Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Saving California

California has had quite a bit of trouble lately, and there is a lot of attention being drawn to the economic/housing crisis.  This crisis is a big deal, don't get me wrong.  We need to fix it.  Lurking beneath it, though, is something a lot more sinister.  Although it bubbles to the surface from time to time, it really isn't in the public consciousness.  Yet, it has the potential to possibly drive California into famine and war that has not been seen in the United States since the days of the Civil War.  Do you think I am being overdramatic?  Well, I hope I'm wrong, too.

Humans are adaptable, smart, tough, and stubborn. As a species, as a culture, we can get through a lot of incredibly harsh times.  The bottom line is, though, that we can not, and will not, survive without enough water.


Disclaimer 1: These views reflect my views only and are not associated with my project in Pittsburgh or anything happening in Vermont.

Disclaimer 2:  A lot of what I am going to say here seems impossible, from a political standpoint.  It probably is impossible, without major cultural and social changes.  It would be hard... but not as hard as going without food and water.

Disclaimer 3: This is really long.  I should be working on grad school work, so I should not have just typed this all out.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Neat Iphone App for Monitoring Watercourses: "Creek Watch"

I just learned about a very neat app from the LA Creek Freak blog.

The CreekWatch app, developed by IBM, allows you to take photros of a creek and report the amount of water and whether or not there is any trash present.

(picture from the Iphone App Store)

Friday, November 19, 2010

City of Pittsburgh Online Map Viewer

Are you interested in maps and GIS but don't have access to ARCMAP?  Do you live in Pittsburgh?  If so, check out this City of Pittsburgh Maps website.  This website allows you to check out some different GIS data layers of the city, including zoning maps, road maps, aerial photos, and even wooded areas.  I don't see sewers or historic stream channels on here yet, but there's no reason they can't be added at some point.

One of the most interesting things I noticed while perusing these maps is that almost all of the areas that are forested are also 'landslide danger areas'.  This really demonstrates how important trees are in stopping erosion and landslides.  It also really illustrates the fact that trees were mostly preserved in areas that were hard to develop.  When pondering the nature left in the refugia amongst the city, we should also think about welcoming nature back into flatter areas as well, amongst our homes and businesses, instead of banishing it to our steep slopes.

Anyway, check out the maps, and see what you can discover on your own!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Panther Hollow Run Watershed Map on Google Maps!

Remember the Historic Channels of Squirrel Hill map I made last summer?  I've made a draft version of this map that is viewable on Google Maps!

View Panther Hollow Lost Channels V1.0.kmz in a larger map

(Be patient, it can be slow to load.)

The dark blue lines are existing watercourses, the light blue lines are historic watercourses I found on old maps, and the yellow lines are places where I think surface water once flowed, based on hydrology, but did not see on historic maps.  The light red outline is the current Panther Hollow Run watershed and the maroon line is the part of the watershed that drains into the combined sewer-stormwater system.  There are a few other features thrown in too.  Click on the features on this map for more info.

Over time I hope to expand this map over the whole Four Mile Run watershed and add other features.  Ultimately it will hopefully expand to be a big part of the outreach I am working on for my project.

I am currently looking at ways to get this on the version of Google Earth on 'smartphones', so that people can actually pull up this map while in the watershed and see where historic channels are.  Stay tuned...

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Freezing Rain in Vermont, Autumn in Pittsburgh's Urban Ecosystems

Being from southern California, and having only spent a bit over a year in Vermont, there are a lot of cold-weather things I just haven't experienced.  Southern California has high mountains that can get quite a bit of snow, but few people live in the mountains; for most people, time in snow is an optional recreational activity, not a way of life.  Here in Vermont, of course, the cold winters are a huge part of the landscape and culture, and are a defining feature on the landscape.

Last Monday, Burlington experienced a short period of freezing rain.  While this was not a major ice storm by Vermont standards, it was fascinating to me because I've never experienced freezing rain before.  (We didn't happen to get any freezing rain last year, and it is quite rare in California, even in areas that get lots of snow).


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Water slows down for the season

Yesterday I spent the day in the Adirondacks.  The spatterings of snow that moved through the area, and did not accumulate near Lake Champlain, did stick around at the higher elevations.  At the mid elevations, the ground was too warm to allow snow to stick around, but the vegetation was not.  Snow accumulated on the spruce, on downed logs, even on lichen... clearly demonstrating that trees don't just intercept rainfall, but also slow down water of a more icy sort.