Chas Jones, Ph.D.

Streaming Sounds of Rain

Sounds of Rain

Pure and simple: Relax to the sounds of rain and thunder here.  Listen to the streaming sounds of rain… white noise to drown out background noise at the office or at home. This is a continuous audio loop. Source file:

If you see me sitting at my desk with headphones on, it is quite likely that I am listening to the sounds of rain.  Feel free to interrupt me if needed, but you might want to try it.  It drowns out most distractions.
Streaming sounds of rain

River Management Watershed Scale

I recently came upon this short video animation about river management at the catchment scale. It is preferable that our water resource engineers attempt to mimic natural processes when attempting to manage the flow of water, but not only in times of excess, but also in times of drought. This video emphasizes flood mitigation, but the same strategies help during times of low flow. Increased groundwater, floodplain, and wetland connectivity provides a slow release of groundwater to streams and maintains stream flows throughout drought periods. Rivers need water, fish need water, people need water. Check out the video and let me know what you think.

Original video source can be found at this website in both English and French.…

New discovery of hydro-geomorphic process (on Mars)

New discovery of hydro-geomorphic process (on Mars)

A recent New discovery of a hydrologic process has geomorphic implications in simulated environments similar to those on the planet Mars.  When the experiment using salty brine water was performed at atmospheric pressures found on Earth, soil was wetted as expected, but there was no movement of the soil particles, thus there was little to no impact on the geomorphic conditions.  However, when soil was wetted with salty water under very low atmospheric pressure and low temperatures (similar to those on Mars), the below video shows how the soil water boils or “pops” (transitioning from its liquid state to a gaseous state) and flings soil particles downslope.  Over time, this process is able to move substantial amounts of soil particles in the downhill direction and allow for geomorphic evolution of the landscape!  How cool is that!  A new discovery of hydro-geomorphic processes!  Science is so cool!

See National Geographic’s discussion of the study that was published in this Nature GeoScience article.

Going to the toilet on a river rafting trip?

Going to the toilet on a river rafting trip?

I organize a good number of river rafting trips for my friends and family.  While many of these are one day trips, I really love going on multi-day trips.  It recently dawned on me that for people that haven’t gone on these types of trips before, there are some things that they may find a little intimidating about the idea. One question that is frequently raised is: “How do we go to the toilet?”  The short answer is that we urinate in the river and we bring along a portable toilet (aka “el baño” or “the groover”, which may be as simple as a 5-gallon bucket with a toilet seat, but can be quite elaborate) for everything else.  Ask me and I’ll give you more details about why we do this, but here’s a link to one woman’s take on the experience.  Here is a link to a related video (which is work-friendly). And finally, according to Grand Canyon Whitewater’s River FAQ, for women, if your menstrual cycle occurs during your river trip, “a handy device used among women river guides is the ‘Diva Cup’.” According to the FAQ, “it is fairly easy, reliable, comfortable and clean; check it out before your river trip and decide if it might work for you. If you will be using tampons, bring several brown paper bags and little Ziplocs. That way, when you change during the day, you can put the trash in a brown paper bag, put that bag in a Ziploc and dispose of it easily, discreetly, and sanitarily in the boat trash system. As you will be in the water often during your river trip, pads are not the best option.”

A guide to using the groover (aka toilet) on a river rafting trip

OAR’s Guide to the Groover

Installation of threaded thwarts

Installation of threaded raft thwarts

I had a difficult time finding videos or information on how to install or remove the thwarts in my 14 ft Hyside Outfitter Pro raft, but eventually I found this video made by Aire.  The lacing system is different, but similar enough to provide enough information to plan for the process.

Keywords: Woven, weave, thwart, raft, threaded, inflatable kayak, kayak, how to, thread, lace

Death of the Colorado River

Satellite image of the Colorado River: Source ProPublica

The Death of the Colorado River

The Colorado River is over-allocated. Less water is falling from the skies. Water is undervalued and not priced appropriately. We don’t track our water use appropriately (and we are perfectly aware of this). Farmers in the west are encouraged to use water inefficiently (thus their future water rights are not in danger of being lost). Not to mention that the politics of reigning in our wanton waste of this finite resource make it a seemingly impossible task.

