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Pacific Northwest

Damnation film screening in Cleveland on Wednesday

If you haven’t seen it yet, and you are at all interested in dams and dam removal (or are even wondering why people would be interested in dam removal), I encourage you to watch the film Damnation. The film highlights some of the environmental issues associated with dams, showcases the growing movement to get them removed, and shows us the results when dams do come out. Plus, it features gorgeous scenery of Pacific Northwest Rivers. So check out the screening in Cleveland this week (info below) or ask Anne how to get access to her copy of the film.

Here’s the trailer:

The award-winning documentary, Damnation, is coming to Cleveland’s Capitol Theater on Wednesday, September 24th at 7 p.m. The movie tells the story of the use of dams around the United States and the impact that dams have on rivers. It was produced by Yvon Chouinard who, among many other conservation accolades, is the founder of Patagonia.

Kdudley Media is hosting the presentation of the movie at the Capitol and they have graciously invited Friends of the Crooked River to be their special guest. FOCR will have an informational display in the lobby before the showing and have a Q&A session after the movie focusing on local dam removal efforts. In addition, Kdudley has decided to donate any funds raised from the showing of the movie to FOCR in support of our conservation efforts. Here is a link to more information about the film:

Tickets will be available at the door, as well as on line.

The Capitol Theater is located at W. 65th and Detroit in Cleveland’s District, Gordon Square District. This area is also home to several good restaurants ranging from casual to upscale so you may want to come early and make a night of it.

Hope to see you on September 24th

Social Hour at 6 PM

Film at 7 PM

Q&A concerning dams on the Cuyahoga following show

Condit Dam Removal video

No excited Gordon like at Marmot Dam, but this is one exciting “blow and go” dam removal video. This was Condit Dam on the White Salmon River in Washington in October 2011. Spectacular to watch, and even neater knowing that there was important (and hair-raising) science being done both upstream and downstream of the dam throughout the dam removal process.

EGU Abstract: Potential impact of lava flows on regional water supplies: case study of central Oregon Cascades volcanism and the Willamette Valley, USA

This abstract was just submitted to the European Geosciences Union meeting for a session on “NH9.9. Natural hazard impact on technological systems and urban areas.” I won’t get to go to Vienna in April, but at least a little bit of my science will. Thanks to Natalia for finding a graceful way to integrate our work.

Potential impact of lava flows on regional water supplies: case study of central Oregon Cascades volcanism and the Willamette Valley, USA

Natalia I. Deligne, Katharine V. Cashman, Gordon E. Grant, Anne Jefferson

Lava flows are often considered to be natural hazards with localized bimodal impact – they completely destroy everything in their path, but apart from the occasional forest fire, cause little or no damage outside their immediate footprint. However, in certain settings, lava flows can have surprising far reaching impacts with the potential to cause serious problems in distant urban areas. Here we present results from a study of the interaction between lava flows and surface water in the central Oregon Cascades, USA, where we find that lava flows in the High Cascades have the potential to cause considerable water shortages in Eugene, Oregon (Oregon’s second largest metropolitan area) and the greater Willamette Valley (home to ~70% of Oregon’s population). The High Cascades host a groundwater dominated hydrological regime with water residence times on the order of years. Due to the steady output of groundwater, rivers sourced in the High Cascades are a critical water resource for Oregon, particularly in August and September when it has not rained for several months. One such river, the McKenzie River, is the sole source of drinking water for Eugene, Oregon, and prior to the installation of dams in the 1960s accounted for ~40% of river flow in the Willamette River in Portland, 445 river km downstream of the source of the McKenzie River. The McKenzie River has been dammed at least twice by lava flows during the Holocene; depending the time of year that these eruptions occurred, we project that available water would have decreased by 20% in present-day Eugene, Oregon, for days to weeks at a time. Given the importance of the McKenzie River and its location on the margin of an active volcanic area, we expect that future volcanic eruptions could likewise impact water supplies in Eugene and the greater Willamette Valley. As such, the urban center of Eugene, Oregon, and also the greater Willamette Valley, is vulnerable to the most benign of volcanic hazards, lava flows, located over 100 km away.

New paper: Seasonal versus transient snow and the elevation dependence of climate sensitivity in maritime mountainous regions

Snowline near Skykomish, Washington (photo on Flickr by RoguePoet, used under Creative Commons)

Snowline near Skykomish, Washington (photo on Flickr by RoguePoet, used under Creative Commons)

Jefferson, A. 2011. Seasonal versus transient snow and the elevation dependence of climate sensitivity in maritime mountainous regions, Geophysical Research Letters, 38, L16402, doi:10.1029/2011GL048346.


