Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Goodbye, Sun

It's hard--very hard--to get upset about sunny days. Especially in a place where there aren't that many of them (though I did look that up before we moved here in 1996, and statistically there were about as many sunny days here per year as in Pittsburgh. It just doesn't seem like it.)

But sunny days in winter--a string of gorgeous sunny days the likes of which we don't even get in spring, summer or fall--was wonderful, but also scary. This is supposed to be our rainy season. Sometimes the rains start in December, but they're always here in January and February, and often into March.

Those rains are important. Our dry, warm January extended south to San Francisco, and particularly into the mountains. Just that one month of little rain or snow may have condemned the Bay Area to some degree of water rationing this coming summer. We're not looking forward to fire season up here either. Last summer, after reasonable winter rains, the fires were extensive and very damaging.

And even though January was so extreme that it was impossible to ignore, technically we're in at least our second year of drought. Southern California has been in drought for much longer.

Up here, it seems we could absorb a sunny January, but of course there's global heating, and if this is the start of a trend, this entire ecosystem could change, with consequences I doubt anyone can fully foresee.

Of course it was hard to concentrate on ideas of doom when the sun was shining, with blue skies and that carress of sweet air, just a little cooler than the feel of the sun that we normally get mostly in the fall. The Golden State.

There was another bonus resulting from clear days: clear nights. What a treat to see the winter stars, especially with the recent conjunction of the moon at its closest point in years with bright Venus and brighter than usual Jupiter. The other night, it was the crescent moon--straight as a smile-- with Venus bright beneath it. I had to drive down to Ferndale that night, and they always seemed to be right in front of me, in the blackness above the thin ribbons of fog. When I got home just after 11 they were gone, but it was a cold clear night, very black sky, very white stars, and as I gazed up at Orion's belt---a shooting star!

We did get a few showers, but then the sun came back immediately, and I saw the biggest rainbow I've seen here--a complete arch, from somewhere near Mad River Beach, and fading into the Arcata Community Forest.

Well, there's rain in the forecast for tomorrow. Maybe we're just getting the season late. That's what happened in 2007--a dry January, a very wet February. Today was the foggy gray with some sun behind it that in other Februarys would pass as a pretty nice day. But after day after day of bright sunshine, it was kind of depressing. Though, of course, I'm glad.

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