California: Building an ARK

I have always been fascinated by weather. The atmosphere we experience brings the physics of the cosmos up close and personal and into our daily lives, for good or ill. And climate is just weather writ large, over more geography and across decades and kiloyears.

But as humans whose experience of climate spans such an eye-blink tiny window into planetary variability, we tend to lose sight of the wild extremes that fall well out of the bounds of extremes, even in our own age’s bizarro fluctuations between hot and cold, wet and dry.

And so I was fascinated to learn of yet another climate debacle to look forward to–if not in our own Boomer lives, within the lives of our grandchildren, or theirs: And that is the MegaFlood inevitably to soak California. It could be worse by far than the “recent” event there called the Great Flood of 1861-1862.

That year it rained every day for more than a month–in ten weeks, a total of 32 inches.

Some interesting facts gleaned from The Biblical Flood That Will Drown California – Mother Jones .

Said superstorm has been given a name by the USGS: The ARKstorm. The name is taken from the Atmospheric River that every 1K years creates an inland sea over the valley system of California.

You might have heard weathermen refer to this river as the regularly-occuring “Pineapple Express.” Moisture from the southern Pacific trains over the state in limited (drought years), moderate (normal years) or excessive (flood years) basis. And as you might have guessed, the warmer the water, the more intense the overhead “rivers” are becoming. Also the mix of this moisture is shifting from mostly snow (slow-release) to mostly rain–with nowhere to go.

The ARKstorm should come as NO surprise. It’s happened many times before, but not on the scale of human lifetimes.

We’ve long been aware of the hyperbolic possibility of CA ripping in two and the Left Coast falling into the sea. That Big Quske would be catastrophically expensive–some $200 billion. (Katrina, by comparison costs some $166B.) The ARKflood is projected to cost $725B. Consider:

Today, the Central Valley houses nearly 4 million beef and dairy cows.

Today the valley is increasingly given over to intensive almond, pistachio, and grape plantations, representing billions of dollars of investments in crops that take years to establish, are expected to flourish for decades, and could be wiped out by a flood.

Kern county is one of the nation’s most prodigious oil-producing counties. Its vast array of pump jacks, many of them located in farm fields, produce 70 percent of California’s entire oil output. It’s also home to two large oil refineries.

Mother Jones

And so put it all together, imagining the valleys of California being under between 10 and 20 feet of water with today’s vastly higher population of people, cattle, fruits and vegetable and toxic chemicals, what a nasty soup that will be.

As if we needed more dread in our lives, we do need to be aware of our own powerlessness to change the weather, having already altered the climate. And at this point, there’s no putting Humpty Dumpty back together again in our brief individual lifetimes.

But maybe future generations will have the courage to trust each other, trust the science of climate, take the long view of the future with regard to The Big One—fire, flood, earthquake, volcano, drought, hurricane, pandemic. These inevitabilities should never be off the planning table, regardless of which party is in office. Our boat is so small, and the planet, the future and nature are so wide!

Simple Pleasures

We had 3 widely-spaced friends (read that as you will) over for a porch visit yesterday evening to become reacquainted as the good friends we had been before covid. And what we rediscovered was how interesting ORDINARY used to be, full of simple pleasures.

As we sat and chatted, a deer approached within 30 feet of the porch and positioned herself under our one apple tree. She is a regular there. She will be back. So we named her Gala. She’s back this morning, I see.

The storm I dreaded might spoil our porch time (and the grilled chicken) never came. But the clouds piled up in interesting shapes. Pareidolia Party, anyone? And as the sun went low, a bright prism popped up: Sundog! I declared. What? they said?

I thought everybody knew sundogs. They are formed from sunlight shining through a gently-settling layer of “diamond dust” way up, bending the light exactly to a pair of focal points 22 arc degrees to either side of the sun. Why sundogs? Why not sun-cats? Because they “dog” or track the sun. Maybe? Parahelion is another name.

A lone-wolf sundog, west of Floyd

Then, out of nowhere around 6pm appeared a gazillion “blind mosquitoes” rising and falling in dense clouds against the dark woods, moving like wraiths of fog, slowly northward. It was a midge orgy. If you’ve missed this experience: congrats.

Midges are spindly weak-flying insects (they are not flies, not gnats, not mosquitoes) that start life in water, some species as “bloodworms” and are important food for dragonflies, bats, water beetles. Not so good for windshields.

I suspect our swarm of the hour emerged from a marshy section of Dodd Creek that passes under the hardtop, a half mile from here. They used to arise by the thousands out of Goose Creek, fifty feet from the house. Not our favorite natural happening.

Final zoology note: Turns out that a midge is the largest land animal in Antarctica. So we don’t recommend stopping at the Greater Antarctic Petting Zoo when you’re in the area. You’ll be disappointed.