Cambria, California, is home to one of only five remaining native stands of Monterey Pine trees. Although the species is widely grown commercially, preserving the native stands is critically important as a genetic resource. The United Nations has declared them a world genetic resource. California’s severe drought has taken a toll on the forest, perhaps as many as 40 percent of the trees. This video, made through use of a drone, shows some of the damage.
Although California received some rain in December, January was nearly completely dry. Jill Tucker reports for the San Francisco Chronicle:
First-ever rainless January in S.F. history
By Jill Tucker
Updated 5:41 pm, Saturday, January 31, 2015
Angelina Sabillon, 9 of San Francisco climbs on the Vaillancourt Fountain at Justin Herman Plaza which is dry during the current drought as seen in San Francisco, Ca. on Saturday Jan. 31, 2015. The city of San Francisco closes out the month of January 2015 without a drop a rain, which is the first time ever since records have been kept.
Panhia Moua with Chue’s Farm Fresh Vegetables in Fresno, sells her vegetables during the Ferry Building’s Farmer’s Market along the Embarcadero in San Francisco, Ca. on Saturday Jan. 31, 2015. The city of San Francisco closes out the month of January 2015 without a drop a rain, which is the first time ever since records have been kept.
The month ended with a sun-drenched bang Saturday, an apropos ending for what was the driest January on record in San Francisco.
Not one drop of measurable rain fell on city streets in January, the first time that’s happened in recorded weather history, which dates back to the Gold Rush.
Other Bay Area cities, including San Jose, saw at most two one-hundredths of an inch during the same time, which was probably just real heavy fog with a drizzle rather than real rain, said Jan Null, former lead meteorologist for the National Weather Service and a meteorology consultant.
“It certainly has been a memorable January,” Null said.
Memorable because it didn’t look anything like a January.
It was shorts and T-shirt weather Saturday, with temperatures hitting 70 degrees before lunch in San Francisco and a whopping 73 at the beach in Half Moon Bay.
Crowds gathered around the produce stands at Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, buying up flowers, carrots, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and other fruits and vegetables.
Business was good, but the farmers couldn’t help but wonder about the future.
Some of the growers were pulling land out of production because of the drought or relying on wells and other sources of water rather than the sky and the clouds.
“We’re really concerned,” said apple grower Stan Devoto, owner of Devoto Gardens in Sebastopol.
Most of his orchards are dry farmed, meaning they rely on rain rather than irrigation. Without rain, the trees could die. Last year, he used a drip system on some trees to keep them alive.
But Devoto is also worried about the warm weather. Apple trees need 600 to 1,000 hours of below 45-degree weather and they haven’t gotten that this year.
“It’s definitely going to affect the size of the fruit,” he said.
Yet even without a drop of rain in January, the Bay Area is officially above normal in rainfall for this time of year, Null said.
San Francisco is at 112 percent of normal while San Jose is at 131 percent, thanks to the deluge of 15 inches or more of rain in December.
But it’s going to have to start raining soon to maintain a normal pace for the season.
It looks like the area will some real rain Thursday evening or Friday. If it does, San Francisco will snap what will be 43 days of dry weather — the second longest winter dry spell.
The longest dry spell in winter months lasted 60 days, from Nov. 17, 1876, to Jan. 15, 1877, Null said.
“This is like a normal day in San Diego,” Oliver said as the couple strolled along San Francisco’s Embarcadero. “We were hoping to get rain.”
Their dog, a Chihuahua named Cooper who was reclined in Oliver’s arms and blinking sleepily in the sun, was not minding the drought.
“Cooper doesn’t like the rain on his paws,” Oliver explained.
The dry weather has increased concerns over the state’s ongoing drought.
A survey last week found the snowpack was 25 percent of normal in the Sierra, among the worst on record for the date. In some places, surveyors had trouble finding snow to measure.
Just a month ago, the snowpack was at 50 percent of normal.
Water conservation folks hope the record dry January will remind people to conserve and spur communities to consider water recycling and recapturing programs.
“It is an opportunity,” said Tom Stokely, spokesman for the California Water Impact Network. “I know for myself it made me look at where the leaks are and cut down on watering time outside.”
But that’s the bright side. Currently aquifers are drained and a dry January only made things worse, he said.
Right now, it feels more like spring than winter.
“The geese have come back and the crocuses are coming up,” Stokley said. “It’s pretty scary.”