A comparison of California’s extreme 2013 dry spell to the 1976-1977 drought

Filed in Uncategorized by on December 22, 2013 445 Comments

Current weather summary

A weak cut-off low pressure system brought some convective shower activity to parts of Southern California earlier this week, and a few locations received rather heavy (if brief) downpours. Unfortunately, overall precipitation was very insignificant for a late-December weather system in California and most places north of Santa Barbara saw no precipitation whatsoever. High pressure has since been rebuilding over the West Coast, with generally clear conditions and increasingly warm temperatures (approaching record levels in some places). With no meaningful precipitation expected through December 31st, calendar year 2013 will be the driest year on record in the state of California.

20131217_west_trd

 

The extraordinary persistence of the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge of 2013

Zonal (west-to-east) flow typically predominates during the cool season in this region, which directs storm systems that develop over the ocean toward the West Coast. While the storm track does often vary in latitude along the West Coast over the course of any given winter, southward excursions of the jet stream usually bring periods of significant precipitation to much or all of California, which account for the vast majority of all precipitation observed in the state. 2013, however, has featured rather incredibly persistent atmospheric anomalies over the northeastern Pacific Ocean and the West Coast of North America. The typical zonal flow over the Pacific has been much weaker than average and displaced well to the north, occasionally as far north as continental Alaska. This means that the storm track has largely missed the West Coast entirely, bringing well-below-normal precipitation to California, Oregon, and Washington while parts of Alaska are subjected to record warmth and heavy precipitation.

2013 500 mb geopotential height anomaly. (NOAA/ESRL)

2013 500 mb geopotential height anomaly. (NOAA/ESRL)

The proximate cause of this highly anomalous high-latitude storm track over the Pacific–as I have discussed in previous posts–is the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge of 2013 (or the RRR, for brevity). This region of strong and incredibly persistent anomalous geopotential height ridging is centered over the Gulf of Alaska but extends across much of the northern and eastern Pacific Ocean, and has been a coherent and distinct feature of the large-scale atmospheric pattern for over a year (beginning in early December 2012). This persistent ridging has resulted in a flow pattern that has deflected existing Pacific storms well to the north of California and suppressed the development of other systems closer to the state. Persistent ridges that disrupt the prevailing westerly winds in the middle latitudes are often referred to as “blocking ridges” because of their propensity to impede and deflect typical atmospheric flow patterns, and the RRR is no exception.

2013 zonal wind anomaly. (NOAA/ESRL)

2013 zonal wind anomaly. (NOAA/ESRL)

merid_anom_12-13

2013 meridional wind anomaly. (NOAA/ESRL)

Because this blocking ridge and its associated poleward (south-to-north) wind anomalies are centered well offshore, California has generally been in the equatorward (north-to-south) wind anomaly region and thus an unusual amount of our weather events over the past year have originated to our north or even northeast over western Canada. These dry and windy “inside slider” disturbances, so named for their over-land trajectory to the east of the more typical coastal route, have been responsible for the numerous offshore flow events that have contributed to record high winter fire danger in northern and central California.

Two tales of extreme dryness: 2013 vs. 1976-1977

One of the most vivid historical examples of drought in California is the two year dry period spanning 1976 and 1977. Precipitation during each of these calendar years, and during the 1976-1977 water year in particular, was extremely low–these were two consecutive years in which statewide precipitation was ranked among the top five lowest ever recorded in California. The 1976-1977 drought is notable for two reasons: the objective meteorological magnitude of the event in terms of the enormous precipitation deficit and also the enormous (and in many cases permanent) effect it had on human systems in California. The mid-70s drought garnered substantial media attention due to the regionally exceptional water shortages that it caused, with impacts ranging from the temporary cessation of agricultural activities in some parts of the Central Valley to the construction of an emergency water pipeline across the Richmond-San Rafael bridge in the Bay Area when local reservoirs ran almost completely dry. This drought event led to significant changes in water management practices in the state of California, including the development of more aggressive contingency plans for relatively short-term (1-2 year) periods with extremely low  precipitation.

precip_rank_1976precip_rank_1977precip_rank_2013

Above: Jan.-Nov. precipitation anomaly ranks; 1976 (left), 1977 (center), 2013 (right)

The present dry spell has been increasingly compared to the 76-77 drought. So, how exactly does 2013 stack up to the previous most extreme dry period in living memory? Precipitation-wise, the 76-77 event was characterized by two consecutive years with very low precipitation, while the present event consists of one modestly dry year (2012) and one record-dry year (2013). Notable is that 2013 is drier than any previous calendar year in the historical record by a wide margin (around ~20%).

Next, consider the broader anomalies observed for several important atmospheric quantities. We already know about the incredible persistence of the RRR in 2013, and many readers may be familiar with the remarkable persistence of the observed patterns during the 1976-1977 drought as well. But a particularly amazing aspect of the present dry spell is that the 2013 large-scale anomalies are now clearly visible on a timescale greater than one year. This is highly unusual given that the typical variability of weather patterns is on timescales much shorter than one season, let alone one calendar year. Plots depicting the observed 1-year geopotential anomalies for 1976, 1977, and 2013 are featured below. (Note: all of the following figures are derived from the NCEP reanalysis using the excellent plotting tools on ESRL’s website. Also, values for 2013 are for the full year up until December 18th while 1976 and 1977 are full-year values.)

1976

1976 geopotential height anomaly. (NOAA/ESRL)

1977

1977 geopotential height anomaly. (NOAA/ESRL)

2013

2013 geopotential height anomaly. (NOAA/ESRL)

Interestingly, the year-long anomalies for the 1976-1977 drought appear to be quite different from the 2013 extreme dry period. In fact, there even appears to be some persistent troughing (low geopotential height anomalies) in the same region where very large positive anomalies have been present this year. But it’s also well known that the winters of 1975-76 and 1976-1977 did indeed feature periods of strong and highly-persistent ridging over the eastern Pacific that were associated with very dry conditions along the West Coast.

Taking a closer look at the observed conditions in winter 1976 and 1977 (December-March), a different pattern emerges–one that does exhibit persistent ridging along the West Coast but of a much lesser magnitude than the RRR of 2013 and centered further to the east. Also, the winter 76-77 pattern exhibits a more “wavelike” pattern in geopotential height anomalies than 2013–there are negative (troughing) anomalies in the West Pacific and also over eastern North America. But the zonal wind anomalies during the 75-76 and 76-77 winters are actually quite similar to those observed throughout calendar year 2013, suggesting that a large northward shift in the storm track was responsible for the extreme dry conditions in both instances despite the large qualitative difference in geopotential height patterns.

1976-1977 winter geopotential height anomalies. (NOAA/ESRL)

1976-1977 winter geopotential height anomalies. (NOAA/ESRL)

It appears, then, that the RRR observed in 2013 really is a pattern distinct from that observed during the 1976-1977 drought. Just how rare is this hyper-persistent ridging in the Gulf of Alaska, then? The NCEP reanalysis goes all the way back to 1948, with the caveat that interpretation of data predating the use of Earth-observation satellites in 1979 is subject to larger uncertainty, especially over the data-spare Pacific Ocean. After examining composites of annual geopotential height anomalies for each full calendar year since 1948 (link to large file here), I find several instances where persistent ridging or troughing lasting a year or longer is present in the Gulf of Alaska, but no instances that even come close to the intensity or spatial extent of the anomalous ridging present over the Gulf of Alaska during  2013.

zonal_anom_75-76 zonal_anom_76-77 zonal_anom_12-13

Above: zonal wind anomalies (1975-1976 (left), 1976-1977 (center), 2013 (right) )

The first year of the reanalysis (1948), interestingly enough, appears to be the most analogous to the recent observed pattern (data uncertainty caveats aside), but even in this case the 2013 anomaly is of considerably higher magnitude. Thus, the data suggest that the persistence of the RRR in 2013 may be unprecedented since at least 1948, and the observed pattern is actually rather different than that which was in place during the 1976-1977 drought.

 

Is there any hope for significant rain in California?

In the short term, the unfortunate answer is a pretty definitive “no.” The operational medium-range forecast models are pretty unanimous in projecting a continuation of the mean blocking ridge over the northeastern Pacific for the next 1-2 weeks, with high-amplitude flow anomalies continuing to bring exceptionally dry conditions to the West Coast and exceptionally cold conditions (in the downstream trough) over the American Midwest and Great Plains well into January.

The GFS projects that the high-amplitude blocking pattern will continue. (NCEP)

The GFS projects that the high-amplitude blocking pattern will continue. (NCEP)

With such an extraordinarily persistent blocking pattern seemingly entrenched over the Pacific, it will take a very significant change in the overall flow pattern to disrupt the current status quo, and such a change is just not on the horizon at the moment. With reservoir levels now starting to drop very rapidly and certain water districts calling for at least voluntary water rationing measures, the exceptional dry spell of 2013 appears likely to continue into at least the early part of 2014. Stay tuned.

© 2013 WEATHER WEST

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  • Dan the Weatherman

    I am still learning here, but it looks as if 1976-77 was dominated by a more traditional but more persistent +PNA pattern with troughing over the Aleutians and the ridge over the NE Pacific and West Coast states, and 1975-76 was similar, except for some troughing in northern Mexico if I am looking at your charts correctly.

    The RRR, on the other hand, seems to be quite a monster of a high pressure system, occupying the Aleutians along with the NE Pacific and West Coast states, covering much more area of longitude than normal, unless that it has shifted back and forth between those two areas at times. If it has occupied all that longitude I don’t know how to classify this PNA setup.

  • snow755

    Some in big May happen on jan 7th. I have been nothing that at the end of the gfs I all so noted on the gfs at the end for the past few runs that a lot of storms are getting back up thanks too the big high we have overe CA today on the 18z runs at 384hrs. It has a 976mb low why it looks like CA May get a 988mb low and a lot of storms that are getting back up this waiting too move foreword we may start getting some storms come mid jan but it all so looks like the 1st try’s too under cut the high has you can see at the end of the 18z then that 988mb low comes end. We may see some none stop storms Onces this gets going we this need too wait and see

  • Tom Maxwell

    Weather West is correct in saying there is no way to overcome the RRR2013. I’ll add, in knowing this RRR may appear in the future, that weather modification must be employed during those rainy periods to come in the future. Deep snowpack, full reservoirs, and re-nourished aquifers are California’s best defense against a RRR in the weather future. Aquariusradar.com has concept ideas about weather modification that uses microwave heating of clouds to transport water(rain). Like cloud seeding, these techniques cannot increase rainfall. Both are “rob Peter to pay Paul” systems. However, microwave heating of clouds does the opposite of cloud seeding. Microwave heating slows or prevents rainfall. This is used to move rain out of undesirable or flood prone areas to areas of storage. California has the advantage of having the powerful radars necessary for testing the concept on the coastline. My website is not professional and sometimes the ideas are not entirely clear. Understanding the concept may not be immediate. Those really interested in solving California’s water dilemma should be aware of the concept, even if they think it is fantasy.

