Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Commute de Smoke

Feel free to look directly at the sun

I've not been in the mood to ride much other than to and from home to work and back again. The air is pretty bad and tonight I had to close my mouth and breathe through my nose to avoid gulping down soot. Needless to say, it was a slow ride. The sidewalks and deck were covered with soot and burned pine needles wafted over by the mushroom cloud shaped smoke updrafts.

The Albuquerque Journal has great pictures of the fire if you subscribe. I have taken a few, but lately feel like taking more pictures amounts to dancing at a mass funeral of our trees. The Thompson Ridge Fire has come over the top of Redondo and has worked its way towards the meadows in the Valles Caldera. (As of 6/5/13 am, it has doubled in size again.) Its something to mourn or watch in terrible frustration. Certainly not to mindlessly snap photos thereof. Nonetheless, here are a few I took with the portable camera once I was off DOE land on my commute home.

 Douglas-fir sample from the Southwest has annual tree rings dating back to the year 1527. The narrowing of the rings that formed from the 1560s through the 1590s indicates that the tree grew little during the 16th century megadrought. (Copyright Daniel Griffin, permission to use the illustration granted by Park Williams. Illustration and figure caption from Ambrosiano, Puckett, and Jensen's review of Williams et al, Temperature as a Potent Driver of Regional Forest Drought Stress and Tree Mortality, Nature Climate Change 3, March 2013. The review is available here if you can't get the Nature paper.)

We still struggle to live within nature's limits. Ma Nature is fragile enough in these parts. In another of his excellent articles, John Fleck of the Albuquerque Journal tells us that in the last three years, rainfall at Bandelier National Monument has been 53,56, and 24% of the long term average. With climate model predictions that today's drought might be tomorrow's normal, we might as well enjoy the trees while we got 'em. They may be gone soon enough. In this recent report on the potential future of tree die-off in the Southwest, a consortium of scientists (including LANL's own Park Williams) at the U of Arizona Laboratory for Tree Ring Research notes that our native trees do best with a combination of high winter precipitation and cool summers. We are not headed in that direction.
Riding past Los Alamos Medical Center yesterday afternoon

Up the hill onto North Mesa tonight

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