Right now parts of California are experiencing planned power-outages. The state’s leaders are telling us it’s because of the winds (which are very gusty in some locations), the electrical power lines, and the trees/foliage adjacent the lines. It is true, if a random spark from the swaying lines were to come in contact with dry vegetation, a fire could instantly flare up.
Sadly, our major electrical provider in northern California, Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), has suddenly become the bad guy in all of this. Blame is also being cast upon you and me for our consumption of fossil fuels and the (supposed) associated effects of global warming.
It’s a shame that the real culprits have escaped judgement. I’m referring to the environmentalists.
First a brief lesson in climate. Throughout the recorded history of California, exceptionally strong, dry winds and scorching temperatures are a common atmospheric occurrence in September and October. The reason for this has to do with the state’s unique geographical location: cool ocean waters hug California’s 780-mile long Pacific coast, while a variety of mountain ranges stretch up and down the state. Interspersed are broad swaths of natural desert.
In the northern half of the state, coastal cities such as San Francisco and Oakland receive 20-inches of rain a year, on the average. Inland, San Jose typically sees 14.5 inches. The state’s capital city, Sacramento, located in the Central Valley, gets 18 inches of rain. To the south, Los Angeles and San Diego generally experience about a foot of rain annually. The averages haven’t notably changed since records began being kept in the 1800s. Historically, the rainy season begins in mid-late October and ends by early June.
To put these rainfall amounts into perspective, east of the Rocky Mountains most cities in the United States receive 40 to 60 inches of precipitation annually.
However, California’s blessing has been its large mountain ranges (bordering Nevada and Oregon), where precipitation mostly falls in the form winter snow. Up there the annual precipitation totals are impressive: 60 to 80 inches of precipable water is common, depending on the range. The incredible amount of rain/snow in the mountains feeds streams, rivers, lakes, and dams, which provide the irrigatable water necessary to grow abundant fruit and vegetable crops in the state’s arid regions.
Because of the mountain precipitation (and the brilliant use of artificial dams), farming remains California’s top grossing industry. In fact, the state leads all others in farm income. It’s positioned as the agricultural powerhouse of the United States.
California grows over 200 different crops, some grown nowhere else in the nation. It produces almost all of the country’s almonds, apricots, dates, figs, kiwi fruit, nectarines, olives, pistachios, prunes, and walnuts. It also leads in the production of avocados, grapes, lemons, melons, peaches, plums, and strawberries. Only Florida produces more oranges, and only Texas more cotton.
On a side note, shamefully, environmentalists loath the human-made dams and have been successful in getting many torn down.
More on the climate: the prevailing winds in California blow west to east. Commencing in mid/late October storms begin to blow in from the Pacific. As their moist air confronts the mountain ranges, it rushes up the sides of the mountains doing something known as “orographic uplift.” As such, as the air strikes the windward side, it is uplifted, cooled, and forces precipitation to occur. This is why windward slopes of mountains tend to be the wet sides while the other side of the range (the “leeward side”) is dry. This is also why Nevada (directly east of California) is a complete desert—it’s located in California’s “rain shadow.”
Now, about the fire danger presently effecting California.
I’m penning this post on October 27. This is the time of the year when the atmosphere is transitioning from summer to winter. As this changeover occurs the wind patterns temporarily begin to blow more east to west, opposite the norm. Another part of the transition includes an increase in something called the “pressure gradient.” Long story short, this increase causes the winds to blow harder, as they are today. So, the winds right now are blowing downthe slopes of the mountains and toward the ocean and as the air is pushed down the mountainsides it totally dries out, dropping the humidity levels to zero, thus naturally creating an increase fire danger. If there’s a spark (from a power line, barbecue, car accident, etc.), the wind can cause a fire to grow into a monster in no time.
This has nothing to do with human-caused global warming or climate change. This condition has always been a noteworthy aspect of California’s overall climate.
As for the current fire danger, don’t blame northern California’s major energy provider, PG&E—blame the environmentalists.
One of my best friends, Mike, has been a linesman with PG&E for 40 years; prior to that his dad worked the powerlines for decades as well. Between these two men, they’ve literally traversed nearly all the powerlines in the entire state.
Mike tells me that a couple decades ago the rule was that PG&E cleared away any foliage from the power lines to the tune of ten feet on each side. However, at the insistence of the environmentalists, that amount of clearage was reduced to four feet.
Four feet is hardly enough. Indeed many plants and trees can easily grow that much in a single season. To gain more clearance PG&E needs environmental approval, which is nearly impossible without a court order. The environmental policies in California have created a fire danger in association with the lines!
Then there are the various county, state, and federal laws that have hampered efforts to properly thin our forests. I’ve been hiking a part of Nevada County (in the Sierra Mountains, near Truckee) for decades. Twenty years ago I used to be able to literally walk through the forest to my destination (the original railroad tracks built in the 1800’s) sans a path or trail. Now the forest is so overgrown and dense that my only choice is a well-worn trail. The area has become a major fire waiting to happen.
Again, don’t blame this unnecessary power shortage on PG&E or climate change. Blame it on the environmental agenda that has been instituted by the politicians and bureaucrats who run California, and their willing accomplices in the media who are carrying their water.
Here’s the real story: the environmentalists believe humans are the planet’s invasive species. All of the rules, regulations, and laws they put forward are designed to instill a reduced population—by fire if necessary.