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Author Topic: Robert’s Crystal Range Project – Year 2, 2020  (Read 24633 times)

Robert

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Re: Robert’s Crystal Range Project – Year 2, 2020
« Reply #45 on: February 19, 2020, 05:24:52 PM »


As stated in my pervious posting, my weekly snow survey brought me to the Loon Lake area. From the upper portion of Chipmunk Bluff, the vista toward Tells Peak is impressive. The higher peaks are clothed with a good carpet of snow. There is still 5 feet (1.5 meters) of snow on the ground with a liquid equivalent of 25.32 inches (643.13 mm). To date, this is about 60% of average.



From the previous photograph, this is the view looking down the mountain. Chipmunk Bluff is a south-facing ridge and as you can see there is no snow.



In the distance to the southwest Robbs Peak, 6,686 feet (2,038 meters), is still clothed with snow. On Robbs Saddle, 5,659 feet (1,725 meters) – left side of photograph – there is only 16 inches (40.64 cm) of snow on the ground.



A good portion of Loon Lake is still frozen. The ice is still thick enough where there were a few brave ice fishermen out on the ice. There was a steady wind of 30 mph (13.41 m/s) making conditions feel very icy.



This is another view over Loon Lake to the east-southeast into the mountains and wilderness.
« Last Edit: February 19, 2020, 11:39:21 PM by Robert »
Robert Barnard
Sacramento & Placerville, Northern California, U.S.A.
All text and photos © Robert Barnard

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him stepto the music which he hears, however measured or far away.
- Henry David Thoreau

Hoy

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Re: Robert’s Crystal Range Project – Year 2, 2020
« Reply #46 on: February 19, 2020, 10:35:20 PM »
Robert,

it looks great although snow is lacking.

Here we have more than enough snow in the mountains. We have had bad weather for some days and the roads and even the railway across the mountains were closed. One of the main roads have been closed for several days, the last time that happened was in 1993. They are using dynamite to remove the extremely hard packed snow.

The railway is blocked:

https://gfx.nrk.no/OExeplINAwpvz16xcXatwQesDmqDmrXVMeS89Y7SImug.jpg
« Last Edit: February 19, 2020, 10:37:26 PM by Hoy »
Trond Hoy, gardening on the rainy west coast of Norway.

Robert

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Re: Robert’s Crystal Range Project – Year 2, 2020
« Reply #47 on: February 22, 2020, 07:26:42 PM »


As stated in the earlier postings, the remaining snow pack on the north facing slopes surrounding Loon Lake look impressive. However, the south facing exposures have little or no snow cover. The lack of snow cover provided plenty of opportunities to observe plants.

Tells Peak (upper right) is a dominant landmark in this area. Brown Mountain (center left) is white with snow. This dark brown basalt plug is also a prominent landmark.



Rock ferns were frequently seen in many of the snow free rock cervices. Myriopertis gracillima was one of the most common in this area.



Another commonly seen rock fern was Pellaea bridgesii.



Penstemon newberryi var. newberryi can appear distressed immediately after snow melt. Many of the P. newberryi observed must have been free of snow for some time, as they appeared to be in a photoactive phase. Cold temperatures and high levels of solar radiation can be very stressful for alpine plants. Alpine species have a number of physiological mechanisms to adjust to these conditions.



Eriogonum umbellatum var. torreyanum is a mat-forming variety of E. umbellatum. As one can see, the foliage is very attractive during cold weather when high concentrations of anthocyanins in the leaf tissues turn the leaves bright red.
Robert Barnard
Sacramento & Placerville, Northern California, U.S.A.
All text and photos © Robert Barnard

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him stepto the music which he hears, however measured or far away.
- Henry David Thoreau

Robert

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Re: Robert’s Crystal Range Project – Year 2, 2020
« Reply #48 on: February 22, 2020, 07:29:48 PM »


I was very pleased to find Eriogonum lobbii growing at this site. I traversed the site looking for other specimens but did not find any. I hope to return after complete snowmelt to record the range and disposition of this population at this site.



Sedum obtusatum var. obtusatum is another frequently seen species in seasonally dry cervices.



