Sunday, November 18

California's wildfires are a drag-friction problem. So plant lots of bamboo there..

A quick and dirty fix but it'll work

The drag-friction of California's massive forests had always been an effective windbreak against the fierce winds coming off the Great Basin Desert. But over the course of the past century so much forest was destroyed that I think the loss reached a tipping point about a decade ago, thus greatly weakening the forest windbreak. What has followed is a nightmarish series of catastrophic wildfires driven by high-velocity winds. 

The November 8 Camp fire, clocked in at 80 mph -- hurricane-force winds -- while it virtually destroyed the town of Paradise within a few hours and caused at last count 76 deaths.

So I'd say Californians need to quickly find substitutes for the weakened windbreak function of their state's forests. I doubt there's a perfect substitute but bamboo, which grows 3-5 feet per year, is an incredibly powerful windbreak when planted in sufficient amount and the right configuration. And it's able to stand up to the strongest winds and all kinds of weather -- and I do mean all kinds. 

See this article about bamboo and prepare to be amazed if you don't know anything about the plant. It even saves lives during earthquakes if people take refuge near it.

It would be a matter for wind scientists to decide exactly where large bamboo groves should be planted in California to best weaken winds from the Great Basin. Plant specialists could determine which kind of bamboo would be best for each soil, if the groves are planted in widely differing locales in California.

For those Californians who hate the thought of bamboo invading their neighborhood -- if I lived in a windy neighborhood I'd be happy to see bamboo invade but there are two types of roots; the clumping type doesn't 'travel.'

Bamboo does need a little watering during the first 3-4 years but what it takes in water it might well give back many times over if high winds cause leafy plants, including leafy crops, to require lots of water. Keep in mind that the winds from the Great Basin are blowing 10 months out of the year in California to a greater or lesser degree, at least in northern California where they're called Diablo winds.  

There could be other highly effective vegetation windbreaks and I think every bit helps when it comes to creating drag-friction. As to using manmade materials, they would have to be something Californians could live with, perhaps for a long time, until their tree forests are restored to the point where the windbreak function is strengthened.  

My allover point is that Californians are focused on fire and how to stop it. I think they'll do better if they focus more on how to slow the winds that drive the worst of the fires.

See Also:

"Argument: Loss of forest windbreaks major cause of huge N. California wildfires;" Pundita, 11/15 (includes sources not linked in 11/18 post.) 

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