    • kurt frohling

      I hear all too many suggestions as of late about the need for weather modification to solve our local and global weather problems. These suggestions are bogus. No matter how innocent and well-meaning all these weather-modification plans are presented as being, they will all naturally open the door to attempts at full-blown weather control. This is bad for so many reasons. The idea of a small, well-funded club of corporate and government entities influencing our weather is an idea fraught with peril. We’ve successfully adapted to a world of changing weather since time immemorial. Heating clouds and saturating the atmosphere with various chemicals with no clear idea of their effects, both spatially and temporally, is idiocy squared. Keep your hands off our weather.

      • Tom Maxwell

        Weather modification is purely local in nature. You have fallen victim to the government conspiracy/world domination via weather control extremist propaganda. No power available to mankind can control regional or global weather. Mankind dams rivers to make reservoirs. Is there a difference between a river on the surface of the earth and a river of atmospheric moisture above the surface? As to saturating the air with various chemicals, isn’t that what California agriculture and industry do everyday. Tons of herbicides, pesticides, and every manner of pollutant are discharged into the environment. You seem to consider a few pounds of silver iodide or dry ice a greater problem. So great in fact you are ready to fight any attempt to bring fresh water to California via weather modification.

        • Charlie Hohn

          Nothing in the atmosphere is local in nature. Moving a storm, if we could indeed do so, would affect the circulation across the entire planet. And, unless we have incredibly accurate weather modeling, which we aren’t anywhere close to, it would take immense amounts of energy to warm air enough to move a storm. A typical big pacific low uses an insane amount of energy… like the amount in an atomic bomb every minute or two. do you really think a ground based radar will have any effect? I mean, it will have the sort of ‘butterfly flapping its wings’ effect, same as if I fart outside. but, it won’t have a meaningful affect for us.
          California usually has plenty of fresh water. not so much this year but even with this year if people got rid of their lawns and swimming pools, i bet this drought would be a non-issue. The only weather ‘modification’ we should do is reducing our burning of fossil fuels. that’s it. Anything else is decades if not centuries away if we even make it to that point which we may not.

          • Tom Maxwell

            Weather modification is local. I never said anything about changing the course of “typical big Pacific low” systems. In this respect, local means cumulonimbus rain showers
            or thunderstorms.

        • kurt frohling

          I don’t know what conspiracy stuff you are talking about. It is just human nature. C’mon, weather modification is not ‘purely local in nature’ Who do you think you’re kidding? You even said in your post that your proposal is a ‘”…Rob Peter to pay Paul” system. Is the robbing being done only on a purely local level? It appears that at some point Peter will have to rob someone else. And as far as saturating the air with pesticides and chemicals goes, because it exists doesn’t make it a healthy or sustainable practice. There are a lot of stupid, damaging technologies in practice today. Doesn’t mean that all technologies are bad, so don’t try to lump water storage projects with overuse of pesticides or dangerous chemicals. Droughts come and go. Floods come and go. Don’t always be looking for the quick fix and the fast buck.

          • Tom Maxwell

            The only weather modification technique employed to date is cloud seeding and hail cannon. Both techniques are local. There is argument in the science community about the effectiveness of such practice and many argue cloud seeding does nothing at all. What evidence do you have that cloud seeding or hail cannon affect regional or global weather? Does cloud seeding to increase snowpack in the Sierra Nevada mountains decrease rainfall in the corn belt?

  • snow755

    http://mag.ncep.noaa.gov/NCOMAGWEB/appcontroller/data/gfs/00/gfs_npac_384_850_temp_mslp_precip.gif wow ! this needs too start moveing up in timeing the gfs has not drop this idea at all look at all that moister this ready too hit CA we could be in for a vary wet mid too late JAN i hop the gfs dos not drop this at the last sec once this dos start too move up in timeing this is from the 00z tonight

  • Nightmeir

    I wonder if the great flood of 1861 was cause by a similarly ridiculously resilient ridge scooted out further east over the pacific, which, it I’m interpreting all of this data correctly (major amateur here) would lead to continuos atmospheric river events.

    • A persistent anomalous flow pattern was very likely a contributing factor in that event, though I’m not sure of the details. It is certainly true that both wet and dry extremes are often caused by unusually persistent large-scale anomalies…

  • sc100

    Some areas are breaking their record for driest year by such a large margin that they look like 500-year or even longer events. Truly a history-making year we’re living through. The stat for San Francisco (airport) is particularly jaw-dropping, just 3.38 inches in 2013 (17% of average). Their previous driest year (going back to 1948): 9.20 inches in 1953!

    • This is a point that I think has largely been missed, and the SF stats are particularly amazing. “Return periods” are a bit tricky in a non-stationary climate, but this is definitely a very extreme event unprecedented in well over 100 years.

  • DanD

    I live in the SF Bay Area. It has been 2nd driest in last 3 Decembers. Never seen such a dry calendar year since I moved to Bay Area in 1978. Hopefully this RRR pattern will break by mid January 2014. Drought situation critical in Central California and the Sierra, which depends on building up the snowpack.

    • donnak10

      Your not kidding. I live in Tuolumne County. Only 1.72 inches of rain in our gauge. Dry, dusty and ugly.

  • sc100

    Shocking picture: Current storage levels at Folsom Lake east of Sacramento are already significantly trailing the 1976-1977 season at this time:

    http://cdec.water.ca.gov/cdecapp/resapp/resDetailOrig.action?resid=FOL

    • Folsom is doing particularly badly–some of the bigger reservoirs like Shasta and Oroville are faring slightly better, but we’ve just hit the point where climatological average reservoir levels start to rise fast in response to typical runoff this time of year, so our “percent of historical average” values are starting to fall off a cliff just about everywhere.

  • craig matthews

    Thank you weather west for helping me understand a little better. I’m still learning about all the oscillations and historic charts of events. What scares me is that we are now in uncharted territory meteorologically speaking as we are going into month 13? of the RRR, and there appears to be no hope for change. I’m looking for a sign of hope. Has anyone found any yet? Looking at the shared charts of the 1976-77 event shows that there was at least a little hope for a change to a wet pattern for our state during that event. And as you shared there were some important differences during that event when compared to our current event. The current RRR is scary enormous, and some of the latest models grow it even larger. Statistically speaking, Big sur gets around 45 inches of rain in a calendar year, and right now we are at around 7. Redwood trees that are over 300 years old are dying. The alder trees in the local creeks are completely dead, not dormant. And then of course the wildfire that just occurred up the road.

    • Dying redwood trees, if that is really a consequence of the record dryness, is a very troubling sign indeed.

      • craig matthews

        I did more studying on the dying redwood trees and I need to make a correction. In the big sur area, rainfall has been sub-average since the winter of 2006-07. During the winters of 2009-10 and 2010-11 we did not receive above average rainfall like areas to our north and south, as for some reason storms seamed to miss our very localized area. So actually our local drought may have begun in 2006-07. Its more likely a cumulative affect of sub average rainfall since 06-07, and then not receiving any real soaking rains since December 2012 that has caused unusual strain on the local redwoods.

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  • Nightmeir

    The latest GFS runs are literally sending the storms straight north over Hawaii to Alaska, and then swinging back east! This is insanity. Even the Pacific Northwest is dry!

    • sc100

      Yeah, to see Seattle getting basically no rain over the next two weeks is pretty amazing.

    • I’ve almost stopped checking. It’s hard to believe.

      • Charlie Hohn

        just checked the GFS and it is incredibly disappointing for CA.

  • Dan the Weatherman

    I have seen the terrible smog in China from pictures that show it as thick as dense fog as well as from a satellite image showing the smog layer covering a rather large area. The explosive growth of their economy in recent years has led to a ton of emissions from their coal fired plants that is at least partially contributing to this terrible air quality that has become all too common there. I am wondering if it is possible that all this heavy pollution in some way might be modifying regional weather patterns over there, and may be a contributing factor downstream that is helping to constantly reinforce the RRR in any way.

    • Atmospheric aerosols from industry/agriculture certainly affect the climate, though most often in a regional sense. It’s hard to say whether they could be a contributing factor in the RRR without some sort of modeling study. It’s an interesting question…

  • sc100

    A video about the serious situation at Folsom Lake and what’s already being discussed regarding water cutbacks. Water levels will continue to drop rapidly over the next few weeks as no rain comes in. If we don’t see significant storms over the next two months things at the lake will look very frightening.

    http://news.yahoo.com/video/water-restrictions-coming-folsom-lake-030300740.html

  • Charlie Hohn

    I recall reading some historic info about a year before records were taken… I think the 1860s or 1880s, where no rain fell in santa barbara for an entire rainy season. i think it was before or after one of the big flood years. scary stuff… but I can’t find the link right now

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  • craig matthews

    Historic documentations show a very bad drought in 1862-63 thru around 1864-65. That was right after the great flood of 1861-62. And in the winter of 1863-64 writings describe how the grass never sprouted until march that winter, and the cattle industry was almost wiped out in California. Also, 1923-24 was extremely dry for the state. There’s some good info online about how the Spanish dealt with a terrible drought in the early 1800’s as well.

    • Flunking_retirement

      That’s an area that’s always been of interest to me, Nineteenth century and earlier weather patterns were quite different than they are today. With the exception that ridiculously dry periods also seemed to end with equally ridiculous wet eras. Rest assured this will not last forever. Stay tuned, as our guru likes to say.

      • craig matthews

        In a couple of months from now we might all be chatting about how wet it is, who knows?

  • craig matthews

    I’ll try to get that online address for documentation for that drought in the 1860’s for you soon. Can’t seem to locate it tonight.

  • Nicholas Gumina

    Merry Christmas everyone. Lets hope the weather becomes better in the next year.

  • redlands

    Merry Christmas— Was 82 in Redlands, Ca today Dec-24-2013 Had trouble logging into weatherwest — had to sign up again under a different email whats up

    • Check your email (associated with the original account). Is anyone else having trouble?

      • Nick Ryan

        Comments were offline for a couple days…

        • Very recently, or a few weeks ago when I changed the commenting system.

          • Nick Ryan

            First few days of this week.

          • Hmmm. Well, everyone reports that things are working now. Let me know if that changes via the “contact” form.

  • snow755

    the 12z is back too the idea of giveing us are 1st storm by next friday too where tusday runs where this pushing back the timeing

    http://mag.ncep.noaa.gov/NCOMAGWEB/appcontroller/data/gfs/12/gfs_npac_300_850_temp_mslp_precip.gif

    http://mag.ncep.noaa.gov/NCOMAGWEB/appcontroller/data/gfs/12/gfs_npac_312_850_temp_mslp_precip.gif

    http://mag.ncep.noaa.gov/NCOMAGWEB/appcontroller/data/gfs/12/gfs_npac_324_850_temp_mslp_precip.gif

    http://mag.ncep.noaa.gov/NCOMAGWEB/appcontroller/data/gfs/12/gfs_npac_336_850_temp_mslp_precip.gif

    http://mag.ncep.noaa.gov/NCOMAGWEB/appcontroller/data/gfs/12/gfs_npac_348_850_temp_mslp_precip.gif

    http://mag.ncep.noaa.gov/NCOMAGWEB/appcontroller/data/gfs/12/gfs_npac_360_850_temp_mslp_precip.gif

    http://mag.ncep.noaa.gov/NCOMAGWEB/appcontroller/data/gfs/12/gfs_npac_372_850_temp_mslp_precip.gif

    http://mag.ncep.noaa.gov/NCOMAGWEB/appcontroller/data/gfs/12/gfs_npac_384_850_temp_mslp_precip.gif

    now we need too wait and see if the gfs keeps moveing this up in timeing with out droping it like in the past i no the last few time it showed some in like this it drop it has it got in closer but am hoping it dos not do it this time i really hop we get the storms that the gfs is showing for now its this a wait and see game am all so hoping that are other mode runs start picking up on this has it get closer too next week stay tune this may be the pattern charges we been looking for

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  • redlands

    Merry Christmas from Redlands, Ca — at 1204pm Dec-25-2013 its presently 75.8 degrees with 16% humidity Might hit the record for the warmest Xmas day — which I think is 82 . Anyone get any weather related items

    • Dan the Weatherman

      Merry Christmas everyone!

