Atmospheric Rivers Cause Great Damage

As reported by Eureka Alert on a study from the University of California, San Diego..

An excerpt.

“Atmospheric rivers pose a $1 billion-a-year flood risk in the West, according to a study released today.

“Researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers analyzed the economic impact of the winter storms that deliver an increasingly large share of rain and snow to California and the West. The study appears Dec. 4 in the journal Science Advances.

“The team led by Scripps postdoctoral researcher Tom Corringham found that flooding has caused nearly $51 billion in damages to western states in the last 40 years. More than 84 percent of these damages were caused by atmospheric rivers (ARs), which are long narrow corridors of water vapor in the atmosphere capable of carrying more than twice the volume of the Amazon river through the sky.

“In some coastal areas of Oregon and Northern California, ARs were responsible for over 99 percent of all flood damages, the study said. The researchers also noted that much of the economic damage was caused by only a handful of AR storms. An estimated $23 billion in damage, nearly half of all flood damage in the West over 40 years, was caused by just ten ARs. Overall the total flood damage from ARs averaged $1.1 billion annually throughout the West.

“Last year, Scripps researcher F. Martin Ralph and colleagues created a scale for the intensity and impacts of ARs to help distinguish between weak and strong ARs. The scale is from 1 to 5 and is analogous to those used for rating hurricanes and tornadoes. It includes ARs that are mostly beneficial (AR 1 and AR 2) and those that are mostly hazardous (AR 4 and AR 5). Corringham’s analysis confirmed that flood damages from AR 1 and AR 2 events are generally low, and that each category increase in AR intensity corresponds to a tenfold increase in flood damage, with AR 4 and AR 5 events causing damages in the 10s and 100s of millions of dollars, respectively.

“A small number of extreme ARs cause most of the flood damages in the West,” said Corringham, “and even modest increases in intensity could significantly increase their impacts.”

“The study, funded by NOAA through the California Nevada Climate Applications Program, the federal Bureau of Reclamation, and the University of California Office of the President, is the latest of several led by researchers affiliated with Scripps’ Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes (CW3E). In recent research, ARs have been shown to be major drivers of weather and hydrology in the western United States, often making the difference between drought and flood years over the span of just a few intense storms. Scientists expect that ARs will become even more significant as global warming trends increase their intensity.

“Because of this, scientists and emergency officials have called for more research to improve the ability to forecast the paths of ARs as they reach land and their potential to deliver rain and snow. Those improved forecasts could guide management of dams and reservoirs and give emergency officials additional time to prepare for floods. CW3E researchers are currently working on improving reservoir management at two locations through the Forecast Informed Reservoir Operations (FIRO) program and are considering expanding to other locations.”–ars112619.php

Posted in Environmentalism, Water

Suburban Fake News

It’s been around for quite a while, and this great article from City Journal talks about it.

An excerpt.

“For more than a decade, leading urbanists and their media disciples have touted the idea that a resurgence of cities was occurring at the expense of suburbs, a trend that amounted to a historical reversal of American living preferences. The revival of some central business districts and the gentrification of old industrial neighborhoods into hip new urban enclaves fed a back-to-the-city narrative, while an exodus of the poor into nearby suburbs and a Great Recession–era plunge in housing values sparked conjecture that the classic suburb was in decline. Much of this narrative is anecdotal, however, or relies on selectively chosen data. Comprehensive research on hundreds of urban and suburban neighborhoods over the last four decades, published earlier this year, tells a different story. While the demographics of cities and suburbs are changing, the suburbs have continued to outperform urban neighborhoods on multiple economic and demographic variables, solidifying their hold on American wealth and status. The good news is that the urban revival in many places is real. The better news is that it hasn’t come at the expense of other communities.

“The terms “city” and “suburbs” are often used imprecisely. To get at the heart of the way communities are changing, Harvard researcher Whitney Airgood-Obrycki examined the nation’s 100 most populous metropolitan areas in detail—classifying census tracks within each area as either urban, inner-ring suburb, or outer-ring suburb. She also subdivided suburban communities based on when they were developed: pre–World War II, postwar, and modern. Airgood-Obrycki then graded each neighborhood on factors like income levels, education, occupations of residents, and housing values, and tracked communities’ progress over time.

“What the data yield is illuminating. Most of the nation’s “high-status” communities—neighborhoods in the top quartile of economic and demographic performance—are suburban. And the suburbs’ advantage over cities has increased over time, from 68 percent of the top-performing neighborhoods in the 1970s to 74 percent by 2010. Incomes are considerably greater, moreover, among suburban communities that rank among the highest-status neighborhoods than among city districts that also fall into that category. At the same time, the suburbs have done a better job of holding off decline. Among areas that have seen average household incomes shrink, the declines have been deepest in city neighborhoods, not struggling suburban areas. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the suburbs maintained their advantage to some degree because of development. Some of the biggest gains recorded in the study came in newer suburbs. By contrast, older suburbs—typically, inner-ring areas closest to cities—accounted for fewer gains.

