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The Mono-logue » Bartshé, Education Director

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Removing snow and rumors along the Tioga Pass Road

Tuesday, April 18th, 2017 by Bartshé, Education Director
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Tioga Pass Road at 8,000' on April 4, 2017.

Snow is minimal below 8,000 feet on the east side of  Highway 120, but snow depth increases exponentially above 8,500 feet. Photo by Bartshé Miller.

As everyone in California knows, it’s been a remarkable year for precipitation. At the highest elevations above Mono Lake in the vicinity of Tioga Pass, we may be facing a snowpack over 200% of average. April 1 snow surveys revealed nearby sites at all-time record snow depth and water content, while other sites, including Tioga Pass itself, fell just short of past record levels. Snow depth in the region likely moved upward with recent April storms, cold temperatures, and generally unsettled spring weather. (more…)

Charting weather extremes and understanding climate change impacts

Wednesday, April 12th, 2017 by Bartshé, Education Director
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A wet winter has brought needed relief to a drought-stricken Mono Lake. However, a glimpse at Lee Vining weather data reveals that predictions about climate change in California and the Sierra Nevada are becoming real.

January 2017 set a record for wettest month in Lee Vining’s weather data history: 11.23 inches of precipitation. Photo by Bartshe Miller.

Warming temperatures, along with more extreme and less-frequent precipitation, are reflected in our local weather. The record-setting drought of the last five years still casts a shadow across the Mono Basin. Multi-year impacts to the watershed and ecosystem have accumulated due to record high temperatures, remarkably low runoff, and wildfires. As climate forces further change, monitoring, assessment, and adaptation will be critical to the future restoration and protection of Mono Lake. (more…)

Mono Lake Committee job opening

Monday, March 20th, 2017 by Bartshé, Education Director
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The Mono Lake Committee is hiring a Facilities Superintendent position in Lee Vining, California. This is a part-time, year-round caretaker position.

The position performs routine maintenance and upkeep for the Mono Lake Committee Information Center & Bookstore, offices, Mono Basin Field Station, and Mono Basin Outdoor Education Center. Winter operation may include snow removal when winters bring measurable snow to town. The work schedule is variable at 5–20 hours per week, and is often dictated by seasonal needs. Housing is available on site at the Mono Basin Field Station. Some basic maintenance/caretaker/property management background is preferable. See the complete job description, and for more information contact Bartshé Miller, Education Director.

Earthquakes jolt Mono Lake region

Wednesday, December 28th, 2016 by Bartshé, Education Director
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A swarm of moderate earthquakes struck overnight with two magnitude 5.7 and one magnitude 5.5 centered approximately 30 miles north-northeast of Lee Vining, just inside the Nevada border. No damage was reported, but most residents were awakened by a moderate rocking motion lasting less than 30 seconds. The temblors were felt from Hawthorne, Nevada and across the Central Sierra and Central Valley. Minor earthquake activity continues in the region, including a small earthquake along the southeast shore of Mono Lake. The Mono Basin and Eastern Sierra are geologically active, and there is always concern and speculation with future volcanic activity. Earthquake swarms like this have occurred in the past near Long Valley and Mammoth Lakes, and thus far all have faded into geologic history.

Recent earthquake activity near Mono Lake.

A swarm of earthquakes hit the Mono Lake region overnight and early morning on December 28, 2016. Screen capture courtesy of earthquate.usgs.gov.

Going solar for students at Mono Lake

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2016 by Bartshé, Education Director
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In October the very busy folks at Sierra Solar installed new solar panels on the Mono Basin Outdoor Education Center (OEC) roof. The photovoltaic system is the first step in the energy and water efficiency development of the OEC site, demonstrating the connection of energy and water and the increasing value and need to minimize our carbon and water footprint.

XX new solar panels successfully installed at the Mono Basin Outdoor Education Center. Photo by Bartshe Miller.

Sixteen new solar panels were successfully installed at the Mono Basin Outdoor Education Center in October. Photo by Bartshe Miller.

