In Kaweah Country, most of the old-timers subscribe to the adage: “If you don’t like the weather just wait a day or two… it’s bound to change.”
It’s early July, it’s sizzling hot, and it’s a safe bet that most folks would like that inevitable weather change sooner as opposed to later.
For the next 10 days, that’s not likely to happen though admittedly 104, the forecasted average high for the next seven days, will feel a heck of a lot better than 110 but still hotter than the 96 average typical for this time of year.
Those same old-timers will tell you it’s not unusual for a run of triple digits on or before the Fourth of July. What is unusual is for that run of triple digits to linger so long. That, according to the forecasters at the National Weather Service, is one of the more obvious effects of climate change.
The current heat wave is hot but not even close to local records for July 1-2 of 114 set in 1891, 1931, and 1950. Rain would cool things down but none is in the current forecast save for an isolated thunderstorm in the higher elevations of the Sierra.
July 1 is the start of the new rainfall year and a hope that the current three-year cycle of drought will soon be ending. In taking a cursory look at the last 30 years of rainfall stats, some interesting trends emerge.
There has been a downward trend in each of the last three years in total rainfall for the season: 8.92 inches (2014), 12.09 (2013), 16.41 (2012). On July 1, 2012, when it hadn’t rained a drop since May, even though forecasters labeled that year as “dry,” it now looks a lot wetter than the current year at slightly more than half, another so called dry year.
Looking back at local rainfall totals for 10, 20, and 30 years ago the downward trend remains consistent: 2004 (13.01 inches), 1994 (15.19), and 1984 (20.28). Amounts decreased in the past 30 years almost in the same proportion as the last three.
Coincidence? Perhaps. More likely the answer has to do with the accelerating effects of climate change.
So what’s in store for 2015 when evidence is building for a powerful El Nino (ocean warming in the equatorial Pacific)? The answer might be in looking at the totals for the following years 10, 20, and 30 years ago. Only 1985, which followed two pronounced El Nino seasons in the past five, was there a below normal (average normal being 20 inches) season.
Here are the stats for those follow-up years: in 2005 (25.02 inches), 1995 (33.19), and in 1985 (17.47). So, what does it all mean?
It means, according to climate experts, that when it does finally rain, any above-normal totals will fall as a result of more severe storms that are of shorter duration. There will be smaller snowpacks in the mountains, and what snow there is will be at increasingly higher elevations.
There are several things to do that will help everyone enjoy life during climate change no matter what weather appears in Kaweah Country:
(1) Be water wise;
(2) Be fire safe; and
(3) Assemble a disaster preparedness kit with extra drinking water, freeze-dried and/or non-perishable food, and a battery powered radio.
In the meantime, for the next 10 days at least, stay immersed in water or head to the high country, both time-tested Kaweah Country traditions as ways to beat the searing summer heat.