Francis Lake is located in a crease of the mountain surrounding Rocky Basin. Much of the lake was still covered by ice. When I was young, Francis Lake was a favorite destination, well hidden and a bit out of the way. It was a great place to go swimming on a hot summer day and there were plenty of fish to catch (before swimming!).



Another view of Francis Lake.

As you can see, there is not much snow on the south facing slopes.



In this photograph, Rocky Basin can be seen to the left.
Robert Barnard
Sacramento & Placerville, Northern California, U.S.A.
All text and photos © Robert Barnard

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him stepto the music which he hears, however measured or far away.
- Henry David Thoreau

Robert

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Re: Robert’s Crystal Range Project – Year 2, 2020
« Reply #49 on: February 22, 2020, 07:32:23 PM »


This is a good view of the metamorphic rock that dominates the ridges above Francis Lake. Juniperus grandis and Pinus jeffreyi are the prevailing coniferous species on this ridge.



Huckleberry Oak, Quercus vaciniifolia, thrives in the summer hot – dry environment of the south facing exposed ridges.



Arctostaphylos nevadensis thrives in the same environment. The polished chestnut bark of this species is quite striking as the plants creep over the surrounding boulders.



Ceanothus arcuatus is yet another low spreading species recurrently seen in this area.


Hi Trond,

We could certainly use some of your impressive precipitation totals and mountain snow. Here in Northern California, February has been extremely dry. There has been no precipitation at our Sacramento home during February. If the month ends without precipitation (which is forecasted to occur) this will be this driest February in the recorded weather history of Sacramento, back to about 1850. The “Little Ice Age” ended ~ 1850 and now we have moved into a new climatic phase. In light of climate change, our current dry weather event could be significant. The underlying patterns and impacts need to be studied closely. In addition, I see no indications that there will be a significant pattern change in the next 30 days. When dealing with chaotic nonlinear systems I guess anything is possible 30 days from now, however I believe it is important to make the attempt to improve forecasts of general long-term trends.


Yesterday’s high temperature at the Placerville farm was 76 F (24.4 C) and tied the record high for this date (21 February) set in 1988. More high temperature records may fall in the coming week.

I will have more to report in the next few days.
Robert Barnard
Sacramento & Placerville, Northern California, U.S.A.
All text and photos © Robert Barnard

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him stepto the music which he hears, however measured or far away.
- Henry David Thoreau

Hoy

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Re: Robert’s Crystal Range Project – Year 2, 2020
« Reply #50 on: February 25, 2020, 07:47:26 AM »
Beautiful vistas and nice plants, Robert. Although I suppose you wished it was more snow!

According to YR you will get some rain in a week (not much I'm afraid).

https://www.yr.no/place/United_States/California/Placerville/long.html?spr=eng

The weather pattern seems to change a little here now. The wind has turned more easterly which means colder weather and snow in the east part of the country. Here the strong wind has disappeared and the weather is calm but a little colder. Not much more sun though.

Not much snow in the hills here either!

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A common liverwort here is Frullania tamarisci.

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« Last Edit: February 26, 2020, 06:52:05 AM by Hoy »
Trond Hoy, gardening on the rainy west coast of Norway.

Robert

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Re: Robert’s Crystal Range Project – Year 2, 2020
« Reply #51 on: February 26, 2020, 05:50:25 AM »
Hi Trond,

Yes, we could use rain. It appears that there will be no precipitation in Sacramento this February. This will be a new record. Currently, our precipitation total to date at the farm stands at 13.46 inches (341.88 mm). This is 56% of average to date. At least we are slightly ahead (not by much) of the seasonal totals during the drought years of 1976-77. Around here there is talk of a “March Miracle” (a March precipitation miracle that has salvaged a dry fall-winter season. This has happened in the past), unfortunately I do not see any type of March Miracle this year. If anything, the dry weather pattern appears that it will continue. There are a number of feedbacks that will most likely increase the likelihood that our dry weather will persist for another 14 to 30 days. This does not mean that we will not get any precipitation; it just appears that precipitation will continue to be well below average.

