Rain returns to California as Ridiculously Resilient Ridge retreats; cautious optimism for February?

Filed in Uncategorized by on February 2, 2014 134 Comments

Recent Weather Summary


1km visible satellite imagery of cold cut-off low pressure system west of San Francisco. (NOAA/NWS)

Over the past few days most of California has experienced an atmospheric phenomenon not experienced in quite some time: measurable rain and snow has fallen across much of the state for the first time since early December. Two systems have moved through the state over the past week–the first dropped significant precipitation primarily in the Sierra foothills, and the second (and ongoing) system is currently bringing cold showers to California’s coastal regions. Between these two systems, the incredible zero-rain spell across nearly the entire state has finally been broken. While runoff into rivers and streams from these two events has been essentially nonexistent (due to record-low antecedent soil moisture and the relatively light nature of the precipitation), the observed rainfall has drastically lowered the risk of wildfire (and San Joaquin Valley dust storms) in the short term. In a rather dramatic contrast to the all-time record warmth measured in recent weeks, accumulating snowfall has been reported today below 2000 feet in parts of Northern California.


Ridiculously Resilient Ridge shatters January records: part of a global pattern of extremes

January 2014 will probably go down in the record books as the warmest and driest in California history. This is certainly the case for many of California’s major cities–San Francisco, for example, exceeded its previous driest January by 77%, and Sacramento surpassed its previous all-time January high temperature by a full 5 degrees. Many places also exceeded their previous all-time record for consecutive dry days during the “rainy season.” Our all-too-familiar Ridiculously Resilient Ridge dominated the weather throughout January, resulting in an extremely anomalous atmospheric flow pattern that redirected the Pacific storm track well to the north into Southeast Alaska (with some pretty spectacular results).


Geopotential height anomalies for January 2013 depicting the RRR at its most extreme. (NOAA/ESRL)


Meridional wind anomalies for January 2014. (ESRL/NOAA)


Surface temperature anomalies for January 2014. (NOAA/ESRL)

The figures on the left depict some of the most remarkable aspects of the RRR in January, including the massive region of above-normal temperatures extending from the Central Pacific in the west, the Alaskan Arctic in the north, the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains in the east, and the subtropical Pacific Ocean nearly as far south as the Hawaiian Islands to the south. Observing a spatially and temporally coherent region of temperature anomalies over a geographical region this vast is exceptionally rare. Meridional (latitudinal) wind anomalies over this same region clearly show how this extreme wind flow pattern led to these incredible temperature and precipitation anomalies, with very strong poleward (south-to-north) flow to the west of the RRR over the Central Pacific and very strong equatorward (north to south) flow well to the east over the Rocky Mountains. Typically, the region under anomalous north-to-south flow over the Rocky Mountain states would have experienced unusually cold conditions, but the air being advected into the high Arctic over the Pacific was so warm that the return flow lost much of its Arctic punch.

The same cannot be said for the eastern U.S., which has been suffering from very cold conditions and frozen precipitation in some very unusual places. Not to be outdone, the U.K. experienced its wettest January on record in many areas and parts of central and eastern Europe are struggling through massive snowfalls. This rather spectacular chain of extreme weather events across much of the Northern Hemisphere is part of a striking wave-like pattern of large-scale atmospheric anomalies, which has allowed adjacent regions of exceptional cold and exceptional warmth (not to mention record-breaking heavy precipitation and record-breaking drought) to persist for a prolonged period of time. This sort of extremely amplified, highly meridional (north-south oriented) structure has occurred frequently during winter over the past decade, and an increasing body of evidence suggests that such patterns may be linked to the observed rapid decline of Arctic sea ice.


Remarkable wave-like pattern in meridional wind anomalies over the Northern Hemisphere in January 2014 (25N-75N). (NOAA/ESRL)


Short-term prospects for California precipitation increase

There is some good news to share with fellow thirsty Californians this evening: it does appear that some more rain (and mountain snow) is on the way later this week. The RRR has weakened considerably over the past week and is not currently the formidable obstacle it was in January, seemingly impervious to the effects of Central Pacific storm systems and incursions of the Pacific jet. Now, a much-weakened ridge over the far eastern Pacific will allow a couple of weak systems to brush the state during the upcoming 5-7 days, bringing much cooler temperatures and possibly an additional chance for mid-week showers. There is some uncertainty regarding just how cold it may get this week: the ECMWF and a few GFS ensemble members bring some very cold air to the state, while other model solutions are more moderate.

After that, however, all eyes turn toward the subtropical Pacific. By next weekend, there is substantial model agreement that a plume of enhanced atmospheric water vapor (perhaps even an atmospheric river) will be entrained within a temporarily strengthened subtropical jet over the Eastern Pacific. This moist plume will have the potential to bring significant, perhaps even heavy precipitation to some section of the West Coast next weekend into early next week. Recent runs of the GFS and ECMWF have centered this moisture plume on far northern California, which would bring extremely beneficial rains on the order of inches to the far northern watersheds, though totals would be much less impressive from the Bay Area southward. Some model runs have shifted this moisture plume a few hundred miles further north, however, into Oregon and Washington (with NorCal receiving only modest, mostly orographic precipitation next weekend). The most recent run of the GFS falls into this latter camp, bringing fairly unimpressive precipitation totals to California during the upcoming event. This situation is reminiscent of one that often occurs in late fall, when the Pacific storm track is just beginning to make incursions further south but shortwave ridging near California pushes extremely moist subtropical moisture plumes to the north.


