Tag Archives: California

MidWinter El Nino Update

A lot of ominous story lines were written about the coming monster El Nino for the 2015/2016 winter season. Those of us in drought-stricken California were bracing ourselves for an onslaught of rain that may not have had an equal. Well, there’s a bit of good news and bad.

Cold – No big rains

In Paso Robles, we awoke to plenty of icy conditions in December of 2015.

In Paso Robles, we awoke to plenty of icy conditions in December of 2015.

The good news, to some degree, is the otherwise normal winter we’ve had here in the Golden State, especially in wine country on the California Central Coast. December started off with its usual cold snap that had us regularly in the 20s with several icy mornings. Day time high temps hovered barely in the 50s, but otherwise there was a little cold rain here and there – that was it.

As the holidays slid by, the temperature started warming up and with it, more rain. It might sound counter-intuitive to think El Nino and its rains would drive temperatures up, but rather than getting storms from a normal northwesterly track out of the Pacific Northwest and Canada, El Nino draws warmer climes from the Central Pacific. By the way, our mountains – the Sierra Nevadas – have been hammered with snow this season, which is definitely a good thing, considering Californians get a majority of their water from the mountain snow runoff.

This is suppose to be a huge El Nino year, however it hasn’t been the typical drum beat of a driving rain storm after driving rain storm. We have received an average amount of rainfall, which has made it easier on the land, so as not to wash away and erode the farms and vineyards of its valuable soil.

Currently, we just had a mini gullywasher and are expecting showers near the end of the week. Yet, the last week of January looks relatively warm and sunny with highs possibly reaching 70. Heck, get the suntan lotion out, it’s summer! Yeah, not so fast.

About that bad news

Godzilla

As January folds into February, which is our wettest month, there are plenty of signs the Godzilla of all El Nino’s is coming onshore. The first full week of 2016 saw a modest set of back-to-back storms reminiscent of El Nino. According to NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory climatologist Bill Patzert, the the rest of winter and likely the first part of spring are going to bring us monster rains (source: L.A. Times). Or as Mr. Patzert puts it of the earlier storms:

“That was a trailer for the movie.”

Essentially what will be happening is the jet stream will come down on to the southern half of California and started sucking every storm from the Central Pacific and tropics in what we call the ‘Pineapple Express’. Think of it as a river of storms pulling moisture all the way up from Hawaii to California.

Whether we receive the predicted record-breaking numbers of rainfall with help from the Pineapple Express, remains to be seen, but regardless, we will see an increase in precipitation over the next couple months.  And with that, should tamper down the drought conditions along with greening up our beautiful rolling hills of Paso Robles.

Personally, I’m not a big fan of rain – I grew up in L.A. I’d look terrible in heels, so I’ll clink my beer mug or wine glass because I’m thinking suntan lotion … I’m thinking there’s no time like summer, there’s no time like summer, there’s no time like summer.

Cheers,

Daryle W. Hier

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1889 California – The Year Paso Robles Incorporated

During the 19th Century, the city of Paso Robles was born on March 11, 1889.  This year represents the 125th birthday of this still somewhat out-of-the-way town on the California Central Coast.  However, what was the Golden State like during its, at least to some extent, formative years as a state?

Originally part of Spain and then Mexico (and even Russia), the state became a territory of the United States after the Mexican-American War, which originated because Texas was admitted to the union.  Closely following the Lone Star State’s lead, California was established as a state and admitted into the union in 1850, making it the second largest state after Texas.  California once was much larger and included Nevada, most of Arizona and parts of Utah.  This all happened about the same time as the California Gold Rush, ballooning the state’s population.

Boom

Railroads would take the place of stagecoaches and create much easier access to and from California

Railroads would take the place of stagecoaches and create much easier access to and from California

Once railroads were established in the 1860s, travel to and from other states and the East Coast became more regular and helped business grow in California creating a land boom of sorts.  Soon farming became popular once farmers realized how many valleys and fertile lands there were throughout the state.  Included was the Paso Robles region due in part to the Salinas River and its huge underground water basin.

