FIRE

On July 31, 2015, California’s Governor, Jerry Brown issued a Proclamation of a State of Emergency because of the wildfires burning in the state. I’ve decided to post that proclamation in full because it sums up the wildfire situation well. This is Governor Brown’s second state of emergency proclamation this year.

PROCLAMATION OF A STATE OF EMERGENCY

WHEREAS since June 17, 2015, a series of wildfires has started in the Counties of Butte, El Dorado, Humboldt, Lake, Madera, Napa, Nevada, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Diego, Shasta, Solano, Tulare, Tuolumne, and Yolo. These fires have burned thousands of acres of land and continue to burn; and

WHEREAS these fires have destroyed structures and continue to threaten hundreds of homes, necessitating the evacuation of residents; and

WHEREAS the fires have damaged and continue to threaten critical infrastructure and have forced the closure of major highways and local roads; and

WHEREAS on January 17, 2014, I declared a State of Emergency based on the extreme drought that has now persisted in the State for four years; and

WHEREAS the drought conditions have increased the State’s risk of wildfires, caused millions of trees to die, and increased the severity and spread of the fires throughout the State; and

WHEREAS extreme weather conditions, lightning storms, and high temperatures have increased the risk and severity of fires throughout the State; and

WHEREAS as a result of the numerous fires burning throughout the State, combined with the drought conditions, California’s air quality has significantly deteriorated and impacted public health; and

WHEREAS Federal Fire Management Assistance Grants have been requested and approved for the Wragg Fire burning in the Counties of Napa, Solano, and Yolo and for the North Fire burning in the County of San Bernardino; and

WHEREAS by virtue of the number of fires burning simultaneously, the State’s resources have been significantly committed such that the State will seek the assistance and resources of other states, as necessary, pursuant to the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, Public Law 104-321, and sections 179 through 179.9 of the California Government Code; and

WHEREAS the circumstances of these wildfires, by reason of their magnitude, are or are likely to be beyond the control of the services, personnel, equipment, and facilities of any single local government and require the combined forces of a mutual aid region or regions to combat; and

WHEREAS under the provisions of section 8558(b) of the California Government Code, I find that conditions of extreme peril to the safety of persons and property exists in California due to these wildfires.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, EDMUND G. BROWN JR., Governor of the State of California, in accordance with the authority vested in me by the State Constitution and statutes, including the California Emergency Services Act, and in particular, section 8625 of the California Government Code, HEREBY PROCLAIM A STATE OF EMERGENCY to exist in the State of California due to the wildfires burning throughout the State.

IT IS HEREBY ORDERED THAT:

1. All agencies of the state government shall utilize and employ state personnel, equipment, and facilities for the performance of any and all activities consistent with the direction of the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services and the State Emergency Plan. Also, all citizens are to heed the advice of emergency officials with regard to this emergency in order to protect their safety.

2. The California National Guard shall mobilize under California Military and Veterans Code section 146 (mobilization in case of catastrophic fires) to support disaster response and relief efforts and coordinate with all relevant state agencies, including the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, and all relevant state and local emergency responders and law enforcement within the impacted areas.

I FURTHER DIRECT that as soon as hereafter possible, this proclamation be filed in the Office of the Secretary of State and that widespread publicity and notice be given of this proclamation.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Great Seal of the State of California to be affixed this 31st day of July 2015.

__________________________

EDMUND G. BROWN JR.

Governor of California

ATTEST:

__________________________

ALEX PADILLA

Secretary of State

The current wildfire map of California can change rapidly. This is the latest.

The statistics for the current year are telling.

Wildfires are up over 1,200 compared to last year and over 1,300 compared to the five year average. The fact that total acreage is down might be due to increased personnel and planning for an early start of the fire season and it just might be no longer true since the Rocky Fire in Lake County, one county west of Mendocino County, has exploded to over 46,000 acres. We have a long ways to go before fire season is over if it ever is.

California’s wildfire season typically peaks in the summer and into the early fall, with the most intense fires occurring in late September and October. However, fire experts say that since 2000, the number of days considered vulnerable to fire outbreaks has been growing. Today, California’s fire season is about 70 days longer compared to 40 years ago, Weather.com says. More than half of the 20 largest wildfires in the state’s history have occurred in the past 15 years.

But California isn’t the only state that’s in bad shape.

The States of Washington and Oregon are also having a bad time.

