Valentine’s Day Gift-Giving the World Over

On Wednesday, February 14, many of us will shower our loved ones with cards, chocolates, flowers, and even expensive jewelry. The celebration of love as we know it, developed in 1861 when candy maker Richard Cadbury came up with the brilliant idea of selling chocolates in heart-shaped packages. Valentine’s Day has since evolved into one of the biggest consumer spending days of the year.

The National Retail Federation expects the 55% of Americans celebrating the holiday in 2018, to expend an average of $143.56 for a total of $19.6 billion, up from $18.2 billion last year. While buying gifts for the people we love is a great way to show our appreciation, it is not the only way. Here are some fun and unusual traditions from around the world.


Don’t expect to find Welsh citizens exchanging boxes of chocolates on February 14. The country’s residents associate the day of romance with Saint Dwynwen, the patron saint of lovers, and celebrate it, slightly earlier, on January 25. The tradition, which has been around since the 17th century, entails exchanging wooden love spoons that incorporate traditional symbols like hearts for love, horseshoes for good luck, and wheels to indicate support. The cutlery, which is now a popular choice of gift even for weddings, anniversaries, and births, is of course purely ornamental and not practical for daily use.


In Japan, Valentine’s Day is observed by women giving men one of two types of chocolates: “Giri-choco” (obligation chocolate), or “Honmei-choco.” The former is designed for friends, colleagues, and bosses, while Honmei-choco, which is usually homemade, is reserved for boyfriends and husbands. Men return the favor on White Day, which is celebrated a month later, on March 14, with gifts that range from flowers to chocolates and even jewelry, depending on the relationship. In addition to being white, the gifts are also traditionally worth three times the value of what the men received. It is therefore not surprising that other Asian countries like South Korea, Vietnam, China, and Hong Kong have also adopted this fun tradition.

South Africa

Along with going out for a romantic dinner, buying fragrant flowers, and being surrounded by images of Cupid, South African women also celebrate the popular holiday by wearing their hearts on their sleeves — literally. They pin the name of their sweetheart to their clothing, which is how some men discover their secret admirer.


The Danish who began celebrating Valentine’s Day relatively late, in the 1990s, have added their own twist to the holiday. Instead of exchanging roses and candies, friends and sweethearts give each other white flowers, called snowdrops. Men also give women an anonymous gaekkebrev, a “joking letter,” that contains a funny poem or rhyme. If the recipient can guess the name of the sender, she is rewarded with an Easter egg later in the year.

By Kim Bussing with


Welcome to Cleary Bros., Aaron Blau!

We’re happy to announce Aaron Blau has joined our Business Development Team!  Aaron is an East Bay Area native with 14+ years experience as a dynamic, reliable & highly talented sales professional. He is motivated, determined and brings with him a proven track record of success. Aaron will lead sales efforts to grow Cleary Bros. footprint in the South Bay. His diverse experience in sales, ability to drive growth and increase market share and capability in forging strong relationships make him a great addition to our team. When Aaron is not hard at work, he stays busy with his three kids. He enjoys coaching his two sons in youth football and his daughter in soccer.

New Study Reveals Strong El Niño Events Cause Large Changes in Antarctic Ice Shelves

El Nino Ice

A new study published Jan. 8 in the journal Nature Geoscience reveals that strong El Niño events can cause significant ice loss in some Antarctic ice shelves while the opposite may occur during strong La Niña events.

El Niño and La Niña are two distinct phases of the El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO), a naturally occurring phenomenon characterized by how water temperatures in the tropical Pacific periodically oscillate between warmer than average during El Niños and cooler during La Niñas.

The research, funded by NASA and the NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship, provides new insights into how Antarctic ice shelves respond to variability in global ocean and atmospheric conditions.


The study was led by Fernando Paolo while a PhD graduate student and postdoc at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego. Paolo is now a postdoctoral scholar at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Paolo and his colleagues, including Scripps glaciologist Helen Fricker, discovered that a strong El Niño event causes ice shelves in the Amundsen Sea sector of West Antarctica to gain mass at the surface and melt from below at the same time, losing up to five times more ice from basal melting than they gain from increased snowfall. The study used satellite observations of the height of the ice shelves from 1994 to 2017.

“We’ve described for the first time the effect of El Niño/Southern Oscillation on the West Antarctic ice shelves,” Paolo said. “There have been some idealized studies using models, and even some indirect observations off the ice shelves, suggesting that El Niño might significantly affect some of these shelves, but we had no actual ice-shelf observations. Now we have presented a record of 23 years of satellite data on the West Antarctic ice shelves, confirming not only that ENSO affects them at a yearly basis, but also showing how.”

The opposing effects of El Niño on ice shelves – adding mass from snowfall but taking it away through basal melt – were at first difficult to untangle from the satellite data. “The satellites measure the height of the ice shelves, not the mass, and what we saw at first is that during strong El Niños the height of the ice shelves actually increased,” Paolo said. “I was expecting to see an overall reduction in height as a consequence of mass loss, but it turns out that height increases.”

After further analysis of the data, the scientists found that although a strong El Niño changes wind patterns in West Antarctica in a way that promotes flow of warm ocean waters towards the ice shelves to increase melting from below, it also increases snowfall particularly along the Amundsen Sea sector. The team then needed to determine the contribution of the two effects. Is the atmosphere adding more mass than the ocean is taking away or is it the other way around?

