Acid rain in Big Sur

28 04 2009

Having been in my progress so often misled by taking for granted the results of others, I have determined to write as little as possible but what I can attest by my own experience.” – John Dalton, Independent Scientist (1766-1844)

UPDATE (May 2, 2009): In the past 24 hours it has rained 0.93″ here in Big Sur with a pH of 4.56. I have amended the seasonal data accordingly.

UPDATE 2 (May 5, 2009): An additional 0.08″ was recorded, but the sample was too small to obtain an accurate pH reading. The seasonal data have been amended.

Anyone who thinks acid rain does not occur in pristine, unpolluted environments had better think again. Or better yet, go get some litmus paper and check it out for yourself.

Scientists studying Sudden Oak Death have dismissed acid rain as a relevant factor in oak mortality, pointing out that areas of severe decline are near the coast, upwind of the major sources of pollution, thus rainfall could not be acidic. Here along the coast of California storms blow in from the ocean where there are few sources of manmade pollutants. Rainfall pH, then, is not expected to be any more acidic than about 5.6, which is the theoretical pH of unpolluted rainwater in equilibrium with atmospheric CO2.

Acid precipitation in southeast Alaska

Acid precipitation in southeast Alaska (photo by Lee Klinger)

However, I have learned from past research that rainfall in pristine environments can sometimes be quite acidic[1]. So for the past three years I have been recording rainfall at my home in Big Sur using a Stratus RG202 rain gauge. Readings of rainfall pH have been made with a high-precision Beckman (Model Φ250) pH meter using a standard two-point (4.00 & 7.00) calibration. The rain station is located 1.2 miles from the coast at 36° 16’N; 121° 49’W, and 922’ (281 m) elevation.

Here are the results: Read the rest of this entry »


Sudden Oak Life Announcement, Earth Day 2009

22 04 2009

Hope for California’s dying oaks

Findings reveal ‘fire mimicry’ practices improve oak health

Big Sur, Calif. – Despite being devastated by wildfires and ravaged by sudden oak death there is some hopeful news coming out of the oak forests of Big Sur. Results of a multi-year study show that the health of sick and diseased oaks is significantly improved with the use of mineral fertilizers and other fire mimicry practices.

According to case studies of 152 sick coast live oaks conducted by Dr Lee Klinger, an independent scientist and oak specialist living in Big Sur, improved canopy health was observed in 8 out of every 10 trees that were treated.

Oak trees

Hearst Castle oaks (photo by Lee Klinger)

Photo caption: Recovery of a treated coast live oak at Hearst Castle, California State Park. Photo on the left was taken January 4, 2006, photo on the right was taken January 2, 2008. (Photos by Lee Klinger)

Read the rest of this entry »