Wednesday, October 24, 2007


Having lived much of my life in California, I'm familiar with the typical weather patterns. Because California is west of the Rockies, the average annual rainfall is 21". Twenty-one inches is not a lot of rain, which is why California relies so heavily on irrigation, taking much of its water from the Colorado River. Of course, that's an average and most years are not average. Rainfall in California, for most of my life, has been like a punch drunk pendulum, varying between drought and flood, with more years of drought than of flood. Drought years bring forest fires, and they always have.

But this year's fires in Southern California are something absolutely amazing. As of midnight Tuesday, there were at least 14 wildfires burning between Santa Barbara and Mexico. This is already being referred to as the greatest natural disaster in the nation's history. As of Tuesday afternoon, more people had been displaced by this fire than by any event since the Civil War. That's more in a few days than in four years.

One fire expert on the news said that it is because of global warming. The earlier that summer comes, the longer the forests have to dry out; the hotter the temperatures, the drier they get each day. Early summers, hot days, add Santa Ana winds and what you get is a disaster.

I have been complaining about rain up here. Now, Juneau is in a temperate rain forest, and so we expect a lot of rain. We even have a joke about the Juneau Rain Festival running from January 1st through December 31st.

But, most summers we have about 21 straight days in late June or early July with no rain at all. No clouds. Blue skies. This summer the longest break in the rain has been four days, and there were clouds on one of those days. Record snow fall this past winter, I wouldn't be surprised if it's record rain as well.

So, now we know where all of this water is coming from. I, personally, would gladly send it back where it belongs.


Deja Pseu said...

And we'd take it. This last year, our rainfall total was something like 2.5 inches. Not expected to get much more this year either, apparently, due to a "La Nina" condition. The air here is so smoky they kept the kids inside yesterday at school.

J at said...

This summer was mild and late, so I don't know if global warming is to blame. But I do know that it has been a droubt year, and that the poor folks down south could use some rain, pronto. Though without the trees, of course the next rain they get will cause mudslides.

Maya's Granny said...

Was the summer late and mild in southern California? The fire expert on tv seemed to be saying that it wasn't, or perhaps he was just saying that it is getting warm earlier and earlier, even if it isn't warm enongh to be summer yet every year.

Gina said...

Yes please!

The summer was late but I wouldn't say mild here this year.

I would say that the overall temps have been rising, although of course we still have cool days. There just don't seem to be as many of them.

We always get a Santa Ana in late October, but the ferociousness of the winds was unprecedented this year.

joared said...

Well, seems my comment just got zapped somehow, so will try again.

Think we had a few days with higher temps than usual, but have seen worse here as I recall -- northeastern L.A. County in the mtn. foothills.