Huntington Botanical Gardens and El Niño Watch 2016

We didn’t waste any time sweeping up the last of the Christmas tree needles and putting the once beautiful and festive evergreen outdoors,  ready for disposal. And it would be equally helpful if someone would please come in and take the rest of the baked goods out as well. A very good idea!

Chores done, or at least managed, and I’ve been reading a new book by Cynthia Barnett, “Rain, A Natural and Cultural History.”

The term “rain science” is new to me, but this book is interesting, especially after several years of drought. Here on the west coast we are being told to anticipate a “Godzilla-sized” El Niño–soon I won’t have to rely on just reading about rain!

And if we really do have as much rain as predicted, how will Mr. El Niño affect our daily routines? I don’t even own a pair of rain boots!

For months now I’ve been reading about a marked population increase in marlin, yellowtail, wahoo, yellow and blue fin tuna. Some reports indicate that currently Southern California waters have more sports fish than the Gulf of Mexico.

Conversely, however, Southern California’s warmer waters are forcing out other species. Anchovies and sardines have moved north, and currently the seal and sea-lion populations are severely challenged, with predictions they’ll be threatened.. The mothers are traveling further distances looking for food and the pups are starving.

Then sea snakes! Three of them, so far!

The presumption is that El Niño conditions have enticed  these highly venomous  black-and-yellow  sea snakes to leave the coasts of Mexico and migrate to Southern California beaches. It’s been 30 years since these guys have made a local public appearance. I don’t think we want them to stay.

I love weather-related science, and I make a point of following the discussions as often as I can, which means, when the science is brought down to my level of comprehension, I pay close attention.

I’m planning to chronicle this new year as our “El Niño Event” Year, using the Huntington Botanical Gardens as my weekly “weather marker.” I’ll see what I observe and report here.

On the last day of 2015 Jay and I took Sophia and Karina to the Huntington Botanical Gardens and I quickly snapped just a few photos. It was sunny and warm, or warm-“ish.” I say “ish” because I’m always cold if the temperature dips below 70 degrees. I can’t offer any particular excuse, I just wear a coat and try to blend in.

Tourists and out-of-state visitors in town for the Rose Bowl game were walking around in shorts and t-shirts. The weather was very much like every other December 31st I’ve ever known. Dry and beautiful.


The colors are subdued in part because it’s December, but also, this newer section is planted  with drought tolerant naturals, which includes several grasses. The water lilies in the pond, colorful in summer, are also now dormant. And no sign of rain, December 31, 2015.

The Chinese garden still looks quite beautiful for a late December landscape. Will a few steady months of rain produce deeper summer color?

Strategically placed outdoor heaters are protecting the Barrel Cactus and the Aloe principis. We’ve recently had lower daytime and some night time temperatures than New York City, but if they don’t freeze, the succulents and cacti stay quite colorful even in winter.

I have been closely observing the beautifully maintained Huntington gardens throughout the drought and now I’m eager to see how steady rain brings changes.

If you haven’t already completely tuned out the bombardment of  “calamitous predictions” peppering the airwaves, you might find this visual mini-El Niño global pattern explanation interesting. Very recent tornadoes and flooding in the south and midwest are highly dramatic and sobering reminders that weather instability is part of a much larger system than just what we’re poised to experience in the west.

We’ve had El Niño years before and this won’t be the last. But recent technology has made the tracking more precise and the reports much more interesting. If “too much” rain later dampens my interest in chronicling a field study,  please feel free to remind me that this past summer I promised I would never again complain about rain.

And to each of you, a wish for a peaceful and healthy new year. If jabbering on about the weather is our biggest concern, I predict a very good year!



44 thoughts on “Huntington Botanical Gardens and El Niño Watch 2016

  1. We went to the South Coast gardens yesterday after our preferred destination, Del Cerro, was discovered to have not a single free parking spot for at least a mile. I didn’t expecr much, but it was lovely … and so quiet! We could only rarely hear city sounds.

    Looking at your Huntington pictures, I might take the boys there next–beautiful!

