Carson City, Nevada (AP) — When a wildfire breaks out in the mountains near North America’s largest alpine lake, embers and ash zip across the smoky sky through the clear blue waters of Lake Tahoe. I stabbed it.
Evacuation orders for thousands to escape from their homes have been lifted, but returning people have found black striped ash deposits on the coastline. From the effect of lasting longer than the season of forest fire.
Scientists say it’s too early to conclude the permanent damage that a record wildfire will do to Lake Tahoe. But they aren’t wasting their time. Many expect to bring their research plans to the Tahoe Scientific Advisory Board at a meeting on Thursday.
Scientists funded by the League to Save California, Nevada, and Lake Tahoe are studying the clarity and biodiversity of lakes during and after wildfires. They usually use collection buckets (some with glass beads) to capture and measure the size and amount of particles and contaminants from wildfires that pollute clear water. .. They are studying how particles enter the lake, how they move around the lake, and their impact on algae production.
The transparency of the iconic alpine lake can change without a catastrophic wildfire. On average, Lake Tahoe is clear 65 feet (20 meters) below the surface. Throughout the wildfire season, scientists stationed near the center of the lake could only see 50 feet (15 meters) below the surface. I don’t know if it will decrease due to particles, algae, or simply lack of sunlight, says professor Geoff Schladow. He is a professor of civil engineering and environmental engineering and director of the Tahoe Environmental Research Center at the University of California, Davis.
“My feelings may look worse in a way,” Shradow said. “We really don’t know what the basin smoke really does, especially when it lasts for months. We’re finding it while we’re talking.”
Smoke from a wildfire in Northern California has obscured the Lake Tahoe basin over the past few years. However, due in part to climate change, as the size and intensity of the flames increased, smoke from wildfires inside and outside the basin that had been sitting on top of the lake for a few months in the last two wildfire seasons , Exceeded the expectations of many people. Residents and tourists flock to the azure lake in search of clean alpine air and fragrant pine trees.
Scientists who have studied how algae, erosion and air pollution from vehicles driven by 15 million tourists each year affect transparency are also concerned. They say that the amount of smoke from a prolonged wildfire can impair the transparency of the lake in ways previously unthinkable.
Alison Oliver, an ecologist at the Skina Fisheries Commission in western Canada, who studied how rivers and streams carried turbid sediments to Lake Tahoe after the 2007 Angola fire, said:
“This new phenomenon is experiencing these major changes in the climate system and this pattern of major summer fires,” she said of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. “It wasn’t on people’s radar as much as 15 or 20 years ago. Now it’s a daily routine.”
Many days, smoke obliterated the landscape of the lake’s pristine water-encrusting mountains, leaving an inevitable campfire stench under clothes, cars, and fingernails.
Jesse Patterson, Chief Strategy Officer of the League to Save Lake Tahoe, said: .. “If you want to keep Tahoe blue for decades to come, you need to think bigger.”
The league best known for the “Keep Tahoe Blue” bumper sticker has been actively pursuing environmental restoration projects to maintain lake clarity, prevent erosion and replant burn scars. But as climate change accelerates, Patterson fears that local land management efforts may no longer be sufficient to protect the lake.
Scientists are afraid that alpine lakes will act as “sponge” and absorb fine particles into wildfire smoke, a professor of biology and director of the Global Waters Center at the University of Nevada, Reno. Sudeep Chandra said. Whether the study ultimately masks the sunlight fighting algae or increases the influx of pollutants into the lake, the challenge for scientists expands the scope of research on factors affecting Lake Tahoe. He believes that he will.
Chandra praised efforts to maintain lake clarity by restoring rivers, preventing erosion and encouraging responsible development. But after seeing how much smoke from the Dixie fire in California, further north of the Sierra Nevada, reached the basin, he needs to consider broader climate change trends when asking about the future of the lake. Said.
“We are clearly regionally connected, which will be a new way of thinking about managing the Lake Tahoe basin,” he said.
Metz is a corps member of the Associated Press / Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a non-profit national service program that places journalists in the local newsroom to report on unreported issues.
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The future of clarity of Lake Tahoe in question as wildfires worsen | WGN Radio 720
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