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The Mono-logue » Bartshé, Education Director

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An extreme runoff year from the top down

Friday, May 26th, 2017 by Bartshé, Education Director
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Tioga Pass is closed, but there is a lot activity in the Mono Basin as the peak runoff season is soon to arrive. Streamflows will soon reach levels not seen in decades as 206% of average runoff—the May 1 forecast—comes rushing down in the Mono Basin.

The May 1, 2017 runoff forecast is 206% of normal for the Mono Basin.

(Click to enlarge.) A 180-degree view from Mono Lake to Lundy Canyon and points south from a local peak on May 24, 2017. Photo by Geoff McQuilkin.

This much water is an inspiration to witness, especially after five years of brutal drought conditions. Water is moving down some drainages and steep canyons that rarely, if ever, transport water during the runoff season. Creeks are already flowing at dangerously high levels and attempting to cross Mono Basin streams along fallen logs or other unusual crossing sites during peak flows could be a life or death decision—use extreme caution.

This is a benchmark year, and there is a lot of work for Mono Lake Committee staff documenting stream flows, coordinating critical information with Los Angeles Department of Water & Power, Southern California Edison, stream scientists, and other authorities to make sure that everyone can anticipate the challenges and changes ahead for Mono Lake and its tributary streams. Stay tuned—we plan on sharing as much information and as many images as possible here on the Mono-logue, on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. We have not forgotten the drought years, but forgive us if we temporarily revel in amnesia.

Mono Lake is for the birds … and free bird walks

Wednesday, May 24th, 2017 by Bartshé, Education Director
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Water is everywhere, cottonwoods are throwing cotton, flowers are blooming, and birds are singing. With warming temperatures and longer days birds are becoming more active at Mono Lake, and you can see and hear the birds with a guide, twice weekly at Mono Lake County Park beginning now through the summer.

Brilliant blue Lazuli Buntings are one of the species you could spot during a Friday or Sunday morning bird walk at Mono Lake County Park. Photo by Santiago Escruceria.

County Park offers a diverse habitat for a variety of birds from lakeshore to wetland to towering cottonwoods. Bird walks are free and begin at 8:00am every Friday and Sunday morning through September 3, 2017. Meet at the parking lot and bring sunscreen, water, hat, and binoculars (if you have them). Whether you have a passing interest in birds, or you are a beginning birder, or an advanced birder, there are feathers, songs, and festive color for all.

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…)

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