Water resources in the western U.S. are at risk. Our groundwater and surface water resources are both at risk. The Colorado River is at risk. Propublica recently published an extensive article on the Killing of the Colorado River. It is well-written and a worthy read. The New York Times also published an excerpt of the Propublica article.  Both are worth reading.

How can we possibly manage our water use when our state politicians blatantly write laws that limit our ability to measure water consumption? How can we manage our water supplies when we aren’t allowed to measure two halves of a whole? (In California, surface water consumption is measured very diligently, but laws have been passed that do not allow for groundwater consumption to be monitored, despite the fact that in many cases, these are two halves of the same pie. We have to measure both to have a comprehensive understanding of the amount of water we are using.)

An unlined irrigation ditch. Source ProPublica

We need to measure groundwater pumping rates. We need to measure the aquifer and stream responses to groundwater pumping. We need to charge a reasonable fee for those water resources.  Without drastic actions, we will lose the water war. Well, at least the common people will lose the war, while watching industry, agriculture, and the other “water elites” blatantly waste our shared water resources.  Read more about the Death of the Colorado River at Propublica.…

What is water worth?

What is water worth?

David Zetland proposes a simple cost structure for water in his book, Living with water scarcity.

Today’s news reports that the state of California has proposed fining an irrigation district with senior water rights $1.5 million for stealing water after being informed that there was no water for it to take for irrigation purposes. See this link for more details. It started get me thinking about the value of water. What is water worth? How much should we charge for water?  Often it costs nothing for people that use it.  Is it worth nothing? No. It has value.  In fact, water has immense value. Society cannot survive without it. Our natural resources require water. Therefore water should cost something, but how much? Dr. David Zetland proposes a simple cost structure for water that would help end the West’s water shortages.  He presents those ideas in his book, Living with Water Scarcity.  A summary of one approach to pricing water is found on his blog. It seems simple, but I like the general approach. The utilities need to be profitable (if private) or be maintained (if a public entity). Charge the customers a basic charge that covers those basic costs. All users pay the same rate per gallon of water. Charge more when water is scarce. Follow those rules and water will be available when it is needed. It may cost a lot more, but it will be available.…

Modeling groundwater upwelling as a control on ice thickness

3D matlab image output

Groundwater heat flux controls the degradation of ice during the winter at cold air temperatures and varying snow depths

Modeling groundwater upwelling and ice thickness

In our paper titled “Modeling groundwater upwelling as a control on river ice thickness”, we model how groundwater upwelling and other physical mechanisms affect river ice thickness conditions in the winter and early spring in interior Alaska (Jones et al. 2015). The Tanana River flows through a region characterized by discontinuous permafrost. Studies link degrading permafrost to increased winter river discharge due to increasing groundwater input. In winter, interior Alaskan rivers are exclusively fed by groundwater, which serves as an external source of heat. In fact, some portions of rivers fed by groundwater maintain thin ice throughout the winter, or remain altogether ice-free, despite very cold air temperatures. These ice conditions represent a significant danger to winter travelers who use rivers for wintertime travel, particularly in this largely roadless area. We developed a model to explore how fluctuations in groundwater discharge control ice thickness on the Tanana River. The model allows us to examine how local changes in groundwater characteristics affect ice dynamics by addressing two questions: 1) What physical factors have the greatest influence on seasonal dynamics between river ice thickness and GW upwelling on the Tanana River? 2) How do variations in environmental conditions change the capacity of GW to melt river ice?

Ice melt is amplified by increased water column temperatures, flow velocities, air temperature, and snowfall. Abrupt changes in snowfall were illustrated to contribute to decreased ice thickness and more hazardous conditions for winter travelers. The model examines the physical mechanisms that underlie dangerous ice conditions in winter and early spring, and suggests that GW flow parameters need to be better characterized to model mid-winter ice degradation in sub-arctic environments.