In addition, our temperatures have been well above average. Today’s (25 February) high temperature at the farm in Placerville was 74 F (23.3 C). The record high for this date is 80 F (26.7 C), which was set in 1986. We will have a few more days of well above average temperatures before things cool down again – and a slight chance of precipitation in the Sierra Nevada.



I conducted my weekly snow survey yesterday. As you can see from this photograph there is not much snow in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. With the warm temperatures the snow, especially at the mid elevations, is almost gone and the remaining snow is melting quickly. I have to admit that I do not like drought conditions, however it is exciting for me to record and understand how the plants and the various ecosystems respond to the extreme conditions. I have witnessed a number of droughts in this part of California, however this is the first time I have been in the position to record detailed and specific data as to how plants and ecosystem respond. For me it is exciting and is keeping me very busy. I am not sure if this is a sick or healthy way to look at the situation.  ;D   :-\
Robert Barnard
Sacramento & Placerville, Northern California, U.S.A.
All text and photos © Robert Barnard

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him stepto the music which he hears, however measured or far away.
- Henry David Thoreau

Robert

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Re: Robert’s Crystal Range Project – Year 2, 2020
« Reply #52 on: February 27, 2020, 06:27:19 AM »


As I stated in my last posting, I conducted my weekly snow survey yesterday. There was very little snow at the mid-elevations (plus or minus 5,500 feet – 1,676 meters). What a difference between this season and last!



Last year I was first able to access the site on 18 April. It was necessary to hike several miles over the snow to gain access. This pond (pictured) was still frozen over with ice at this time and did not become ice-free until 1 May.  This year I easily drove to my usual staging site, which requires passage over a rocky dirt track, which is frequently flooded during snowmelt.

I keep detailed notes on water levels, flow rates, water temperatures, soil moisture content, pH, incoming solar radiation (short wave), OLR, snow cover, sublimation rates, and many other detailed atmospheric and environmental statistics for all of my study sites. Something as simple as dose-response curve can be used to create a very simple plant-environment interaction model, which can be amazingly useful. Extreme events as we are currently experiencing provide very useful data. So despite the fact that I do not like or want to see drought / anomalous heat events, the current conditions do offer a unique opportunity.



Many seeds are now germinating (mostly annual species). It will not be unusual to see this first batch of seedlings destroyed by a late snow event or extreme cold temperatures (generally well below 19 F,  -7.2 C). Additional seedling will continue to germinate as the season progresses, although individual species often respond differently.



Some species can respond very differently to early snowmelt. Pseudognaphalium cansecens has broken into active growth with the warm days, despite hard freezing temperatures every night. Other hardy species are still dormant with no signs of active growth or emergence.



Last year on 18 April, this site was completely flooded and surrounded by banks of snow. This year there is only this small area of standing water full of Juncus saximontanus coming into active growth.

Now to see what the month of March will offer. A storm is forecasted to arrive this weekend. With limited moisture, the storm may or may not produce precipitation on Saturday night – the last day of February. We will see if the February precipitation record is broken (i.e. no rain for the month). At least we will see cooler temperatures. In the mean time, my primitive forecasting model (not to be confused with the application of so-called “primitive equations” – horizontal motion, thermodynamic energy, etc.) does not forecast much change in the current dry pattern over its extended period (about 14 days, really stretching it 30 days).

Stay tuned.  :)
Robert Barnard
Sacramento & Placerville, Northern California, U.S.A.
All text and photos © Robert Barnard

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him stepto the music which he hears, however measured or far away.
- Henry David Thoreau

Hoy

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Re: Robert’s Crystal Range Project – Year 2, 2020
« Reply #53 on: February 28, 2020, 08:58:32 PM »
Got 2 inches of snow yesterday (Thursday) but it has melted now (Friday evening). This winter (December, January, February) has been the mildest ever. But it has also been one of the wettest in many parts of the country. In the mountains and in the north that means a lot of snow! The hydroelectric power is also very cheap now due to all the precipitation.

The down side is that main roads and railways have been closed for days due to blizzards. The next weeks seem to be better though.
Trond Hoy, gardening on the rainy west coast of Norway.