The flames sent a terrifying message: Normally soggy Washington — nicknamed the Evergreen State for good reason and home to the wettest town in the Lower 48 — has never been hotter or drier at this point in the year, officials say, and the fire season has never begun so early or so fiercely.

“It’s more reminiscent of Southern California and the brush fires fed by the Santa Ana winds,” said Peter Goldmark, head of the state Department of Natural Resources. “Now it’s up here in the state of Washington, where this kind of behavior is unseen. It’s heralding a radical change in the kinds of fires we’re going to see.”

And what does happen when a rainforest burns?

The wettest rainforest in the continental United States had gone up in flames and the smoke was so thick, so blanketing, that you could see it miles away. Deep in Washington’s Olympic National Park, the aptly named Paradise Fire, undaunted by the dampness of it all, was eating the forest alive and destroying an ecological Eden.

The old-growth rainforest that stretches across the western valleys of the Olympic National Park is its crown jewel. As UNESCO wrote in recognizing the park as a World Heritage Site, it includes “the best example of intact and protected temperate rainforest in the Pacific Northwest.” In those river valleys, annual rainfall is measured not in inches but in feet, and it’s the wettest place in the continental United States. There you will find living giants: a Sitka spruce more than 1,000 years old; Douglas fir more than 300 feet tall; mountain hemlock at 150 feet; yellow cedars that are nearly 12 feet in diameter; and a western red cedar whose circumference is more than 60 feet.

For firefighters, combating such a blaze in an old-growth rainforest with steep hills is, at best, an impossibly dangerous business. Large trees are “falling down regularly,” firefighter Dave Felsen told the Seattle Times. “You can hear cracking and you try to move, but it’s so thick in there that there is no escape route if something is coming at you.”

But it is Alaska where things are grim.

Every day they update the numbers. And every day, the number of acres burned in Alaska seems to leap higher yet again.

As of Monday, it is at 4,447,182.2 acres, according to the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center — a total that puts the 2015 wildfire season in sixth place overall among worst seasons on record. It’s very likely to move into fifth place by Tuesday — and it’s still just mid-July. There is a long way to go.

According to the Center, 2015 is now well ahead of the rate of burn seen in the worst year ever, 2004, when 6,590,140 acres burned in 701 fires. “Fire acreage totals are more than 14 days ahead of 2004,” the agency notes. In other words, and although the situation could still change, we may be watching the unfolding of the worst year ever recorded.

Let’s not leave Canada out of this post.

Wildfire danger throughout Western Canada is “very high,” according to the Canadian Wildland Fire Information System (CWFIS), with the majority of fire activity taking place in three provinces: Saskatchewan, British Columbia, and Alberta. “Nationally,” the CWFIS’ most recent report reads, “fire activity has increased dramatically and is now well above average for this time of year.”

According to Mashable, more than 13,000 people in the province of Saskatchewan have been evacuated because of the fires, making it the largest wildfire evacuation in history for the relatively underpopulated province. The province’s premier, Brad Wall, told CBC News that the fires are “unprecedented” for the region, noting that the area currently burning is about 10 times the average. As of Monday, there were 112 fires burning across the province.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the wildfires up north are causing a “tremendous amount of smoke,” and it hasn’t stopped at the border: smoke from Canada’s wildfires has been seen across Midwest and as far south as North Carolina, bringing a haze to the sky and turning sunsets fiery red. But the smoke also brings dangerous fine particles, which can diminish air quality and, in high concentrations, pose a public health threat.

Smoke drifting south from wildfires burning in Canada clouds the skyline last week in Denver.

David Zalubowski/AP

Smoke conditions on June 10, 2015.

A hazy, polluted Minneapolis skyline from Ridgeway Parkway Park on Monday. (Jeff Wheeler/Star Tribune via AP)

Tiny particles in smoke from wildfires may increase the danger of acute heart problems, including cardiac arrest and ischemic heart disease, especially among vulnerable people, according to a new study published today in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

The findings are especially worrisome as heavy smoke generated from wildfires in Alaska and Canada continues to drift southward. Smoke already has made its way down into the northern United States, including Montana, the Central Plains, the Upper Mississippi Valley, and into the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast.

“During bushfires there is widespread and huge quantities of smoke, and people are exposed,” said Anjali Haikerwal, study author and a doctoral candidate at the school of public health and preventive medicine at Monash University in Melbourne. “These particulates can be easily inhaled deep into the lungs. These particles may act as a trigger factor for acute cardiovascular health events.”

