My neighborhood woke up to blue skies. That’s rare, because while much of America swelters, San Francisco remains an exception. What is nature telling us?
This year, the West established record high temperatures: Death Valley 130, Las Vegas 117, Portland 115, Seattle 108. At my house, we chill in the mid-50s.
We like to think San Francisco is charmed. Warm winds blowing in from the Pacific hit a cold ocean current off the City. This generates our famous, cooling fog.
Living in the Richmond District in northwest San Francisco, I can go days, weeks, indeed most of the summer without seeing the sun. Sixty degrees translates to shorts weather.
Fortunately, sunshine remains close by. Carolyn and I spent four days at the Calistoga Spa in the northern Napa Valley. We used cool mornings—fog extends inland for a while—to take long walks on a nearby mountain trail or through town. Afternoon temperatures hit the 80s—perfect for hanging out around the pool in the shade and taking dips. One day, the temperature hit 94. Hot! But swims and an air-conditioned room kept us comfortable until evening temperatures went down with the sun.
Chilly—and windy—as San Francisco is, residents enjoy outdoor activity year-round. I walk four to five miles a day. Rain? I put on raingear and waterproof boots. Those rare warm days? Few San Franciscans have air-conditioning. When needed, Carolyn and I turn on a fan in any room.
As to climate change, San Francisco hardly is off the hook. Drought plagues the West. The City’s rainfall this past rainy season (November 1—April 15) was 39% of normal. Yet I’m optimistic—short-term.
For the last two years, our neighborhood experienced relatively little fog and wind. Winters seemed milder thanks to sunshine and air miraculously still. The previous two summers offered mostly blue skies, again with little or no wind.
But nothing lasts forever. This past April, the wind came roaring back from the Pacific two miles from our house. Fog again casts a gray pall over the neighborhood most days and nights. This leads me to an unscientific prediction: Rainfall will return to near normal this coming season.
Given the massive wildfires charring the West (80 in 13 states), decent rain might provide some relief in 2022. Now, as the fires rage, San Francisco is pretty much shielded, but we again can anticipate air filled with smoke.
We also know that the next “Big One” will strike eventually. I remember the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. I took my oldest child, Seth, to game one of the Giants-A’s World Series at Candlestick Park. Just before first pitch, I heard excited feet stomping on concrete. Or thought I did. You hear a quake before you feel it. The upper deck, where we sat, began to sway. Fortunately, it didn’t collapse.
Hopefully, the Big One won’t hit soon. But as I chill under the heat dome, I maintain a sense of perspective. Neither God nor nature favors San Francisco.
In that respect, I heed the words of the Chassidic Rabbi Simcha Bunim (ca. 1765–1827): We should keep a note in each of two pockets. One reminds us that “The world was created for me” (Talmud Sanhedrin 37B). The other, “I am but dust and ashes” (Genesis 18:27).
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