From Expedition to Commute

Northern California.  San Francisco Bay to Lake Tahoe.. True color MODIS-Aqua image, acquired July 3, 2007, 2:40 pm PDT.

Northern California. San Francisco Bay to Lake Tahoe. True color MODIS-Aqua image, acquired July 3, 2007, 2:40 pm PDT.

Today, our travels to Lake Tahoe are not as carefree or adventurous as they once were.  Bay Area suburbia stretches to Fairfield with few breaks in the urban landscape.  Vacaville, Dixon, and Davis have all grown up to be commuter communities strategically situated between the Bay Area and Sacramento.  Sacramento’s outlying bedroom communities with their big-box stores and mega-churches stretch well into the Sierra foothills.  Auburn, Grass Valley, and Nevada City are slowly coming together.  Truckee has taken advantage of Tahoe’s development restrictions and has become a destination unto itself.  (Northstar is officially part of Truckee.  Who knew?)  Congestion in the Bay Area, Napa, Sacramento, and Stockton, require those driving to and from the Sierra to implore deft scheduling.  With the 24-hour news cycle, the Internet, cell phones, SUVs, and DVD players, the trip has become safer, yet also more insular.  As we carry more of our world with us, we become less discerning of the new environs we find ourselves.

In 1844, John C. Fremont took a little over two weeks to travel from Carson Pass to Sutter’s Fort in Sacramento.  Today it’s a two-hour drive.  Time travel has arrived; distance is relative.  How much do we miss the in-between?  Is it so hard to imagine that air pollution from the San Francisco Bay Area and Sacramento area is adversely affecting the water quality of remote Sierra lakes?

Image courtesy of Todd Steissberg, PhD.  Civil and Environmental Engineering.  University of California, Davis.

Image processing source code courtesy of:
Liam Gumley, Space Science and Engineering Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Jacques Descloitres and Jeffrey Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Source code, sample data, and a tutorial are available at:

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