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.

More:


Annals of global warming: Arizona wildfires 2013 and “the new normal”

July 6, 2013

A burned home is seen in an unidentified neighborhood west of Highway 89 in Yarnell, Arizona July 3, 2013. Reuters

A burned home is seen in an unidentified neighborhood west of Highway 89 in Yarnell, Arizona July 3, 2013. Reuters, via International Business Times

From a much longer story you should read by Felicity Barringer and Kenneth Chang  in The New York Times, Tuesday, July 2, 2013, page A13 of the National Edition:

Since 1970, Arizona has warmed at a rate 0.72 degrees per decade, the fastest among the 50 states, based on an analysis of temperature data by Climate Central, an independent organization that researches and reports on climate. Even as the temperatures have leveled off in many places around the world in the past decade, the Southwest has continued to get hotter.

“The decade of 2001 to 2010 in Arizona was the hottest in both spring and the summer,” said Gregg Garfin, a professor of climate, natural resources and policy at the University of Arizona and the executive editor of a study examining the impact of climate change on the Southwest.

Warmer winters mean less snowfall. More of the winter precipitation falls as rain, which quickly flows away in streams instead of seeping deep underground.

The soils then dry out earlier and more quickly in May and June. “It’s the most arid time of year,” Dr. Garfin said. “It’s windy as well.”

The growing season also starts earlier, so there is more to burn.

“The fire season has lengthened substantially, by two months, over the last 30 years,” said Craig D. Allen, a research ecologist at the United States Geological Survey station at Bandelier National Monument in New Mexico.

The fire potential is exacerbated by the past policy, beginning around 1900, of putting out all fires. Fires are a natural way of clearing out the underbrush. With that natural rhythm disrupted, the flammable material piled up, so when it did catch fire, it ignited a giant fire that burned hotter and wider.

This total-suppression policy began to ease as early as the 1950s, when scientists began to see fire’s role in ecosystems. It was completely abandoned nearly two decades ago.

But in the 1970s, the Southwest entered a wet period, part of a climate cycle that repeats every 20 to 30 years. “That wet period helped keep a lid on fires,” Dr. Allen said. “And it also allowed the forests to fluff up.”

Since 1996, the climate pattern, known as the Pacific decadal oscillation, has swung to the dry end of the spectrum, and the region is caught in a long-term drought.

Stephen J. Pyne, one of the nation’s leading fire historians and a professor at Arizona State University, said, “How we live on the land, what we decide we put on public and private lands, how we do things and don’t do things on the land, changes its combustibility.”

In many landscapes, he added, “you’ve enhanced the natural combustibility” by building hundreds of thousands of homes in fire-prone areas, and for years suppressing natural fires, allowing a buildup of combustible materials like the “slash” debris left behind by logging.

The article explains how this is the dry phase of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation; so we can hope the wet phase will be wet enough to suppress fires.  However, the simple fact of additional effects brought on by PDO does not mean warming goes away when the PDO switches phases.  Note especially the lengthening fire season over three decades; incrementally, warming is making these well-known cycles, warmer, and too often, destructive or more destructive.

More: 

Sign welcoming visitors to Yarnell, Arizona:

Sign welcoming visitors to Yarnell, Arizona, with wildfire in the background: “Elevation 4,850 ft., ‘Where the desert breeze meets the mountain air.'” Sedonaeye.com image

 

English: Monthly values for the Pacific decada...

Monthly values for the Pacific decadal oscillation index, 1900 – 2010 Black line:121-month smooth Data source: http://jisao.washington.edu/pdo/PDO.latest (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


You didn’t believe in Ents, and then you met the redwoods

June 19, 2013

Giant redwoods in Sequoia-Kings National Parks

US Department of Interior, May 30, 2013 – Sometimes you have to look up to appreciate the beauty of America’s great outdoors. @SequoiaKingsNPS


Brilliant film: A Forest Year, from Motionkicker

March 14, 2013

Cousin Amanda Holland called my attention to this on Facebook.  Time lapse photography and a forest — heavenly to me.

More details from Motionkicker,  Samuel Orr:

help support my new time-lapse project at kickstarter!
kickstarter.com/projects/motionkicker/new-york-year

A Forest Year was made from 40,000 still images taken from my front window over 15 months, and were blended into the film.

Find out more about how it was made at motionkicker.com

Special thanks to Johnny_RIpper for letting me use his music.
soundcloud.com/johnny_ripper

Tip of the old scrub brush to Amanda Holland and the National Forest Foundation.

More:


Endangered western forests: The Yellowstone

October 10, 2012

Additional CO2 and warmer weather will help plants, the climate change denialists say.  That’s not what we see, however.  Turns out CO2 helps weeds, and warmer weather helps destructive species, more than it helps the stuff we need and want in the wild.

