Monday, August 23, 2010

Drought, Summer 2010

With a few solid days of rain in the forecast, I decided it's time to catch up on some photos I've taken over the past month or so.

One of the most interesting things about living in a city with such strong ties to its waterways is watching the variations in water levels as the year progresses.  It's pretty cool to live in an urban area and still having that connection to the natural world.

Anyone in Greater Lowell is well aware that it has been a very hot and dry summer (even for a region that The Sun recently reported, is the hottest in the state [and this is only Lowell's fourth hottest summer on record), and the rivers are suffering for it.  The water bans seem to not have been that severe this year, I can only imagine due to reasonably healthy groundwater reserves from our very wet spring.

That said, the USGS data on the river levels for the Merrimack and Concord are showing extremely low levels of water.  At the moment, the Merrimack is running at 1,220 cubic feet per second, whereas the median is more than twice that.  We are currently at a flow rate in the 20th percentile.  The Concord is even worse:  30 cfs currently and a mean of 278 cfs.  27 cfs is the record low established in 1941, records beginning in 1936.

As for rainfall figures, has us at 0.87" of rain in August so far, and a monthly average of 3.26". For July, we got 1.74" and average 3.24"

This is a picture of the conditions this weekend under the Aiken Street bridge.  There was a huge collection of birds gathering on the recently-dry islands in the river.  I also managed to see a salmon, which was kinda neat.

Similarly, a few days before, the Concord at East Merrimack Street was the lowest I've ever seen it.

Back in 2006, this scene looked like this:

However, one good thing (I guess) has come of this:  There is an island off of the Concord River Greenway behind the Davidson St lot that in the spring looked like this:

Now looks like this:

So, I took advantage of this (hopefully rare) opportunity and went to the island, on foot, to take a few pictures.  I had wanted to get out here for a good while, but previous ideas all involved tight-roping that I-beam (I'm sure I'd fall in and drown) or using a boat (remembering my rough-water navigating skills in Oregon Trail, also not likely to end well).  Aside from extremely thick brush and evidence of parties, I think what is out there is the remnants of an old dam, which shows on maps back to 1850 or so.  This re-enforced concrete structure can't be that old, but I'd like to know how old it is, and when and why it was breached:

Rest of the pictures are here:

Drought, Summer 2010

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