Life in a Drought: the Rain is Back!

Clouds reflecting on a wet shore
Clouds reflecting on wet sand at Ocean Beach, San Francisco, CA

And it is delightful to hear the sound of it…

Also, the clouds have been glorious! Blue skies are nice, but clouds can be so much more dramatic, especially as they arrive or depart. I’m a big fan of huge, puffy clouds blowing over between storms, and dramatic patterns that cast bold shadows or have the textures of quilts… They remind me that the sky has depth, not just color…

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

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.

Environment: California Drought

We Californians always complain about how dry it is, and how we are feeling the long term effects of climate change slowly desiccating us. But what does that LOOK like?

The UK Guardian, which has a fantastic US bureau (I am a happy digital subscriber), pulled these images together to show you what a dry spring looked like.

And it’s even drier now.

To give you a sense of how widespread this is, the US Drought Monitor ( makes simplified graphics to show how the many different climates of California, from snowy mountain to redwood forest to foggy coast, are in various stages of water shortage.


This isn’t just abstract news for us. This is why trees and plants that never needed supplemental water are now dying in our local parks and gardens; why our forests are vulnerable to insects and fires; why people who retire to the Sierra foothills suddenly can’t get insurance for their homes; why salmon can’t make it out to sea from far up the rivers where they hatched; why farmers are watching their orchards from a more optimistic expansion era dry up…

We have always been zealous about drought tolerance and water conservation, but there is only so much we can do at home when the natural systems that get that water first are already dry.