The week that was, 12/19-25/2010

Detail of fishing net tapestry "Kalama 1" by Mary Babcock, part of "Hydrophilia" at Hawaii Pacific University. Click on the image to be taken to the university website.

“I think it’s seasonal. The nets seem to wash up during the winter.” — Artist Mary Babcock, maker of tapestries from old fishing nets, Ocean Meditations, Honolulu Star-Advertiser, December 19, 2010

Mexico will leave part of its Colorado River allocation in Lake Mead for the next three years, slowing the decline of the drought-stricken reservoir and possibly delaying the onset of water rationing in Arizona and Nevada. — Colorado River deal aids US and Mexico, Arizona Republic, December 21, 2010

Enough water poured from Los Angeles streets to supply well over 130,000 homes for a year. — In a region that imports water, much goes to waste, Los Angeles Times, December 24, 2010

… with our watersheds nicely saturated

The Dry Garden: Joy to the Valley

When the Valley Performing Arts Center opens to the public in February, it will be down to others to convey the thrill of seeing such a remarkable new venue rise from the Campus of Cal State Northridge.  Admiration here is reserved for the landscape architect who encircled the center with 173 native trees, then punctuated the courtyard with a Dr Seuss-worthy assembly of succulents while achieving a tenfold reduction in the site’s previous water use.

That landscape architect is Stephen Billings of the Santa Monica firm Pamela Burton & Co.

Click here to keep reading in the Los Angeles Times about the new garden at the Valley Performing Arts Center.

A river (would have) flowed through it

The last of five days of rain was subsiding as Wynne Wilson took this photograph of the Loma Alta Debris Basin in Altadena, California at 3:45 p.m.on December 22nd. It is one of more than 150 such structures set in upstream canyon tributaries to the Los Angeles River, San Gabriel River, Santa Monica Bay, Dominguez Channel, and Santa Clara River watersheds.

Yes, this is what a La Niña looks like

Source: NASA. Click on the image for a NASA explanation of the "Pineapple Express," in which a jet stream carries moisture from near Hawaii over the American Southwest.

KQED’s Climate Watch, David Zetland’s Aguanomics, LA Observed and the LA Times are among the websites and news organizations shaking seeming contradictions from their collective umbrellas. Yes, this is a La Niña year, and yes, these are typically drier than normal. This being a far stronger than normal La Niña, chances were strong that it was going to be far drier than the already dry average across the American Southwest.

The short answer to why we’re having such a wet dry year is that we’ve had a rare incursion of a tropical rain system called “the Pineapple Express.” The longer answer might be that it is an indicator of climate change. We are not the only ones experiencing

2010: An ‘unusual’ year

Weather watchers have been waiting for climatologists, particularly Bill Patzert of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, to eat crow. Since late summer, equatorial Pacific currents have led climatologists to believe that a record La Niña weather pattern will aggravate drought in the American Southwest. Patzert led the pack with warnings. Then rain across Southern California was early and steadily mounted, with December preliminary totals so heavy that Patzert is quoted in the Los Angeles Times tonight saying, “I think we’re going to crush the record for December.”

Whether one receives this as good news, or merely weird news, depends on how one takes a year that, as the Times report sketches, has bucked every notionally normal trend in Southern California. Traditionally hot summer months have been cool, a normally cooling autumnal stretch produced record heat, treacherous Santa Ana winds have been decorous and now what experts agreed would be a dry

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    Emily Green by e-mail at emily.green [at] mac.com
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