More atmospheric research in California’s San Joaquin Valley warranted

It wasn’t too terribly long ago in my neck of the woods – Fresno and the larger San Joaquin Valley – during this time of year that winter days consisted mostly of long periods of fog with daytime temps in the mid-40s interspersed here and there with rainstorms with most of those immediately followed by days of sunshine, a cycle that repeated itself with such regularity and consistency that the observer of such could almost set their clock or watch by it. For those that bore witness to such, remember?

From where I sit, daytime high temperatures nearing 80 degrees Fahrenheit for this time of year particularly, is too warm for my liking. Yet, that seems fast becoming routine.

So, is this something we Fresnans and all who reside in the Valley should be concerned about? I don’t know about you, but, I, for one, think so.

From an air quality point of view, usually accompanying this kind of daytime high temperature is higher than normal amounts of either airborne particulates or ozone (smog) or both. So far in Fresno County through February 2022, except for the one very windy day where temperatures dipped down into the 60s accented by beautiful blue and by a mix of alternating sunny and cloudy skies, daytime high temps have on average been near the 70-degree mark with Air-Quality-Index readings typified by the “Unhealthy for Sensitive Individuals” or worse (“Unhealthy” for everyone) ranges. Only infrequently did the AQI here drop into the “Moderate” (yellow) category and, from what I remember, had only on one occasion been declared “Good,” but just barely.

This contrasts sharply with the month of December where, for that month alone, there were unusually high rainfall totals that approached half of the area’s yearly average 11-inch precipitation amount; a month with much more favorable weather and air-quality conditions, I would add.

Even with all of this December rain, there’s concern that that normal precipitation amount for the entire year, won’t be met. Happening over several years’ time that equates to only one thing: drought. And, lately, in these here parts, we’ve also witnessed that.

As a result, area reservoirs remain at exceedingly low levels. That puts pressure on farmers and residential users alike and conservation of this precious resource here right now goes without saying.

Much, much closer to home, and, in fact, right in my own back yard, a cluster of crape myrtles and one rose of Sharon tree – all situated in the northeast corner – produced a new crop of leaves in, get this, November, something I’ve never seen happen before and, as it happens, those trees have been in the yard for years!

Okay, wait for it, here’s the $64 million question: What’s going on?! Why is central California seeing such above-normal temperatures while at the same time being hit with bitter-cold conditions are some locations and getting inundated with record amounts of snowfall are others? Is this the result of normal, natural factors, a consequence of anthropogenically-caused global warming or a combination of the two?

Understandably, this is where differences of opinion are many and people’s opinions on the matter vary – some widely.

Before these questions can be answered with unequivocal and definitive responses, more than just warming and weather have to be considered. One must also take into account the broader atmospheric picture – the world historic climate-pattern or trend picture, that is.

Most experts would agree that, based on historical data, Earth should at this moment be in a cooling-off state. For the past 10,000 or so years, since the conclusion of the last ice age, the climate has, for the most part, been steady state. No wild climate or temperature fluctuations, in other words, unlike those recorded over the duration of the period going approximately 10,000 years to roughly 100,000 years back. Those changes or swings, in at least one region – the Arctic – are well documented.

In getting back to the Valley, meanwhile, could it be that what the region is experiencing right at this point in time is normal for this part of the country and winter the fog, rain, sun, fog, rain, sun cycle was an anomaly? Or, is what is occurring in California’s central interior region just a climate/temperature phase that will one day pass?

I believe further research into this matter is definitely warranted. I also believe that without all of the water-storage capability – subsurface aquifers and dams and reservoirs – this place would be more desert-like. I am confident I’m not wrong here.

The fact that climate and temperature in this region have changed, if not changed in dramatic fashion, in the 40-plus-years I have made Fresno and the San Joaquin Valley my home, speaks volumes.

That being said, climatological research should be broad and conducted as well in regions where melting ice and retreating glaciers do not exist, such as in California’s San Joaquin Valley, all of it done in an effort to help determine whether what we’re witnessing weather-, climate- and temperature-wise, is just a natural, normal phenomenon or something else entirely.

The Valley could, should be an ideal spot where related research could, should start if it hasn’t already. If it has, then by all means, such investigative work here should continue.

In that humanity is seeking answers along these lines, there is every reason to expect that there are answers that can be found here as well.

– Alan Kandel

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