Then there is that other problem! What does happens when wildfire meets permafrost in Alaska and Canada?

As Sam Harrel, spokesperson for the Alaska Fire Service, puts it in understated terms, “We are on a track for a lot of acres this year.” But the real problem is that the fires could accelerate the melting of permafrost, a layer of ground that’s never supposed to get above freezing. And permafrost is one of Earth’s great storehouses of carbon. Release it, and you speed up climate change.

What ties all that together is “duff,” the thick layer of moss, twigs, needles, and other living or once-living material that blankets the forest floor. Duff can be up to a foot thick, and it provides the insulation that keeps permafrost cold through even the sunny days of summer. But when fire comes along, duff becomes fuel. Burning duff releases carbon too, of course, but losing it is like ripping the insulation out of a refrigerator.What ties all that together is “duff,” the thick layer of moss, twigs, needles, and other living or once-living material that blankets the forest floor. Duff can be up to a foot thick, and it provides the insulation that keeps permafrost cold through even the sunny days of summer. But when fire comes along, duff becomes fuel. Burning duff releases carbon too, of course, but losing it is like ripping the insulation out of a refrigerator.

It’s also a particularly bad time for the permafrost to lose insulation. Last year was Alaska’s hottest ever recorded. Alaska has warmed twice as fast as other states. Alaskans are already worried about how melting permafrost will damage the state’s transportation infrastructure—permafrost is supposed to be permanent, and northerners build roads on it. It’s also a unique habitat for animals and plants.

Losing permafrost wouldn’t just affect Alaskans and Canadians, though. All the permafrost in the world currently stores an estimated 1.4 trillion tons of carbon, twice the amount in the atmosphere. What happens if all that carbon gets released? “We don’t know the answer to that,” says Jon O’Donnell, an ecologist with the National Park Service’s Arctic Network.

 

Globel Fire Maps

On Earth, something is always burning: wildfires started by lightning or people, controlled agricultural fires, or fossil fuels. When anything made out of carbon — whether it’s vegetation, gasoline, or coal — burns completely, the only end products are carbon dioxide and water vapor. But in most situations, burning is not complete, and fires or burning fossil fuels produce a mixture of gases, including carbon dioxide, methane, and carbon monoxide.

That’s a lot of fire going on people. Think we can handle it?

I have purposely left out all of the dramatic fire pictures and the stories of lost property and death that accompany most fire related stories. This is just an unemotional post that shows that the planet is on fire.

 

When cyclones tear up Oklahoma and hurricanes swamp Alabama and wildfires scorch Texas, you come to us, the rest of the country, for billions of dollars to recover. And the damage that your polluters and deniers are doing doesn’t just hit Oklahoma and Alabama and Texas. It hits Rhode Island with floods and storms.

Sheldon Whitehouse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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When Climate Change Hits Close to Home

(U.S. Forest Service)

This is going to happen more and more as the planet warms. On Sunday my wife answered the phone and it was my mother saying that they were ordered to evacuate her home because of an approaching wildfire. My sister who cares for her was away on a short vacation and luckily my brother was there to help. I was not home at the time of the call and received the news when I got back. My sister was trying to keep everyone updated using Facebook and her resources in the area. I was trying to keep up to date by checking various news reports on the internet. My mother lives in Wofford Heights near Lake Isabella which is in Kern County which is in California. It is the most southern part of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. My parents retired there many years ago and I have many fond memories of the area. Below is the fire map and the approximate location indicated by the red arrow. The burned over area is in pink.

 

 

 

On Monday morning I noticed a report that certain people living on the east side of the road were allowed to return home. That seemed to apply to my mother’s home. I called and my brother answered. He said that he had a hard time convincing the sheriff to let them return but finally succeeded. My mother had had a hard time sleeping in his trailer with a dog and cat on her so she decided she wanted to sleep in her own bed and that was that. My brother related seeing the fire come over the last ridge between the fire and the house. He was going to evacuate again when a massive jet came over and dropped a load of whatever they use today and it pretty much put out the fire with helicopter water drops putting out the rest. 

Currently the fire is at 2,646 acres burned with 85% containment. The cost of that containment is at 7.5 million dollars. All evacuations have been lifted.

