Wednesday, January 22, 2014

california drought as seen by kids from the edge of space

The Sierra mountain range as seen from the edge of space in January of 2014. The dry basin at the bottom of the photo is Owens Lake. (Earth to Sky Calculus /January 17, 2014)

LATimes | California's water problem is so bad you can see it from the edge of space.

In the images in the above gallery, some taken at an altitude of 100,000 feet, you can see just how little snow the Sierra Nevada have this year, even though we are halfway through the winter season.
On Friday, Gov. Jerry Brown officially declared a drought emergency in the state, and asked residents to reduce their water use by at least 20%.

The simultaneously gorgeous and disturbing images were captured by a group of high school students from Bishop, Calif., who have been launching large, helium-filled balloons up into the stratosphere on a regular basis for three years.

(If you click all the way through, you will get to see an image of a balloon at the moment it popped.)
The goal of these flights is to learn more about the top of the Earth's atmosphere -- how it is affected by solar activity, and what microbes live up there, for example. But on a flight earlier this month, video cameras attached to the balloon also caught images of the Sierra and Death Valley in the midst of one of the worst droughts in the state in decades.

"We had a flight almost exactly a year ago, and at that time the mountains were almost completely covered in snow," said Amelia Phillips, 17. "In the recent images very few mountains were covered with snow. We knew we were in a drought, but it wasn't clear to us before we saw the pictures how bad it is." 

Michael White, 17, another member of the balloon-flying club called Earth to Sky Calculus, said he found the images troubling. "Given that last year was also a low snow year, it is very disconcerting," he said.

The student group is lead by Tony Phillips, an astronomer who runs the website
In one of the images above, you will see a picture of the balloons' launch pad -- a site about 15 miles southwest of Bishop. "For those of us who have been doing these balloon flight for years that is a really striking drought photograph for us," said Phillips. "Those mountains should be covered in snow by now."


makheru bradley said...

Will they stand for democracy, liberty and justice like the Zapatista’s in Chiapas?

PETER ROSSET: Well, what they’re saying is that indigenous people in Mexico, since the Spanish conquest 500 years ago, as they said, have been treated almost like animals in a very racist society—the poorest of the poor, the most excluded, most indigenous communities without running water, without electricity, without effective education or healthcare. And that’s one of the reasons why the Zapatistas rose up. They also rose up because they knew that that was going to go from bad to worse with NAFTA and with free trade.

I think the most important thing now, 20 years later, is that in one small area, the southeast of Mexico, where they control territory, they’ve managed to create a different system—a small vision of what an alternative society would look like with collective and rotating self-government, with their own autonomous education system, autonomous healthcare system, production cooperatives and societies, the recovery of the local economy, their own system of administration of justice—in other words, their own legal system, which is much fairer than the federal Mexican legal system—tremendous promotion of young people and of women into positions of importance in the self-government process. So, it’s really exciting to see what is possible to achieve if you control your own territory and if you have a different vision of how society could be organized.

John Kurman said...

Perhaps all of the innovative cryptolibertarian disruptors can retreat into cyberspace until it gets a little wetter... you don't suppose John Perry Barlow feels like an ass right about now?

BigDonOne said...

Lot more info on their Facebook
Check out the group of IQ-160 high school students doing this - interviewed on CNN...

CNu said...

lol, I was looking for George Schultz and get Sgt. Schultz instead...., serves me right. That "we came, we saw, he died" comment is absolutely priceless.

CNu said...

um..., google didn't clear that one up for me John, can you please help a brother out?

CNu said...

Now that Mexican elites have moved out of the way in terms of the nationalization of Mexican oil, there's no telling what's next on the queue. Denationalization of resources changes the dynamic that precipitated the unleashing of powerful narco-insurgency. All kind of Libyan style factors may get unleashed to help quell further instability.

The Zapatista's are of no consequence one way or another as long as they play ball with the extractive capitalists eyeballing that black gold.

John Kurman said...

When I read this in '96, I rolled my eyes. Clearly, the fucker couldn't even figure out that the powerlines leading from cyberspace terminated in smokestacks. The Civilization of Mind is stuck here in the real world with the rest of schlumps.

Uglyblackjohn said...

Yeah... This weather is just getting crazy. Our local schools have called for a snow day... On the Gulf?

Dale Asberry said...

Been insane up here in Indiana too. Two weeks with subzero temps for the high. I've been shoveling so much damn snow that it's piled up 8 feet high on each side of my driveway mostly due to the insane wind blowing and depositing the snow right, and only, in my driveway.

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