Posts Tagged ‘Weather’

A couple of days ago, I awoke to a beautiful and foggy day in the central valley of California. Thick valley fog lay low, shrouding buildings and trees and blanketing the marshes and agricultural fields around Davis. As I was walking across campus on my way to teach Vertebrate Anatomy, I heard a sound above me that I do not hear on campus very often at all. It was the sound of geese flying high overhead. They came into view through the fog; a flock of about 200 Snow Geese wheeling and drifting through the fog. They wavered back and forth for a minute and then drifted out of my view back into the fog. A few minutes later, a smaller group flew past, and a bit after that, a flock of about 30 Northern Pintail flew by. All these waterfowl seemed to be a bit disoriented by the low, thick fog. They, presumably, were trying to find wetlands in which to settle for the day, but instead of spotting suitable habitat from high up and far away as they would on a clear day, they had to move around low and slow almost by feel trying to find a good place to rest. In their search, they took a wrong turn and ended up over the town and university of Davis which is not really the best waterfowl habitat. It was a fun treat for me to see and hear these birds, and I hope they figure out that heading a bit to the east and landing the Yolo Bypass is really a much better place to hang out. Good luck to them!

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We who live in California are pretty accustomed to droughts.  Water shortages are pretty common since drought years occur every 2 to 3 years in this state, according to the California Department of Water Resources.  But even taking our frequent lack of water into account, 2013 was an impressively dry year.  For example, Sacramento gets an average of about 20 inches of rain each year, but in 2013 it got only 6.13 inches.  San Francisco has an annual average of about 23 inches, but in 2013 it received 5.59 inches.  Los Angeles gets an average of about 15 inches of rain each year, but in 2013 it received only 3.60 inches which has not happened since 1877!

California usually gets most of its precipitation in the months of December, January, and February.  We have just finished an extremely rain-free December, and there is no precipitation in the forecast for early January.  Most of our major reservoirs are down to about 20% of their capacity, and the snow pack in the Sierra is very thin.  These low water levels will mean a very dry summer of 2014, and an increase in the number and size of fires in the late summer and fall.  Now, all this dry news should be tempered with the fact that we usually get most of our precipitation in just a small number of major storms, so there is still a chance that we will get some refreshments in the next month-and-a-half.  March is also a potential rain month which may help further.  In other words, it is still too early to start freaking out about water levels in 2014.

But, it is not too early to start thinking about conserving water in our daily lives.  For example, while you are waiting for the water to get hot, keep a pitcher next to the sink so that you can collect the cold water instead of letting go down the drain.  This can be refrigerated for drinking water or used to water your plants.  Do not buy plastic water bottles.  Do not water lawns in winter, but instead let them go dormant.  Visit car washes that recycle their water.  Soak pots and pans instead of keeping the water running over them.

Water shortages are going to become an ever increasing issue as climate changes and the human population continues to grow.  This means that the drought water levels of today may become the standards of tomorrow.  This makes drought years useful learning opportunities for how to get by with less.

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The Arrival of Fall

A shift in the weather was taken place here in West Sacramento, CA!  For one thing, the temperature has dropped suddenly and dramatically.  Two days ago, it was an uncomfortably warm 95 degrees F, but yesterday it was about ten degrees cooler.  This difference in temperature was accompanied by a constant, moderate strength wind from the west all day long.  And, so far, today seems to be bringing more of the same.  There is certainly a weather system being driven this way by a significant change in atmospheric pressure.   These changes likely signal a final end to summer in central California and the beginning of fall.  It is extremely odd that this should occur as late as October, but it has finally happened.  One of the things that make it so impressive is that it occurred so quickly.  This year, there is no doubt as to the day on which fall began.  It may not have coincided with the autumnal equinox, or the calendar date for when fall was supposed to start.  Nature does not work that way.  But this year, fall did arrive on a particular date, at least here in central California, and that date was the 4th of October.  Happy fall everyone!

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