    • I’m glad that we can share information, Deborah, because I’m not familiar with Del Cerro! I am going to look that up. I think a lot of people from outside Southern California see our general congestion and would be surprised at how many dedicated green spaces and protected lands and gardens we have. The Huntington is a wonderful place to walk through the gardens and enjoy the art galleries and much of it is very child friendly. The children’s garden is a hit with my granddaughters and I am sure your boys would enjoy. Can’t you just imagine how our kids (grandkids) are going to need to get out an run if we have days and days of rainy-day school schedules? Oh my! 🙂

  2. Jabber on . . . we, here under the big shoulders of Chicago, are complaining because it is cold. Of course, it is always cold as the new year rises hereabouts, but, we like to complain. It is the one sport we always win at. tee hee I’ve had far too many sweets to not be silly, so, forgive me, Debra, and thank you for the tour on the Huntington gardens.
    I have been hearing that water is the big issue for several years now; not only in CA, but, across the land. I can remember another El Niño year, one in which we gave the girls cross-country skis, which they never got to use.
    We joke here, especially of some of church friends, who hail from your area, that wear shorts with winter coats. 🙂
    Your book book sounds interesting. Is it just relative to California, or the wider sphere? Sounds like something I’d be interested in, though right now I’m burying my nose in silly holiday mysteries, whose ending I can predict from the get-go, but, keep reading in front of our trees, which are still up and still eating up energy.
    Happy New Year, Debra.

    • Honestly, Penny, when I have followed Chicago’s winter weather I have always thought I would be in pain. LOL! I am sure your home is better insulated than ours and you definitely have a winter’s wardrobe, but just navigating would be something very tricky. I am at least hopeful that this year you won’t experience the “deep freeze” of the last two years. You do deserve a break! I typically can only talk about weather from my own experience, but I am very, very mindful of what others experience around the globe. The recent tornadoes and the flooding have just left me very humbled. We complain a LOT about the inconveniences of not enough water, but I see the disaster of too much and I choke up at the loss and the fear. The book, “Rain,” is definitely very interesting and not at all confined to weather in the western United States. Take a peek at the link on the blog. It’s a review that you’d really find informative and I highly recommend it. I haven’t read to the end yet, but it’s definitely held my interest. We deserve some of those baked goods, don’t you think? ox

  3. I laughed at your description of cold (below 70). I could be a Californian because I am freezing when it’s below 72! The thing that save me is that I have all the flannel and fleece clothes that typically cold northeastern people buy whether we ski or not! I do hope you get the right kind of rain without deaths and damages. Stay warm!

    • You make me feel better about my affront to cold, Kate. I am teased at work because the air conditioning runs (no matter what) and most days I don’t take my coat off once! I walk around all day in a coat. I’m very stylish. LOL! I am fairly certain that where we live the only real concern about the rain will be commutes. The freeways are becoming more and more unbearable even in good weather, so rain would make them just awful, but we’ll find a way to adjust our routes or maybe just stay home! 🙂 There are many areas that will be vulnerable to near-disaster conditions, but I always think of people living with the reality of tornadoes, hurricanes or frequent floorings. There are natural disasters everywhere. And we’ve had months and months to prepare for this weather condition. I am refusing to complain. I hope I can keep good on that intention! 🙂

    • Nancy, the Huntington is worth your time and I think you’d enjoy it, but you’re familiar with that crazy commute from Orange County up to the Pasadena area. If you ever have the time, let me know and I’ll meet you. I would love that. Happiest of New Years, my friend.

  4. I don’t own rain boots as we seldom get a gutter-busting deluge, but I do own a couple of pairs of waterproof GoreTex shoes!

    Although El Nino normally portends a warmer, drier winter here in Washington, we’re having a very rainy winter here so far, along with well-above normal snow in our mountains. However, we too are seeing an influx of rare (for us) species. We had two brown pelicans here yesterday, which is an almost unheard-of event for this far north.

    • Happy New Year, Lori. I didn’t actually realize that a typical El Niño means warmer and drier in Washington. Perhaps I’ve just been paying more attention this “go-round” and I was aware of all the rain you’re getting. I think we’re in for an interesting winter and spring, and who knows what we’ll think about it by mid-year! I hope we capture some of that rain and it all doesn’t wash out to the ocean! I have never heard of brown pelicans traveling that far north! That must have been so surprising to you. Let me know from time to time if you see any other interesting species. I think it’s the birds and animals that most concern me, and fascinate me as well. I think I’m going to look into the waterproof GoreTex shoes. I definitely need something. 🙂

  5. That was a nice clear explanation – looks a little scary and I just hope people are able to take precautions to minimize damage. It will be interesting to see the changes in the landscape and particularly the botanical garden over the next few months. You should have asked Santa for rainboots. LOL! Take care Debra, and Happy New Year!

    • I’m glad you enjoyed the video, Cathy. It is so easy to become completely absorbed in how the changes in weather patterns affect “home base,” but I think it is much more interesting to be aware of global patterns. I remember when an Australian friend reminded me a few years ago that an El Niño in the northern hemisphere meant dry, hot seasonal climates in the southern, and she was very concerned about the increase in wildfires. We’ll just have to wait and see, I think, but I am preparing as much as we possibly can. I am very glad we took care of our leaky roof a couple of years ago. Happy New Year, my friend. I’ll enjoy sharing some photos from the botanical gardens this year. I hope my observations will prove interesting. 🙂

    • Do you have any “snake-like” species that come on to your shores, Nancy? I have only been to Florida once, but it was summer and we spent a lot of time on the beaches. The water is so much warmer than our Pacific Ocean beaches and I loved that. I think you probably have some beautiful fish–I definitely noticed more colorful shells, as well, but hopefully no poisonous sea snakes. LOL!

