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We are all connected: Dust from the Gobi Desert found in the Sierra Nevada

Thursday, July 12th, 2018 by Alexis, Mono Lake Intern
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Aerial view of Gobi Desert dust traveling over China west toward California. Photo courtesy of NASA.

The Sierra Nevada is such a high and rocky mountain range that one might wonder how trees like Jeffrey pines and giant sequoias are able to grow. Dust collected in Yosemite National Park contains nutrients such as phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, and potassium, which are not typically found in areas where there is a lot of granite rock. In work published last year, researchers reported that phosphorous and other nutrients travel to the Sierra Nevada via dust carried in the jet stream.

A team from UC Riverside and UC Merced conducted a study in Yosemite Valley to establish where the dust and minerals originated. After analyzing the dust they concluded that the (more…)

The future of Sierra Nevada snow: Dr. Alex Hall on the climate future of the Sierra

Saturday, June 23rd, 2018 by Geoff, Executive Director
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What will happen to the Sierra Nevada’s snowpack as climate change impacts accumulate through the 21st century? This question is vital to both the ecological health of the Range of Light and to water delivery systems throughout California. And, it matters a great deal to Mono Lake and its many miles of tributary streams, which depend on Sierra runoff for their vitality.

A view of the Eastern Sierra from Virginia Canyon to Mt. Conness, including Mono Lake. Photo by Geoff McQuilkin.

Forecasts of the future rely on complex climate modeling, and I talked with Dr. Alex Hall, Professor of Atmospheric & Oceanic Sciences at UCLA, about the work he and his team have been conducting to produce actionable climate science. Dr. Hall heads the Center for Climate Science, where they have developed cutting-edge downscaling techniques to create geographically detailed climate projections for the Los Angeles area and the Sierra Nevada.

Geoff: Thanks for taking time to talk, Alex. You have just released a major report, Climate Change in the Sierra Nevada: California’s Water Future. What are the big takeaway messages?

Alex: Temperatures across the Sierra Nevada are warming (more…)

2018 lake level forecast: Will Mono Lake rise or drop this year?

Friday, April 20th, 2018 by Elin, Communications Coordinator
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In April, once a new runoff year (April 1 to March 31) has begun, the Mono Lake Committee forecasts what Mono Lake’s level is likely to do over the next year. And the answer? According to our forecast, Mono Lake is likely to drop a little less than a foot.

This graph shows the range of possible Mono Lake elevations for the time period of April 1, 2018 to March 31, 2019. The “highest likely” and “lowest likely” projections are produced by Committee modeling using historical wet and dry hydrology sequences that can reasonably be expected given current conditions. Mono Lake Committee graph (click to enlarge).

To forecast Mono Lake’s level for a whole runoff year, we read the lake level gauge on April 1 to get the starting point, and then factor the runoff forecast into the equation to predict what Mono Lake might do going forward. When we read the lake level gauge on April 1 together with staff from the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power the lake was 6381.9 feet above sea level. As of April 16 the runoff forecast is 85% of average. Using those two data points, plus historical wet and dry hydrology sequences that can be reasonably expected given current conditions, our modeling indicates that the most probable lake level for March 31, 2019 is 6381.1 feet above sea level.

Mono Basin snowpack increases to 76% of average

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2018 by Greg, Information & Restoration Specialist
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Snow surveys conducted around every April 1st coincide with the average date of peak snowpack. This year, the surveys were completed at the end of March and revealed a large increase in snowpack over the previous month—from 50% of average to 76% of average!

Map by Robbie DiPaolo.

Map of snow survey locations compiled by Robbie DiPaolo. The Lee Vining Creek watershed above the DWP diversion dam and the Rush Creek watershed above the SCE powerhouse are outlined in red.

(more…)

Field Seminar registration opens for non-members March 1

Sunday, February 18th, 2018 by Andrew, Digital Engagement Coordinator
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The complete list of all the Mono Lake Committee’s 2018 Field Seminars is online here, and registration opens for those who are not Mono Lake Committee members at 9:00am on Thursday, March 1st.