Leading up to Paso Robles’ incorporation (which is the second oldest city in the county), the 1880s had been a time of economic boom and industrial development helped by electrical power and rail expansion.  Machine shops were created along with direct and alternate current motors (AC and DC) expanding, plus paper became more easily made.  Also, the steam turbine was invented, the inflatable tire was developed and of course Karl Benz patented the first automobile.

Jesse_and_Frank_James

Outlaws Jesse and Frank James frequented Paso Robles

With this rapid growth, the Wild West was being tamed (Jesse James once lived here) and to say the least, the 1880s were quite a period of change.  However, due note California did have a dip in its economy towards the late 1880s after the bubble that was created during the land rush.  By the way, the following year in 1890, 140 miles to the east of Paso Robles, the Sequoia National Forest was established – the first national forest in California.

What was happening

On New Year’s Day 1889, there was a full solar eclipse.  When Paso Robles became an official city that year, during the summer and less than a 100 miles to the east, most of the town of Bakersfield burned down.  To the south, in what some call the Great Fire, in early fall nearly a million acres in Orange and San Diego counties were torched in Southern California.  Just to the south of California in Baja, Mexico, they had their own short lived Gold Rush, which had less to do with gold and more to do with bold rumors and talk than was real – some things never change.

The President of the United States in 1889 was the newly elected Benjamin Harrison who was the grandson of the ninth President of the U.S., William Henry Harrison (‘Old Tippecanoe’) who was in office for all of one month before dying from pneumonia.  A Republican who believed in protectionism using high tariffs, along with broad new powers to stop monopolies, Harrison pursued civil rights and an increase in national forests.

The Governor of California was Robert Waterman – also a Republican.  Originally a New Yorker before moving as a young teenager to Illinois, he came to California like many, looking for riches in prospecting.  No luck at finding precious metals, he returned to Illinois where he became a successful farmer along with being a newspaper publisher.  A second visit to California would be much more triumphant for Waterman and finally propelled him into the governorship.  Known for his straight-forwardness, he believed the state should be run like a business.  Waterman served one four-year term from 1887 to 1891 dying a few months after he departed office.

Marie Bauer School - 1892PasoRobles

Marie Bauer High School circa 1892 in Paso Robles

Paso Robles sits nearly halfway between the two giant metropolitan cities of San Francisco and Los Angeles.  Back in 1889 they weren’t nearly as big as they are now with L.A. being less than 50,000 in population.  San Francisco was the major city in the Western U.S. and by 1889 was already approaching 300,000.  At that same time, the population of Paso Robles was maybe 500 folks.  It should be noted that the first thing Paso Robles did as a city was build a jail – it was still the Wild West after all.  Paso Robles would build the first high school in San Luis Obispo County just a few short years after incorporating with the Marie Bauer School.

Although meteorological records weren’t accurately kept in Paso Robles until a couple years later, 1889 ended with heavy rains, especially in the northern part of the state as a hard winter had set in with the Sierras seeing terrific amounts of snow that season.

Changes

Ranches and orchards once dotted the landscape as much as vineyards do now.

Ranches and orchards once dotted the landscape as much as vineyards do now.

Paso Robles was known for little more than a stop on the trail with hot springs.  Cattle ranches and almond orchards dominated the area.  The county was the milk producing capitol of the state during this era and also the area was known as Almond City.  Sheep used to be common place in this region but by 1889, agriculture was starting to become more popular just as it was around the state.  Areas east of Templeton and Paso Robles were being cultivated with grain fields and fruit orchards due to the great composite of fertile soil.  Times were changing.

The towns of Santa Margarita and Templeton both surfaced during this time as well resulting in a time in history when the entire North County of San Luis Obispo County had sprung up during 1889.

Paso Robles would go through many more changes over the course of the next 125 years as did the state as a whole with California emerging as the most populous state in the U.S. with an economy that would rank as the eighth largest in the world.  And of course, Paso Robles is now known as the world’s number one wine region.

