Wednesday, January 28, 2015

January Woolly Bear Catepillar

Washington State is enjoying San Diego-like weather. This has been particularly true above the lowlands where cold air tends to settle. On Monday, Bob and I investigated a debris flow which entailed making our way up a steep drainage to a ridge summit at 2,800 feet. It was a very steep climb.
During a short break we found ourselves in a small cloud of mosquitos at 2,000 feet. Just below the summit ridge we came across this woolly bear caterpillar.
Bob noted the woolly myths/folk tales ( This particular woolly was traveling northward indicative of a mild winter and the color pattern suggests a cold first half of winter a warm spell and a late short cold bit. Of course another way to take this since this woolly is a January woolly. As such due to the northward travel direction the spring will be warm but the coloring indicates that the first half of spring will be cold.

Busted myths aside, seeing a caterpillar at 2,800 feet in January where normally there would be snow is rather remarkable.

Another side effect of the warm weather is how thirsty I became from sweating heavily in January without carting a bottle of water.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Sam Crawford to Leave Whatcom County Council

I saved this picture from a post Sam Crawford put up a bit over a year ago. It captures what being on the Whatcom County Council could be like. This particular meeting had a big turn out for folks on an issue that was not on the Council agenda. The picture also captures the scale of work that was on the agenda with the thick Council packet in the foreground.

Whatcom County has the only part-time legislative county government in the State. The part time nature of the work presents some challenges to work outside the County Council work. Sam apparently has a work opportunity that would not allow his continued staying on the Council so he is leaving the Council before his term ends.

I worked with Sam for eight years. While our views of land use regulations differed and Sam was a bit trapped like many County leaders by the Growth Management Act, I found Sam to be a very good council member. He provided outstanding and very insightful leadership on environmental issues outside of the regulatory and growth management realm. For example he was a steadfast supporter of the Lake Whatcom Reconveyance (one-of-reconveyance-heroes-sam-Crawford) and he took bold positions in supporting some critical services not normally expected from GOPers (whatcom-county-mental-health-back-story).  Those two positions alone were legacy type votes where he put political tribalism aside and made Whatcom County a better place.


Monday, January 26, 2015

Bicentenial of the Geologic Map

People have been studying geology in some form for a very long time. But 2015 marks the 200th year of what is now a standard of geologic practice: the geology map. I got a close look at the first geology map back in 2012 and thought the bicentennial of William Smith's breakthrough accomplishment is worth another look.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Field Work: Incised Stream/Landslide Deposit

I recently spent some time slogging around a ravine with a small creek. The creek was incised down into a narrow channel with vertical sides of up to 5 feet over a 200-foot reach. Not a stable stream channel and thus suggesting  a change had taken place. 
Narrow stream with over steep banks

Stream has cut down under tree roots

Increased stream flow can cause this type of erosion, but in this case it is the stream breaking through a landslide deposit that had previously filled the ravine. The deep erosion channel was progressing up the stream from the lower end of the stream as the stream flowed down over the landslide deposit.

Buried wood in the landslide deposit exposed by stream erosion

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Deer Demographic Shifts

Our views of wild animals ranges widely. I will simply say that I was surprised when I saw this in an urban neighborhood.

The attraction to urban living for these two is evident. My understanding of deer biology is not deep enough to reach any conclusions as to feeding, but I will say my own personal values put my vegetable garden well above my tolerance for deer.

 My own anecdotal take is that the deer population in Bellingham has been increasing with deer presence in even the most urban locations including occasional passage through downtown. Deer are very common in Port Townsend (urban-herbivores). Orcas Island deer populations are having a visible impact on the landscape as the deer prefer Douglas fir to lodge pole pine (lodgepole-pine-on-orcas-island) (deer-doing-bonsai).

Elsewhere around the United States deer populations have surged in populated areas. A few communities have begun culling programs as deer populations within urban areas were exceeding the tolerance of the humans. For example the sand dune areas of northern Indiana had deer populations exceeding 300 per square mile. Remarkable change given that the deer population had been completely eliminated in the early 1900s.

Regardless of ones personal or scientific view of feeding deer, the deer population change is a reminder that nature is not static. While I noted the deer pressure on Douglas fir seedlings on Orcas, the presence of high deer populations in areas where they were not formerly present will likely lead to other changes.  

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Risk-Based Land Use Canada

New Westminster, BC and the Fraser River

I'm presenting a short talk on lessons learned or not on landslides at a Risk-Based Land Use Workshop. The workshop is associated with a Risk-based Land-use Guide: Safe Use of Land, Based on Hazard Risk Assessment (Geologic Survey of Canada Open File 7772). Being non Canadian, I am coming at this as a bit of an outsider which means I am learning a lot.

As for lessons I am pushing: landslide run out and LiDAR.

Debris flow run out, Whatcom County, Washington

LiDAR generated DEM of river valley and landslide deposit

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Deer Wrap Timber Sale Put on Hold

Yesterday's post HERE was in part to provide a wider context to the Seattle Times article (Timber sale on hold) on the proposed Deer Wrap timber sale that I knew was coming.

The article confirmed that the timber sale was put on hold pending further review. As I noted yesterday it is not possible to assess the potential landslide risk of the slide areas that appear in the LiDAR. That will take some on the ground work. It is not clear how much of that has or has not been done. The forest practice application did not include any geology reports.

The DNR does have some flexibility in this case. As the applicant DNR can easily decide to hold back a forest practice pending further review. In this case the public oversite has helped. Possibly the mark up of the LiDAR by a geologist helped.