All of the reports that I saw had a version of this sentence….”quickly spread as it chewed through unseasonably dry underbrush, timber and grass.” That sentence is going to be used many times this year. The news of the Shirley Fire as it was called actually hit many of my climate change websites. This Grist article explaining the coasts of fighting wildfires is an example.

“Forest Service has made plans to beef up its force of over 100 aircraft and 10,000 firefighters in preparation for what it said in a statement “is shaping up to be a catastrophic fire season…But the real catastrophe has been years in the making: Federal fire records and budget data show that the U.S. wildfire response system is chronically and severely underfunded, even as fires – especially the biggest “mega-fires” – grow larger and more expensive.”

The total acres burned nationwide in an average year jumped from 2.7 million over the period 1984-1993, to 7.3 million in 2004-13. And of the top 10 biggest burn years on record, nine have happened since 2000″

“Meanwhile, dry conditions are also lengthening the season in which large fires occur, according to analysis by fire ecologist Anthony Westerling of the University of California-Merced. In 2006, Westerling counted instances of fires greater than 1,000 acres in Western states; the study, published in Science, found that “large wildfire activity increased suddenly and markedly in the mid-1980s.” Updated data provided by Westerling to Climate Desk shows that trend continued in the last decade:”

“Driving those trends are more sustained droughts that leave forests bone-dry and higher temperatures that melt snowpack earlier in the year. Both of those factors are at play this year, especially in the fire-prone West. California’s snowpack was at record lows this winter, and Covington says forest conditions across the region “are dominated by drought.”

“While climate conditions and urban development drive up the average cost of putting out a fire, Interior’s Douglas says his agency is still able to extinguish the majority of fires while they’re relatively small. The biggest concern, from a budgetary perspective, is the biggest 0.5 percent of fires, which according to Interior account for about 30 percent of total firefighting costs. While the average per-fire cost is now around $30,000, a handful of massive fires cost orders of magnitude more: In 2012 several dozen fires pushed into the multimillion-dollar range, with the year’s most expensive, the Chips Fire in California, reaching the stratospheric height of $53 million.”

 

Another interesting story on wildfires in California is this National Geographic article with the title, “Overwhelming Cause of California Wildfires: Humans”.

Update: Rim Fire

Don Bartletti, Los Angeles Times / August 25, 2013

A week ago last Friday I was at the Mendocino Coast Photography Gallery talking to Ron LeValley about getting a ride for a pending pelagic trip when a couple from Sonora, CA came in. During a conversation with Ron they said they were glad to get away from the smoke which at times could be bad. I asked which fire they were talking about and they said the Rim Fire. Back on August 25th I had blogged about the Rim Fire and it’s effect on San Francisco. I hadn’t thought about that fire for some time but for the people who lived near it, the effects on them continued. 

According to this website, the current statistics for the fire are:

Acres Burned: 257 135 (402 square miles) Structures Threatened: 0
Containment: 95% Residences Destroyed: 11
Fire Start Date: August 17 2013 Commercial Property Destroyed: 3
Fire Cause: Under Investigation Outbuildings Destroyed: 98
Cost to date: $127.2 million Injuries: 10
Total Personnel 196
Fire Update
The Rim fire is now being managed by the Groveland and Mi Wuk Ranger Districts on the Stanislaus National Forest. Minimal fire spread is expected in the next 24 hours and fire behavior continues to be creeping and smoldering. There is one 800-1000 acre pocket of vegetation near Kibbie Lake that remains with a potential to burn. Resources will continue to patrol the fire perimeter and mop-up any heat that poses a threat to containment lines while continuing to implement the suppression repair plan. Commercial recreation along the Tuolumne and Clavey Rivers continues to be impacted. The developed areas of Hetch-Hetchy remain evacuated.

Final containment is estimated  to be on October 27th. While they say the cause of the fire is still under investigation, it has been reported that a hunter’s illegal fire getting out of control was the cause. The Rim Fire is the third largest recorded California wildfire.

What happens after a fire of this magnitude? This article reports: “Scientists are assessing the damage from a massive wildfire burning around Yosemite National Park, laying plans to protect habitat and waterways as the fall rainy season approaches.

Members of the federal Burned Area Emergency Response team were hiking the rugged Sierra Nevada terrain Saturday even as thousands of firefighters still were battling the four-week-old blaze, now the third-largest wildfire in modern California history.