      I got a t-shirt showing a weather map of the Superstorm of 1993, which was a historic snowstorm that occurred in March of that year.

  • craig matthews

    Merry Christmas. Another warm/ dry day here on the central coast. Historic Society of Southern California, Los Angeles, Vol 1, No. 5 (Exceptional years; A history of California floods and drought} by J.M. Guinn has some very good info online for those who are interested in some history reading of the floods and droughts of the 1800’s.

  • craig matthews

    Climate Stations.com has some very good detailed monthly temp and precip graphs dating back to 1921 for Los Angeles and San Francisco as well.

  • Nicholas Gumina

    It was blocking me from posting comments on my ipod touch after the big update. It works again for some reason.

    • redlands

      Nicholas — I was having the same problems. Thought it was fixed — but was wrong — hopefully its ok now Was 76 in Redlands, Ca today Dec-25-2013 Christmas I hear on the tv — that some places got into the mid 80’s — way too warm for xmas be nice if it was in the mid 80’s for July-4th

  • craig matthews

    CPC’s MJO weekly updates Dec. 23 is rather disappointing. MJO activity lately appears to be too weak to overcome the strong easterly anomolies along the equator west of the date line.

  • test1

    testing

  • I’ve received several reports of commenters having trouble posting. If you’ve been having problems, please let me know by responding to this comment and describing what errors/messages you have received. Thanks–hopefully this will be resolved soon!

    • Dan the Weatherman

      Even though I haven’t had any problems logging in or posting, I am just testing to make sure I can post a comment since others have had trouble today.

      EDIT: It looks as if went through without any problem.

  • Latest GFS operational runs have suggested that a slight eastward shift of the ridge axis may occur during the second week in January. It’s still not clear if this would be enough to bring significant precipitation to California even if it did occur, but prospects for a few breakthrough precip events would be slightly less bleak, at least. Still…that’s really grasping at straws.

  • redlands

    hello testing

  • redlands

    Wow What a struggle on xmas night to get back online to post —- I guess I have to log on to facebook to be able to get on here

  • snow755

    Ugh I give up on the gfs I think this will be a vary dry winter for CA. Fire season is going to be vary vary bad. This year

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  • Well, the last couple of cycles of the GFS have suggested some possible instability of the mean ridge out beyond day 10. That’s a long way out, but it’s better than the consistent 16+ day stretches with zero projected change.

    More generally, something worth considering as we continue to endure this incredibly persistent flow pattern over the Pacific: as others have mentioned recently, blocking ridges can lead to precipitation extremes on both ends the spectrum, depending on where one is situated relative to the ridge axis. California has been stuck directly underneath or immediately downstream of the huge blocking ridge over the Pacific for over a year, which has produced record low precipitation in this region. Were the persistent ridge to shift into a more favorable position for West Coast precipitation, it’s conceivable that there could be a rapid shift to very wet conditions. There is absolutely no indication of this occurring at any time in the foreseeable future, and I actually think the model progs showing ridge movement around day 10 are unlikely to come to fruition. Still, the propensity for extreme weather during blocking events is worth paying attention to.

    • craig matthews

      Yeah, if the RRR were to retrograde about 500 miles, things would be different for us for sure. These so called inside sliders might be able to have more of an over water tradjectory and ability to phase with more pacific moisture

      • Very true. That would probably bring generally beneficial rainfall, though, with quite a bit of snow for the mountains in cold northerly flow. More problematic would be if the ridge actually moves 1000-1500 miles further east, which would allow for a parade of moisture-laden Pacific storms from low latitudes to track repeatedly into California. Again, there’s no indication whatsoever that this will occur, but that is probably the kind of setup that could bring truly extreme, widespread precip events to California.

    • Kamau40

      1. I’m with you Dan, based on what has been going on with our weather so far this rainy season, I don’t excited about anything beyond 10 days out. There has been several times already that the GFS would suggest to break down the ridge with a system and everytime when the time comes and goes they would just wash out.
      2. I have been having the same line of thinking lately that perhaps at some point in the future we could see extreme wet weather over Ca. Based on historical weathr patterns that has happened. Although, I don’t think it is likely to occur this rainy season due to the continued combo of neutral ENSO, -PDO, +AMO. However, I noticed that there is increasing signs of an EL Nino developing during the Spring of 2014 which if that is the case it should change the flow pattern for next year 2014-2015.

      • Dan the Weatherman

        I still believe the -PDO, +AMO, ENSO neutral combo is one of the chief reasons we have been so dry lately, although there are probably other factors in play. I do think we will get a pattern change to some rain starting sometime in January, but I still think the overall totals will be below the long-term average. This year in terms of the very dry start is looking somewhat like that of the 1962-63 season (weak La Nina, -PDO, +AMO), in which the fall and the first half of January were excessively dry, followed by periodic storms the rest of the winter into spring. Los Angeles finished that season with between 8″ and 8.5″ of rain.

        For next year to be wetter, we need a moderate to strong El Nino to occur like a 1957-58 or 1968-69. A weak Nino is just as bad as ENSO neutral with the -PDO +AMO combo and likely would be a repeat of last year very much like 1958-59 in terms of rainfall.

        • Kamau40

          Yes, it would all depend on the strength of the potential El Nino development to iinfluence our precip next year. That’s a long ways away and lots of things can happen between now and then as we know. Now, do you know if the +AMO will be flipping soon?? I’m not antcipating the -PDO to change anytime soon. What are your thoughts?

          • Dan the Weatherman

            I am really hoping that the AMO flips negative soon, since it has been positive since 1995 (going on 19 years). It appeared to be weakening somewhat last summer with lower index values and the decline in Atlantic hurricane activity, but it strengthened again in the fall as the index rose, and Saharan dust was likely the major factor in reduced activity. I really cannot say with any certainty how much longer this warm phase will last, but it could change soon or last possibly another 10 years or so (I hope not).

            I really believe the AMO and other patterns that go hand-in-hand with the particular phase that it is currently in affects the long term climate in the whole Northern Hemisphere much more than most people even realize. I will even say that I feel that it has played a role in some of the extreme weather events that have occurred in recent years, including being one of the factors involved either directly or indirectly in the recent loss of sea ice in the Arctic because the sea ice loss really accelerated during the years after the AMO went positive. Whether Arctic sea ice makes a healthy recovery in the years after the AMO flips negative remains to be seen and whatever the end result turns out to be will be key in the climate change debate.

  • One of the best traditional media stories I’ve seen on the situation in California thus far:

    http://www.usatoday.com/story/weather/2013/12/26/california-drought-water-shortage-wildfires/4192275/

    • Dan the Weatherman

      The two previously driest calendar years in Los Angeles mentioned in this article, 1947 and 1953, just happened to occur during the -PDO / +AMO regime like we in right now. Droughts can occur during any regime even in the more favorable regimes such as +PDO, -AMO that usually favor stormier conditions statewide, but we seem to be the most prone to prolonged drought conditions under this current regime.

      • Kamau40

        Do you have an idea when the -AMO will possibly flip? Has it been in this mode for 18yrs now?

        • Dan the Weatherman

          I replied to your earlier question about the AMO which is just down the page from here and it addresses pretty much what you were asking here. Anyone else can feel free to offer their opinion of when the +AMO may flip negative again.

          • Kamau40

            My apologies, didn’t realize you already replied to my question regarding the phase of the AMO. We hope it flips soon because that would be one significant help to changing the flow pattern

          • Dan the Weatherman

            I have been thinking for a while that the +AMO somehow amplifies the effect of the -PDO and I just might now be discovering the answer. I just read an article from a while back by Jeff Masters on wunderground.com (I can’t find it right now but I may post it when I do) and he was mentioning that the +AMO may be responsible for having weather patterns become more amplified and tend to get stuck in place for longer periods of time. This Gulf of AK ridge pattern like the RRR is a feature that often occurs during -PDO, but I am now thinking that the +AMO may be a factor in what is prolonging this pattern and possibly one of the major reasons why we are so often dry during the -PDO / +AMO combo.

  • craig matthews

    As the earth continues to warm, and the ice caps melt, no doubt it is contributing to some wild anomalies around the globe. The temperature gradient between the equator and the poles are being affected by the earth warming. I just researched some European data for the last 2 winters and noticed a similar RRR off the coast of Spain that was more evident last winter. Its not just happening here in the Western U.S.

    • There is an emerging hypothesis that the reduced latitudinal temperature gradient arising from enhanced warming in the Arctic relative to the mid-latitudes may lead to increasingly persistent weather patterns by weakening the jet stream.

      Potentially of interest:
      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130225153128.htm

      and

      http://www.wunderground.com/blog/JeffMasters/arctic-sea-ice-loss-tied-to-unusual-jet-stream-patterns

      • craig matthews

        Can’t ignore the facts. Our delicate planet is warming and human pollution continues.

        • craig matthews

          I read somewhere that the monsoon season has been acting strange the last few years in the 4 corners region.

          • Well, it’s nearly impossible to draw long-term conclusions about the climate from just a few years of data. This is especially true in our area, since we know with certainty that there are modes of ocean-atmosphere variability that operate on multi-year and even multi-decade timescales (ENSO and the PDO, respectively, come to mind).

            That said, there have been some very strange and highly variable atmospheric flow patterns in the Northern Hemisphere over the past 5-7 years. There are quite a few people currently investigating the role of global climate change in driving extreme events. I’d even argue that this subject is one of the “hot topics” in climate science at the moment…

          • craig matthews

            Yeah, the more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.

        • Flunking_retirement

          Well,one silver lining the present regime has at least allowed a rebuilding of the Arctic sea ice for now. In my Navy days ,I spent a summer on the ice with the Coast Guard ice breaker Polar Star. Unforgettable 2 month deployment.

          • rainscout

            Hello.. flunking retirement..great name..by the way..I have been on the Polar Star many times.. several in the arctic and once in the Antarctic on the Polar Sea..doing sceintific research ..amazing trips..from the early mid 80’s until mid 90’s..the pack ice in the arctic was pretty severe where we were quite often..I have since heard that some times where we were then.say latitude 75-85 even 90.we actually made it to the pole… the pack ice is considerably reduced and much more variable..not suprising considering global warming..at least we could hope for the rebuilding somewhat of the polar ice if this weather pattern is condusive to that…maybe something more positive can come out of it…I too am retired but miss the amazing quailties of those polar trips..take care

          • Flunking_retirement

            Fun stuff , huh? I was only on board as an liaison/observer team with couple another Navy guys, we did a rendezvous with an SSBN.

