Federal Official Tours New USGS Monitoring Equipment
• Data Collected from Monitoring Malibu Burn Areas Could Have Predictive Implications
BY HANS LAETZ
BY HANS LAETZ
Web crawlers anywhere in the world can now pan, tilt and zoom a new remote control camera overlooking Malibu Creek, mounted as part of a flood warning and research project that was just turned on by the federal government.
Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne walked into the canyon to observe the new devices Monday. The U.S Geological Survey has wired several unpopulated canyon areas with snooping devices to learn about how water, mud and ash behave during floods in mountainous areas that are recovering from recent wildfires.
In Winter Canyon, north of the Pepperdine University campus, researchers have straddled the chasm with a steel gantry, and slung high-tech devices that can differentiate between flowing mud and water, as well as calculate stream flow and how it relates to rainfall amounts gathered by an automatic rain gauge.
Similar devices, plus the camera, are mounted north of Serra Estates along Malibu Creek.
Data are fed via small satellite uplinks to an orbiting geostaionary satellite 22,000 miles above Malibu weather satellite, which relays the information to USGS geologists in Pasadena, and the National Weather Service in Oxnard.
Installation of the devices was rushed to meet the threat that the 5000-acre Canyon Fire presented as the winter rainy season approached. After the project was finished, the equally large Corral Fire struck just to the west of the study area.
Heavy rains in early January did cause some limited ash and debris flow, experts said. A catch basin in Winter Canyon, near Civic Center Way at Malibu Canyon Road, filled with sand and dirt to a depth of about four feet, well below the top of the structure.
Heavy ash flow did not materialize even though some areas got as much as four inches of rain, because the rain did not fall in intense cloudbursts, meteorologists said.
Kempthorne surveyed the installations Monday as part of a USGS tour of the newly installed equipment to monitor the burn area.