John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Another worrying sign the drought is far from over.
Barring last-minute showers, California will soon mark another milestone in the miserable annals of drought: the first January in San Francisco with no measurable precipitation in 165 years of record-keeping.
And it's certainly looking like the city will see its driest-known January. The weather through Sunday, February 1, is expected to be dry, according to forecasts. That dehydration jibes with what the region has experienced lately: an abnormal rash of heat and aridity more reminiscent of summer. As local meteorologist Rob Mayeda tweeted: "Last 2 yrs, January has more in common with June in terms of rainfall. This Jan could be the driest yet."
The bone-dry month is the latest sign that, despite some winter rains, the West's struggle with historic drought is far from over. More than three-quarters of California remains locked in the most hardcore forms of drought. Though this year has just begun, the media have had plenty to talk about: a SoCal water district is giving money to people who replace water-intensive grass with, say, powdered granite; the state's agricultural industry is predicted to lose $1.5 billion this year; harsh weather is changing the physical makeup of forests, making them super-susceptible to wildfires.
And in San Francisco—a city where adult strangers bond over playing board games, throwing snowballs, and in general acting like children—the impossible has happened: there's been a rancorous backlash against plans for a 1,000-foot communal Slip'N Slide for everyone to play in.