  • snow755

    The 00z and 06z gfs are both showing a vary big pattern chages And it’s going two happen has soon has the 6th of jan wish at 252hrs from now with a storm ever 24 to 48hrs and they are going two be vary wet storms. The gfs is moving up in timing wish is a good thing stay tune has we are about two get March. Needed rain fall

    • Unfortunately, the GFS ensembles just aren’t supporting the operational runs right now, with a big ridging anomaly still centered over the Gulf of Alaska in the ensemble mean. Still, there’s always the chance that the operational is on to something. Worth watching–it’s not like there’s anything else to pay attention to right now! Regardless, that’s 10+ days out…

      • snow755

        thats ture how ever the GFS ensembles are starting too get wet has well we this need too give them a little more time

        • We’ll see! There does seem to be a bit of a trend towards some undercutting of the ridge. It’s still 10+ days out, though…

        • The 00z is already backing off. It does suggest the possibility of some cold/unsettled conditions, but only scattered light precip right on through day 16 once again.

  • craig matthews

    Yeah, it sure would be nice if the 06z opp. gfs verifies. It has been a very wishfull thinking model so far this fall when it comes to the idea of the pacific jet undercutting the RRR. I try not to get too emotionally attached to the opp. gfs. Its very depressing every time it flips back to forecasting a continuation of the RRR off our coast for the next 15 days.

  • rainscout

    just read an amazing testamint to the arrogant southern calif. attitude..an official spokes person for southern calif water dept.very casually stated that this drought was nothing to be concerned about and that even if the drought went on for another year every thing would be fine with thier water supply…Amazing!!.. since they have bought off almost every available source of water from most all over the west and northern Calif. the spokes person saw “no need for water rationing “…pumping water over the Tehachapi’s into southern calif. uses more power than several US. cities combined..I can almost assure that Nothern Calif. residents could see serious water restrictions this summer while Southern calif. continues life as usual in their reality “bubble”..long ago read a great book.. “The Cadillac Desert” which goes into the entire history of water in the west..a quote from the book..”Water flows to money and power”..could not be more true …

    • I heard a very similar sentiment a couple of days ago regarding the water availability in Southern California. It’s possible that remote water sources could supply enough water to get SoCal through next summer, but I’m not convinced. Certainly, as you point out, Northern California will have problems if we don’t get quite a bit of precip during the second half of the rainy season.

      And Cadillac Desert really is an excellent read. It’s as relevant now as it was when it was first published, if not more so…

  • redlands

    Was 84 in Redlands, Ca today dec-27-2013 a record for the day at my station — records back to 1981 —- Way too warm for December and bone dry !!!!

    • Looks like a strong/warm Santa Ana event coming, with extreme fire danger once again. Like a broken record…

      • Dan the Weatherman

        Up until just recently the weather has been abnormally calm for fall in Socal with fewer Santa Anas than normal and those have been weak events for the most part here in Orange and this area is wind-prone due to being near the Santa Ana Canyon. It was especially calm from mid-late October to mid-November, the period in which most hot Santa Ana wind events occur that lead to major fire activity. It seems that when the weather is abnormally quiet both as far as Santa Ana winds and rainfall until late fall, it tends to lead to a dry winter, sometimes record-breaking dry. This happened in the 2001-02 season if I remember correctly.

        Now that the winds are coming up more frequently and that the likelihood is increasing for a stronger event for tomorrow night into Sunday, these could be signs that the pattern is going to change soon, possibly in the next couple of weeks or so. Oftentimes, but not always, a strong Santa Ana leads to a rain event sometime in the near future.

        • rainscout

          Interesting post about the wind event.. then possible rain about a week or 2 after.. I too have noted the correlation from the coastal hills just south of SF…although they are not called Santa Ana’s here…i guess we can hang our slim hopes on that as well as anything else..I am not going to get my hopes up based on the long range computer projections which this year have 50/50 chance of being 100% wrong.unless its to project continued stagnant high pressure….sorry to sound so pessimistic but this is beyond ridiculous….

          • Dan the Weatherman

            The fact that it has been this dry since last January is just remarkable and abnormal in my opinion. Normally if a previous winter / spring season finishes dry, then more often than not it turns wetter the following fall as opposed to continuing where it left off like it has this year.

      • Dan the Weatherman

        Orange County and the Inland Empire are currently under a High Wind Warning from 3 am to 6 pm tomorrow for wind gusts up to 60-65 mph in the wind-prone areas such as around the Cajon Pass, Santa Ana Mountains, and Santa Ana Canyon area.

  • Coldspot

    Unbelievably dry in the northern most part of Calif. we had a very cold early December (-7) the lowest in my thirteen years here. Worried about keeping the pastures irrigated this spring/ summer. However, there still is a little bit of time for the”RRR” to break down. NOAA Medford Oregon hinting at a chance of precip by next Friday. This calendar year has gone down as the driest in recorded weather history for the region as well as the coldest December. Hope you folks start seeing some more changes come for the next 2-3 months.

    • Does look like the ridge may retrograde somewhat out in the 8-10 day range, with some more “inside slider”-type systems bringing cold and unsettled conditions once again in the Pacific Northwest (and possibly California). Unfortunately, these kinds of storms produce very little meaningful precip and almost no runoff around here, and that’s assuming the long-range projections aren’t overly optimistic (as they have been categorically over the past few months). We’ll see–at this point, we need every drop.

      • Dan the Weatherman

        “Inside sliders” are not the type of storm system we need right now as they produce relatively little rainfall to help the drought and often lead to significant Santa Ana wind episodes. We need a storm pattern that comes in from off the Pacific with the ridge anchored between 150 and 160W and a trough along and just off the coast or an undercutting jet stream with the high further north into AK.

        • craig matthews

          There was an event that took place in early January 1993 where a much shorter lasting and smaller blocking ridge in the northeast pacific retrograded and allowed a cold shortwave to back southwest from eastern Oregon to a position off the northern California coast. Then at the same time, a warm/wet storm northwest of Hawaii undercut the retrograding northeast pacific ridge and combined with the cold shortwave backing southwest off the northern California coast and the 2 systems combined to produce a very wet storm for the whole state that seamed to sit in one place for several days. It was one of the most odd type weather pattern I’ve seen off our coast. There was a similar event that took place in January 2004-05.

          • Dan the Weatherman

            1992-93 was a great season in Socal with lots of storminess throughout the entire season particularly from December onward. I had always thought it was an El Nino year, only to find out later it was ENSO neutral.

          • craig matthews

            Yeah, I thought the same about 1992-93 as there seamed to be a lot more lower latitude storms across the north pacific basin that winter. Interestingly the nino 3.4 area became positive at the beginning of 1993, but did not reach the criteria for a weak el nino.

          • Kamau40

            I remember that winter very well. In fact, I recall predicting that winter would be a wet one. Now, I thought we had a weak El Nino year, but I guess since it was ENSO neutral that year the PDO was also positive I believe and the AMO was negative.

          • Dan the Weatherman

            You are correct about the PDO and AMO for 1992-93.

            ENSO neutral years tend to be much better in +PDO regimes regardless of the AMO phase, and -PDO, -AMO ENSO neutral years are often better than what we are having right now, at least the very few I could find after 1950. 1966-67 is a good example of -PDO, -AMO and possibly 1967-68 (may have been a La Nina, though).

  • Loyal Brooks

    I currently live in Minneapolis, but follow weather/climate closely in my home turf – CA – to this day. There has always been a noticeable but occasionally casual relationship to our winter warm spells to wet events in CA, but it is quite pronounced at this time. I have degrees in Atmospheric Science from UC Davis and Penn State Univ., but I always closely examine CA’s weather to forecast what will happen here w/in 24-72 hours (winter only), much to people’s amazement. It can easily be extended to the entire winter climate, but of course not on a 1:1 ratio. In the last 12 months, except for summer, there has been a strange tilt toward extended periods of deeper-than-usual cold. Cold weather is deeply correlated to the dryness in CA. Summer weather goes its own way, but last summer the tornado/severe weather issue was suppressed southward. It does concern me about the severity of the drought out there, and I can tell that by how deep and frequent the cold is here.

    I just found this blog – to my relief! – and thoroughly appreciate all of it. I’ve begun my research of this correlation in more detail and am having difficulty locating the appropriate data. I will post what I find. This is today’s NWS forecast for here, 12-28-13. http://www.crh.noaa.gov/mpx/

    • Welcome! Glad you found the blog.

      There’s definitely a strong relationship between fall/winter anomalies along the West Coast and anomalies over the Great Plains/Midwest. We’re essentially one half of a large Rossby wavelength apart, so when we’re under ridging the Central U.S. is usually experiencing troughing, and vice versa. That should be the primary reason why conditions in California and Minnesota are often anti-correlated.

      As for data, I’d start here:
      http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/psd/data/gridded/data.ncep.reanalysis.html

      or, for more informal analysis, ERSL has great plotting tools at:
      http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/psd/cgi-bin/data/getpage.pl

  • Dogwood

    Very good fortune to have found this informative site, after looking around for some California expertise in the matter. It’s dry around here in more ways than one. The blog and updates have been great, thank you all. Looking at over a century of San Jose rainfall records gives me some hope in knowing that July-Dec totals can recover in Jan-June. Just as there was 1876-77 with a total Nov-Dec total of .01 and full season of 4.83, there is a 1883-84 with July-Dec 1.50 followed by Jan 3.2 Feb 3.7 Mar 6.2 Apr 3.4 to end at 20.08, or 1910-11 July-Dec 1.3 followed by a whopping 12.4 in Jan 2.0 Feb and 6.2 Mar to total 22.65. Of course, a more “normal” season with a dry fall averages 8 or 9 inches such as the year before last, and even that now looks like nervous hope. But records show that anything is possible. I can say we have a 100% probability of rain at some point in the new year! Lets hope.

    • All it would take, really, is one or two significant storm systems to bring our rain-year totals above catastrophically low levels. That could certainly happen at some point before April (and hopefully it will!). The problem is–at least in the long term–that the precipitation deficit over the past 12-13 months is so large that even a much wetter-than-usual second half of winter would probably fail to get us where we need to be, water-wise. And current signs point to a drier-than-average second half of winter, unfortunately. For now, it’s a waiting game to see if we can dislodge (or at least undercut) the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge…

  • Nicholas Gumina

    Just came back from Santa Ana. Fog down to near 0 visibility. It was some of the worst fog I have seen in a long time. In the back of my head I was thinking yesterday that with such a strong ridge it was only a matter of time before the fog came. The fog was in isolated pockets. None in Whittier but in most cities and on the freeway traffic was going no faster than 20 MPH. Nearly everyone had there head out the window.

  • Latest model runs exhibit extreme run-to-run variability. I’ve been looking at 16-day precip accumulations on the GFS and they have varied from essentially zero on about half of the runs to over 5-10 inches (!) on others. The 12z is back to extremely dry conditions, so we’ll just have to see if any consistency can be gained in the coming days. I will say that this possible pattern change does keep getting pushed progressively further into the future, which is not a good sign. Stay tuned!

