Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Early Summer 2021_High Knob Massif


12 June 2021
High Knob Massif
Majestic Big Cherry Lake
Wayne Browning Photograph © All Rights Reserved

The only thing missing from this beautiful scene of 
Big Cherry Lake are Bald Eagles that had just flown along the shoreline!  Bald Eagles love places with 
lots of fish and trees (intact forests).

12 June 2021
High Knob Massif
Majestic Big Cherry Lake
Wayne Browning Photograph © All Rights Reserved

How awesome it is to observe these majestic creatures as residents of this high country setting.  This has been made possible due to Stephen Lawson, and members of the Big Stone Gap Town Council, who chose to protect this watershed from logging (allowing Bald Eagles and many more creatures to live in this special place). 

A place featuring Virginia's most productive water producing watershed, as part of the wettest terrain 
in the Old Dominion.

High Knob Massif
Precipitation Update

(Totals Listed By AM Measurement Format)
Monthly Total Precipitation
Big Cherry Lake Dam
(Elevation 3139 feet)

2019

January
6.14"

February
12.50"

Winter 2018-19
(1 Dec-29 Feb)
26.56"

March
5.93"

April
6.64"

May
6.75"

Spring 2019
(1 Mar-31 May)
19.32"

June
10.68"

July
10.77"

August
4.15"

Summer 2019
(1 Jun-31 Aug)
25.60"

September
0.63"

October
5.01"
( 5.89" to Midnight 31st )

November
5.20"
( 7.04" to Midnight 30th )

Autumn 2019
(1 Sep-31 Oct)
10.84"

December
8.52"

2019 Total: 82.92" (M)
 (January 1 to December 31 Period)

2020

*January
7.15"

**February
13.01"

Winter 2019-20
(1 Dec-29 Feb)
28.68"

March
9.55"
( 10.77" to Midnight 31st )

April
11.59"

May
8.73"
(6.90" on Eagle Knob of High Knob Massif)

Spring 2020
(1 Mar-31 May)
29.87"

June
7.48"

July
9.72"
(10.48" to Midnight 31st)

August
8.12"

Summer 2020
(1 Jun-31 Aug)
25.32"

September
6.21"

October 
7.06"

November 
1.96"
(Eagle Knob Snowfall: 0.5")

Autumn 2020
(1 Sep-31 Oct)
15.23"

December 
6.22"
(Eagle Knob Snowfall: 34.0")

2020 Total: 96.80" (M)
 (January 1 to December 31 Period)

2021

January
6.35"
***(Eagle Knob Snowfall: 34.0")

February
7.42"
(Eagle Knob Snowfall: 19.5")

Winter 2020-21
(1 Dec to 28 Feb)
19.99"
(21.70" on Eagle Knob)

March
10.82"
(11.14" to Midnight 31st)

April
2.53"

May
4.54"

1-15 June
4.33"

2021 Total: 35.99"
 (January 1 to June 15 Period)

November 2019-October 2020: 102.34"

Autumn 2018 to Summer 2019: 91.21"

Autumn 2019 to Summer 2020: 94.44"

(M): Some missing moisture in undercatch and frozen precipitation, with partial corrections applied for the 24.4 meter (80 feet) tall dam structure where rain gauges are located.  Corrections are based upon 86-months of direct comparisons between NWS and IFLOWS at Big Cherry Dam (including occasional snow core-water content data).

*General 7.00" to 8.00" at upper elevations (above 3000 feet) with 5.96" at the City of Norton Water Plant (official NWS rain gauge located at approximately 2342 feet elevation).

**Third consecutive February to reach double-digit precipitation totals within upper elevations of the 
High Knob Massif.

***Not a mistake, with a second consecutive month having 34.0" of snowfall (rare to have back-to-back months with the same total).

12 June 2021
South Fork Gorge
Downstream of Big Cherry Dam
Wayne Browning Photograph © All Rights Reserved

Although this has been a much drier year, compared 
to 2020, water remains abundant with overflow of the spillway observed on 12 June 2021.

Proposed USDA Forest Service Timber Harvest
Why Protect Or Promote Old-Growth

Big Cherry Lake Basin, High Knob Lake Basin, Benges Basin of the Norton Reservoirs, Devil Fork Basin and the adjoining Powell Mountain Block of the High Knob Massif (containing Cove and Stock Creek basins) have potential to develop into old-growth forest.

This not including any private land, just USDA Forest Service public land and our locally owned town-city watersheds that supply precious water.

The above named watershed basins form only a part of the 180+ square mile massif, and only a small portion of the Clinch Ranger District.  

Statistics For Land In Clinch Ranger District
Figure 1 - Landscape Perspective

In fact, land statistics freely available to anyone 
to verify, reveal that if all public lands within the Clinch Ranger District (CRD) were allowed to become old-growth it would represent only 8.25% of land in Wise, Scott, Lee & Dickenson counties.

If all the land owned by the City of Norton and towns of Appalachia, Big Stone Gap, and Coeburn were included it would still represent only 8.9% of the total landscape in CRD counties.    

