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The Mono-logue » Climate

‘Climate’ Category

Counting snowflakes—all of them: Talking with Dr. Tom Painter about the Airborne Snow Observatory

Tuesday, May 30th, 2017 by Geoff, Executive Director
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Just how much water is contained in the Sierra Nevada snowpack? NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, along with the California Department of Water Resources and the USDA Agricultural Research Service, have developed the high-tech Airborne Snow Observatory (ASO) to answer that question with greater precision and clarity than ever before.

Using a plane with an imaging spectrometer and a precise LIDAR measurement system, ASO scientists can calculate how much water is contained in every square meter of snowpack in the Sierra Nevada. Photo courtesy of Tom Painter, NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Flying out of nearby Mammoth Lakes, a plane equipped with an imaging spectrometer and an incredibly precise LIDAR laser measurement system has been gathering vast quantities of data that allow scientists to calculate how much water is contained in every square meter of snowpack in the high Sierra. Knowing how much water is stored in the snowpack and waiting to flow down Rush Creek, for example, is incredibly valuable. The details of how ASO works are fascinating and the big-picture implications for Mono Lake and all of California water management are exciting. I talked with ASO Principal Investigator Dr. Tom Painter in May during a break in his schedule between flights, project development, and a roster of presentations worldwide. (more…)

Record winter snowpack melt underway

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017 by Geoff, Executive Director
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Mono Lake, and all of us here at the Mono Lake Committee, have just been through the biggest winter on record. It is an abrupt and welcome end to drought conditions (though not to all the effects of the drought), made all the more enjoyable by the way it crept up unannounced and surprised us with its intensity.

So much snow arrived in the Mono Basin this winter that even ephemeral streams far east of the Sierra flowed with water this spring. Photo by Bartshe Miller.

Stories abound of Highway 395 being closed for days, snow blanketing every facet of the Sierra Nevada crest, and backcountry snowfields that measure taller than any building in Mono County. Speculation about an opening date for Tioga Pass—certain to be among the latest ever—is a popular springtime guessing game in town.

So what does it all mean for Mono Lake, its tributary streams, and the operation of the Los Angeles Aqueduct? Here’s the exciting outlook:

Mono Lake on the rise

With a deep snowpack fueling runoff that is forecast at 206% of average, Mono Lake is expected to rise (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…)

Sign up for 2017 Field Seminars on February 1

Wednesday, January 25th, 2017 by Andrew, Project Specialist
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Learn all about the region's fascinating geological history with Yosemite geologist Greg Stock in Geology of the Mono Basin. Photo by Andrew Youssef.

Learn all about the region’s fascinating geological history with Yosemite geologist Greg Stock in Geology of the Mono Basin. Photo by Andrew Youssef.

The complete list of all the Mono Lake Committee’s 2017 Field Seminars is now available online here. Registration opens at 9:00am on Wednesday, February 1.

This year’s slate of 28 Field Seminars spans many topics: basketry, oil painting, woodpeckers, moonlight photography, geology, mining history, fire ecology, butterflies, and more. (more…)

A skiing adventure to check Mono Lake’s level

Tuesday, January 24th, 2017 by Robbie, Project Specialist
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This January is proving to be the wettest January in our weather recording history. In Lee Vining, we saw 5.5 inches of snow on January 4, and we received a combined 3.92 inches of rain on January 8 and 9. With all this water pouring into Mono Lake, I set out with my coworker Andrew to measure the lake level on cross country skis.

Mono Lake Committee Project Specialist Andrew Youssef. Photo by Robbie Di Paolo.

An amused Andrew shuffles towards Lee Vining Creek. Photo by Robbie Di Paolo.

It was Wednesday, January 11 at 10:00am. The sky was blue, the wind was calm, and the day before had enveloped the basin in (more…)

Mono Lake, Mammoth, and Bishop Christmas Bird Counts coming up

Thursday, December 15th, 2016 by Nora, Lead Naturalist Guide
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Every winter, from December 14 to January 5, birders all over the Americas get together to contribute to one of the largest citizen science data sets in the world. It’s called the Christmas Bird Count, or CBC.

A rare Varied Thrush in Lee Vining in December 2009. Photo courtesy of Justin Hite.

A rare Varied Thrush in Lee Vining in December 2009. Photo courtesy of Justin Hite.

