June 29, 2016

BW photograph of a charred log lying among rocks.

Copyright 2016 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

This post is a bit of follow-up to the previous blog.  A little while ago, central Maryland went through a period when it rained on fifteen days out of an 18-day stretch.   This past weekend, West Virginia experienced deadly flooding.  Earlier this spring, parts of Texas experienced the same.  This is certainly not the case for many other parts of the country, and wildfire is a consequence.

The USDA Forest Service posted this assessment in May 2016, which called for a “significant 2016 wildfire season”.  The National Interagency Fire Center has a detailed report as well.  Once there, click the link entitled “National Wildland Significant Fire Potential Outlook”, which will take you to the full report.  The NICC homepage is here.

California continues its historic drought, and, as a result, it is another difficult fire season there.  In 2013, a wildfire in Yarnell, Arizona killed 19 firefighters-the Tenderfoot fire earlier this month threatened that same area.   A wildfire near Fort McMurray, Canada, in May caused a spike in crude oil prices, as it caused a shut-down of production from the oil sands in the area.  The three photographs here are from the North Cascades, which are in Washington state.

BW photograph of some peaks in the North Cascades around Washington Pass.

Copyright 2016 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

I recently had the opportunity to take a ride along the entire Cascade Mountain Highway…

BW photograph of charred pine tree trunks along a rocky mountainside.

Copyright 2016 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

and there was ample evidence of past wildfire activity throughout that region.

There is an important interactive cycle at work here.  Climate change is one of the factors driving the abundance and ferocity of wildfires.   As trees burn, any carbon dioxide they have absorbed within their lifetime is released back into the atmosphere.  If the fire burns enough to kill the tree, it will then no longer be able absorb carbon dioxide.   In addition, the soot produced is one of the particulate matters that eventually accumulate in the arctic ice sheets, which, in turn, causes a faster melt.  In 2014, Dr. Jason Box completed a study regarding the impact of arctic wildfires and glacial melting-the results can be read here.  The above predictions about the 2016 wildfire season take on added significance when examined from this perspective.

It is always important to be careful with fire.  However, that diligence must be exercised with extreme prejudice when in drought-stricken, extremely dry, areas.  Unfortunately, those areas are increasing.

Take care.




Tornado Warning

June 21, 2016

BW photograph of a plastic-sleeved newspaper laying on a marble stoop.

Copyright 2016 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

‘Twas a sunny, albeit humid morning, and so the decision was made to go for a walk in Frederick, Md.  It had clearly rained between here and there, as the road was quite wet and puddled, but Frederick itself seemed to have missed that precipitation.

BW photograph of an approaching thunderstorm over a congested shopping area.

Copyright 2016 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

It was a different story on the way home.

BW photograph of traffic stopped at a stoplight during a thunderstorm.

Copyright 2016 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

All of the hallmarks of a strong thunderstorm developed and rapidly progressed:  the temperature dropped, the wind increased, torrential rain began to fall.  All of this was accompanied by quite impressive lighting and thunder.  Given the route going home, the storm remained mostly overhead, as the lightning would flash and would be immediately followed by the thunder.

BW photograph looking outward from a vehicle at trees in the distance during a thunderstorm.

Copyright 2016 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

This is actually one of the rare times when it seemed prudent to pull off and await a lull in the storm.  While sitting in a parking lot with several other folks, who also seemed to see the wisdom in pulling over, a tornado warning was issued for an area just to the south and east.  A “warning” is more serious than a “watch”-the emergency message received said to take shelter if in that area.  That warning has since been downgraded to a “severe thunderstorm watch”.

While sitting in the parking lot for those few minutes, I was trying to remember the number of times tornado warnings had been issued for this part of Maryland in the recent past.  My memory wanted me to think that there has been an increase, but not wanting to just rely on speculation, I did a (brief) search and could not find a statistic.  However, this article from 2001 came up, and I do remember that storm.

