Sunday, January 8, 2012

Confused by the Weather

The continued dry weather seems to dominate my days and my thinking.  At the risk of overdoing the discussion of this winter's weather in this space, I'll offer a few more observations about the strange phenomena we've experienced in the last 12 months.
Not much green grass for the sheep at the moment.
We're providing supplemental protein to help them
digest the dry grasses.

Yesterday, as I drove down Baxter Grade Road from Auburn to the Ophir/Newcastle area, I noticed a number of blue oaks that have put out fresh green leaves - in January!  I'm not sure if these trees ever totally lost their leaves last fall, but the warm temperatures and lack of moisture seem to have made them "think" that their dormant period is over.

According to the National Weather Service, the low humidity and windy conditions this weekend have resulted in the issuance of a red flag warning.  I cannot ever remember the threat of wildfire in January on the west slope of the Sierra Nevada.

As I drove up the road to 5 Mile Ranch (one of our leased ranches) yesterday afternoon, I was startled to see a 3-foot gopher snake sunning himself on the blacktop.  Usually these snakes disappear during the winter months.
Normally, this gopher snake would be scarce until the warmer and drier months of spring.  He was sunning himself (herself?) on the road into the ranch yesterday afternoon.

I grew up in Tuolumne County.  Sonora Pass, by which Highway 108 crosses the Sierra crest, is still open.  My sister and her family went over the pass on the day after Christmas - unheard of!

The grass that germinated at the Doty Ravine Preserve in Lincoln (where we graze cows) after our first October rainfall has now died - the forage is almost completely brown.

Last June, we received 2.88 inches of rain at our place in Auburn - more than twice as much as we received in November and December.  On June 4, the day we weaned our lambs, we had a high of 63 degrees and a half-inch of rain.  On January 3, 2012, the high temperature was also 63, but we received no precipitation.

I realize that a single season's weather doesn't tell us anything about climate change - we've had dry winters in the past (and wet summers, too).  However, the "normal" weather patterns on the west slope of the Sierra do seem to have changed in the 44+ years I've lived here.  Without checking the "official" records I can't be certain, but we seemed to have more summer thunderstorms and winter snow in Sonora when I was a kid than my parents experience today in the same location.  We also seem to have more extreme events - extreme storms, extreme dry periods, extreme wind - than I remember as a kid.  Based on what I've observed over the last several weeks, Mother Nature seems nearly as confused by the weather as I am!

No comments:

Post a Comment