So far this weather year in California has been an epic one. We have gone from devastating drought conditions to devastating flooding and mudslides due to what the weather folks at NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association) have been calling the "Atmospheric Rivers" of rain that the Muddy-Golden State has thus received this year. Like Christopher Columbus trying to discover a route to the East Indies by sailing west and in the spirit of discovery, here's what I have discovered. I have discovered that for all of our modern day toys and technology (i.e. satellites, computer programs, and piles and piles of stored data) at the disposal of weather prognosticators around the world, I am finding their accuracy rate to be more on par with Punxsutawney Phil and his 50-50 chance at 6 more weeks of winter. Rodent jokes aside, as a farmer I must heavily rely on weather forecasts in order to help do my job, much in the way that stock brokers rely on economic forecasts to do theirs. But before you start into the whole "Global Warming", "Global Cooling", "Climate Change", "we're killing all the fairy shrimp and polar bears" argument, and how it's now so much harder to predict the weather, let me just say..."I get it." Sure, the weather patterns on the planet have changed, and will continue to change ( just like they have been doing since the earth started spinning), however, could we please try to keep the weather forecasts in the same "ball park"?
In 2015 I kept reading story after story about the "Godzilla-El Nino" that was supposed to materialize, bringing much needed rainfall to California. But in the end, Godzilla looked more like the Gieco gecko and we ended with a less than average rainfall total for the year...bummer. Then, this past summer I was once again feeling optimistic by NOAA's "crystal ball" forecast of a winter that included another "El Nino" weather pattern. Then, the weather Gods started to back off on their prediction of an "El Nino" year. By September-October, the EXACT OPPOSITE was predicted. I was reading stories from all the weather outlets (as well as the Old Farmer's Almanac) how we were expecting a "La Nina" weather year, with less than average rain and much colder temperatures. Once again, not so good. So, like any good farmer, I prepared for a La Nina winter, fully expecting less rain, less snow in the mountains, and colder temperatures. Then something strange started to happen...it began to rain on the valley floor, and snow up in the mountains, yay! Then it kept raining...and raining, and raining. A few weeks of rain later, there were now rumors of the rainfall accumulations actually filling once dry lakes and reservoirs. Eventually I began hearing the term "drought buster" being thrown around on the news, which brought much delight and warm feelings, to most Californians, yay again. A few more weeks go by, it's still raining, and now we hear about lakes and reservoirs and dams being filled to capacity...whoa..wait, what?!? Then there was the Oroville Dam situation. Will the emergency spillway collapse and cause major flooding in the Northern California area? Stay tuned. Following that, we had the major, 24 hour, record breaking rainfall in Southern California, leading to deaths, flooding, downed power lines, a 40 foot sinkhole and mudslides! And the rainy season isn't over yet!
Now I am not one to look a gift horse in the mouth...and believe me when I say, I am truly grateful for the water. But how in the world were the forecasters so far off base with their prediction? The term "not even close" doesn't even begin to cover how wrong the weather gurus were on this one. In the end I guess one could say that with his trusty sextant and map of the stars, Columbus was a little closer to the mark...for at least he found land.
Thanks for reading. I'll see you in the groves.