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Waiting for El Niño
January 2016

When the deluge comes
I will be ready:
The house sits high,
its windows and doors tight.
Gutters are cleaned,
the roof is patched,
the car is snug in the garage.
The yard’s been planted
to hold the soil in place.
I have a rainproof jacket
and an umbrella
with purple flowers.
I have no dog to walk,
no job to claim my time.
A stack of books will pass
the long, wet stormy days
and I have Noah’s Ark on speed dial.

Joanne Sharp | Umatilla Street

Who Stole My El Niño?
Bruce Bekkar | Spinnaker Court | Member Sea-level Rise Stakeholder-Technical Advisory Committee (STAC)

As a local surfer, there’s much to appreciate about the weather recently: bright sun, temperature nearing 80 degrees, no breeze, and a good swell. But unfortunately, some of those same qualities that recommend the day also make it entirely wrong.

This kind of sustained warmth in the middle of February is bizarre. Average temperature for February is 65 degrees; San Diego has been above 80 for days, and this weather is expected to last for two weeks. Per Wikipedia’s definition, we are experiencing a bona fide heat wave. This is considered “extreme weather,” like droughts, heavy downpours and hurricanes.

Extreme heat is problematic for many people. As a physician, I know warmer days increase ozone levels, aggravating heart and lung disease. Asthma worsens, as do pollen- induced allergies. Heat Stroke can be lethal. During heat waves here, hospitalizations and death rates go up. A paramedic told me, “Yeah, we’ve been really busy lately.”
So is our “record strength” El Nino the cause of all this extreme weather? Although El Ninos don’t always lead to wet winters, the stronger ones generally do. After January’s wet start, the climate/ weather experts have struggled to explain our weeks of dryness. While the winter has so far exceeded expectations for snowfall in central and northern California, they seem surprised by the south.
Science says that 90% of the heat trapped by atmospheric greenhouse gases has been absorbed by the world’s oceans; certainly, California’s waters have been particularly warm. One conclusion is that this monstrous amount of trapped energy is playing a large hand in both the odd behavior of our El Nino and this heat wave.

Our problems with drought and excessive warmth won’t be over regardless of how our El Nino plays out. So let’s stop pretending and acknowledge this prolonged winter heat wave for what it is- more freakish weather in a growing list of record-shattering events around the world. More importantly, we should demand bold action on climate change throughout our society.

We have a local opportunity coming very soon- the City of Del Mar is close to finalizing its Climate Action Plan (CAP). I am going to fight for a 100% clean energy future, modeled after the City of San Diego’s recently adopted plan. We have everything to lose if we don’t move to a new energy economy. Please join us at the Council meeting when they vote on the CAP in March and stand up for normal seasons and a livable future in this spectacular place we call home.

 

 

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