GFS projection for a still-amplified flow pattern over the Pacific. (NCEP)

Whether or not California receives significant precipitation next weekend (and perhaps beyond) hinges upon the exact latitude where this moist plume makes landfall, and it might be a couple more days before we get a clearer picture of this expected pattern evolution. And what of our dear friend, the RRR? Well, this region of exceptionally persistent ridging has waxed and waned considerably during its reign this winter and last, and its position has shifted back and forth from the Central Pacific to the West Coast. Long-range model projections suggest that RRR is not dead, but rather that it will re-form fairly far to our west–just south of the Aleutian Islands. This means that a persistent trough may form downstream (to the east), which would be a marked change in the flow pattern observed over the past few months. However, the RRR’s continued existence (albeit at a much greater distance) means two things.


Geopotential height anomalies projected by GFS ensemble for mid-February. (NCEP/ESRL)

First, California may actually reside in a region of downstream (shortwave) ridging, which could mean that most storms continue to be directed to our north along a storm track into Washington and Oregon. Second, the extraordinary ridging projected to develop over the Central Pacific over the next couple of weeks (i.e. the RRR reincarnated) may still prevent a true extension of the East Asian jet over the Pacific, which not favorable for the development of a much-needed very wet pattern in California.

Still, this is a much more promising pattern for at least occasional precipitation than California has experienced in a long time, and each fraction of an inch that does eventually fall is desperately needed. I am cautiously optimistic that precipitation over the next week or so will at least prevent the long-term deficit from deepening further, though I’m less confident that it will provide any meaningful long-term drought relief.


Just how much rain and snow do we need?

The incredibly dry conditions brought about by the RRR mean that much of the San Francisco Bay Area has been drier than Death Valley over the past six months or so–and perhaps even drier than parts of the northern Sahara Desert. At a recent press conference detailing the unprecedented measures currently being undertaken in response to California’s exceptional drought, a Department of Water Resources official claimed that California would need to receive heavy precipitation every other day between now and the beginning of May to eliminate the existing precipitation deficit. While that might not be literally true, the fact remains: it would take a long series of prolonged, heavy precipitation events to bring California out of its drought. Even after this week’s precipitation, snow water equivalent and overall accumulated precipitation in the Northern Sierra remain at their lowest levels ever observed to date–a truly remarkable statistic.


Precipitation is still tracking below all other years on record to date. (CA DWR)

It is becoming increasingly clear that at least some towns and cities in California do not have enough drinking water to make it through summer, and emergency contingency plans are being put into place in anticipation of even more water districts running dry as the drought continues. For the first time in history, State Water Project deliveries will not occur south of the Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta this year. It’s hard to say exactly how much rainfall we would need to stave off the worst effects of the drought, but now that 2/3 of the rainy season has already passed, it will be hard reach even a modest level of water security without much-above-normal precipitation for the rest of the canonical wet season. Right now, such a scenario just does not appear to be in the cards. Stay tuned.



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  • Chad Lessard

    How possible is it that our “rainy season” could be shifting toward a peak in April/May?

    • Dan the Weatherman

      I don’t think our rainy season is shifting toward a peak in April or May, but it is certainly a possibility that period could be wetter than normal, since it has been so dry lately. In 1977, Los Angeles had over 3″ of rainfall in May, which was an incredibly dry year for much of the state much like this year.

  • rainscout

    great post by weather west…I am at this point reduced to the hope of something close to normal rainfall for Northern Calif. for the remainder of the season….Will not bring us out of unprecedented drought but at least give us rain lovers something to look forward to..

  • John b

    Daniel, good post although I think links to think progress would be better left to another type of board.

    • Sequoia

      Yes, a good post.

      Was down in LA watching the local NBC news, and the weatherman told the viewers that up to 3 inches of snow had fallen in the mountains, and the drought was over, but then thought better of his ridiculous statement and said it helped. The lead anchor then told the audience that 9% of California is in a drought.

      These people have no idea whatsoever~

      Here in the Southern Sierra @ 7,000 feet, there is 14 new inches of powder to report, yeah bay-bee!

      • Loyal Brooks

        You make it sound as if LA TV stations have no real clue as to what is really going on with the drought – and that it is a thousand miles away in thought.

        Oh, and the specific number of 9% in drought sounds so scientifically accurate. Oh god….

        • Sequoia

          You have to understand the nature of the beast, er Angelenos. Most have no idea where their water comes from, a good percentage of the meager amount that falls on LA ends up draining to the ocean, and the one reservoir they might see in their travels (Pyramid Lake) is 98% full. The anchors on tv are the epitome of talking heads that can read off of a script, but when it comes to addressing their own thoughts-a disaster.

          • Loyal Brooks

            Maybe the public doesn’t know, but LA has (by necessity) the most elaborate water catchment and retention systems in the US (so the public can remain unaware). Go to the LA Dept. of Public works. On L side, choose Water Resources – skip video, but across the top are more choices. Choose Water Resources Integration. A new list appears, choose Integration, another list, choose stormwater, for example. I have provided a link to this place, but if you want to look elsewhere, here you go. On this page, it discusses 14 dams, 487 mi. open channels to allow soaking into groundwater, 162 debris dams, 2,919 mi. underground storm drains & 80,000 catch basin for slow percolation into groundwater. It’s very, very elaborate.http://dpw.lacounty.gov/landing/wr/stormwaterMgmt.cfm
            All considered, LA county can (usually) provide water for 3m residents. There are 9m. That’s where the pipelines come in. So, yes, local rainfall in LA is fully 1/3 of the water used in the county. That people on TV don’t know this, and don’t realize how important it is for LA to get close to its 14-15 inches/year baffles me!

      • Dan the Weatherman

        If they really said 9%, then they need to get their facts straight! I didn’t hear that particular segment, but I should listen to the 11:00 news tonight and see if they say the same thing or not.