Thanks to a bequest by the Ward Family, the new solar panels will offset approximately 80–100% of all electrical use at the site. Because the Mono Basin Outdoor Education Center is on a long-term lease (more…)

El Niño delivers more drought to the Eastern Sierra

Saturday, March 19th, 2016 by Bartshé, Education Director
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Despite a strong El Niño and recent rain and snow in California, drought conditions continue to plague the Eastern Sierra and Mono Lake. As of March 16 extreme and exceptional drought conditions persist in Mono and Inyo counties, a drought that is now in its fifth year. Recent winter storms brought very little precipitation east of the Sierra crest and the outlook for the rest of March looks generally dry.

CA_droughtconditions_March15_2016

Extreme and exceptional drought conditions persist up and down the Eastern Sierra and throughout a large portion of California.

This means that many precipitation measuring stations east and west of Highway 395 will end up between 40% and 75% of normal for April 1. The one exception (more…)

Meh Niño

Monday, February 22nd, 2016 by Bartshé, Education Director
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After a nearly four-year absence, winter has made an appearance in the Mono Basin, but it has not met expectations of a very strong, “Godzilla” El Niño.

Photo by Andrew Youssef.

The “Godzilla” El Niño has yet to impress at Mono Lake. Photo by Andrew Youssef.

In Lee Vining we have enjoyed the full spectrum of winter weather: freezing fog, snow, rain, and cold temperatures. We have experienced something much closer to a normal winter, and after four years of well-below-normal winters, we are easily impressed by even a little bit of snow. While the psychological bar is very low, the true measure of winter for Mono Lake is in the water content of the Sierra snowpack and the eventual runoff—these numbers (more…)

Lake-effect snow piles up south of Mono Lake

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2015 by Bartshé, Education Director
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Mono Craters under 10 inches of new lake-effect snow, November 27, 2015. Photo by Bartshe Miller.

Mono Craters under 10 inches of new lake-effect snow, November 27, 2015. Photo by Bartshe Miller.

Over the Thanksgiving holiday a cold, dry, low pressure system dropped into the Great Basin and turned on the snow-making machine south of Mono Lake. Cold air moving south over Mono Lake warmed slightly and absorbed evaporative water from the lake. As the air rose over the Mono Craters and points south the water vapor cooled and fell as snow. From November 26–27, champagne powder piled up over localized areas like the Mono Craters. Although Lee Vining and Eastern Sierra precipitation remains about average for October and November, the most recent storm provided an unusual lake-effect snow phenomenon. (more…)

Godzilla vs. Mono Lake

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2015 by Bartshé, Education Director
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Newsletter-FA-Godzilla_silThe word is that Godzilla has returned, and he might be coming to Mono Lake. A powerful El Niño has developed in the Pacific and at least one climatologist and a host of media sources are touting this event as a “Godzilla” El Niño.

Godzilla’s storyline works. This was a monster that originally emerged from the ocean, and kept coming back. Through Godzilla’s various incarnations and movie sequels he took on a complex, mysterious, and powerful aura. He was not necessarily evil, nor was he good, but there was no stopping him. He trampled cities, battled other monsters, and was indifferent to everything in his path. He was the waltzing, overgrown sea-lizard of mayhem. (more…)

Mono Lake’s green mystery continues

Saturday, October 31st, 2015 by Bartshé, Education Director
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For the second summer in a row, Mono Lake remained impenetrably green through the summer season. The lake typically transforms into a blue, Lake Tahoe-like clarity as abundant Artemia monica (brine shrimp) graze microscopic algae from the upper water column. Satellite images from this summer continued to show a shrinking, and unyieldingly-green Mono Lake.

Green Mono Lake, as seen from the September 18, 2015 Eared Grebe survey flight. Photo by Robbie Di Paolo.

Green Mono Lake, as seen from the September 18, 2015 Eared Grebe survey flight. Photo by Robbie Di Paolo.

Artemia were present, but their numbers seemed to decline as the summer progressed. During the summer of 2014, the mean Artemia abundance was the fourth-lowest ever recorded since 1979, and the greatest decline in abundance (79%) took place from July to August—much earlier than typically seen in Mono Lake. It’s likely that a similar trend occurred in 2015; however (more…)

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