In maritime mountainous regions, the phase of winter precipitation is elevation dependent, and in watersheds receiving both rain and snow, hydrologic impacts of climate change are less straightforward than in snowmelt-dominated systems. Here, 29 Pacific Northwest watersheds illustrate how distribution of seasonal snow, transient snow, and winter rain mediates sensitivity to 20th century warming. Watersheds with >50% of their area in the seasonal snow zone had significant (? ? 0.1) trends towards greater winter and lower summer discharge, while lower elevations had no consistent trends. In seasonal snow-dominated watersheds, runoff occurs 22–27 days earlier and minimum flows are 5–9% lower than in 1962, based on Sen’s slope over the period. Trends in peak streamflow depend on whether watershed area susceptible to rain-on-snow events is increasing or decreasing. Delineation of elevation-dependent snow zones identifies climate sensitivity of maritime mountainous watersheds and enables planning for water and ecosystem impacts of climate change.

New publication: Coevolution of hydrology and topography on a basalt landscape in the Oregon Cascade Range, USA

How does a landscape go from looking like this…

<2000 year old landscape on basaltic lava with no surface drainage

~1500 year old basaltic lava landscape with no surface drainage

to looking like this?

2 Million year old landscape on basaltic lava

2 Million year old landscape on basaltic lava. Note steep slopes and incised valleys

Find out in my new paper in Earth Surface Processes and Landforms.

Hint: Using a chronosequence of watersheds in the Oregon Cascades, we argue that the rates and processes of landscape evolution are driven by whether the water sinks into the lava flows and moves slowly toward springs with steady hydrographs or whether the water moves quickly through the shallow subsurface and creates streams with flashy hydrographs. Further, we suggest that this water routing is controlled by an elusive landscape-scale permeability which decreases over time as processes like chemical weathering create soil and clog up pores in the rock. And as a bonus, because of the high initial permeability of basaltic landscapes, the formation of stream networks and the dissection of the landscape appears to take far longer than in places with less permeable lithologies.

Jefferson, A., Grant, G., Lewis, S., & Lancaster, S. (2010). Coevolution of hydrology and topography on a basalt landscape in the Oregon Cascade Range, USA Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 35 (7), 803-816 DOI: 10.1002/esp.1976

When it rains a lot and the mountains fall down

Cross-posted at Highly Allochthonous

2006 debris flow deposit in the Eliot Glacier drainage, north flank of Mount Hood (Photo by Anne Jefferson)

The geo-image bonanza of this month’s Accretionary Wedge gives me a good reason to make good on a promise I made a few months ago. I promised to write about what can happen on the flanks of Pacific Northwest volcanoes when a warm, heavy rainfall hits glacial ice at the end of a long melt season. The image above shows the result…warm heavy rainfall + glaciers + steep mountain flanks + exposed unconsolidated sediments are a recipe for debris flows in the Cascades. Let me tell you the story of this one.

It was the first week of November 2006, and a “pineapple express” (warm, wet air from the tropic Pacific) had moved into the Pacific Northwest. This warm front increased temperatures and brought rain to the Cascades…a lot of rain. In the vicinity of Mt. Hood, there was more than 34 cm in 6 days, and that’s at elevations where we have rain gages. Higher on the mountain, there may even have been more rain…and because it was warm, it was *all* rain. Normally, at this time of year, the high mountain areas would only get snow.

While it was raining, my collaborators and I were sitting in our cozy, dry offices in Corvallis, planning a really cool project to look at the impact of climate change on glacial meltwater contributions to the agriculturally-important Hood River valley. Outside, nature was opting to make our on-next field season a bit more tricky. We planned to install stream gages at the toe of the Eliot and Coe glaciers on the north flank of Mt. Hood, as well as farther downstream where water is diverted for irrigation. But instead of nice, neat, stable stream channels, when we went out to scout field sites the following spring, we were greeted by scenes like the one above.

Because sometime on 6 or 7 November, the mountain flank below Eliot Glacier gave way…triggering a massive debris flow that roared down Eliot Creek, bulking up with sediment along the way and completely obliterating any signs of the pre-existing stream channel. By the time the flow reached the area where the irrigation diversion occur, it had traveled 7 km in length and 1000 m in elevation, and it had finally reached the point where the valley opens up and the slope decreases. So the sediment began to drop out. And debris flows can carry some big stuff (like the picture below) and like the bridge that was washed out, carried downstream 100 m and turned sideways.