“Many observers would consider the period from the 1970s through 2010 one of great turmoil in America’s community landscape. Airgood-Obrycki’s research shows that more than half of all communities saw their economic status change over that time, with about a quarter rising in rank while another quarter declined. Still, the economic profiles of some 47 percent of neighborhoods remained essentially unchanged.

“The data also show that the stereotype of rich, white suburbs surrounding declining cities is changing—but not always as the media suggest. No doubt, gentrification of some central city neighborhoods occurred, but the changes haven’t been as widespread as commonly thought. Today, instead, cities are often made up of a mosaic of demographic areas, including wealthier districts alternating with urban poverty. University of North Carolina researcher Elizabeth Delmelle has illustrated the new geography in maps that display cities like Los Angeles as an assortment of economically dissimilar neighboring districts. And increasingly, well-off suburbs include educated Asians, blacks, and Hispanics.

“The data, then, seem at odds with the typical media narrative. Gentrification of some city neighborhoods by young hipsters fostered an idea that educated millennials were rejecting their suburban upbringings to reclaim the city. But as they age, millennials are turning out more like their parents than previously thought. As demographer Wendell Cox has shown, even when these young people gravitate toward major metropolitan regions, they’ve been more likely to live in outlying areas than in central cities. Similarly, anecdotal stories of retirees ditching the ’burbs for city living exaggerate the trend.”

To read the rest of the article retrieved December 5, 2019, go here:



Posted in demographics, History

City Planning, It’s Difficult

If not impossible, as this superb article from New Geography reports.

An excerpt.

A long succession of urban theorists, including Jane Jacobs, have intuited, implied, or proclaimed the “organic” nature of cities. This organic concept of cities describes them as self-organizing, complex systems that might appear messy, but that disorderliness belies a deep structure governed by fundamentally rule-bound processes.

“Is this view of cities just another esoteric construct, or a valid theory that has yet to take root and become operational? This article examines the trajectory and recent research into the concept for revelations and implications to the field of planning.

“It’s organic!

“In the 1961 book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jacobs mused: “[…] why have people professionally concerned with cities not identified the kind of problem they had?” as their colleagues in the life sciences did. She was not alone to guess that city problems “[…] are all problems which involve dealing simultaneously with a sizeable number of factors which are interrelated into an organic whole.”

“Soon after (1965), Christopher Alexander showed that “a city is not a tree” (i.e., a simplistic geometric construct), but rather a complex Venn-type diagram, “with multiple cross links and overlapping sets that can be understood but defy a designer’s ability to conceptualize them.” Alexander then admits: “I cannot yet show you plans or sketches [of such a city]. It is not enough merely to make a demonstration of overlap – the overlap [of sets] must be the right overlap.”

“The “right” overlap remains observable but, evidently, intractable and unquantifiable—a handicap for planning professionals who need actionable concepts. Similar outcomes resulted from other attempts to create “a science of cities”—brilliant insights and fierce debates, but little tangible guidance.


“When grasping for a concrete, tangible model biomorphism holds instant appeal. In comparing the left and right sides of Figure 1, each showing networks at vastly different scales, we see striking similarities that have led theorists to conflate the configuration of street networks with the proclaimed “organic” nature of a city. In fact, leaf vein patterns encompass numerous distinct types and several variations of each—many entirely dissimilar in configuration to that of figure 1. The same applies to village/town/city street patterns; they too vary widely. Figure 1 shows just one specimen of many. In addition to their vein pattern variety, leaves, just as cities, span a thousand-fold range in size—from pine mini-leaves to banana mega-leaves (Fig.2). This analogy dissolves into a multitude of questions about which comparisons are meaningful or fruitful.

“These descriptive facts reveal the futility of trying to fathom an obscure entity (“the organic city”) by incidentally built form shapes and by analogy to the chosen forms of living things—mixing scales and focusing on the appearance of disparate subcomponents in a conceptual mishmash. This exploratory track of biomorphism left the question of what is “organic” about a city unanswered and planners bewildered. It also led to seeking old, presumed “organic” forms as prototypes for building new ones—to no avail (as we discussed here). But the “organic” intuition persists.

“A New Thread

“The question that Jacobs asked, rhetorically, in 1961: “Why have cities not […] been identified, understood and treated as problems of organized complexity?” found its answer in specialized research after 1980 —the tools for such perspective and treatment were previously unavailable.

“Powered by new computation and simulation tools, the science of (organized) complexity has made big strides. A first, decisive departure from previous approaches proceeds from the realization that a city is “[…] really it’s own new thing, for which we don’t have a strict analogy anywhere else in nature” (Bettencourt 2013). It is neither a “tree” nor semilattice, neither is it leaf-like nor anthill-like. It shares essential attributes with many complex systems (e.g.beehives, the brain, the Internet, the stock market, and ecosystems), but bears no resemblance to any. These attributes have now been identified and crystalized into a lens through which a new appreciation of what we observe in cities can guide future investigations (Table 1).”

