Thursday, May 9, 2019

New Logo for Stratum Group

Work level has been busy of late. While I was away from the office my associates put up our new sign with the new logo for Stratum Group. 


After 21 years Stratum Group has a new logo.


We also have a round version:


High snow clad peaks rising above the landscape is a fairly typical view over much of Washington State. We had some help with the logo concept from Amanda. I greatly appreciated her efforts to improve our look without completely abandoning the old logo:


The old logo retired after 21 years

I drew the old logo using autocad. It was a poor resolution figure that we just never got around to improving until Kim said it was time up our game.  

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Yakima Canyon Notes

I picked a glorious day to drive the Yakima Canyon route between Ellensburg and Selah. The first stop was to stretch the legs at a pull out above the river at the north end of the canyon. Some fellow travelers were taking in the road cut geology.  

The brown unit on the right is a basalt flow mixed with lake sediments and water. The black rock is the cleaner upper part of the flow. The whitish unit is lake sediments deposited on the basalt and then on the left the sequence begins to repeat.

I chatted with the folks at the exposure, they are big fans of http://www.nickzentner.com/central-rocks. Nick does have a nice video on the Yakima Canyon.    

Early spring leaf out along the river

Lines of talus. This feature is thought to be formed primarily by summer cloud-burst rain events (Kaatz, 2001). These types of events are not common, but Kaatz suggested that they are a primary geomorphic process in eastern Washington that had been perhaps under appreciated. 

Soil covered talus and debris flow exposed in road cut. 

Following the entrenched meander of the river 

Yellow bloom of Balsamorhiza sagittata 

Fold in the basalt - the river is cutting through the Yakima Fold Belt

Friday, April 19, 2019

Snow Geese on Samish and Skagit Flats Have Not Left Yet

After being on eastern and central Washington ventures, I wondered in the snow Geese had left the Skagit and Samish flats for their breeding grounds on Wrangel Island in the Russian Arctic. The question was readily answered as the main flock flew over me while I traversed the flats.    





Apparently the leave date varies for these birds (Stevick, 2017). A later leave date may present problems as the flock may do a heavy graze on fields that have been planted. In this case the field has not yet been planted and the field that the flock was leaving is a Fish and Wildlife holding.   

Monday, April 15, 2019

Rock Fall Momentum: An Example at Highway 397

The construction of Highway 397 was completed to provide a bypass around Kennewick to the east side of the city and to Finley. The route through the Horse Heaven Hills involved a number of cut and fills to achieve acceptable grades on the highway. One spot where there was excess cut material at the grade down to Zintel Canyon made for a nice illustration of momentum and rock fall run out. 

2004 image of cut and fill work on a portion of 397. 
Cut material was used to fill the side canyon the road was crossing.

2006 image of excess cut material deposited on the slope below the cut area
 
On the ground view looking up at slope

A boulder that traveled well beyond where most of the other rocks stopped

Several rocks traversed the entire slope to the valley bottom

Not a particularly complex concept, but a nice illustration of how the larger boulders with greater mass and thus initial momentum had enough energy to travel well beyond the distance of most of the smaller rocks that had been disposed of at the top of the slope. 

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Post Fire Ridge South of Kennewick Notes

In the summer of 2017, a fire burned through grass land south of Kennewick (scrub-steppe-fire-near-kennewick). The fire was contained by previous existing roads and fast action by local fire fighters. Another fire started in the same area in the summer of 2018. Both days were hot, but the 2018 fire coincided with high winds and the result was a larger fire that jumped across roads including a state highway (with an assist fro burning paper from an illegal dump). The fire burned up onto the ridge on the south edge of Kennewick.

I noted that risk in 2017.

If the wind had been blowing this slope would have burned and posed a threat to the homes on the ridge crest.



Burned over area from the 2018 fire

This fire was primarily a grass fire, but still destroyed 5 homes as well as several other buildings. 

I took a walk along the ridge crest to assess what the ground looks like 8 months later.


View of Zintel Canyon

Kennewick is a rapidly growing city and has been growing rapidly for many years. The commercial centers have shifted well away from the downtown and has pushed south past the initial line of hills south of Kennewick.
The plastic screening on the fence around the water reservoir was melted. 



Somehow the perimeter of the this small ant mound makes for better grass growth.

The south side of the ridge has bedrock just below the surface. This primarily the result of high wind exposure that strips off soil. But there is a hint of periodic water erosion as well. 

Rocky ground

Alignment of basalt rocks on slope




These stringers of rocky ground are more prevalent on longer and steeper slopes throughout eastern and central Washington. This south slope has barely developed these features. The features form from rather rare heavy summer down pours.

There is also an interesting anthropogenic feature on the south slope.


Metal buckets partially filled with rocks and attached to barbed wire

The buckets were formerly attached to wood fence posts to help keep them anchored in place on the rocky ground that was also subject to high winds. The fence posts and cattle are no more.

The burned over area took out the patches of sage brush that were beginning to reestablish on the ridge

Replacement power pole. Within the former sage area, the fire burned hotter and longer and took down power poles 

Not a fire related phenomenon, but erosion along dirt roads is an issue. These road follow a natural gas transmission line route and a high voltage electric transmission line. The roads are just north of the crest of the ridge and underlain by thick silt related to the ice age floods that covered portions of the ridge when flood waters briefly formed a huge lake above Wallula Gap (ice-age-floods-dem-and-lake-lewis)


The actions of gophers beneath the snow that covered this area over the winter could be seen.


These ridges of soil are a common feature in snowy areas, but it is the first time I have seen them here. Typically this area gets very little snow - its warmer than most other areas east of the Cascades, but also has very low precipitation. But this winter the snow accumulation was well over a foot and stayed on the ground for a long time.

I was curious if the snow melt caused any erosion on the steep north side of the ridge above the homes that have tucked up directly below.


Despite the complete burn off of vegetation and record snow I did not observe any surface water erosion on the steep slopes. These silt soils can hold a lot of water.

Life is coming back in the burn area. These silty soils and north aspect have all sorts of plants that go past my limited botanical knowledge base.

I did recognize lupine


An early bloomer



While water erosion is not present, wheels and wind erode deeply in these silt soils

I used to know the specific species of beetle, but it leaked out of my head. 
This beetle was on a mission

As noted above, the ridge was briefly covered by water during the larger ice age floods. Those floods carried blocks of ice from the north and rocks were embedded in the ice. Hence, ice age glacial erratics are present on the ridge.




The frequency and intensity of wildfires has increased in the scrub steppe of this area. So much so that the sage brush habitat has declined. The presence of cheat grass has increased the recurrence of fires and how burned areas recover.

Just outside the burn area, there is an intact sage covered landscape. It is surrounded by roads and development and thus the large fire was not able to get into this sage stand.