    • craig matthews

      Its possible the GFS may be latching onto an idea that may not happen this winter season, but perhaps 2014-15. There just doesn’t seam to be enough support from the ECMWF either, as well as some of the other latest model runs.

      • craig matthews

        There must be something triggering the GFS at times to show a potential major shift to wet conditions along the west coast. I don’t know enough about computer models to find out what it is though maybe someone might have an idea. GFS has done very poorly so far this fall in its longer range predictions. It would be nice to see this model verify more often.

        • Each time the GFS has suggested a potential for significant precipitation, the underlying pattern has been a retrogression of the ridge and undercutting by very moist southern stream systems. Blocking ridges are typically unstable in the long term–something, be it a change in large-scale diabatic forcing, a pulse of stronger zonal winds, or a particularly strong cyclone developing on either side of the block–usually leads to eventual disintegration of the prevailing ridging. In the East Pacific, the typical mechanism is this sort of retrogression/undercutting by an increasingly strong subtropical jet. This is a highly nonlinear process, though, and the high variability in model solutions right now is likely a product of the sensitivity to the exact position and strength of the potentially undercutting jet.

          • craig matthews

            I checked out CPC’s Madden Julian Oscillation homepage to see if a pulse of westerlies is in the making, or potential for stronger sub tropical jet, and I don’t see any sign of hope at the moment. Don’t know if the MJO will be the force to bust the RRR out of here this year though.

          • Lcagee

            Exactly what i was thinking!

    • snow755

      the 18z gfs is dryer still it has drop the storms that we are going too get at 204hrs and it has push back what ever storms that we where going too get back too mid jan or later this tells you that this year gfs runs can not be tursted at all

    • rainscout

      And this is exactly why I have given up this seasons forecast..I think gut level intuition tells us we are in dire straits …very warm to record breaking temp.. Here today in the coastal mtns of sf Bay Area ..no change in sight through mid Jan….totally bone dry..less than 10-20percent normal rainfall..near record breaking temps…if this is what global warming has in store..then we are in serious trouble!,,,!!!

      • Dan the Weatherman

        As soon as we get out of this drought inducing -PDO, +AMO, ENSO neutral pattern, most of CA will have a more normal range of rainy seasons once again I believe as opposed to this ridiculous dryness that is more typical of Las Vegas or Death Valley.

        • craig matthews

          1962-63 was a little different for northern California. We had a very wet October, which may have been from the big historic October 1962 storm that caused severe damage in the pacific northwest. But there was quite a lull in the precip in December through the 3rd week of January. Possibly a similar shorter duration RRR. It appears late January through mid April 1963 were very wet for the entire state according to some of the charts I’ve seen. Overall, it appears the weather pattern in the northeast pacific was very similar in 1962-63 to the way it has been lately.

          • craig matthews

            Sorry misquoated RRR in my last comment.

          • craig matthews

            One thing though about 1962-63 is that the pacific northwest and northern California were generally wet that winter while southern California was generally dry, even though there was a wet period from January thru March. I think that seams to coincide with the -PDO pattern, and La Nina as well. The period 1959 through 1962 in particular is similar to our latest pattern in the last couple of years, which I believe Dan mentioned something about in an earlier comment. I think Dan you are right about the fact we will get some wetter storms sometime in the next 3 months, but probably not enough to break the drought.

          • Dan the Weatherman

            I believe the Pacific Northwest and Norcal are usually much wetter during this type of pattern, so 1962-63 appears to be a more typical year in this type of regime. This year has been quite an anomaly up there so far though not to the extent that it has in California.

  • redlands

    As of 739pm Dec-29-2013 — the temp in Redlands, Ca is 52.2 with a bone dry humidity of 19% — low humidity for today 6% at 126pm — high humidity of 46% at 1234am– High wind gust of 15 mph at 346am — Maximum Dew point of 23 degrees at 1227am — low dew of 0 at 137pm —- Why too dry — my sinuses are dry

    • Uncomfortably dry up here in the Bay Area, too.

  • rainscout

    If someone told me it would be 75 -80 dgrees

  • snow755

    back and forth we go with the gfs dont you love it i wounder when they will make up there mind ?

  • sc100

    Bill Patzert says that the PDO might not turn positive again until the 2020’s:

    “The West and Southwest are in the throes of 13 years of a drought,”
    said Patzert, adding it may be the 2020s before the PDO phase reverses
    back.

    http://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/local/No-Rain-in-Sight-as-Los-Angeles-Nears-Its-Record-for-Driest-Year-Ever–237740821.html

    • Long-term drought will certainly be a problem moving forward. The short-term extreme drought in California, though, is considerably worse than the “mean” drought one would expect to occur solely as a result of the PDO. The negative phase of the PDO probably increases the likelihood of extreme short-term drought in California, but the persistence of the pattern driving this dry spell likely has some additional cause(s)…

    • Flunking_retirement

      Only 13? Seems more like 23+ to me. Every year we go through this same hand wringing excercise, will it or won’t it? All I can see right now is sunny and clear for the duration. May as well make friends with it.

    • Dan the Weatherman

      I wish Bill Patzert would have shed some light on the AMO when he was talking about the PDO. The -PDO is almost definitely a contributor to dry weather in CA, but I believe the warm phase of the AMO is a major contributor to it as well when the PDO is negative.

      He was mentioning how we are having more La Nina years with the -PDO phase, which is true, but the driest of years from what I have seen from looking at records going back to 1950 have actually been ENSO neutral or weak ENSO simultaneously with the -PDO and +AMO, not full blown La Nina years. Recent moderate to strong La Ninas like 2007-08 and 2010-11 have actually been far wetter than what we have experienced the last two seasons which were basically ENSO neutral or weak La Nina.

  • craig matthews

    This historic dry spell is finally gaining real media attention here on the central coast of Ca. San Jose Mercury put it on todays{12-30-2013} front page and gives a fairly good overview about how dry it is and how the dry spell is affecting local ranchers. In the last week other newspapers in the area have shown articles on the front page as well as local newscasts. Its about time. I don’t remember seeing red flag warnings posted for the central sierra at the end of December as well. We are surpassing a once in a lifetime event around here and possibly getting into once every 500 yrs territory now as far as how dry it has been in 2013.

    • sc100

      I read something in that Mercury article that blew me away. It said that Santa Cruz only got 4.78 inches this year, and the old record was about 12 inches in 1929! I found out on my own that records there go back to 1893. Furthermore, the average there is 31 inches, which means that they only got 15% of their average rain this year. It seems like the central coast has been getting hit the hardest by the drought this year and has the most extreme numbers. Has anybody else heard of any numbers that are more extreme than Santa Cruz? These are frightening numbers.

      • The Santa Cruz numbers are representative of conditions across most of the Central Coast and much of the Bay Area. There are inland parts of San Luis Obispo County, poorly instrumented, that have likely received less than 5% of their annual mean precip this year. That’s a big deal.

        • sc100

          Wow, that’s totally insane. This whole year has left me speechless.

      • craig matthews

        Big Sur normally gets 44.59 inches of rain in a calendar year. Right now we are a little over 7″. The mercury newspaper showed the drought index most severe in south central California especially near the coast. People are really scared down here as wells are drying up and trees are beginning to die. Even the chamise brush is dying in some places. That type of brush is use to dry conditions. But what I don’t understand is why there is no water rationing.

  • rainscout

    Here in the Santa Cruz mtns. Just up the watershed valley from Santa Cruz we will end up with around maybe 6 in. For calendar 2013…our average for the rain year…July1-June30…55 to 60in……amazingly bad..everything is as dry as I have ever seen it…and it is the heart of the rainy season!!!…I think even the Redwoods are wondering what the heck is going on..and they have been here for a few thousand years..it seems like an increasingly rare sight to see the calif. Hills turn green anymore…Calif. Dreaming might have to change from sunshine to rain!!!

    • craig matthews

      I live in the mtns behind big sur and our type of rainfall is similar to what you get in the santa cruz mountains, although we’re a bit drier then you are up there. Since the beginning of 2013 and up through present, every rain producing storm that has passed through our area has been from the northwest, except for one storm in November. So the northwest facing slopes of our local coast range are getting more rain then the southwest facing slopes. That’s very unusual for around here. But it shows how consistent the flow pattern has been this year.

      • Dan the Weatherman

        This is because most storm systems have been forced up and over the RRR and have been tracking through British Columbia and the Pacific NW mainly over land or just along the coast. It has been eons since a trough has been able to set up just offshore, allowing storms to come in from off the Pacific from either a SW, W, or a WNW direction with a more over-water trajectory because the mean position of the RRR has been too close to the west coast as opposed to 150W to 160W. There has also been the lack of undercutting patterns for quite some time, in which a lower latitude jet breaks through under the ridge bringing rains further south.

        • Kamau40

          It’s official, San Francisco will go down as the driest year on record since records began in 1849 with only 3.38 total inches of rainfall for 2013. I have been watching the latest long range climate models and it continue to look very dry right thru March/April 2014. Although we may still get some storms, but overall the climate model continues the incredible persistence and resilience of the RRR.

          • Kamau40

            Below is the latest climate model outlook to verify what I was saying in the above post. The next 2 months does not look good, even though we may get some precipitation within the midst of this current wicked dry pattern, overall the rest of this winter season does not look promising, unfortunately. Please note, the deep color red for the whole state of Ca for Jan/Feb especially.

            http://origin.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/people/wwang/cfsv2fcst/htmls/usPrece3Mon.html

          • Wow. Thanks for pointing that out. I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen a signal that strong in the CFS precip signal for California. With the typical caveat that the CFS is just one modestly-skillful model: if that projection is anything close to reality, we are in big trouble this coming summer and fall.

          • Kamau40

            There is no doubt if these trends do hold up I do believe we can expect severe water shortages incl mandatory water rationing throughout the entire state this summer. I don’t recall either ever seeing a strong signal in the CFS precipitation projectional for the state. I remember back in Oct/Nov this same model predicted an exceptional dry Dec and yet it was right on the money. This is what makes me very, very concern about Jan/Feb/Mar because the trends are exceptionally bone dry. Howard Schectner also is not very optimistic either. He even mentioned on today’s blog, mammothweather.com that the current dry pattern could even get worse in the coming weeks!!

          • Dan the Weatherman

            The $64,000 question is what is making this ridging pattern so much more persistent than any other year that we have seen in the recent past?

          • Kamau40

            The earth has been around for thousands of years. Moreover, our rainfall records, for example, here in SF and LA goes back only within the 100-164 years. We don’t what drought patterns we had prior to the mid 1800s. I believe we have had droughts like this or much worse hundreds of years ago that we don’t know about because we don’t have records going back that far. It is safe to say that this is the worse drought we have seen in modern times or in our life time as opposed to ever.

          • Dan the Weatherman

            I am hoping that this isn’t the start of a mega drought like CA has experienced in the distant past, but I don’t know if a drought of that magnitude would have a sudden start like this or a slow drying period leading up to it.

  • donnak10

    On the advice of other bloggers, I’m reading the book, “Cadillac Desert “. Enlightening to say the least. Run, don’t walk to read this book!

  • Ed Morrow

    This year has also been an exceptional year for whale watching along the Central Coast. Could there be a connection between the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge and the appearance of the whales along the coast?