Federal officials have amassed a team of 50 scientists, more than twice what is usually deployed to assess wildfire damage. With so many people assigned to the job, they hope to have a preliminary report ready in two weeks so remediation can start before the first storms, Alex Janicki, the Stanislaus National Forest BAER response coordinator, said.”

Team members are working to identify areas at the highest risk for erosion into streams, the Tuolumne River and the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, San Francisco’s famously pure water supply.”

“About 5 square miles of the burned area is in the watershed of the municipal reservoir serving 2.8 million people – the only one in a national park.

“That’s 5 square miles of watershed with very steep slopes,” Janicki said “We are going to need some engineering to protect them.”

So far the water remains clear despite falling ash, and the city water utility has a six month supply in reservoirs closer to the Bay Area.”

This article explains how new mapping technology may have saved the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. “The planes were easy to assemble, but the larger problem was knowing where to drop the payload. According to Russ Johnson, disaster response chief for a mapping company called Esri, firefighters usually target fires as they cross ridges, allowing the retardant will flow downhill and cover more ground. But the threat to the water supply had forced their hand. The fire had to be stopped on a relatively flat plane, and even minor changes in slope would make an immense difference in the payload’s effect on the fire. Suddenly, firefighters needed detailed meter-to-meter elevation data on a patch of land that no one had cared about just hours before. “You have very little room for error,” Johnson says, “and the consequences can be really devastating.”

This Los Angeles Times article titled, “Risky measures to save big trees from Rim fire worked”,  documents the plan to save the Tuolumne and Merced groves of giant sequoia, and the Rockefeller grove, one of the last stands of giant sugar pine untouched by logging.

On Aug. 30, a Friday, a group of firefighters gathered at the lookout to launch a risky plan to protect some of Earth’s oldest and largest living organisms.

Even Ben Jacobs, the division commander, was nervous.

Jacobs, 55, had fought wildfires and managed prescribed burns at Sequoia Kings Canyon National Park. But he had seen crews take chances earlier in the week trying to save family camps and businesses. If they’d gambled for buildings, what would they do for living giants?

He also worried that if crews lost control of the backfires they were about to ignite, flames could spread for miles, even as far as the Merced River, west of the park’s famous valley.

“Listen,” he said. “Nobody wants to be the guy who burned down Yosemite.”

 

State of Emergency for San Francisco

Just last week I wrote about California and Climate Change. In that post it was noted that in California, “Wildfires: The number of acres burned by wildfires has been increasing since 1950. The size, severity, duration and frequency of wildfires are greatly influenced by climate. The three largest fire years on record in California occurred in the last decade, and annual acreage burned since 2000 is almost twice that for the 1950-2000 period”.

 Since that post the Governor of California has declared a State of Emergency for the City and County of San Francisco. San Francisco is not on fire. In fact the fire that is threatening the City is 150 miles away. It’s called the Rim Fire and it has spread to Yosemite National Park and has burned almost 200 square miles. A NPR article states, “Bob Hensley, reporting for NPR, says that in issuing the state of emergency for the city of San Francisco and San Francisco County late Friday, Brown indicated the wildfire has damaged the electrical infrastructure that provides power to the Bay Area 150 miles to the west.

Brown said Bay Area utility officials have had to shut down transmission lines and that so far, the city has been able to keep the power on, even though further disruptions could change that.

He said the city’s water supply could also be affected by the fire.

The Associated Press says San Francisco gets 85 percent of its water from the Yosemite-area Hetch Hetchy reservoir that is about 4 miles from the fire.”

Apparently the danger to the water supply is because two of three power stations have been shutdown.

So, 150 miles to the west you have threatened power outages and 150 miles to the north you have this.

 

 

S

“Hazy smoke from a wildfire more than 150 miles away near Yosemite National Park descended Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013, on Reno and the downtown casino district. Washoe County Health District officials issued an air quality alert because the Air Quality Index worsened to the unhealthy zone for sensitive groups, including the elderly and young children. (AP Photo/Scott Sonner)”

Update to this post is here

Another update as of Sunday evening is titled, ” Yosemite fire is ‘highest priority’ in nation” is in USA Today.


 

California and Climate Change

Since I live in California, several headlines have caught my eye recently, “In California, Climate Change Is ‘Real, And It’s Already Here’” and “Global warming already having dramatic impacts in California, new report says“.

The new report is called, “Indicators of Climate Change in California and was just published (August 2013) by California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA). They’ve updated the 2009 report.

