In my home town of Los Altos, California, we’ve had below-average rainfall so far in this rainy season. In January the storm door is open, and we’ll hope for the best.
Above, two gray squirrels catch rays on a December morning. One stretches while the other bites an itch.
Our December rainfall (1.48″) was half the normal (2.95″). For the water year starting on October 1, our rainfall is 71% of normal. We’re about a third of the way through our annual rainfall.
Our rainfall since the beginning of 2013 is 62% of normal. Although we can irrigate plants in our yards, our forests and hillsides are drying out, affecting the wildlife.
December temperatures plunged ten degrees colder than November, so the actual temperatures were close to normal.
In our Sixth Year of Drought
In the sixth year of drought, trees in the wild are suffering and dying. “A new study by UC Berkeley researchers shows how even centuries-old trees struggled when landscape water disappeared between 2012 and 2015.” Stressed by drought, valley oaks (Quercus lobata) and blue oaks (Quercus douglasii) began to produce tiny leaves, and “every one of those trees with the tiny leaves is now dead”. “Many of the trees that died were big, old behemoths more than 250 years in age. ‘They’d seen droughts before. But nothing like this,’ Dawson says.” Oak trees that survived the past 250 years are dying in the current drought, which has no indication of abating.
Since our rain year started, storms were in mostly in northern California, and they were warm storms, dropping mostly water and little snow.
As shown by this graphic from California Department of Water Resources, the state’s large reservoirs are near the historical average. This is much better than a year ago.
However, the snowpack is below normal for all parts of the Sierra mountains.
With this surface water and snow pack, cities and farms are getting more water than in prior years, but this won’t help our forests and wildlife.
Locally, our water is doing well. Our reservoirs are “93% of 20-year average”, and groundwater in our aquifer is improved from a year ago, since we are recharging more than we pump.