Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Early Autumn 2021_High Knob Massif

27 September 2021
Water Elevation 3318 feet
Upper Norton Reservoir
Wayne Browning Photograph © All Rights Reserved

An array of chilly nights, featuring frosty cold conditions in mountain basins of the high country, have stimulated mid-late September color changes in the High Knob Massif.

While some trees were already vivid, the majority of those changing color will brighten from what was observed on 27 September if favorable weather conditions continue.

27 September 2021
High Knob Massif
Upper Norton Reservoir
Wayne Browning Photograph © All Rights Reserved

An illustration of September 2021 in these colder mountain basins is exemplified by Burkes Garden 
and Canaan Valley.

September 2021
Burkes Garden Basin
Courtesy of NWS Observer Pam Rose

September 2021
Canaan Valley 2
Canaan Valley Basin

When Big Cherry Basin is collected it should come in 
with mean temperatures between the Canaan Valley 2 and Canaan Valley NWR sites.

September 2021
Canaan Valley Basin
Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge

Above average rainfall, with 5.82" in the area of 
Big Cherry Dam is greater than the 4.90" average 
of the past thirteen September's.

Bright, sunny days have been greatly needed 
to keep leaf fungus in check following 16.21" 
of rainfall since beginning of August (*).

*Leaf fungus can be detrimental to autumn color.

 27 September 2021
Upper Norton Reservoir
Wayne Browning Photograph © All Rights Reserved

Precipitation Update

High Knob Massif
(Upper Elevations)

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




Winter 2018-19
(1 Dec-29 Feb)




Spring 2019
(1 Mar-31 May)




Summer 2019
(1 Jun-31 Aug)


( 5.89" to Midnight 31st )

( 7.04" to Midnight 30th )

Autumn 2019
(1 Sep-31 Oct)


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




Winter 2019-20
(1 Dec-29 Feb)

( 10.77" to Midnight 31st )


(6.90" on Eagle Knob of High Knob Massif)

Spring 2020
(1 Mar-31 May)


(10.48" to Midnight 31st)


Summer 2020
(1 Jun-31 Aug)



(Eagle Knob Snowfall: 0.5")

Autumn 2020
(1 Sep-31 Oct)

(Eagle Knob Snowfall: 34.0")

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


***(Eagle Knob Snowfall: 34.0")

(Eagle Knob Snowfall: 19.5")

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

(11.14" to Midnight 31st)

(Eagle Knob Snowfall: 2.5")

(Eagle Knob Snowfall: Trace)

Spring 2021
(1 Mar-31 May)




Summer 2021
(1 June-31 August)

1-28 September

2021 Total: 58.21"
 (January 1 to September 28 Period)

November 2019-October 2020: 102.34"

Autumn 2018 to Summer 2019: 91.21"

Autumn 2019 to Summer 2020: 94.44"

Autumn 2020 to Summer 2021: 73.84"

(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).

27 September 2021
Upper Norton Reservoir
Wayne Browning Photograph © All Rights Reserved

Climate Change
(An Honest Discussion)

Climate change has become a contenteous issue given that human activities are largely driven by economic influences.  This makes climate change an economic issue, a political issue, and for 
many a moral issue of particular concern.

27 September 2021
Benges Basin of High Knob Massif
Wayne Browning Photograph © All Rights Reserved

Climate change understanding, progress, and solutions are being hindered by polarization, with the issue generating two major camps that vary between extreme end-points:

1). Human driven climate change will be the end of this world unless actions are taken to end it now.

2).  Human driven climate change is not real but instead is part of hidden political agendas.

As with nearly all issues, the actual "truth" rests 
in the middle between these extreme positions.

27 September 2021
Benges Basin of High Knob Massif
Wayne Browning Photograph © All Rights Reserved

While the latest IPCC Sixth Report is generally accepted for its physical science, at the end of the day IPCC is a political body such that the complete science is highly edited and the complete story is therefore not reported by mass media (**).

**Note that "mass media" referred to here and in the 
videos are in reference to national and international media outlets, not local media, which cover national 
and global climate issues. 

27 September 2021
Upper Norton Reservoir
Wayne Browning Photograph © All Rights Reserved

In addition to highlighting southern Appalachian climate trends, the following videos were produced to bring attention to the complete story that tends toward the middle of above noted extremes and 
gets lost amid the polarization of society.

