Thursday, September 23, 2010

Heat Advisory

There's no better place to start than the beginning.

This unwieldy post, which consists of pictures from California taken last week, has been crushing me like a choking albatross (which, by the way, is a fascinating bird - 19 of 21 species of which are on the verge of extinction thanks to humans - and don't forget the curse that none of the sailers escaped in the Rime of the Ancient Mariner! Auuugghhh. This is how these posts get so unwieldy and take so long. I start thinking things like, what about those albatrosses anyway?). These lilies are a prime example of what feels so impossible to convey - a vibrant burst of fecund pink against a gruesome backdrop of suffocating brown.
On top of which, too many reports, studies, and news articles pile up every day! I scarcely know which to include. So, first a bit of fun...and then close behind, the fury.
Fun is, I got to stay with my old housemate and friend from when I was in my 20's and living in Berkeley - (Bambi) Lynn. We looked a lot different back then - but never mind!
I went to visit youngest daughter, who is sitting patiently, waiting for the slow tortoise who lives around the corner from Lynn's house to appear.
Finally he crept out! His name is Thelonious. There is an adorable note left on a youtube video -

"Monk Monk Monk Monk Monk - Your slipper-shuffling madness on the ivories will be treasured throughout the years eternal, you beautiful mad genius."
We went to the Santa Cruz boardwalk, which boasts the 6th oldest rollercoaster in the US. I rode on it many times when I went to college at UCSC - it remains a clackety wooden treasure of nostalgia.
I enjoy amusement parks
for their ludicrous, garish color and indigestible concoctions,
replete with ridiculous notions like Deep Fried Twinkies. I managed to resist that temptation.
The shrieks of faux terror are cathartic.
Those of us in the shrinking middle class of the declining American Empire are lucky to live in this brief period of time and place where we are so accustomed to safety, we scarcely realize how fragile our stability will become as resources dwindle.
But right now, we do not have to fear murderous marauders, or hungry animals, or the dark.
I rather suspect most people expect we never again will. Youngest daughter spotted this bobcat and tracked it to the shadows of the underbrush, where it dragged some vanquished prey - but I barely caught a glimpse.
According to a new archaeological study, people have been doing horrible things to each other in times of extreme deprivation far back into human history. Please do NOT click on that link if you are underage (that means you, Highschooler!), have a queasy stomach, or prefer to imagine that people are innately benevolent.
Along the river, birds perch in the bare branches of fragrant eucalyptus, surveying the town of Santa Cruz.
We ambled through the charming downtown and side streets. The pictures that follow reflect almost universal damage to the plantings around the shops - and a few pretty flowers that defy the decline.
It is phenomenally frustrating that forestry experts will diagnose individual species of trees as being threatened by all sorts of diseases, insects and fungi - but it's nigh impossible to get one to admit that there is something egregiously abnormal in the fact that EVERY species is in existential peril.
Pick any sort of tree and you will find studies from scientists revealing it is in danger of extinction.
But try to get an expert to focus on the fact that ALL trees are in danger of extinction, and just why that incomprehensibly unlikely coincidence should be - good luck with that one!

Now as it turns out, the death of western conifers isn't just being blamed on bark beetles that are increasing from warming - according to the NYT there is now also, ho ho, a newly rampaging disease, white pine blister rust.
Why these researchers refuse to acknowledge the studies that have demonstrated in controlled experiments that plants weakened by exposure to ozone are more susceptible to insects, disease and fungus, I just don't know!

I could have taken countless pictures of the aphid infestations but they are disgusting, so I didn't. Here's one:
High in trees I saw these sticky panels, labeled: "Government Insect Trap...DO NOT REMOVE." Do you suppose someone noticed there is a problem?