Learn about the fascinating volcanic history of the Mono Basin with Nora Livingston on a field seminar this summer. Photo courtesy of Andrew Aldrich.

This year’s slate of 40 field seminars spans many topics: basketry, oil painting, mammals, moonlight photography, volcanism, mining history, Basque sheepherders, kayaking, and more. (more…)

All 2018 Mono Lake Field Seminars posted online

Tuesday, January 16th, 2018 by Elin, Communications Coordinator
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The complete list of all the Mono Lake Committee’s 2018 Field Seminars is now available online hereRegistration opens at 9:00am on Thursday, February 1.

Summer and fall are wonderful seasons for exploring the Mono Basin on a Field Seminar. Photo courtesy of Andrew Aldrich.

This year’s slate of 40 Field Seminars includes one-day, half-day, and multi-day options, and spans many topics: astrophotography, botany, mining history, butterflies, oil painting, basketry, woodpeckers, geology, fire ecology, and more.

We have brought back several popular workshops: (more…)

Mono Lake’s visible rise, November to November

Tuesday, January 9th, 2018 by Elin, Communications Coordinator
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We didn’t know it in November 2016, but the severe drought that had plagued Mono Lake and California for five years was nearly over. After record-setting winter precipitation and subsequent record-setting runoff last summer, Mono Lake had risen 4.2 feet by November 2017.

That difference in lake level is clearly visible in these satellite photos from the folks at Planet, most notably on the landbridge near Negit Island and the white “bathtub ring” around the lake’s shore. After tracking and celebrating Mono Lake’s rise from up close last year, it’s fun to see it in a big-picture view! (more…)

Happy winter solstice from Mono Lake

Thursday, December 21st, 2017 by Andrew, Digital Engagement Coordinator
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As the Northern Hemisphere starts to tilt back toward the sun, we welcome more light, longer days, and a new season. Everything is beginning to slow down—streams that were raging with record flows this year are beginning to freeze, the aspens have lost their leaves and gone dormant, the thousands of birds that used the Mono Basin to breed or stage their migration have mostly left for warmer climes, and visitation to the Information Center & Bookstore has slowed with the closing of Tioga Pass last month.

The banks of Lee Vining Creek are just beginning to freeze. Photo by Andrew Youssef.

Although things have slowed, the Mono Basin never ceases to amaze. We’ve already awoken to several days of poconip ice fog (more…)

Lee Vining weather almanac: A new water year

Monday, December 18th, 2017 by Bartshé, Education Director
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A new water year began on October 1, and it follows the record water year of 2017 when 27.7″ of precipitation fell in Lee Vining. Given the increasing variability of California precipitation, a repeat performance of a wet year is unlikely. October 2017 concluded with 0.08″ of rain, well below the 0.83-inch 30-year average. Average temperatures ran very close to average for daily highs with overnight lows falling slightly below average.

Warm November view from Mono Lake.

Average low temperatures in November 2017 stayed above freezing for the first time on record. Photo by Robbie Di Paolo.

November left a more notable wake in the Lee Vining weather annals. Temperatures soared well above average and the month concluded as the second-warmest November overall, a small 0.8°F difference behind November 1995. The real measure of warmth was in terms of increasing overnight low temperatures. Average low temperatures in November eclipsed the 30-year record by over 2°F and averaged above freezing (34°F) for the first time. (more…)

The Season Seldom Seen: Winter Ecology of the Mono Basin

Tuesday, December 12th, 2017 by Nora, Lead Naturalist Guide
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Have you ever wondered where all the tiny chipmunks that skitter up the lodgepole pines all summer go when the landscape is covered with several feet of snow? Or how they could possibly survive the cold temperatures and lack of food for months on end? What about how plants bounce back after being buried in snow? This winter we are excited to offer a new Field Seminar focusing on these questions and more!

A view of Mono Lake and the White Mountains from Lundy Canyon in January 2017. Photo by Bartshe Miller.

The Season Seldom Seen: Winter Ecology of the Mono Basin will investigate the connections plants and animals have with their winter environments in addition to what factors cause winter in the first place. Winter ecology reveals a new side of animal and plant life that is invisible until (more…)

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