    • Nicholas Gumina

      That is an interesting point. I remember when I was in grade school during the big El Nino we did a unit on Whale. That year the teacher said it was the only year out of the 10 years she did it with the class where we did not see one whale that day.

  • rainscout

    I would venture to say that the “Cadillac Desert” should be required reading in schools in the west..sadly the author is no longer with us…not sure if I should hold my breath on this “possible”pattern change late next week… Seems the forecast discussions @Noaa weather are pretty unsure as has been the case many times this year…How long can this RRR hold on anyway!!! This is getting just plain stupid…

    • craig matthews

      Sounds like a very informative book. I can’t wait to read it Money is the root of all kinds of evil.

  • craig matthews

    There maybe a ray of hope. The Asian jet is beginning to strengthen and extend further into the north pacific basin according to CPC. Some of the latest computer models show jet energy undercutting the RRR the second week of Jan. Keeping my fingers crossed on this idea.

  • Nicholas Gumina

    Get the bottle ready not only for new years (hope everyone has a great and safe new years). Also we just went through the most dry calender year on record. Congrats to the ridge over the ocean for making it take place.

  • rainscout

    Craig… you will be amazed at the insight in “Cadillac Desert”..and it is a page turner..Rays of hope are good..Least amount of rain for the San Lorenzo valley has been just shy of 20″…we stand at 2.5 now…20 ..as little as that is for us would seem wet compared to this..good luck down in Big Sur…and now back to my seemingly worthless rain dance…Can anyone say “Miracle March”

  • Pingback: 2013: California’s Driest Calendar Year, Storms and Ice in Vermont | Slow Water Movement()

  • sc100

    Well, it’s time to put this year out of its misery and look with hope to next year. Here are the record-breaking stats for Sacramento’s official gauge this year. Like almost everybody else in CA, Sacramento had its driest calendar year on record this year, with only 6.12 inches of rain. Only two months managed to get above an inch. There’s a good chance we won’t see numbers like this again in any of our lifetimes:

    Jan – 1.06
    Feb – 0.26
    Mar – 1.59
    Apr – 0.58
    May – 0.57
    Jun – 0.31
    Jul – 0.00
    Aug – 0.00
    Sep – 0.55
    Oct – 0.00
    Nov – 0.82
    Dec – 0.38

    Total – 6.12

    Average Year – 20.27
    This Year – 30.2% of average

    • Dan the Weatherman

      That winter period was dry even for Socal standards, especially for January and February. The last two Januaries and Februaries have been downright awful for Socal in terms of precipitation.

      • Kamau40

        Here is the latest climate model outlook, please especially note the deep red colors for the state of Ca during Jan/Feb 2014. Even Mar/April looks very dry. Yikes!!!

        http://origin.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/people/wwang/cfsv2fcst/htmls/usPrece3Mon.html

        This model has been very accurate in predicting an extremely dry fall and predicted a very dry Dec. The rest of this winter does not look good at all. In fact, it is predicting that the RRR will intensify and that the current drought will get even worse if this model is correct even if we do get some precipitation within the next 2 months.

        • mogden

          Look on the bright side – we’ll be back to normal rainfall by June!

  • Prospects for a pattern change by mid-January appear to be dwindling. While it’s possible NorCal sees some brief light precip around January 7/8, the recent trend if for the blocking ridge to build back in rather strongly with high surface pressures redeveloping over the far eastern Pacific. The most recent GFS 16-day precip accumulation projection is absolutely dismal:

  • redlands

    How much more worse can it get ?

  • rainscout

    Maybe a lot worst if this model bears out..My friends and family have already written me off as a little obsessed ..If it stays this dry for as long as they are projecting..I will tend to agree with them..guess at this point its time to take the long view and just hunker down and hope the best for the enviroment..which in my opinion will take the brunt of this epic Dry period…with unregulated ground water pumping in the central valley people will just drill deeper wells..most in southern Calif. will hardly know what all of we “alarmist” are even talking about..I really hope this projection turns out dead wrong..This is getting crazy bad!!!

  • redlands

    Redlands, Ca sits at 2.70 for the 2013-14 rain season — The months of Nov and Dec – Redlands only has received 1.43. I had to turn on the sprinklers – grass is bone dry – looks and feels like straw . The rain season started off not too bad — July 2013 got 0.26 and August 0.30 from thunderstorms. This rain season wettest month is November with 1.27 of rain —- I hope this isn’t the new normal — bone dry with little or no rainfall.

  • redlands

    HAPPY NEW YEAR 2014 Hopefully we will get some more rain

  • Dan the Weatherman

    Happy New Year everyone! Hopefully now that we have rung in the new year, the weather pattern will finally change for the better!!

  • Pingback: California Weather Blog: A comparison of California’s extreme 2013 dry spell to the 1976-1977 drought » MAVEN'S NOTEBOOK | MAVEN'S NOTEBOOK()

  • Amazingly, the GFS and ECMWF have both essentially dropped the idea of pattern chance for mid-January (and even the potential for brief light rain appears to be diminishing). In fact, the GFS is really emphatic about building in an even stronger ridge about 1000 miles west of California, directing the storm track not only north of California but all the way north into British Columbia, with very warm temperatures underneath the building ridge as we enter the second half of January. So much for improvement in the new year!

    While I still don’t think it’s likely that the entire winter season will go by without a single significant rainfall event (even if we do still end up well below normal for the year), it is extremely worrisome that it now appears that we could make it through the better part of January without a single drop (with poor prospects for the end of winter, as well). We just don’t have the water infrastructure in this state to deal with a near-zero season. The 76-77 drought was the closest to “zero” we’ve ever come in the modern era, but right now the rainfall spigot appears to be even more tightly closed than during that previous extreme event. There are also millions more people in this state than there were in 1977. I think there might be a real increase in media interest after the January 3 snow survey shows we are essentially 90% below average snow water content. I certainly hope so…

    • Azmordean

      Yeah the media is just now starting to pick up the story a bit. Most of the people in the Bay Area are still talking about how “gorgeous” it is, nevermind the air quality is abysmal and we have a pending hydrological disaster. You know it’s bad when Las Vegas has had a wetter water year than San Jose.

      I also worry about trees and such. Can Redwoods and whatnot survive this? I guess trees that have been around 1000 years have been through worse at some point in history, but it’s still scary to me. I’m sure on a geological time scale a drought like this has little impact, but on a human time scale, this drought along with the attendant summer fires can change the landscape quite a bit.

      Of course, I may be to blame – I purchased a Tahoe Value Pass for skiing this year for the first (and last) time. I’m planning to get some in up at Whitetail, PA while I’m here in the Washington, DC for the holidays. It’s pretty crazy a resort at 1000 ft in the Mid-Atlantic has better conditions than Tahoe, but there it is.

      Here’s hoping we get a pattern change at some point – probably still a below average year but if we can get 8-10 maybe we can get through to a hopefully we winter next year!

    • Dan the Weatherman

      I would not enjoy a warm dry second half of January at all under the current circumstances if it verified.

    • Kamau40

      If you remember back in Aug/Sep ’13, I was being very optimistic about the prospects of a much wetter season this year especially after a very dismal ending last year. But, you were warning me about being too optimistic about this season and you were spot on due essential to the same modes that were in place like last year, -PDO, +AMO, and Neutral ENSO. I was going by the prospects of a moderate El Nino because the CFS model were showing that as a possibility at the time; however, as time went on the models began to suddenly collapse the prospect of an El Nino development and then eventually I began to realize that this year is not looking good. Furthermore, your above post consistently verifies that if the because if the long range outlook is correct, which unfortunately I tend to believe due to the stubborn persistence of the incredibly strong RRR, this rainy season I believe will be worse than the 1976-77 season. You are also correct about the increase population growth in the state and that we do not have the water infrastructure to deal with a devastating year like the 1970s. But that is our reality. The only hope I see at this point is the continued idea based on the CFS models of the idea of a new developing El Nino pattern starting in the Spring of this year and hoping it will develop into at least a moderate one along with a flip in the AMO. This is only a “hope for change” if you know what I mean, not a guarantee. Nevertheless, it is something we will be watching for in the coming months. In the mean time, unfortunately, based on what I see of the past and current weather trends, I expect another very bad finish to the season, possibly worse than the drought of the 1970s, even though we may get some precipitation before the end of the season.

    • Kamau40

      If you remember back in Aug/Sep ’13, I was being very optimistic about the prospects of a much wetter season this year especially after a very dismal ending last year. But, you were cautioning me about being too optimistic about this season and you were spot on due essentially to the same modes that were in place like the last 2 previous seasons, -PDO, +AMO, and Neutral ENSO. I was going by the prospects of a moderate El Nino because the CFS models were showing that as a possibility at the time; however, as time went on the models began to suddenly collapse the prospect of an El Nino development and went back to neutral ENSO. Due to the state’s population growth, which you mentioned in the above blog, we do not have the water infrastructure to deal with a devastating year like the 1970s. But, unfortunately this is our reality. The only hope I see at this point is the continued idea based on the current CFS models of the idea of a new developing El Nino pattern starting in the Spring of this year and hoping it will develop into at least a moderate one along with a flip in the AMO(which I think would be best) by the 2014-15 season. This is only a “hope for change” if you know what I mean, not a guarantee. Nevertheless, it is something we will be watching for in the coming months. In the mean time, unfortunately, based on what I see of the past and current weather trends, I expect another very bad finish, possibly worse than the drought of the 1970s, even though we may get some precipitation before the end of the season. My great advice, we need to REALLY continue to conserve water because we don’t know how much longer this current drought will last.

      • By the way, I’ve included the most recent seasonal CFS projection in a Weather West Twitter update. It’s an eye-popping graphic, that’s for sure. Thanks for pointing it out!

      • Dan the Weatherman

        I doubt if the AMO will flip negative next year, even though there always is the possibility, but it surely would be nice if it did.

  • Also, as a side note, the Weather West Twitter feed contains some information and images that I don’t always include in full posts on the blog. Sometimes it’s a lot easier to write a 140-character update than a 2000-word one. 🙂 Especially during periods of infrequent main blog updates, I’d suggest checking these out!

  • Dan the Weatherman

    Whatever it is that is keeping us locked in this pattern began in earnest after the very wet 2010-11 season and has only increased in frequency since then.

    • Kamau40

      The California Department of Water Resources will be conducting its first snow survey of the season on Fri Jan 3rd. The electronic sensors in the Sierra is showing only 20 percent water content. The San Jose Mercury news is very concerned about this current dry spell too. This drought is beginning to get more and more media attention. They even realize that this is a serious statewide problem. In fact, I was just reading that the state’s water agencies will be discussing more conservation efforts next month, especially since there is no sign of major storms on the horizon as far out as we can see.

  • rainscout

    Cannot imagine what is “gorgeous”about bone dry brown hills..drying up streams and rivers…forests that are crying for rain..and almost no variation in the weather at all. Heard a local weatherman say ” beautiful sunny days for as far as the extended forecast goes out” without a concern in the world about the coming water crises…where do they find these people!! For God sakes they are already guaranteed warm dry sunny weather for 6-8 months every year…now with the RRR it looks like 12 months and counting…pretty much give up on people at this point …As I said before even the National Weather Service seems very casual about the severity of this record dry continuing seemingly unbreakable pattern…

    • donnak10

      And that’s just 1 reason I don’t watch local news. They frustrate me!!!!!