For example, the white-bark pine, Pinus albicaulis:


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From American Forests:

With increasingly warm winters at high elevations in the West, a predator that has stalked forests for decades has gained the upper hand. It is mountain pine blister rust, an invasive fungus. Combined with mountain pine beetles, which kill hundreds of thousands of trees per year in the Greater Yellowstone Area (GYA), the environmental health of the Rocky Mountains and neighboring regions is in danger. To make matters worse, the species most susceptible to these two threats, the whitebark pine, is also the most vital to ecosystem stability, essential to the survival of more than 190 plant and animal species in Yellowstone alone.

First debuted at SXSW Eco, this video tells the story of our endangered western forests and how American Forests and the Greater Yellowstone Coordinating Committee are working toward their restoration and protection for future generations.

Learn more: http://www.americanforests.org/what-we-do/endangered-western-forests/

More:

Whitebark Pine

Whitebark Pine (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Whitebark Pine. Français : Tige et cônes de Pi...

Whitebark Pine, cones and needle cluster (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Whitebark Pine Français : Un cône de Pin à éco...

Whitebark pine’s distinctive, almost-black cone. (Photo: Wikipedia)


Plan to save the spotted owls

August 2, 2011

A lawyer complains in the Wall Street Journal that the plan from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) intended to help the endangered spotted owl should be dismissed because, well, the spotted owl is still endangered, and after all, didn’t the spotted owl personally shut down the entire lumber industry in the Northwest?

Well, no, the owl didn’t shut down the mills.

But before we discuss, can we at least read the shorthand version of what USFWS has to say?  Here’s the press release on the plan:

Plan Marks New Route for Recovering Northern Spotted Owl and Promoting Healthy Northwest Forests

Contact:
Janet Lebson
503-231-6179
janet_lebson@fws.gov


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today released a final revised recovery plan for the threatened northern spotted owl, stepping up actions that so far have helped stem but not reverse the old-growth forest raptor’s decline. The revised plan identifies three main priorities for achieving spotted owl recovery:  protecting the best of its remaining habitat, actively managing forests to improve forest health, and reducing competition from barred owls, a native of eastern North America that has progressively moved into the spotted owl’s range in Washington, Oregon, and northern California.

“For more than 20 years, northern spotted owl recovery has been a focal point of broader forest conservation efforts in the Pacific Northwest,” said Robyn Thorson, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Pacific Northwest Regional Director. “This revised recovery plan is based on sound science and affirms that the best things we can do to help the spotted owl turn the corner are conserving its habitat, managing the barred owl, and restoring vitality to our forests.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will use the recovery plan to work with land managers in the Pacific Northwest such as the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, as well as other federal and non-federal landowners, to advise them on habitat management activities that can benefit the spotted owl and contribute to improved forest health.

Because about 20 million acres of U.S. Forest Service lands and about 2 million acres of Bureau of Land Management lands are potentially affected by recovery plan recommendations, the three agencies worked together on key recommendations related to forest management. Both agencies provided formal letters of support for the plan’s recovery goals.

“This recovery plan is a welcome update to the state of the science surrounding the northern spotted owl,” said Cal Joyner, Deputy Regional Forester for the Pacific Northwest Region of the U.S. Forest Service. “The plan will help us implement a mix of actively managing and protecting habitat to best contribute to conservation and recovery.”

“The recovery plan provides space to develop ecological forestry principles and to actively manage our public forests to achieve the twin goals of improving ecological conditions and supplying timber,” said Ed Shepard, Oregon/Washington State Director for the Bureau of Land Management. “We look forward to continuing our close cooperation with the Fish and Wildlife Service as we put the science from the recovery plan to work in our planning, in evaluating proposed timber projects, and in improving forest health.”

Overarching recommendations in the revised plan include:

  • Conservation of spotted owl sites and high-value spotted owl habitat across the landscape. This means the habitat protections provided under land use plans on federal land will continue to be a focus of recovery, but protection of other areas is likely needed to achieve full success (including some of the lands previously slated for potential timber harvest on federal lands, and possibly non-federal lands in certain parts of the owl’s range where federal lands are limited).
  • Active management of forests to make forest ecosystems healthier and more resilient to the effects of climate change and catastrophic wildfire, disease, and insect outbreaks. This involves an “ecological forestry” approach in certain areas that will restore ecosystem functioning and resiliency. This may include carefully applied prescriptions such as fuels treatment to reduce the threat of severe fires, thinning, and restoration to enhance habitat and return the natural dynamics of a healthy forest landscape. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recommends this approach in areas where it promotes ecosystem function and is in the best long-term interest of spotted owl recovery. The agency also strongly affirms adaptive management principles to continually evaluate and refine active forest management techniques.
  • Management of the encroaching barred owl to reduce harm to spotted owls. Most of the recovery actions the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has carried out since finalizing the spotted owl’s 2008 recovery plan deal with the barred owl threat. A major part of this is developing a proposal for experimental removal of barred owls in certain areas to see what effect that would have on spotted owls, and then to evaluate whether or not broad scale removal should be considered. This portion of the 2008 plan was not significantly revised.

