Wednesday, October 6, 2010

It's the First Day of Spring in Los Angeles

It sounds absurd to say, but in effect it is true, if you define spring as the season of growth and renewal.  The first rains of the cold season have arrived in southern California. Click below to read more about the turn of the seasons in the place I lived before I moved to Vermont.

People say that Southern California has no seasons.  Most people who say this are referring to coastal areas, since the mountains of southern California have four seasons just like Vermont and Pittsburgh.  The coast DOES have seasons, but they are just different seasons from the ones the rest of the country experiences.  To simplify, southern California has two seasons - a rainy season and a dry season.

The dry season is almost always dry, aside from some drizzle.  There are some dates in July and August that have not recorded measurable precipitation in the last 100 years, and summer rain is a newsworthy and unusual event.  The wet season is sometimes very wet, but sometimes not very wet at all... in Los Angeles, cold-season rainfall totals this century have ranged from under 3 to over 35 inches!  (The mountains are generally wetter, and the higher ones receive lots of snow too.  Not surprisingly, the deserts are dry... but during the summer they can actually experience more rain than coastal areas, because there are occasional summer thunderstorms).

The first rains usually arrive between Halloween and Thanksgiving, around the same time the first dusting of snow occurs in Burlington, Vermont.  By May, pacific storms in southern California (and snowfall in Vermont) have pretty much wound down for the year.  This year, a cutoff low (a very unpredictable type of storm) has brought an earlier than average first winter storm.  Amazingly, although this summer was unusually cool in southern California, it went out with a bang - a bit over a week ago, the area recorded the highest temperature ever measured in Los Angeles - 113 degrees!

The global atmosphere is in a La Nina pattern this year.  La Nina often brings dry winter and spring conditions to southern California (though fall is not necessarily dry).  All of the life in the area relies on winter rains, and dry years are a time of hardship.  Since this year has a higher than average chance of being a dry one, this early rain is especially welcome.  If it rains enough, it may even put an early end to the fire season, which has been a mild one so far this year.

As of right now, the airport in LA has recorded a bit over a half an inch but some areas have had more than an inch of rain.

If you live in southern California, make sure you take some time to enjoy this rain!  The only rain really guaranteed in the chaparral shrublands is the rain that has already hit the ground... but no matter what the year holds, the season of life has started!

Since this post didn't have nice pictures (because I am not in California to photograph the rain), here is a picture of one of the first storms of 2008 over Hurricane Deck, a remote mountain in the wilderness north of Santa Barbara.

Hurricane Deck

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