An absolutely extraordinary University of Toronto study was reported in this article,

"Can Our Forests Stand the Heat," with the subtitle "Scientists discover unusual die-off in sugar-maple leaves due to high spring temperatures"

"You might expect warm weather to be good for trees. But new research by professors and students in the Faculty of Forestry suggests that a balmy spring can be bad for temperate forests. The group, studying a patch of forest in theHaliburton Highlands, discovered that many sugar-maple leaves that developed during three record-hot days in May died without expanding to their full size; other leaves are stunted.
'In early June, when the canopy should be its greenest, the canopy was tinged brown,' says Sean Thomas, the Canada Research Chair in Forests and Environmental Change and a professor of forestry. “In my 10 years of working in this region I’ve never seen anything like this. The foresters I work with who have been there many decades have never seen anything like this.'...
Thomas says the death of new leaves is an effect few would have predicted for warmer springs; the researchers have ruled out other causes, such as disease, pests and rainfall."
Right...they ruled out disease, pests and rainfall - but didn't even consider ozone!!
Now, where have I heard something about leaves tinged brown, and stunted?? Well, at least they didn't blame it on drought. I am SO sick of people blaming early fall color and leaf drop on drought, when the same thing happened last year, and that was supposedly because it was so rainy!
I was delighted to come across an organization that is new to me: The Eastern Native Tree Society, which measures, maps, and documents trees...and also a related work in progress, a film called the Vanishing Hemlock. Somewhat unsurprisingly, the producers are blaming this tragedy exclusively on the wooly adelgid.
I also discovered that the National Park Service has established a forest monitoring project, called the Northeast Temperate Network, established in 2006.
Incredible as it seems, they are measuring forest health by the amount of dead wood - Oh yes, in this Orwellian world, dead is good!

"Coarse woody debris (i.e., dead trees and the remains of branches on the forest floor) and snags (i.e., standing dead trees) are one indicator of forest health. Forests in most NETN parks do not have enough snags or coarse woody debris."

Of course not - virtually all of them have been clear cut at LEAST once!! So although healthy old-growth forests should naturally have a certain percentage of standing dead and woody debris, it doesn't follow our modern forests should, when they are only 100 or 150 years old - not when the trees are meant to live for CENTURIES! And yet, in an inverted form of insane logic, the foresters at the Park Service have deemed woody debris on the forest floor, and standing dead trees, to be a sign of forest health! I have to wonder, are they being deliberately deceptive - or are they just delusional...or merely stupid??
Here's what this publication from Cornell has to say about healthy maples:

"Sugar maple trees average about 1 foot of height growth and 0.2 inch of diameter growth annually for the first 30 to 40 years. Hence a 30-year-old tree might be 6 to 8 inches in diameter and 30 to 35 feet in height. After about 140 to 150 years, height growth ceases and radial growth slows greatly. Although rare, old-growth sugar maple stands can average 300 to 400 years in age; individual trees range from 70 to 110 feet tall with diameters at breast height of 20 to 36 inches."
It was revealed, in 2008, that the world's oldest tree resides in Sweden,
and boasts a whopping 9,550 years!
The giant long-lived redwood trees on the UCSC campus are yellow instead of the deep green they should be.
Our busy friends at the Forest Service have developed a swell web page, Forest Threats, which has the following special section:

"Featured Forest Threat

Thousand Cankers Disease (Geosmithia sp.)

Thousand cankers disease has been found in many Western States. The first confirmation within the native range of black walnut in the East was in Tennessee during July 2010.
Thousand cankers disease - Photo by Ned Tisserat, Colorado State University, Bugwood.orgWhat is thousand cankers disease? Dieback and mortality of eastern black walnut (Juglans nigra) in several Western States have become more common and severe during the last decade. A tiny bark beetle is creating numerous galleries beneath the bark of affected branches, resulting in fungal infection and canker formation. The large numbers of cankers associated with dead branches suggest the disease’s name—thousand cankers disease.
How does it spread? The principal agents involved in this disease are a newly identified fungus (Geosmithia sp. with a proposed name ofGeosmithia morbida) and the walnut twig beetle (Pityophthorus juglandis). Both the fungus and the beetle only occur on walnut species.
Why is thousand cankers disease a concern? An infested tree usually dies within 3 years of initial symptoms.The potential damage of this disease to eastern forests could be great because of the widespread distribution of eastern black walnut, the susceptibility of this tree species to the disease, and the capacity of the fungus and beetle to invade new areas and survive under a wide range of climatic conditions in the west."
Let's not lose sight of the oaks either - a paper indicates that they just aren't viable in the long run!