    • Travis Mason-Bushman

      Why, because you disagree with science?

  • eric

    Im in topanga canyon. It started promising only to be short lived. hopefully the animals got some useful moisture. lets hope for more in the coming weeks. Sure was nice to hear drops on the roof

  • Loyal Brooks

    Thanks Daniel for a good summary of the drought situation at hand. Your work is obviously appreciated by those who visit here.

    It was such a beautiful sight to see the radar light up today and see that moisture spiral around the offshore low. The precip that did fall was slightly more useful due to unusually cool temps – that allows just a bit more water available to percolate down farther into the parched soils b4 being claimed by evaporation. (Every little bit helps).

    The national drought monitoring site lists in detail how much rainfall is needed to eliminate the drought (by the Palmer Index – the amount of water usually found in the soils). I look at that page all of the time and watch the amounts grow and grow. I have a mental block! I wanted to share that link here, and in frustration, I found a link the USES info from that site for their own site to produce similar maps. http://wx.hamweather.com/maps/climate/drought/precipneeded/uswestcentral.html ,

    Notice 26.63″ to bring the soils back to normal in the N Sierra, and 22.32″ in the Big Sur area – as of last week.. This is NOT to be confused with how far behind in average precip we are, it is just to bring the moisture in the soils back to normal. Wow!

    • Todd A Mulligan

      No wonder with soils this dry that small permanent steams have stopped! I hope Weather West’s optimism about a possible wetter spring becomes the real deal. Everything, including me, needs that small creek running again.Today’s rain was very wetting, not more than that, but it was certainly better than the storm that blew through here the other day.

  • Thunderstorm

    .44 rain here in the SF east bay. A high of only 49, bar low of 29.87 wind from the south east at 18mph. Storms from the north don’t help much. A storm from the south west with a south east wind would be real good. Accu Weather predicted a early dry spring. If correct then summer temps will be about 10 to 15 above normal. There goes the grid. Phoenix will probably see their earliest 100 temp in late March. A long hot smokey summer.

  • Loyal Brooks

    Dan, in your article, you say that the RRR seems to want to reestablish itself “fairly far to our west–just south of the Aleutian Islands.” However, on both the GFS projection out to Feb 13, and more obvious NCEP 500-mb anomaly map out to Feb 10 show the greatest anomalous ridging not south of the Aleutians, but farther to the west, more off the coast of Russia near and even partially over the Kamchatka Peninsula – and to the west of MOST of the Aleutian Islands.

    It seems that by this configuration, it would be more likely that CA would have an easier time getting under the cyclonic flow from storm systems developing to the east of the height anomaly – and hopefully these storms would move over CA. The Ensemble 500-mb mean also shows a considerable negative anomaly in the east-central Gulf of Alaska, very near where powerful GOA storms have originated in the past. This suggests an even greater possibility that significant storms could generate in the GOA and drive down the west coast as they sometimes do.

    I understand that this year, all ensembles have not been doing well with this stubborn ridge out in the Pacific, and I am wondering if this is why you hesitate being more optimistic than the model ensembles would otherwise indicate.

    • Todd A Mulligan

      Ok, I am trying to hang on. I know atlas geography very well. What I see in the first map is that there is a spike in the jet stream over Siberia, which is a ridge, and is not south of the aleutain islands, as is written in the article.

      That first map it shows a downward spike south of the aleutian islands and then a weak “ridge?” over the west coast up into Canada.

      From Wikipedia, it says that the bottom 500 mb is where weather occurs, and winds at this level are called the jet stream, and steer storms around the globe.

      The very next map shows a combination of models in one colorful map at this special 500 mb, out a week and a half into the future, and they show that in the eastern gulf of alaska should show a deeper than normal low in that area. At least thats what it looks like.

      Ok, I can ask a dumb question here…hopefully. I am now looking at these new weather maps and some of them make sense.if we want the gulf of alaska to generate storms, and the maps shown show that that is what will be the case, then why does the article seem to go right past that?? I thought that that is what we wanted!

      • Loyal Brooks

        It is not a”dumb” question at all – it’s very reasonable. What you observe at the 500 mb level is pretty accurate. A downward spike southward is a trough, which is a breeding ground for surface lows to form.

        What you see over the west coast is what you’d call a weak or shortwave ridge – simply because it is not so highly amplified as that ridge off the coast of Russia. These kind can ripple off to the east pretty easily (in ordinary years).This year is very “strange” in the way a serious ridge keeps popping up just west of CA and to points northward – it is that which blocks storms from riding in off the Pacific and occasionally making landfall on the west coast – even sometimes all the way down to Baja CA.

        A huge point to notice is that the high-amplitude ridge appears (by models) to form E of the Russian coastline, instead of off of our west coast. Do keep in mind these are computer model outputs – and they can be wrong, especially this year over the Pacific.

        There is more to this story, but not for right here. Surface features, like a storm or and area of high pressure often form to the east of the upper-level flow or ridge at the 500-mb level..

        • The plots shown do indicate a ridge slightly west of where I placed it in the text. Partly, this is because the ensemble mean graphic was from the previous day (only one available at the time), and the GFS realization was only one of many. The point is that the high-amplitude ridging will form far enough westward that CA may be stuck under the upstream ridge rather than the deep trough immediately downstream. We shall see…

          • Loyal Brooks

            Thanks for answering. I do appreciate it. Right, the high amp. ridge will likely form much farther west than has been the case, I get that. But unless the ensemble has shifted in some significant way – this would indicate possible the optimism (but cautiously).

            What through me was the last 2 maps are at odds with each other. Over the west coast, the ensemble shows anomalous low pressure not only in the E GOA, but also down along the west coast (but less so), while the GFS projection shows ridging there instead.

