Monday, May 11, 2015

Rainy seasons and droughts

Digging a post hole for a birdhouse Saturday, I found proof of what a wet spring it has been. I dug down through the moist topsoil to a sandy layer beneath that. About two feet down, I ran into clay — moist, muddy clay. The deeper I got, the wetter it was. I concluded that the water table must have risen to new heights, wetting the clay just a couple of feet beneath the surface.

As if to affirm my observations, the afternoon ended with a heavy rain, further moistening the topsoil and lower layers. The rain continued Sunday, heavy at times, though it did not disrupt a 5 kilometer run for my wife, her sisters and their daughters. The forecast calls for continuing rain this week. The weekend rain was the result of an early tropical storm just off the coastline. Does such an early storm portend a more active hurricane season? I doubt it. I've quit paying attention to long-range hurricane forecasts, which are almost always off the mark.

Has there been a wetter spring in memory? Seasons come and go. You forget how hot it was the previous August or how cold it was last January. Wet spells are not so memorable, just disruptive of any outdoor activity. Droughts have a deeper impact and are more memorable. We still see the ramifications of a severe drought a few years back, when the lawn turned brown and shrubs and trees withered. With this month's rain, we shouldn't need to worry about moisture for a while.

While we deal with the muddy, spongy yard, the West Coast is in the midst of a years-long drought that shows little indication of subsiding. The climate might be changing, some say. California might be returning to a more natural state of arid near-desert conditions. That state is already nourished by waters drawn from distant rivers diverted into water pipelines for California's burgeoning population, and now the diverted water isn't sufficient.

I only see the moisture in my yard and neighborhood or the signs of drought in the same place. But in only a few years, I've seen the bounty and the dearth of rainfall enough to understand how dependent we are on water.

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