Sisters of the Sierra

One special characteristic of the Sierra Nevada is that it’s a rare example of a high mountain range in a Mediterranean climate, which means that it is dry and sunny half the year and moist and mild during the other half of the year. This combination makes for a very combustible cycle of fuel production and fuel dehydration.

I’ve been looking for sister ranges of the Sierra Nevada; that is, other igneous ranges. What this means is that I’m looking for well-forested mountain ranges in Mediterranean climes. This generally means high mountain ranges, because altitude generally means two things: (1) orographic precipitation for production and (2) orographic lightning for combustion.

You’d think that the Andes where they cross the Zona Central of Chile would be an ideal example, but the Andes are rather sparsely forested in the northern half of the Zona Central, perhaps because the Andes are too lofty to the north for extensive forestation. South of here, in the Maule district (VII) and even more in the Biobio North district (VIII), there is more forest, but there is also more precipitation. Rain is in fact so common that it’s hard to call the climate Mediterranean. There is really no time of year that is truly dry in the southern half of the Zona Central; not, at least, as dry as most of California is in Summer.

There aren’t very many other choices, as far as I am aware. There are many lower Mediterranean ranges, and several high ranges near to Mediterranean climes, but not many high ranges are in Mediterranean climates.

The only others I know of are in Iran: the Alborz, Zagros, and Sabalan mountains. None of these is heavily forested, but in the case of Iran we can be quite confident that they were once more forested than they are today.

At present, though, I can think of no mountain range in the world that shares with the Sierra Nevada this Mediterranean annual cycle of production and combustion at a comparable scale.

2 comments on “Sisters of the Sierra

  1. What about the Snowy Mountains in Australia? Plenty of fires there on the dry season.

    Just a word about the Australian system of naming places. Fortunately, many places have aboriginal names, because the rest are named in singularly unimaginative fashion. There are hundreds of beaches named “Sandy Bay”, for example. Fortunately, there are very few snowy mountains in the country, so little opportunity for geographical confusion.

    ka kite

  2. Dan Jensen says:

    Ha! Talk about siblings. “Snowy Mountains” being pretty near what “Sierra Nevada” translates to, I guess our place names aren’t much more creative (good thing it’s in Spanish).

    I saw a program years back on the nasty trouble the Aussies have with fire. NASA Coverage:

    California was planted with eucalyptus soon after it became a state. Over time we’ve got to know how flammable they can be, particularly after a bad freeze. The word “matchsticks” comes up a lot.

    Perhaps I should reconsider. Maybe the Aussie Alps would provide more matchsticks.

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