As I write these words, the usually sunny state of Georgia has been brought to a standstill thanks to more than six inches of snow and freezing rain. A weather front that has been dubbed a ‘polar vortex’ has caused one of the greatest travel disruptions in American history, cancelling tens of thousands of flights over the course of several successive storms. On St Valentine’s Day, while the President of the United States flew to Fresno, California, to bestow more than $100 million US in emergency aid for drought-hit farmers in the Central Valley, members of Congress were wrangling with the legislated water levels for fish in the Sacramento river against the desperate irrigation needs of farmers who produce 50% of the nation’s food.
Even discounting the tendency for news outlets to feed our seemingly insatiable appetite for disaster reporting, this is shaping up to be one hell of a year, climatologically speaking – especially in California.
Until the skies cracked open a week ago and unleashed a care package from the tropics, it literally had not rained for more than a calendar year here. Although only in the past week has the California Transportation Board seen fit to broadcast water conservation messages on the electronic signs above the state’s highways, what meteorologists are calling ‘the worst drought in five centuries’ has been building for some time.
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