"It has been proposed that North America’s oak (Quercus spp.) forests may be entering an extended period of poor growth and susceptibility to invasive pests and droughts...a situation that has been a national forest health problem since 1960... The deterioration of oak forest health, evidenced by numerous symptoms and precipitated by various causal factors, is collectively termed ‘‘oak decline’’...

Oak decline results from the interaction of predisposing stress factors (defoliating insects, drought, frost/ice damage, poor site quality, and advanced tree age) and secondary disease and insect pests (root fungi, canker fungi, and insect borers) ...This multitude of stresses eventually weakens oak trees resulting in sparse foliage, thin crowns, crown dieback, reduced radial growth, and eventually death...

The decline and mortality of oaks have been noted across its range in the northern US since the late 1970s and oak decline is one component of the broader issue of oak sustainability ...Despite oak’s prevalence across the northern U.S., evidence from recent studies suggests that both oak sapling mortality and a lack of seedlings portend a doubtful future for oak forests."

Here's an oak from downtown Santa Cruz.
And here are the leaves...Au revoir, oaks!
Yet another study about TWO kinds of beetles causing devastation is purportedly a "comprehensive synthesis" but looks only at temperature and doesn't even consider ozone. This and the other studies mentioned above are simply obtuse in that they are not aware of the role of ozone in tree mortality, which is referred to in the long list of literature linked to at the top of this blog, on the "Basic Premise" page.

"The potential for outbreaks of spruce and mountain pine beetles in western North America's forests is likely to increase significantly in the coming decades, according to a study conducted by USDA Forest Service researchers and their colleagues. Their findings, published in the September issue of the journal BioScience, represent the first comprehensive synthesis of the effects of climate change on bark beetles."

At home in New Jersey flowers have been blooming out of season - and lo and behold, the same oddity can be found in California. This wisteria should bloom in spring.
The leaves of course are lacking chlorophyll.
Primula is another spring flower, but here it is, in September!
Landscapes like this are frightening.
This entire row of young maples is severely stressed and there is nothing growing in the dirt around them.
What leaves remain are badly burnt.
An ivory, waxy Southern Magnolia blossoms on an evergreen tree with leaves that are crumpling.
They are falling to the ground beneath.
Looking down a side street, huge trees are bare.

The redbud trees are spectacular colors.

Since I don't live in California, I don't know if it is normal for them to turn so early, in the middle of September. It seems highly unlikely however.
They are just starting to turn in New Jersey.
The crown of this tree is in typically abysmal condition.
And the leaves are wrinkly and prematurely senescent.
The morning glory vine looks much healthier than those at home,
and has a luminous glow.

But the same lichen that is so closely associated with dying branches in New Jersey is to be found on many species of tree.
None of the plants in this yard were salvageable, so the owners ripped out everything but the tree.
The tree will have to go, too.
Jasmine - heavenly!

This enormous tree has an elegant structure.
This tree is bleeding sap, a fatal sign of internal fungus which has destroyed many trees in California.
I saw so many plants I didn't recognize, like this obscure green flower.
There are many well-tended gardens.
The colors of flowers are flamboyant.

The sweetgum is gorgeous.

The streets all through the town are lined with dying trees.
When trees in urban cities in the north die it is often blamed on salting the roads, but that is obviously not a factor here.
This brown tree is a pine with almost no needles left.

