The never-ending fire season stems largely from a years-long drought that gripped much of California before easing in 2017. An estimated 129 million trees died from a lack of nutrients and infestations from bark beetles, leaving hillsides and forests dappled with kindling. The results have been grim. Record-setting fires have swept across the state, killing more than 100 people in two years. All told, nearly 900,000 acres burned in 2018 on land Cal Fire patrols. That’s more than triple the five-year average.
The biggest storm of the year packed the punch forecasters called for, walloping the Sierra Nevada with several feet of snow, and wreaking havoc on local highways and roads. Earlier in the week, the National Weather Service Office in Reno issued a blizzard warning for the greater Tahoe area, a rare report since 2008. Regional ski resorts, which had seen scant snow until recent storms swept through earlier this month, reported several feet of fresh snow in the past few days.
A simple web search will pull up nearly a million articles, videos and photos featuring Frank Gehrke. He’s no fashion icon like Kim Kardashian or a dogged politician like Gov. Jerry Brown. But he has broken a lot of news. … For 30 years, you might have seen Gehrke on TV, the guy trudging through snow with a measuring pole, talking about how deep the pack is each winter on the evening news. He retired from his post as the state’s chief snow surveyor in December, but he’s not letting go of his snowshoes and skis anytime soon.
Another Pacific storm was set to hit California on Wednesday, bringing a threat of mudslides to the site of the deadliest wildfire in state history and a rare blizzard warning in the Sierra Nevada. An evacuation warning was in place into Thursday morning for Pulga, a canyon community in Northern California. Its neighbor, the town of Paradise, was virtually incinerated two months ago by the Camp Fire that killed 86 people and destroyed nearly 15,000 homes.
The century-old PG&E—which employs 20,000 workers and is slated to play an integral role in California’s clean energy future—also has a checkered history and little goodwill to spare with the public. On Thursday, the PUC launched an investigation into the utility’s safety record and corporate structure, as Bay Area residents shouted, protested and urged commissioners not to give them a bailout.
California began 2019 with lower-than-average snowpack measurements — just 67 percent of the year-to-date average. Recent storms pushed that total to 90 percent as of Friday. With more precipitation on the horizon, forecasters predict snowpack measurements will “meet or exceed” the year-to-date average by the end of the week.
Climate models using SNOTEL data predict a decline in Western snowpack. … In December, University of Arizona researchers presented new on-the-ground findings supporting these predictions. … In parts of the West, annual snow mass has declined by 41 percent, and the snow season is 34 days shorter. Scripps Institute of Oceanography climatologist Amato Evan told the San Diego Union-Tribune that “climate change in the Western U.S. is not something we will see in the next 50 years. We can see it right now.”
Every winter, forest managers in places like California take a step back, analyze their budgets and plan on how to deal with the next fire season. But the government shutdown has shuttered a lot of those efforts, because federal lands like the U.S. Forest Service— which has been furloughed since December 22 — plays a huge role. For example, crews in Redwood National Park are “just sitting on their hands,” according to University of California fire advisor Lenya Quinn-Davidson in Humboldt County, because they can’t work on federal land during the shutdown.
The city of San Francisco is not standing down in California’s latest water war, joining a lawsuit against the state on Thursday to stop it from directing more of the Sierra Nevada’s cool, crisp flows to fish instead of people.
From Water | Food | Environment — The Blog of David Guy:
Every year my family looks forward to visiting Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park—where you not only experience the beautiful alpine meadow, but you can also take in one of the wonderful presentations at the Parsons Memorial Lodge.
Long accustomed to dealing with bad news “garbage” bears that become hooked on improperly stored trash at homes and businesses around Lake Tahoe, Nevada wildlife officials say they’re increasingly responding to a new kind of troublemaker they’ve started calling “drought” bears.
A Ghost Ships exhibit at the Tahoe Maritime Museum highlights some of the many underwater stories and secrets Lake Tahoe has harbored, and offers some hints about may what yet be found in her famously clear, cold depths. The exhibit runs through April 2015.
Five hundred million dollars in road and water-quality improvements are underway on the California side of Lake Tahoe. … The new roads are designed to collect storm water and filter out pollution in 30-by-60-foot sand pits.