Phenology Files: December 2023

phenology [/fi-ˈnä-lə-jē/] n 1 : a branch of science dealing with the relations between climate and periodic biological phenomena (such as bird migration or plant flowering) 2: periodic biological phenomena that are correlated with climatic conditions.

Raging Rivers

Our local rivers offer us a great glimpse into phenology! When rain comes and the rivers rise, we are able to easily see and experience habitat changes directly related to the weather.

Anne Burkhardt captured the first photo while at a Land Trust tour of the River’s Edge project on the lower Dungeness River on Friday (Dec 1) afternoon. After the heavy rains on Sunday night, Anne headed back to the same spot on Monday (Dec 4) and captured a very different river!

Over the course of the night, the river’s flow was increased from around 160 cf/s to 2,660 cf/s. Prior to the levee setback and floodplain restoration work at River’s Edge, the channel through the floodplain (shown on the right in each photo) was non-existent because of the old levee that confined the river. All the water would have been flowing through the main channel (shown on the left in the photo). Now, the reconnected floodplain is in action and the river can disperse through it when high waters come through.

Photos courtesy of Anne Burkhardt. Chart courtesy of USGS.

The dry summer and fall were felt by many across the Peninsula. Historically, rains have returned more gradually in late September and early October. In the first nine days of December, more rain has fallen here than in the entire month of November – causing a significant spike in the river’s flow rate.

Drier summers and falls, as well as wetter winters and springs, are some of the many predicted climate changes expected to occur in our region. By closely watching phenological events in our neighborhoods, we can increase our awareness of climate change.