    • I think that “weather watch” this winter is going to be very, very interesting. We’ll all have to test our resilience. But to your comment about too much rain, believe me, as much as I want rain, I have been thinking about what it could mean if we have the abundance that is predicted. I make a lot of jokes about it and treat the subject somewhat lightly, but I can hardly imagine it. I am very concerned about simple things like getting to work. Our highways have big issues when it rains hard and this could be challenging. But we’ll see. 🙂 I hope a milder winter is welcomed your way, Colleen. I have had some friends a bit unhappy that they haven’t had their typical winter snow. LOL!

      • I have missed winter….but with all that’s going on here, it’s probably for the best.

        And I do understand the troubles with an abundance of rain. We’ve had some rain, and then some more rain, then-it rained a little more. And we lived in a swamp. And our roof decided it didn’t like the rain either and let some in! So yeah, too much rain is not good either.

        I hope it’s just the right amount of rain !!

  6. Hi Debra! Loved this post and your photos! Definitely feeling the effects of a “naughty little boy” in my state of Ohio! Have had really warm weather as of late, but it has turned much cooler recently. But still no snow, and from what I gather, El Nino means lower precipitation for us, so I guess we’ll see! All the best to you in 2016! 🙂

    • Happy New Year to you, Kelly! I love your “naughty” comment! I have been watching weather patterns across the states while talking to friends living in the midwest and northeast. I remember watching the New Years Eve coverage a year ago and observing that the crowds looked absolutely frozen. This past week the same crowds were comfortable, wearing average layers of warmth and it was noticeably mild. To be honest, after the terrible freezes and rains of the last couple of years I am hoping that that the warmer Pacific waters bring a milder winter your way! So you just enjoy! 🙂 I do think we will definitely have some surprises this winter. We’ll test our resilience. 🙂

  7. All I can say is…70 degrees on New Year’s Eve?!?! Haha…I don’t even remember what that feels like…we are tucking in for winter now 🙂

    Happy New Year! xoxo

    • To be fair, Stacey, I don’t think we were “all the way” to 70 degrees. I think it might have been in the high 60’s. hahaha! Does that sound a little less “in your face?” I don’t know how an Arizona-California girl gets used to REAL winter. I and sure that you and DooHwa are going to continue to experience many “firsts” this year, and some of them may be defined by crazy weather patterns and learning new driving and navigating skills. Happiest of new years to you both, Stacey. I hope that Christmas was just wonderful. ox

      • Haha I’m not sure either but it’s definitely happening! It’s truly amazing how the human body is able to acclimate to surroundings…to be fair the first winter I was here was mild…only 2 snow storms (or so the locals say!). Not sure how this winter will fare…but driving is a totally new experience when there are icy roads! Don’t get me started on turning corners and simultaneously having the entire car slid a foot or two over as it turns…yeah that’s when I turn the wheel over to my husband or have him drive everywhere 😉 Hope you had a blessed Christmas and New Year’s as well!

  8. Thank you Debra for all the useful weather information. It was colder here in Santa Cruz . The next time I’m in Orange County I hope to visit the Huntington Botanical Garden.

  9. Hi Debra, I always enjoy your blog! Happy New Year to you and your family!
    We are very hopeful that El Niño will make lots of rain for us! I appreciate every drop.
    Hope all is well for y’all. 💜

  10. The Huntington Botanical Gardens were gorgeous, Debra. I like the names Sophia and Marina. I liked that water stream flowing blue with pretty plants snd the mountain in the blue skies background! 🙂 I also liked the cacti and your description of what weather has been doing. In other words, creating havoc among wildlife! This is too bad about the baby sea lions or seals. I hope you have a great beginning of the year with many special, joyful moments. 🙂

  11. The footage on your video is very much what is being experienced in many parts of Britain right now, Debbie, and it’s heart breaking for many. I slid into your post breathing deeply because that is a wonderful header photo. 🙂 My ears pricked up at the mention of the stroll in the Botanical gardens and I wondered if you might have a walk here for me. Then I went on to think that my friend Jude, at Travel Words, is starting a Garden Photography challenge today and she will certainly be interested in your blog. So many thoughts! I’m going in circles again! 🙂 🙂

  12. Debra, I too get cold below 68, which is a problem where I live in the midwest. Our furnace stays higher than it probably should because of that. I dream of living in Southern California someday.

