Tidy Tips Mountains and Dunes in Northern Mojave Runner Along Santa Ana River Flooded Dry Lake in Mojave Desert Brittlebush in Rain Railroad Bridge Over Mojave River Carrizo Plain and Caliente Range Canyon Three Years After the Fire This Is Not a Mirage Wildflowers in the Mojave Desert
Sag Pond in San Andreas Rift Zone California Poppies Ladybug Mating Season Coast Live Oak in Orange County Snowpack in San Gabriel Mountains Click images to enlarge Desert Rapids Wildflowers on Central California Backroad Dune Sprouts Green Countryside

Record Rainfall: Water and Wildflowers in Southern California


The rainfall season from July 1, 2004 to June 30, 2005 broke records throughout Southern California. In Long Beach, 29.36 inches of rain exceeded the 27.26 inches that fell in 1977-78. Pasadena's 56.4 inches crushed the 46.6 in 1982-83. Annual rainfall records were also set in Oxnard (30.93 inches) and Death Valley (6.44 inches).

The rain caused flooding, traffic, and symptoms of depression. Mudslides in La Conchita in Ventura County buried ten people alive. Landslides in Laguna Beach destroyed a hillside of uninsured multimillion-dollar homes—including the lots underneath them. A saddening amount of waste washed into wetlands and onto beaches.

Despite these calamities, many humans rooted for more records to fall, especially in Los Angeles, where the 1883-84 record of 38.18 inches nonetheless managed to survive by less than an inch.

And the consensus among other species is that the abundant rain was a good thing. Seeds laying dormant in the desert—some for more than a decade—bursted into life and bloom. On Catalina Island, botanist Jenny McCune rediscovered a grass species thought extinct there since 1912. Further up the food chain chuckwallas, ladybugs, and coyotes found food and water more easily, with time and energy left over to reproduce.

I was fortunate to be able to take several trips throughout the region during this time, and the show on hand turned this landscape photographer into a nature photographer, at least for a season.