A warming climate in regions with discontinuous permafrost is expected to increase groundwater input into rivers, decrease the temperature gradient between the atmosphere and the ice/water interface, and increase snow depths. Future research should characterize winter groundwater discharge in more detail to better understand how changes in groundwater flow lead to decreased ice thickness and thus more hazardous conditions for winter travelers. Our model illustrates that we still need additional information before we fully understand the physical mechanisms to corroborate reports from Alaskans that ice conditions have become more dangerous in the spring, and to determine if permafrost degradation is contributing to the degradation of river ice in a warming climate.

For more information about the project visit our project page or download the published manuscript.


Video of volcanic eruption

Video of a volcanic eruption

Holy smokin’ toledos!  Check out this video (turn on your sound) of a volcanic eruption in Papau New Guinea.  The first thing you will notice is the explosive eruption. The next thing is the shockwave passing through the clouds and atmosphere.  Go back and watch that again.  How cool, but the 2nd time, you’ll also notice rocks and other debris shooting upward into the atmosphere and if you watch carefully, you’ll see them fall into the ocean and make a big splash!  Holy smokin’ toledos is right!

The 2014 drought

Images from the 2014 drought

Folsom Reservoir near Sacramento at high and low water levels

Folsom Reservoir near Sacramento in 2011 and 2014

The Washington Post published an article showing images of the low reservoir levels in California. This drought situation is kind of crazy.  Reservoirs in the arid west and southwest have really been affected by the low amounts of rain and snow in recent years.  Yet, while it is mentioned, I don’t hear nearly enough push for the metering of water usage, not only of California farmers, but also of California residents and industrial users.

It is my understanding that most of California’s cities do not meter water usage by its residents. My first recommendation for water conservation measures are to start charging for water consumption. This would involve metering, permitting groundwater wells, setting up water utility companies or coops, and charging unsubsidized rates for water use.  Credits can be offered for the use of grey water, xeriscaping, and reducing water runoff into the sewer system.  There are so many ways to achieve this and its implementation would create good paying jobs.

I know that California has more regulations than many other states, but water shortages are a serious threat to arid regions in the U.S.  I am not just picking on California.  Arizona is also guilty. Our surface and groundwater resources have great value.  By giving them away at no cost, we undermine their value and cause people, industry,  and corporations to consider it as expendable and of little value.  Water is one of our most important resources and we need to value it accordingly.

Enterprise bridge in Oroville Reservoir, near Oroville, CA

Mendeley reference manager – Mendeley Tips and tricks

Mendeley reference manager – Mendeley tips and tricksmendeley

First of all, I really like Mendeley, but there are certainly things that I don’t like very much too.. I will plan to add to this blog entry as I think about it.  Over the years, I have figured out a number of tips for Mendeley, and occasionally, I have needed to revisit them.  Inevitably, I would resort to Google and waste substantial amounts of time trying to relearn the tips that I had already figured out in the past.

Database management

I highly recommend that you keep your pdf library on a computer drive that it not your C: drive. You can map any folder on your hard drive to a new drive letter. In my case, I am using a server to store my files and I have mapped it as my Z: drive. This will allow me to map any future folder, thumb drive, or server folder as my Z: drive and my file links will be maintained in Mendeley. This is one of the most frustrating things about Mendeley.

File transfer

After years of fighting with Mendeley when I switch computers, hard drives, or some other major task, I made a recent discovery. I had a backup of all of my pdf files on one computer in a folder located on my C: drive at C:\Lit.  I wanted my Mendeley database to link to the files on my server space at Z:\Lit rather than C:\Lit.  I tried to use SQLite to edit the Mendeley database, but encountered problems with the different version of the SQL library between Mendeley and my computer.  Finally, I thought to go to Mendeley > Tools > File Organizer and under “Organize my files” I changed the C:\Lit to Z:\Lit.  Lo and behold, Mendeley copied all of my pdfs in my functioning pdf database to my new server location AND it updated all of the file locations in the program to the new file locations on my Z Drive!  Success!  This tip may save you (and my future self) many hours of headaches.…

Colorado River river trip to assess hydropower potential

1923 Colorado River river trip to assess hydropower potential of Grand Canyon

This is an old film produced by the USGS (and linked from their website) that shows footage of 1923 Colorado River river trip to assess hydropower potential of Grand Canyon (1923).  This is a silent video produced in black and white that shows the excitement of the river trip and some of the trials and tribulations of these early adventurous public servants of the U.S. federal government.