            They are not “apples to apples,” b/c the initializations are 18 hours apart, and the GFS projection is at 252 hrs out and the ensemble plot is 192 hrs. out. I just took the maps and read them as if they supported each other- when they actually represent different times in the future and have different initialization times. Sorry about that!

      • Loyal Brooks

        You were on to something in what you read in the article that I didn’t take into consideration. You obviously read the model output maps in question to see how far out they went. I didn’t do that, I merely looked at the initialization times – and just went on. About the ensemble plot, you wrote “out a week and a half into the future.” Good job!

        Also, your level of understanding how the upper atmosphere is wavy, with ridges and troughs – and that where they are positioned makes a huge difference is important. This is very good indeed.

  • Dan the Weatherman

    It has been raining lightly off and on here in Orange for the last couple of hours. Right now there is a lull in the action, but radar shows another band of showers offshore WSW of here moving in a ENE direction, so I am expecting some more light or moderate rain later tonight.

  • lightning10

    One cell tonight over the ocean that has produced a lot of lightning and currently has 50% chance of Severe Hail.

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  • redlands

    Well – this storm for last night to Monday morning turned out to be a flop storm — no rain here in Redlands, Ca — I saw the radar last night — seems like the rain band was south of Redlands — missing us. I hope we don’t go rainless for February and we can get a storm that can give us more then 0.01 – to 0.03 of rain.

    • Sunchaser

      Same here in South East part of Glendale…I got like .01” enough to get the concrete wet but that’s all. Thought it was going to dump on us here looking at the radar but seems it went south east of me. Well hopefully we will get something towards the end of the week..

  • lightning10

    0.10 for my area. Orange and San Diego county did a lot better than LA.

    • redlands

      where u at — lightning

      • lightning10


  • Best I can find is Santa Maria got .17″. Darn, it seemed like more than that.

  • Here in Santa Maria, the best number I can find is ..17″. Less than I thought we had received by half. Darn.

    • Loyal Brooks

      Yesterday, I found areas just away from Santa Maria, more in the hills just to the E, and several stations reported .26.” Some stations may have later reported more, I don’t’ know. I don’t know where you go to find those results, but there are many ways to get them. Some are more detailed than others.

      What I have found easiest – without being overwhelmed with too much data – is go to most NWS Forecast areas (NOT Eureka!). Click on “observations” under “current conditions.” From there, select only “Google map surface observations” – other offices call it by other names, but look for “Google” in the link.

      When you first go to this link, it automatically fills in current temps and winds.Change that to precip, and it defaults on 3 hrs. Change that to different times, and you will find different stations that report for that time period and not for others. Sometimes a station only reports on 24 hours, so the 3-hr default will not show it.

      In addition to that, you can zoom in closer to your area of interest and click “all” at the top, so it will provide all available reportings, not just the mainstream ones. You will see a much bigger picture of the rainfall in the area you are interested in.

  • craig matthews

    We really lucked out with this storm on the big sur coast with a storm total now at .87. Out biggest storm of the season. Palo Colorado canyon just to our north got 1.33 inches mostly from a line of thunderstorms that developed just offshore yesterday afternoon. Received dime size hail for a brief period. This use to be a regular event around here during winter. Having just one of these storms is a real welcome though. Even with the RRR weakening, it still appears as though some unseen force really does not want it to rain in California. As it seams like the bottom part of the RRR wants to stay between California and Hawaii, blocking any chance we get from receiving a real pacific storm. Atleast the pacific northwest could get back to their normal pattern.

    • Loyal Brooks

      Well, this wonderful Big Sur storm (thanks for the tallies) didn’t have an atmospheric river attached to it in the classic sense, and it wasn’t a drencher, but look at that 1.33″ nearby you.

      We are (I hope) we are in the midst of a change the way the atmosphere is moving across the Pacific and elsewhere. In fact, that is one of the most favorite things the atmosphere likes to do – change – so that it can most efficiently transfer heat from the equatorial and tropical regions and distribute it poleward to where there is very little heat from the sun.

      Oh, and incidentally, when it does that heat transfer, it happens to pick up water vapor, which aids in the heat transfer. This water vapor that gets picked up winds up getting involved in storms and fronts, which spread the precipitation around on a continental scale, bringing all of us the water we need to live. I mean this on a planetary scale.

      Why this RRR kept forming and reforming over the same place for so long will be studied for years to come. But, rejoice in what you reported. There seems to be hope for more of that…cautiously.

      • craig matthews

        I really hope that this is a sign of things to come. We haven’t had a low center take this trajectory for a long time. On a larger scale there seams to be a transition taking place. And many times the computer models don’t know how to handle such transitions. I’m hoping, along with others, that the sub tropical ridge between us and Hawaii will disappear.

  • Utrex

    Hope to get an atmospheric river!

    • We’re pretty much banking on a few of these occurring in order to avoid some pretty extreme water shortages. Looks like we could get a fairly weak one in the north this weekend, though rain totals don’t look extremely heavy at this time.

  • lightning10

    I have said it here before but I will say it again. People on another message board where saying we where in trouble once the Pac Northwest got that large amount of rain in September. That is a death signal for Western Winters in general from what they where saying.

    • Sequoia

      Anybody notice their fruit trees blossoming?

      A plum tree fully blossomed on January 28th here, must’ve thought it was spring.

      • Rachel

        All of the ornamental pear trees are in full bloom right now. My almond is in the popcorn stage of blooming and my cherry trees are nearing popcorn stage faster than I would prefer. My apple trees seem to be the only sane ones around here.