Random branches just turn brown.
Thin and early color - both symptoms of an imminent demise.
These leaves are shriveled.
A bridge looms over dead grass and leads to a copse of transparent crowns.
It looks like this part of earth is on the way to becoming a desert.
There are acres of earth devoid of living vegetation, punctuated occasionally by clumps of brilliant poppies.
An attempt was made to landscape with a row of shrubs.
But the leaves indicate the effort is hopeless.
This bougainville vine is in much better shape.
The color is utterly scintillating.

The seed pod is more subdued, but in my estimation even more beautiful.
We spent an afternoon at the university arboretum, which has a greenhouse with tables bursting with cacti and succulents.
However, outside the arboretum is such a wreck that I have had a difficult time processing the experience. The other night, I dreamed some vicious person hacked off my hands with a cleaver so I couldn't type on my laptop!
Because of the mild climate the curators were able to import many plants from all over the world.
They are all only shadows of their former glory, in varying shades of dead and dying.
Whether viewing one microcosm of a few leaves or a groundcover that barely covers the dirt,
or taking in the totality of the scenery,

the conclusion that everything is rapidly dying is inescapable.
I just can't think of any more captions so some of these images will have to speak for themselves.

Seed pods and cones have terrific shapes.
This bed has rocks with lichen, shriveling plants, much bare stone, and brown, fallen leaves.
This is the top of a tall redwood - thin and with yellowing needles.
A Natural Resources Defense Council publication warns that increasing temperatures from global warming will mean worse impacts on human health. That is what a "heat advisory" in the weather report really means - it is dangerous to breathe the air.
Global Warming Will Lead to serious Health Problems
"Outdoor work, play, and exercise increase the amount of air pollution people inhale. In controlled clinical studies, breathing ozone has been linked to reduced pulmonary function, increased cough, and chest tightness. Reduced lung function and physical performance, increased airway reactivity, and acute inflammation have been found at exposure well below 80 parts per billion (ppb), even in healthy adults.2 Other health effects of ozone include an increase in hospital admissions and even premature mortality, and ozone exposure has been linked to school absenteeism and restricted activity days."

"Exposure to ozone also heightens the sensitivity of asthmatics to allergens and impairs lung function, especially in children and the elderly. In many places, including Atlanta and Mexico City, ozone has been linked to increased hospital admissions for lower respiratory infections and asthma in children."
It seems reasonable to extrapolate that higher temperatures, which increase the level of ozone, will also increase the impact on vegetation.

To get an idea how enormous this sparsely foliaged tree is, compare it to youngest daughter who is walking down the path, in the lower right corner of the picture.
More lichen...
And everywhere, leaves that are stippled, burned, singed, losing color and lacking robust texture.

A large section of the arboretum contains plants that originate in South Africa.

The bark from these eucalyptus trunks is peeling off in giant strips.

There are so many desiccated branches that the overall scheme is a pronounced ugly mix of shades of brown, grey, and blackened green.
It isn't possible to find a shrub in full leaf, without significant percentage of dead tissue.

Only the tips of this tree are green - the inner needles are red.