2006 Eliot Glacier debris flow deposit (photo by Anne Jefferson)

2006 Eliot Glacier debris flow deposit (photo by Anne Jefferson)

In this area, the deposit is at least 300 m wide and at least a few meters deep.

Eliot Creek, April 2007 (photo by Anne Jefferson)

Eliot Creek, April 2007 (photo by Anne Jefferson)

With all the big debris settling out, farther downstream the river was content to just flood…

Youtube video from dankleinsmith of the Hood River flooding at the Farmers Irrigation Headgates

and flood…

West Fork Hood River flood, November 2006 from

West Fork Hood River flood, November 2006 from For the same view during normal flows, take a look at my picture from April 2007:

and create a new delta where Hood River enters the Columbia.

Hood River delta created in November 2006 (photo found at

Hood River delta created in November 2006 (photo found at

And it wasn’t just Mt. Hood’s Eliot Glacier drainage that took a beating in this event. Of the 11 drainages on Mt. Hood, seven experienced debris flows, including a rather spectacular one at White River that closed the main access to a popular ski resort. And every major volcano from Mt. Jefferson to Mt. Rainier experienced debris flows, with repercussions ranging from downstream turbidity affecting the water supply for the city of Salem to the destruction of popular trails, roads, and campgrounds in Mt. Rainier National Park (pdf, but very cool photos).

In the end, our project on climate change and glacial meltwater was funded, we managed to collect some neat data in the Eliot and Coe watersheds in the summer of 2007, and the resulting paper is wending its way through review. The November 2006 debris flows triggered at least two MS thesis projects and some serious public attention to debris flow hazards in the Pacific Northwest. They also gave me some really cool pictures.

Post-doctoral Scholar – Oregon State University Hydrogeomorphic response to changing climates in the Pacific Northwest

Described below is a great post-doc opportunity to work with fantastic people. (I should know, I did my PhD and post-doc in this research group.)

We are looking for someone to co-lead a multi-year, inter-institutional research effort to characterize and forecast the effects of changing climate on streamflows and geomorphic processes in the Pacific Northwest. Focus will be on developing and extending theoretical and empirical models of hydrologic response to climate drivers, emphasizing the role of geologic and ecologic controls and filters. The individual hired will have primary responsibility for exploring fruitful lines of attack on the problem, data acquisition and analysis, developing and applying relevant hydrologic and statistical models, and reporting results as journal publications and presentations. This post-doctoral position is with the Watershed Processes Group of Oregon State University (, and the person hired will work closely with federal scientists from the USDA Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station.
1) Ph.D. in hydrology, geomorphology, watershed sciences, or a closely related field, with a demonstrated record of publication or other successful dissemination of work.
2) Strong fundamental understanding of hydrologic processes at the scale of small watersheds to larger catchments, with expertise in one or more of the following: snowpack dynamics, groundwater processes, ecohydrologic interactions, drainage network response to precipitation/runoff relationships.
3) Experience and facility with distributed parameter hydrologic models; familiarity with climate models and climate change scenarios desirable
4) Strong statistics, data analysis and visualization skills, particularly with respect to long time-series data sets.
5) High level working knowledge of GIS and other spatial analysis tools. Expertise with interpreting remote sensing a plus.
Please send a letter of application describing your research experience and qualifications relevant to this position, a complete resume with links to publications, and the names, email addresses and telephone numbers of three references to Sarah Lewis, or 3200 SW Jefferson Way, Corvallis, Oregon 97330. Review of applications will begin February 15, 2010, and continue until a suitable candidate is found.

For my undergraduates: Graduate funding in watershed issues and GK-12 outreach at Central Washington University

For undergraduates thinking about graduate school, here’s a program that incorporates the classes and research of an MS program with the opportunity to work in K-12 classrooms and building your teaching and outreach skills and credentials. I know some of the faculty at Central Washington, and they would be great people to have as advisors.

As posted on the Gilbert Club list-serv:

Central Washington University is recruiting MS students for our GK-12 project – Yakima WATERS (Watershed Research to Enhance Research in Schools). MS graduate students in biology, chemistry, geology, and resource management work with local K-12 teachers and students to bring components of their research or related science into the public classroom. Participating graduate students are support by a WATERS fellowship in Year 1 and a regular TA or RA in Year 2. Research Themes include:
Water Quality and Chemistry

Geomorphology-Climate Change

Land and Water Use

Aquatic Ecology and Biodiversity

If you know of any prospective graduate students interested in watershed research and educational outreach, please pass the word along to them.