To read the rest of the article, retrieved December 4, 2019 from

Posted in demographics

Say Build & They Will Build

Sometimes it’s as simple as that. How Oakland began to solve their housing crisis, from City Journal.

An excerpt.

“California’s housing crisis, particularly in the Bay Area, is notorious and well covered, with news stories chronicling homeless encampments, “pod” housing, and people forced to live in cars. But a surprising and encouraging piece of news emerged from Oakland recently. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Oakland will produce almost 50 percent more housing units this year than San Francisco—6,800 versus 4,700—though Oakland has half the population and only 40 percent as many jobs as San Francisco. Just as surprising is the jump in Oakland’s housing production: the number of units brought to market in 2019 will be almost 15 times the number completed in 2018 and more than three times the number of units produced between 2013 and 2018 combined.

“What caused this burst of production? Simple: Oakland told developers that they could build homes. In 2014 and 2015, the city passed a series of neighborhood plans in and around downtown that relaxed zoning and removed parking requirements, making it easier and cheaper to build. Now, after the four to five years required for design, permitting, and construction, Oakland is reaping the benefits of private development. By contrast, San Francisco continues to make it hard to build housing, with byzantine planning regulations, expensive development fees, restrictive zoning, and long delays.

“It’s tempting to compare the 24,000 units San Francisco has added in the past seven years with Oakland’s 9,000 and think that San Francisco is ahead. But, adjusting for population and jobs, San Francisco is clearly falling behind. Just one more year at current rates of production will see Oakland surpass San Francisco in per-capita housing production since 2013—and Oakland has almost 15,000 more units under construction, approved, or in review.”

Retrieved December 2, 2019 from




Posted in demographics

Thanksgiving Holiday Off

We’ll be taking the rest of the week off (resume blogging December 2) to enjoy Thanksgiving, so from all of us to you and yours, have a wonderful Thanksgiving!


Posted in Holiday

Neighboring Counties Acting to Stop Camping Along Rivers

Still the major problem in the Parkway, but, as reported by Channel 40, local communities are acting and Sacramento needs to follow their lead.

An excerpt.

“MARYSVILLE, Calif. (KTXL) — Homeless advocates are fearing the worst after Yuba and Sutter counties passed urgency ordinances restricting camping on public property along its rivers.

“Just like other communities, Yuba City and Marysville have been struggling with the growing homeless population.

“Because there is so much riverfront in both cities, camping was widespread here for years. But in recent years, the homeless have been cleared out because of health, crime and fire hazards.

“Now, regional governments have a coordinated approach in passing urgency ordinances restricting camping even further.

“All these people have nowhere to go,” Raelynn Butcher, who is homeless and a member of the Homeless Union, told FOX40. “They’re going to lose their stuff, their homes. Those are their homes.”

“Butcher said she fears the Sutter County Sheriff’s Office will begin enforcing the ordinance on Friday. Marysville police have already begun enforcing its version of the urgency ordinance.

“The problem is that an alternate space has not been identified, even though a regional homeless task force has been looking for a place.

“Many of the vehicles owned by the homeless aren’t registered or can even move safely.

“These people right here, when they pull out, they’re going to be pulled over and they’re going to lose everything they have. And that’s my greatest fear right now,” Butcher said.

“One of the objections is that some believe the ordinances were approved without input from those most affected.

“Because someone is homeless doesn’t mean they’re not smart or they don’t have impact or ideas on what to do,” Poor People’s Campaign spokeswoman Rev. Pamela Anderson said.

“Government officials told FOX40 that having tents on the river impedes flood inspections and campers directly digging into the levees is a concern….

“Homeless advocates say the new law violates a federal court ruling that homeless people can’t be cited for camping unless they are provided with an alternative place to go.”

Retrieved November 23, 2019 from


Posted in Homelessness

The American River Parkway, Homeless Central

That is how this sad story from Channel 10 in Sacramento reports it.

An excerpt.

“As Sacramento’s homeless population increases, more and more people are seeking shelter along the banks of the American River.

“He doesn’t have a reason to get up in the morning. He doesn’t work. He has no plans. Keeping time is the least of his worries.

“You lose track of days”, Chuck said strumming his guitar. “And the days lose track of years, and, before you blink your eyes, it’s been 10, 20 years.””

“By his own estimate, Chuck’s been homeless for at least 25 years. It seems like an unusually long time until you start talking to other folks who live along the American River….

“Many of the city’s homeless shelters and services are located in the Dos Rios triangle, between downtown and the American River, making the American River Parkway a prime spot to set up camp.”

Retrieved November 22, 2019 from


Posted in Homelessness