Mesa Verde National Park

On our southwest parks road trip, we drove from Moab, Utah, to Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado to see cliff dwellings and learn about the people who built them in the 1200s.

Above, the Spruce Tree House, the best preserved cliff dwelling in the park, was closed to the public in 2015 after a rock fall and subsequent investigation.

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Los Altos Weather – Storm Door Open in January

An atmospheric river flowed over northern California in January. My home town of Los Altos (near San Francisco) received 5.4″ of rain in January, with measurable rain on 17 out of 31 days.

Northern California reservoirs are full, and the snowpack in our mountains is above normal. Therefore, California’s water distribution system has water to distribute to urban users and farmers, but our forests and fish have not recovered from the drought. Southern California still hasn’t received much rain, but our aqueducts will transport water south. Our filled reservoirs will enable the state to generate more hydroelectric power, reducing fossil fuel use and carbon dioxide generation.

Visiting San Francisco between January storms, we saw this juvenile, red-tailed hawk hovering in the wind near the Golden Gate Bridge. The wind blew from the ocean, hit the cliffs, and swept upward — enabling the hawk to hover in the wind. The hawk’s tail is pointing down to provide additional lift, just as airplanes extend their flaps when landing and taking off. The hawk is peering down at the surf, scanning for food. Below, the hawk is near the bridge.

hovering hawk at the Golden Gate Bridge
hovering hawk at the Golden Gate Bridge

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Los Altos Weather – Low Rainfall But More on the Way

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.

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Water is for Fightin’

Faced with last month’s call to leave more water for fish and wildlife, San Francisco started a fight for water, authoring a guest editorial stating “The consequences of these cutbacks potentially could cripple our Bay Area economy.” In a separate action that spreads the water fight to a vast watershed that supplies southern California and the Bay Area, the California State Water Board said “scientific information indicates that restoration of more natural flow functions is needed now to halt and reverse the species declines”.

Our rainy season is off to a good start. In October, we received 1.72″ of rain, more than twice the normal .76″.

With cooling temperatures and rain, native plants are reviving after the hot and dry summer. Shown above, a California polypody (polypodium californicum) shakes off summer dormancy in late October, sending up fiddleheads in a thicket of snowberry (symphoricarpos albus). Both grow in the deep shade of a California live oak (quercus agrifolia), and all are California native plants.

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Whiskey’s for Drinkin’

“Whisky’s for drinkin’ and water’s for fightin’” is a colorful and insightful saying attributed to Mark Twain. In the fifth year of California’s drought, we may see this as San Francisco’s progressive reputation is tested.

California released draft rules requiring more water in the San Joaquin River by restricting water taken for agriculture and urban users. San Francisco imports its water from this watershed. “San Francisco is expected to challenge the rule, although how aggressively remains to be seen. ‘We intend to participate in that process,’ said Sheehan, the utility agency spokesman.”

Continuing my monthly posts about California’s drought, my home town of Los Altos received zero rainfall for the fourth consecutive month, about normal for us.

Above, a western gray squirrel gathers bunchgrass and blue-eyed grass for its nest. Blue-eyed grass, sisyrinchium bellum, is a California native plant bearing blue flowers in the spring.

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Los Altos Weather – Rainless July and August

In our town of Los Altos, California, we had no rain in July and August, as usual, during the dry summer of our Mediterranean climate. August was our third consecutive month with no rain, and California’s drought is in its fifth year.

Above, a female Anna’s hummingbird sips on blossoms in our backyard in July.

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Los Altos Weather – Rainless June

In June my home town of Los Altos, California, received no rain — not surprising for our dry summer. Although the US government expects California’s drought to continue, state and local agencies are reducing water conservation targets for urban users.

This month’s image is a red flame dragonfly sitting on a metal cage for a Sungold tomato in our backyard. The photo was taken on July 4. We resumed growing tomatoes this year after skipping last year. We’re also growing two heirloom varieties: San Marzano and Cherokee Purple.

June temperatures and rainfall

Our June temperatures were normal for us, with the overnight temperatures above average as usual. Higher overnight temperatures favors growing tomatoes. Our agriculture experts advise us to hold off transplanting tomatoes outside until the overnight lows are above 50 degrees F. In the past, this means we wait until May 1, but I transplanted our tomatoes on April 21, and the tomatoes are doing fine.

normal temperatures for June
normal temperatures for June

Our normal rainfall for June is only .09 inches — about the same as the zero rain we received. Our rainfall for the past year was nearly normal, much better than the previous few years. Rainfall since I started tracking this in January 2013 remains unchanged at 61%.

no rain in June
no rain in June
Cumulative rain since January 2013 remains at 61% of normal
Cumulative rain since January 2013 remains at 61% of normal

As California’s drought continues, water conservation targets reduced

While the US government continues to forecast  drought for California, state and local agencies are reducing water conservation targets for urban users.

Drought continues
Drought continues (source: US National Weather Service)

With our nearly normal rainfall last winter, our state and local agencies are reining back calls for urban users to conserve water. In late May,

California on Wednesday suspended its mandatory statewide 25 percent reduction in urban water use, telling local communities to set their own conservation standards after a relatively wet winter and a year of enormous savings in urban water use.

A few weeks later, our county water agency reduced our urban conservation target from 30% to 20%. Our local water company reduced our conservation target from 32% to 20%.