Geologist Bjarne Holm will speak in on the impact of changing climate.
He is seen here with a soil probe conducting studies on permafrost.
By Craig Eisenbeis
The Sisters Trails Alliance (STA) is expanding its role in the community by sponsoring a series of speakers who will address local recreation opportunities and related issues. STA's inaugural program will take place next week on Thursday, April 24, and will feature Bjarne Holm, whose talk is titled "Changing Climate with Impact on Recreational Opportunities in Central Oregon."
Holm's talk will focus on an historical look at climate change from a geological perspective, with a look at the growing impact of human activity. Holm will discuss factors that contribute to climate change, as well as its manifestation in recent weather patterns, such as typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, this winter's polar vortex in North America, and the current severe drought in the West.
In addition to the development of an extensive local trail network, the STA's mission also includes the promotion and development of non-motorized transportation and recreational opportunities in the Sisters area. As such, the current and possible future impacts of weather and climate change in Central Oregon could have an important bearing on the future of outdoor recreation in the area.
STA Community Outreach Director Ann Marland is excited about STA's new venture into this form of community service.
"Sisters Trails Alliance is setting up a special speaker series this summer and fall," she said. "Our goal is bringing interesting and educational speakers to the citizens and guests of Sisters Country. Some topics may be how the Whychus and Metolius were restored with the current results, and the geological and volcanic history of the Whychus Creek. Part of our mission is to provide a connection to the unique history, heritage and natural beauty of the Sisters area."
The first speaker in the series, Holm, is a geologist by profession, and he has worked much of his career in Alaska for the oil and natural gas industry. His presentation will discuss some of the significant effects of climate change that he has personally observed over the course of his experience in Alaska.
A focus of his work has involved mapping and interpretation of the processes and effects of successive glacial advances and - more recently - mass wasting and glacial retreat. Such events often require the examination of successive geologic events in an area spanning tens of thousands of years.
Melting glaciers are not the only manifestation of climate change. An example of the problems resulting from climate change in Alaska is illustrated by Holm's work at Minto Flats. The area includes a series of thermokarst depressions, a phenomenon that results in hollows produced by the selective melting of ice-rich permafrost.
The thawing of permafrost - soil structure that has remained frozen and solid for thousands of years - is causing new problems in many areas of Alaska. In particular, the significant warming over recent decades in Alaska has posed unique challenges for large construction projects. Work in the Minto Flats area involved mapping the geology of a three-mile-wide corridor for the possible construction of a natural gas pipeline from Prudhoe Bay to the Anchorage area.
In the local arena, Holm's presentation will also take a look at what may lie ahead for our climate along the west coast of the United States. For example, will the snowpack improve for skiing in future years? How will droughts effect plants and animals in the West?
Holm agreed to give the presentation because he believes in the role that STA is assuming in the local area. "The Sisters Trail Alliance is establishing itself on its own footing after having been part of the Sisters Park and Recreation District for a decade," he said. "It's important that the public become more acquainted with the efforts and goals of the organization."
He hopes to help introduce a more complete understanding of the potential impact of climate change on our local area. "The goal of my presentation is to look at some of the factors which affect weather and climate in both recent terms and on long-term geological time-scales. The media is full of recent climate worries, but the long-term perspective is lacking."
The presentation will be held on Thursday, April 24, in the FivePine Lodge & Conference Center, at the east end of Sisters. Doors will open at 6 p.m. with a beer and wine cash bar. The formal program will begin at 6:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.
The Sisters Trails Alliance is a community volunteer organization dedicated to planning, constructing and maintaining walking, hiking, cycling and equestrian trails in Sisters Country. The STA believes that trails are an indispensable ingredient of quality of life and economic vibrancy in Sisters
For more information contact Donna Timmerman at 541-549-0935 or Ann Marland at 541-549-7006. Additional information about STA can also be found on their website at www.sisterstrails.com.