    • Problem is with using analogues is that we’ve entered uncharted territory, at least as far as our historical record for analog years goes.

  • Robin White

    Some of you may know of this site already, but it’s worth a look by everyone. Beautiful, and very informative:

    Robin White

    • Loyal Brooks

      Thanks for sharing. I have that bookmarked, and I do enjoy looking at it – seeing where the storms and fronts are in both hemispheres. I like it – and I am glad I am not alone!

      You can also zoom in on any area by a double clicking, and spin the globe around to view any area, even the south pole, and how storms circle the continent on a continual basis. The model is updated every 3 hours.

  • Thunderstorm

    Check out the west coast ridge on weatheraction.com , Piers Corbyn out of Britian. Winds are moving in the opposite direction in the gulf of alaska. What height these winds are doesn’t show on the graph.

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  • Utrex
    • Steve

      Too bad we can’t move the whole storm 500 miles south. The predictions about rainfall and global warming seem to be coming true. Less in the south, more in the north. California rainfall gets cut in halved by a simple 500 mile shift northward of most storm systems. Meanwhile, Washington and Oregon will get more than they need. I think another aqueduct may be needed to get Cali through the next 100 years. Something from Oregon, maybe.

    • Believe it or not, that’s actually not that much rain by far NorCal standards.The scale is really low on that plot–storm totals on the North Coast of 2-3 inches, while nothing to sneeze at, is not too far from average weekly precip up there this time of year!!

      • kurt frohling

        In Magalia, CA our average yearly rainfall is nearly 70″. Wet years can be over 100″. Our rainfall so far this water year is 6.87″ I did a recon of the high-country above Magalia yesterday and at 5,500 ft. elevation there is 0.00″ inches of snow. There should be 5-10 ft.

    • Booo! Send it down to So Cal. 🙂

      • Thanks for listening!!!! It appears we may be getting our wettest storm of the season starting tonight and lasting through tomorrow. Who ever made that happen, thank you!!!

  • snow755

    You can thorw out the gfs it all most has noting for Ca. The mod runs you want to use are the gem and ECW

  • snow755

    The gfs. Is a out liner we now have good agreed ment with the ECW and gem

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  • craig matthews

    The area between pt conception and Hawaii appears to be the zone where a ridge is re-born every time the weather pattern undergoes a change in the last 13 months. This seams to be occurring once again as the ridge in the gulf of Alaska is now being replaced by a trough and deep low. And this is placing the longwave trough to far west of our area. But at least people in the pacific northwest will have a break.

  • Dan the Weatherman

    I picked up a measly .05″ here in Orange from Sunday night’s storm. It is better than nothing I guess, but it’s about time we start getting storms that bring .50″, .75″, 1.0″, etc. because this is the time for big storms in the region. This nickel and dime storm business is getting beyond ridiculous!

    • Kamau40

      Just curious, are you starting to see significant Kelvin Waves develop out in the Pacific? We are now entering in the predictability period for the start of El Nino.

      • Dan the Weatherman

        I really haven’t been watching that closely. However Daniel (Weather West) will probably be able to shed some light on this.

        • Kamau40


  • Loyal Brooks

    Today here in Mpls, is the warmest day expected this week, coming in at 7F.Back to the deep freeze and wind chills to minus 35 later this week. Meanwhile, check out how warm January has been to Alaska. Read more at: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=83032&src=fb

  • Utrex

    The newest wx model update is so delicious I can’t even comprehend the drastic wx pattern change. One week extremely record-breaking dry, the next, rain comes back to California.

    And for the sake of it, I haven’t seen Google weather post this up in a looooong time:

  • JB

    NWS has significantly upgraded the chance of showers and rain in Sacramento for the coming week. I wonder whether, after all the ‘false starts’ since December, when rain was forecast but never arrived, they’re being much more cautious about our rain chances. I’m just glad we’re getting rain, even if, in the long run, we’ll still be in drought.

  • It does appear that there is the potential for some substantial precipitation over the next 7 days in NorCal, with some light precipitation further south. The North Coast could get as much as a few inches of rainfall, and at least the northern part of the Sierra will receive a couple of feet of new snow.

    The key will be whether this sort of pattern stays in place for multiple weeks or whether the ridge begins to build back in again after Sunday’s system as has recently been suggested by the GFS and its ensembles. We shall see…

    • snow755

      There are other mode runs then. The GFS and gfs Ensemble and some time both the. Gfs and the gfs ensemble can some time. Be a out liner

      You got. The ECW. And it ensemble. And you for the gem mode runs and you got the. Nam. Now some time ECW gem and the ECW ensemble. Can all show. Wet wet wet. Run after run why the gfs can some time be dry dry dry and when that happen that what you call a out liner

      So there other mode runs other the. Then gfs.

    • Kamau40

      It is a very welcome change in our weather. It does, however, make me nervous about the RRR rebuilding down the road. The long range forecast for the rest of the season still calls for below avg precipitation for the west cost. I’m hoping they are wrong, but we do have to be cautiously optimistic as I still believe we will have serious water shortages during the summer/fall months. At least whatever rain and snow we get, it will be a true blessing to help ease the pain.

  • rainscout

    Just read the NWS discussion/Bay area..I guess we better get evey drop we can get as the models are saying the RRR is going to re-build…Sure wish they would be as wrong about that forecast as they have been about our rain chances this year…as Weather west says ..We shall see..but I sure was bummed 0ut to read that…for now will dance for every chance we have…

    • Steve

      Technically, it’s not an RRR unless it stays around for awhile.

    • Loyal Brooks

      When I read that, I felt they were suspicious that the ridge causing so much problem for so long has been having a tendency to reform, and they are taking that into account. It may not reform – the atmosphere does “change it’s mind” all of the time.

