This is Kevin Roderick with LA Observed for KCRW.
To live in the Los Angeles area means we submit our lives to the control of a greater power. And I don’t mean Hollywood.
There are actually two great natural influences that shape Southern California: the Pacific Ocean, of course, and plate tectonics in the form of the San Andreas Fault.
Both are fickle friends, as we’re all being reminded this summer.
We have the Pacific to thank for the cooler than normal air that’s been the talk of the town ever since the calendar rolled over to summer.
Inland, there’s still been enough hot days to make having a swimming pool in the backyard a nice luxury. But we haven’t seen the record-breaking swelters that make people wonder why they ever moved to Woodland Hills or Chino.
The only records set this summer have been on the low end. For most people, the oven has just been pleasantly turned down a notch.
At the beach, though, the chill has been relentless. In the communities that face Santa Monica Bay, the marine layer and a steady breeze have kept things cool on all but a relative few glorious days.
There’s nothing epic or sinister about it. It’s all just part of the cycle.
Our climate, as always, is influenced by jet streams out of Siberia and subtle oscillations in the ocean temperature down below the equator.
And pretty much everything in between.
Scientists who keep an eye on the tropics have decided that El Nino conditions have ended for the moment. They’re now observing a La Nina effect, which if it holds should mean less rain over the next year or so.
And of much more significance, a lighter snowpack in the Sierras and local mountains. So on the one hand the Pacific gives, on the other it takes away.
Or both at the same time. Surfers and beachgoers are seeing more sharks, of the scary great white variety and the less cinematic leopard species.
And boaters have enjoyed an absolutely remarkable summer for observation of blue whales – the world’s largest mammals.
The whales are chasing krill into the local waters and can be seen spouting and diving every day.
One large pod has set up outside L.A harbor, which means they’re also showing up injured, or worse, from collisions with ships.
Showing us, again, that the Pacific is a force bigger than all of us.
You could say the same for the San Andreas, the long crack in the earth that separates the coast from North America, geologically speaking, and gives California it’s distinctive bend on the map.
A fresh look at the data has led seismologists to conclude, with renewed confidence, that we’re overdue for a big earthquake.
The kind of quake event that wakes everybody up here on the Pacific plate, where we hang out across the fault from the continent where the rest of the U.S. lives.
If nothing else, the study gives us all more advance warning, a nudge to keep an earthquake kit at home and in the car.
It’s just part of the deal we sign on to here, squeezed between the ocean and North America.
Go to KCRW.com/LAObserved if you want to tell us what you think, about this or any of my columns.
For KCRW, this has been Kevin Roderick with LA Observed.