    • Azmordean

      All most people care about is being able to wear short sleeves and no umbrella for the 8 foot walk to the car each day.

  • rainscout

    I normally don’t watch almost any tv media…but with guest over the holidays watching football …could not dodge the local news and weather clips.. Long ago gave up on much intelligence in the media…

  • rainscout

    azmordean..sums it up pretty well…on the other hand sure am glad about the perspective and informatiom on this Weatherwest Blog site…although it is getting really hard to get the teaser of a possible change and then have it swing back to the RRR extreme…Right now rain seems like a distant memory..sure hope Nothern Calif. is not becoming more and more like Southern Calif…Climate wise there is not much difference right now..

    • alanstorm

      Drives me crazy. TV “meteorologists” casually mention needing the rain, but no alarm about building crisis. I live in coastal Northwestern Ca mountains and the creeks are all still summer-dry. .Alot of animals coming out of the hills looking for water. I don’t want to even imagine what the summer fire season will be like! Checking the 10 day forecast every morning for hopes of rain has been a daily dissapointment. Never seen anything like this in all my life here. Won’t be long till it starts to dominate the news

  • redlands

    Was a balmy 81 in Redlands, Ca today Jan-1-2014 almost a record for the day —-84 is the record for Jan-1 at my station Way too warm and dry !!!!

  • snow755

    Any one seen any UFO sightings on new year eve ?

    • Dan the Weatherman

      I saw a couple of lights to the sky to my south / southwest at midnight when all the fireworks were going off and New Years’ celebrations were taking place, but they were probably airplanes or helicopters since it was in the general direction of John Wayne Airport.

  • It’s looking like there might be a brief opportunity for some light precipitation around 1/7, but after that the RRR rebuilds with a vengance. We’ll have to keep an eye on next week–if the system takes a more westerly track there could at least be widespread showers for a brief period. Hard to believe that that’s news in early January, but we’re grasping at straws here.

    • Ricky Wogisch

      WHAT MAY TURN OUT TO BE MORE ENCOURAGING IS THE RIDGE DOES NOT
      REBUILD NEARLY AS STRONG AS THE LOW MOVES OFF TO THE EAST ON
      WEDNESDAY. IN FACT, A FAIR NUMBER OF SOLUTIONS BRING ADDITIONAL
      MINOR STORMS BACK INTO NORTHERN CALIFORNIA INTO THE BAY AREA
      THROUGH THE REST OF NEXT WEEK……..this was the NWS FD discussion
      earlier today

  • willb

    Very interesting news on the NWS area discussion for the north bay. They suggest the ridge may break down, however Weather West has the RRR returning. Very curious, as I assume the information is from the same source?

  • rainscout

    It is curious..but the NWS discussion did have a very wait and see attitude about it..and they have hinted at changes before that never happened..never the less it is getting hard to believe that it can stay this dry and weather dead forever..but then we have never dealt with the RRR before which appears to have taken on a sinsiter life of it’s own..

    • Dan the Weatherman

      I feel the same way in that this dryness can’t go on forever.
      The main thing that has been different about the RRR versus other similar patterns has been the persistence of the pattern going on for a year as opposed to a few weeks and possibly the size of the ridge.

  • redlands

    Alanstorm — I agree with what your saying — I was watching weather section – last night Jan-1-2014 — CBS — Rich Fields — Saying It was a nice day and its gonna get better. Yes its nice if we were getting 70-80 degree weather in the middle of summer — but we need some rain. I also don’t like when — we get a few sprinkles and the TV weathermen/newspeople — state we will tell u when its gonna end -when we only got a drip or two — come on it doesn’t rain that much in Southern Calif — lets enjoy it.

  • Sunchaser

    Los Angeles/Oxnard NWS Area Forecast Discussion @ 4.50 PM Long term seems to think that we are in for a pattern change…That is if you believe in the GFS…The ECMWF also depicts a pattern change..could this be the change we have been waiting for ?…..Only time will tell….!!!!!!

    • Dan the Weatherman

      I sure hope this is the change that we are waiting for because it is time for the pattern to change after the year-long domination of the RRR. I am predicting a pattern change this month that will lead to rain in CA including Socal even if this one gets delayed for a bit.

  • Regarding rumors of a potential pattern change next week: it does look like there will be an opportunity for light precipitation for a 2-3 day period throughout much of California (though less than half an inch would fall everywhere). There is a great deal of uncertainty regarding this evolution, though, and it’s possible these systems wash out before making it ashore.

    More importantly, though, I see no evidence of a true large-scale “pattern change” in the traditional sense–while the eastern part of the persistent ridging will temporarily and marginally weaken enough to allow a couple of weak disturbances through next week, in the longer term there appears to be excellent agreement that the RRR will build back in after that and possibly amplify even further (operational/ensemble GFS, recent CFS runs, and CPC analysis all agree on the general persistence of well-below average precip in California). I remain, unfortunately, fairly pessimistic.

    • Dan the Weatherman

      If the RRR does indeed build back and amplify even further, doesn’t that increase the chances that it will be undercut by southern stream energy at some point if storms are forced so far northward to almost the North Pole or whereabouts to come back down over Canada?

      • craig matthews

        This has happened twice this fall. The RRR amplifies way up into Alaska making room for pacific jet energy to undercut the ridge. But instead, a new ridge forms northeast of Hawaii and amplifies north cutting off the pacific jet that is attempting to undercut the ridge. So instead we get one minor system that is allowed to squeeze through and give us about a half inch of rain in the wetter areas of California at an interval of once every 30 days. I’m no expert but that’s what I’ve observed lately. Even if the RRR makes it to the pole region, a new ridge takes its place off the west coast. Sorry to be so down about it. I think this is where the -PDO is taking its toll, not allowing the pacific jet to extend further east at lower latitudes in the eastern pacific.

        • craig matthews

          Another item of interest is that CPC models expect the arctic oscillation to go negative very soon and possibly extremely negative in some of the models. This combined with a strongly amplified RRR could produce a very cold arctic outbreak over the central and eastern U.S in the week 2 period. Unfortunately the negative phase of the arctic oscillation doesn’t help us. In fact it might just make things even worse.

  • rainscout

    Calling the possible pattern change..an actual change..is kind of like putting lipstick on a pig..If we get a very slight chance of a very short duration of “change”.. and then back to the sinister RRR..warm and dry for the extended..well sorry to sound so pessimistic but this is just putting more nails in the coffin of what could turn out an extremeley dead and dry year!!! On the other hand just to see a bank of clouds would be almost astonishing at this point…

  • Coldspot

    NOAA Medford showing a chance of rain for Northern California Monday night thru Thursday. Let’s hope this can be the start of something. And I agree with the folks when some tv weather folks talk about”another gorgeous day”, when it should be “unfortunately another gorgeous day”.

    • Some light rain is certainly possible in spots next week, though by no means guaranteed. Unfortunately, there’s no real indication that this is the start of a more meaningful trend towards more precipitation.

    • Dan the Weatherman

      No sunny day is gorgeous when we are in as dire need of rain as we are right now. We have plenty of opportunities during our dry season to enjoy the sunshine such as during spring and summer when a lot of those sunny days are much more pleasant than the type of sunny days we get this time of year anyway and the days are longer as well. I would rather see clouds and rain this time of year with sunny periods in between as opposed to constant sun and dryness ad nauseum!

  • 12Z GFS operational run brings near-zero precip to most of California over the next 16 days, which is consistent with recent runs. I know it’s hard to believe that this pattern will continue much longer, given our personal experience with West Coast weather, but the persistence of the present pattern is essentially unprecedented in living memory, and right now there are no obvious signs that the RRR will relent in the near future. It’s starting to look increasingly likely that January will feature extremely low precipitation totals in California.

    • sc100

      It’s easy to say a given year is a “history-making year” but we’re truly living through such a time right now. It’s incredible to see no real pattern change in sight yet.

    • Sunchaser

      This is what LA/Oxnard office has to say as of 10:00 Am today…GFS and ECMWF
      SOLUTIONS ARE IN PRETTY GOOD AGREEMENT THIS FAR OUT
      FOR A COLD STORM SYSTEM TO IMPACT SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA ON THURSDAY.
      SKY COVER AND POPS HAVE BEEN INCREASED ACROSS THE AREA. SNOW
      LEVELS COULD LOWER TO AS LOW AS 4000 FEET WITH THIS SYSTEM. AT
      THIS TIME THE BEST CHANCE OF RAIN AND MOUNTAIN SNOW COULD BE FOR
      AREAS NORTH OF POINT CONCEPTION AND ACROSS SOUTHERN LOS ANGELES
      COUNTY. THERE IS ALSO A POSSIBILITY OF WRAP AROUND PRECIPITATION
      AND WET SANTA ANA WEATHER PATTERN ALSO DEVELOPING WITH THIS SYSTEM
      FOR LATE WEEK. THOUGH THE TRACK IS UNCERTAIN AT THIS TIME DUE TO
      THE SYSTEMS CUTOFF NATURE…THIS SYSTEM HAS THE INGREDIENTS
      NECESSARY TO BRING THE FIRST MEASURABLE PRECIPITATION TO MOST
      AREAS FOR 2014…..Keeping my fingers crossed for the time being…

  • sc100

    This is a crazy look at how for the first time ever at Folsom Lake, the lake level may fall below the intake pipe that moves water from the lake to homes and businesses in the communities around it. They’re actually thinking of having a barge float in one of the bigger “pools” and pump water to the pipe. The piece also explains something I’ve been wondering, which is why there is still so much water leaving Folsom Lake right now with no real rain in sight. It turns out that because of laws requiring downstream fish habitats to be preserved, they’re required to release a certain amount of water each day during the winter. Dam operators right now are trying to have those restrictions relaxed some to keep more water in the lake. It’s a good example of some of the many different interests that compete for water in the state.

    http://www.news10.net/news/article/267576/2/Folsom-Dam-may-cut-outflows-to-conserve-dwindling-supply

    • Water politics in California are unbelievably convoluted and often counterintuitive. That’s the trouble with having heavily managed watersheds–dams and reservoirs make life possible in a relatively dry region home to tens of millions of people, but comes at the expense of a normally-functioning and self-sufficient ecological regime. In the system which we’ve constructed over the past century or so, the needs of humans and the natural environment come into direct conflict, and that conflict becomes particularly acute at times like the present.

      The Folsom Lake numbers are really quite distressing, though it’s worth keeping in mind that other (larger and more important) reservoirs are not yet in as bad of shape as is Folsom. The existing buffer in the larger reservoirs, however, is quite literally drying up as we speak, so the situation may be very different a couple of months down the road.

      • snow755

        You do no that there are other mode runs out there other then the gfs. Right ?

  • alanstorm

    Well, yet another DD (daily dissapointment) looking at TWC’s 10 day forecast. 40% chance back down to 10%. Worries abound here in Mendocino county about the looming fire season, wells drying up, etc. Not long before the cities will be confronted with their water wasting lifestyles. Car washing, lawn sprinklers, swimming pools, and the like will be luxury not afforded. A major drought emergency needs to be declared now, considering the pathetic snowpack and how much if the food supply grown in California is dependant on it.