Climate Change - Part I

Important points covered in Part I include:

A). Climate variability is a normal characteristic 
of the climate system, it has occurred and would occur with no humans on planet Earth.

B). A lack of major climate variability during the past 10,000 years has strong correlation to human development and the human population explosion.

C).  It is not physically possible to have a land 
mass the size of  Earth with exponential population growth predicted to reach more than 10 Billion and not have human forcing on the climate system.

27 September 2021
Northern Exposed Slopes
Abundant Maples Changing Color
Wayne Browning Photograph © All Rights Reserved

D).  Less than 1% of atmospheric composition 
is meteorologically active gases that are actually involved in weather and climate changes, making even small changes in composition significant.

Looking at the previous four interglacial periods, using 
ice cores from Vostok, reveals how anomalous current greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere are and suggest (based on all available data) that current exponential increases in CO2 and CH4 are due to either direct or indirect human activities.

E). Humans contribute to global climate change 
by the summation of all local changes.  This is an extremely important concept that acts to connect everyone on planet Earth to this issue.

From a Complex Systems perspective
it is very important to state that because of self-organization and emergence on multiple levels that global climate change is different from what could be predicted by a summation of these individual local changes.  I used the analytical approach of traditional science in this video to stress the importance of all these back-yard changes.

F).  Climate change is not the end of this world (this is supported by the IPCC and science-based data), with implications of such a radical position being dangerous to human well-being.

Because climate change is not even close to being the leading cause of death for humans, and because a global lock-down in 2020 revealed that such would be needed for decades to eliminate emissions enough to mitigate human forcing, an end-of-the-world belief that takes money away from current human needs is dangerous 
for the well-being of poor people around the world.  

G).  Although climate change is mostly negative, not all climate change is bad.

Climate Change - Part II

Important points covered in Part II include:

H). Major climate trends that find little change in landfalling hurricances, tornodoes, wildfires, and global drought receive little to no coverage by 
mass media outlets.

This is exemplified by global fire trends:

While fire has been increasing in the western USA since the mid-late 1990s in terms of total area burned (total burned area is much less than during the 1920s-1940s), global fire has decreased dramatically due to changing agricultural practices in other parts of the world.

I). Actual climate trends must be separated from population trends, with a significant amount of 
the impact attributed to climate change driven 
by explosive population growth across the 
nation and world.

It is very important to note that this is not saying climate change is not causing important impacts, but instead that huge increases in population along coastlines and in high risk wildfire zones, as examples, are acting to greatly enhance impacts that media may attribute to or 
imply is only due to changes in climate.

27 September 2021
Eagle Knob of High Knob Massif
Wayne Browning Photograph © All Rights Reserved

  J). Because leading causes of death related to the environment and economics are not due to climate change, potential exists for money spent on carbon mitigation to be detrimental to human well-being 
if wise spending decisions are not made.

K). A global lock-down associated with covid-19 during 2020 acted to reduce carbon emissions by what the IPCC suggests would be needed for decades to keep warming at or below 1.5 °C . 
summarized by this statement (from the paper):

"Still, these (reductions) only correspond to the level of emissions in 2006. The associated annual decrease will be much lower (–4.2 to –7.5% according to our sensitivity tests), which is comparable to the rates of decrease needed year-on-year over the next decades to limit climate change to a 1.5 °C warming."

By necessity, this demands new ways of thinking be developed to mitigate the problem, and led to usage of the following source (below).

27 September 2021
Camp Rock Meadow of High Knob Massif
Wayne Browning Photograph © All Rights Reserved

L).  A controversial book for many climate change supporters, called False Alarm by Bjorn Lomborg, is highlighted for its economic approach supporting research-development funding for innovation and for adaptation over initial carbon mitigation.

It is again very important to note that this video does 
not endorse False Alarm, given it is felt to under-value 
the importance of ecosystem services as well as biological diversity, but instead it supports economic ideas related to innovation-adaptation as well as the data-supported climate trends shown by the Peer-Reviewed Paper.

Climate change mitigation has the potential to be disastrous for low-middle income people across the world if wise spending decisions are not made with respect to the economics of this issue, and this is why the Lomborg economic paper was used during this presentation.

