December 20, 2008

The Color Of The Acqeduct

I had to travel to Stinking Bakersfield again yesterday for work. This caused me a few moments of apprehension because much of the snow and ice in the Antelope Valley has not yet been cleared. Again, for those of you who live in snowy climates, you likely assume that part of what local government does is maintain a fleet of snowplows and other vehicles designed for road maintenance in the event of inclement weather. Well, there aren’t that many locations in Southern California that get significant inclement weather more than three or four days a year, and when that happens it tends to be in the springtime when it is too warm for snow anyway. So no, there aren’t any snowplows at all. There aren’t trucks that spread potash around the streets. The grocery stores and drug stores do not stock a lot of rock salt; rock salt is used out here for home ice cream makers and not much else. Way up in the mountains, that’s one thing. But not here.

I figured, though, that the major roads and freeways would have been cleared first and most frequently, and I was right. Highway 138 runs from the 14 to the 5, and that’s how I got from my pleasant, warm, still-surrounded-by-snow home to the main freeway, which was perfectly fine and had no icy patches left anywhere that I could see.

Now, here’s the thing. I crossed the California Aqueduct twice to get here, once in the A.V. and once just north of the Grapevine. In the A.V., I noticed that the water in the channel appeared to be a dark gray color. In the San Joaquin Valley, it was its usual greenish-blue. It was a bright, clear day in both locations, although it is much colder out in the A.V. But the color difference in the two locations of the aqueduct was remarkable. Why did this happen? Maybe different kinds of sediment got in the lower segment of the channel, or maybe the cooler air temperature makes the water look darker. I can’t intuit why it should be the case that cold air makes water look darker, though.

No comments: