Ridiculously Resilient Ridge continues to shatter records, but pattern shift may be approaching

Filed in Uncategorized by on January 25, 2014 344 Comments

Current weather summary

Exceptionally warm, dry, and stable weather conditions have prevailed over California since early December. Precipitation totals over the past 40-60 days have been near zero across most of the state of California, with only very light precipitation observed in the north. Various observing sites have now surpassed their previous all-time records for the greatest number of consecutive dry days during the “rainy” season, and these new records will almost certainly be extended at least a few more days as bone dry conditions continue. Nearly all of California has been experiencing record high temperatures on a daily basis over the past several weeks, including the establishment of new all-time January record high temperatures in a few places (most notably Sacramento, at 79 degrees).

Cracked, dry soil in San Luis Reservoir, January 2014. Photo courtesy of Jason Liske.

Cracked, dry soil in San Luis Reservoir, January 2014. Photo courtesy of Jason Liske.

In addition to this impressive stretch of record-breaking January warmth, the observed atmospheric flow pattern over California has been downright bizarre over the past couple of weeks. Weak disturbances have been propagating westward or northwestward over the state around the south side of the highly persistent ridge, bringing periodic mid and high-level cloudiness and occasional offshore winds. This flow pattern is completely reversed from its normal orientation (weather systems in winter typically move eastward over California). Just to give some indication of how strange this pattern really is: the moisture source for the observed cloudiness across parts of California over the past few days is the subtropical East Pacific Ocean southwest of Baja California (rather than the Gulf of Alaska).

 

The increasing impacts of California’s extraordinary dry spell

California Governor Jerry Brown formally declared a Drought Emergency on January 17, and a slew of voluntary or mandatory water restrictions have been rapidly enacted across Northern California since the start of the calendar year. Certain communities dependent on local water sources are facing extreme shortages as supplies are already running dry. While most major urban areas in California have a larger “storage buffer” in the form of shared water supplies in the larger reservoirs around the state, even these water levels are plummeting as runoff approaches zero in most places.

Extreme low water levels at Lake Oroville, January 2014. Photo courtesy of Weather West member "TheNothing."

Extreme low water levels on the north side of Folsom Lake, January 2014. Photo courtesy of Jeff Houser.

The secondary effects of the drought have also becoming more apparent in January. Extreme fire weather conditions and associated Red Flag Warnings have been issued multiple times for large parts of the state that have not experienced these conditions during mid-winter in living memory. Localized dust storms are starting to occur in the San Joaquin Valley, where powder-dry topsoil from hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland that has gone un-planted and un-irrigated as a result of the drought is being lofted by unusually strong southeasterly winds. Air quality as a result of this stagnant weather pattern has been extremely poor throughout the state, but conditions in the Central Valley have been especially bad, where levels of fine particulate matter (PM-2.5) have reached dangerous levels even for healthy adults. The Sierra snowpack is nearly nonexistent–only 5-7% of normal in the north–and the winter sports industry has come to a virtual standstill except at those venues capable of generating “artificial snow.” In short: it does not feel very much like winter here in California.

 

Signs of weakness in the “RRR”, or just more false hope?

On quite a few occasions over the past four months, our best atmospheric models have suggested that a pattern change might be in the works: that the “Ridiculously Resilient Ridge” might finally be breaking down or at least moving into a position that would allow some storms to reach California. So far, however, the models have been wrong in every instance: the RRR has remained stronger and more persistent than projected by the models. At the time of this writing, however, there are more convincing signs that there may be at least a temporary weakening and/or shift in the persistent ridging over the East Pacific that would finally allow for some precipitation to reach California for the first time in nearly two months.

gfs_model_forecast

GFS model depiction of late-week precipitation event. (NOAA/NCEP)

California will likely experience 3-5 more days of dry weather and record-breaking high temperatures before a Pacific storm system takes advantage of a weakness in the mean ridge and approaches the state from the northwest. It’s not clear at this point how much precipitation this system will bring to California–since while it appears to contain a fairly large amount of atmospheric moisture, the system will have to overcome an exceptionally dry existing airmass. That said, it does appear that there’s a chance that NorCal could see a soaking/moderate rain event later this week. While this event probably won’t have a major impact on the extreme drought conditions in California, it may be enough to settle the dust, clear the air, and reduce wildfire risk temporarily.

 

Few prospects for significant drought relief in the medium to long term

In the longer term, the evolution of the large-scale pattern is even less clear. The models have already backed off their more aggressive solutions from a couple of days ago (i.e. strong zonal flow and significant storminess in California) and are now (once again) depicting a familiar pattern of high-amplitude blocking over the far eastern Pacific. There is one big difference between the projected pattern and what we’ve observed recently, though: the blocking ridge may set up somewhat further to the west as we enter February, which would put California in the region of anomalous northerly flow on the downstream side. In practical terms, this means that we can almost certainly bid our record warmth goodbye and might possibly need to prepare for very cold conditions. Some recent runs of the GFS and ECMWF have depicted exceptionally cold (yet mostly dry) conditions developing over the West during the first half of February, which would constitute a drastic change in the weather but not help much with the extreme drought conditions. It is worth noting that persistent, high amplitude blocking in this region has historically been associated with most of California’s major Arctic outbreaks, including the notable February 1976 and December 1990 events. However, it’s still far too early to discuss the details of this possible pattern evolution, and it’s entirely possible that our not-so-good friend the RRR could set up shop once again in a position favorable for unusually warm conditions in California. Regardless: what is becoming increasingly clear is that drought-busting rains are not headed our way for the next two weeks, at least.

ridiculously_resilient_ridge_2014

ridiculously_resilient_ridge_2013

 

 

 

 

 

The RRR during calendar year 2013 (left) and Water Year 2013-2014 (right)

In the even longer term, current seasonal projections suggest that California will continue to experience below-normal precipitation for the rest of the rainy season. While it would only take an atmospheric river or two to really jump-start river runoff and reservoir inflows, the prevailing pattern of weak zonal flow and amplified East Pacific ridging does not favor this kind of critically-needed precipitation event. I’ve previously discussed the possible role of a region of very high sea surface temperature anomalies in the North Pacific in reinforcing the RRR, and unfortunately the seasonal climate models suggest that the warm pool will persist right into the summer. In the really, really long term, the dynamical ocean models are currently projecting an increasing chance of El Nino conditions developing across the tropical East Pacific over the summer, though even if this projection comes to fruition it will unfortunately occur too late to affect rainfall potential for this water year.

 

A note on the severity of the current California drought

sierra_8_station_drought

Water year 2013-2014 is now the record driest to date in California. (CA DWR)

Calendar year 2013 was the driest on record in California’s 119 year formal record, and likely the driest since at least the Gold Rush era (the current event is without precedent in San Francisco’s precipitation records, for example, which go back to 1859). Observed precipitation for the current (2013-2014) water year–which began in October 2013–is tracking below all previous water years, including both years in the 1976-1977 drought and the extremely dry winter of 1923-1924. While we don’t know for sure what the rest of winter holds in store–and it is certainly still possible that February and March bring much-needed rainfall–current precipitation deficits are so large that it would require very heavy, sustained precipitation for the rest of winter to bring us up toward average values. In fact, an informal analysis suggests that we would have to receive more precipitation between now and the end of the rainy season than has ever been observed in California during the February-April period in order to erase the deficit. Therefore, even a repeat of the (highly alliterative) drought-busting late-season events in California’s meteorological history–the infamous “Fabulous February”, “Miracle March“, and “Awesome April” wet spells of years past–would probably not be enough to end the drought.

precipitation_anomaly

Water Year 2013-2014 precipitation deficits over the West. (WRCC/DRI)

For now, I’ll be keeping an eye on the medium range forecast models for any signs of significant drought relief. In the meantime, I strongly encourage everyone in California to be mindful of their water usage in the midst of these increasingly severe drought conditions and to take active conservation steps in advance of what promises to be a challenging summer and fall ahead. Stay tuned.

© 2014 WEATHER WEST

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  • FR44

    I’m afraid to read this new post.

  • TheNothing

    Check your inbox Weather West I just sent you a pm.

  • Utrex

    Very nice article! Yes, at least we do have hope. I doubt this rain sign in the future will back off now.

  • Nimue1

    The clear dry weather has brought rather cold temps to Comptche, in Mendocino County, Northern California. We had 2-3 weeks of teen and 20’s at night, all frozen.

    • Mendodave

      you poor guys rarely get sun out there in the winter..
      here in Little River, I have had the dubious pleasure of seeing the exact path of the sun in deep winter. now THAT is depressing. but knowledge is power, now I know which trees to keep an eye on and maybe drop later.

  • Dan the Weatherman

    I have a couple questions regarding the warm waters in the north Pacific:

    Are the anomalously warm temperatures that are now occurring in the north Pacific typical of those observed in a -PDO regime, or is this warmth unusual?

    Also, did these warm waters appear before the RRR got established or did the waters warm after the RRR had been present for a while?

    • Kamau40

      Hey Dan,
      Great question. If you go onto mammothweather.com, Howard Schectner explained yesterday in depth that the warm waters occurring in the north Pacific is typical of those observed in a -PDO regime based on his years of experience doing weather. His analysis seems to make sense to me.

      • Dan the Weatherman

        I was reading Howard Sheckter’s blog last night regarding the -PDO and the warm pool. I know that there is usually warm water up there somewhere during the -PDO, but I am wondering if this current warm pool is warmer than normally found in -PDO episodes, or is displaced somewhat from its normal position, possibly causing the pattern to be different this time around.

        • Dan the Weatherman

          Daniel, would you please delete the comment above this? I moved the comment above and thought I had deleted it here and then it showed my comment as “Guest” instead of being deleted entirely. Thanks.

    • Kamau40

      Dan,
      Great question. If you go to mammothweather.com, Howard Schectner, who has studied weather for many decades, explained on yesterday’s afternoon blog, more in depth the warm waters in the North Pacific. He says there is no direct correlation to the RRR and this current dry spell which I tend to support and agree. The warm water is a normal occurrence during the winter months. We have to keep in mind that there are many unknown or unexplained factors contributing to this drought. There is no quick answers to the cause and effect to weather, but we can certainly develop theories about weather which may or may not be factual.

      • I can say with certainty that this warm anomaly is not a typical feature in the North Pacific. By definition, it’s a large anomaly–meaning that it’s a large departure from normal! While this SST feature is probably not the only factor influencing this persistent ridging, I don’t think we can discount the importance of positive feedbacks in the ocean-atmosphere system. This is not merely the canonical -PDO signature.

        • Dan the Weatherman

          Was this anomaly greater then 1C when the RRR first formed 13 months ago, or did the water become progressively warmer the longer the ridge has persisted?

          • Kamau40

            I don’t know for sure, but I will do some research to find out or I can find out from Howard if he knows. He constantly watches the SST in the Pacific and has been for many years to help make his predictions for upcoming seasons.

      • Dan the Weatherman

        I was reading Howard Sheckter’s blog last night regarding the -PDO and the warm pool. I know that there is usually warm water up there somewhere during the -PDO, but I am wondering if this current warm pool is warmer than normally found in -PDO episodes, or is displaced somewhat from its normal position, possibly causing the pattern to be different this time around.

    • craig matthews

      Hey Dan, here’s a good link that may help answer your question about warm waters in the Northeast Pacific. http://www.ospo.noaa.gov/Products/ocean/sst/anomoly/index. You can scroll down to the bottom of this page and click on the year 2013, then click on full globe, which gives you a picture of the entire pacific ocean and its sst anomalies for any date of interest in the year 2013. It appears on this page that the blob of warm waters originated in the west central north pacific in early January 2013. Then the warm waters extended into the eastern north pacific during the spring and summer of 2013, and has remained in the eastern north pacific up till now. So according to this page, the RRR developed in the north east pacific when waters in the northeast pacific were below average. But I could be interpreting this data wrong, so see for yourself and I hope this helps you in your research.

      • craig matthews

        If that link doesn’t work, type in “Current Operational SST Anomaly Charts” Office of Satellite and Products Opportunities. Then take it from there.

  • rainscout

    Thanks for this very well written and informative post ..as usual from Weather West…I was clinging to that old saying..”The bigger they are the harder they fall”..but this RRR has taken on a life of its own and sadly it looks like it will have its way with us for the foreseeable future..I really hope some areas of northern Ca. get some measurable rain at the end of next week but I have a sinking feeling by the time it gets to the San Fran bay area it will be nothing but a few clouds or trace sprinkles..I pray I never have to see another year like this in my life..very depressing.. and we still have the entire normal “dry” season to go through before we can start our rain watch again for 2014-2015..I say its time to shut the valves to the pipe lines that are taking so much Northern Calif. water south…keep water in the streams and rivers for fish and wildlife and let cars get dirty and bermuda grass die…

  • redlands

    testing — this site is acting up

  • WatchTooMuchLost

    I live South of the Border in Ensenada, Mexico. Just to let you know we are in a crisis down here as well. The city is turning off the water every day from 10 AM to 10 PM to ration water. Some of us have water tanks on our roof’s that fill up during the night and we use that water during the day. There is no more ground water here, and the reservoir for the city is down to almost nothing. It has a surface area of about 30% of what it was. Max depth is now about 3-4 feet, and it used to be over 20 feet. The rock in the pic at the bottom was covered 3 years ago. Great article, and I will keep coming back here to see if there is more promising news on the horizon.

    • sc100

      Thanks for sharing and letting us know how things are going on down there. It’s scary what some communities are facing now and will face in the future.

  • Bartshe

    Thanks for the update. Just noting that Governor Brown declared the drought emergency on January 17. In the current post you have “xxxxJan”.

    Quick question: 1923-34, and 1976-77 seem to be the bottom of the barrel. For perspective, are other drought episodes close to these?

    Also, just read a recent blog where B. Lynn Ingram suggested that this could be shaping up as a 500 year drought event based on the tree-ring chronology.

    • Xerophobe

      Don’t know if I can hyper link.

      “Google” [herweijer drought columbia university] and you get a lot more info, if interested.

  • rainscout

    well..there are drought years and then there is almost no significant rain for 13 months…mid Dec. 2012 to mid Jan. 2014..hard to believe there would be 1500-2000 year old redwoods with weather such as the RRR has stuck us with…as far as records go back in my area of the Santa cruz mtns.. we have never received less than around 20 inches…this year we have 2.5″..not many forest can survive on that..if this our new “Weather”…time to relocate about 30 million people out of Calif.

    • alanstorm

      A drive up the 101 corridor from SF to Eureka is ominous: Russian river down to a trickle. Grey, dead grasslands. In Willits, a parade of CDF firetrucks and dozers, lights blazing. Eel river LOWEST I’ve ever seen, including summer 1977. Stagnant pools then creek-sized rapids. Large swaths of redwoods yellowing, even old growth along 101 turning yelliw-green, a fast change from usual dark green since Christmas. Gardens with roses blooming & trees producing buds. Water tanks have sold out everywhere.

    • Sequoia

      I’ve had the opportunity to see quite a few cut Giant Sequoias-really old ones…

      The tree rings tell all, and you find those 2 periods where California endured a 200 and 140 year drought,
      and it’s just an indistinct blur about an inch to 2 inches wide, while the tree rings above and below it are sharp and distinct, in normal climatic epochs~

      Earth Abides

      • Cliff Collipriest

        The fact that redwoods survived droughts of that duration is encouraging in a way. If this drought is only a year or two long then maybe there will not be a mass die off of native flora that I fear may happen.

        • Charlie Hohn

          the native flora would be OK, except that it can’t move into different niches as easily as it used to, due to habitat fragmentation, invasive species, etc. During one of the big megadroughts (or maybe the ‘xerothermic’ period which was a dry climactic period that lasted a while)… Mojave desert plants stretched across the Central Valley and coast range almost all the way to San Francisco. The oaks and bay trees probably retreated to seeps and springs and protected north-facing slopes with extra moisture. The redwoods… well, they live 3000 years and they are very good at extracting moisture from fog. It’s unlikely they reproduced much, but ff no new redwoods sprout during a 200 year long megadrought… not much more than a blip to the big trees.

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  • polarbytes

    Thanks for new update, Daniel, very well written with a clear and concise statement of your hypothesis with no grandstanding, unlike some other blogs I follow. And just heard on NPR that the West is being “blessed” with nice warm temps in contrast to the evil cold spell in the Midwest and east. It galls me sometimes how gullible and short sided the media is! OTOH, AK is finally get some press for the warm spell which has no lasted almost three weeks. Our weather guys are coming around to an idea that the high will divide and one half go to our NW and the other to sink far south into CA. For us this means dry and warm flow will be the dominant factor. In a normal year I would say CA would benefit with a moist, W to E flow, but now it looks like it may just be a cold and dry flow for you. A bummer for sure. As an aside, google Valdez avalance for some really frightening pics of what 4″ of rain on a 4′ snowpack will do!
    Peace, out and keep the well reasoned and balanced reporting coming.

  • Ed Morrow

    Thanks for the clear and lucid presentation of our collective predicament. We can all appreciate the effort and hard work it takes to write these interesting and informative articles. Thanks again.

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  • Dogwood

    Temps on the 10 day looking to come back to seasonal after the showers. But certainly not seeing anything on par with Dec ’90 as some were hinting.

    • There are some individual model ensemble members that are drastically colder than the mean. However, the models do already appear to be backing off from the cold and unsettled pattern and favoring an even more mundane dry and slightly cool regime.

  • craig matthews

    Thanks once again for the update. And a ray of hope as well. This potential upcoming storm system may be a temporary break in this endless dry spell, but at least a temporary break is better then nothing. Just the sound of raindrops on the roof and the smell of fresh rain will be oh so nice.

  • redlands

    There was an article in the San Bernardino – The Sun – today Jan-26-2014 by Paul Rogers – San Jose Mercury News – progers@mercurynews.com — (( PARCHED CALIFORNIA — 240-year dry spell ? No joke. It happened ))
    – Scientist worry that such megadroughts may return — Basically the article stated that the ” megadroughts” typical of California’s earlier history could come again. Reseachers have documented multiple droughts in California that lasted 10or 20 years in a row during the past 1,000 years – compared to the mere three-year duration of the current dry spell. The two most severe megadroughts make the Dust Bowl of the 1930’s look tame: a 240-year long drought that started in 850 and, 50 years after the conclusion of that one , another that stretched at least 180 years —- Theres more — will try topost the whole article

    • Dogwood

      I saw the SJ merc this morning and was prepared to be angry at the sensationalist tone of the headline- like oh we’re in a drought lets just call it a 250 YEAR MEGA-DROUGHT!!! But after reading the articIe found it to be fair and informative.

  • redlands

    ‘Megadrought’ could have catastrophic effects on California

    Folsom Lake in Northern California is so low because of the drought that people and horses can walk on much of the lake bed without even getting damp. Aric Crabb — Bay Area News Group

    By Paul Rogers, progers@mercurynews.com

    Posted: 01/25/14, 11:14 PM PST |

    California’s current drought is being billed as the driest period in the state’s recorded rainfall history. But scientists who study the West’s long-term climate patterns say the state has been parched for much longer stretches before that 163-year historical period began.

    And they worry that the “megadroughts” typical of California’s earlier history could come again.

    Through studies of tree rings, sediment and other natural evidence, researchers have documented multiple droughts in California that lasted 10 or 20 years in a row during the past 1,000 years — compared to the mere three-year duration of the current dry spell. The two most severe megadroughts make the Dust Bowl of the 1930s look tame: a 240-year-long drought that started in 850 and, 50 years after the conclusion of that one, another that stretched at least 180 years.

    “We continue to run California as if the longest drought we are ever going to encounter is about seven years,” said Scott Stine, a professor of geography and environmental studies at Cal State East Bay. “We’re living in a dream world.”

    California in 2013 received less rain than in any year since it became a state in 1850. And at least one Bay Area scientist says that based on tree ring data, the current rainfall season is on pace to be the driest since 1580 — more than 150 years before George Washington was born. The question is: How much longer will it last?

    A megadrought today would have catastrophic effects.

    California, the nation’s most populous state with 38 million residents, has built a massive economy, Silicon Valley, Hollywood and millions of acres of farmland, all in a semiarid area. The state’s dams, canals and reservoirs have never been tested by the kind of prolonged drought that experts say will almost certainly occur again.

    Stine, who has spent decades studying tree stumps in Mono Lake, Tenaya Lake, the Walker River and other parts of the Sierra Nevada, said that the past century has been among the wettest of the last 7,000 years.

    Looking back, the long-term record also shows some staggeringly wet periods. The decades between the two medieval megadroughts, for example, delivered years of above-normal rainfall — the kind that would cause devastating floods today.

    The longest droughts of the 20th century, what Californians think of as severe, occurred from 1987 to 1992 and from 1928 to 1934. Both, Stine said, are minor compared to the ancient droughts of 850 to 1090 and 1140 to 1320.

    Modern megadrought

    What would happen if the current drought continued for another 10 years or more?

    Without question, longtime water experts say, farmers would bear the brunt. Cities would suffer but adapt.

    The reason: Although many Californians think that population growth is the main driver of water demand statewide, it actually is agriculture. In an average year, farmers use 80 percent of the water consumed by people and businesses — 34 million of 43 million acre-feet diverted from rivers, lakes and groundwater, according to the state Department of Water Resources.

    “Cities would be inconvenienced greatly and suffer some. Smaller cities would get it worse, but farmers would take the biggest hit,” said Maurice Roos, the department’s chief hydrologist. “Cities can always afford to spend a lot of money to buy what water is left.”

    Roos, who has worked at the department since 1957, said the prospect of megadroughts is another reason to build more storage — both underground and in reservoirs — to catch rain in wet years.

    In a megadrought, there would be much less water in the Delta to pump. Farmers’ allotments would shrink to nothing. Large reservoirs like Shasta, Oroville and San Luis would eventually go dry after five or more years of little or no rain.

    Farmers would fallow millions of acres, letting row crops die first. They’d pump massive amounts of groundwater to keep orchards alive, but eventually those wells would go dry. And although deeper wells could be dug, the costs could exceed the value of their crops. Banks would refuse to loan the farmers money.

    The federal government would almost certainly provide billions of dollars in emergency aid to farm communities.

    “Some small towns in the Central Valley would really suffer. They would basically go away,” said Jay Lund, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at UC Davis.

    “But agriculture is only 3 percent of California’s economy today,” Lund said. “In the main urban economy, most people would learn to live with less water. It would be expensive and inconvenient, but we’d do it.”

    Farmers with senior water rights would make a huge profit, he noted, selling water at sky-high prices to cities. Food costs would rise, but there wouldn’t be shortages, Lund said, because Californians already buy lots of food from other states and countries and would buy even more from them.

    Fallback plans

    In urban areas, most cities would eventually see water rationing at 50 percent of current levels. Golf courses would shut down. Cities would pass laws banning watering or installing lawns, which use half of most homes’ water. Across the state, rivers and streams would dry up, wiping out salmon runs. Cities would race to build new water supply projects, similar to the $50 million wastewater recycling plant that the Santa Clara Valley Water District is now constructing in Alviso.

    If a drought lasted decades, the state could always build dozens of desalination plants, which would cost billions of dollars, said law professor Barton “Buzz” Thompson, co-director of Stanford University’s Woods Center for the Environment.

    Saudi Arabia, Israel and other Middle Eastern countries depend on desalination, but water from desal plants costs roughly five times more than urban Californians pay for water now. Thompson said that makes desal projects unfeasible for most of the state now, especially when other options like recycled wastewater and conservation can provide more water at a much lower cost.

    But in an emergency, price becomes no object.

    “In theory, cities cannot run out of water,” Thompson said. “All we can do is run out of cheap water, or not have as much water as we need when we really want it.”

    Over the past 10 years, he noted, Australia has been coping with a severe drought. Urban residents there cut their water demand massively, built new supply projects and survived.

    “I don’t think we’ll ever get to a point here where you turn on the tap and air comes out,” he said.

    Megadrought now

    Some scientists believe we are already in a megadrought, although that view is not universally accepted.

    Bill Patzert, a research scientist and oceanographer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada, says that the West is in a 20-year drought that began in 2000. He cites the fact that a phenomenon known as a “negative Pacific decadal oscillation” is underway — and that historically has been linked to extreme high-pressure ridges that block storms.

    Such events, which cause pools of warm water in the North Pacific Ocean and cool water along the California coast, are not the result of global warming, Patzert said. But climate change caused by the burning of fossil fuels has been linked to longer heat waves. That wild card wasn’t around years ago.

    “Long before the Industrial Revolution, we were vulnerable to long extended periods of drought. And now we have another experiment with all this CO2 in the atmosphere where there are potentially even more wild swings in there,” said Graham Kent, a University of Nevada geophysicist who has studied submerged ancient trees in Fallen Leaf Lake near Lake Tahoe.

    Already, the 2013-14 rainfall season is shaping up to be the driest in 434 years, based on tree ring data, according to Lynn Ingram, a paleoclimatologist at UC Berkeley.

    “It’s important to be aware of what the climate is capable of,” she said, “so that we can prepare for it.”

    Paul Rogers covers resources and environmental issues for the San Jose Mercury News. Contact him at 408-920-5045. Follow him at Twitter.com/PaulRogersSJMN.

    • Kamau40

      Great article. It goes back to my point awhile that I mentioned on a blog that droughts are more common than we think here in the state. Tree rings are excellent proof that droughts/floods are all cyclical. Eventually somewhere down the road we will have record wet years too. I don’t believe, however, it has anything to do with man made “climate change.” Don’t be deceived!

      • TheNothing

        Precisely, I’m sure there was no mention of “Man made global Warming” back in 850.

        • Sequoia

          The Central Valley is California’s red state bastion, and the locals here are easily swayed if you have about a thousand billboards that claim Pelosi and Costa caused the drought.

          Hit em’ with the same message until it sticks, and good.

          • Dr Tskoul

            31000 out of how many hundreds of thousands????

            Anyway, most of it got answered previously by others.

            The notion that all things are cyclical, arises from a human need for predictability. True cycles Diurnal, annual, orbital . Everything else arises from the confluence of many many variables of the earth’s atmosphere. What CO2 does is that it changes the game a tad bit. Prior knowledge can be come irrelevant at times. Unexpected weather, unpredictable weather is here to stay (+10yr time scales – annual cycle is too strong for anything else)

      • I’m curious what evidence you’ve found that suggests that wet and dry periods are “all cyclical.” Clearly there are wet and dry periods of various durations in the dendrochronological/geological records, and there’s no doubt that the geographical region now called “California” has experienced great droughts and floods in the past. But the fact that the Earth naturally experiences long-term climatic changes in no way precludes a substantial human influence on the climate system in the present era.

      • Dan the Weatherman

        I do agree that wet and dry cycles are cyclical in nature, but that doesn’t mean that the periods of each individual cycle are fixed in length. Looking back at records for Los Angeles shows that Socal has gone through wet and dry periods and is dependent on longer-term factors such as PDO and AMO, and on shorter-term cycles such as QBO, ENSO, AO, NAO, PNA, EPO, etc. I cannot say what has caused the mega droughts in the past, but it could be some totally different pattern not seen in recent history, or the same culprits causing the current drought such as the RRR staying in place for a longer period of time for whatever reason.

        • Kamau40

          Yes, I agree with the long/short term factors which plays a significant role in our climate. I noticed you didn’t mention anything in the above comments or any of your previous posts about the MJO(Madden-Julian Oscillation) or the tropical forcing in the western pacific which has been very weak or almost nonexistent for all the Fall and so far this Winter season. It too plays a significant role with the West Coast weather, especially during La Nada years like this one. Without that strong southern branch of the jet stream, we cannot get the undercutting of the ridge, which in years past is always the best way to break a major dry spell. That is why we need either a moderate-strong ENSO signal. But, again there is no one silver bullet in determining the causes for this current extreme dry spell or the one’s in the past. No doubt, this one will be researched and studied for many years to come.

          • Tropical forcing has indeed been weak, and the Pacific jet has been weak as well. It’s not clear why this has been the case recently, but hopefully the large scale conditions will change substantially by next fall if current ENSO projections hold.

          • Dan the Weatherman

            I should have mentioned the MJO during the last post as opposed to having it be part of the “etc.” MJO activity has been very weak this season for some reason and may be one of the main reasons for almost no variability in the overall pattern this year.

    • Guest

      Tree ring records are very interesting.

      Anyways, yes, the West may be in a 20 year drought overall, but HERE IS WHAT REALLY BOTHERS ME- This article is mentioning a mega drought; a long term drought that can last over 100 years, and while it is true that we may be seeing the driest year since record keeping began, or in 500+ years which is VERY BELIEVABLE BECAUSE THE RECORDS SHATTERED ARE COMPLETELY SHOCKING TO SAY THE LEAST, you can’t forget that even in long term droughts, some of the wettest years on record occur- Example: 2004-05- 2nd or 3rd rainiest winter ever in Los Angeles and San Diego. Absolutely incredible storms that stalled off the coast and dumped over a foot of rain within days in the coastal areas.

      • alanstorm

        Yes, and a warm Pinnaple express zonal flow slammed the Northwestern Ca in Dec ’64 in a La Nina year, dumped 22″ of rain in 2 days & created a flood catastrophy. A “1000 year flood” it was called

        • Dan the Weatherman

          1964-65 actually brought some late season rains to Los Angeles, and they had a season total of around 13″. That marked the turning point to a wetter pattern after the AMO went negative in 1963 after the extreme dryness of 1958-59 to 1963-64, and the mid-late 1960’s were a much wetter time period overall for Socal.

    • Ben

      Tree ring records are very interesting.

      Anyways, yes, the West may be in a 20 year drought overall (I’ll get to that in a sec), but here is what really bothers me- this article is mentioning a mega drought; a long term drought that can last over 100 years, and while it is true that we may be seeing the driest year since record keeping began, or in 500+ years which is VERY BELIEVABLE BECAUSE THE RECORDS SHATTERED ARE COMPLETELY SHOCKING TO SAY THE LEAST, you cannot just say that we’re entering a long term “mega drought”. This is SO FAR a SHORT TERM (albeit extreme) event. Computer models are predicting the potential for a strong El Nino next year. The media is doing what it always does- exaggerating and fear mongering its viewers.

      Regarding the 20 year drought- maybe overall, it’s been drier than normal and this is believable considering I grew up in Southern CA where most of of the 2000s decade was dry and 6 week dry spells were the norm in mid winter year after year, but we need to prepare ways to store water during unusually wet years. Do any of these climatologists recall that during this drought, some of the wettest years on record occured? Example: 2004-05- 2nd or 3rd rainiest winter EVER in Los Angeles and San Diego. Absolutely incredible storms that stalled off the coast and dumped over a foot of rain within days in the coastal areas. A one week storm came, left, and was followed by another week-long storm. Mud slides, catastrophic flooding, deaths, record snow in the mountains- it all hit the mainstream media and was international news….folks, THIS WAS NOT A LONG TIME AGO!!! Does anybody remember the atmospheric river event of three years ago??? Parts of LA got a foot of rain in December. It rained nearly non-stop everyday for more than a week.

      The point is not drought, or mega-drought. The point is being ready for extreme events because the climate may very well be changing. According to my own observations and the records I look over on weather.gov, weather patterns have been stalling more and more lately. Example? This winter- trough stalled on East Coast, ridge stalled on West Coast. What if next year, the pattern flips? My point is, you cannot just predict that a 13 month record drought (I’ll call it a mega drought because of it’s extremeness, but not it’s length) is the sign to 100 years of aridity coming up in this state.

      Just my two cents. What do you think? Really interested in other peoples comments.

      • Ben

        Ok, scanning over the article again, I’ll admit that I didn’t pay the closest of attention. I do now realize that the writer is not quite stating that this is going to be a mega drought, but that we need to be aware of future long term dryness in this state due to the tree ring records. It’s mostly an “if” scenario.

        Still though, there’s too much emphasis placed on drought vs extreme weather events. More emphasis needs to be placed on extreme weather events in general, especially short term events because those are just as important as the long term ones. Can you imagine how much water we could have stored in the 04/05 winter for future emergency use like now?

        • I’d say droughts on the timescale of the present one (1-2 years) could reasonably be considered “extreme weather.” It definitely bridges weather-climate timescales, but so-called “megadroughts” occur on century timescales (and, thus, we couldn’t know for sure if we were in one until it ended, 100 years down the line!).

          And you’re absolutely right–the tree ring study offers no predictive insight (nor did the original study author suggest this, to the best of my knowledge). Any indication to the contrary is the result of poor reporting by the media.

          • Dan the Weatherman

            These stories about the mega droughts of the past remind me of the stories about the “Big One” every time we have an earthquake or series of quakes.

        • alanstorm

          Good point. Guarentee we won’t be off-guard next rainy season. When we finally get out of this, resevoirs & water storage will be major issues.

  • Let’s hope we get as much precip as possible with the late-week storm, since it’s increasingly looking like that’s all we’ll get between now and ~Feb 10th. GFS thinks we could see some decent precip totals in orographically-favored areas (up to 1-2 inches), but the ECMWF thinks most of the precip will stay offshore. We shall see…

  • TheNothing

    I couldn’t even fathom what a multiple century drought would look like around here and really hope that these last three years are not a precursor to a mega drought. I really need my rain fix and soon or I’m going to go insane.

  • lightning10

    Are old friend came back in 18z.

    • Lo and behold, the RRR returns after day 7. Yikes.

    • sc100

      Things look incredibly dry for the entire North American West Coast over the next two weeks. Just nothing going on right now.

  • Steve

    Nice roundup! Thanks!

  • craig matthews

    Even during a megadrought, we get some rain. Not getting any rain for this long is off the charts. I’m really starting to wander what’s going on here.

    • alanstorm

      Well it looks like we will get something in the north-half but its not the pattern shift we’re looking for. Could be nice to water the trees & brush, but I doubt the creeks will even get brown. I’m banking on the Miracle March/ El Nino fall senerio.

      • craig matthews

        Being that we are so far behind, right now I’d be happy to see the green grass spout and grow a little, which would take a couple of inches of rain, and just enough to keep the brush alive.

    • Dan the Weatherman

      I am beginning to wonder as well, and if the next two months are nearly as dry as it has been all year, I REALLY am going to wonder what is going on and will become more suspicious of it the longer it goes on.

    • maestra545

      I’m far from being knowledgeable about weather science, but all one has to do is look at the massive loss of arctic ice to realize that we must all start working to end the fossil fuel economy. Yes, so much of our global weather is off the charts; so is the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.

  • Whyyousoandso

    FWIW, we had REAL RAIN here today in Ventura County. I was practically giddy. And there is a chance of rain forecast for this weekend. Is this a shift?? Sure feels different.

    • I saw a couple of showers down there on radar earlier, but there were no official reports of measurable precip anywhere!!
      http://cdec.water.ca.gov/precip_maps/rsa_24HRprecip.html

      Those must have been some pretty localized showers (though I actually received another corroborating report earlier, so I suppose they affected at least two people. 😉 )!

      • Dan the Weatherman

        The local news showed a couple pictures of very light rain falling, one on a windshield, and the other in someone’s backyard pool. It didn’t rain here at my house, and we have been almost as dry as the Atacama Desert this season it seems.

      • Whyyousoandso

        It rained for about 30 minutes where we live (Port Hueneme). There were actual puddles, and everything was wet. Even had to turn on my windshield wipers!

        Rain forecast for Sunday. Plus, it’s cool here. Feels much different.

  • lightning10

    Rain hitting the ground and getting the ground wet here in Whittier!!!! after nearly 60 days.

    • Cliff Collipriest

      We got 10 minutes of sprinkles in Santa Maria, nothing measurable.

  • I saw about ten rain drops on the windshield of my car in San Diego yesterday. That was about it. I really look forward to the rainy season in Southern California as it’s the only time of year that we get a break in the sun. This year it’s been horrible. At least we’ve finally had some decent winter surf.

    • Dan the Weatherman

      It has been horrible since the 2012-13 season.

  • JR Flanders

    I’m wondering if you were to look back at models or data in the past, were there indications that this was going to be a very dry winter?

    • Azmordean

      Long range / seasonal forecasting is pretty iffy and unreliable, but lots of meteorologists do take a crack at it. I think a plurality of forecasts supported a drier than normal water year this year. Most subscribed to a dry start, somewhat wetter finish, with the total at the end of the day being below normal.

      No one forecasted the extreme event we are currently experiencing (nor would you ever forecast that super far out, as climatologically speaking events of this extremity are very rare). That said, if the pattern change does actually happen (rather than a one and done storm), the whole “dry start, relatively wetter finish” may end up correct, with the year total being low compared to normal.

      The signs were there for a “normal” dry year – no ENSO signal, weak MJO, bad PDO state, and so forth. But extreme events such as the one we’ve seen can’t really be anticipated.

      • Dan the Weatherman

        I had been forecasting a drier than normal winter due to the -PDO, +AMO, and ENSO neutral state, because this combination tends to lead to drought in a good portion of CA, especially the southern half of the state. I didn’t realize, though, that it would be this dry across the northern half of CA and the Pacific NW where it is usually a lot wetter even in this regime.

        Los Angeles only received something on the order of 5.85″ for the 2012-13 season, and I thought this season would be somewhat wetter (it may still turn out that way if we get into a wetter pattern soon) than last year, since there is no year on the records since 1877 that has had a less than 6″ season followed by another less than 6″ season. There have been a couple of instances in which a less than 6″ year was followed by a 8″ year.

    • Coldspot

      I don’t have it at hand but I believe the farmers almanac had sad a wet/ cold winter for 2013/2014 winter and they are usually pretty close. But not this year.

      • Dan the Weatherman

        If the Farmer’s Almanac or Old Farmer’s Almanac ever predicted a wet winter during a -PDO, +AMO, ENSO neutral, I would have said there would be a very small chance that it would happen.

  • alanstorm

    As these discussions ponder tree rings, man-made vs natural cycles, this situation marches forward with stark realities: we have no idea what to expect. What you CAN expect is blame to go around, and if we don’t get a miracle march, California’s new found economic stability will take a hit. The politics of the inevitable water wars will be daily news.

    • Azmordean

      I’m not sure that the economic stability will take a hit – not this year at least. Agriculture will take a major hit for sure – and economic conditions in the Central Valley in particular will become even more difficult than they already are.

      But the overall economic situation in California is now driven by the large coastal cities – agriculture is quite small now in comparison. And those cities (Bay Area, LA, SD) are actually in a somewhat decent position to weather this dry year as they have significant investment in storage and the like.

      If the rest of the year remains largely dry, I think we’ll see significant water restrictions (cars, lawns, etc) but I don’t think even that would have a massive impact on the overall economy. If we can get some decent rainfall (even if the season as a whole ends up well below normal, which is almost a certainty) I think that will help a lot as well.

      Now – if next year is dry too – then I think we’ll start to see serious problems even in the cities. But we probably aren’t there quite yet.

      • Steve

        I agree. All in all, drought in California is a pretty ho hum topic. But the RRR has been something extraordinary. And there’s always the possibility of a megadrought, although history indicates that its a rare event.

        • Loyal Brooks

          By a long shot, this is no ordinary bad drought. There is something unprecedented at play here (as far as people have industrialized the area). This drought will affect agriculture more than other businesses, as they use about 3/4 of the water consumed in CA.

          Earlier on this post, someone presented a “fact” that “There is plenty of evidence to suggest that “human influence” is not changing our climate. In fact, over 31,0000 scientists all over the world who studies plants, trees, earth, oceans, weather, atmospheric patterns, ecosystems, etc have all debunked the idea of “man made” climate change.”

          I have read those articles, and I couldn’t find where it speaks to the problem of increased “greenhouse gasses” loose in the atmosphere due to the burning of carbon that was once locked away from the atmosphere by being deep underground. While there are undoubtedly cycles that go on (ice ages, etc.), that does NOT mean that anthropocentric inputs into the atmospheric system have NOTHING to do with any climate change whatsoever.

      • alanstorm

        This building disaster is unprecedented in size, scope & duration. How could it not affect the fragile state economy? Just read the second paragraph of the Weatherwest post. Not sure what ho-hum news you are reading, but anxiety is everywhere in the media because of the prospect of this getting worse. Talk of a “250 year drought cycle” is sure to scare investment away and inevitably hurt the barely tecoveri g real estate market.

    • Steve

      The media brings out the expert’s opinions and their books every time there’s a drought. Helps sell books, I’d imagine.

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  • redlands

    Redlands, Ca Weather Update — January 27, 2014 — We received 0.01 of rain around 5am this morning — so January 2014 will not go 0.00 — January rainfall data back to January 1982. 2nd driest January was in 2003 with only 0.03 of rain — I was looking at other weather data – concerning — Redlands,Ca records 1900-2013 — there was only 3/4 Januarys with 0.00 — which is a 3.5% chance of going 0.00 in January. Just enough rain to make your car look horrible

  • craig matthews

    Still a big question as to what really caused such a drastic switch in the weather pattern in late December of 2012{last winter}. Because the northern half of California had a very wet November-December of last winter right before the big switch. In fact people were saying it reminded them of the winter 1996-97, which started out very wet over northern California, yet that winter it stopped raining at the end of January. And from Feb, 1997 to October 1997 we had very little rain. Some believe that particular mini dry spell was caused by a major transition taking place along the equator and as a result it was as if the atmospheric circulations were resetting themselves. And then the big el nino finally took over the weather pattern across the north pacific basing in November of 1997. Key word there was “lag time”. Now we are all looking for a sign of any kind that could possibly break down the RRR. And its very scary that we are not seeing a real sign. Just temporary glitches in the pattern that give us a day or two of relief about once a month.

  • Utrex

    It’s supposed to rain in Norcal from Wednesday to Thursday, possibly Sunday. ECMWF is picking up a stormy pattern by February 9.
    I’ll get pictures of the rain when it comes here in Sac!

    • I wouldn’t get too excited. I’d be surprised if Sacramento cracks a quarter inch from this. Most of the Bay Area will get even less. The potential is there for some localized regions in the Sierra foothills to get an inch or two–which is good, given the runoff potential–but this “storm” really won’t do much in the long run and the longer range forecasts are pretty abysmal regarding rain chances once again.

      • Steve

        If this screen grab from accuweather is to be believed, some areas around Sac have received .25″ in the last 24 hours.

        • It would appear that’s all from virga/false echoes. No precip at all in that region yet.

          • Dan the Weatherman

            The air near the surface was likely too dry from all the record heat and offshore flow the last few weeks. Hopefully this has moistened up the lower levels of the atmosphere so that the storm later in the week can deliver at least some precip.

      • Loyal Brooks

        During a “wet” year, this wouldn’t be called much of a “storm,” either. But, every little bit helps. With so many recent days of relentless evaporation and transpiration this January, even a cloudy and cooler day will help (a bit).

        Because the drought has dried the soils so thoroughly, folks have reported dry springs, rivers at a trickle, dying trees, lowering water tables for those who rely on well water, etc. At least two distinct stages of a prolonged wet period will be required to get CA out of a drought of this magnitude. First up is to soak the ground to replenish the groundwater. Recharged groundwater will return dry springs to life, and the rate of tree mortality will slow, The soils will claim quite a bit of the first rains.

        Once that is done, we will finally begin see the ecology recover. With continued rains, the streams will be able to swell, the reservoirs will begin filling, the brown hillsides will turn green and the Sierra will start building a snow-pack for water for the hot dusty days of summer just ahead.

  • Coldspot

    Woo- hoo! Picked up a tenth of an inch so far in Siskiyou county. I’m doing a happy dance. First night that the temp has not been in the mid twenty’s at this time in months. Won’t have to break ice for all the farm critters tomorrow morning. Should get more substantial rain in the next couple of days and then a shot of some snow by Friday and Saturday.

  • Dan the Weatherman

    Finally the Bay Area did not break any record highs today. It’s about time the Bay Area stops breaking records like a broken record!

  • Dan the Weatherman

    The bullseye of the warmest water relative to average in the North Pacific during the last month has been centered roughly at 145W-155W and 40W-50N. It appears to be 3+ C above normal and it stands out like a sore thumb on the SST anomaly map shown on pg. 6 in the latest CPC ENSO discussion.

    http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/analysis_monitoring/lanina/enso_evolution-status-fcsts-web.pdf

    • Yeah, a 3+C SST anomaly is quite large. Keep in mind that a ~1.5+C anomaly in the eastern Tropical Pacific is the threshold for a strong El Nino event!

      • Dan the Weatherman

        I am hoping for an anomaly of at least 1.5 C in the equatorial Pacific (Nino 3.4) for next season!

        • Kamau40

          We are starting to see signs of that happening, especially looking down the road on the Nino 3.4 models later during the summer months

      • craig matthews

        I’ve been watching on global satellite and cpc MJO page that there has been a lot more convection between the east indies and the date line along the equator. And it appears that 850mb flow anomalies have shifted from east to west in this region. My question is; if this area of convection were to propagate east toward the dateline, then into the central equatorial pacific, do you think that would cause the extension of the Asian jet into the pacific to extend further east toward the west coast?

    • Dogwood

      After looking thru all 29 pages I found myself most interested in the ONI since 1950 graphic. Trying to count the good El Niños following the little neutral troughs like we’re in now and are hoping to soon bounce out of. I see historically it’s happened. But still only 50/50, I reckon for later this year?
      Something to follow!

  • Ben

    Rain is actually forecasted and don’t forget, San Francisco needs over 0.25 of an inch of precip from this “storm” to prevent it from, yes, another record- the driest January ever.

    What’s interesting is that 2 weeks ago, NWS was mentioning the high probability of SF and most of the Bay Area to end the month being the driest ever. Now that may actually not be true anymore, can you believe it? We’ve broken most of the dry records that we predicted in this awful season. The forecast discussion is calling for 0.25-0.5 for the bay area. However, there’s still a pretty good chance of breaking this one. QPF forecast on the Bay Area’s NWS facebook page is showing 0.15 for the city of SF.

    I’m pretty sure we’ve already broken the record for a record number of records being broken during this season. I think we can do without this record.

    • Agreed! However, I would also agree that precip totals in the Bay Area will be quite light, and there’s a good chance that SF remains under a quarter inch (and thus breaks the record for driest January on record). I remain optimistic that this system will be just moist enough to generate a (very) small amount of runoff in the upper watersheds feeding Shasta/Oroville/Folsom reservoirs, which is certainly better than nothing. I do hope the NAM is not on to something, though, since that model depicts this storm really falling apart before bringing significant rainfall.

      What I don’t like to see is high-amplitude ridging building once again in the East Pacific in all of the extended model runs. We’ve got until about February 15th before even more urgent alarm bells start ringing at the regional and state levels. If the 7-10 day forecast still looks dry then, my understanding is that a whole slew of major, mandatory water restrictions will likely be announced. For now, let’s keep out fingers crossed for some undercutting of the ridge. A moist southern-track storm or two would do a lot of good…

      • mycoholic

        The ridge in the 0z 500mb GFS forecast at least looks a bit different from the all too familiar RRR it seems to me. Further west for one and perhaps a bit less rigidly entrenched? Run to run the GFS is having it here and there, or the latest has it rising up only to dwindle to nothing by the end of the forecast period. The expectation these long weeks of drought has been that it would take a major event of some sort to finally bust the RRR. Think its possible it could just become weakened, jumble around the pacific for a week or two only to collapse completely without any particularly major forcing element?

        • It’s certainly further west, but that still suggests dry conditions for California (more like December). It’s possible the RRR could just dissolve slowly, but when a blocking feature like this is so deeply entrenched it does usually take some substantial forcing of some sort to knock it down. The old forecasting textbooks often discuss the value of a “persistence forecast” in the absence of clear signals to the contrary, and that may actually be a pretty apt strategy until we see some meaningful changes in the large-scale flow pattern.

          • mycoholic

            That approach makes a lot of sense, unfortunately. Ugh.

          • Dan the Weatherman

            What would it take as far as forcing, i.e. MJO activity, etc., to break down the RRR later this season to allow some beneficial storms into CA before the dry season sets in?

      • Loyal Brooks

        Well said! Here, it has been continuously below zero day and night for a short while. The air temps aren’t that bad: Single digits below zero in the day and in the -20s at night. The winds, however, chill it down into the 50s below. Yikes!

        Here’s the good news for CA. Because of the storm(s) bringing precip to much of N 2/3 fo CA today, our local forecast here suddenly jumps 25 degrees tomorrow. Around 0 today, in 20s tomorrow. What is discouraging for CA is a return to cold conditions here after this one day break. That means that the RRR will be attempting to reassert itself. Will this pattern pan out?

  • Stunning images from Valdez, Alaska, where massive avalanches caused by extreme winter warmth and rainfall have cut off ground transportation entirely. This is on the north side of the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge.

    • craig matthews

      I’m very familiar with this area of Alaska and find that this is very disturbing. It would be interesting to find out if someone has taken some type of ice core samples in some of the glaciers in this area to see if there is evidence of this type of anomaly taking place in the past. If that’s even possible up there.

  • Ben

    Bay Area continues to keep chances of rain at 50%, yet, the discussion continues to hint at a high confidence for at least some rain. Are they just being extra cautious? I can’t believe that with all this talk of some rain coming, there’s still a 50% chance that it’s not going to rain at all. Ughh.

    • Azmordean

      Unfortunately the latest GFS is pretty uninspiring for the immediate Bay Area. I think the Euro is better (or at least it was, haven’t seen the latest). Hence the uncertainty. I think it’s pretty unlikely we see nothing, but you never know.

      The good news is, whatever happens here, the storm looks more significant just to our north and much more significant in the central / northern Sierra.

    • Steve

      I think “50% chance” means there’s a 50% chance that you will encounter rain wherever you happen to be, not an overall confidence in the prediction. Its pretty much guaranteed that it will rain in that area, but not 100% coverage during that specified time. I think this is what percentages mean in rain forecasting.

      • Chowpow

        There is a 50 percent chance that rain will occur at any given point in the area you selected.

    • Sequoia

      Here in the Southern Sierra foothills, we’re still rainless, and one of my plum trees has blossomed out today, on JANUARY 28th!

      Nature is horribly out of whack, or at least what we’re used to…

    • Loyal Brooks

      Very good (and common) question. The NWS considers two separate issues: 1)The degree of confidence that rain will fall in the forecasted area overall, and 2) The area coverage that will likely be impacted. It is not one or the other – rather it is a combination of both.

      The difficulty this year in predicting rainfall in CA is that computer models have often been too robust in forecasting rain – and it often does not materialize as the computer models indicated. So, they must adjust for a “drought bias” for the time being. (It is adjusted slightly in wet year, as the computer models often underpredict how much precip materializes). Let’s leave issue that aside for now.

      Most of the time, the forecaster is expressing a combination of degree of confidence and areal coverage at the same time. If the forecaster is 50% sure that precipitation will occur, and expects that, if it does occur, it will produce measurable rain over 80% of the area, the chance of rain is 40%. (Chance of rain at any given spot = .5 x .8 which equals .4 or 40%).

      An internet search for a simple answer on the internet was difficult to find, here is this source from which the above came (without getting too involved). http://www.ktsm.com/weather-blog/what-does-it-mean-when-a-forecaster-says-there-is-a-20-chance-of-rain

      Or…the NWS: http://www.srh.noaa.gov/ffc/?n=pop

  • Pedro

    http://virga.sfsu.edu/archive/satimgs/gwvis/big/1301/15/13011523_gwvis.gif

    Can someone explain what those strange-looking clouds are over the ocean, off the Pacific Northwest? This is a Satellite photo from January 15, 2013. These formations appeared quite often during last winter and spring in the same general area.
    Could they be related to a HAARP experiment? Or are they some natural phenomena I’ve never heard of or read about? Any Ideas? I find it strange that they’re in the same area as our beloved RRR.

    • Doug

      I can’t say for certain, but they look an awful lot like “contrails” left behind by shipping vessels. The particulate matter left behind by the ships’ exhaust allows water vapor to condense around it. These droplets are tighter than normally occuring water droplets. This, in turns, shows up as visibly distinct (whiter) contrail-like clouds on satellite imagery, if atmospheric conditions are appropriate. (I may have even learned all that from this blog, but I’m suffering from source-amnesia)

      However, like I say, I cannot comment about these clouds specifically, but that’s what it reminds me of.

      • Doug is exactly right–that’s a very cool example of ship trails in low-level marine stratocumulus due to aerosol loading. The highly stable airmass around the RRR is probably making them more prominent than they would normally be.

    • craig matthews

      Those lines appear to be showing up on just the visable satellite, which means they are lower clouds. I use to think those lines were formed by boundary zones, but those lines that are shown above appear to wonder aimlessly over the ocean at random times. That is very strange.

    • Dogwood

      That’s a cool sat view. Spooky looking. Centering around a dense comma shape but appearing as though it’s rotating counter-clockwise! Probably face on Mars type of thing but I’m interested in what it is.

  • Azmordean

    12z GFS is pretty interesting, will be good to see if the 18z confirms. Looks like it now shows 2 events in the short range.

    First is the Wed-Fri storm we’ve been talking about, which looks pretty minor for most of the Bay Area. Maybe 0.10 for the South Bay, 0.15-0.20 around SF, and 0.25 or a bit more in the North Bay (probably higher in the usual hill favored places). So not great for the Bay Area, but we’ll take it. The better news with the storm is it looks wetter to our north (NorCal needs it badly) and it looks like a significant storm for the Northern and Central Sierra with accumulations likely measured in feet.

    The GFS is now also showing another system riding down the coast in the Sunday-Monday time frame. This would be more significant for the immediate Bay Area and even brings some light precip into SoCal. Not a big system, but total precipitation by middle of next week is showing as 0.5+ for the immediate Bay Area, probably slightly less for the South Bay. I would imagine orographically favored areas in the Santa Cruz Mountains might see more with this system which, while not a drought buster, would be a boon for the ecology there. Here’s hoping it pans out!

    • craig matthews

      I see that too. Looks like maybe a secondary low center that might skirt the coast from northwest to southeast over the weekend. None of the other models show this low as close to our coast.

      • Dan the Weatherman

        Even though these storms are not drought busters, we need to start somewhere and that is getting storminess in the first place, as opposed to weeks and weeks of dry, warm, sunny weather like what we just went through.

        • Azmordean

          Agree 100%! New GFS and NAM both seem closer to the Euro with slightly more precip for the Bay Area through Friday. 0.25 – 0.5 won’t bust the drought but it will do wonders for dust, air quality, and my spirits ?:)

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  • Utrex

    Meanwhile Sacramento is supposed to be getting about 1.00″+ 😉

    • I would be surprised if Sac gets much more than a third of an inch.

  • alanstorm

    Obviously a big part of this “storm” is the recently AWOL jet stream is finally paying us a visit. What caused it to finally get out of that Rossby wave? Was the stupid RRR shunting it northward?

  • Loyal Brooks

    There have been some hopeful comments that some low-elevation places will receive quite a bit of rain. Perhaps these robust amounts come from model outputs that treat this as a “typical” year, and they show overestimates what may fall. Perhaps some models do predict these amounts, but the wet “bias” correction has not yet been applied to the result.(???)

    Here are the storm totals expected by 4 am Friday, and Sacramento appears to receive somewhere between 0.35 and 0.45 of an inch, and San Francisco around 0.15 inch in the city, with a little bit more in the north bay and higher terrain. Look at the beautiful totals of more than 1 to 1.25 inches (much of it in snow) for the northern Sierra, south to the Yosemite area. http://www.cnrfc.noaa.gov/precipForecast.php?cwa=RSA&day=123&img=0

    Of course, by the time anyone sees this, on Wednesday morning, this will have been updated, and values will probably have been adjusted. Rainfall maps from this source have been the most reliable that I have seen regarding rainfall in CA.

  • mycoholic

    Just for fun, I’m going to throw out my prediction of what the remainder of the season has in store for us, based loosely upon what I’ve observed in the models over the past 2 months and recently:

    I think that the RRR is going to experience a slow disintegration over the next 2-3 weeks; appearing to partially rebuild from time to time, but never quite doing so. CA is going to see a few weak storms (like this week’s) as the ridge dissipates, but for a while there will remain enough high pressure blocking to deflect the best of the moisture. Eventually a major storm or two will break through and deposit a good couple of inches across much of the state with a few feet of snow in the Sierra. We will all celebrate and rejoice, but it will do little to actually pull us out of the drought in a practical sense. The water year will go down as the driest in the period of record by many inches.

    That’s my not-at-all-scientific (somewhat optimistic?) best guess. What’s yours?

    • Scott Turner

      With all due respect the the discipline and science of forecasting, it appears that your guess is probably as good as anyone’s at this point.

    • Ben

      That’s actually a very realistic guess. If you want to try to base it on past dry years, it is what you would normally expect- extremely dry, nearly non-existent precip the first half of the winter, then weak storms at times for the second half, with a couple of moderate ones probably hitting in March or early April which by then would be considered- too little, too late. I think I read in a ski blog somewhere that the winter of 76-77 was like this. Even in the driest of years, we get SOMETHING. However, I wouldn’t be suprised if we finished this entire season without even one big storm….just saying.

    • craig matthews

      I have been thinking the same thing as you. But we know so little, and mother nature can really surprise us.

    • Todd A Mulligan

      It is graphs like this that have me worried.

  • Ben

    Is the Bay Area ready for there 1/10th of an inch of precip starting tomorrow? EVERYONE GET EXCITED!!! It’s all over the media-, TV news stations, radio, social media, etc. Everyone is talking about this incredible, strange substance that’s going to fall from the sky and give us an entire 0.10 of an of rain, maybe even 0.15. We need to prepare the sandbags and clean the gutters for the potential floods that are forecasted. The risk of large-scale mudslides is huge. Folks, this is a really really big deal.

    Ha, there’s a 50% chance of getting enough rain to slick the roads and settle the dust. Geeze.

    • Dan the Weatherman

      In a normal rainy season those rainfall amounts wouldn’t even be that big of a deal in Socal, even though the news media will probably say that we are on “Storm Watch” or “Storm Track”.

    • Steve

      I, for one, am excited.

  • Utrex

    It appears a possible second cold front could approach North California early-late Thursday afternoon due to a shortwave… This would be in perfect timing for our intense daytime heating we’re having here in the valley lately, generating thunderstorms. With enough directional shear aloft, and sufficient CAPE values, supercellular development may occur as well.

    Excellent write-up here: http://blog.norcalweather.net/wednesdaythursday-storm-update-rain-snow-thunderstorms/

  • alanstorm

    The 18z GFS shows another wave of precip coming up from the south at about 118 hrs. What the heck is that?? Another computer snafu? TWC forecast has that day at 0%.

    • lightning10

      I did not see that in the runs. Todays runs where a lot more toned down for No and So Cal.

  • Mendodave

    .55″ so far in Mendocino, and coming down at .11-.20″/hr.
    not bad! we are damn happy!

    • Betty KC

      Happy in Napa! Went to take the dogs for a walk about 45 mins. ago and it started to drizzle, which quickly turned into a light rain. We were pretty wet when we got home. Very excited! Didn’t even get upset about the muddy dog prints everywhere, lol. Forecast for Napa shows 40% chance of showers tonight and cloudy today. Happy they were wrong! Hope it keeps up, or should I say comes down.

      • I wouldn’t call that a “wrong” forecast necessarily–still not a drop further south in the Bay Area. In any case, rain chances peak tonight for most of the Bay Area (though amounts appear to be quite light around here). I’ll admit that even just having a moist atmosphere around feels much more comfortable than the remarkably dry winter airmass we’ve been dealing with for months. It would be nice to actually see some raindrops on the SF Peninsula, though…

        • JR Flanders

          I walked outside this AM and swear that I smelled the ocean…in Sacramento.

        • Loyal Brooks

          I posted a weather rundown of this storm 10 mins ago, and it posted twice. I tried to delete the second one, and it remained but as “Guest.” Can you please erase that for me – I am unable to do so. Thanks!!!

      • Loyal Brooks

        A 40% chance of rain doesn’t mean it’s not likely rain on your property. It is a confidence in the rainfall overall together with the estimated coverage of the rain if it does fall. If there were a 100% chance of rain, but only in 40% of the area would see rain, that leads to a 40% chance of rain in any one spot. If there is a 50% chance it will rain in a given area, and if does rain it is expected to cover 80% of the area, the chance of rain is also 40%. (0.5 X 0.8 = 0.4 or 40%).

        When dealing with what the atmosphere will do, and especially precipitation, it is always a probabilities issue. Anything any meteorologist deals with is probabilities, and the above example of a 40% chance of rain was the probability that worked out to produce the rain you felt in Napa.

        Many areas in your forecast area didn’t receive any measurable precip.

    • JB

      Light rain here in downtown Sacramento. Hooray!

      • Utrex

        Moderate rain tonight 😀

  • craig matthews

    So happy to see some people to the north of where I live getting some much needed rain. The atmosphere is really moistening up here on the central coast of big sur and skies are darkening. Wow, haven’t seen this in a while. I’m very optimistic about this incoming storm. I think we are going to get more then expected for areas south of san Francisco bay due to that secondary shortwave riding on the heals of the main frontal boundary tomorrow night. These secondary shortwaves can sometimes re energize the frontal band. The 12z GFS shows a potential for this to happen, so I’m really hoping for more then expected here. Right now they estimate a 10th of an inch in my area, but I think we could end up with 1/2 inch, especially considering a brief period of weak orographic southwest flow ahead of the trough. Even though the ridge is expected to rebuild off the west coast after the weekend, it doesn’t look as strong as it has been over the last month in the latest model outputs.

    • mycoholic

      The California Nevada River Forecast Center appears to agree with you. Their 5 day QPF map looks just a smidge green on the Big Sur coast, which would put the rainfall above 0.5” if I’m reading the key correctly.

    • Todd A Mulligan

      we are disappointed up here too.

  • Pingback: Drought Resources()

  • Dogwood

    At least the “look” of the Eastern Pacific is heartening. A tap of moisture all the way to Hawaii and another system to the northwest of that. Maybe some much needed “boots on the ground” to chisel away at the RRR for a more beneficial next 60 days than the last 60. Imagine what a small bonanza 12-15″ would be to the Ca hills by April.

    • mycoholic

      I suppose that because it’s not undercutting a ridge in the current model forecasts it doesn’t technically count as a “pineapple express”, but the current ensemble forecast shows a substantial amount of moisture driving our way from the Hawaii-area throughout the next 2 weeks. I wish more of it was forecast to make landfall in CA, but it seems to me an optimistic sign at least.

    • Xerophobe

      Now if we could only get a cold, deep, stationary upper level low to tap into the plume from the North Pacific in our “sweet spot”.

  • Utrex

    The air outside smells so moist and rainy! I miss this weather… Rain is supposed to intensify tonight here in Norcal

  • Utrex

    I’m standing outside, it’s night, and this huge white nimbostratus arc is approaching… Wow… It looks like some clouds are spreading from a nuclear explosion or something

  • Dan the Weatherman

    I am really glad to see that Norcal is finally getting some much needed rain and snow! I just hope that Socal can get in on the act, too, and that the dry weather forecast next week doesn’t last long.

    • Azmordean

      I’m not sure, a whole 0.04 of rain here in Mountain View and this morning is bright and sunny. Serious bust here unless more showers come through later. Decent storm for the Sierra though which is good for reservoirs.

      • Todd A Mulligan

        while its not the best storm ive seen, its better than nothing. we’ve been facing nothing for a long time. the weather service radar looks good for the southern sierra, tho.

    • Xerophobe

      I hope we get into a pattern of more rain in the next 60-75 days.

      • Loyal Brooks

        You’re going to have to … or else face very dire consequences. I don’t think CA has much of a choice but to think like you do and prepare for the worst!

  • Loyal Brooks

    The NWS suddenly hoisted a winter storm warning here in Minneapolis for 5-8″ snow. We experienced a 34F rise from the prior day, much higher than expected. That suggests (to me) the storm in CA has focused further S than expected.

    Checking into CA data and rainfall forecasts, the storm forecasted really has weakened and shifted farther S.

    The precip fcst from the CNRFC has shifted southward with much less precip expected to materialize in the N Sierra. Now, it shows a large area of 1+” of WE (water equivalent) from Echo Summit S to the N Kings R drainage. A few small spots are expected to top 2 inches WE in the Yosemite area.

    For the Sac area, 0.06″ fell yesterday, and 0.11′ are forecast for today, bringing this storm’s total there to .18.”

    For SF downtown, officially a trace fell yesterday ending at 4 pm, and .07″ is forecast today for a total of .07″ for this stom. This front is weakening and sagging to the south. The upper-level dynamics have not been as great as hoped. However, another impulse is to move over the Bay Area, keeping shower potential continuing.

    High pressure is to rebuild in the central Pacific by early next week, so cool and dry conditions begin to settle over N Central CA by Fri and Sat. Meanwhile, an upper-level low is fcst to drop offshore and drive S to S CA. and weaken along the way – keeping alive a few showers along the central and S coast in the next few days.

    After this, high pressure rebuilds over the E Pacific by early next week for dry and mild conditions.

    Medium range models bring some rain changes to N CA by mid next week.

    Please, anyone, keep your dancing shoes on!!!

  • Loyal Brooks

    The NWS suddenly hoisted a winter storm warning here in Minneapolis for 5-8″ snow. We experienced a 34F rise from the prior day, much higher than expected. That suggests (to me) the storm in CA has focused further S than expected.

    Checking into CA data and rainfall forecasts, the storm forecasted really has weakened and shifted farther S.

    The precip fcst from the CNRFC has shifted southward with much less precip expected in the N Sierra. Now, it shows a large area of 1+” of WE (water equivalent) from Echo Summit S to the N Kings R drainage. A few small spots are expected to top 2 inches WE in the Yosemite area (in the next 3 days).

    For the Sac area, 0.06″ fell yesterday, and 0.11′ are forecast for today, bringing this storm’s total there to .18.”

    For SF downtown, officially a trace fell yesterday ending at 4 pm, and .07″ is forecast today for a total of .07″ for this stom. This front is weakening and sagging to the south. The upper-level dynamics have not been as great as hoped. However, another impulse is to move over the Bay Area, keeping shower potential continuing.

    High pressure is to rebuild in the central Pacific, so cool and dry conditions will begin to settle over N Central CA by Fri and Sat. Meanwhile, an upper-level low is fcst to drop offshore and drive S to S CA. and weaken along the way – keeping alive a few showers along the central and S coast in the next few days.

    After this, high pressure rebuilds over the E Pacific by early next week for dry and mild conditions. Medium range models bring some rain changes to N CA by mid next week.

    Please, anyone, keep your rain dancing shoes on!!!

    • Todd A Mulligan

      Man, was this a disappointment or what

  • TheNothing

    Every storm that we’ve gotten this winter, which I can count on one hand, has left a lot to be desired. When are we going to finally get that big soaker of a storm we so richly deserve?

  • Loyal Brooks

    Anyone, how do you erase a comment that you didn’t even make? I posted 15 mins ago, and it appeared twice. I tried to “delete” the duplicate, but it just remained as “Guest.” Now I have no jurisdiction over it. How do you delete a post – for real?

  • Dogwood

    Well .17 downtown San Jose at my gauge so potentially staving off a record driest Jan.

    • Didn’t even tip the bucket in Palo Alto, unfortunately.

  • Cliff Collipriest

    No rain in Santa Maria,, just a little drizzle. Missed it again.

  • rainscout

    Had about 10 minutes of audible rain last night on my skylights..great sound..but looking at the satellite picture yesterday..if this were a “normal” year..there would have been inches of rain in the Santa Cruz Mtns..not 0.10″ or less..I’ll say it again..something is very seriously way out of whack??!!! The watersheds all over this state ary simply “crying”..for real rain!!

  • Bartshe

    We caught a break here in the Eastern Sierra at Mono Lake. In the last 24 hours we’ve received about an inch + of water including 10 inches of wet, heavy snow. It continues to snow hard. Conditions in Lee Vining have now transitioned from parched & dire to only just severe.

    • Ranjit

      I rejoice at your good fortune and it’s good to see some relief to the snowpack, expected to last for at least a few more hours. Here in the SF South Bay, it was nice to wake up to a wet lawn but the numbers are way too modest for any sort of jubilation.

  • Loyal Brooks

    Love to hear the Mono Lake area caught a break! Predictably, the media will say that this storm did nothing to ease the drought. Nonsense!

    Every little bit helps. Even if it didn’t rain where you are, the high humidity and cloudiness increased the water in the forest fuels. That is highly monitored for obvious reasons. And, where it is producing precip, while we wish it were more, it happens to be right over the snowpack areas of the Sierra – the best possible area!

    Here is a helpful tool to see more accurately who is likely to see receive how much in numerical form anywhere in the state, including most of NV. Please go to : http://www.cnrfc.noaa.gov/

    On the R side of the page, there is a list in blue of parameters to choose from. Select “Forecast Precipitation”, and when the page loads, you can select the time period you are interested in. If you want to see what is expected in the current 24 hr period – check that box (days here start and end at 4 am). Mouse over the area where you are interest in. It will give you a digital readout. (The green dots are the locations of stream monitoring stations).

    Peace out!

    • TheNothing

      Thanks for the link, good stuff.

    • Todd A Mulligan

      Great link. I should have used this earlier- I did a while back and it was not this updated at all.

      Thanks for the positive spin on this. I have never been so exited for a chance of a tenth of an inch before. It didn’t happen. Maybe the ridge is starting to show signs of becoming weaker.

  • craig matthews

    I received a report of .24 inches of rain just a mile up the road from my house. Just enough to keep the dust down. STill hope that the secondary shortwave will drop more rain then this first wave. That shortwave appears to have more convection occurring around a small low center. But its hit n miss. I’m almost certain that the low dropping sse down the coast over the weekend will keep all rain offshore, but I hope I’m wrong. One thing a little more encouraging is that the RRR appears to overall be weakening, as the latest long range models show it being weaker and further west with more troughing from the goa to the pacific northwest. This type of slow breakdown seams more believable considering the lack of MJO and continued -PDO, which seams to be keeping a potential undercutting jet to far west. My thinking on this is like some others have said here, and that is a slow breakdown of the RRR and more troughing over or off the pacific northwest in the coming weeks.

    • Loyal Brooks

      Yes, I see in the model outputs much of what you just explained. While that ridge seems to want to reassert itself back into its “comfort spot,” it doesn’t seem to hold the overwhelming grip it once had. There are so many low pressure systems impacting the ridge from the west, that some of them seem to be making some progress into the ridge, at least enough to make it appear unstable. To me, it does look like what you said, that there is a slow breakdown of that ridge and more troughing trying to establish itself where the ridge once stood proud.

  • lightning10

    Unless something falls tonight it does look like LA will go the month without any measurable rain.

    • AimlessDriver

      We got a few light drizzles down in Westminster/Huntington Beach area. Every little bit counts right?

  • ECMWF starting to suggest the potential for a more promising rain event in the 7-10 day period. The GFS disagrees, keeping things mostly dry. Given all the attention lately and the ongoing prospect for a modest pattern shift, I’ll probably have another blog update this weekend.

    • Kamau40

      I’m starting to see the same signs too with some of the long range models that may incl undercutting of this blocking pattern. Somewhat encouraging!!

      • Dan the Weatherman

        I feel that the remainder of this season will be wetter overall than the last few months have been. I know that it is highly unlikely that any location will approach average precipitation for the season, but we should be in somewhat better shape at the end of the season if it wetter conditions verify than we are right now. It will likely take a couple of really wet seasons to catch up, so we will still be in drought conditions this summer no matter what happens and hopefully not as bad as where we are right now.

        • While I do think there will eventually be some actual rainfall at some point between now and the end of March, I think that precip will likely still be below normal even for that period. While obviously that’s better than nothing, I actually think our deficit is likely to further increase even as we start getting some precip events.

        • Kamau40

          Yes, I have drawn petty much the same conclusions for both your above and below analysis.

    • mycoholic

      1/31 0z GFS is showing something out around day 10 as well. Although far from drought-shattering, the 16 day precip total forecast puts >1.5” across most of the Bay Area. Wouldn’t that be a beautiful thing…

  • alanstorm

    Got .80 at the 2000ft elevation level here in Willits/Ukiah. Not bad, but no runoff yet. I’m liking what I’m seeing in the forecast. There is hope yet!

    • Mendodave

      .68 for the storm here in Mendo. Sure feels nice.

  • Utrex

    It’s over… It’s finally over! That ridge is finally gone… Now the weaker ridges will take hold. Woo-hoo for rain!

    • Dan the Weatherman

      This year appears to be possibly following something on the order of 1962-63 in Socal, which featured hardly any rainfall until late January. Norcal, on the other hand, had the Columbus Day Storm in October 1962 that brought heavier rain and there were additional storms around December, but they didn’t bring much to Socal, at least in Los Angeles or San Diego.

  • Dan the Weatherman

    It has finally started raining here in Orange. It is really nice to hear rain on the roof for a change after 6 weeks to the very day of absolutely bone dry weather!

  • Just some very thick marine layer in San Diego today generated literally a few drops. First time in months where we haven’t seen the sun all day. Quite nice.

    • Scott Turner

      Wunderground and TWC radar are showing modest rain stalling out over the local mountains with Palomar and Cuyamaca appearing to get the brunt of it. Might be some snow up there later.

  • Steve

    Just got off the phone with my dad in San Bernardino. He said they got an hour of heavy rain there today. He lives near foothills so that may have helped.

    • Dan the Weatherman

      That area must have had some orographic lifting to help produce that much-needed rainfall. So far it has only rained here at my house in Orange for about 5 minutes tonight, unless it has been drizzling or sprinkling at other times.

  • alanstorm

    18zGFS shows Sunday’s bonus impulse coming into Ca further south, marches east, pulls in some Gulf moisture and becomes another major snow-ice-rain event on tues. Southern states look to get hammered again.

  • alanstorm

    And another low coming in on Feb 8th?

  • Utrex

    Thunderstorms here in Sacramento. NWS even reported areas with half-inch hail. I’ll get images of hail (if there will be any).

    Loving this heavy rainfall!

    • JR Flanders

      The rain was pretty heavy last night starting around 9 here in Sac, after an almost sunny afternoon. I even heard some throughout the night.

      • JB

        Steady rain for at least 15 minutes at about 10pm in West Sacramento, and on and off over night, but looking at the NWS website the 24 hour total (for Sac Executive) was 0.03 inches. Just shows how localised these showers were, i suppose.

  • lightning10

    Its interesting to see how quick the door opened for this rain. Sometime tells me it will close even faster.

  • donnak10

    So nice to see, hear. & smell rain here in Tuolumne County. Got a little more than an inch. The ground absorbed it as fast as it fell. At least the dust was settled. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for more very soon:)

    • snow755

      Nic. Two see some other poster. In my area where are you at I live. Right on greenley. Rd I. Sonora ca Sonora pick up .79″ of ran. Thursday am with other .39″ of rain over night Thursday I get my rain fall reportes from my mother lode .com

      • donnak10

        I live in Jamestown. Small world isn’t it. I don’t know how u found this sight. But, for me I had to go seeking answers as to y our rainfall stopped. All the local newscasters were not providing any info. I’m glad I found this site as it has satisfied my need to know. Take care and pray for rain:)

  • Ben

    The trace of rain that fell at SFO airport during this massive storm was nearly enough to settle the dust. Amazing. The airport along with many other parts of the bay didn’t even measure out of this storm. Inland areas did a little better with about 1/10″. Big deal.

  • willb

    We measured 4/100ths of an inch here is Sonoma Valley. Not much but it perked up grasses and trees. Really happy to hear that there was measurable rainfall in some places. Our turn next!

  • rainscout

    All told a rather strange “event” in that my area in the Santa cruz mtns got next to nothing but the rain totals in the central Sierra got as much as 2″-4″??!! Am I reading that right ..NWS Northern Ca. discussion graph..was that liquid precip or snow?? Can’t believe the next possible system on Sun. might just skirt the Calif. coast and bring little or no rain inland!!?? Finally get a little jet stream action but it just dives south offshore..Crazy..talked to water hauling truck driver yesterday.. filling up at our local water district station.. said he was booked hauling water up to the people who’s wells have run dry in the hills..he has almost never hauled water at this time of year before and usually works on his truck, pumps and equipment getting ready for the “dry” months..I am really hoping that the more optomistic posters here are right and we can at least shake a few “real” rain events out over the entire state before the door shuts..as the ground is still bone dry here….

    • kurt frohling

      Friends in Mendocino County told us two weeks ago that they and their neighbors are having to get water hauled to their homes due to their wells running dry. This is in an area notorious for water issues. The local water district has had water restrictions imposed since last year. They were happy to get rain from this storm but it doesn’t look good from here on out. Gulp.

      • honzik

        I have a seasonal spring on my property in the Santa Cruz Mountains that usually runs through April. Last year it died in mid-January. My wells are still going, but not producing enough for my family. I’ve been hauling water for about a year now.

        Here’s the scary thing. Take a look at the yearly rain fall totals from typical weather station in my neck of the woods; a whopping 7.17 inches. The rain for the whole of last year is about what we can get from ONE good Pacific storm. As a comparison, for the same period the year before the weather station measured 78.39 inches.

        Gulp, indeed!

        • alanstorm

          I used to live in Felton during those El Nino years in the 90’s. I remember my little rain gauge kept overflowing from those slow moving zonal-flow soakers.Something near 80″ that year. San Lorenzo river flooded twice. The good ole’days!

          • Dogwood

            I’ll always remember the reported 102″ in Chemeketa Park in ’82-’83 as being the rain bomb around here. Odd since it’s inland and “over” the summit.

          • alanstorm

            Big El Nino year it was.A lot of it came from a Pinnapple express storm Jan ’82 that completely stalled over the Bay Area and caused that catastrophic flood/mudslide disaster. It just sat there and dumped for 2 days without moving!

      • alanstorm

        I just bought another 2500 gal storage tank. Tank place in Ukiah is making a fortune- I got the last one! Water truck delivery will be difficult and double price starting this week. However I think there is hope for more rain on the horizon. Rain scout, that’s orographic lift that gets the mountains more precip then the lowlands. During regular storms, Santa Cruz summit will get 2-3″ while Santa Cruz-Capitola will get only 1/2″. Coast range and Sierra are north-south ranges so southwest flow storms hit at a right-angle for maxim um lift.

  • snow755

    We got 1.18″ of rain from this event

  • Pingback: Science and Conservation In the News, Around the World | Conservation Science News January 31, 2014()

  • Steve

    The models agree on a good dousing for most of the state around Valentines Day. Too Far in the future to be certain, but nice to see.

    • I would count on very little 14 days out, especially this year. The 6Z GFS was bone dry for 16 days; the 12z was fairly wet. We shall see…but the next 7-10 look pretty dry either way.

      • Steve

        I meant the 12z GFS and the the latest ensembles from ESRL agree. The ensembles show rain falling in NorCal as early as the 6th and continuing through the 16th. Very uncertain, but it sure is nice to look at all the green and blue on the map.

        What’s the scale on this map, anyway? 1/10s of an inch?

  • rainscout

    Thanks alanstorm..I do know about orographic lift..Live in a prime spot for it..we can get inches of rain and San Jose..not far as the crow flys..will get only 1/10″s of an inch.. I should have said what happened to the Coastal Mtns. orographic lift vs. the sierra..probably the colder air at higher elev.?? and many other factors..any way just seemed a little strange not to get any orographic’s out of it..i know it was not really comming from the right direction anyway…just hoping for any sign of a more “normal” rain event before the door closes.. it is scary dry around here!!!

    • alanstorm

      I’m just an “armchair meteorologist” myself, but with so many options to look at what’s coming via the internet, plus the scientists on this blog, its possible to get a grasp on what’s going on. Obviously, this brief rain is giving false optimism. This summer still looms ominous. Miracle March then El Nino or bust!!!

      • kurt frohling

        I hear what you are saying. Here in Butte County the summers can be long and harsh even after very rainy/snowy winters. The last couple summers here in in the foothills and mountains have been especially tough. This coming summer is looking ominous indeed.

        • alanstorm

          Between your county & mine (Mendo) is a summer fire no man’s land. On a regular summer I watch some burn for weeks. Remember 2008? That was Hellish. The upper Sacto valley can seem like the hottest place on earth. You’ve even had an F2 tornado out there before!

          • Loyal Brooks

            It is true that the ecology of CA has evolved to cope with severely harsh rules concerning the quantity of water with which to deal with over the unforgiving hot summers. This applies to much of the state, but usually not the NW coastal regions.

            Anyway, alanstorm, I believe Red Bluff made national news a few years back (I don’t remember when) when the days were the nation’s hottest (in summer, no doubt), surpassing Death Valley, a feat not often achieved anywhere.

          • alanstorm

            Hauling a stockcar to race there and Roseville during the summer was frought with overheating problems!! The old SF 49ers were tempered in the brutal heat of Rocklin when their training camp was there. Redding, Red Bluff, Rocklin & Roseville- HOT

  • Zepp

    Here on the south slope of Mount Shasta at 3300 feet we got .29″ of rain. However, Sand Flat, on the west-facing slope and at 6,700 feet, only got 0.04″, which is a disappointment. The higher altitudes got a dusting of snow, just one or two inches, and that will be ablated by the prevailing winds over the next few days.

    • Sequoia

      Up @ Silver City in Mineral King in Sequoia NP, looks like they got 10 inches of snow. Twas barren the other day.

      http://silvercitywebcam.com/

      • Zepp

        Last day of January, and the road to Mineral King is open. That’s mind boggling. I’m glad they got some snow, anyway.

        • Sequoia

          Last week I was standing on top of Alta Peak (11,207) with just the odd bit of dining room table sized snow floe about 3 inches tall encountered, every 1/4 of a mile or so on the hike up.

          The Great Western Divide looked like late August in a normal snow year~

  • wordspiral

    Weather geeks have it tough. http://xkcd.com/1324/

  • Todd A Mulligan

    I have to say that I have learned alot from this blog. I don’t know about the computer models that people are talking about, but there are some people on here who have explained what a graph meant, or answered maybe dumb questions like orographic lift makes it rain more in the mountains than valleys.

    What I do know is that the permanent stream on my property near Olema has gone dry and this storm only brought clouds and a few sprinkles. It seems like summer weather around here but there is no fog!

  • CA DWR just announced that there will be ZERO water deliveries south of the Delta via the State Water Project this year.

    • Sequoia

      Not to worry, those bajillion almond trees along interstate 5 are all self-watering.

      • Loyal Brooks

        Right!

    • Cliff Collipriest

      I just read that as well. Not good.

    • Bartshe

      Bad news Friday.

  • lightning10

    The sun angle is starting to get higher and the days are getting longer. Any hopes for some real cold looks to have gone down the drain till next year.

  • Steve

    Feast ur eyes on this, lads!

    • Cliff Collipriest

      Is this a projection of the next 96 hours or actual rainfall from the past 96 hours? Sorry for not knowing how to read that.

      • Steve

        It took me a while to figure these maps out too. This is a projection of 96 hours worth of accumulated rainfall for February 16th. It’s predicting that on Feb 16th, this much rain will have fallen over the previous four days.

        It’s too far out in the future to be certain, but its nice too look at, nonetheless!

        • Steve, great job explaining the map. I really hope this projection happens. That would be the most significant rainfall for this season if it happens.

          • Dan the Weatherman

            That looks to be out in fantasyland range and models are usually the most inaccurate that far out. It would be nice if something like this verifies, though!

    • Dogwood

      Ok, that looks like Typhoon Melor did in 2009. And they totally saw that one coming for almost two weeks. Wrong season, but still….
      We can dream!

    • mycoholic

      18z looks to be more or less on track with the 12z. If the forecast holds, it looks like light rain would start in around 2/9 and continue for the better part of a week, intensifying later in the period. The beginnings of this precip event are within the 10-day range, which means that its not too wild to imagine it will actually happen. Trouble is the models have had such a hard time this season. A look back to today’s 06z is enough to temper any high hopes… Lets give it a few days before we let ourselves feel too optimistic (Although really I’m feeling pretty optimistic just based on the fact that there’s SOMETHING in the 16 day forecast. The months of nothing at all about drove me crazy.)…

    • Loyal Brooks

      The GFS model output looks so beautiful here, it’s almost like art. And, what if it came true?? Trouble is, it is valid at 384 hrs out. There has been much stress over the problem this year of models (not just this one) being particularly overly optimistic in precip predictions. The models seem to want to treat the RRR as a standard ridge (which normally do break down), and that is what leads us to see outputs like the above.

      There has been too much disappointment in hoping precip as shown above later disappear as future runs later drop this idea. Computer outputs become better inside of 10 days out, and increase every day we get closer to the event.

      • I’d say some sort of precip in the day 10-16 period is likely, but almost certainly not that much. Also, that color scale is a bit misleading–red only represents ~1 inch precip accumulations over 4 days, which would actually be below average for mid-Feb in wet parts of NorCal!!

    • Utrex

      I haven’t seen this since… 2010… Socal covered in white at some spots with norcal in pink and dark red.

      Of course, I am aware this is 17 days out.