      • Steve

        I tend to agree. Also, with arctic ice melt happening so rapidly, it seems unlikely that any NH weather pattern is going to stick around for long.

        • Loyal Brooks

          It is unusual for the atmosphere to get “stuck,” especially in the dynamic (changeable) westerlies. But, it does sometimes happen. Now, we need to warm up the Upper Midwest. Not in our forecast. Today, highs in singles. At 11 am, still below zero. The cold weather comes in tonight, with chills tomorrow to minus 35, AGAIN!!

        • Interestingly, there is an emerging hypothesis that sea ice loss actually leads to an increase in persistent weather patterns not dissimilar to the one we’ve been enduring for months…

      • mycoholic

        Maybe I’m being overly optimistic, but when I look at the models, I don’t see the RRR building in. I see more what you describe- a small wave of high pressure bubbling up and passing by. I don’t see any high pressure feature in the 500 mb outputs for any of the models that is static for >12 hours. If its there and I’m just missing it, would someone mind putting up a photo?

  • Toured Napa and Sonoma last year. Napa is out, or running out of water. How will this affect the world-class vineyards in the heavenly and beautifully varied settings of the Napa and Sonoma California wine regions!?

    I’m a long way away in snowy Ohio and just may open a bottle of Madonna Estates Carneros Red.

    • kurt frohling

      Ah, yes, Madonna Estates on Hwy 12. I’ve driven by many times but haven’t stopped. Hwy 12 is the shortcut route that everyone takes to get to Santa Rosa or vice versa. Sonoma is one of the prettiest towns to drive through, though maybe not this summer.

      • willb

        No doubt the climate here in Sonoma Valley is changing. Growing quality grapes is possible in so many places, but there is nothing like a Mediterranean climate such as the one we have. My interest in this website stems from our commitment to dry-farming. An old world technique that eschews irrigation and instead focus on deep deep roots and good agricultural practices to keep soil moisture high in the spring. This little storm will do much to recharge the soil moisture (and i will finally get some sleep). We have great water, the ability to use it, but choose not to, because we think we grow better grapes, with a lower foot print. The ag world could do so much better in sequestering carbon, using less aqua, and producing better quality….but that is another web site…..

      • Isn’t that always the way, we never see what is in our own backyard.
        Lucky you! Its a very unpretentious place compared to others and just happened to be the first on our tour; we ended up in the ritzier areas around Healdsburg St Helens…(I may have mis-spelled these 2 cities) very different microclime. I’m sure you know.
        Madonna is totally organic which has to be unique I would think. They aren’t large and I think the organic may be for lower cost, not sure. It was the first one we toured, maybe that’s why it is my favorite.

    • Steve

      I hear England is getting better vineyards these days, due to global warming.


      • WOW! I will add those to my meager Beginners Collection! Thanks!! I should be a whisky drinker being the ggrandaughter of Maggie MacIntosh & Thomas Young of the Highlands (Avoch) Scotland! Can’t stand the stuff. But I go and stay in my lovely Fisherman’s Cottage on the North Sea on the Black Isle… several times since 1982 :)) Thomas was from the lowlands actually..Ayrshire, they met on the ship, she was 17 yo 1906!! Thanks for the article. I need to find another airport besides Heathrow to fly into..awful!!.

  • craig matthews

    For those that are bummed about the latest long range models forecasting a ridge to build off California after this week, there is one very important difference to note this time around. There is a major transition in the pattern in the gulf of Alaska taking place where now a deep low is expected to be anchored for the next 2 weeks. This deep low in Alaska should keep the pattern more progressive in the central and eastern pacific in the next 2 weeks. So theres a better chance that if the ridge rebuilds off the California coast that it will be short lived.

    • Kamau40

      Also, the latest climate models CFSv2 model shows a wet March for much of CA. It has been showing this for the past 2 weeks. Perhaps, the ridge that builds in next will be short lived. Let’s hope so, because even the drought will not end this year, at least the more precipitation we get between now and the end of the rainy season, it will help to ease the impact of the coming severe water shortages.

      • Dan the Weatherman

        Maybe we will have a ‘March Miracle’ similar to 1991. Even if we do get a lot more rain before the end of the season, we will not be out of the woods as we will still be facing drought conditions during the summer, but will be better off than we are right now.

        • Kamau40


        • craig matthews

          Something is better then nothing at this point.

      • Is So Cal included in the wet March model?

      • craig matthews

        CFSv2 has been going back and forth on its wet march idea. Its really a coin toss though. In late February 1991 there was a ridge in the gulf of Alaska and a strong low latitude jet extending from the low latitudes in the central pacific to south central California. Right now it appears there is going to be a low in the gulf of Alaska and a sub tropical ridge west of Baja which would focus the pacific jet over northern California. We seam to be in a very different pattern right now then in February 1991. However this could all change. I hope that the longwave trough will anchore closer to the west coast which would focus the pacific jet more over central and southern California. Being that we are locked in a -PDO pattern, the chances are greater that the pacific jet will focus further north along the west coast. But there are exceptions to the rule of course. And the weather does not play by our rules. The RRR is a prime example of that.

  • Utrex

    Southern Sacramento Valley
    Special Statement
    Statement as of 3:10 PM PST on February 05, 2014

    … Moderate to heavy rain possible Friday through the weekend…

    * impacts: debris flows may be possible along burn scars. Urban
    and Small Stream flooding will be possible during periods of
    heavier rainfall.

    * Forecast confidence: high confidence in potential for impacts.
    Lower confidence in timing of heaviest rainfall periods.