Key findings of the report per it’s press release are:

”  Temperatures: The state’s high, low and average temperatures are all rising, and extreme heat events also have increased in duration and frequency. The rate of warming has accelerated since the mid-1970s, and night time (minimum) temperatures have increased almost twice as fast as maximum (daytime) temperatures.

  Wildfires: The number of acres burned by wildfires has been increasing since 1950. The size, severity, duration and frequency of wildfires are greatly influenced by climate. The three largest fire years on record in California occurred in the last decade, and annual acreage burned since 2000 is almost twice that for the 1950-2000 period.

  Water: Spring snowmelt runoff has decreased, indicating warmer winter temperatures and more precipitation falling as rain rather than snow. Earlier and decreased runoff can reduce water supplies, even when overall rainfall remains the same. This trend could mean less water available for agriculture, the environment and a growing population.

  Coast and Ocean: A number of indicators reflect physical and biological changes in the ocean, impacting a range of marine species, including sea lions, seabirds and salmon. And data for Monterey Bay shows increased carbon dioxide levels in coastal waters, which can harm shell-forming organisms and have impacts throughout the marine food chain.

  Species Migration: Certain plants and animals have responded to habitat changes influenced by warming. For example, conifer forests in the Sierra Nevada have been moving upslope and certain small mammals in Yosemite National Park have moved to higher elevations compared to the early 1900s.”

California is one of the first states in the nation to compile its own set of indicators characterizing the multiple facets of climate change. While most reports on climate change present future scenarios or projections, this report provides a retrospective account of impacts from climate change that have already occurred.”

Download the “Report Summary” for a clear picture of what’s happening in California.

 

 

 

 

 

The graphic above is the current drought conditions for California. As you can see, there is no place in the state that is not experiencing some problem and most of the state is “severe” or higher.

 

CAL FIRE – Fire Season 2013

“With one of the driest winters on record, California’s 2013 fire season has resulted in a very active season. In May, the Department of Water Resources (DWR) conducted the year’s last snow survey, which showed the snowpack at only 17 percent of normal. The lack of winter rains has resulted in dry conditions across the state leading to a number of unseasonably large wildfires early in the year and a continued trend of above normal fire activity.”

 

In my birding along the Mendocino Coast I’ve noticed that several waterways that hit the ocean have decreased flows or have dried up. They include Inglenook, Fenn, and Hare Creeks. The Navarro River is landlocked. The Noyo River is experiencing decreased flows which is reflected in this call to conserve water by the City of Fort Bragg’s City Manager:

“Please Conserve Water. Last winter’s paltry rainfall is taking its toll on the City’s water sources. Since late July, the City has been on a “restricted pumping regimen” at its Noyo River water diversion. Once flows in the river drop below 3 cubic feet per second, the City only diverts water from the river when the tides are above 2 feet in height. At this time, we are relying heavily on our two other water sources (Newman Gulch and Waterfall Gulch) and flows are continuing to decline across the board. The City is hoping to avoid declaration of a water emergency and imposition of mandatory conservation measures. We request that all businesses and residents take immediate voluntary actions to reduce water consumption. Conservation measures include: reducing landscape irrigation; refraining from washing sidewalks, driveways and buildings; using shut-off mechanisms on hoses; only serving water to restaurant patrons upon request; etc.”

The Community of Mendocino is in a “stage two” water conservation effort which requests a 15% reduction in normal water use. 
 
Since I’ve only lived here for eight years I can’t say how common this is but I don’t like the trend.
Good news for California. The Sierra Club just publish their list of the “Ten Coolest Schools”. The University of Connecticut took first place but California had four of the top ten.
 
 “Four of the schools in the top 10 are in California: the University of California, Irvine, in third place, the University of California, Davis, in fourth, Stanford University at No. 7 and the University of California, Santa Barbara, at No. 10.
The University of California campuses traditionally fare well in the rankings, Andrews said, noting that last year, UC Davis took first place. The system has a sustainability initiative, she said.

“It’s also just being in California,” Andrews said. “The students who go there and the faculty members that go there and the culture that surrounds it is all about sustainability, in a way that you don’t see as much in other states.”

UC Irvine has installed enough solar panels on campus to generate power equivalent to running 500 homes for a year, she said. Some of those are part of a research project for engineering students examining the impact of renewable power on the grid, said Richard Demerjian, director of environmental planning and sustainability. There also are photovoltaics in a parking lot that are used in part to recharge electric vehicles, and there is battery storage, he said.

