Thursday, December 11, 2014

Pacific Bucket Arrives

An interesting wave of warm air came up the canyon this morning, ahead of this big storm. So far, just a bit of rain and snow in the park today, but we anticipate a serious pouring tonight. There were light flurries in Mariposa Grove around noon today, but more impressive was (the near absence of visitors and) the strong upslope wind. Sugar Pines bent more than the sequoias did, both species of giants looking like large ships riding out big swells at sea. Clouds move from the south, wind comes from the West.

Some of the media hype makes reference to an Ark Storm [sic] but that's not at all what this is. That term has nothing to do with a big boat; look up ARkStorm and prepare to be unnerved. When it comes (and it will) it's going to cause more damage and destruction than the biggest urban earthquake might. California (and the US) could not possibly be ready for an event like what happened in 1861-62 when infrastructure and population were a fraction of what they are today.

This storm will help add to our surface water and snowpack, but it's relatively warm; snow level may only drop as low as 6000'. We've had a decent sequence of fall storms (like 'normal') but the snow has remained high. The Merced River (and our waterfalls) bumped up to above average flow after last week's weather, but it's back down to half of average volume now.

As a measure of the season's warmth (plus its wetness), the Merced Canyon below the park boundary is nice and green, with several wildflowers in bloom, including cranesbill, Indian paintbrush, tarweed, gumplant, and Shepherd's purse. There's a big patch of fiddleneck flowering unusually early near the Ferguson Slide bridge (west end), and a patch of goldenrod blooming in the El Portal Fire burn scar up the Foresta Road above El Portal.

We expect a dynamic night and tomorrow, especially in the burned areas...