The more out-of-it observers of California will lightly whine about the balmy weather, especially since the eastern U.S. is still digging out of record Polar Vortex ice and snow. The reality is that California is in a dire situation. According to a Jan. 15 report at Weather.com, 2013 was a year of record dry weather and 2014 promises to be no different.
The dryness and heat are the product of a “dominant ridge” that happens when an area of high pressure blocks precipitation. The current dominant ridge has taken California into several dire situations, including record low rainfall, record high heat and a fire season that threatens to go on all year.
THE FIRE SEASON
High fire danger should never be happening in January, but it has caused a serious crisis in the southern part of the state. California’s fire season, which normally runs throughout the summer, now appears to be a yearlong situation. Last year’s Yosemite fire is a reminder of the devastation that could happen if 2014 is anything like last year. Southern California is most at risk since the Santa Ana winds are going to be a problem this week.
Severe drought conditions are obvious in the state, especially since California is in a multi-year and record breaking drought. California has two months of the year that provide most of the precipitation in the form of rain and snow. January has only 15 days to improve. If rain does not come, it will only be the fourth time in 100 years that no important rainfall happened in January.
A Jan. 14 article in the Colusa Sun Herald summarizes the bad water news. California’s rivers and reservoirs are so low that the central valley might have to let 300,000 to 500,000 acres of fields go fallow in 2014. A growing and water hungry population might have to comply with water restrictions. The unwanted practice of Fracking was expected to grow. Fracking consumes enormous amounts of fresh water.
The southern half of the state will be in big trouble as it gets most of its water from the northern half. With a poor snow pack and record low precipitation, the water-hungry south might have to get serious about conserving water.
Finally, California’s reputation for producing the best stone fruits and wines might take a dip. Stone fruits need deep watering and a couple of months of cold during their dormant season. Temperatures in the high 60s are not helpful.
TEMPERATURES APPROACHING RECORD HIGHS
San Francisco will see the high 60s this week. The record high for January is 69.
Sacramento will see the high 60s and possibly low 70s. The record highs are 67 and 68.
Los Angeles and San Diego will see the low to mid 80s, with 85 and 86 as the record temperatures to beat.