“We found out that the ocean ends up winning in terms of mass. Changes in mass, rather than height, control how the ice shelves and associated glaciers flow into the ocean,” Paolo said.  While mass loss by basal melting exceeds mass gain from snowfall during strong El Niño events, the opposite appears to be true during La Niña events.

Over the entire 23-year observation period, the ice shelves in the Amundsen Sea sector of Antarctica had their height reduced by 20 centimeters (8 inches) a year, for a total of 5 meters (16 feet), mostly due to ocean melting. The intense 1997-98 El Niño increased the height of these ice shelves by more than 25 centimeters (10 inches). However, the much lighter snow contains far less water than solid ice does. When the researchers took density of snow into account, they found that ice shelves lost about five times more ice by submarine melting than they gained from new surface snowpack.

“Many people look at this ice-shelf data and will fit a straight line to the data, but we’re looking at all the wiggles that go into that linear fit, and trying to understand the processes causing them,” said Fricker, who was Paolo’s PhD adviser at the time the study was conceived. “These longer satellite records are allowing us to study processes that are driving changes in the ice shelves, improving our understanding on how the grounded ice will change,” Fricker said.

“The ice shelf response to ENSO climate variability can be used as a guide to how longer-term changes in global climate might affect ice shelves around Antarctica,”  said co-author Laurie Padman, an oceanographer with Earth & Space Research, a nonprofit research company based in Seattle. “The new data set will allow us to check if our ocean models can correctly represent changes in the flow of warm water under ice shelves,“ he added.

Melting of the ice shelves doesn’t directly affect sea level rise, because they’re already floating. What matters for sea-level rise is the addition of ice from land into the ocean, however it’s the ice shelves that hold off the flow of grounded ice toward the ocean.

Understanding what’s causing the changes in the ice shelves “puts us a little bit closer to knowing what’s going to happen to the grounded ice, which is what will ultimately affect sea-level rise,” Fricker said. “The holy grail of all of this work is improving sea-level rise projections,” she added.

Source: New Study Reveals Strong El Niño Events Cause Large Changes in Antarctic Ice Shelves | Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego

Scholarship Application information- Irrigation Association

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Source: Scholarship Application

Q & A: Is California In a Drought? Your Rain Questions Answered 

Jerry Brown Drought

While much of the country is buried in snow, California remains sunny and dry, with summer-like temperatures across much of the region. So are we in a drought? Why is it so dry? Has this happened before?

We’ve got answers.


Our current rain season started October 1. Since then we have picked up 0.12” of rain. This is only 2% of normal.


The La Niña pattern is partially to blame for this. There has been a strong blocking ridge of high pressure that has kept the jet stream pointed at the Pacific Northwest. Seattle currently sits above average with rainfall. Last season’s La Niña had the ridge in a different spot, so we were able to benefit from a more favorable jet stream position.


It is unlikely that we will reach our average rainfall of 14.93” for the season. There’s always a chance for a blockbuster January-March, but keep in mind that October to December accounts for 27% of the total rainfall in an average season. January-March accounts for 63% of the rain in an average year. Yes, on average 90% of our rain falls during a 6-month period.

What does that mean? Let’s say we get average rainfall for every month left in the season…we would only end up at 11.02” of rain.


We have had a dry start (less than 0.20” for Oct – Dec) 5 times before, the most recent being in 1990. The last time we had 0.12” or less was in 1962. In all 5 seasons, we ended up below average by the end of the season. Some good news though: in 4 of the seasons, we had at least 1 month with normal rainfall or better. In other words: it will rain again.


This part is hard to describe right now. We rely on the State Water Project that uses Lake Oroville as the main source. Right now Oroville is at a lower level due to spillway repairs and construction. I am not sure what this means for SoCal, but I’m sure the Department of Water Resources has a plan to use other reservoirs like Shasta and Folsom. Shasta is at 114% of average for this time of year, Folsom is currently at 119%.


It is too early to say. First we need to see where the rest of the season takes us. While unlikely, there is always a chance that we could recover with a very wet Janunary to March.

An important reminder though: drought is not only based on SoCal rainfall. Northern California has the majority of reservoirs and the bulk of the snowpack. While we have been exceptionally dry, places like Sacramento have at least seen some rain. Right now Sacramento rainfall is at 43% of normal.

One more important factor is the snowpack. Currently the Sierra Snowpack is at 28% of average. While rainfall can temporarily help reservoir levels, it’s the gradual melting of the snowpack that feeds all the streams into the reservoir system. There is plenty of time left to build up some snow in the mountains.

California goes through dry periods (usually 2-3 years long) bookended by 1 or 2 wet years. It is possible we are moving into a dry period.


Our recent fire activity can be blamed on 2 things: the current dry stretch, and the above average rainfall from last season. The wet season triggered plenty of new growth, but now much of that has dried out and turned into fuel. A similar pattern appeared in 2011 and 2012 with an increase in total acres burned by wildfires. This followed the very wet 2010-11 rain season.

6 of the 8 largest Southern California fires happened within 2 years of an above average rain season.

Get the latest from NB

Source: Q & A: Is California In a Drought? Your Rain Questions Answered – NBC Southern California