Managing The Slo-Mo Flood – February 25, 2012

Pamela Halstead

Eye Correspondent

MARSH INTERPRETIVE CENTER – Forest Management Committeemember Mike Furniss, a U.S. Forest Service geomorphologist and hydrologist, made a presentation titled “A Slow Motion Flood: Rapid Sea Level Rise on the North Coast” as part of the Marsh’s “Forest Ecology” series Thursday, Feb. 16 at the Marsh Interpretive Center.

Furniss works at the Pacific Southwest and Pacific Northwest Research Stations located at the Redwood Sciences Lab in Arcata.

Mike Furniss and his presentation. Photo by Ted Halstead

The Earth has experienced a relatively static sea level for the past 6,000 years, so coastal features like deltas, bays, and inlets are young in geologic time.

Current global warming is rapid and is condensing approximately 1,000 years of SLR into 100 years.

Furniss said that the effects of global warming on the North Coast will not be as bad as inland, stating that:

• We have lots of moisture, thus avoiding excessive droughts.

• We do not have much dependence on snow pack that won’t be there.

• We will probably have more fog (hotter inland, fog drawn inland) but that this is a “wild card” not set in stone.

• The Redwoods have been here for millions of years, so we aren’t likely to lose them any time soon.

Furniss was an engaging speaker and made the point that if humans consider the future consequences of the SLR now, then we can adapt now and suffer less later.

His last slide reflected this in his statement: “We are adaptable. We’ll be O.K.”

Furniss develops research and technology for low-impact transportation in forest wildland management that has been applied worldwide.

He is currently leading a national team to develop and test strategies to assess vulnerability and adaptation to climate change to maintain healthy watersheds and water supplies.

He is founder and leader of a new U.S. Forest Service research website called the “Climate Change Resource Center,” at

Furniss’ work focuses on the western states and, occasionally, on national-scale projects. He has consulted and lectured in forestry and fisheries issues across the country and in Iceland, Mexico, Spain, Vietnam, Thailand, Colombia, Israel and Taiwan.

For more information, please call the City of Arcata Environmental Services Department at (707) 822-8184.


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  1. uhh... said:

    “Precipitation loss? Last year we were well over 100% precip. No change. ”

    uh…residence of planet earth only need reply.

  2. Jon said:

    The redwoods used to cover much of the earth but climate change, which has been happening since long before humans arrived, has reduced their range to the tiny area we see them in now.

    Precipitation loss? Last year we were well over 100% precip. No change.

    However one thing is correct; no matter what happens we’ll be fine. We are adaptable. Old story. Move on.

  3. uh... said:

    When somebody says things like “we are adaptable, we’ll be okay” I wish they’d be more specific as to who “we” are. In my lifetime, “we” are going to experience crisis drought, leading to all kinds of physical hardships and plenty of death (already happening as a result of food/water shortage all over the world). This will only get worse for AT LEAST hundreds of years yet to come.

    The redwoods have “been around for millions of years”, only to be almost completely killed off by humans in less than 50 years. The degree of precipitation loss in Humboldt alone is worth imposing emergency conditions, including a complete moratorium on logging and new development. This fact isn’t being properly addressed in the media let alone political offices where all kinds of monies are at stake.

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