  • craig matthews

    Now hoping for a Fabulous February and Miracle March. Both the latest MJO forecast and Arctic Oscillation forecast support a potential arctic outbreack in the central to eastern U.S. which would lock the RRR in place through the end of the month unless by some miracle the pacific jet punches through. I’m on board with the rain dance now.

    • Dan the Weatherman

      I think the central and eastern part of the country will be due for a “January thaw” later on this month or early February after all the cold air they have had and what is forecast over the next week or two.

      • Flunking_retirement

        Not until this negative polar oscillation changes they aren’t. I grew up back there, and we had many years where we wouldn’t see temps above freezing for weeks. They are in for a long cold winter for the same reason we are in for a long dry one.

      • Flunking_retirement

        Not until this negative polar oscillation changes they aren’t. I grew up back there, and we had many years where we wouldn’t see temps above freezing for weeks. They are in for a long cold winter for the same reason we are in for a long dry one.

  • Azmordean

    Call me overly hopeful – but I do think we’re seeing some slight signs of change in the long range models. Some runs of the Euro for example. My take is they are probably early with any pattern change, but they are possibly picking up on something suggesting a change will eventually come. Probably more like late month or early FEB – but *hopefully* a change to something less insanely dry. At least *some* models are showing *a little* hope, which is more than could be said a few weeks ago.

    • There is slightly more hope in the Euro ensembles than the GFS ensembles, but I’m very discouraged that both show a consistent strengthening of the ridge again after next week’s fairly unimpressive rainfall chances.

  • Pingback: On snow surveys, drought, water conservation, and Mono Lake | The Mono-logue()

  • redlands

    I wouldn’t get too excited — till it actually happens. This might be the new normal — for sometime. Even when we were getting rain — we don’t get that much. Overall weather in Southern California is boring — unless u maybe live in the mountains. I guess am looking at it from the prospective of living in Redlands, Ca — where I live it doesn’t get hot like Palm Springs — Windy like Fontana, Ca or Cajon Pass Snowy like Running Springs or any other mountain area. — Cold in the Day and Night Time like back in the Midwest /East like there getting now. Were really spoiled — all this type of weather has made California overcrowded. This dryness is not gonna be able to support all these people. Can one imagine if we got the weather on the East Coast – there getting now in Southern Calif — lots of snow — temps below zero — it would completely stop everything

    • sc100

      I agree, Redlands. California has been in a dry pattern since the 1997-1998 El Nino, with only a few wet years since. So dry has been the new normal since, and there’s no telling how long this overall dry period will last, although it can last many decades. You can only know when you look back at it after it’s happened. It does appear to me that California is in for a day of reckoning soon over its water situation, with reality setting in for people of how water needs to be properly managed in this state. Hopefully the right decisions will be made.

      • Dan the Weatherman

        We need an alternate water supply in situations like this when it gets extremely dry such as desalinated water for example. I don’t know how much risk there may be to the environment with desalination such as whether the salty brine is dumped into the ocean making it too salty in one place that could pose a danger to sea life or whether the brine can be used in other ways thus eliminating the waste products from the process.

        • sc100

          Living right next to an ocean, it’s understandable how desalination would be a tantalizing option to boost water supplies. It would be great to hear from somebody who’s done research into the feasibility and cost-effectiveness of California being able to do that on a scale that would make a meaningful difference.

          • jason

            I live in Huntington and it’s been a hot topic here. I’d think I’d vote against it. From what I’ve read it takes too much energy to produce, plus the brine situation. I’ve also heard there hasn’t been a successful plant but I’m unsure if this is true.

            Orange County has a good groundwater system and has been recycling water through RO

  • Starting to sound like a broken record, but after next week’s modest rain chances (which are starting to look a lot like mostly dry inside sliders), the models rebuild and amplify the Eastern Pacific ridge to a rather extreme degree, even relative to recent weeks. This amplification during weeks 2-3 may be associated with an extreme negative phase of the Arctic Oscillation, which may lead continued outbreaks of bitterly/dangerously cold air over most of North America east of the Rockies. This would be highly unfavorable for significant California precipitation for essentially all of January. It’s still too early to write off the month, but current prospects are rather dim.

    • Severe Wx

      and the legacy of the 2013 RRR lives on…

    • Sunchaser

      Yup…Looks like all the models have backed off on the precipitation chances next week except for the EC which still shows some chance of rain…You SUCK RRR !!!!!lol

    • sc100

      Basically just looks like a sprinkle in the north part of the state next week and then back to our current reality.

  • donnak10

    What I’am seeing as a result of very warm days in my county, Tuolumne is the price in propane. Last fill up I paid 2.62 per gallon, approx 3 months ago. My recent fill up I paid 3.76 per gallon. With very warm days people have no need for propane, as that annoying sun that sits all day on the horizon warms things up. And, as the days get longer that orange ball just glows. Summers in this county are brutal and with no rain in winter everyone will be tested. Rain is iffy but summers never fail us!

  • willb

    Some people still think the world is flat and D. Trump is spouting that huge weather anomalies – the near record cold temps across the country- are signs that Climate Change is a hoax. What is happening here in CA is potentially such a big event that it might actually effect political change. If there is any silver lining that is the only thing I can come up with…except, of course, for the Chronicle’s feature yesterday; Drought has its benefits… http://www.sfgate.com/outdoors/article/Drought-has-its-outdoors-recreation-benefits-5107371.php
    (snark!)

    • The cold outbreaks in the East are certainly getting more national media attention than the California drought. That’s one of the problems with describing the human consequences of drought–they sneak up on you, they’re slow growing, and initially it doesn’t affect most people’s day-to-day lives to a great extent. Ultimately, though, there’s a good chance that a lot of people are going to start feeling this one pretty acutely in short order.

  • craig matthews

    Front page of Monterey Herald “Snowpack at 20 percent”, and 10 percent further north. This article has some good info as well as comments from Bill Patzert and our dear friend Daniel Swain. On another note, the flat earth society has pronounced that there is no such thing as global warming or climate change, and we can keep on raping our planet for the almighty dollar and there will be no consequence.

  • craig matthews

    Something that is rarely brought up is the North Pacific Oscillation and West Pacific teleconnection pattern. Dubbed the NPO/WP pattern. This pattern is linked to meridional movements of the Asian/Pacific Jet and pacific storm track modulation. The NPO/WP is influential on the pacific northwest/western Mexico/ and south central great plains winter precipitation. Even more important is that the NPO/WP is strongly linked to marginal ice zone variability of the Arctic seas with an influence that surpasses other pacific modes. Scientist still have a lot to learn about the NPO/WP, and some believe it could be more influential then ENSO. I have not been able to find much info on the phases of the NPO/WP and what phase, or mode we are in right now. But I believe it is a part of what is going on off our coast right now. Some of the terminology on some of the web pages on the subject I have discovered are a little over my head. But there are 2 things that have stood out at me in my research on this subject. And that is marginal ice zone variability in the arctic seas, and meridional movements of the Asian/Pacific jet. The fact that or earth is warming and ice caps are melting sets off alarms. And how its affecting the NPO/WP is a big question. Hope this will spark some interest to the readers here.

    • I’m not as familiar with some of these relatively newly-recognized modes of variability, but there’s certainly a plausible linkage between sea ice in the marginal Arctic seas and the behavior of the Pacific jet. The possible linkage between Arctic sea ice and mid-latitude climate is currently a very active area of research. I’m not convinced that the present extremely persistent pattern over the Pacific is the sole product of PDO-like variability, but I’m not sure anyone can say anything more definitive than that at the moment.

      • Dan the Weatherman

        I still think that the combination of the -PDO, +AMO, and ENSO neutral are a part of the cause of this extreme dryness especially across the southern half of CA, but I am beginning to think there may be something else factoring into it this time around.

        1958-59 and 1960-61 both ranked in the top 20 driest years on record for San Francisco, 6th and 19th respectively. Snowfall records for Donner Summit show both of those years below average in maximum snow depth and total snowfall being more in the middle. It doesn’t appear that Norcal was as dry overall as Socal during the last period of this combination of oceanic conditions even though there were drier periods. I don’t see a remarkable drought pattern in the late 1950s and early 1960s for Norcal like what we are currently experiencing.

  • Dan the Weatherman

    Even the San Diego NWS is beginning to refer to the RRR as “relentlessly stubborn”.

  • It really is amazing when ensemble means continue to show a very anomalous feature for months on end.

  • It really is amazing when ensemble means continue to show a very anomalous feature for months on end.

    • Dan the Weatherman

      I really can’t imagine this same pattern continuing into the spring. It has to change at some point. For Socal this season has been similar to 1962-63 as far as dryness is concerned and the rains didn’t start until mid-late January that year. Los Angeles finished with just over 8″ for that season, definitely below normal, despite the very bleak start. San Francisco had just over 22″ that year.

      • sc100

        That’s what you would think, but then again we haven’t dealt with the RRR before. We’re obviously dealing with a huge outlier event and these things can often cause events once thought unthinkable. I think everyone in the state will probably see rain again over the next three months but I wouldn’t at all be surprised if all three months were very much below average.

        • Dan the Weatherman

          I just hope we are not entering a decades-long drought cycle like CA has seen way back in the past before it was populated.

          • Nightmeir

            The last time California experienced a mega drought was the medieval warming period when temperatures were similar to how they are today, correct? What a terrifying scenario.

            Question for people who can look at this data: how do the weather patterns this year compare to 91-92 (the year of the so-called “miracle march”)?

    • donnak10

      And I only thought we had hit rock bottom!!!!!

  • redlands

    What does the graph/pic below mean or show ? Does it mean — little or no rain Could u explain

    • It shows the mean geopotential height anomaly for all of the GFS ensemble members. This image depicts a continuation of the large positive (ridging) anomaly in the North Pacific in the position of the RRR. So…this suggests the pattern that has been in place will not change much over the next 2 weeks.

      • snow755

        Vary dry dry Jan coming. Up

  • snow755

    Fire season this year will be vary vary bad if we don’t see rain soon this think. What would happen if we get dry t-storm in the summer I think it’s more fun and wetter in the summer time then it is in the fall and winter time we do get some rain in the summer time from the monsoon

    • craig matthews

      Hate to bring the 1976-77 season up again, but it is worth noting that we had more rain in august 1976 then any other month that year in our local area on the central coast of California. This is just a theory of mine, but perhaps higher latitude blocking in the winter months with the jet displaced further to the north then usual may allow monsoon moisture to move further north and west then usual during the summer months. But this is just speculation. The wet august of 1976 may have been caused from left over moisture from an old hurricane off of mexico that was drawn north over the state by a cut off low offshore.

      • Dan the Weatherman

        Socal also had some significant rain in August, 1976 from the remnants of an eastern Pacific hurricane, and also there was a large storm around Mother’s Day in 1977. There were definitely some significant rain events during that time period outside the traditional rainy season time frame.

  • lightning10

    That is one strong ridge on the end of the 0z. It doesn’t get more “great” if you enjoy the sun and warm weather.

    • Yeah–the 00z GFS is even more more dismal than recent runs, if that’s possible, bringing increasingly warm and dry conditions through the month of January while the offshore ridge continues to amplify.