Robert

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Re: Robert’s Crystal Range Project – Year 2, 2020
« Reply #54 on: March 02, 2020, 05:23:27 AM »
Hi Trond,

Thank you for the climatic report. I am always interested!  8)

A cold but moisture starved storm moved through Northern California last night and today. We had a trace of precipitation at our Sacramento home, however the month of February pasted without measurable precipitation setting a new record for the driest February – no measurable precipitation. There was snowfall in the Sierra Nevada Mountains today (1 March). Although the new snow depths seemed impressive the mixing ratio was low, so the water content of the new snow was also very low. With another round of above average temperatures forecasted for this coming week, the new snow will quickly melt and sublimation rates will be relatively high. In addition, the older remaining snowpack will continue to melt.



I was in the Lyons Creek Basin the other day before the storm arrived ~ 6,600 feet (2,012 meters). The snow in the photograph may look impressive; however there was open ground without snow cover and the total snow depth was well below average for this date. Without snow cover a number of plant species were in active growth (it was still February!). I will report on some of my findings as I can. I will be conducting another snow survey tomorrow. This should prove to be interesting too.

Until then.
Robert Barnard
Sacramento & Placerville, Northern California, U.S.A.
All text and photos © Robert Barnard

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him stepto the music which he hears, however measured or far away.
- Henry David Thoreau

Robert

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Re: Robert’s Crystal Range Project – Year 2, 2020
« Reply #55 on: March 05, 2020, 06:14:03 AM »


If possible, I will try to fill you in on some of my activities over the past week. I have been very busy.

I will try to put my snow survey in the Lyons Creek basin into perspective and address the critical nature of our current water/precipitation situation. The last storm that pasted through our region a few days ago did nothing to alleviate the dry conditions in Northern California. Our current precipitation total stands at 13.47 inches (342.14 mm), which is 52% of average precipitation to date. Our current precipitation total is comparable to the totals during the extreme drought years of 1975-77. To put this in perspective, during our last multi-year drought, 2011-2015, the driest year was 2014-15 with a seasonal total of 20.82 inches (528.83 mm). Our current precipitation total is 65% of the 2014-15 season. The 1975-77 drought years were much drier than 2014-15.

As we stand right now we need the so-called “March (precipitation) Miracle”. Unfortunately, I see no change in the current weather pattern that will bring about a March Miracle. On the contrary, many facets of the current weather pattern appear to be self-reinforcing (feedback loops). The current dry weather pattern consisting of a split Jetstream, an unfavorable storm track out of the Gulf of Alaska, and cut-off lows developing off the Southern California coast currently seems very entrenched. We are not getting any help from the current Trade Wind pattern in the eastern Pacific, or the wind patterns and resulting Ekman drift along the coast of North America. Creating a simple model based on basic physical concepts such as hydrostatic balance (there is nothing static about the atmosphere or any rotating spherical fluid – liquid or gas – but the concept is still very useful), the pressure gradient force + Coriolis effect – geostrophic balance – both the ocean and the atmosphere, can go a long way toward creating a generalized forecasting model. There are some faint hints that something might change beyond day 7 in the current forecast, however the current dynamics do not support any major change into the next 7 to 14 day time period. Time is running out. Statistically, unless the precipitation pattern changes significantly in the next 14 days, the likelihood of continued dry weather increases dramatically.

Another critical issue is the current status of the Crystal Range / Crystal Basin hydrosphere. For example, on 29 February I recorded the flow depth on Lyons Creek at 15.0 cm. Last year the flow on 25 April was 66.5 cm, which decreased to 15.5 cm on 29 July. Currently there is not enough remaining snowpack to significantly increase this flow level. Unless a great deal of snow arrives soon, Lyons Creek will run dry in many locations during the summer season.

Precipitation totals over the next 30 to 60 days will be critical. The current prospects and projections do not look favorable, but things can change. If the present pattern continues, how unmanaged ecosystems respond to a 1975-77 drought pattern will be important to record and watch. Much has changed in the 40-plus years since 1975-77 (additional radiative forcing from GHGs is a big one). In addition, there are still indications that impacts from the 2011-2015 drought years are still playing-out.

