Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Wacky Weather

In my mind, since Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in August of 2005, weather has been different. It seems like there have been more extremes to weather systems. Katrina, of course, was a powerful and extremely damaging storm. It was followed about a month later by another powerful storm, Hurricane Rita. 3 years later, Texas was hit by another hurricane, Ike. We experienced high winds and rain as far inland as Kilgore, where Donna and I watched the storm from our patio.

Since then, we've seen extreme drought across the western half of the US, heavy floods across the eastern seaboard as well as the Gulf Coast (remember Superstorm Sandy in October 2012), wildfires all over the West, and other weather oddities.

This morning, we recorded a low of 37 degrees in San Angelo. This is May 14th, a time when our lows should be in the 60s, and we are just 5 degrees above freezing. What is going on? And our measurable rainfall for 2014 so far is .75 inch. At this rate we will get less than 2 inches of rain this year.

I know there are naysayers out there, but weather patterns are changing. The facts are there to back this up. To me, the question is whether the cause of such changes is man made or merely a natural shift occurring over time. After all, there have been such changes in the past.

I'm not a scientist, so I don't engage in such debates. But I do know that humans need to be ready to adapt to weather changes. And we don't seem to be very good at that, especially in the good ole US of A. After all, consider our arrogance. We march into the desert to an area that receives about 4 inches of rain and build a city of over half a million people called Las Vegas. When neighboring Henderson and other nearby communities are thrown in, that population swells to almost 1 million people. Over the years, they have been pretty free with water use out there.

We've done the same thing in Texas and other areas as well. On the High Plains, we farm extensively using water from underground aquifers, most notably the Ogallala Aquifer. How long can it last? In my area, San Angelo, we get 17 inches of annual rainfall, yet people have traditionally planted yards, often with water intensive grasses such as St. Augustine, and have watered as much as necessary to keep those lawns lush and green.

Yeah, it takes a while for us humans to change the way we do things. It's difficult to give up practices we've held for years and years and make those adjustments. It really is a change in lifestyle. I love a green, lush lawn, but I really don't expect to have another one on an ongoing basis for the rest of my life, at least if I continue to live in areas with reduced rainfall. But I see this as a challenge, an opportunity to find a new way of doing things, a more efficient way. Were I to build a new home, I would equip it with a system to recycle grey water to water the lawn. I would install large rain water collection containers, as much as 3,000 or 4,000 gallons, and use that water for surface plants, such as trees and a garden. I might even plumb that water through a filtering system into the house for limited uses there.

Time we all started thinking out of the box regarding how we live.

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