Log In

Reset Password

It's in your nature: Time to ponder, or correct?

I’m not sure when I became so interested in weather forecasts, but it probably coincided with making plans for all my outdoor activities from gardening to birding. No matter what, a day didn’t go by without me catching at least one weather forecast. But over that time, probably nearly 50 years, have I ever heard so many advisories for flooding. It now seems that on my favorite TV weather station or following weather online, each time there is significant rain predicted you see: Flash flood watch, flash flood warning, or flash flood advisory in effect. Have you noticed these as well? Haven’t you wondered why there are so many now?

Think about this. Just in the past year, severe flooding in Berks County, severe flooding in Bucks County (lives were lost), severe flash flooding in the Bangor area, and more. What is going on?

Well, I think I can explain some of this. If you have a one-inch rainfall event, and that one inch falls on an acre of land, that equates to more than 27,000 gallons of water. If that falls in an hour time frame that is a tremendous amount of water. But wait, didn’t we get these rains in 1970 or 1980? Why is it a problem today?

If you have a forested acre of land or woodlot, the plants, soil, and the plant roots holding it in place, normally “handle” that amount and allow the water to soak in to add to the water table. If it rained all day and 2½ inches fell, that process will still probably work. But today, with our ever-increasing growth away from the cities, we are clearing the fallow fields, clearing the forests, and paving so much ground.

For instance, let’s imagine a 100-acre plot, (I’ll use Federal Township as a hypothetical example) and it is forest and fallow fields. Plans are made and homes are erected. I can conjecture that with 60 or 70 homes, driveways, sidewalks, car ports, and all the streets accessing the land, probably 60 or 70 acres is no longer able to “soak” up water. 70 acres x 27,000 gallons of water and in one hour 1,890,000 gallons of water has to go somewhere. Flash flooding.

Imagine the surface area warehouses, shopping malls, and all the paved areas associated with that in Lehigh, Bucks, Berks, or Northampton counties have been lost for water retention. No wonder there is so much flooding. Maybe the apparent global warming has caused more intense storms as well. This could explain a few of the reasons there are more flash flooding issues. I do believe that a warming Gulf of Mexico has helped supply more available atmospheric moisture. But, if we had less of the land covered with driveways, homes, and streets, nature, for the most part, could handle these more intense downpours.

Let’s look at another issue of forest clearing. Using that hypothetical 100-acre development, assuming 50 acres were forested and leveled, you lose another great value of the forests; carbon dioxide capture. That mature forest of 50 acres could have captured 425 tons of carbon dioxide in a year. Maybe we should concentrate as much on capturing carbon as we are using less carbon dioxide creating fuels. In a later column I’ll discuss the global loss of forests and rainforests and reasons why the CO2 level is rising.

I have concentrated on presenting my outdoor experiences and the nature opportunities around us here in the Times News region. Every now and then I feel I can present some information on solving some of our conservation issues and maybe piquing some interest in preserving what we have. We do need to insure we have the clean air, clean water, wildlife habitat, and the best climatic conditions for all of this to continue. Do we just ponder and watch, or shall we do our best protecting what we need to protect?

Bottom line: Let’s not forget the crucial importance of keeping our forests and wild areas healthy, while balancing planned growth.

Test Your Outdoor Knowledge: In the photo on the left, you can see:

A. A hairy woodpecker on the left and downy woodpecker on the right.

B. A male downy woodpecker on the left and female on the right.

C. A female downy woodpecker on the left and male on the right.

D. Two hairy woodpeckers.

Last Week’s Trivia Answer: Green plants (having chlorophyll) use the sun’s energy to take carbon dioxide from the air in the process of photosynthesis. Healthy forests and rainforests can “remove” great amounts of this planet warning gas.

Email Barry Reed at breed71@gmail.com

A forest will act like a huge sponge allowing rainfall and melting snow to slowly seep into the water table. If heavier snowfalls melt quickly or spring rains are greater, depressions will capture the extra water creating vernal ponds which will also slowly allow the water to recharge the water table. BARRY REED PHOTOS
Hell Creek, a tributary of the Penn Forest Reservoir and Wild Creek, is fed by springs higher in the mountain. These forested areas need to be protected to insure an adequate water supply year round.
A late summer tropical storm a few years ago dumped more than 5 inches of rain in our area. Hell Creek probably increased ten fold and flowed over Hell Road. But, notice the clarity of the water, it is not brown or silt filled like the Lizard Creek I visited the same day. Valuable soil can be lost if vegetation is not sufficient to catch and retain heavy rains. In areas of huge warehouses and parking lots, no water can be added to the water table and runs off, often creating flash floods.