I missed the historic heatwave in the Pacific Northwest as I am currently in Germany. I am not in the zone that has been impacted and terrible floods, but the event is 'close to home' so to speak. Dave Petley (HERE) noted a river in the west of Germany that broke out of its course and flowed into an open pit coal mine in Inden.
Saturday, July 17, 2021
Friday, July 9, 2021
Phillips and others (2021) have taken a rapid assessment run at global warming attribution of the 2021 Pacific Northwest heat event. A summary of key points is provided at the beginning of the paper. Two points stand out:
The observed temperatures were so extreme that they lie far outside the range of historically observed temperatures. This makes it hard to quantify with confidence how rare the event was. In the most realistic statistical analysis the event is estimated to be about a 1 in 1000 year event in today’s climate.
This simply emphasizes what most long-term Pacific Northwest residences felt - this event was very far from what anyone expects for northwest summers. For those that experienced the event, you have a story to tell. But this was more than a remarkable event for the Pacific Northwest; Christopher Burt author of Extreme Weather stated “This is the most anomalous regional extreme heat event to occur anywhere on Earth since temperature records began. Nothing can compare.” So for those that went through the event (I missed it), you can say you went through a world historic weather event.
There are two possible sources of this extreme jump in peak temperatures. The first is that this is a very low probability event, even in the current climate which already includes about 1.2°C of global warming -- the statistical equivalent of really bad luck, albeit aggravated by climate change. The second option is that nonlinear interactions in the climate have substantially increased the probability of such extreme heat, much beyond the gradual increase in heat extremes that has been observed up to now. We need to investigate the second possibility further, although we note the climate models do not show it. All numbers below assume that the heatwave was a very low probability event that was not caused by new nonlinearities.
Under the first possible source, that the event was a very low probability event, global warming additive attribution pushes the temperature upward some amount more. Phillips and others (2021) note that the observed annual maximum daily temperatures in the Pacific Northwest trend is approximately 2 times the global temperature trend. So regardless of the event being rare, our heatwave temperatures have been trending upward at a greater rate than the global temperature trend as well as our local temperature trend.
Tuesday, July 6, 2021
I missed the heat event in Washington as I am out of the area. So I have no direct observations about the event. From afar it was really remarkable to follow this event as it developed. The weather models and projections were alarming and I will say it caused a level of concern for friends and family. I will also add that I have spent a fair bit of time in the Fraser River canyon and it is is painful to think about what has happened in Lytton.
First of all, the weather prediction models were amazing. Models can be useful, but it really is remarkable when the models indicate something that has never happened and is an extremely rare event and the actual event happens as the models indicated.
Phillippe Papin via twitter.com/pppapin/ lays out the antecedent event in the tropics and how the extreme heat would be generated. Note the post was June 23.
There were a few statements made during the run up to and after the event that warrant repeating:
From the National Weather Service Seattle Office as the heat event was about to take place: "As there is no previous occurrence of the event we're experiencing in the local climatological record, it is somewhat disconcerting to have no analogy to work with." --- National Weather Service, Seattle on June 27, 2021.
This statement from Bob Henson and Jeff Masters clarifies what a big deal this heat event is: "Never in the century-plus history of world weather observation have so many all-time heat records fallen by such a large margin than in the past week’s historic heat wave in western North America. The only heat wave that compares is the great Dust Bowl heat wave of July 1936 in the U.S. Midwest and south-central Canada. But even that cannot compare to what happened in the Northwest U.S. and western Canada over the past week.", Bob Henson and Jeff Masters (worlds-most-extreme-heat-wave-in-modern-history)
Jeff Beradelli (Here) -- "To put climate extremes into perspective we measure against the average. The sigma is the standard deviation of a normal distribution of expected values. In this case the heat dome sigma max is 4.4 - that means it's outside of 99.99% of expected values or a 1/10,000+ chance.
Bumbaco, Dello and Bond (2013) describe of how most heat waves develop in the Pacific Northwest and that description is consistent with this latest event. They note "Current research suggests that the frequency and duration of heat waves are expected to increase in much of the United States, and analysis of the heat events reveals that a significant, increasing trend in the frequency of the nighttime events is already occurring in the Pacific Northwest. A heat wave occurred in 2009 that set all-time-record maximum temperatures in many locations and ranked as the second strongest daytime event and the longest nighttime event in the record."
