Umbrella Not Required

May 4, 2013

123243-5778393-6An email yesterday from my daughter in Minneapolis, in part: Yeah, the weather! I thought it was over and then it started snowing again. . . This has been the longest winter of my life!
Yeah, the weather…just depends on where you be.

Near mid-day Saturday on California’s north coast and the environment/weather up here is absolutely ga-ga-gorgeous. Crystal-clear skies with way-warm sunshine — right now it’s 73 degrees with a high expected of 77 — and with little or no wind, this is as good as it gets around these parts. Outside on my patio, my old skin can actually soak up some sun.

The joker in the weather deck up here, however,  is rainfall, or the lack thereof, and the corresponding dry, tender forests spread out eastward and southward for hundreds of miles.

(Illustration found here).

A lot of long-time locals have been commenting lately how dry this year has been so far (as manager of a liquor store, I get street-level, immediate-area bullshit) and just how peculiar the weather even for a place already a bit eccentric in its environment. In actually, only my first winter up here, 2007-2008, could be considered a ‘wet’ winter, and pretty cold, too. The proceeding seasons drier and drier.
Despite a big wet wallop in the fall and early winter of 2012, rain nearly ceased up here since. Weather service hydrologist Reginald Kennedy’s remark from earlier this year: “We started out in December ranging anywhere from 125 to 150 percent above normal, but then we just did a complete turnaround for January and February.”
Now some areas up here are 25 to 30 percent below normal.
This afternoon, what’s called a “red flag warning” has been issued for a shitload of northern California counties, including my own, Humboldt, along with Mendocino and Lake counties south of us. Conditions are worse down there.
Red Flag Warnings are called for when ‘critical fire weather conditions are either occurring or will occur shortly.’

This morning from the area’s best online news source, Lost Coast Outpost:

“For parts of Western Oregon and large part of northern California, this is the driest January to April on record,” writes the National Weather Service.
For all of Mendocino and most of Trinity and Humboldt in these first four months of the year, rainfall is the lowest ever seen.
The Weather Service points out that, of course there could be more precipitation in the coming weeks, but, they write, it “will take a lot of rain to shorten our deficit.
“Unfortunately, long range outlooks calls for little change, with below normal precipitation into mid-summer.”

Of course, the big forest-fire story is in southern California, where reportedly the 30,000-acre blaze along the Pacific Ocean just north of LA could be 30 percent contained. There’s more than just one fire going on down there right now — but none appear too serious.
In the near-future, though, the situation is worse than grave. Climate change will alter the dry landscape.
Joe Romm this morning at The Energy Collective on a new USDA report that a warming environment will increase five-fold forest fires in some spots:

The report’s findings are in line with previous studies on climate change’s relation to fire risk: a 2012 study found that wildfire burn season is two and a half months longer than it was 40 years ago, and that for every one degree Celsius temperature increase the earth experiences, the area burned in the western U.S. could quadruple.
The findings are also in line with the observed impacts climate change is having on wildfires.
Wildfires in 2012 burned a record 9.2 million acres in the U.S., and record-breaking heat and dry weather in Australia provided ideal conditions for at least 90 fires that raged through the country this January.

No worries — we’re just on the hot, cutting edge of a quickly-approaching calamity with more heat to follow.
No rain gear needed, slick.

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