April 2016

Mother Nature Does Her Thing, Even with a Record Breaking Drought

In spite of what is shaping up as yet another drought year, More Mesa is green and blooming. In one short walk we spotted Poppies, California Brittlebush, Blue-eyed Grass, Redmaids, Owl’s Clover and Miniature Lupine. Many of these were in profusion and all a joy to look at.

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It’s lovely out there! (To view a list of More Mesa’s wildflowers go to link.)

March 2016

El Niño Rains Haven’t Forgotten Us … They May Just Be Running Late

If you are wondering what happened to the vaunted El Niño,  weather experts have stated that periods of sunny and warm weather are typical even in strong El Niño winters and that there is “No need to be alarmed that El Niño is a bust.”

Over the past several winters, a persistent region of atmospheric high pressure over the far northeastern Pacific Ocean, dubbed by one forecaster as the RRR … Ridiculously Resilient Ridge … prevented storms from reaching us, resulting in our multi-year drought. (Instead moisture laden air was directed to the East Coast where snowfall reached excessive levels.)

Despite the fact that the RRR disappeared this year, another high-pressure ridge, this time off the coast of California prevented storms generated by  El Niño conditions from reaching southern California. High-pressure ridges are the norm in our area, accounting for the dry summers in our Mediterranean climate.

The drought break that Californians have been waiting for all winter is about to arrive: a series of storms bringing loads of rain and snow from the El Niño–fueled Pacific Ocean.

Over the next 10 days, beginning Friday, a series of Pacific storm systems will batter the California coastline, bringing intense tendrils of moisture northeastward from the deep tropical Pacific Ocean where El Niño has juiced the atmosphere’s energy. So far this winter, these storms have been largely directed on the Pacific Northwest, where on Tuesday, Seattle clinched its rainiest winter in history. That energy will now be directed squarely at California.   Link for article

In the longer run, it seems likely that a fairly active weather pattern will continue across California for much of March. And while we all hope for another “March Miracle” (as happened in 1991), precipitation at that level is hard to predict at this point. However, it does appear likely that California’s snowpack will recover to average (or perhaps above average) levels in the coming weeks. It is less clear whether Southern California will be able to make up the seasonal precipitation deficit that has accumulated this year, despite the near record-strength El Niño event in the tropical Pacific. Still, it seems increasingly likely that March will be able to make a dent – even though it’s quite clear that California’s multi-year drought will persist through the summer.

And on the brighter side, optimistic forecasters and modelers remind us that the two biggest El Niños on record, which developed over 1982-83 and 1997-98, brought double the rain and double the snowpack for California. Further, this El Niño is in the same league as those two, and may be even bigger. Frustrating as our “rain year” has been, forecasters offer that we should not be fooled into thinking that El Niño has forsaken us. It’s just “late to the party”. Finally, the El Niño expert and climatologist at JPL has been quoted as saying, “It is not unusual for El Niños, with regard to Southern California rain, to be slow starters … when they hook up, they are fast and furious finishers.”

Keep your fingers crossed!

References:

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February 2016

Caves Are No More

In several previous issues we discussed the dangerous erosion of the cliffs of the various sections of More Mesa. In October of 2014,  an incident where someone was hurt while in a cave on the western side of More Mesa precipitated a discussion of the geology of More Mesa’s cliffs. Specifically, we noted that the east side consists of a very old formation that erodes slowly, while the west, a much younger formation, erodes very quickly. In fact, sea cliff retreat in the this younger formation has been demonstrated to be about 10 inches a year, the highest rate observed along this portion of the South Coast. What this all means is that the western cliff is steep, unstable and unpredictable. At the time we advised everyone to stay out of the caves since they too, were judged unstable, unpredictable and dangerous.

But now they are gone! These very same caves collapsed last week. County firefighters conducted a precautionary search and found no evidence of any victims being trapped during the collapse. Fire Captain Dave Zaniboni issued a warning that it is extremely dangerous now that the bluffs have caved in.

The Good News: Now that the caves have collapsed there is no longer any danger that people inside them will be injured or killed.

The Bad News: Once again, we remind everyone that the cliffs on the edge of More Mesa are UNSTABLE, UPREDICTABLE AND DANGEROUS. Please stay off the trails leading down from More Mesa and take extreme care when using the Coastal Trail. Please be safe!

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January 2016

Our beautiful More Mesa looks bleak indeed! We need rain more than we have needed in almost 15 years! And, although we received a little rain exactly a year ago, the long awaited 2016 El Niño pattern shift has finally happened, to deliver rain for this season.

Recent predictions based on anomalous elevated equatorial sea surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean, continue to predict an extremely strong El Niño, perhaps the strongest we have ever experienced. In addition, these same predictions contend that strong El Niño events tend to begin at the start of winter, and continue into the spring. NOAA’s latest three-month prediction is shown below.

Keep your fingers crossed and … Happy New Year!

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EXPECTED SERIES OF STORMS IN THE NEXT WEEK

December 2015

2015 … The Year in Review

The day we knew was coming, but wouldn’t welcome, arrived.
In late July a group with the same members who circulated development plans for More Mesa three years ago, announced that they represented the Kalid Saud Al Shebaily Group (KSSG), owners of More Mesa.

The new group’s opening salvo came in the form of objections to a number of the provisions in the updated Eastern Goleta Valley Plan (EGVP). This salvo was summarily rejected by the County. Later in the year, at a subsequent Board of Supervisors Meeting on the EGVP, a local representative of KSSG said, “We do support adoption of the plan and note that there are no proposed changes affecting the More Mesa property.” However, later in his testimony, the same speaker remarked that some of the development standards needed to be revisited at a later time … a phrase that would seem to indicate that the owner really did not agree with the fact that there were no proposed changes.

Drought etc.
The record-breaking drought we have been experiencing occupied our thoughts and concerns for most of the year. We reported its effect on birds, plants and animals as well as increased danger from falling trees and eroding cliffs. Because our geographical area experiences regular cycles of drought and floods and an El Niño is predicted for this winter, we have added a special feature on this weather phenomena on our web site.

White-tailed Kites Have the Last Word!
All through the spring and summer breeding seasons we looked in vain for signs of kites and kite nesting. This continuing disappointment was reported in several monthly newsletters. We despaired that 2015 would be the fourth “no chick” year for More Mesa. But in late summer the kites had apparently found a way! Four kites were spotted on the west side of More Mesa and even more exciting was the presence of three juveniles in the group. These three appear to have moved on, but a pair of adults still remain with us.

Plans for 2016
Despite mixed signals from the developers, 2016 is likely to be the year that our fight against development of More Mesa begins in earnest. We need to prepare. Therefore, we plan to raise $150,000 as a contingency campaign fund soon after we finish our planning in early 2016. I will be sure to keep you updated on developments.

As always … thank you all for your wonderful support, and for loving this very special place. Our warmest holiday wishes.

Valerie Olson
More Mesa Preservation Coalition.