This means that more than 80% (Eighty) of the area remains open to timber production and other land use disturbances, even when accounting for all additional protected areas (Breaks Interstate Park, Natural Tunnel State Park, Cumberland Gap National Historical Park and places like The Cedars) and generously assuming that some private land owners will choose not to log.

Regional Landscape
Courtesy of Google Earth Pro

It does not take a rocket scientist, or any scientist, to verify this as a mere look from Google Earth clearly reveals the landscape disturbances across the region (non-forested lands).

Against this background, a new 13,087 acre project area has been targeted for timber extraction and for burning by 
the USDA Forest Service.


USDA Forest Service
Powell Mountain Block
Proposed Devils Hens Nest Vegetation Project
13,087 Acre Project Area In Red

Figure 2_Timber Project Statistics

A proposed 133 timber units would fragment an area that is essentially a beautiful, intact forest.

Proposed Devils Hens Nest Project Area
Current Intact (Not Fragmented) Forest

An area where trees are also growing old.

Age of Proposed Timber Harvest Units
Extracted from USDA Forest Service KMZ

An area that is part of the wettest terrain in Virginia where wetlands and mesophytic 
species are abundant.

2 June 2021
Powell Mountain of High Knob Massif
Wetland Within Proposed DHNVP Area
Wayne Browning Photograph © All Rights Reserved

The proposed timber harvest area has old (big) trees scattered among much younger and smaller trees.

2 June 2021
Within The Proposed DHNVP Area
Wayne Browning Photograph © All Rights Reserved

Areas of rich to exceptionally rich forest habitat exist.

2 June 2021
Proposed Harvest Units 92-87b
Exceptionally Rich Slope Forest
Wayne Browning Photograph © All Rights Reserved

Evidence of land slips and slides also exist.

2 June 2021
Proposed Harvest Units 92-87b
Exceptionally Rich Slope Forest
Wayne Browning Photograph © All Rights Reserved

Generally, the area can only be called majestic.

2 June 2021
Proposed Harvest Units 92-87b
Exceptionally Rich Slope Forest
Wayne Browning Photograph © All Rights Reserved

Harvest units contain a mixture of upper elevation and middle to lower elevations, with increasing northern species above 3000 feet and sharp elevation gradients that allow mixed-mesophytic and cove forests within cold air drainages of Laurel Fork, Stock Creek, and Cove Creek that feed the Clinch River.

Elevation Of Proposed Timber Harvest Units
Extracted from USDA Forest Service KMZ

So, why protect an area like this?

There are countless reasons that have nothing to 
do with science, but from a science viewpoint this 
is carbon in the bank.  The best and most efficient way to begin to reduce human manipulation of the climate (Earth) system is to allow these trees to grow into old-growth.


The science of this is called Proforestation, and essentially illustrates that the largest and oldest trees store the most carbon.

Once an area is logged it can take up to 30 years 
for it to return to a point that it stores more carbon than it releases by respiration and decomposition.  Three decades of carbon storage lost during a time in which reduction of carbon emission is in critical demand (global reduction begins locally).

The current and severely outdated forest plan 
for the Jefferson National Forest does not even recognize climate change and the mandate given 
to reduce human forcing on the system.

If you do not believe in climate change, or human forcing of climate, then where is your data to prove this fact?

Discussions on this issue can only be had by looking at collected data.  Time can no longer be wasted on opinion or any belief that humans do not impact the surrounding environment unless there is actual data for illustration.

I will add more to this in coming weeks.

This section is under construction.  Please check back.

Friday, May 7, 2021

Late Spring 2021_High Knob Massif

 
6 May 2021
High Knob Massif
Looking Across High Knob Lake Basin
Early Spring Conditions (Above 3500 feet)
Wayne Browning Photograph © All Rights Reserved

The forest canopy remains wide open within cold air collecting basins (observe basin floor above) and along higher mountain ridges, with generally small, immature leaves on scattered trees down to between 3000 and 3500 feet.

At this time of year the transition to spring is always vertically wondrous, with early spring conditions above 3000 feet elevation being in dramatic contrast to late spring conditions across lower-middle elevations.

6 May 2021
High Knob Massif
Looking Down From Flag Rock RA
Late Spring Conditions (Below 3000 feet)
Wayne Browning Photograph © All Rights Reserved

Plenty of water was tumbling out of the high country on this day, with nearly as much or locally more rain during the first week of May than observed during all of April, which ended as the driest on record at Big Cherry Dam (2008 to present).