    * Timing and strength: a series of impulses will bring periods of
    moderate to heavy rainfall across interior northern California.
    The first wave should arrive Friday, with successive waves
    continuing through Sunday. Current forecasts suggest that 2 to
    4 inches of rain will be possible across parts of the
    Sacramento and northern San Joaquin valleys. Between 4 to 8
    inches of liquid equivalent rainfall will be possible over the


    Note they said “dang” at the end

    • Chowpow

      That’s the forecasters name. (Please disregard if you were making a joke about it though!)

    • Thomas Dang is a meteorologist at the NWS in Sacramento. That’s just a byline…

      • Dan the Weatherman

        I believe most if not all NWS AFDs as well as other NWS products mention the surname or initials of the forecaster in the byline (at the end).

  • Utrex
  • Utrex

    Alright, amazing plume extending from Hawaii to north California on Thursday… Strong Low pressure in gulf of Alaska… Check. Strong High Pressure in the northwest pacific… Check. This is officially a pineapple express!!!!

    • Keep in mind that so-called “Pineapple Express” storms are really just a subset of the broader category of “atmospheric river” events that occur in the Eastern Pacific, so named for their moisture source region near the subtropical Hawaiian Islands. In this case, though, that appears to be an essentially correct characterization (though this event won’t be as strong as many that have such low-latitude origins).

      • Loyal Brooks

        Now THIS is beautiful!

  • Dan the Weatherman

    It is certainly nice to see a storm coming in from off the Pacific for a change, as opposed to from British Columbia! That means that it will contain more moisture and looks as if it will bring rain to the Bay Area as well to Socal.

    • Loyal Brooks

      This cold here is becoming very obnoxious. We struggle to get above zero everyday – we hit 4 today under “icy sunshine.” But, your rain always brings us a warm up. All the way up to 16 for Saturday, with 2-3″ snow. Then a new blast of arctic air will arrive. “ONCE THE SNOW EVENT ON SATURDAY DEPARTS…YET ANOTHER ARCTIC HIGH

      • GZ

        As a fellow transplant from CA to the upper midwest this past year I second your frustration with the persistent cold. Last time I was in CA was in mid Dec and it seemed so dry then it is hard to believe it didn’t rain again until last week. Such extremes on both ends of the spectrum. Are there any places on earth experiencing “normal” weather anymore?

        • Loyal Brooks

          It makes you wonder. It snowed in Egypt enough to totally cover the pyramids of Giza a month ago, the floods have been so persistent in the UK that their parliament is discussing ways to deal with this “new” national problem, Australia is having such hot summer weather that they have set new all-time highs in many places.

          In the NH, the jet stream is so highly amplified (hemisphere wide) many places are seeing extremes. But, many are also seeing “normal” conditions, esp. in the low latitudes, i.e. the tropics and equatorial regions..

        • Dan the Weatherman

          The problem with this year is that there has been almost zero variability in the winter weather pattern until just recently thanks to the persistence of the RRR with CA having constant dryness and the Midwest having constant cold and snow. It may be partially due to the MJO being weak and not propagating across the Pacific like it usually does.

      • Dan the Weatherman

        Brrrrrr…..that’s cold!

  • lightning10

    Looks like the NAM is winning the battle so far in So Cal this morning. That being the weakest model.

  • Coldspot

    First light dusting of snow this am in a long time. Yeah. Much more rain and snow on tap through the weekend. NOAA Medford says a break Monday and Tuesday then the storms will come back in. Awesome. Maybe greener pastures for the farm into summer.

  • Dogwood

    .75″ downtown San Jose for this little wave that was predicted to value maybe .25. Predictions total another 1.5 by Monday. If that would pan out, the 4 day event will exceed the entire July 1-Feb 1 total.
    Looks like people have gone from posting on every 6 hour run, to just going outside and enjoying the weather! Nice.

  • craig matthews

    1.05 inches of rain near big sur this morning. Most of it came down in 30 minutes from a very intense line of heavy rain along a line of convective cells. Some small mud flows occurred over the burn scar from the fire we had back in December.

    • Loyal Brooks

      Love your reports of what is happening to the land.

      Man, I wish I were out there to see such healthy rains finally fall on the land. And, you have a good atmospheric river setting up, to at least promise serious (you know, old-fashioned) rains to the Bay Area. Some of this serious rainfall will make it south to you – amounts are more uncertain, but it may be substantial.

      CA is famous for it’s mud flows, and nature is running it’s course. It may look like a mess now, but years from now, those areas will be prime lands for trees and plants to flourish.

  • JibJab2

    As a newcomer to California and a novice at weather-watching, can someone explain something to me…

    When the rain is falling heavier than expected here in the Bay, is that a good thing? Or would it be better if all that moisture waited until it got to mountains and built as snowpack instead?

    Maybe it sounds like a silly question, but it’s been raining harder here than expected, and I’m wondering if our short-term gain is the Valley’s long-term loss. Or is more rain always better no matter where it falls?

    • Loyal Brooks

      While there are deserts in SE CA (and smaller places elsewhere) the state is not overall a desert. But, year-to-year rainfall is quite variable, and most years have less than average rainfall, but a year here and there are wet (flood) years, which raise the overall average. This is more true the further south you go in the state.

      All areas need rainfall to replenish local groundwater supplies for the very dry summers. There would be no oaks forests and chaparral if it did not rain in the Bay Area. (Wetter areas have douglas fir and redwood).

      The snowpack that usually builds up over the course of the cooler half of the year in the Sierra is considered the state’s “water bank.” This spring meltwater fills Sierran reservoirs, supplying water to irrigate millions of acres of farmland in the central valley and quench the thirst of approx. 25 m people through aqueducts and canals.