And I thought the bark in New Jersey was splitting!
This flower is funereal.
I love the bee coming in for a landing!
Lately I have been wondering if it even matters that the ecosystem is collapsing thanks to toxic greenhouse gases, because the amplifying feedbacks of climate change from CO2 are running amuck.
Here's a terrific synopsys of the science, the power point presentation from a talk by the the White House Science Advisor, John Holdren. It's a handy visual introduction to the real-world effects of global climate disruption...But even so is woefully inadequate.
He appears to accept a target for CO2 in the atmosphere of 450 ppm, when it's quite obvious that the 388 we have already achieved is a threat to life on earth.
And of course, he had better figure out what ozone is doing if he thinks a core mitigation strategy is to reduce deforestation, and increase reforestation.
Also frankly, his idea that we are going to somehow technologically "scrub" greenhouse gases from the atmosphere or employ "geoengineering" to create cooling effects are about as realistic as a massive conspiracy to blanket the earth with chemical contrails...but then again, why not?? In this crazy world, which reeks with duplicity and evil, anything could happen!
I have been - actually, still am - quite skeptical about the theory that there is a conspiracy to release chemicals from aircraft into the atmosphere.
However, I certainly feel deep kinship with those who recognize that trees are dying, whether or not they attribute it to acid rain, ozone, cell phone radiation, or contrails.
In that spirit I have to confess that I saw myself exactly what such advocates depict - a bizarre criss-crossing of white SOMETHING in the sky. I've never, ever seen it on the east coast. I also saw the crusty white on trees on tree bark which has been attributed to pollution.
Here, for Deborah Whitman, the creator of Environmental Voices, are my photos that corroborate your findings, for whatever they are worth! And I hope many people visit your website, and join in our crusade to save trees from extinction.
Sure enough once the morning fog burned away, we had a lovely, clear blue sky.
I was busy taking pictures of dying trees and shrubs when I realized that long narrow clouds were appearing above.
It wasn't long before they were filling the sky.

They seemed to multiply and spread.
I didn't see or hear any planes.
For all I know, this is a perfectly natural phenomenon.
So I make no judgment about the likelihood of chemtrails.
But one thing is for certain - that grass is dead, and the trees and shrubs are on the verge.

The clouds persisted for the rest of the day.

Thanks to Rita, a reader, for sharing this trailer!


  1. Great photos Gail... how is it possible that this is not better noticed?

  2. My dad noticed the trees were dying several years ago. He always said it was because they are all the same age. I thought it was just trees competing because trees are supposed to live 100s of years. In the spring of 2008 I noticed all the pines and hemlocks were brown! I thought it was a disease. Until I found your blog I never connected the dots.

  3. I found some links you might be interested in. Maybe fighting kudzu can help. (but more needs to be done on coal and oil burning),content=1736 "It’s not clear whether kudzu is producing enough gases to warrant a widespread eradication program." What!? If its even 3% of the problem it should be fought! It might buy us some time since getting off oil and coal could take a while. "The fast-growing plant covers an estimated 11,580 square miles in the United States, primarily in the Southeast. The invasive, rapidly growing vine adds 200 square miles to its domain ANNUALLY." If it isn't a significant contribution now it will be soon! At least some plants can survive...just not the ones we want. Maybe we can fight kudzu and coal to help until people wake up.?

  4. I noticed all the leaves wilted in the summer of 2008. I thought it was long-term drought from climate change, exacerbated by opportunistic diseases and pests. But then I saw that plants in pots had the same symptoms. Only something in the air can explain such universal impacts. It can't even be acid rain (which is sort of the same thing anyway) because plants in enriched dirt getting tap water are in no better condition.

    If only somebody with some clout would notice!

  5. Ugh :( toxic cloud of ozone headed my way.

  6. Cool we're on at the same time. :) Im free till 12:00

  7. Haha, I get an email whenever a comment is posted. All my zillions of comments! Aren't you supposed to be in class, or something?

  8. Whats the safe level of ozone for plants. What should our goal be?

  9. I have a free period till 12:15.

  10. Maybe people would be more likely to pay attention if you write a book? Or make a website that makes all the studies easy to access. People may be more likely to believe a site than a blog. I think that you present things just fine but Im just thinking.

  11. Ah well, then, you might have time to skim this, if not solve the entire puzzle!

    I still wonder if it isn't CO2 because ozone supposedly has decreased whereas, CO2 is definitely increasing. And then there's the nitrogen...

    "increasing carbon dioxide levels only promote temporary growth, and can even reduce growth if the concentration gets too high. For example, sweet gum and loblolly pine exposed to elevated carbon dioxide over four months were absorbing less carbon than control trees receiving normal levels of carbon dioxide.[96] The decreased growth may have been caused by a build-up of starch in leaves and a reduction in photosynthesis.[97]"...

