San Francisco’s Driest January
December rain gave Californian’s some hope that mother nature may have relent and provide much-needed relief to the drought. Debates even arose over whether we should celebrate a month of higher-than-usual rain or wait until a wetter trend is more evident.
It turns out waiting would have been better.
January has been virtually free of rain in California. Here in San Francisco, we saw 0.00 inches of rain. That is a new record, beating last year’s dismal 0.01 inches.
For some, it’s easier to understand what the lack of water means in the summer, when the heat helps to remove even more moisture from the ground, resulting in those infamous images of dead, cracked earth that appear regularly in local papers. Lacking rainfall in the winter is just as bad, though.
Snowpack in higher altitudes locks water into place, creating an above-ground natural reservoir. As the snow melts in the spring and even summer months, the water is gradually released into real reservoirs, helping to keep them filled. This is particularly important with reservoirs like Lake Oroville at record-setting low levels of 62% of normal.
Jon Gottschalk, head of the National Weather Service, has announced that he isn’t ‘overly optimistic about building up a high snowpack for the rest of the winter.’
With no end in sight and declining hopes that the state government can do anything substantial to help, the agricultural outlook looks just as grim as the precipitation numbers. Dairy farmers are leaving for the midwest were grain harvests are stable. Salmon farms, and countless other agricultural industries, are all on the decline across the state. We are in the middle of a broad decline of an agricultural superpower.
And yet, not everyone seems to have even noticed there’s a problem. Maybe someone should tell the folks organizing the giant slip-n-slide this coming July that we’re in the middle of a crippling drought. And that July in San Francisco is typically in the mid-60’s.