Rescued By The Pineapple Express

Shasta DamIt’s either feast or famine.

Feast refers to a large meal, especially one that celebrates something, like a wedding. Famine refers a shortage (too little) of food, often so much so that people suffer or die because they do not have enough to eat.

Today we use the phrase feast or famine as a metaphor to talk about situations when there’s either too much of something or too little.

When I wrote about California’s drought (a long time with little or no rain) in 2014, it was three years old. It continued for three years more. Our water supply became dangerously low. Most of our reservoirs, large lakes for storing water, were nearly empty. So much of our underground water had been pumped out (purposely removed) that the ground above it dropped (fell down) in some places. The snow in the mountains that provides our water when it melts in spring and early summer didn’t come, and when it did, it didn’t last long. It was the driest five-year period (length of time) in almost 140 years. It was, you could say, a water famine.

Today, in contrast, we are experiencing a feast of water, almost too much water. Our water year – the date we begin to measure rain and snow each year – begins October 1. Since last October, Los Angeles has received more than 200% – twice as much – of the amount of rain we usually get during the first few months of our water year.

Our reservoirs aren’t full yet. But nearly all of them are at or above their average level – the amount of water they usually contain from one year to another for many years. The snowpack (snow that collects on the ground) is deeper than it has been; we’ll know how much deeper on April 1, when scientists measure it. One area, near Yosemite National Park, has received 20 to 30 feet (6 to 9 meters) of snow!

What happened? How did five of the driest years in history become one of the wettest? The answer, or at least part of it, is the Pineapple Express.

The atmosphere is the envelope (surrounding layer) of oxygen and other gases around the earth. In the atmosphere above the eastern Pacific Ocean, there’s a powerful air mass (large amount of) that often pushes winter rain and snow storms away from California. If it doesn’t break up (into pieces) or move, we don’t get rain or snow.

This year, this air mass has broken up, moved around, and opened the door for the Pineapple Express to bring rain and snow to California.

What is the Pineapple Express? Think of it as a river in the atmosphere that starts near Hawai’i – that’s why we call it the Pineapple Express, since pineapples are grown there. As it travels from Hawaii, it collects water which, when it arrives in California, becomes rain and snow storms that may last for several days, resulting in large amounts of rain and snow. This year the Pineapple Express has been busy.

If you’d like to see a good example of how much rain we’ve received, visit the KQED Science website, where you can look at satellite photos of three of our reservoirs. You can use your mouse or finger (on a tablet) to move the control back and forth to see how much water there was a year or two ago and how much there is today. I think you’ll agree: it looks like we may be moving . . . from famine to feast.

~ Warren Ediger – ESL coach/tutor and creator of the Successful English website.

Photo of Shasta Dam courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

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6 Responses to Rescued By The Pineapple Express

  1. Jose says:


    Great post about the weather conditions in California. I think about that because last year, here in Puerto Rico, the weather has been similar to this description about weather in California. In 2015 the weather conditions was dry with a very little rain as normal in this Tropical Island. In 2016 was a very wet weather and we had a lot of rain, almost every month from July to November. There’s from famine to feast transition!.



  2. emiliano says:

    North of Spain is green, rain is falling frequently so they don´t have problems about the water.
    The center of the country is dry and high, sumer is too hot and winter too cold, but
    here it is the place where Spain as a nation was founded by the King´s from Castilla, why?. Because there was wheat and wool, so Castilla was a prosperous land and
    water was not so necessary.
    The east is green in the North, Cataluña, but in the south it is not so green, these lands needs water as rain was limited.
    These lands on the east produce all king of fruit, vegetable, tomatoes, oranges, and so forth, had of Europe consume the vegetables, fruits and oranges that grew in these lands of Spain, so they need water as it could be gold.
    Muslims who lived in Spain for more than seven hundred years knew perfectly well how to irrigate the lands saving water and doing hundred of canals to irrigate so fertile part of the country.
    It is the lands close near to Mediterranean costs.

    Andalucia in the south it is equilibrated not been too green or either too dry.
    Muslins were living here just the same as in the east, hundred of years, so they
    know how to take advantage of the land resources. They create a fertile country
    and live a splendid life in Alandalus, as they called Andalucia or even Spain.

    Spanish blood is half from Muslims and half from Jews who lived here in Spain till the moment the Kings called Catholics, expels Jews and Muslims from Spain.
    Incredible big mistake together with the Inquisition foundation that persecuted all people who could be not Christian.

    After the Civil War here in Spain, the dictator Franco ordered to construct several
    reservoir to accumulate as much water as possible from the rivers, doing that the
    water problem was somehow less harmful that was before.

    Here in Madrid we have more than 13 water reservoir so despite the big city has
    more than 17 millions of people and another 6 millions of tourists there is not any problem about water.
    Even more, the water of Madrid could be one of the best water I have drink ever
    which ever place or city I have been or gone.

    Regards. emiliano

  3. emiliano says:

    Well the 17 millions of people are refereed to the Madrid Community of course not the city that could have six million in all the metropolitan area, being the down town the second city of Europe, first Berlin, second Madrid, third the City London and four Paris.

    It seems incredible, but it is true.


  4. Antonio Costa says:

    Same here in Brazil: raining cats and dogs everyday, which obliges me to take an umbrella with me everyday at work. I am feeling Charlie Chaplin waking on the streets.

    I remember that last year was raining very little…. and people was worried about the levels of the reservoirs.

    But not sure if what is causing this is an Express of some sort. Maybe is the Carnival Express! ;D

  5. emiliano says:

    It that the conflict is served as there is a big problem after few days of the Trump era;

    It is said that today the Constitution has prevailed.
    No one is above the law, not even the president, said Washington’s Attorney General Bob Ferguson after hearing the ruling.
    The prosecutor added that they expect President Trump to comply with this order and stop its application at the ports of entry to the country.
    The verdict signed by federal judge J. Robart prohibits federal workers across the country from enforcing Trump’s decree.
    Well, so many people against Trump´s order and now a federal judge said this
    President disposition about Muslim immigrant o visitors are out of legacy even
    it is not constitutional as for USA Laws.

    Even a Spanish nationality man born in Iran had to stay in Canada along two days because the plain touched the EE.UU. land.
    He went to Canada with some of his fellows of the Madrid´s University, but when they wanted to return to Spain he was forbidden to take the plain because the
    plain fly above Usa Lands.

    ¿What is going to happen?
    Nobody knows but it seems something not happy is going ahead.

    Just in this moment listening to the news I could hear that there are thousand of people manifestation in Paris, London, Berlin, Barcelona or Madrid but more people are in Melbourne or Sydney.


  6. emiliano says:

    Here in Spain electoral law it is a disaster, it is D’hondt law and I don´t like it at all.
    In EE.UU., as being by an indirect election, with the winner being determined by votes cast by electors of the Electoral College it could be as bad as here.
    Of course it is not may country or may be not my business also, but I do not like
    it alt all. It may be as bad as it is here in Spain.

    I prefer a person a vote and I do think it must be so.
    Nothing more.

    Last elections Hillary had 3 millions votes more than Trump but she is not the
    Just incredible.

    I do not understand anything, as the same like here where I think it is necessary
    to modify elections law…………a person a vote.


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