  • craig matthews

    Ok, here’s my best guess prediction{similar to others on here}. Because of lack of MJO and the -PDO/AMO phase, I do not think the RRR will be undercut from strong lower latitude pacific jet this season. Instead I think the RRR will weaken enough to allow pacific storms to move into the northern half of the west coast at first, then as time goes on, bigger storms will move into the west coast primarily over northern California and the pacific northwest. At times pieces of energy will become cut off from the westerlies drop south to off socal, giving socal some rain at times. I think march and april will be wet, especially in northern California and the sierra Nevada. Basically I think it will be a similar pattern that was observed in march/april of 2012. This is my coin toss idea. Like to here others.

  • kevin

    For what its worth, the CPC predicts normal to above normal precipitation chances for Nor Cal in the 6-10 and 8-14 day outlooks. This is probably the first time in past 60 days that the chances have been normal to above normal for Norcal.

    • Bartshe

      from the NWS/Reno discussion:
      ON A POSITIVE NOTE, EXTENDED MODEL FORECASTS ARE INDICATING THE POTENTIAL FOR A STRONG HIGH PRESSURE ANOMALY TO FORM OVER THE BERING SEA. IF THE RIDGE DEVELOPS IN THIS LOCATION (FURTHER WEST THAN THE PREVIOUS RIDGE PATTERN) THIS WOULD BE CONDUCIVE TO AN
      UNSETTLED WEATHER PATTERN. THAT BEING SAID, AS LONG AS THE STORM TRACK REMAINS OPEN THEN STORMS WILL BE ABLE TO IMPACT THE REGION.
      EKL

  • Pingback: “Historic” Weather | Cooperate and No One Gets Hurt()

  • As mentioned earlier–I’ll have a fresh post either Saturday or Sunday. The first week or so in February looks very dry, but after that there are modestly promising signs of precipitation in California (still no drought-busting rains, but perhaps at least the potential for conditions more typical of mid-February).

    The good news is that the GFS and ECMWF both suggest the potential for modest NorCal rainfall during week 2, but the CFS continues to advertise below-normal precip in Feb-March. Still–I am increasingly confident that the RRR will re-form well to the west of its recent position–perhaps as far west as the Aleutians–which will allow for at least occasional storminess in the downstream trough.

    The bad news is that the RRR will still exist over the North Pacific in some form, preventing a desperately-needed eastward extension of the East Asian jet. Now that we’re entering February, we’re 2/3 of the way through the “rainy” season, and our window of opportunity for some truly large precipitation events is narrowing. Any precipitation at this point is clearly better than nothing, but the reality is that occasional bouts of cold storms with moderate precipitation are not going to prevent drastic water shortages later this summer and fall. The precip deficit is just that enormous.

    • SFBay

      Thanks for your updates. This weather is too good, I want rain! (And snow in the mountains). Thoughts on el nino developing for next year?

      • Well, the best coupled models suggest a pretty strong signal for El Nino developing by next fall. These models don’t have extremely high skill, but I’m starting to believe them. I’ll start discussing this increasingly much over the next couple of months if this is still the projected trend. It’s important to note that this will have absolutely no impact on California precip between now and the coming summer.

    • Kamau40

      Dan,

      The pictures below further depicts how incredibly deep the water deficits are in the state. We are going to be in serious trouble,regarding water this Summer-Fall, which doesn’t surprise any of us. Below are some incredible pictures of the large cracked ground with an old car laying on the Almaden Lake bed in San Jose, Ca. I remember when I use to go down that way when it was always brimming.

      http://ww1.hdnux.com/photos/25/71/01/5738608/3/628×471.jpg

  • JimmySD

    Jeff Master just put up an interesting piece on the drought.

    http://www.wunderground.com/blog/JeffMasters/comment.html?entrynum=2624

    El Nino may give us rain next year. But based on the models it would just delay an inevitable spiral to hell.

    • Kamau40

      Great piece by Dr. Jeff Masters. Also, I agree and support Dr. Jennifer Francis on the video, “if its global warming, why is it so cold?” Even she supports that intense and long droughts have lasted for decades and some for a couple of centuries based on tree ring evidence(which is your based source of records). It’s a cycle well within its natural variability. The models also suggest that the state may even be in for a mega drought cycle, with occasional breaks in between until the end of this century. Therefore, when we do get wet winters, we must not waste water because the dry spell could be the new normal for the state overall.

      • Dan the Weatherman

        We do need more storage capacity to collect rain water during wet years. It is a waste to see all that water just run off into the oceans, especially living in a region prone to drought conditions

        Whether we are going into a megadrought at this point is way too early to tell. Remember we are still in a -PDO, +AMO, ENSO neutral regime that is known to bring extremely dry conditions to CA, especially the southern half of the state. However, it is becoming clearer that something else is going on that is making it even drier in the region, in addition to drought conditions from Norcal all the way into British Columbia, because these northern regions are not usually dry during this regime. Whether this/these factor(s) are contributors to a much longer lasting drought or megadrought remains to be seen. I surely hope we are not entering a megadrought, because the implications on CA and the rest of the western U.S. could be huge!

        • Kamau40

          Absolutely! Let’s pray that we are not entering a mega drought era. It would indeed be catastrophic.

    • Steve

      That’s a scary graph. But California can thrive in a two-hundred year drought. Aqueduct from Oregon? No problem. This is California. California, USA!

    • kevin

      2 interesting ideas about bringing water to Ca. one is quite old, and makes for interesting reading in a LA Times story from 1991 about the possibility of an Alaska to Ca water pipeline:

      http://articles.latimes.com/1991-08-15/news/mn-630_1_water-pipeline

      The second is wave powered desalination that is being piloted in Australia:

      http://inhabitat.com/carnegie-wave-energy-to-launch-the-worlds-first-wave-powered-desalination-plant/

      • Steve

        These kinds of projects will become the norm if the climatologists predictions come true. It will be interesting to see how California and the US adapt to climate change. May be something like the new deal era, with several massive public works projects going at a time.

  • craig matthews

    Some of the latest forecast charts are starting to trend upward on the strength of the potential el nino developing over the next several months. I hope we get a strong el nino, because a weak, or even moderate one may not offer much in this -PDO era. As Dan mentioned earlier, hope nino 3.4 gets to above +1.6C.

    • If the Nino 3.4 index gets up above 1.6C by next winter, we’re going to be in for a very interesting season. While it’s way too early to have a good handle on how things will look in 8-10 months, there are at least a handful of CFS ensemble members that hit that threshold by October.

    • An El Nino will bring rain to CA ONLY if the high pressure systems break down enough to keep the moisture from getting pushed to the north. El Nino, La Nina or neutral, the high pressure zones control west coast weather. At least, that’s my opinion.

      • craig matthews

        The stronger the el nino, the better chance there is for a wet winter for California. Last time I looked, the ratio for wet winters during a strong el nino for California is 9 out of 10, especially southern California. So that’s a 90 percent chance it will be wet for California during a strong el nino. I’ll get back to you on the address of what I’m referring to here.

  • Utrex

    Well judging from the constant la nadas and la nina conditions these past two-three years, el nino conditions are ripe.

    • Dan the Weatherman

      We are certainly due for anything other than ENSO neutral.

  • Dreamer

    I thought most Californians HATED rain and the news go into “stormwatch” mode literally whenever LA gets more than 0.01 inches of rain and anything more than a half an inch of rain in a day will literally shut the whole city down as if it was a blizzard or a hurricane. Isn’t lack of rain normal in Southern California?

    • Dreamer

      Most of the LA area freaks out, gets into car accidents, and even stay home from work when it rains even just a little bit. No one dares go out to the mall to shop, let alone do anything that requires walking outdoors when there are rain showers widespread int he area. With this drought, less car accidents and people calling in sick to work. More people out spending money instead of sitting inside complaining about the rain. Half an inch in LA causes more havoc than a full out blizzard in the Midwest or a category 1 hurricane strike on the Gulf Coast. It’s literally true.

      • Zepp

        First rain of the season always brings about a lot of accidents because the roads have (normally) at least six months’ accumulation of oil and grease, and first rain makes them very slippery–almost like black ice, sometimes.
        Angelino drivers tend to be among the best in the world (all the bad ones are dead) but they drive on the freeways with no margin for error, and one sideslip on a wet, oily road can lead to a multi-car pileup.

      • redlands

        I agree with this. It rains a few drops of rain — the newsmen are stating — We will tell u when its gonna stop. Come on guys — lets enjoy the rain

        • Dan the Weatherman

          I am one southern Californian who enjoys rain. These dry winter months of the last 3 years are really getting old, and as a result I am actually beginning to dislike January and February because they are now feeling like an extension of a dry version of the fall months. If we get back into a wet pattern in the future and these months trend wetter, then I will enjoy them once again like I used to.

          • redlands

            Where I live In Redlands, Ca — we really don’t get anything exciting weather-wise — Only thing that is somewhat exciting is the rain — which we don’t get that often — Last month that was interesting was Dec – 2010 – when I recorded 10 plus inches for the month — I have pics of about 1-2 inches of water that wasn’t able to be absorbed because it was coming down for such a long period. We don’t get any high winds — most Ive recorded is bout 30mph wind gust — which is rare — mostly 10-15mph gust —- average wind for the month being bout 1-2 mph. Redlands doesn’t get the 50-75 wind gust like some areas get. Last time we got a good snowfall was in January 1979 — which is 35 yrs ago, last time after that was Jan of 1949. Doesn’t really get killer cold like other parts of the US have gotten — the recent polar vortex. So when it doesn’t rain — it makes it extremely boring to live in Southern California — well more precisely Redlands, Ca — when your a weather-nut. Were really spoiled — but the fact remains — we really do need rain

          • Dan the Weatherman

            December 2010 was just as wet here in Orange as it was in Redlands and was the last month to produce such a high amount of rainfall here. I am hoping that February is much better than January, and at least, we are now seeing chances of rain in the longer range as opposed to just endless warm dry weather like we have been experiencing.

          • Scott Turner

            My theory is that most Southern Californians are so insulated from the natural world and so expectant on getting the perfect weather for which they pay inflated rents and mortgages that they fail to correlate having to suffer through 55 degree days or three days of drizzle with having clean air, green hills, snow in the mountain, and decreased risk of wildfire. As one person told me during the last major rainstorm we had, “I’m not paying all of this money to live in Seattle.”

          • Loyal Brooks

            I don’t know if it is true that LA has such a problem with a half inch of rain. My guess it is SOME problem, but not overall. (???) Redlands said above, TV weather readers my tell the public when the raindrops will end. From out here, S CA does have an image that it doesn’t rain, and I know people leave here specifically on a break from MN to go to rainless S. CA. To those people, raindrops ARE a problem. Really.

            Personally, I am somehow “attached to the land” – nature – out there, and I DO care about the needed annual winter rains. I think I would feel like Dan.

    • craig matthews

      Generally, people here in California are more interested in whats going on in Hollywood. But there are people in this beautiful state that are keyed in on whats going on outside. And southern California is a very unique area for many reasons. Weather is definitely one of them. It can be bone dry for several months, then suddenly 3 inches of rain falls in a day. In 2004-05, over 100 inches of rain was recorded in a place called lytle creek above san bernadino. In 2006-07, they had only 5 inches.

  • Interesting, the chance for rain here on the Central Coast seems to be spiking upward if you are looking at the media weather outlets. Earlier today the Weather Channel had the chance of rain on Sunday at zero. Just a few hours later it is up to 60%

    • mycoholic

      Some of the models have the cutoff low too far offshore to provide much precip to the coast, other have the center of the system right along shore and higher precip amounts possible.

      • Dan the Weatherman

        Orange County has a 50% chance of showers on Sunday night and Monday morning with showers likely in coastal San Diego County on Sunday night and a chance Monday morning. There is even a slight chance for thunderstorms in the region.

    • Loyal Brooks

      Cliff – looks like you’re going to get it on game day. Check out the current (Sun noon radar) over coastal CA. Isn’t that beautiful so see moderate rain headed directly towards you?
      http://radar.weather.gov/Conus/pacsouthwest_loop.php

      Of course, it you see this later, it will probably be clear as a bell (rain wise).

      • Loyal Brooks, yes this is great! We just had a band of rain pass through here. About 30 minutes of steady, moderate rain. I do not have a rain gauge but I suspect we received .2″ to .3″. This is the best rainfall we have had this season. Still not enough to really make a difference in soil moisture but better than nothing. Showers are expected through the evening, so maybe we could get another .2″ or more. Fingers crossed!!!!