Climate Change in the Oregon High Desert

Ten Bears on “The climate change movement is dead. Al Gore killed it” (promoted from the comments)

Sixty-five degrees today on The High Desert, a four thousand feet above sea-level and but a metaphoric stones’ throw from what were once prolific glaciers close enough to the forty-fifth parallel to call it half way to the north pole. Crocuses have been pushing through since the end of last month, and Dawn and I’s stroll this afternoon through a backyard state park (Smith Rock) yielded an unexpected double pockets full of fresh mesquite, sage and rabbit brush, and California Wood Ducks on the river”¦ a couple of hundred miles north, hundred or so east and a couple of thousand feet in elevation out of where they would traditionally be found this time of year. With ducklings.

We had no snow to speak of this past winter”¦ an early wet snow that did hundred of thousands of dollars to all the ornamental trees before melting off by noon that was more the likely a combination of an early season cold inversion and the pall of the late burning forest fire burning out of control fifty miles to the north. The snow pack in the Coast Range is zero percent of ‘normal’. The snow pack on The High Cascade is either as measured by the perkypants-on-teevee ski-bunny bunch at fifty percent of a twenty year running ‘normal’ or to my four generations of memory fifteen to seventeen percent of ‘normal’, take your pick. Next week I’ll four-by in to the headwaters of the river we were born on to send my uncle on his last trip down the river, and show my grand-children the whitebark pine”¦ for time immemorial its sub-alpine winter temperatures leaving then immune to the cyclic ravages of the pine-bark beetle now predicted to be extinct around here by as early as 2013.

Over seventy thousand square miles of the Eastern pine forests of the Northern Rockies and the Cascade Mountains of the Pacific Northwest stand dead and waiting to burn and it is anticipated we will lose up to eighty percent of our pine forests before this is over, perhaps as early as 2013. In time immemorial the bark beetle’s one to three year re-generation cycle was held in check by zero and sub-zero winter temperatures, a generation cycle now seen at two or three a year, and by the aggressive fires both natural and ‘prescribed’ that the beetle itself is an integral part.

Turns out fightin’ fires wasn’t such a good idea after all.

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