Additional information can be found at this link to the USGS’s archival material.

The state of groundwater knowledge: Following the dowsing rod

The state of groundwater knowledge: Following the dowsing rod

A good number of farmers, vineyards, and ranchers actually hire “Water witches” to find water on their property in drought stricken California.  I assume that their “belief” in the ability of dowsing rods to locate “underground rivers” is not uncommon among the population at large across the United States.  The fact is that the public has very little understanding of groundwater and groundwater aquifers, which is primarily the fault of the inability or lack of interest of the hydrologic community to help to educate them.  Most groundwater aquifers are not going to have the ability to be tapped in a very specific location rather than another location hundreds of feet in any particular direction. Groundwater systems are do not typically have boundaries as clearly defined as the edge of a river.  In fact the hydrologic system associated with a river doesn’t stop at its banks, but actually extends into the local or regional groundwater system associated with its floodplains, riparian areas, and neighboring wetlands.

The implications of how groundwater systems function means that a “Water witch” trying to use dowsing rods to locate a precise location at which to drill to tap into groundwater is really not a doing a farmer much of a favor.  If the farmer drilled at a similar ground elevation in the valley a few hundred feet in any direction would be equally as likely to identify a water source.  The use of dowsing rods to locate groundwater drilling locations is similar to hiring astrologers to predict our future.  While they may find water, it was as if they were throwing darts at a wall.  They were very likely to find water no matter of the location that they identified and it is more likely that a farmer just lined someone’s pocket with $500 that has no real ability to identify water that couldn’t have been found by drilling an exploratory well.

A bunch of articles were produced over the last day or two that reference reports by USGS  about the use dowsing rods.  For more information, the USGS has printed reports about water dowsing (available at this link) and the history of water dowsing (available here).  I recommend that anyone interested in hiring “water witch” to find drillable water, take a look at the USGS reports.  You may learn a thing or two and save yourself $500.…

African Tigerfish swallow birds in mid-air

African Tigerfish swallow birds in mid-air

A number of news sources have picked up a story about the African Tigerfish swallowing swallows in mid-air (pardon the pun). This post shows the original video as uploaded by the researchers.  The original research paper can be found at this link to the Journal of Fish Biology. The video was captured at Schroda Dam, near Limpopo, South Africa.

From the video, you can actually see fish jumping from the water in attempt to grab the birds.  Sometimes they’re not successful, but other times they are right on the mark.   How cool is that! Ecology in action…  Discovering new things all of the time.  Science is cool!

FLIR One – Thermal imaging by phone

The FLIR One is an accessory for the Iphone 5 that allows mobile users to capture thermal images or video at a reasonable price.

The FLIR One is an accessory for the Iphone 5 that allows mobile users to capture thermal images or video at a reasonable price.


FlIR One – Thermal imaging by phone

I admit it. I have never been much of a fan of Mac products, but FLIR is releasing an Iphone 5 accessory that could convince me to jump on-board.  A thermal infrared camera accessory for $350?  How cool is that?  I actually use airborne thermal infrared in my research, but there are certainly  a lot of applications in and outside of the realm of research.  You can use it to identify people or animals in the dark. Use it to recognize failed electrical components in gadgets or solar panels. Identify household plumbing or air leaks. The FLIR One accessory is going to be a big hit with a lot of people.  I wonder if they’ll figure out how to attach it to an Android phone?  Preferably the Nexus 5 (hint, hint). Check out their website by clicking on the photo, or check out the video below. FLIR One – Thermal imaging by phone!


Burning trash with water

Burning trash with water

Apparently NASA has some innovative scientists at their disposal.  I have always been one to use water to extinguish fires, but NASA scientists are using water to start fires.  Seriously. They are actually doing experiments on the International Space Station that use water to “consume” or burn organic mater, thus disposing of it…  Using water!

[shaking my head, confused.]

