Fresno Bee Newsroom Blog

Clearing Sequoia’s air 83 years from now

Giant Forest web cam looking at the San Joaquin Valley.

Take a look at the Giant Forest web cam. Most of the time, you can see why the National Parks Conservation Association sees a need to improve hazy conditions in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.

It is improving, the group says, but far too slowly. How long will it take to clear the air at this rate? About 83 years, the parks association said last week, quoting statistics from the California Air Resources Board.

The parks association got such calculations for many national parks as part of a campaign for more action.

The group’s sampling of 10 national parks includes Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Joshua Tree and Sequoia. Yellowstone won’t get natural air quality until 2163. Check out the other parks. You’ll find Sequoia’s 2096 is the earliest cleanup date.

Sequoia’s foothill air monitor at Ash Mountain is among the smoggiest places in the country. Sequoia usually has more bad ozone days each year than Fresno, Bakersfield or Los Angeles.

Ozone is invisible, but it makes the haze more unhealthy. The parks association says  more natural conditions will be better for both people and Sequoia-Kings Canyon.

“The basic idea is that clear air will be good for both the lungs of people and the ecosystem of the national park,” said Stephanie Kodish, Clean Air Program director and counsel for the parks groups.

That means focusing on clean-air improvements on vehicles in California, Kodish said. The cleaner engine rules need to be developed faster, she said.

Grant Tree still No. 2, based on trunk size, top scientist says

Don’t hurry to change Wikipedia rankings for the largest trees in the world. Turns out there’s more than one way to measure a giant sequoia.

The federal government still considers the General Grant Tree the second-largest tree in the world, despite new  research showing The President tree has grown into the No. 2 spot.

The research by Stephen Sillett, a redwood researcher from Humboldt State University, looks at the whole tree. By that measure, the Grant Tree is No. 3 behind The President Tree.

But size rankings in the federal government are traditionally based on trunk size. The hulking General Sherman Tree is No. 1.

And, based on trunks, the Grant Tree is still No. 2, says Nate Stephenson, a research ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey who has studied giant sequoias for over 30 years at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.

The parks and Giant Sequoia National Monument have most of the remaining natural groves of giants sequoias in the world. By sheer volume, they are the largest trees in the world.

Stephenson, who is considered among the top scientific authorities on the tree, says:

“Because branch volume is quite difficult to measure accurately, size rankings for the biggest sequoias
usually have been based upon trunk volume only. By trunk volume, the General Grant Tree is
second largest and the President Tree is the third largest. If you include branches, the order switches.”