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Spring Has Sprung

Away for a week, when I returned home my cherry trees had blossomed and set fruit, the persimmons were fully leafed out with 3-4 inches of new growth, the pomegranates were dense bushes again and the first-crop figs were already half-sized (figs bear a small crop in early July, then a larger one in September/October).

Meanwhile, a violently windy and rainy storm ripped off a lot of new growth from the oak tree, leaving it scattered on my deck, moving along to the Sierra Nevada to dump another two feet or so of new snow on the high peaks.

f1.8 @ 1/440 sec, ISO 20; 2017-04-08 14:33:41
iPhone 7 Plus + iPhone 7 Plus back dual camera 3.99mm f/1.8 @ 28mm equiv (4mm)

[low-res image for bot]

So much snow this year that many of my favorite haunts will be snowbound until nearly July—50 feet of snow at higher elevations, though a warm rain last month melted most snow at 7000' and below, where it has also been deep, making it all very misleading unless one goes up in elevation and sees the impressive depth. I spoke to the two caretakers at the Pine Creek Tungsten Mine, who told me that they think half the bighorn sheep died from avalanches this winter. Many deer died also, because their range was tightly restricted by the snow moving far lower than in past years. This also concentrated mountain lions with three individuals in the Pine Creek valley alone (highly unusual, but a dense food source will do that).

Flooding could be severe this year, but that depends heavily on whether we have a heat wave that could cause rapid melting and thus flooding (I would not want to live near Sacramento!). The Owens River in the Owens Valley is already flooding its banks in the middle areas and old dry and stagnant drainages that have not seen water in years may run deep for a while when LADWP starts making big water releases, as it has begun to do. This will kill bass in some areas from fast high volume water flows that bass cannot tolerate. The best thing would be for a long cool spring and early summer, for steady but not overly rapid melting.

In limited areas, some of that surplus overflows and then soaks in to replenish the underground aquifer. Pumping surplus water underground makes a lot more sense. Maybe someday.

The failure of California to build any new reservoirs for 30 years (as well as retiring others and the maintainance incompetence on display at Oroville) leads to the tragedy of letting most of the surplus flow out to sea even while central valley farmers still will see reduced water allotments. Low allotments require more underground pumping, which leads to land subsidence, which leads to all sorts of secondary problems—this has been happening in spades for years now. There are huge short and long term ramifications caused by subsidence, which has actually cut the capacity of the California Aqueduct to carry water by 20%, not to mention leaving some communities with no water source at all. Here’s a staggering figure: the land was sinking by two inches per month in the San Joaquin Valley last year, complicating designs for the Bullet Train Boondoggle. Everything has a price and its consequences, a fact ignored by those that malign the idea of new dams, new storage (of some kind) being desperately needed for high precipitation years like this one.

Last year, there was virtually no snow in this spot, below, about 8000' elevation. And this is relatively low, where warm March rains melted a lot of the snow and made it denser.

Snow on the descent near Kirkwood, CA
f2.8 @ 1/750 sec, ISO 20; 2017-03-30 12:12:58
iPhone 7 Plus + iPhone 7 Plus back dual camera 6.6mm f/2.8 @ 57mm equiv (6.6mm)

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