This chart shows that since the 2013 above described paper there have been a number of additional heat evets of 20+ above normal, and this event blew way past what took place in 2009.
The attribution of this event to anthropogenic global warming (AGW) will be analyzed in detail. The attribution of AGW to extreme heat waves has been generally strong (Special Supplement to the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society Vol. 102, No. 1, January 2021).
Sunday, June 20, 2021
Foster Creek drains the north side of the Waterville Plateau. The creek has three forks that join together a few miles south of Bridgeport before discharging to the Columbia River just below Chief Joseph Dam and just east of Bridgeport. State Highway 17 follows the East Fork up to the glacier scoured upper northern part of the plateau. As the creek descends down for the glacial scoured upper plateau it descends through an area of glacial lake sediments deposited in the valley from the ice dammed Columbia River Martin (2001). The fine silts are subject to rapid erosion and over a stretch of the valley has formed a badland area (mini-badland-southeast-of-bridgeport).
When the creek reaches the glacial lake sediments, the creek is subject to forming deeply incised arroyos. Blanton (2004) discusses the complexity of arroyo development and riparian management along the West Fork of Foster Creek.
One of the issues of arroyo development is the deeply incised stream lowers the water table along the creek except in the bottom of the arroyo. That reduces the width of the riparian zone and the beneficial habitat (note that the arroyo banks have beneficial habitats as well such as burrows for cliff swallows). The lower water table and narrowed stream channel also impacts down stream sections of the creek. More intense peak flows during storm events or snow melts can be one result or the reverse: a loss of storage in the areas of the lowered water table may mean lower flows in the dry periods.
An approach to back up the water is to copy something that has been missing in the watershed. Jay guided me to a project on Foster Creek that is being used throughout the west -- a beaver dam analog.
Thursday, June 17, 2021
Aerial views are part of my routine 'tool box' as a geologist. I use aerial photographs on a nearly daily basis for multiple reasons. Other aerial imagery is utilized as well - lidar, infrared and sometimes radar imagery. I enjoy this type of work and a there is a sense of discovery when viewing aerials.
I had previously seen the below feature when reviewing historic aerials for a project, and hence, when I got a view of it while flying out of Seattle knew exactly what it was.
Wednesday, June 9, 2021
My preference even for long trips is to drive. But some trips do require flying. Initially the landscape is familiar and then becomes semi familiar. Looking down at the Lost River Range of Idaho (slight familiarity) I spotted a large landslide.
Schaller (1991) analyzed this slide and obtained a radiocarbon date of 2,420 bp. However, Krueger (2014) utilizing Lake Carlson on the upper part of the slide for past climate analysis got an age date on the upper slide of 9,054 years. It is possible that the slide has had multiple periods of movement that would explain a younger age at the toe of the slide. The slide is located within an active seismic area - the Borah Peak Earthquake ruptured the ground over 21-mile long fault scarp on the opposite side of the Lost Creek Range.
The trip was a long trip that involved 2 bus rides, 5 planes and 3 trains to get to the destination, but glad to have made it.
Saturday, June 5, 2021
Quarries for aggregate go through various phases on a local basis. Once a group of quarries gets established and the market supply is being met there is a period of stasis. But eventually the quarries exhaust the resource and new supplies must be found. Skagit County is going through one of those supply shifts and the disruption that goes with that change goskagit.com/opposition-continues-over-skagit-county-mining-proposals. The three proposed mine sites each has particular issues and regulatory status with the issues described in the article. Besides the three mines in the article another mine is proposed to expand, but apparently no significant objections have arisen yet and a fifth mine is in the early stages of the permit process.
The State Growth Management Act includes language regarding resource land protection. Resource lands typically include farm land, forest land and mineral resources. The approach that counties have taken on resource land protection varies. For mineral lands, the protection limits the land use that can take place on the or near the areas of mineral resources with the idea avoiding loosing the resource to being covered homes.
An example of an excellent source of sand and gravel lost to use is Mercer Island in Lake Washington smack in the middle of an area of high demand in King County.