They are compressing water at 217 times atmospheric air pressure (at sea level) and heating to a temperature of 703.4 Fahrenheit, so that it reaches its “supercritical” phase. At this point, water  is not actually a liquid, solid, or a gas, but is more of a liquid-like gas. In this state, water oxidizes organic material on contact (oxidation = burning), but there is no flame.  Strange huh?  The products of the “burning” process is primarily CO2 and water.  Why is this a big deal? Well, it helps space scientists dispose of garbage and sewage.  It ends up that the City of Orlando, Florida is actually using this technology to dispose of municipal waste.  Cool! There are still some complicating factors that NASA is tackling as I type, but check out this video!


Dangerous Ice in the news

Dangerous Ice in the news

On November 22, a local newspaper reporter published an article based on the research of my project team. As part of the Dangerous Ice project, we recently published a booklet entitled “On Dangerous Ice: Changing conditions on the Tanana River.” about traveling safely on Alaskan rivers in the winter.  Tim Mowry interviewed each of our team members and wrote the article.  I didn’t have high expectations for the article, but it turned out really nice (especially in the print version pictured to tDangerousIceNewsMinerhe right). Since its original publication, its been picked up by the News Wire and has been published by a number of news sources recently. So far I am aware that the article has been published by the following:

Life Aquatic Kayak – a submarine kayak

Life Aquatic Kayak – a submarine kayak

The Subo kayak can be paddled on a lake, calm oceanic bay, or slow moving river, but when you get tired of watching birds, moose, sea otters or turtles, you can batten down the hatch.  Time to fill the ballasts as a kayak transformed into a personal submarine kayak propelled via a fishtail – like propulsion device straight from Life Aquatic. Now you can check out the fish, kelp, crabs, and shrimp. According to comments by the creator,  Olivier Feuillette, on Youtube, it has air tanks, a CO2 filter (for extended dives up to 2 or 3 hours), and pressure equalization.  I’ve got many more questions than answers, but until I find the time to build an amazing personal watercraft like this for myself, I’ll just have to admire this video.  Check it out and let me know what you think about the Subo submarine kayak.

Floods as a restoration tool in the Grand Canyon

Downstream flood propagation in the Colorado River

Flood as a restoration tool in the Grand Canyon

The U.S. Department of the Interior has periodically been releasing large volumes of water into the Grand Canyon in an attempt to mobilize sediment and rebuild beaches in a river system that has been sediment deprived since the installation of the Glen Canyon Dam in 1963. In November 2013, they planned for a high flow release (>34,000 cubic feet per second) into the Colorado River, which normally flows at 8-9,000 cfs. They maintained high flows for 4 days during a period that the Paria River was releasing large amounts of sediment into the Colorado River.  River managers hoped to entrain the high sediment load of the Paria using high flows in the Colorado River so that they would be carried downstream and deposited further down than they normally would be.  Flooding, flood routing, river restoration and Colorado River water resources are all subjects that I am very interested in being more involved with in my future research endeavors.

Read more at this link.

Rising temperatures threaten Salt Lake City’s water supply


Salt Lake City relies on water from several watersheds including four creeks on the western side of the Wasatch Mountains and water that’s pulled in from the more distant eastern side of the mountains. A new study shows how climate change is likely to affect the various creeks and streams that help slake Salt Lake City’s thirst. (Map credit: CIRES)

Rising temperatures threaten Salt Lake City’s water supply

This article from researchers at NCAR (National Center for Atmospheric Research) and CIRES (Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences)  appears to be an interesting report linking Salt Lake City’s water supply to changing temperatures and precipitation.  I will spend some time reviewing the report in the next week or so, but until I do, check out a summary of the report here.

Quantifying Colorado River water deliveries

20131110 Coroado River Water profile

Quantifying Colorado River water deliveries

I really enjoy innovative graphics that convey quantitative data in simple understandable ways. Here’s a great example of a graphic that shows how much Colorado River Water has flowed into and out of various parts of the Colorado River basin and the States and communities that rely upon it for their water. This map shows how no Colorado River water makes it into Mexico anymore.  It also shows how much water into California and Arizona.  Very interesting.  More info can be found at this link.