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A survey of soil freezing on the east side of the Sierra Nevada
AuthorTaylor, Michael Francis
Geological Sciences and Engineering
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Disastrous winter floods that stem typically from prolonged 1ow-intensity rains are not uncommon on the east slope of the Sierra Nevada. The rain usually falls upon shallow snowpacks that often melt completely and contribute additional water to flood runoff (Haupt, 1967). According to McGlashen and Briggs (1939), floods occurred on the east side of the Sierras 9 times from 1861 to 1937. Young and Harris (1966) state that additional floods occurred in 1950, 1955, and 1963. Soil freezing has been repeatedly singled out as a primary cause of winter flooding (McGlashan and Briggs, 1939). However, literature on the subject is so scanty that it is not possible to substantiate or refute this charge. The author knows of only three soil freezing studies, in addition to the one just completed, that have been conducted in the Sierras. One study was conducted by H. F. Haupt (1967) in Dog Valley, California, on the east side of the Sierras near Reno, Nevada. A soil freezing investigation at North Fork, California, at 2700 feet in the foothills of the west slope of the Sierras was headed by H. W. Anderson (1947) and a soil temperature and freezing study is presently being conducted by the Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station near Slide Mountain and Clear Creek, Nevada. Since the above studies were restricted to a handful of areas, it was impossible to determine if soil freezing was a limited or widespread phenomenon in the Sierras during the winter. To eliminate some speculation, the present study was undertaken to determine the extent, severity, and duration of soil freezing on the east slope of the Sierra Nevada. Secondary objectives centered around the effect of hydrophobic soil on the freezing of soil and the effect of soil frost on infiltration. Much of the research was restricted to the east side of the Sierras but some areas were also studied on the west slope.
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