An informed source reports that on June 30, Seton Medical Center will close its Family Birthing Unit, including Labor and Delivery, Well Newborn Nursery, Intensive Care Nursery, and Postpartum Nursing units.
SEVERE GEOMAGNETIC STORM: A coronal mass ejection (CME) hit Earth's magnetic field during the early hours of March 17, triggering a magnetic disturbance that has escalated into the strongest geomagnetic storm of the current solar cycle (Kp=8). During the hours before sunrise on St. Patrick's Day, bright green skies appeared over multiple U.S. states, including Wisconsin, Washington, Minnesota, and the Dakotas. Please check http://spaceweather.com for pictures and updates on the progress of the storm.
Plagued by prolonged drought, California now has only enough water to get it through the next year, according to NASA.
In an op-ed published Thursday by the Los Angeles Times, Jay Famiglietti, a senior water scientist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, painted a dire picture of the state's water crisis. California, he writes, has lost around 12 million acre-feet of stored water every year since 2011. In the Sacramento and San Joaquin river basins, the combined water sources of snow, rivers, reservoirs, soil water and groundwater amounted to a volume that was 34 million acre-feet below normal levels in 2014. And there is no relief in sight.
"As our 'wet' season draws to a close, it is clear that the paltry rain and snowfall have done almost nothing to alleviate epic drought conditions. January was the driest in California since record-keeping began in 1895. Groundwater and snowpack levels are at all-time lows," Famiglietti writes. "We're not just up a creek without a paddle in California, we're losing the creek, too."
On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that one-third of the monitoring stations in California’s Cascades and Sierra Nevada mountains have recorded the lowest snowpack ever measured.
"Right now the state has only about one year of water supply left in its reservoirs, and our strategic backup supply, groundwater, is rapidly disappearing,” Famiglietti writes.
He criticized Californian officials for their lack of long-term planning for how to cope with this drought, and future droughts, beyond "staying in emergency mode and praying for rain."
Last month, new research by scientists at NASA, Cornell University and Columbia University pointed to a "remarkably drier future" for California and other Western states amid a rapidly changing climate. "Megadroughts," the study's authors wrote, are likely to begin between 2050 and 2099, and could each last between 10 years and several decades.
With that future in mind, Famiglietti says, "immediate mandatory water rationing" should be implemented in the state, accompanied by the swift formation of regulatory agencies to rigorously monitor groundwater and ensure that it is being used in a sustainable way—as opposed to the "excessive and unsustainable" groundwater extraction for agriculture that, he says, is partly responsible for massive groundwater losses that are causing land in the highly irrigated Central Valley to sink by one foot or more every year.
Various local ordinances have curtailed excessive water use for activities like filling fountains and irrigating lawns. But planning for California's "harrowing future" of more and longer droughts "will require major changes in policy and infrastructure that could take decades to identify and act upon," Famiglietti writes. "Today, not tomorrow, is the time to begin." (Newsweek, March 13, 2015)
Unfortunately, another high-pressure ridge built in after this latest storm February 6-8, and so the hot, dry weather continues in California. Imagine dirt coming out of your faucet. Too depressing? Imagine NASA or SpaceX firing rockets into the atmosphere to "puncture" the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge of high pressure and let the heat out.
Outdoor writer Tom Stienstra reports mind-boggling statistics in his San Francisco Chronicle/SF Gate blog: WHERE'S THE SNOW?
He writes: "Blue Canyon averages 252 inches of snow per year, Truckee averages 204 inches per year, and both have zilch right now. The weather station at Blue Canyon (5,240-foot elevation at the small airport) is used as a reporting point for meteorologists across America; it has bare dirt around it right now. Drought? Hardly. The station has already recorded an amazing 46.67 inches of rain this winter. If all that rain were snow, it could be 20, 30 feet high."
He adds: "It’s not only bare dirt along the Dunsmuir Grade, but it has not snowed there even once this season. Zero. Yet just above the Dunsmuir Grade, at Girard Ridge, the rain gauge has recorded 46.88 inches of rain this winter. Last year at this time, it was about 4 inches. On Saturday, the freezing level was 10,600 feet at Mount Shasta, some 1,500 feet higher than 9,025-foot Mount Eddy to the west."
Meanwhile, in the Redwood Empire to the north of us, Gasquet has received a towering 47.52 inches of rain, 37.43 inches have fallen in Zenia on the Eel River, and, closer to home right in Sonoma County, Yorkville (familiar to those of us who take Highway 128 from 101 to Mendocino) has had a staggering 53.76 inches of rain. But almost all of that wet stuff fell in December. January has been so dry, Tom reports, "that the rivers are low and clear."