Friday, January 21, 2011

Lotsa Water

I think Anne at Highly Allochthonous was the first to post this, along with some great discussion and explanatory hydrographs, but because RSS gives you the most recent articles first, I first saw it at KATU and OregonLive. The OL article has a more standard news perspective, if you're not into Anne's hydrogeological approach. KATU also has a story surveying tentative plans to restoring the wiped-out road, which no longer exists: the Sandy River is currently flowing where the road used to be. (Followup, 6:28- OregonLive also has a piece about reconstruction of the road, and an excellent aerial photo of the damage.)

Anne also mentions the February '96 floods, which I recall vividly. I was not out and about during those, though I did go downtown one afternoon to look at the water encroaching toward 2nd street, and it was not until mid-May when I found a field trip completely disrupted by washed out, debris-covered or severely damaged roads that I understood at a gut level how bad that set of floods had been. There are several areas in the Quartzville Creek drainage that I've been keeping a curious eye on for the last fifteen years, watching the recovery as plants have recolonized and various processes conspire to slowly hide the geological evidence of that mess.

As Anne correctly points out, last weekend's flood was not such a big deal- yes, it caused some local problems, and a number of people have lost possessions and homes, but no one was killed, and as far as I've seen no one was even hurt, though there may have been some discomfort when the power failed. As scary as the above footage is, in my mind, this was a good disaster: no casualties and awesome documentation. Another example of a good disaster was last year's volcanic eruption in Iceland. (No, I'm not going to look up, copy and paste its spelling.)

Other, much more seriously attention-deserving floods have occurred already in this young year, namely in Brazil and Australia. Today's Big Picture (The editor is moving on to another position, but says's photo staff will continue the blog) showcases the Brazilian flooding and associated landslides/debris flows. And January 3rd, the same feature shared photos of the Australian floods. These two and other flood events (for example, "Sri Lanka, which suffered a 1-in-100 year flood this month.") are discussed in meteorological detail by Dr. Jeff Masters at his Wunderblog, who says
NOAA's Climate Prediction Center currently puts the La Niña event in the "strong" category, and whenever a La Niña or El Niño event reaches the strong category, major perturbations to global weather patterns occur. This typically results in record or near-record flooding in one or more regions of the globe.
Still, keep in mind some aren't sharing in this hydrologic wealth. An article that I would have read but probably not mentioned here, if not for the fortuitous context in which to place it, notes Prineville's water woes. Prineville is in the center part of Oregon, on the other side of the Cascades, and thus in their rain shadow. Trying to infer between the lines of this article, it sounds as if the problem is more about the groundwater geology and conserving scarce surface water resources rather than simply the dry climate, but the community is bumping up hard against the water limit, whatever the cause. "The reason the city is so interested in developing better wells is because, as it stands now, the city does not have the capacity to serve its existing residents, Klann said."

So yes, it has been a wet and mucky winter here in western Oregon, as was predicted when a La Nina developed in the second half of 2010. But overall, it could be a lot worse.

Followup: Heehee... just found this. Is it related enough? Sure, why not.
Funny Pictures - Spell Evian backwardz
see more Lolcats and funny pictures

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