“Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to
carry rain or usher storms, but to add color to my sunset sky.”
~ Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) Bengali poet,
philosopher, artist, composer and Nobel laureate
This quotation accurately describes feelings during a time of drought, most likely reflecting the weather and climate of India. But it could certainly pertain to our current conditions. Up until now, our clouds have looked promising but rain production has been rather illusive. They stick around just long enough to share a few sprinkles and make spectacular sunsets, then are quickly swept away. Scattered leaves and mostly empty rain gauges are left in the storms’ wake. Are we doomed to a third consecutive year of drought?
According to the National Weather Service, which has records going back 164 years, California is on track to experience its driest year. Bill Patzert, climatologist at NASA’s JPL at Cal Tech in Pasadena and considered “the prophet of California climate,” has similar concerns.
Mr. Patzert in a recent interview with Boston’s NPR news station shared his observations and opinions. His telling of these is not in a style you would expect from a scientist. Instead he delivers with humor and simple explanation.
He begins with, “Since January here in Southern California we’ve had less than three inches of rainfall and so, in terms of water, we’re definitely on our knees here in the west.”
Also according to him, we built “this great civilization in the west” during one of the wettest (times) in 2,000 years. Southern California, on an average, gets 15 inches of annual rainfall. That is enough to supply a population of 5 million people, not the actual present-day 22 million. In the west many years ago, we made the decision to import our water from the Colorado River, Northern California, and the Eastern Sierras. Locally, in the Crescenta Valley, we rely on local wells, too. In one of the driest regions – the western U.S. – perhaps the most complex water infrastructures in the world were put into place.
So what do we expect for the future? Bill Patzert concludes, “In 50 to 100 years, if the population continues to double and maybe even triple – my goodness that would be something, wouldn’t it – there will be a genuine crisis … threatening the entire fabric or civilization here in the American West.”
For now, cloudy skies and below normal temperatures are predicted and remain in the forecast as two systems move through the area. The chance of light rain over the foothills on Wednesday is followed by a colder and drier one Thursday. Lots of uncertainty weather-wise now and through the weekend. Don’t rule out a chance of more-than-expected rain, thunderstorms and waterspouts off the coast, and advisory level NE (Santa Ana) winds.
By the first of the week, warmer weather returns once again.
Do not invest in umbrella stock at this time!
Sue Kilpatrick is a
Crescenta Valley resident and
Official Skywarn Spotter for the
National Weather Service. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.