      It is usually not a choice between rainfall in the Bay Area OR the Sierra. However, this year (and last) have been so far off normal, it has not been seen before.

      • JibJab2

        Hey, thanks for the information! In particular, insight that most years have less than average rainfall is useful.

        Here’s hoping that the remaining rain months are wet! I’m from an area of the country that gets huge frequent thunderstorms, I really was missing rain for the past several months. 🙂

        • Loyal Brooks

          If you are new to CA, you are not seeing normal conditions at all. No one alive has ever seen this level of dryness before!

          • Dreamer

            Never this dry but most rain in most normal years is light and rarely heavy. I’d still like to see how Californians would react to a thunderstorm with a heavy downpour.

          • As a Californian who has lived in Georgia and Arizona, I loved the summer thunderstorms with the heavy rain, lightning and thunder. Then they would blow away and it would get sunny, hot and humid. I could do without the humid part.

          • Loyal Brooks

            I know, right. I’m a CA native, and later, I lived in HHH Pennsylvania and now in the N.end of Tornado Alley, and I’d never seen a bolt of lightning or ever seen a downpour before. I’d read about them, but never experienced them. NOT!!

            The most intense downpour I’ve ever seen in my AMS life was near Lake Berryessa in 1995. So many inches fell in 2 hours, that we could not go back to Davis – the road washed out by a landslide that took trees, still standing, down along with it for the ride.

          • Zepp

            Wait until next year. If the models are correct, we’ll have a fairly strong El Nino, and when that happens California usually gets slammed, and you’ll get to see first hand how Californians react to really heavy downpours. Even the deserts get intense thunderstorms that can drop three inches of rain in an hour.

          • Dan the Weatherman

            The dynamics and instability usually associated with winter weather have been almost non-existent since last year. I haven’t had any thunderstorms here in Orange the last two seasons that I can remember, except for possibly a couple of distant flashes in the summer.

        • Dreamer

          California normally gets light rain about once a week in winter but NEVER thunderstorms. They call it STORMWATCH when it drizzles enough to wet the pavement. This year, the once a week drizzle has been absent for December and January and is returning for February. I don’t think most Native Californians have heard the sound of thunder or seen a bolt of lightning in their entire lives.

          • JibJab2

            Yeah, I’ve come to accept that I won’t see thunderstorms out here. I’ll settle for any pitter-patter of rain. 🙂

          • sc100

            You’ll definitely see thunderstorms most years. Living in Sacramento I probably saw 3 or 4 a year on average, sometimes quite a bit more. A big caveat is the Sierra, which can see a lot of convective activity during the summer during the monsoon season. Tornadoes also usually occur in the Central Valley at least a couple times a year, but they are usually EF0 or EF1 and don’t stay on the ground that long. You definitely won’t see any EF5s rolling down the street. Hail also occurs but is rarely damaging. I have heard of hail larger than golf balls but it’s very localized.

          • Dogwood

            I don’t know where you are getting your information from. Perhaps hyperbole is in the air?
            We had over a 1000 strikes last August from a line of thunderstorms off Half Moon Bay to Palo Alto. I have pictures.
            Biggest lightning storm I’ve ever experienced was a Christmas Eve in Whittier. Folks in Santa Cruz County Where it rained 24 inches in 24 hours in Jan 82 would beg to differ about not raining in California.
            C’mon, Malibu mudslides?
            Maybe the LA News stations don’t speak for every Californian, and I get your point about that.
            It rains here.

          • Loyal Brooks

            Dreamer is trying to liven up this blog. He got his results! Thank you!!

          • Dan the Weatherman

            I have lived in Orange County my entire life and have witnessed thunder and lightning on occasion during the winter and even in the summer. I remember a time in December 1997 when a series of thunderstorms was training over Orange and we had lightning and thunder along with heavy rain for hours. We had another thunderstorm in July 2006 and the thunder was so close that it set off the car alarm. In the winter of 2011, after hearing some distant thunder, I looked out my bedroom window in the middle of the night and saw a flash of lightning so bright that it was like daylight and immediately was followed by an extremely loud crack of thunder. It damaged our satellite dish and I believe our phones weren’t working afterward.

          • Zepp

            Thunderstorms are extremely rare along the coast, and yes, some coastal residents will never see a T-storm in a lifetime. They are infrequent but not rare in the deserts and inland valleys, and common in the mountains. And during the winter, we sometimes get what’s called “thundersnow”; lightning and thunder during a snowstorm. The first time I experienced it, I thought an electrical transformer had blown or something; like most people, I figured convective storms were a warm-weather phenomenon. But I wasn’t near any transformers at the time…

  • Zepp

    Just a quarter inch of snow in the Mount Shasta region, with drifts as high as a half inch. We’ll need to see a bit more than this if Mother Nature wants to impress us.

  • Utrex

    Saturday-Sunday seems to be the grand finale. Thunderstorms, downpours, and catastrophe arrives on that day. That’s when Sacramento Valley will be getting the jackpot…

    • I’m not sure catastrophe is the right word…

  • willb

    petrichor, finally!

    • Dan the Weatherman

      I never heard that word before and had to look it up to see what it meant. It is a particular smell in the air caused by a couple of chemical reactions that occurs after rain has fallen after a long dry spell.

  • Stereolab

    GFS seems interesting… after this weekend nothing for a long while for most of California, except starting at the one week mark the NW coast just starts getting destroyed.

  • Dan the Weatherman

    Some light rain has been falling off and on here in Orange County today, but it still is another one of those “nickle and dime” type of storms so common as of late, as opposed to the really good soakers that we need and usually get this time of the year.

  • eric

    in topanga canyon. isn’t pouring but it has definitely soaked the soil. happy animals, and plants

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