The webpage is

Hydrogeology and geomorphology: Notes from GSA Monday and Tuesday

This post is cross-posted at Highly Allochthonous. Please look over there for any comments.

Last week was the Geological Society of America meeting in Portland, Oregon. Just below is a view of Mt. Hood looking from the north, which I might have seen if I were not busy in and around the convention center the entire time. What follows are some brief notes from my activities on Monday and Tuesday of the conference.


On Monday morning, I attended a couple of talks and browsed the deserted poster aisles, since I knew I would be in a session all afternoon and unable to attend the designated poster time. Of the talks I attended, the one that sticks most in my mind was one by Karen Gran, who opened with an eloquent argument for why geomorphologists should care about the landscape evolution of very flat places, in her case, the Le Sueur River in southern Minnesota. Here the sudden base level drop triggered by the draining of Lake Agassiz down the Minnesota-Mississippi River system has triggered 11,000 years of knickpoint retreat and bank erosion that has been exacerbated by modern agricultural practices, such as tile drainage.

Monday afternoon I helped convene a session on “Stream-Groundwater Interaction: New Understanding, Innovations, and Applications at Bedform, Reach, and River Network Scales” sponsored by the Hydrogeology division. We had a great line-up of speakers, from undergraduate to professor, that are actively pushing our understanding of how streams and groundwater interact in environments from the hydropower-generating diurnally-fluctuating Colorado River in Austin, Texas (Bayani Cardenas, Katelyn Gerecht) to the possibility of modern recharge to the Great Artesian Basin in the center of Australia (Brad Wolaver working on the Finke River). We heard about a new smart tracer for quantifying the metabolically active transient storage (Roy Haggerty), radium as a tracer of groundwater inputs to the Sea of Galillee and North Carolina’s Neuse River (Hadas Ranan), electrical resistivity for mapping saline upwelling in Nebraska wetlands (Ed Harvey), and lots about using temperature as a tracer of groundwater-stream interactions (John Selker, Christine Hatch, Laura Lautz, Jeannie Barlow). We contemplate the effects of our common simplifying steady-state assumptions (Jesus Gomez) and marveled over a flume and numerical investigation of hyporheic exchange caused by a simple log (Audrey Sawyer). The questions from the audience were provocative and the conversations during our breaks were enjoyable and stimulating. It was my first time chairing a session, and I couldn’t have been more pleased with the day it turned out.

Monday evening brought the usual round of alumni receptions and the geoblogger/tweeter meet-up. Much has been said about that elsewhere, but I’ll add that I greatly enjoyed making the acquaintance of so many interesting people and renewing my friendship with others. There were definitely a couple of small-world moments over the course of the evening, and I’ll hazard that it was the largest geoblogger/tweeter meetup on record. Shall we aim to break the record next year?


On Tuesday, I did not go to a single talk. There are no geomorphology sessions on Tuesday because of the Kirk Bryan field trip, and the hydrogeologists have no oral sessions because of their afternoon banquet. So I spent the morning over a wonderful breakfast with wonderful friends and attended the hydrogeology banquet almost immediately thereafter. In the late afternoon, I presented my poster and missed Kim’s talk and then meandered my way over to the Quaternary Geology and Geomorphology (QG&G) award ceremony and mixer.

Please don’t ask me to say who knows how to have more fun: the hydrogeologists or geomorphologists. All I’ll say is that singing was involved at one event and very clever photoshopping at another. At least one set of geologists believe it is perfect acceptable to receive a major professional award while wearing jeans and holding a beer.

For me, the single best highlight of the entire week was talking to Reds Wolman, my academic grandfather and undergraduate geomorphology professor. Reds is an amazing teacher, magnificent scientific mind, and a caring person who mentored many of the leading geomorphologists of the last half century. Though he’s gotten to be quite elderly, he attended much of the meeting and I got the chance to chat with him and hear his stories several times. I’ll also got to hear a very nice, if cheeky, tribute to him by Reds’ former student, John Costa, who was awarded the QG&G distinguished career award.

In my next post, I’ll finish out the meeting by talking about what happens when it rains a lot about this time of year and the mountains fall down. Plus, I’ll show some pictures of really big rocks.

This post is cross-posted at Highly Allochthonous. Please look over there for any comments.