I have additional photographs share of the plants and their response to the current conditions. The plants in unmanaged ecosystems are amazingly resilient and I have years of data and experience with them in this region. However, there do appear to be thresholds beyond which the system begins to become over stressed and potentially unstable. There is a still a great deal of work to do. Quantative empirical field data needs to concur with models and other possible explanations need to be examined before any preliminary conclusions can be reached.

Stay tuned.
« Last Edit: March 05, 2020, 06:17:18 AM by Robert »
Robert Barnard
Sacramento & Placerville, Northern California, U.S.A.
All text and photos © Robert Barnard

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him stepto the music which he hears, however measured or far away.
- Henry David Thoreau

Hoy

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Re: Robert’s Crystal Range Project – Year 2, 2020
« Reply #56 on: March 05, 2020, 07:51:55 AM »
Interesting to read your reports Robert, although a bit sad to hear of the drought.

It is the contrary here. Although it is the warmest winter (Dec-Feb) ever measured the glaciers have grown for the first time in 20 years due to all the snow. While the precipitation has fallen as rain in the lowland it has fallen as snow in the mountain. In the south the winter has been 5C warmer than the 1960-90 "normal". (A new "normal" 1990-2020 will be used from now on but it is not 5 degrees above the old one!)

The temperature is now more "normal" and thy even had a heavy snowfall in Oslo. The forecast for next 10 days also looks more like the "normal" than earlier this year.
Trond Hoy, gardening on the rainy west coast of Norway.

Hoy

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Re: Robert’s Crystal Range Project – Year 2, 2020
« Reply #57 on: March 05, 2020, 06:16:17 PM »
From the mountain cabin today.

A bit more snow at this time of the year than in many years.


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Trond Hoy, gardening on the rainy west coast of Norway.

Robert

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Re: Robert’s Crystal Range Project – Year 2, 2020
« Reply #58 on: March 06, 2020, 05:52:03 AM »
Hi Trond

The average temperatures were 5 C above average during the December-February period. This caught my attention!  :o  Climate scientist predicted the possibility of increased precipitation - snowfall in the polar / boreal regions of the Earth quite a few years ago. Glaciers gaining size was one possible outcome.

For our region, another climatic prediction was that the winter storm track would shift northward. Southern California and the Desert Southwest would become drier and the Pacific Northwest would become wetter. Our portion of Northern California is in some unknown zone in between. The last 10 years have been drier than the 36 year running average. It is too early to determine if this will be a continuing trend. The decadal cycles in the Pacific Ocean may be involved as well as other oceanic patterns. Sorting these events from trends caused by climate change is frequently very difficult to determine. I have a graphic I will share later.



On the last day of February (Lyons Creek Basin) there were germinating annual species in locations where the ground was free of snow cover. This is not unusual. Depending on changes in the snow cover, temperatures and the moisture content of the soil these seedlings may survive to bloom or fail to grow due to unfavorable conditions. Our high elevation annuals are very resilient. If this first crop of seedlings fails, additional seeds will germinate if conditions turn favorable again. In addition, a portion of the seed can remain dormant for more than one season and then germinate when favorable conditions return.

Trond,

The snow is beautiful and impressive.   8)

Some precipitation is forecasted to arrive in our region over the next few days. There will be snow in the Sierra Nevada. Unfortunately, this storm will not alleviate our drought conditions (precipitation amounts are forecasted to be low) and it is unlikely to be a prelude to a stormy wet pattern.
Robert Barnard
Sacramento & Placerville, Northern California, U.S.A.
All text and photos © Robert Barnard

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him stepto the music which he hears, however measured or far away.
- Henry David Thoreau

Hoy

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Re: Robert’s Crystal Range Project – Year 2, 2020
« Reply #59 on: March 06, 2020, 10:20:15 PM »
Robert, I would expect that the early seedlings would take some freezing?

Annuals are uncommon in the mountains here and they normally don't germinate early even when snow is lacking. The soil is usually frozen. But your sun has greater impact than ours!

Where I live at the coast the average temperature was 3.9 higher but in the eastern parts it was 5.7 C higher. Other places were between these figures.

A Scots Pine with witches broom - in fact the whole tree is a witches broom!

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Trond Hoy, gardening on the rainy west coast of Norway.

 


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