Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Reading the Clouds and into the Heat

Doing some explorations in the great expanses of central Nevada I enjoyed a clear starry night. However, some clouds arrived by early morning that showed classic instability. A bit surprising given the early morning. Having been cut off from radio, cell, and internet for a few days as well as being in a place where long range weather reports have to be a bit broad-stroke, I read the early morning clouds as problematic.

I cancelled my scheme of climbing (scramble/hike) another high peak and headed out to paved road and towards my rendezvous location well to the south.

Reading the car thermometer as I dropped into lower valleys to the south was big change from the high country and the highest temperature of my summer. The previous mark had been 105 in July.

I tolerate cold and wet (wet for one night) fairly well. But pitching camp on gravelly ground with no shade is like trying to sleep on a frying pan. So I went soft and went fro a pool and motel.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Notes on Zoning, Floods and Houston We Have a Problem

Plenty has been written and will be written and talked about regarding flooding in Houston associated with the recent hurricane. More will come from Irma as well. 

If you have not read Boomtown, Flood Town, take a gander to get a little perspective as well as some very informative interactive maps. The article includes what could be described as classic local planning dialog that goes a long way in explaining how people end up living in hazardous areas. One example was the former head of the flood control district in Houston in reference to scientists and conversationalists concerned about development in flood areas, "They have an agenda, their agenda to protect the environment overrides common sense". At least from afar, it seems that building 7,000 new homes in the floodways (even more in flood plains) around Houston since 2010 is not a common sense.

Federal policy, state policy and local policy all play a role in flood hazards. Federal flood policy includes funding flood works, funding disaster response and recovery and also subsidizes flood insurance. 

In order to qualify for flood insurance communities need to adopt regulations that ideally will reduce the number of claims over time and thus reduce the costs. New flood maps that determine rates and building areas are often met with protest. Houston did attempt to limit development in floodways, but the local political push back from development interests was very hard and effective at reducing controls of development in floodway areas. 

From the campaign opposing regulations in the floodways:

"the property owners in the floodway throughout the city, who have invested in these lands, and have expected our lands, our homes, our castles, to be vested as part of our future nest egg, our future investment and future retirement, we all have been summarily sacrificed. The city must revise this ordinance! The way things are going … to all the property owners in the “floodplain”; who knows … you could be next?"

A power point presentation laid out the argument they used: tax base loss, use a study that refutes the original studies (that is disparages the existing studies that back up the plan), property rights (ignoring the damage to other properties) and ague other solutions should be done not this one.  

Monday, September 4, 2017

Fear and Loathing of Ground Wasp Nests

Ground nesting wasps are a field work hazard I have noted previously (fall wasps). My latest sting adventure did give me a bit of a scare. My feet plowed through a nest as I was sliding down a slope though thick brush. The roar of wasps swarming around me was disconcerting and my escape route required reversing direction and crawling back up the steep slope through the brush hole I had come through. A couple of back slips while scrambling over the lip of the slope while surrounded by wasps is not a wildlife interaction that I would want to repeat.

One lesson I have learned is that after putting some distance from the nest removing clothes is a good idea. I had a least 10 wasps on my shirt. I squashed about 20 on my pants as fast as I could and got my pants off with only one additional sting where one got down below my waste.

My understanding is that in the process of stinging pheromones are released that stimulate more wasps to attack and sting. Squashing them of course releases the pheromones. That appeared to be verified when I got my pants back on and went to retrieve my shirt. Four wasps lifted of my shirt and went straight to my pant legs where I had smashed wasps.

A spare set of clothes would be a good scheme. I spent the rest of the slope investigation a bit paranoid. This may have been in part due to my watching Fortitude with a premise of parasitic wasps coming out of thawing woolly mammoths.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

A Cryptic Squirrel In Washington State

Glaucomys oregonensis is a new species of flying squirrel identified in western Washington. I like the term "cryptic" that is applied to a newly identified species that had not been previously recognized as a separate species.  The term cryptic species is also applied to Juniperus-maritima (Adams, 2007).  

The recognition of these cryptic species strongly suggests that they were separated from the species they were formerly thought to be for a much longer time. That separation may have to do with a longer period of cold climate along the west coast.