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Screeching in the rain: are the cats and dogs really worth it?

Students and staff provide insight into what Cal State LA really thinks about last week’s weather

Dr.+Ye+and+graduate+student+Deana+Nash
Dr. Ye and graduate student Deana Nash

Dr. Ye and graduate student Deana Nash

Anthony Karambelas

Anthony Karambelas

Dr. Ye and graduate student Deana Nash

Anthony Karambelas, Staff Reporter

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If you aren’t a rainy day person, last week probably wasn’t up your alley. It was, to say the least, a soggy experience. But not all students felt the same way. While some complained of its burdens, others found the rainy environment nostalgic. So to see how your opinions stack up, here’s how Cal State LA reacted to the abnormal weather situation.

The most common responses from students were positive in reaction to the rain. Many associated rainy weather in general with feelings of nostalgia.

“About the rain, it got me reminiscing back in the old days when I was a child, there would be rainy days from January to April. I would just go outside with my raincoat and splash around the puddles until my mom yelled at me,” said Bryan Ha, freshman student.

Growing up out of state, student Erika Steele offered a different perspective. “When I think back to the storms in Michigan, the skies would turn different colors. Literally like purple, orange. I mean you’d lose cable because your satellite connection would fail, and you and your family would just sit there watching the storm because there was nothing else to do.”

Who doesn’t like to stay inside, warm and cozy, wrapped in blankets with a hot cup of tea on cold and rainy days? Fourth year Amelia Gonzalez dubbed this kind of idyllic environment, her “perfect day.”

There are many students who would agree that bundling up on cold days is much more comfortable than removing articles of clothing on hot ones.

“I feel like I can cover more than I can take off, so I actually like rain more than sun. You can put on more jackets, but if it’s hot there’s only so much you can take off,” said Justin Johnson, freshman.

Interestingly enough, rainy weather does not always equate to cold climate. According to Dr. Hengchun Ye, Chair of the Geosciences and Environment Department, rainy weather can also bring heat.

“One of the misconceptions all students have, every time I ask them ‘is it colder in the rain or sun?’ People always say if it’s raining, it’s colder. If you look at other parts of the country when it rains, actually it’s warm because water brings a lot of heat. So in extreme environments, very cold has to be on sunny days. Rainy days are actually warm for a lot of people in northern countries. Because water has a lot of energy that keeps the environment warm,” said Ye.

Just as there are those who adore the rain, there are also some who detest it. One Master’s student in particular, Jackson Spencer, expressed his vehement attitude toward the rain, calling it “foul.”

One big concern students and staff had about the rain was its impact on road safety. Professor Holland Smith, though cognizant of California’s dire need of rain, recalled numerous road accidents. “Driving in the rain is quite terrifying. The other day, there were four overturned cars on the 710 freeway. So, that’s scary and I hope that people are careful driving,” she said.

Ha added that two freeways were shut down over the duration of the heavy downpour last week, making transportation arduous. However, as student Eric Orozco noted, taking the Metro is a great way to beat the traffic.

Not all students put the rain to blame, however. Those from out of state accused LA drivers for their lack of dexterity in rainy weather. Rashad Freeman, originally from Philadelphia, said that Californians react to cloudy skies like Chicken Little.

Steele, from Michigan, expressed her concern with driving in rainy conditions. “I would say that no one knows how to drive. It was very surprising for me. I haven’t seen anything like that [anywhere else besides] LA. It’s kind of scary.”

While some may advocate for slowing down on highways, others like graduate student Daniel Burnam think Californians take this to an unnecessary extreme. Growing up in Pennsylvania, he considers Californian drivers “wimps.”

“It’s not that big of a deal, you don’t have to slow all the way down to 30, you can take it. In the long run, rain is good. But in the short run, rain is bad until Californians can get it through their heads that they can drive 50 miles per hour even if it’s pouring,” said Burnam.

All in all, the high intensity of rain came as a shock to many Angelenos. As student Alan Diaz stated, Californians could have adapted better had the rain been more gradual.

Dr. Ye, who is currently researching the effects of climate change on precipitation, seemed to confirm this observation. She noted that weather is slowly growing more and more unpredictable.

“So the general concept is temperature gets warmer, and wet season gets wetter, dry season gets drier. But on the other hand, we see more happening in extremes. When it rains, it pours. We don’t see steady, low intensity rain anymore,” she said.

Ye added that even the smallest amounts of rain can cause floods in LA, due to the concrete nature of our city. Since only a very small portion of water is actually soaked up by the cement ground, built up currents can often drag pollutants into run-off, adding to the problem of environmental stability.

Even when rain makes contact with California soil, catastrophic events can occur. Due to the dry and loose chemistry of our soil, added water can generate rockslides and mudslides.

Especially because of the dangers of intense rain, predicting upcoming weather is a necessity. For meteorologists, however, detecting the next major storm that will hit LA is tricky business.

According to graduate student Deana Nash, who works under Dr. Ye, California receives most of its rain from atmospheric rivers or ARs. These atmospheric rivers are large concentrated bodies of moisture from the southwest; they can travel from as far as the Hawaiian Islands region. Nicknamed the “pineapple express,” this moisture is ultimately responsible for 60% of our west coast rainfall.

There is only one slight problem: “[ARs] only have a meteorological prediction level of five days ahead. So you can only say three weeks from now we’ll have another storm,” said Nash.

To make matters worse, Ye’s research shows that climate change is making rainfall predictions even more uncertain. Using massive amounts of data – in the form of historical observations and remote sensing – Ye studies precipitation in large high latitude regions.

Her student, Nash, uses remote sensing to study western regions.

Concerning the intense rainfall last week, Professor Steve LaDochy of the Geosciences and Environment Department had a few things to say about the degree to which it was unusual.

Though last week’s rainfall may seem like a lot compared to our last six years of drought, it isn’t very unusual in the long run. LaDochy noted that California weather follows multidecadal changes in the North Pacific Ocean, known as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO).

“When the PDO is in the warm phase, we tend to get more El Nino events and more above normal rainfall. When PDO shifts to the cool phase, we tend to get more La Nina events and more drier than normal years,” said LaDochy.

However, PDO’s are not steadfast and can be influenced by numerous factors (like ARs). For example, California’s rainfall record shows that we receive an average of less than 15” of rain annually. However, between 2004-2005, California received 38”. This just goes to show the large of area of unpredictability in the field of meteorology.

LaDochy noted that some scientists believe the 2015 El Nino indicated a switch to a season of wetter years to come, that could last at least a decade.

Whatever the situation may be, water conservation remains an important concern. Ye recommends that students shorten their showers, and when possible, refrain from taking them on a daily basis. Nash proposed low flow shower heads as another impactful way to reduce water consumption.

A little known fact, coffee costs a proportionally extensive amount of water. The sum of water required to grow coffee beans, transport them, and brew the drink places a significant burden on the environment.

As far as reducing carbon footprint, refraining from meat eating is perhaps one of the effective solutions. In total, each burger costs a staggering 660 gallons worth of water. In addition, the methane emitted by cattle is much more damaging to our atmosphere than carbon dioxide. By simply going vegetarian, you can do your own small part to save Mother Earth.

California still has a long road to recovery, but by educating ourselves on important issues like climate change, we can hopefully stop the screeching and start the teaching.

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Screeching in the rain: are the cats and dogs really worth it?