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Climate Out of Balance (icicle conquest - 5)
The weather we are having feels extreme, but I don't know that it is an indication of climate change. It is hard to say just which moment is the tipping point. But this summer sure was brutal around here. I went down to Atlanta for a family matter and when I got back, the northeast was in the midst of a heat wave that would have done Phoenix proud. It was about five thirty in the afternoon when I landed at White Plains and when I got off the plane, it felt like I had opened the door to the oven to check how the cookies were browning. Yipes. It was a one-two punch, what with the drought and all. The grass got crispy. Trees started to die. And at work, the traps I was monitoring were often pretty empty. I was working all over the state and it was bad. The entomologists all said it was the worst collecting year they'd ever seen. The weren't making wild claims. Scientists are cautious like that. If a bunch of them do tell you there is something to be worried about and you choose to ignore them, you are a fool. If you choose to ignore them based on what somebody who has a profit-based stake in the situation says, or what some mean and vain media pundit says, you are even more of a fool, you are being aggressively ignorant. You are sticking your fingers in your ears and going LA LA LA I CAN'T HEAR YOU at the very people who spend their lives carefully and thoughtfully and deliberately studying these issues. There's a hefty dose of narcissism in choosing your side based on noise and greed and ignoring the serious researchers. It's a matter of, I will ignore the data in order to get the answer I want. There's something terribly out of balance about only listening to a few cherry-picked "experts" who are not respected in their fields and who are probably cashing big fat checks from dubious sources. All of it is out of balance. It's out of balance as all hell. But this weather, the ice and snow this winter, the heat wave this summer, the extremes we have noticed world wide, it's hard to say just where the tipping point is. Where do conditions shift from being outliers to trend? That's a matter for the statisticians. And like all statistics, there are plenty of different ways to analyze. We're all blind men feeling up the same elephant. So this summer, in the heat, I didn't see as many or any of some of the species or even genera of my beloved bees. There were the honeybees, the ones you all fret about. There were bumblebees, big and fuzzy and sturdy. But plenty of the four-hundred odd other species that fly around these parts were scarce or absent. I don't think I saw a single Coelioxys the whole damn summer. I imagine they were out there, just greatly reduced. But what with development and stupid suburban sprawl everywhere, the habitat many organisms rely on is greatly reduced. So I think what you get are small pockets of diversity, with small populations of animals hanging on as best they can amidst the McMansions and the ecological wastelands that are lawns. (God I HATE lawns. If you must have one, at least do not dump weed killer or pesticide on it. At least let it be a diversity of plants, including those things you chose to call weeds. Don't grow a stupid monoculture to make a damn rug that is nothing but a display to your neighbors that you can conform and a sop to the real estate culture. Property values, property values. We chase after property values at the expense of every other kind of value...) So you have these tiny populations of bees or whatever, and they are chugging along in that strip of land by the exit ramp, or the swamp behind the highschool. And then you get a bump in conditions and it is too hot or too cold at the wrong time. And the populations crash, just goddamn auger in like a test plane that should have never left the runway. And back before development, there would have been some pockets that would have had milder conditions, and you would have had a few individuals to survive and breed up the numbers again. Now you don't. Diversity tanks. Those of us who care and know and love nature weep. The rest of humanity just watches Jersey Shore or goes to the mall or something. I don't know. I can't relate. Most people can't tell a bee from a wasp, let alone know that there are many kinds of bees. Most people think all insects are icky and would like to see them gone, never suspecting that if all the insects were gone, the humans would shortly follow them. We need them. We need the plants. It is not a matter of decoration. It is about survival. And people don't know it, can't seem to grasp it. LA LA LA, I'M NOT LISTENING. SHUT UP YOU ARE BRINGING ME DOWN, I WANT TO GO SHOPPING. LA LA LA. I don't know how this happened. I don't know what goes on in the schools, in the homes. It seems out of balance to me. Or maybe it is me. Maybe I am out of balance. But I am listening. And while I still have some retinal surface, I will be watching. My eyes will be wide open. Even if we're goi"O.K. I'll do what you do"
Once this Palouse Falls marmot: greeted me; checked me out (and determined that I was neither carrying nor sharing any trail mix); he decided to plop down on the edge of the canyon in the sun and see what I found so fascinating about staring at his personal waterfalls. What a character (I guess you could say, it takes one to know one -anthropomorphism at its best). Note: This little marmot "ham" has been so popular with flickr viewers that I have substituted, yet another photo of "him", in place of one of my more pedestrian "waterfalls only" photos. The Palouse River Canyon waterfalls are located somewhat near the small "towns" of Washtucna and Kahlotus - - in Eastern Washington. After driving some narrow winding two lane asphalt roads through rolling wheat country of the Palouse, a short dirt road takes you to Palouse Falls State Park. Picnic area and around 10 tent sites at the park. If you watch your step, there are interesting "rim" trails heading down and up river from the waterfalls. Recent heavy rains has the falls running high and heavy on March 29, 2009. There are some interesting rapids a mile upriver from the waterfalls and downriver, the Palouse River meets the Snake River, four or five miles downriver from the falls. These waterfalls are 200 feet high and were formed when the many ancient Lake Missoula floods scoured the entrire countryside, thousands of years ago. The size of the floods (especially the first one), were of unbelievable sizes. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- About 12,750 years ago, during the last glacial period in North America a glacier from what is now Canada, moved down and blocked the flow of the Clark Fork River, near what is now Sandpoint, Idaho. For perhaps 50 years, the flow of the river slowly filled a huge lake behind the glacial dam. The lake that was formed behind the glacial ice dam was HUGE (about half the size of Lake Michigan). When the lake level became high enough the ice dam “floated” and collapsed in a single moment, letting loose a flood of water of unimaginable size and power. The flood scoured Eastern Washington, all the way down the Columbia River gorge to the Pacific Ocean. Rocks and boulders, that could have come from nowhere else in North America, except the bedrock around Missoula, Montana were washed or floated on ice bergs, all the way across Eastern Washington and even up the Willamette River valley of Oregon. These “erratic” boulders can be seen in farmer’s fields to this day, as can gigantic ripple marks from the flood. This glacier advance, form dam, dam fail process would repeat itself over thousands of years. This means that there wasn’t just one gigantic flood but up to a couple dozen or more. The first one was the biggest, but the others were huge as well. The date for early man’s presence in the Americas keeps getting pushed back farther and farther in time, and I personally believe, that “man” was there to witness these great floods. Imagine that. Today if you view the Grand Coulee area of Eastern Washington; dry falls; Wallula Gap; or Palouse Falls - - you can only try to imagine the flood forces that formed this landscape. [Most information paraphrased from David Alt’s book: Glacial Lake Missoula and its humongous floods]. OldManTravels 2009 UPDATE: After visiting Palouse Falls, I decided to pull David Alt's book on the "Glacial Lake Missoula floods" from my book shelf, and reread it. Chapter 20 starting on page 123 specifically talks about how Palouse Falls was formed (entirely by the series of tremendous floods from Glacial Lake Missoula, during the ice age of about 12,500 years ago). The original course of the Palouse River was not down the lower channel and over the current falls. It wound around the town of Washtucna, and from there down the present day Washtucna Coulee toward the town of Kahlotus. The Palouse River has only occupied its lower course to the Snake River, following the first of the many big floods that occured and those floods are the one that formed the entire canyon, falls, and plunge pool, you and I see at Palouse Falls today. OMT
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