Updated: Mar 31
6" of rain, 4" of rain, we've seen it all this Winter. We were wondering if we were just going crazy, or if it really was turning out to be a record rain season.
Well, we weren't going completely crazy. NOAA posted this article recently https://www.noaa.gov/news/us-records-wettest-winter-capped-by-cooler-wetter-february-2019.
You saw that right, "U.S. records wettest winter"... This year's rainfall was 2.22 inches above average at a whopping 9.01 inches for the contiguous U.S.
For some interesting juxtaposition, this January was the globe's third warmest recorded (https://www.ncei.noaa.gov/news/global-climate-201901). It begs to raise the question- How can things overall be warming and producing extreme winter storms at the same time?
This is a complicated answer, which is likely explained by this unusually warmer weather generating stronger storm systems in the ocean. Hawaii recorded an unusually warm January, this warmer weather generated some nasty storm systems that came straight for California. The warmer air speeds up reactions and increases evaporation, when mixed with all of the swirling energies developing in the southern hemisphere it can bring up enough water and kinetic energy to bring Atmospheric Rivers (remember that one a couple of weeks ago?) to California.
Weather is a pretty complicated subject, here's a video with a collection of experts in the field talking about what's going on and why an overall warming climate can lead to stronger storms.
How does this apply to us?
With sites receiving an overwhelming amount of water, it has been a challenging winter for keeping sites properly stabilized and protected. We don't expect rains like this all the time, but it may be a sign of how we need to change things moving forward. The trend in climate change is one toward more extreme periods of drought amidst more extreme periods of rain.
We have also seen a change in the intensity of rain when it does occur; occurring less or more frequently with sometimes shorter bursts of intense rainfall. More intense rainfall can cause erosion, wash off erosion control measures and overwhelm storm water BMPs, as we experienced on some jobs this season even with the best of planning.
Moving forward we want to leave you with these two notes to help you best maintain your job site.
The first being that this wet winter may fuel an overwhelming amount of plant growth,as it has done in the past years. With a predictably hot summer it will likely dry out this explosion of plant growth and create fuel. If your site is in/near an area of fire danger, please keep this in mind that these events may lead to a smokey summer.
Consider clearing dry brush regularly, keeping soil moist (think wind erosion techniques), and keeping smoke masks nearby for potential smokey days. If your site unfortunately falls victim to fire, be ready to implement strong erosion control. Vegetation is excellent at maintaining soil structure and stability; however, when a fire kills trees and and brush it can leave a slope more susceptible to erosion.
In addition, we want to get our clients in the mindset that this is likely to happen again where we have an above average rainy season. It's good to be proactive and to keep storm water management in mind when planning work. The best BMP measure is to plan work for the dry season and then implement erosion control ahead of the rainy season. More intense storm events will require more robust erosion and sediment control measures.
Want to be proactive? Give us a call at (707) 693-1926, and speak with a QSP/QSD to go over some proactive planning for your site.