“While the new recovery plan has been refined and improved from the 2008 version, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service continues to implement the most important recommendations,” said Acting U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Rowan Gould. “We have begun to address the barred owl threat, improved survey protocols, and developed incentives for private landowners to voluntarily participate in recovery actions. We look forward to expanding conservation partnerships to contribute to the spotted owl’s recovery.”

Since the northern spotted owl was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) 21 years ago, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and recovery partners are benefitting from far more information on what factors most affect its survival and productivity. This includes a broader body of scientific knowledge on the species itself and forest ecosystem dynamics — including variables such as climate change and the role of natural disturbances such as wildfire. Recovery partners also are taking advantage of new science and technology to develop more precise tools for analyzing how different strategies can contribute to recovery.

In addition, land managers have made significant strides in advancing active forest management techniques to promote the health and resilience of forest ecosystems. The recovery plan emphasizes the concept of adaptive management to apply new knowledge and science to those techniques on an ongoing basis. This is a more mainstream approach today than in 1994 when the Northwest Forest Plan was created to address the needs of several forest-dependent species, including the spotted owl, and the region’s timber industry.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service developed a final recovery plan specific to the spotted owl for the first time in 2008. As the agency and recovery partners moved forward in implementing many recommendations in the 2008 plan, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service initiated a targeted scientific revision to some portions of that plan after facing legal challenges and critical reviews from leading scientific organizations in the conservation community.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service tapped the knowledge and perspectives of public and private sector experts over the last two years in developing this revised plan, the draft of which was released in September 2010. The agency held more than 30 workshops and meetings with public and private partners throughout the spotted owl’s range to share information, evaluate options, and incorporate valuable input during the revised plan’s development. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service accepted public comments on the draft revised plan for a 90-day period and received more than 11,700 comments. In April 2011, the agency released an updated Appendix C, relating to a new habitat modeling tool, for an additional 30-day public comment period and received about 20 public comments.

The revised recovery plan does not include recommendations from the 2008 plan for a new habitat conservation network of “Managed Owl Conservation Areas.” Rather than creating a potentially confusing new land classification, the plan identifies the scientific rationale and parameters for habitat protection and will revise the spotted owl’s designated critical habitat to reflect the latest scientific information about areas essential for the owl’s recovery. Identifying this habitat through the critical habitat process — as the ESA intended — will be more efficient and provide land managers and the public with additional opportunities for review and comment.

For a recovery timeline, Frequently Asked Questions, related information, and the recovery plan itself, visit www.fws.gov/oregonfwo.

America’s fish, wildlife and plant resources belong to all of us, and ensuring the health of imperiled species is a shared responsibility. The Service is working to actively engage conservation partners and the public in the search for improved and innovative ways to conserve and recover imperiled species. To learn more about the Service’s Endangered Species program, go to http://www.fws.gov/endangered/.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov. Connect with our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/usfws, follow our tweets at www.twitter.com/usfwshq, watch our YouTube Channel at http://www.youtube.com/usfws and download photos from our Flickr page at http://www.flickr.com/photos/usfwshq.

-FWS-

Stay tuned for the response, and my response to the response.

_____________

Oooooh, bonus!  Story in the Daily Astorian says saving the spotted owl habitat also ties up carbon, helping out with the fight against global warming.


Scapegoat season

June 21, 2011

Say what?

John Cole at Balloon Juice:

Grampa Simpson at it again:

In comments made over the weekend, Senator John McCain R-AZ., blamed illegal immigrants for the some wildfires that have raged across his state of Arizona.“There is substantial evidence that some of these fires have been caused by people who have crossed our border illegally,” McCain said Saturday at a press conference. “The answer to that part of the problem is to get a secure border.”’

The Senator from Arizona’s comments set off a wildfire of their own, as the Wallow Fire currently blazes across his state across 500,000 miles.

A forest service spokesman on the Wallow fire in Arizona says there’s no evidence that this specific fire was caused by immigrants.

I still can not believe that there are people who want to argue that there would have been no difference between the current Obama administration and a McCain/Palin reign of terror.

What’s going on there?


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