A lot has changed over the last century and a quarter in Paso Robles and California.

Sources – University of San Diego, Baja Fever, Los Angeles Times, Sacramento Bee, State of California

Cheers,

Daryle W. Hier

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Is Water Conservation Good?

Conserving fresh water for people to live regular lives is as important as breathing and is essential to a quality of life … or for that matter any life at all.  However, can we go overboard and are there unintended consequences?  Is water conservation good?

Water is a precious commodity and although nearly three-quarters of the world is covered in the liquid stuff, less than five percent is fresh water (source: USGS).  Still, we have water everywhere, but as human beings, we can only live on land so getting H2O is important and vital to keeping us, well, alive.Fresh groundwater and surface-water make up the bubble over Kentucky, which is about 252 miles in diameter. The sphere over Georgia reresents fresh-water lakes and rivers (about 34.9 miles in diameter).

The water issues here in California are a concern for many and the drought has most of us preoccupied by the current problems associated with a lack of water.  Even though some in urban areas don’t feel or see the devastation going on with farms and ranches alike across the Golden State, there are still long-term ramifications for our lack of rain the last couple of years and whether you live in or out of the big city, this problem is for all to contemplate.

Big cities and fish VS small towns and farmers

Currently, the state of California has determined that fish and urban dwellers will get whatever extra waters we have while independent water districts mainly in small towns and rural areas combined with farmers and ranchers will not be given any water – none.  Go here for more on the states water and food war.

Since most of winter is behind us and long-term weather forecasts don’t show much in the way of rain, this problem is now a given: we have a shortage of water and conservation modes will have to be imposed.

File:Reverse osmosis desalination plant.JPG

Desalination units like this reverse-osmosis plant in Spain, are one of many possible solutions to a lack of water.

Now you probably thought I was going to give some insane argument against water conservation – and I do like to be a devil’s advocate – yet, there’s no doubting we live in a semi-arid world in California, so saving water must be done.  Conversely, with the Pacific Ocean on our Central Coast, there’s no reason desalination plants shouldn’t be popping up everywhere.  And catchment systems should be ubiquitously in every crevice we can place them.  People should use their god-given brain and do what’s right to conserve water the best we can.

Nearly everyone is a conservationist and environmentalist in one way or the other.  With that said, do some rush-to-judgment by creating a situation where conserving has gone too far?

The power bill goes up during the summer months as air conditioners start humming.  Walk on concrete or asphalt for awhile on a hot summer day and the feet let you know it’s hot.  It’s why we head to parks in the summer, especially those you live in big cities, to enjoy the green grass and shade trees.

Unintended consequences

Personal story: A part of the house was hotter than the other not because it was on the Electricityandwatersunny side of the property but instead, it was surrounded by rocks, succulents, cactus and dirt.  A little research found we could cool the house down by removing the rocks etc and in-place planting grass and shrubs.  Long story short, the temperatures in the warmer area of the house went down multiple degrees and in-turn, power expenditures went down.  Problem solved.  I only wished I had planted a very trick-like grass seed that is drought tolerant and hardly ever needs mowed – but cost was the problem there.

The heat rising during summer months notwithstanding, the advantage of a rock, cactus, succulent and dirt yard as far as water conservation was trumped by the cooling effects of grass and shrubs and in-turn a lower electrical bill.  So what was the deciding factor?  Comfort … and making Earth a little greener while keeping a few greenbacks in our pocket.  Plus, let’s face it, lush looks better and keeps property values higher.

Here’s another small item to keep in mind.  When we had the water shortages a few decades back in Los Angeles, people did what they were told to do and cut back significantly on water usage.  After awhile, water departments starting complaining that weren’t making any money and raised rates – again, not because there was a lack of water, but because not enough was being used.  Unintended consequences indeed.Lush versus cactus

Answer?

The answer?  This isn’t a zero-sum game and there is no direct answer here, only caution about racing to conclusions and instead, thinking out what actually is the best solution for each individual, town, community or state.  Some might feel better about themselves if they dig up their lawns and put a rock garden in with some cactus and succulents. Some feel guilty if they aren’t appearing to doing something about our planet.  That’s fine.  To each his own.  By the way, even ‘drought tolerant’ plants are struggling.

