The rumors of El Nino along the Central Coast have become our reality, with students recently sliding and scampering like baby deer trying to find parking and make it to class in one piece in the pouring rain. As it turned out, we only saw a few days here and there of heavy rain, and the rest of winter quarter has been either moderately rainy or filled with San Luis Obispo’s famous beautiful sunshine.
The result: Green.
I remember being at the library around week four and taking a break to look out of the window at the hills surrounding campus. I was totally caught off guard at the sudden stark difference in color that our campus seemed to have taken on. For so long, San Luis Obispo has felt dead. Brown, yellow, grey dead. The gift of rain has left us with a feeling similar to how I imagine Dorothy felt when she first arrived in the Emerald City.
But wait — wasn’t it green around this time last year?
“It was pretty around February of last year, but only very briefly,” BioResource and agricultural engineering professor Franklin Gaudi said. “We got almost no rain in 2013, almost 15 inches of rain in 2014 (it rained most heavily in December 2014), 9.6 inches of rain in 2015 and already in the first two months of 2016, we’ve gotten over 6 inches.”
So that explains why we saw a glimpse of lush landscape in the early months of 2015, but what happened?
“Basically, when you get a brief period of lot of rain during a drought and then it stops, the soil can’t absorb it, so the flowers aren’t continuously nourished, and the plants die again,” Gaudi said.
More consistent rains during the first couple months of the year answers the question of why it’s been so green lately.