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.
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.
If monthly numerical tables are more of your thing, here is NOAA’s data from our sad water year:
Monthly Precipitation Summary
California Nevada River Forecast Center – Your government source of hydrologic/weather data and forecasts for California, Nevada, and portions of southern Oregon
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.
CAL FIRE’s L.A. Moran Reforestation Center is receiving cones from different seed zones and elevations. Seed zones are regions where plant material is found. Movement of plant material within these regions can be done with minimal risk of poor adaptation. pic.twitter.com/EJLqFIv84A
This is a very informative graphic, however unpleasant the data:
All but 3 of the Top 20 Largest #Wildfires have occurred since 2000, with 3 of these large & damaging wildfires occurring just this year. As we enter fall, which is known to have the largest & most destructive wildfires, we want to remind you that now is the time to be prepared. pic.twitter.com/fJGauG9FcW
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
Fire and Smoke Map
In 2021, several features have been added to the information available when you click or tap a monitor or sensor icon. We’ve added a dashboard that gives you quick access to key information you can use to help plan your activities:
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!
As popularly requested, here is the latest hi-resolution forecast for NEAR SURFACE smoke through the next 44 hours. Another loop for suspended smoke at roughly ridge level will follow shortly. NEAR SURFACE smoke is more important to focus on. pic.twitter.com/6maez58bLO
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).