Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Vernal Disease

After 4 dry winters, this wet season has brought on an explosion of spring flora at lower elevations west of the park boundary. Though the mature ponderosas west of the park are undergoing shocking mortality, the forbs are flaunting the virtues of an annual lifestyle. Poppies, redbud, popcorn flower, fiddlenecks, woodland star, baby blue-eyes, birdseye gilia, filaree and more are all at/near their maximum bloom. The Merced Canyon is lush and dazzling right now.

Last week was warm and dry, the snow line retreated uphill. We had a bit of rain yesterday and last night, also with a high snowline. Depending on the aspect, there's a lot of dry ground at 6000' already. All this melt has swollen the river early; the Merced has been running above average for several months now. Today it's at over 200% of average, and it shows the classic diurnal cycling of melting snow. This is exciting to have all this water flowing but it's early; the river and waterfalls shouldn't be so big for another month and a half. We are seeing some of May's runoff happening now, suggesting that mid-summer flows will be quite low. This projection could change, depending what the next two months bring us for cloud cover (sun is a more important snow-melter than warmth), cold and storms.

Despite green spring conditions down low, there's still abundant snow above 7000 feet. With yesterday's overcast numerous snow worms were observed on the surface at our ski area at Monroe Meadows. These are not a mythical creature; they're relatives of the better-known (though still mysterious) ice worms of Alaska (Mesenchytraeus). Like the ice worms, our winter annelids are seldom seen atop the snow.

March 28th marks the 202nd birthday of Guardian Galen Clark. Mr. Clark will again be appearing to share his tale at the Yosemite Theater this spring starting on April 7.

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