Sunday, February 1, 2015

Goodbye to January

Yesterday, it was 75 degrees in Marin County, clear blue skies, a gentle light wind, so we drove out to the Pt Reyes Lighthouse to see if we could see any Gray Whales. According to the recorded message at the Pt Reyes National Seashore Ranger Station, 18 whales had been seen on Friday.

Visiting the lighthouse to look for the whales in January is extremely popular, so at this time of year you can't drive all the way to the lighthouse. Instead, you have to park at Drake's Beach, and then take the shuttle bus, which is a nice ride and very comfortable.

There may be no better viewpoint over the Pacific Ocean than the observation deck above the Pt Reyes Lighthouse. With our binoculars, we could see miles out to sea, though the views got hazier as we looked. I'm pretty sure that we could see the Farallon Islands; it looked just like this.

But we didn't see any whales.

Sometimes that's what happens. I think they all were there on Friday.

So we rode the shuttle bus back to Drake's Beach, and went for a walk on the beach.

There were about a half dozen elephant seals sunning themselves on the beach, with docents keeping us tourists safely away. In many ways, seeing an elephant seal yawning, just 30 feet away, is a more impressive sight than a pod of gray whales 5 miles out to sea.

But they're both pretty great, and I'm glad we can make such a wonderful day trip on a Saturday in January. Yay California!

January was a month of glorious mild weather; I rode my bike to work every day, and barely needed my sweatshirt on many mornings.

But January was dry, reports the Merc: Driest January in history: Bay Area swings from boom to bust after wettest December.

For the first time ever, San Francisco, Oakland and Sacramento have recorded no rainfall for the month of January -- nada drop.


The state's monthly snowpack survey Thursday near Lake Tahoe's Echo Summit summed up the bad news: 12 percent of normal, with the equivalent of 2.3 inches of water content in the "meager" snowpack. Other spots around the state were worse, some slightly better -- but the outlook is equally dire.

"Unfortunately, today's manual snow survey makes it likely that California's drought will run through a fourth consecutive year," according to a news release from the Department of Water Resources.

Surprisingly, people don't seem to care.
The winter snowpack's water content typically supplies about 30 percent of California's water needs and is considered water in the bank to melt through the dry summer months. Reservoirs rely on ample runoff from snowmelt to meet demand from summer through fall. After three years of drought and dwindling reservoir levels, the demand is growing.

And drought-weary Californians show signs of conservation fatigue. A poll from the Public Policy Institute of California, released this week, showed 59 percent of residents say the water supply is a big problem in their region, but that's down from 68 percent in October.

Indeed, you barely hear it discussed on the news, nobody seems to be talking about it at all.

There will be new data, though: A New Satellite Will Watch the Western Drought from Space.

SMAP will spend three years taking the most accurate readings ever of soil moisture around the world. That’s right: It will measure how wet the dirt is. From space.

As Bob Dylan says, though, you don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows. It is dry, dry, dry, and there are too many people in California using too much water, and nobody is working on ways to address the problem.

But it was a beautiful day to visit Pt Reyes yesterday.

Goodbye to January, happy February!

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