Celebrating Summer Solstice at Sea Ranch usually means enjoying our fog-laden natural Air Conditioning. However not today. High temperature today at 4PM is expected to be 80º😱
At least today there will be some winds to assist in cooling the house with cross ventilation.
Nature’s Air Conditioning Down
More and more it seems that nature’s air conditioning that all along the California coast relied on is failing with climate change. The hottest temperature ever recorded at Sea Ranch was 97ºF. In most locations in California homes are equipped for intense summer heat with air conditioning.
But here on the coast we rarely worry about such heat, always relying on the fog bank that is coaxed onto shore by the interior’s rise of increasing summer’s heat. As the rising sun heats up the inland areas, the fog bank lingering overnight out on the horizon rolls onto land in the morning. As the air warms on the land rises the foggy air that’s hanging out above the ocean is drawn in to fill the space. Our summer winds create upwelling, fog forms over the cold water, summer sun heats the air above the land and makes it rise, and the fog gets sucked in…until lately.
It seems more and more our precious on shore fog bank has packed up its bag and is on vacation too.
Decline of Our Essential Foggy Days
Many scientists believe that the decline in our coastal foggy days is the one more casualty of global warming. Analysis by Todd Dawson and James A. Johnstone at the University of California, Berkeley in 2010, offered the most comprehensive data on fog patterns along the Pacific coast. Shockingly it showed that on average, fog has decreased about 30 percent in the past 60 years. Historically, the fog season would last from June to October, but more recently it often doesn’t start until July.
Importance of Fog as a Natural Alternatives to Air Conditioning
Several kinds of coastal forest, shrub, and desert ecosystems strongly rely on coastal marine fog in many parts of the world. Its Higher humidity, direct water and nutrient inputs, and lower temperatures aid to reduce plant evapotranspiration stress, increases more photosynthesis, and increased soil metabolism. As a result it leads to higher ecosystem productivity.
Plants Rely on Fog
Several kinds of coastal forest, shrub, and desert ecosystems are strongly associated with coastal marine fog in many parts of the world. Coastal redwoods and 80% of their understory species including swordferns (Polystichum munitum (Kaulf.) C. Presl), California bay (Umbellularia californica (Hook. & Arn.) Nutt., huckleberry (Vaccinium ovatum Pursh), and Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii (Mirbel) Franco) have evolved to move water from coastal moisture directly into their tissues through leaf pores and surfaces using direct foliar uptake.
Research on California Coastal Redwoods
Dawson’s 2010 research largely focused on coastal redwoods showing the impact of lessened fog on the ancient giants. These marvelous giants especially relies on the coastal fog bank for its nutritional moisture. However, as the fog bank slowly disappears, results in the gradual reduction of redwood growth in areas on the edge of the misty zones such as Sea Ranch. Small redwood trees are already dying on the edges while larger trees’s growth are showing signs of distress and compromise. This results in a thinning of their canopies.
People Rely on Fog too
“Fog is our natural air conditioner, and it also provides water to certain kinds of vegetation and streams. The future of fog is going to be critical to understanding what may happen with climate change.”
Lisa Micheli, Pepperwood Preserve
Dwight Center for Conservation Science
“In the ‘50s, coastal California, Santa Cruz included, was getting about 12 hours of fog every fog season, per day,” Dawson said. “Now it’s gone to about nine hours a day.
Understanding fog’s influence on patterns of patterns of vegetation distribution, wildfire severity, and stream temperature requires better data. California has already warmed between 1 and 2 degrees Fahrenheit since 1900. On-going research continues on fog dynamics and the effect of fog on ecosystems by USGS and partners across a wide range of scientific disciplines. That research includes remote sensing, mathematical, physical, and hydrologic models, and both marine and terrestrial observations.
How to Survive a Fog-less Summer at Abalone Bay
At Abalone Bay, ventilation fans are located in the bedroom closets as well as the small square closet next to the kitchen opposite the dining room table.
Solution Summer Solstice Heat
The solution to rising heat today in Abalone Bay is to create cross-flow ventilation. Abalone Bay currently relies on our coastal fog and onshore breezes for our air conditioning system. This has worked well for decades. Traditionally, (before climate change was a thing) a hot day on the coast was as high as 75º. More recently temperatures have begun to climb as high as 90º or more 😱.
Keep the House Shaded
Cooling our house through natural ventilation requires methodically closing windows, doors and shades during the heat of day and opening them at night to let in the cool air. Natural ventilation relies on outdoor wind and the “chimney effect” to cool a house. The chimney effect occurs when cool air enters a home, absorbs heat in the room, rises, and exits through the windows. This creates a partial vacuum, which pulls more air in through lower-level windows.
*WARNING: On occasion raccoons may try to enter the house looking for a midnight snack or a soft bed. Be sure all food (yours and your pet’s) is put away and the screen doors are locked if you choose to leave doors open. They may also try to tear the screens to enter.
The best way to keep the heat in the house from rising just as high is to lower the shades and open the windows as you notice the temperature rising as the sun travels east to west. The good thing is while the shades do provide screening from the heat they still offer viewing to the outside.
As the sun begins to dip in the west you will note (hopefully) the onshore winds pick up- our form of AC. This usually begins around 3-4 PM. So hopefully relief from the heat will follow.
Natural Alternatives to Air Conditioning
Using natural air conditioning means to cool our house down as the heat index rises. As you sense the temperatures rise we recommend the following actions for your home. When you visit Abalone Bay we send our guests these following tips with specific directions as it relates directly to our house.
Follow these five steps to help keep your home cool.
Open the window in the room(s) that you want to ventilate. If the room has windows or doors positioned on opposite walls, open those windows as well. For the bedrooms, it will mean leaving the doors open.
Determine which window allows the wind to blow into your room (usually on the west side of the house). You can use the wind to enhance natural ventilation, along with your fans.
Place an electric fan in front of the window where the breeze enters, pointing into the room. You can use a standard tall fan on a stand or place a box fan on a table or TV tray in front of the window.
Place a second fan pointing out of the window or door on the other side of the room. While it seems counter-intuitive to blow air out of the room, this will create a circulation through one window and out the other. You can also use a window exhaust fan to achieve this.
Turn on the fans to ventilate your room. The wind will blow into one window, through the fan into the room, then through the second fan and out the window, creating a continuous motion that will cool the room.