City Creek Nature Notes – Salt Lake City

April 6, 2017

April 4th

Filed under: Butterfly, Seasons, Weather — canopus56 @ 3:03 pm

It is enough. This is the Right [Natural] Place – Part I – Lessons from the Past

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Jet Stream Forecasts Near the Start of each Season. Source: California Regional Weather Service (2017).

1:30 p.m. There are four or five types of butterflies in the canyon today. Two are small, two inches across, and flit constantly. Near mile 0.6, finally one of these types rest in the sun by the roadside. It is slate grey with brilliant yellow eye patches near the tail. There are several days forecasted of warm sunny weather, and this breaks the alternating days of sun and rain that began on the first day of spring (March 20th). It is a pattern that I have watched for many years. What causes this spring stable pattern of alternating rain and sun?

* * * *

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on April 4th, 1852, he admires water running over a cliff that makes a habitat for lichens and mosses. On April 4, 1853, he sees yellow and purple grass. He notes a number of birds including red-tail hawk, song-sparrows, jays, crows, bluebirds, robins, and blackbirds. On April 4th, 1855, he sees a gull and ducks.

* * * *

My own feeling is that March and April’s alternating days of rain and sun are related to changes in chaos and turbulence in the atmosphere as the seasons change. This is best seen in daily jet stream forecast graphs of the California Regional Weather Service. (The forecasts closely predict the actual jet stream’s location, and the forecast circumpolar graphics are easier to visually interpret than actual satellite images.) The circumpolar jet stream graphics show how the jet stream, which diverts storms to cross or bypass the canyon, changes with the seasons. In spring when the Sun evenly heats the Earth as the Earth’s axis is perpendicular to the Sun’s rays, the balance of heat and cold still favors the north, but the balance is sufficiently unchanging that a stable jet stream forms on a latitude across the bottom of the United States. This allows the Coriolis effect storms to march with regularly across the canyon’s ridgelines. As summer arrives, the Earth tilts toward the Sun, and the input of heat increases two-fold (March 21st, NREL). This dissipates the jet stream and days are dominated by bright cloudless skies and afternoon showers from evaporation created cumulonimbus clouds. In the fall, the Earth’s axis is again perpendicular to the Sun’s rays, and the advancing cold resestablishes a coherent west-to-east jet stream that is choatic and turbulent. This chaos is evidenced by the severe storms of September (September 22nd).In the winter where the Sun’s energy is one-fourth that of summer’s peak (March 21st, NREL), a new stable jet stream forms along the southern latitudes of the United States, and the stream is the strongest because the temperature difference between the cold artic air and the warm tropical air is at its greatest. With this stability, regularly spaced storms of December and January reappear, but the water arrives in the form of snow and not rain.

* * * *

Compared to its virgin state before the arrival of the Euro-American colonists, there is enough left of the canyon’s natural state to make it a refuge for both wildlife and people. The Euro-American colonists made many choices, some intentional and some accidental, that caused this result. What preserved City Creek from development seen in other canyons such as Emigration, Big Cottonwood and Little Cottonwood Canyons was a convergence of historical accident and difficult lessons learned about maintaining water quality. Had Brigham Young not exercised control over the early canyon and Baskin’s free market vision of designating City Creek as unrestricted open public domain land had prevailed, it is probable that City Creek would have become so encumbered by private inholdings seen today in other canyons, that the tide of development could not have been held back. Conversely, Young’s control illustrates the difficult of merging private interests and the public good into one person. Young was both head of state in Utah, head of a religious order, and the head of his own substantial, multiple private businesses. The potential for conflict of interest, even assuming that Young was always a well-intentioned fiduciary of both the interests of public citizens and the members of a private religious group, where Young the monopolist businessman and where Young as Territorial Governor start and stop was never transparent. The conflicts inherent in his multiple roles and lack of transparency, when coupled with an out spoken personal style, inevitably led to distrust by non-Mormon colonizers. This is a lesson that is repeatedly applicable to governance, including in today’s political economy.

As the City expanded, it needed City Creek as a primary water supply, but in 1870 through 1918, the City was still plagued by high rates of water borne illness. The pressure of disease created and maintained a social consensus, still seen today, that City Creek should remain undeveloped and patrolled regularly to prevent water pollution. The result of these forces is the canyon minutes from a major metropolitan center that remains in a relatively natural state. What remains is enough. What remains is enough to experience what Thoreau saw and felt in the early 1800s in Concord.

James Amasa Little records another version of the many quotes of Young on his first few of the valley on July 24th, 1847: “This is the Right Natural Place. It is enough, drive on” (Little, 98 at ftn. 57 quoting Woodruff)

* * * *

On April 4th, 2008, Democratic mayors Ralph Becker and Peter Corroon held a press conference in City Creek Canyon regarding their planned appearances as speakers at the 2008 Democratic convention (Salt Lake Tribune). On April 4th, 1935, the Salt Lake Flower and Garden Club proposed planting 3,000,000 hollyhock seeds in the foothills and up City Creek Canyon (Salt Lake Telegram). On April 4th, 1913, City Water Commissioner W. H. Korn proposed building a large dam near the up-canyon end of City Creek Canyon, and he was opposed by the street commissioner who feared that if the dam failed, the city would be destroyed (Salt Lake Tribune). On April 4th, 1902, the City Street and Public Works Department planned for the creation of a new park at the mouth of City Creek to be called “City Creek Park” (Salt Lake Tribune).

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