27 September 2021
Camp Rock Meadow of High Knob Massif
Wayne Browning Photograph © All Rights Reserved

M). Innovation is proven, with innovations that pushed the carrying capacity of Earth far beyond anything thought possible being used to exemplify this as the favored economic way to fight climate change (innovations are expected to drive climate change mitigation as they did for Earth's carrying capacity for long-term benefits).

Climate Change - Part III

 Important points covered in Part III include:

N). Factors that act to impact the local climate record are highlighted, with many of these related to human and local environmental changes and 
not changes in climate.

O). Stations respond differently to changes in climate, especially within complex terrain.  All factors must be considered and accurately adjusted for or the sign and magnitde of local climate trends could be in error.  This is crictally important, given it is the summation of all local climate trends that result in the global climate trend.

27 September 2021
Camp Rock Meadow of High Knob Massif
Wayne Browning Photograph © All Rights Reserved

P). Temperature and precipitation (including snowfall and growing season) trends across southwestern Virginia and the southern-central Appalachians are highlighted using Burkes Garden for its long record period and limited changes in landscape (e.g., no urbanization).

Q). National and global temperature trends and data-sets are briefly highlighted in comparison to observed local trends.

27 September 2021
Flag Rock Recreation Area
Wayne Browning Photograph © All Rights Reserved

R). The satellite data-record for planet Earth, which will become increasingly important through coming decades, is presented and briefly compared to the IPCC mean warming value.

S).  The remainder of Part III is a focus on increasing human disturbance to the High Knob Massif area which is fragmenting intact forest, 
threatening biodiverity and reducing carbon storage for natural climate change mitigation. 

T). Even with zero climate change, the biggest threat to the natural world (and by definition humans) is human beings.  The push for biomass logging is a perfect example, as this is not "green" but is instead an even faster way to release stored carbon into the atmosphere and is also a threat to existing biodiversity.

While a few selective cuts, which are by far better and preferred, have been done the majority are biomass clear-cuts.

A view of 12-logging areas 
in the High Knob Massif area

In addition to recent cuts, 133 units are being proposed to be logged across a 13,087 acre area between East Stone Gap and Duffield across the Powell Mountain block of the High Knob Massif.

The mean age of trees in all 
units is listed as 100 years.

USDA Forest Service
Proposed Devils Hens Nest Vegetation Project

If above were not enough, 400 acres on private land is being clear-cut above Hoot Owl Hollow and another 1200 acres are proposed for logging below High Knob Lookout Tower across the Head of Big Cherry Basin along Grindstone Ridge.

Natural Forest Cover
Upper Tennessee River Basin
Assessment of Clinch-Powell Watershed Health

Prior to recent and ongoing fragmentation, 
the High Knob Massif area had the largest concentration of intact forest in the Upper Tennessee River Basin.

(Rarity and Richness)
Biodiversity Hotspots
Precious Heritage: Status of Biodiversity In USA
Courtesy of TNC and the Clinch Valley Program
(Abingdon, Virginia Office)

This is of particular importance given the 
High Knob Massif area is part of the most significant biodiverity hotspot within the 
continental USA and North America.

Proforestation is the most favored way to store carbon and to help protect and preserve biological diversity for future generations.

Proforestation is the favored policy for protection of life across the relatively small amount of USDA Forest Service public land within the eastern USA.

Why Is This Important?

Widespread Regional Land Disturbance

All above takes on true meaning when set against the regional background that features widespread landscape disturbance from mining, logging, gas wells, agriculture, towns and other human structures and activities.

(Wise, Lee, Scott, Dickenson counties)
Percent of Possible Potential Old Forest

It is not that above human activities are not important, it is that there have been no attempt to balance human disturbances with significant land that is allowed to exist in natural conditions for the protection and preservation of all living things, for the production of clean air and water, for storage of carbon, and for human well-being.

Even if all public forest service land and all watershed lands owned by Appalachia, Big Stone Gap, Coeburn, and the City of Norton were allowed to become old growth it would represent less than 9% of the total land area within the Clinch Ranger District counties of Wise, Scott, Lee, and Dickenson.

Planet Earth From Space
That no where even close to 9% of the local area will be protected for all future generations is the story of planet Earth.  This is the driver behind human forcing on the climate (Earth) system 
that goes far beyond climate change.

Even with no climate change, this severe imbalance and neglect for preservation of natural systems is the greatest threat to the long-term existence and well-being of both humans and planet Earth.