Fire, Fish and Forests

September 16, 2014

MatsPetersson1Sunshine this early Tuesday is filtered by what weather folks call ‘haze,’ but it’s just low clouds blocking a bright morning here on California’s north coast.
Just a little bit ago skies were clear. We be robbed of a rare, thunderous sunrise — shoreline shifts sometimes suck.

And more fire in the air — in the little town of Weed (yes, ‘Weed’), east of where I’m at, out in the deep northern California forests, another disastrous fire quickly flared up yesterday — so fast, about 1,500 people had to run for their lives as 100 homes were destroyed.
And no, the town wasn’t named after you know what:

Weed, historically a lumber town, was named after the founder of a mill, Abner Weed, who “discovered that the area’s strong winds were helpful in drying lumber,” according to the town’s website.

(Illustration: ‘Untitled‘ from the ‘Firewatch‘ series by Mats Pettersson, found here).

And within California’s worse drought in modern history, those self-same winds can rapidly burn the shit out of way-dry, pre-lumber — trees. Therefore, a shitload of forest fires are currently burning across the state — a big one near Yosemite National Park in central California, another big one east of Sacramento, and the biggest so far, dubbed with a near-inappropriate title, the Happy Camp Complex fire, has burned 111,000 acres, but only 55 percent contained.
And that’s just the big ones.

Meanwhile, just north of us here on the coast, another drought-related, near-approaching disaster — fish disease.
From our best online news site up here, Lost Coast Outpost yesterday evening, and what’s happening:

Dr. Scott Foott, a pathologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, discovered severe ich (ichthyophthirius multifiliis) infestations in fall run Chinook salmon taken from the Lower Klamath River.
Massive ich infestations among overcrowded fish led to a massive fish die-off in 2002, which left tens of thousands of fish dead and dying along the Klamath and Trinity Rivers.
Robert Franklin, senior hydrologist with Hoopa Tribal Fisheries, said, “The fear is that all the fish might die in the Lower Klamath like they did in 2002.”
This year, like in 2002, massive amounts of water have been diverted from the Klamath and Trinity Rivers to agricultural users hit by severe drought, leaving only a small portion of the rivers’ natural flows to sustain their ecosystems.
As more water is diverted away from local rivers, lower water flow leads to higher temperatures in the water, and diseases and parasites spread among fish crowded into the few deep pools along the river.
Franklin said only an immediate doubling of flows on the Trinity could prevent the infection from spreading rapidly. “It needs to take place immediately because the water will take several days to reach the Lower Klamath.”

And the problem? From the Outpost last month:

Robert Franklin, senior hydrologist with Hoopa Tribal Fisheries, said, “Three times more water is being sent to the central valley than is being released into the Trinity. If we don’t see a fairly wet winter, we’ll take a beating on the Trinity.”
That beating may already be starting.
Wells are going dry in several parts of Eastern Humboldt, and sick fish are being reported up and down the Trinity and Klamath Rivers.
Vivienna Orcutt said the water temperature in the Lower Klamath is already 77 degrees and local fishermen were reporting a lot of odd fish behavior.
“There are fish missing the scales on their bellies and rolling on the bottom of the river,” Orcutt said.
Franklin confirmed the reports. “We’re seeing obviously sick, disoriented salmon doing things they normally wouldn’t do.”

And all part-n-parcel of climate change (via DeSmogBlog last May):

In an email interview, Wang told DeSmog the study results are important because “scientists have known for years that climate change impacts extreme events like drought, but had not been able to relate a single event to climate change or warming.”
Wang said the research provides quantitative evidence how the California drought and the polar vortex events are linked to the long-term change in climate, and the role of greenhouse gases.

Heat makes all kinds of stuff do ‘things they normally wouldn’t do.’
Expect the situation all-around — fish to forests — to only get worse.

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