May 2015 went down as the second wettest May in San Diego’s recorded history with 2.39 inches of rain.
To put that into perspective, May normally gets about one-tenth of an inch of rain.
To put it into better perspective, I grew up in Texas where afternoon thunderstorms often dropped three or four inches of rain….
….IN ONE DAY!
I have been through many hurricanes which brought lots of rain, of course, but I also was in two afternoon thunderstorms which dropped over seven inches of rain in one hour.
The first was at the Texas A&M University-Baylor football game in College Station in 1973, my freshman year. The skies were clear and sunny when halftime arrived. The teams went to their locker rooms as thunder clouds rolled through. By the time halftime was over, the field was flooded and the stadium was half empty because no one had brought umbrellas. It had been clear and sunny all morning!
By the time they got the field drained and the second half started, it was clear and sunny again. Sheesh. No wonder why I love San Diego’s weather!
One of the fascinating things about San Diego’s weather is the creation of vernal pools when it rains. They are not difficult to find but you do have to know what you’re looking for. Here’s the largest vernal pool I have yet to find in San Diego:
I didn’t hear you.
You’ll have to speak up.
You say it looks like a giant mud puddle?
You’re exactly right!
That’s a mud puddle.
Visitors to San Diego often wonder why the mud puddles aren’t drained and the area landscaped….
When I was young and living in Kingsville, Texas, with my wise old grandmother, I used to go out in my rain coat and play in the mud puddles. I’d come back all wet, leading my wise old grandmother to chastise me for getting all wet because I would catch a cold. Not sure if I ever caught a cold but I sure had fun playing in those mud puddles!
This mud puddle, er, I mean vernal pool, is at Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, California’s most popular state park. When I first came across it, there was a young boy, probably about six or seven, standing in the mud puddle—Oh, dear me. I mean vernal pool, of course—yelling at his mommy, “Look, mommy! Look!” He was so proud standing there in the midst of the water. Mommy, on the other hand, was aghast, and considering that she was trying hard to keep her four young ones close to her, I think she was exasperated, too.
Vernal pools provide habitat for plants and animals, very distinctive plants and animals. The pools are a type of wetland usually devoid of fish, thus allowing the safe development of amphibian and insect species unable to withstand predation by fish.
Mud puddles—Ooops. There I go again.—vernal pools are created by local surface runoff. You can see the erosion from the runoff in this picture:
Once the sun comes out, the water quickly evaporates and the soil is desiccated. According to Wikipedia, they are called vernal pools because they are at their maximum depth in the vernal season, i.e., the spring.
Once the pools are filled with water, they quickly teem with life—frogs and toads, salamanders, daphnia, fairy shrimp, and tadpole shrimp being the most common.
The Conservancy Fairy Shrimp (Branchinecta conservation) is a species that only exists in California. It ranges in size from ½ inch to 1 inch (picture ►), and since it is an endangered species, you’ll often hear about construction projects in California being brought to a halt because it rained, created some vernal pools, and biologists found Conservancy Fairy Shrimp. Only in California can multi-billion-dollar projects come to a screeching halt due to a few half-inch long creatures that are born, live, breed, and die in a matter of days.
Remember that little boy standing in the vernal pool (Nah! He was standing in a mud puddle!) that I mentioned earlier? Imagine all of the little creatures that he had just stomped to death. A serial killer, he will be….
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