    "Finnish researchers Kauppi, Mielikainen and Kuusela argue that nitrogen oxides in acid rain, although having many negative affects on trees, may have a temporary fertilizing effect, leading to at least a short-term carbon gain. They estimate that European forests, despite clear signs of decline, are still a net carbon sink absorbing from 85 to 120 million tonnes of carbon each year. However, they warn that continued acid rain and climate change may alter this situation."

  12. Moreover, increased levels of carbon dioxide may make some vegetation more vulnerable to insects.[98]
    That is significant. But background O3 is rising. I will look over this as much as possible over the weekend. Maybe its a combo of O3, nitrogen overload, uv rays, heavy metals. I have had a thought. Could herbicides be building up in the enviroment?

  13. I have to go to history class now. We talk about current events every friday. Maybe I can tell everyone about the most ignored current event and link them all to this site? If I get the chance I will! :)

  14. Yes, background O3 is rising. And certainly there is a nasty synergy going on. But I tend to think there has to be a single contributor that is the major cause, because, broadly speaking, the effects are really quite uniform around the globe. Herbicides are surely building up but they wouldn't spread evenly enough to account for trees on the Olympic peninsula and California suffering the same rapid decline as those on the East Coast, and even in Costa Rica.

    Plus there have been enough reports from around the world that I think it has to be something in the atmosphere, and/or uv rays.

    Enjoy your weekend!

  15. Here's a thought:

    With all the trees dying (or will soon be) we will need a way to make biochar without trees. But here's the thing, instead of cutting down oaks and maples that are obviously ill, we cut them off about 8 feet off the ground and pollard them. They will be sequestering carbon as fast as a healthy full grown tree. Cutting them off at the ground will just kill the tree but pollarding them keeps them a useful part of the environment.

    The idea of pollarding dying oaks and maples instead of just letting them die or cutting them off at the ground needs to be researched by foresters not beholden to the timber companies. The root systems of these trees might be healthy enough to continue the sequestering of carbon for many lifetimes.

    Oh people, look around you the signs are everywhere,
    you've left it to someone other than you, to be the one who cares"
    Jackson Browne

    Here's Linda Ronstadt, Rock me on the water:


  16. Hey catman,

    first, blogger has revamped its settings so maybe, just maybe, everything will be in the same font and size!! And it might be easier to post comments? Or perhaps that's wishful thinking...

    Pollarding is an excellent idea however, it's just not true that the roots are healthy when the crown is not. In fact, I read that the roots fail before injury is visible in the branches.

    Stil better than cutting them to the ground and drilling the stump, which is done for aesthetics.

    I see so much of this, it reminds me of some ancient Twilight Zone story of the mannequins that come alive in department stores in the night and scurry around...creepy...

    now off to listen to Linda Ronstadt, thanks!

  17. Yes, die-off global and so are the chemtrails.
    The majority don't notice much-can't see the forest for the trees are in the way i.e. kept distracted by electronic media and aren't out in the natural world to notice the decline in our natural environment.They don't notice the lack of birdsong unless you bring it to their attention! If you go to utube and find the video of a lecture given by David Keith at Stanford University you will see where he describes aerosols of SULFUR DIOXIDE and aluminum nanoparticles via planes in the lecture. Who is behind this scheme and why a seed vault buried in Norway? You think they didn't know the risks involved, hence the seed saving? Oh, climate change is manmade alright, but not, I believe because of our puny carbon dioxide gases that plants thrive on! My theory is when enough damage is done, when famine pervades, when Rachel Carson's silent spring is here, only then will the people notice and cry out if they care. And those behind the global warming scheme creating crisis will demand carbon tax now; carbon tax to pay the owners of the climate.
    I appreciate and am thankful to the owner of this blog for documenting and recording the damage being done to our environment.


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