Eight years of serious shortages of precipitation have resulted in alarming shortages of water for California and other western states. This situation has led to depleted water tables, regulations limiting usage, and a long laundry list of reasons advanced to explain the phenomenon. In my lifetime I have witnessed cycles of weather ranging from devastating floods to debilitating droughts on several occasions.
Keeping things in recent perspective, in the 70’s California experienced a drought which crippled water supplies for several years, then experienced a very wet winter and subsequently a more normal pattern of precipitation which lasted a couple decades. During the 25 years I lived in Hawaii, there was a drought lasting several years. This meant low levels in reservoirs, water conservation actions, imported water, and hand wringing folks looking to point the finger of blame. Then the rains returned, the reservoirs filled, the grass grew, and the rainbows once again graced the islands.
This winter, after years of shortfall, the rains and snows have returned to the west coast, the reservoirs are filled to overflowing, and the snow pack is deeper than previous records. Nature abhors a vacuum. The simple truth about the weather is that it is cyclic. The patterns are observable, but our observation of the patterns and modern records of them are only a little over a century old. Civilizations have risen, fallen, and disappeared because of shifting patterns of weather. Geological studies show evidence of verdant lands where today there are extreme desert conditions. Our planet and its atmosphere are subject to change, and as yet, no one has figured out how to control the weather, the ocean currents that influence the weather, or the impact of solar rays on our atmosphere.
The good news is that we now have an abundance of precipitation to restore our depleted water tables and a snow pack in the Sierra Nevada and Cascade ranges to provide storage of water for the warmer months. The not so good news is that control of the runoff is difficult to manage. The good news is that agriculture will again have water to produce the food we all require and that home owners can water their yards and wash their cars. I don’t have an explanation why the weather cycles through these patterns, I only know that the cycles have been with planet Earth for eons, and don’t appear to be going to change any time soon.