High Knob Massif
Precipitation Update

(Totals Listed By AM Measurement Format)
Monthly Total Precipitation
Big Cherry Lake Dam
(Elevation 3139 feet)

2019

January
6.14"

February
12.50"

Winter 2018-19
(1 Dec-29 Feb)
26.56"

March
5.93"

April
6.64"

May
6.75"

Spring 2019
(1 Mar-31 May)
19.32"

June
10.68"

July
10.77"

August
4.15"

Summer 2019
(1 Jun-31 Aug)
25.60"

September
0.63"

October
5.01"
( 5.89" to Midnight 31st )

November
5.20"
( 7.04" to Midnight 30th )

Autumn 2019
(1 Sep-31 Oct)
10.84"

December
8.52"

2019 Total: 82.92" (M)
 (January 1 to December 31 Period)

2020

*January
7.15"

**February
13.01"

Winter 2019-20
(1 Dec-29 Feb)
28.68"

March
9.55"
( 10.77" to Midnight 31st )

April
11.59"

May
8.73"
(6.90" on Eagle Knob of High Knob Massif)

Spring 2020
(1 Mar-31 May)
29.87"

June
7.48"

July
9.72"
(10.48" to Midnight 31st)

August
8.12"

Summer 2020
(1 Jun-31 Aug)
25.32"

September
6.21"

October 
7.06"

November 
1.96"
(Eagle Knob Snowfall: 0.5")

Autumn 2020
(1 Sep-31 Oct)
15.23"

December 
6.22"
(Eagle Knob Snowfall: 34.0")

2020 Total: 96.80" (M)
 (January 1 to December 31 Period)

2021

January
6.35"
***(Eagle Knob Snowfall: 34.0")

February
7.42"
(Eagle Knob Snowfall: 19.5")

Winter 2020-21
(1 Dec to 28 Feb)
19.99"
(21.70" on Eagle Knob)

March
10.82"
(11.14" to Midnight 31st)

April
2.53"

1-10 May
3.14"

2021 Total: 30.26"
 (January 1 to May 10 Period)

Total Past 12-Months: 85.76"

November 2019-October 2020: 102.34"

Autumn 2018 to Summer 2019: 91.21"

Autumn 2019 to Summer 2020: 94.44"

(M): Some missing moisture in undercatch and frozen precipitation, with partial corrections applied for the 24.4 meter (80 feet) tall dam structure where rain gauges are located.  Corrections are based upon 86-months of direct comparisons between NWS and IFLOWS at Big Cherry Dam (including occasional snow core-water content data).

*General 7.00" to 8.00" at upper elevations (above 3000 feet) with 5.96" at the City of Norton Water Plant (official NWS rain gauge located at approximately 2342 feet elevation).

**Third consecutive February to reach double-digit precipitation totals within upper elevations of the 
High Knob Massif.

***Not a mistake, with a second consecutive month having 34.0" of snowfall (rare to have back-to-back months with the same total).  

6 May 2021
High Knob Lake Basin
Early Spring Conditions
Wayne Browning Photograph © All Rights Reserved

Temperatures dipped to freezing and below at upper elevations in the High Knob Massif during morning hours of 6 May, as unseasonably cool air continued to grip the region.

6 May 2021
Lower-Middle Elevations
Late Spring Conditions
Wayne Browning Photograph © All Rights Reserved

Featured birds at upper elevations included an assemblage of gorgeous Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Chestnut-sided Warblers, and Least Flycatchers.

Common Raven and Blue-headed Vireo were also observed, along with Northern Parula and the abundant Dark-eyed Junco, with many more species yet to arrive on territory at these high elevations.

6 May 2021
Water Elevation 3318 feet
Upper Norton Reservoir
Wayne Browning Photograph © All Rights Reserved

Some featured birds within cold air drainages that I observed included:
 

and below 3000 feet the elusive Swainson's Warbler.

6 May 2021
Looking Toward Powell Valley Overlook
Early Evening Light on Little Stone Gap
Wayne Browning Photograph © All Rights Reserved

Many more bird species were observed, with the 
above being mainly migrants that have recently 
returned to the mountains.

6 May 2021
Upper Norton Reservoir
Early Spring Conditions At 3318 Feet
Wayne Browning Photograph © All Rights Reserved

Climbing 2500 to 3000 vertical feet from the karst terrain of the Clinch and Powell river valleys into the High Knob Massif is analogous to traveling northward 300+ air miles (from the valleys).


This is based on Hopkins Bioclimatic Law, that states spring green-up is delayed approximately 4 days for every 400 vertical feet of elevation increase or 1 degree of latitude increase (a degree of latitude = 69 air miles).
 
The test of Hopkins Law cited at the above link, which found a shorter interval, may be explained (in part) by global warming if research in the Alps (below link) is correct. 
 

Local microclimates and current global warming complicates this basic law, and according to recent research is changing the spread between lower and upper elevations with respect to spring green-up (shortening the difference observed in the Alps). 

6 May 2021
Water Reflections on Upper Reservoir
Early Spring Conditions At 3318 Feet
Wayne Browning Photograph © All Rights Reserved

The timing of warm periods during winter and spring complicates the emergence of spring vegetation.  This also applies to orchards.

I recently wrote the following:
Orchards with apple, blueberry, peach, pear, strawberry, 
and other sensitive crops naturally go through acclaimation, dormancy, and deacclimation stages.  Following a growing season, an accumulation of cold conditions is necessary before blooming will occur again.  The length of cold time required depends upon the variety.  Accumulating enough cold is not the problem, it is premature deacclimation driven by warm periods in winter and spring that is problematic as this causes early budding and blooming.  This is one example of many consequences associated with a changing climate.   

6 May 2021
Little Stone Gap-Powell Valley Overlook
Late Spring Conditions At Mid-Elevations
Wayne Browning Photograph © All Rights Reserved