil-bearing rock, a dam was built near where the logjam had been, to raise the level of what is known today as Caddo Lake.  What is seen today is a human-enhanced version of the Caddo Lake known by the Caddo Tribe.  This is all preface to the current Texas water wars.

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Wish we were there: Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

November 6, 2012

You got the Tweet?

Miter Basin, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, California; photo by Kristin Glover, NPS (public domain)

Miter Basin, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, California; photo by Kristin Glover, NPS (public domain)

Photo from NPS employee Kristin Glover, at Miter Basin.

We should go see for ourselves, no?

If you go today, vote before you go.  This is one of the areas to be opened to energy exploration — oil and gas drilling or other mining — under Mitt Romney’s “energy plan” and the GOP National Platform.

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Fossil walrus porn

December 23, 2011

Walrus baculum fossil, from Retrieverman

What is it? If you were a lady walrus a few million years ago, you wouldn't have to ask!

I can’t do it justice.  Go read about the photo at Retrieverman’s site.

My students hear it often:  Truth is stranger and often much more interesting than fiction.  It certainly applies in history, and it applies in science, too.


Can the Houston toad survive Texas wildfires and droughts?

November 25, 2011

New short from the Texas Parks and Wildlife people:

The smoke may be gone but the Bastrop fires of Labor Day weekend are still a smoldering concern for biologists. They’re keeping tabs on the Houston Toad. And with only an estimated 2,000 left in Texas, this endangered species is facing its next challenge as the drought continues. More on Houston toads at http://www.houstonzoo.org/HoustonToad/

For background, see this earlier reel from TPWS on the fires at Bastrop State Park:


Theological disproof of evolution? Hornworms and braconid wasps

November 7, 2011

“Nature red in tooth and claw,” the poet Tennyson said.

Darwin thought these critters a clear disproof of creationism — no god would make such creatures intentionally!

Mark reports at The Divine Afflatus:

Hornworm Hosts its Destruction

While admiring some ground cherries outside my front door, I noticed a number of leaves had been stripped off. Not grazed on by the deer that frequent the area, more like eaten by caterpillars. After a brief search I spotted a hornworm munching away. I didn’t bother killing the hornworm because, after all, the ground cherries are weeds growing amongst the black-eyed susans, and it’s less work for me if they take care of the weeds.

I looked again a few days later, and saw that the hornworm had sprouted numerous white appendages. These are the cocoons of pupating braconid wasps. Braconid wasps are parasitoids that inject their eggs beneath the skin of the host (hornworms are favored by the braconid wasp Contesia congregatus). After feeding on the convenient meal surrounding them, the wasp larvae emerge and spin their coccons, attached to the body of the unfortunate hornworm. In a few days, adult wasps emerge from their cocoons, leaving a dead caterpillar.

I later spotted a second hornworm, which suffered the same fate as the first.

Ewwwwwwww!


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