Whether such warnings are increasing or not, it is helpful to pay attention and be prepared should they be announced. This is the National Weather Service’s site, and it is worth bookmarking.  There are also a myriad of apps for phones.

Take care.

BW photograph of Carroll Creek in Frederick, Maryland, in winter, looking west.

Copyright 2016 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

This is the view of Carroll Creek in downtown Frederick, Maryland as it appeared on this particular day last winter, while looking to the west.

BW photograph of Carroll Creek in Frederick, Maryland, looking east.

Copyright 2016 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Jump ahead to this spring, turn around and look east, and this is what is seen.

In either case, it is a wonderful area in which to walk.

Take care.


June 10, 2016

BW photograph of a thin vine bisecting a some fungi on a tree.

Copyright 2016 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

This photograph is a metaphor for the content that follows.

The Federal-Aid Highway Act was passed in 1956, and it was one of the milestones of President Eisenhower’s administration.  This link is to the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration’s site, which states that this system “…has been called the Greatest Public Works Project in History”.  That claim is true from an engineering standpoint, and the highway system certainly fueled the development of car culture and changed interstate commerce.  However, that is only part of the story:

“Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx on the Legacy of the U.S. Highway System”

The link above is to The Diane Rehm Show on NPR.  One of the advantages of NPR is that aural learners can actually listen to the discussion.  For those who prefer to read, the articles linked below address the same topic:

“How to Decimate a City”

“The Role of Highways in American Poverty”

These four sources of information all address the same central subject-the U.S. highway system.  However, they present conflicting points-of-view.  The first is a commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the legislation that created it.  The latter are the legacy of the decisions made by those charged with its implementation.  In total, this information presents a fairly comprehensive view of American culture as the highway system provides a microcosm by which to examine the intersection of race, wealth, power, and prestige.  That examination becomes even more compelling when the value placed on convenience and freedom of choice, or lack thereof, is included.

(As an aside, it is important to be aware of confirmation bias.  If one wants to bestow plaudits on a particular subject, there is information to be found to do just that.  If the goal is to criticize, information can be found to do so.  Reviewing the multiple sides of an issue provides a much richer understanding of the complexity of human behavior.)

In writing the conclusion to this post, it struck me that the current crumbling of the highway infrastructure as so grandly envisioned, which is made of concrete, asphalt, and steel, has itself become a metaphor for the subsequent destruction of the quality of life for those flesh and blood people living in the neighborhoods where many of the roads were built.  Money and time can replace the material structure.  Remediating the human toll would take more than that.  It will interesting to see how the re-imagining of the highway system and these neighborhoods progresses.

Take care.










June 5, 2016

BW photograph of four leaves atop a rock after a rain.

Copyright 2016 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

There was a decent amount of rain that fell last night-nothing like that which has flooded Texas and Paris, France, but enough to make Morgan Run hum, and for the trees to shed some leaves.  It is always nice to be there early in the morning after such a rain and to listen to the water.

BW photograph of three full water bottles laying at the base of a tree.

Copyright 2016 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Inevitably, as is often the case with Morgan Run, my attention was drawn to the discarded trash laying about.  The subject matter displayed in the above photograph is problematic in many ways.  First, these three water bottles were near full, and yet here they are.  The inability to access healthy, potable, water is one of the greatest global health threats, and it is important to understand that this does not just apply to  least developed nations-ask those living in these communities.  One of the real issues with availability and affluence is the degree to which valuable resources become so inexpensive that they can be taken for granted.  What does a case of bottled water cost?  Second, this is yet another example of the abundance of plastic trash left in the environ.  Coincidentally, there is an exhibit about this accumulation of plastic now on display at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C.  The final point is one that has been a topic before, especially with regard to Morgan Run-it is quite unsightly to be in such a tranquil place and yet have it soiled by trash.

Taking care of this issue really is quite simple.  Please consume what is purchased.  In fact, buying a reusable water bottle would go a long way to reducing the amount of plastic contamination.  Pack out any trash that is created.  Recycle that which can be recycled.

Take care.