I have spoken of the rich years when the rainfall was plentiful. But there were dry years too, and they put a terror on the valley. … The land cracked and the springs dried up and the cattle listlessly nibbled dry twigs. … People would have to haul water in barrels to their farms just for drinking. Some families would sell out for nearly nothing and move away. And it never failed that during the dry years the people forgot about the rich years, and during the wet years they lost all memory of the dry years. It was always that way.- John Steinbeck, East of Eden
I read that often quoted passage from John Steinbeck in a KQED article (KQED is the Bay Area’s public radio station) describing what is now being coined as “Marin storm”- yet another atmospheric river similar to that we experienced in late December. Now, however, I’m in the middle of the action- the North Bay- and not watching the youtube videos of San Franciscans falling in giant puddles on their bikes from the parched desert of Bishop. I had a great deal of fun today battling the winds while cursing myself for deciding that biking down the steep hills of the city during a storm was a good idea (now that I’m all cozy and safe, I realize it was a most excellent idea- so much fun) and getting totally lost while accommodating to my new neighborhood (a trip to Trader Joe’s became a prolonged epic adventure). We are getting plentiful amounts of rainfall , but man oh man it is definitely warm! This can be good, as warm air tends to bring more moisture, but in terms of our dismal snowpack this is bad business- snow will likely only fall at above 8000 feet, not really helping our terribly low snowpack numbers. Snowpack is our lifeline during the summer; as we deplete the reservoirs, the slowly melting snow is supposed to recharge them. During a good year, this works. However, the typical climate of California isn’t at all stable and often has cycles of prolonged drought- most of the state is a desert, after all, a fact many forget as irrigation has turned the arid land green. Climate change is expected to make the temperatures warmer and intensify droughts. Rain, when it does fall, will fall more like in the events we are currently experiencing- all at once in a matter of days, followed by long periods of dry, hot weather. I fear that many Californians will use this storm as evidence that we are emerging from a drought when really we are only sinking deeper into its hold- I fear that Steinbeck is probably right.