Environment: We got RAIN!

Historic, record-breaking amounts of it, even.

We also had some wild wind speeds, and are still under a high/dangerous surf warning.

The rain sounded great. It smelled fresh. It made row after row of fast-moving wavelets as it washed down my street. It was emotionally satisfying after yet another year when even drought-tolerant plants have dried up and died, because their very minimal water needs were not met. It was emotionally satisfying to know that this storm will likely put out those ongoing, previously unstoppable wildfires in the northern/central Sierras.

It has been so long!

There’s a good article in the Guardian about this set of storms, describing the all-or-nothing patterns as a sort of climate whiplash, which is yet another sort of extreme created by the ongoing climate crisis.

It felt good to have a REAL rainstorm.

Environment: Light Rain in San Francisco

Twitter is mildly amusing at the moment, as many SF Bay Area people are wildly excited over the actuality of water falling from the sky.

The unfamiliar pitter-pat sounds on windows. The smell of petrichor. They are posting absurdly mundane videos celebrating droplets on windshields! Here in California, where fires in the mountains have burned for MONTHS, rain is a big deal.

Water! FROM THE SKY! 😄

We’d really like Wildfire Season to END.

It has been an agonizingly dry year. We only got about 30% of our hoped-for water from October of last year through September of this year. We’d really like to do better.

Here’s what the US Drought Monitor for California looks like (brace yourself, it’s bad):

This image is available as a pdf at https://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/data/pdf/current/current_ca_trd.pdf

If monthly numerical tables are more of your thing, here is NOAA’s data from our sad water year:

If you know people in the SF Bay Area or California generally, be prepared for their/our delight over a basic weather phenomenon that may be ordinary for you, but which feels like an incredible gift for us.

Climate Crisis: California Fire Sizes

There is a pattern. It isn’t a good pattern.

This is a very informative graphic, however unpleasant the data:

While I’m not writing daily about the huge wildfires raging in my state (and throughout the North American West, plus elsewhere in the world), I’m aware of the fires every day. The color of the sunlight, the tint of the sky, the low visibility, the air quality warnings… I learn to celebrate the good air days with zeal, because it’s what I’ve got.

Climate Emergency: California fires (today, and for so many days)

The smoke hanging over us every day is a difficult and stressful reminder of what is happening to places we love.

Every day, the news names places I have been to, places I have hiked through, places I have photographed, and notes that these places are on fire at that very moment.

We aren’t yet at the phase where we fundamentally rethink how to live here, and how to be safer and more environmentally responsible, not just at an individual level – individuals can’t solve this alone! – but region-wide at a governmental, societal, and even corporate level. We really need to have those conversations. Soon.

Climate Emergency Life: Oddly Tinted Sunlight Persists

When I look directly at the sun (which I should not be able to do), the sun and the light that reaches us here at ground/sea level still has a strangely orange tint. Considering the vastness of the fires in my region, this shouldn’t be a surprise.

It’s not just my region, of course. There are fires all up the western coast of North America, and serious fires in Canada that have also destroyed entire towns. Heck, it isn’t even about North America. This month, we have seen raging fires in Turkey, raging fires in Greece, even raging fires in SIBERIA, in North Africa, in… well, you get it.

Strangely, a colleague said a friend of hers was leaving California to avoid the wildfires. I made a face, because… leaving one state to escape the global climate emergency won’t work. (I’m not listing all the locations that have experienced floods in the news over the past month, but it is just as long a list, and it is happening for all the same reasons…) I wonder how long it will take her friend to figure that out…

Climate Emergency Life: Smoke Forecasts

In easier times, we look at the weather forecasts before going out. With the climate crisis making itself more apparent, now now also check smoke forecasts! Our environmental agencies have modeling just for this, and it is smartphone-friendly.

I regularly use airnow.gov or fire.airnow.gov to know if I need to wear a particulate filtering mask. These services are provided by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Park Service (NPS), NASA, Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and host of local agencies.

In recent days, the smoke coverage in satellite photos has been alarming, and sunlight has had a strangely yellow tinge to it. That’s is caused by high level smoke, but we also need to know if the smoke is close to the ground, because then we have to take precautions for our breathing and overall health. Waiting to smell it isn’t enough – it may come and go, and catch us unprepared.

The National Weather Service delivers on this surface smoke forecasting need!

I recommend following your local National Weather Service office on Twitter. Mine is NWS Bay Area, and they do a fantastic job!

Environment: Optimistic Energy Observer Videos

I was cheered earlier this year during videos from the French crew of the solar-sailing-hydrogen ship Energy Observer, which is sailing around the world to publicize solutions to the climate crisis.

I got a little misty when they arrived here in San Francisco earlier this year, and spoke with such optimism of the technology and solutions that our region offers.

I recommend the Energy Observer YouTube Channel, which is filled with short, manageable clips on diverse projects, which include interviews with innovators solving specific environmental problems, including locals who are responsibly improving the natural environment in their areas (normal people, not JUST VC-backed inventors!). You can turn on English subtitles for the videos, and hear members of the crew speak about a range of topics during their adventures.

Their well planned media approach shows there are MANY solutions to our current environmental challenges available, each fit for its local purpose, and that we’ll need many of them to solve the climate crisis.

You can also visit them for a detailed look at their own ship’s tech at the Energy Observer website (energy-observer.org).