    Look forward to your posts about the El Nino year. Have a happy and cozy warm new year!

  13. Pingback: Jo’s Monday walk : Newstead Abbey | restlessjo

  14. El Niño has brought us milder temperatures, to be sure, and I was one of many that were thankful for the delay in winter’s arrival. Even so, when my garden’s bulbs started to sprout during the days preceding Christmas, that’s when my jokes stopped. Bulbs aside, fruit trees don’t handle this “confused” weather pattern very well. If I want my cherry pie in July, I have to put up with some cold and white stuff now. Do remind me of that last statement, Debra, when I write that I’ve just spent an hour pushing the snowblower up and down my street. 🙂
    Wishing you, Debra, and your family much joy and peace in the new year.

    • I really enjoy hearing about the changes you’ve seen in your garden, John. I really understand the feelings of confusion that comes when on one hand we are enjoying either warmer or wetter weather, but in contrast we watch our gardens struggling with the same confusion. I have no idea what to expect in y garden this year. I really can’t imagine. It has been so “sad” for the last two years at least. No rain and water restrictions have just been devastating to some of my more delicate plants. Now if we have as much rain as we are expecting I’m not sure I won’t have a completely different kind of mess. It’s really going to be a learning experience. I’ll tell you what I’m most concerned about. Our dog, Zena. I have no idea how we are going to cope with a big, wet dog indoors. I am so completely inexperienced in this area. I suspect that is going to try my patience the most. 🙂

  15. I think we must be experiencing El Nino – it’s been raining for days and flooding in parts of Sydney. How quickly the festive season came and went and when I went for a walk yesterday (in the rain!) I saw a lot of Christmas trees on nature strips waiting to be collected. If and when El Nino arrives, I do hope it doesn’t cause you to be swamped with those awful sea snakes! They terrify me! The photos of the gardens look to me to have plenty of colour and what a beautiful place to take a stroll xx

    • It’s going to be an interesting season of erratic weather patterns, I think, Charlie. Years ago someone told me that when El Niño brings heavy rain to the northern hemisphere, the southern hemisphere experiences drought. THat doesn’t sound at all like what you’re describing, so that must not be factual. Flooding in Sydney really does indicate a lot of rain! We had a full day of rain here today and it was absolutely delicious, but if it goes on for too long I suppose we’d better be prepared for almost anything, right? Happy New Year, my friend.

  16. 81% of December days were above normal in Cincinnati … yep .. .El Nino gets the credit. But I hope your area gets the rain .. then again, the rain also means mudslides, then vegetation growth followed by a drought that leads to fires. What a circle of events!

    • It rained all day today, Frank, and we have two more storms lined up right behind this one. I hadn’t seen rain like this in such a long time. It was quite exciting. 🙂 It would be so nice if we had long, protracted gentle rain that gently percolated into the water table, but I suspect a lot of this is headed right out to the ocean. I think it will be an interesting winter. 🙂 And wouldn’t it be nice if your winter was a little milder as well! Here’s hoping!

      • Some rain is better than none, and a storm is better than a drizzle … but yes, a light, steady rain is much more beneficial. Good luck out there!

  17. I hope you did get a pair of rain boots to keep your toes warm & dry Debra with all the rain we had and more to come. Yikes, that snake I never would imagine seeing that creature on the beach! With a pair of rain boots though we might just be okay walking along the beach. I can’t imagine seeing one IN the water, good thing I don’t go into the Pacific. Enjoy the rain!

    • I do hope the snakes continue to be rare! We sure don’t need that. Can you even imagine. Yikes! And I ordered some rainboots online, and despite the sizing recommendations, they were just too big. I’m sending them back and think this may need to be an in-store purchase. I was trying to be very economical, but this may be the year to just make a good purchase. I’m confident whatever I purchase should last for life. There are just so many other kinds of shoes I’d prefer purchasing! LOL!

  18. A belated Happy New Year to you, Debra. I’m so sorry for my long absence, but I’m finally getting around to a mammoth catch-up. I’ve been watching what is happening in your part of the world with interest since the weather here calmed down a bit. El Nino is having effects all over the world. I love your photos of the Huntington Botanical Gardens and look forward to following your series of posts on them.

    • I’m so glad to see you “here” today, because I have missed you! I have been much more sporadic myself lately, and I have thought of you and wondered if you’d been posting and I just missed them somehow! Perhaps we’ll both be a bit more regular and on track, but it’s true for all of us that ometimes there is just only so much time and it doesn’t expand. Thank you so much for stopping by today and sharing. It was delightful to hear from you. 🙂

I always enjoy hearing from you!

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