Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Beautiful Colors of Thirst

I took some friends for a walk on the Dipper Ranch on the day after Christmas. As we headed back to the ranch house for a spaghetti dinner, the sunset colored the sky. We were in awe. The photo above was taken at 5:17 pm and the photo below was taken 3 minutes later. We rarely get such colors for either sunrise or sunset in this part of California. Mostly it is either blank blue sky or fog.

On December 28, the sunset clouds were back but with hanging bases (photo below). This was probably virga - raindrops or ice falling from a cloud but evaporating before they reach the ground. It indicates a layer of dry air beneath the cloud. Sometimes the evaporation associated with virga increases the water vapor in the dry layer until there is enough humidity that rainfall can make it all the way to the ground. Not this day. Just beautiful colors, no rainfall.

Coastal California has a Mediterranean climate. Summers are dry and winters are wet with relatively mild temperatures year round. In our area, there is virtually no rain from June through September; most annual rainfall occurs from November through April.

But not this water year. Weeks later, it's still warm and dry and no rain or fog in sight. We could be entering our third year of drought. So far in January 2009, San Francisco has received 0.24 inches of rain. The last time it was so low in January was 0.26 inches in 1920.

My lips and fingers are cracking and the start of the pollen season has us sneezing. Meanwhile, the winter animals are trying to find water. My bathroom window looks out at a cattle trough. These days all kinds of animals are visiting it and a trip to the bathroom is like looking out a blind on an African safari. A flock of over one hundred band-tailed pigeons visits the trough every morning. Even Cole the grey ranch cat makes a morning pilgrimage.

This last one I call the Buzzard Bar.

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