Bias alert: I like winter. Maybe that’s because I’m not from these parts and haven’t had time to get sick of it yet. But I love the beauty, the way it changes all the time, all the winter sports, cosy sitting beside a crackling wood fire – and the happy fact there are no bugs a biting! But I understand that’s not how winter feels for many, and this winter has been especially …wintery!
Or has it? According to the New York Times, yes, our region has been through the wringer. But that’s not the whole picture:
For people throughout the Eastern United States who spent January slipping, sliding and shivering, here is a counterintuitive fact: For the earth as a whole, it was the fourth-warmest January on record.
It was, in fact, the 347th consecutive month with temperatures above the 20th-century average, the government reported Thursday.
That may feel plausible to Californians, whose state experienced temperatures 10 or 15 degrees above normal in some places last month, and especially to Alaskans, where the average temperature was almost 15 degrees above normal.
I have relatives in California and some of them have been worrying about the drought there for months now. They’ve had virtually no rain, in the rainy season. Hardly any snow, in a region that depends on snow melt for much of the regular supply. It’s bad. Not even once-in-a-century bad. No, they’re talking once every 500 years bad.
Which leads me to comment that home gardeners and market growers in other parts of the country should maybe start thinking about planting things that usually come out of California’s massively productive San Joaquin Valley. Roughly 250 different crops are grown there in good times, many of which would normally show up in your grocery store’s produce aisle. The problem extends far beyond the one (huge) valley, according to SFGate:
For most, there is little to no financial relief or government aid to bail them out. Only 35 of California’s 400 crops are eligible for farm insurance, said Karen Ross, secretary of the state Department of Food and Agriculture. Almonds, corn, cotton, citrus and avocados are a few of those crops. Livestock operations are not.
Even farmers who planned ahead fear that may unravel as the grab for limited water reserves heats up. President Obama toured hard-hit areas in person on Valentine’s Day to highlight $183 million in federal aid for California drought relief. But, funny thing about money, it’s not water. And water is what’s needed.
True, a lack of water certainly isn’t what we’re looking at hereabouts. Indeed, I’m writing this at the start of a rain & thaw cycle that could mean real trouble with flooding. And forecasters say that should be followed by more cold – more winter, basically. (I can hear the groans now.)
Still, it’s been a great winter for skiers. And, looking ahead to gardening season, I am so very glad that this part of the world will likely have enough water to carry on cultivating. Too bad we can’t send the excess where it’s needed.
Water. Frozen or liquid, it’s the essence of life.