And again, without racing to a conclusion, let’s just keep in mind unintended consequences.  Keep conserving water and in the mean time, contact your local representatives about other avenues including reclaiming water or other ideas we can come up with.  Plus, it’s a good excuse to keep tabs on local politicians who seem to be more and more distant every year.

The title question is somewhat rhetorical.  Let’s all do our part; but, is the current situation a rush-to-judgment on water conservation?  What do you think?

Mahalo,

Daryle Hier

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What The Heck Is A Diurnal?

With Paso Robles As Example

A diurnal sounds like a … uh, uh uh, easy guys, this isn’t toilet humor (pun intended). Actually, diurnal has more than one meaning and we’re not dealing with a daily journal.Partial Earth

No, what we will talk about is the diurnal (meteorologically speaking) that means the difference between day and night pertaining to weather temperatures. And in Paso Robles, on the California Central Coast, we have a doozy.

Summers offer big diurnal

In its most basic description, the diurnal is a spread of temperatures relating the highest in one day to the lowest of that same day or within the next 24 hours. For instance, one of the first summers I had here in Paso, we had a high of 106 and a low of 44. That differential was 62 degrees – an amazing temperature swing for 24 hours. And in actuality, it wasn’t even 24 hours as the high was around 4:00 p.m. and the low was about 5:00 a.m. In roughly half a day, the diurnal was 62 degrees.

Although this anecdotal example is a bit on the extreme, this huge change isn’t that unusual in Paso Robles, especially during the summer month cycle and is an interesting aspect to the area. In fact, August has highs averaging in the low to mid 90s with lows in the low to mid 50s. June, July, September and October also have wide-ranging diurnals. 50 degree disparity in highs and lows is common fare in summer and early fall.

Desert vs Ocean

Without going into another entire story on temperatures in Paso, the area lies at the backside of the Coastal Range and typical of many regions in California, the temperatures soar in the late morning through mid afternoons. Sea breezes begin blowing in from the Pacific Ocean, working their way through the mountain passes and dramatically cooling the air – thus, large varying temperatures from night to day.

Ranches and orchards once dotted the landscape as much as vineyards do now.

A large diurnal allowed for ranches and orchards, which once dotted the Paso Robles landscape as much as vineyards do now.

A slight offshore keeping the marine layer away with warm air aloft during the day and a sun beating down, allows temperatures to climb quickly up. When the late afternoon winds bring in the much cooler air: voila! You have a large diurnal. It should be noted that humid regions and/or areas with bodies of water tend to have a low diurnal. When thinking about moderate diurnals, think Great Lakes region along with the Eastern Seaboard, Gulf Coast and the immediate coastal areas of the Pacific Northwest. They see little change from day to night in temperature swings.

Those that live in the desert might know about the large temperature variation or diurnal. The Great Basin (Nevada) has normally huge divergences between high and lows in one day. If you look up wide swings in diurnal temperatures, you will inevitably hear about the Upper Plains like the Dakotas also having tremendous climatic variances – due in part to not having any large body of water to moderate the temperature. The continental landlocked plains of the Central Asian Steppe region also has severe temperature fluctuations due to lack of any major body of water. The record diurnal at 100 degrees is held by the small town of Browning, in northwestern Montana (source: National Park Service).

Mongolia

The Mongolian highlands or Steppe region is one of the areas of the world where the diurnal is wide ranging.

A day in Paso

Breaking the diurnal down inside a day, the greatest change is normally from late afternoon before the sun is low in the sky until just after sunset. Normally here in Paso, it might be 90 in summer on a typical late afternoon around 6:00 p.m. and by 9:00 p.m. it could be 65, possibly changing more than 10 degrees in one hour. By the way, several years ago, shortly after leaving a winery on a blistering hot August day, I looked up on the temperature inside the car and it read 110 degrees outside … and it was 5:30 p.m. And still the lows were in the 50s.