Interestingly enough, the CBC it started as a Christmas hunting competition, but as conservation issues rose, an ornithologist named Frank Chapman sparked the idea of a count instead of a hunt. One hundred and sixteen years ago (in 1900), the first Christmas Bird Count occurred: 27 birders counted birds all day in 25 different locations. The count evolved and grew (more…)

Mono Lake’s California Gulls in Audubon Magazine

Thursday, December 8th, 2016 by Elin, Communications Coordinator
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Mono Lake’s California Gulls and coyotes appear in the winter issue of Audubon Magazine, in an article by Jane Braxton Little: Amidst California Drought, Coyotes Creep Closer to Mono Lake’s Gull Colonies.

audubon-magazine-gull-article

Little spoke with Committee Executive Director Geoff McQuilkin and local Point Blue Conservation Science researcher Kristie Nelson about plans to install a temporary electric fence across the emerging landbridge, intended to deter coyotes from reaching the gulls’ nesting islets. You can support the fence project here.

Little hit the nail on the head, writing, “Even if the fence thwarts the coyotes, the basic predicament at Mono Lake isn’t predators eating prey: It’s the loss of water.” So while we prepare to build the fence we’ll also be watching the weather closely for any sign of a break in this record-setting California drought.

Refreshing ‘Ologists: ENSO, atmospheric rivers, and changing midlatitude weather

Monday, September 12th, 2016 by Mono Lake Committee Staff
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This post was written by Grace Aleman, 2015 Information Center & Bookstore Assistant and 2016 Mono Lake Intern.

Snow at Parker Lake in April 2016. Photo by Andrew Youssef.

Snow on peaks surrounding Parker Lake in April 2016. Photo by Andrew Youssef.

Join us for the last talk of the Refreshing ‘Ologist series this Wednesday, September 14 at 4:00pm in the gallery at the Mono Lake Committee Information Center & Bookstore.

This week avalanche forecaster Sue Burak will discuss how El Nino Southern Oscilliation (ENSO) affects—or doesn’t affect—above-average snowfall, and the hype behind last winter’s El Nino. She will also discuss how atmospheric rivers contribute to the amount of precipitation California receives in the cool season. Lastly, Sue will talk about how the melting Arctic is changing the weather at midlatitudes.

Many thanks to all of the wonderful presenters we’ve had throughout the summer, and thank you to everyone who has attended! Hope to see you all for our last presentation of the summer!

Fall colors at Mono Lake: It’s not too early to plan your trip

Sunday, August 21st, 2016 by Nora, Lead Naturalist Guide
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Yes, I know, it’s only August, and the canyons are still glittering green with quaking aspen trees. But if you are thinking about visiting in the fall, now is the time to start planning your trip!

The wide open views and hillsides covered in aspen make the Conway Summit area a great place to enjoy autumn. Photo taken on October 21, 2010 by Bartshe Miller.

The wide open views and hillsides covered in aspen make the Conway Summit area a great place to enjoy autumn. Photo taken on October 21, 2010 by Bartshe Miller.

The colors usually start to change in mid-September and peak around mid-October. By November, the leaves are usually on the ground and snow has arrived. Different areas peak at different times, so let us do the scouting! The Mono Lake Guided Trip program has five trips scheduled in October to take visitors to the hottest spots for fall colors during the peak. (more…)

Refreshing ‘Ologists: Sierra Nevada glaciers

Sunday, August 14th, 2016 by Mono Lake Committee Staff
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This post was written by Grace Aleman, 2015 Information Center & Bookstore Assistant and 2016 Mono Lake Intern.

Much of Yosemite National Park’s most iconic landforms, such as the granite cliffs of Yosemite Valley and the rounded domes of Tuolumne Meadows, were shaped by glaciers. These glaciers were ubiquitous to the Sierra Nevada landscape for millions of years. More recently, however, we’re starting to see these glaciers vanish due to climate change.

Photo courtesy of the National Park Service.

A photograph of the Lyell Glacier taken in 1883 by Israel Russel contrasts sharply with the extent of the glacier in 2013. Photo courtesy of the National Park Service.

Join us this Wednesday, August 17 at 4:00pm in the Mono Lake Committee gallery to learn more about the fate of Sierra Nevada glaciers. Yosemite National Park geologist Greg Stock will discuss the Sierra Nevada glacial history and how modern-day climate change is affecting these glaciers.

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