In addition, the school has a 19-megawatt natural gas cogeneration facility that uses what would be waste heat and turns it into electricity or heat for buildings. Since 2009, UC Irvine has saved 20 million kilowatts of electricity each year, Andrews said.

Every new building has to be certified at least Silver under the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards for energy efficiency. Demerjian said that there are eight LEED Gold and nine LEED Platinum buildings. The school also encourages students to participate in meatless Mondays.

It comes in part out of a drive by students to have the school president’s office adopt far-reaching green goals back in 2005, Demerjian said. Those were updated in 2007.

UC Davis won kudos for its focus on green agriculture that uses less water, Andrews said. It also has housing for faculty and students that uses zero net energy.

Stanford University has one of the most plentiful offerings of classes with an ecological focus, with at least 700 taught by 130 professors and spanning 40 departments, Andrews said. In addition, there are at least 36 student clubs with green themes.

UC Santa Barbara has parking lots crammed full of bicycles, as 94 percent of students take transportation other than cars, Andrews said. Nearly half of academic departments offer classes with a sustainability focus, she said. And the school diverts three-fourths of waste to recycling or compost, one of the highest levels achieved among colleges.” 

The above quotes are taken from Anne C. Mulkern, E&E reporter for ClimateWire.

Other good news is that, “The average Californian uses about 33 percent less electricity at home than the average American in the rest of the country.” You can read the why that is here.

Another strange story is that the Redwoods along the California Coast are growing faster. Not sure why.

This has gotten too long so I’ll end it here. But you can see that California and climate change are paired together.


 

The Burning of America

I’ve written about western forests burning in other posts but I recently found a good article that put it all together and explains what’s going on. The article is by Tom Kenworthy and is called, “A Nation on fire: Climate Change and the Burning of America”. You can read the full article by clicking on this link.

I will share a few quotes from the article.

 “Starting around 2000, Oltrogge began experiencing fires of a scale and intensity he never expected to encounter. Fires like the Rodeo-Chediski in Arizona in 2002 — at 467,000 acres, the largest in the state’s history — and 9 years later the Wallow, which surpassed the Rodeo-Chediski and set a new state record of 538,000 acres.

“We never imagined we would be on a fire of a half million acres in the lower 48,” said Oltrogge. “Now they’re becoming commonplace.”

Huge, explosive fires are becoming commonplace, say many experts, because climate change is setting the stage — bringing higher temperatures, widespread drought, earlier snowmelt and spring vegetation growth, and expanded insect and disease infestations.”

“Wildfire statistics compiled by the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, offer sobering confirmation. The seven largest fire years since 1960 

have all occurred since 2000. In 2006, 2007, and last year, the toll exceeded 9 million acres, an area roughly equivalent to Maryland and Rhode Island combined.”

This year’s fire season, while running behind 2012 in terms of acreage lost thus far, is proving particularly destructive and tragic in some places. A year after the Waldo Canyon fire set a new standard for destructiveness in Colorado by burning nearly 350 homes in 2012, this June the Black Forest Firedestroyed more than 500 just a few miles away. And the June 30 Yarnell Hill fire in Arizona killed 19 members of a Hot Shot firefighting crew when they were overrun by flames, the deadliest wildfire in 80 years.”

“Wildfire preparedness has taken another hit as a result of automatic budget cuts under sequestration, which cut spending from $500 million last year to $419 million this year. A report released this spring by House Appropriation Committee Democrats found that sequestration would mean the Forest Service would have 500 fewer firefighters this season, and 50-70 fewer fire engines and two fewer aircraft.”

A key reason that wildfires have become more destructive, and fighting them more expensive, is that millions of Americans have made a conscious decision to move close to wildlands that are susceptible to fire — known by the infelicitous phrase the wildland-urban interface, or WUI.”

“Further complicating the matter is the fact that knowing that federal firefighters will make valiant efforts to save homes “removes incentives for landowners moving into the WUI to take responsibility for their own protection and ensure their homes are constructed and landscaped in ways that reduce wildfire risks” according to a report by the Department of Agriculture’s Inspector General.”

The article is a good read that doesn’t take too much time and explains much. 

The above graphic was by Andrew Breiner of ThinkProgress.