Paso Robles is generally a dry region and the only reason it isn’t a desert more so like the Central Valley – such as Bakersfield (100 miles east) where day time Summer temperatures don’t drop as severely in the evenings – is the effects of the Coastal Range; plus, Paso is only 20 miles from the ocean and the water temperatures blow in to keep it cooler.

Carrizo Plain

The lands just southeast of Paso Robles called the Carrizo Plain has quite a divergence between high and lows called a diurnal.

Soon I will be talking about how that diurnal directly affects Paso Robles and its grape vines. Hopefully this didn’t confuse you and I didn’t confuse myself – it has been done. Daily diurnal cycles are interesting characteristics of weather and your daily life, so the next time someone asks you about diurnals, now you know. And no, it doesn’t have anything to do with strange restrooms … keep it clean.  😉

Additional source: Idaho State University, Wunderground.com, State of California

Salootie Patootie,

Daryle W. Hier

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Current History of Paso Robles

Part 3 of 3

In our two earlier stories (see related articles below), we talked about the beginnings of Paso Robles with its connection to the mission and then how the town morphed from the Wild West into a growing viticultural area by the 1970s.

Paso Robles’ roots were still in ranching, but the land was found to be worth more growing grapes than growing grass for cattle and horses.  The soil was learned to be extraordinary and the vast diurnal between day and night time temperatures made the grapes exceptional.  Thus, the current boom blossomed.

Soil & climate made for a boom

Ranches and orchards once dotted the landscape as much as vineyards do now.

Ranches and orchards once dotted the landscape as much as vineyards do now.

I recall visiting Paso Robles in the ‘80s many times and although it was becoming obvious that big wineries were moving in, there was still vast lands that hadn’t seen grapes – or at least not yet.  That would continue to change as the town once more became a destination for visitors, whether it was for a day or a week.  The population of the town was still only 9,000 30 years ago, yet a decade later had more than doubled in size to 19,000.

About 20 years ago, the wine businesses got together and formed the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance (PRWCA) to help market the wine commerce under one umbrella and put the word out that Paso Robles was an authentic producer of different kinds of high quality wines.

Not to be outdone by the wineries, California Central Coast olive orchards have continued to expand their breadth and now have a widely popular Olive Festival every August.

Earthquake slowed but didn’t stop growth

The San Simeon earthquake of 2003 destroyed much of the old downtown buildings.

The San Simeon earthquake of 2003 destroyed much of the old downtown buildings.

The little city took a setback and no one who lives here will forget the San Simeon earthquake (just west of Paso) that had its tenth anniversary just before Christmas of 2014.  The 6.5 temblor damaged much of downtown and lives were lost with century old buildings demolished in the process.  Interestingly enough, the hot sulfur springs that had dried up many years prior, reemerged after the earthquake creating a sinkhole that only just recently was finally covered.

It should be noted in one year, from 1999 to 2000, the city had ballooned from roughly 21,000 to 25,000.  Except for a lull in ’09 during the height of the Great Recession, Paso has grown steadily passing the 30,000 mark in 2012.

#1

The area continues to be the fastest growing wine region in California and the Paso Robles AVA (American Viticultural Area) was recently named the world’s top Wine Region of the Year.  It’s estimated that there are 32,000 acres of vines growing in the Paso AVA with roughly 300 wineries.  It should also be noted that due in part to drought coupled with the increases in vineyards, water has become an issue in the area.

Paso Robles AVA

Paso Robles has quite a history and the town has changed a lot, yet kept its small town charm.  If you like the California Central Coast and love wine, scenic drives or just a quiet serene place to relax, the city that was originally established in 1889, has everything you need.  Or as they say: ‘Come for the wine, stay for the view’.

Sources: City of Paso Robles, The California Directory of Fine Wineries: Central Coast: Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Paso Robles, PRWCA, Paso Robles (Images of America)

Cheers,

Daryle W. Hier

http://pasowinebarrels.com/