New insights into the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge & North American Winter Dipole

Filed in Uncategorized by on December 4, 2017 5,653 Comments

A timely example: Persistent Western ridge, Eastern trough next 2+ weeks

A pronounced example of the “Warm West/Cool East” temperature dipole pattern will develop over North America in the coming days. (NCEP via tropicaltidbits.com)

In the coming days, a remarkably persistent weather pattern will begin to develop across North America and adjacent ocean regions. Characterized by strong high pressure near the West Coast and low pressure over the Eastern Seaboard, this “quasi-stationary,” high-amplitude atmospheric wave pattern will essentially become locked in place for at least the next 2 weeks. Patterns like this have a tendency to become self-reinforcing, lasting for much longer than more typical transient weather patterns and leading to prolonged stretches of unusual weather. This particular event will be no exception: California (and much of the West Coast) will almost certainly experience an extended, multi-week warm and dry spell, while much of the East Coast shivers through repeated blasts of cold, Arctic air.

As it turns out, these upcoming anomalous conditions provide a timely example of several atmospheric phenomena my colleagues and I have been studying over the past few years. In this post, I’ll explore the broader climate context of recent North American weather extremes, with a focus on insights gleaned from two recent scientific papers published by my colleagues and me.

A remarkably persistent, quasi-stationary atmospheric wave pattern will develop across much of the Northern Hemisphere, persisting for multiple weeks. (NCEP via tropicaltidbits.com)

 

Recap: Origins of the “Triple R” and California’s severe drought

In 2013, a curious feature began to emerge on the weather maps: a region of unusually high atmospheric pressure (known as a “ridge” in meteorological circles) was consistently pushing the Pacific jet stream to the north of California, resulting in very dry conditions. At the time, I (somewhat jokingly) termed this anomalous high pressure zone the “Ridiculously Resilient Ridge” due to its implausible longevity, assuming that it would most likely recede by the subsequent blog post. Instead, the “Triple R” held strong straight through the entire winter—and then recurred, in slightly modified form, throughout the winters of 2014-2015 and 2015-2016.

Average position of the “Ridiculously Resilient Ridge” over the course of the 2012-2015 portion of the California drought. (Adapted from Swain 2015)

The multi-year persistence of this anomalous atmospheric ridge was nothing short of extraordinary. The co-occurrence of record low precipitation and record high temperatures associated with the Triple R ultimately yielded California’s most severe multi-year drought on record. I previously discussed the rise of the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge—and associated drought impacts—in an earlier post, which summarized findings from our initial scientific investigations (#1 and #2). Two key points arose from these early papers:

 

1) Atmospheric pressure patterns similar to the Triple R are now occurring more frequently than they did in previous decades.

2) The unprecedented magnitude and persistence of recent West Coast ridging can be traced (at least in part) to regionally-accentuated warming of the lower atmosphere.

As is often the case in scientific endeavors, these early findings raised more questions than answers. These lingering questions motivated us to continue our analyses, which resulted in the two new scientific papers discussed below. (And additional work remains in progress.)

 

A “standing wave” in the atmosphere: Warm in the west, cool in the east

Composite middle atmospheric pressure anomaly map corresponding to extreme North American temperature dipole days (compare to current forecast map above!). (Adapted from Singh et al. 2016)

Global wind and pressure patterns are not uniformly distributed across the Earth’s surface. Even at a given latitude, prevailing climate conditions can vary greatly from place to place (compare, for example, the winter climates of mild San Francisco and often snowy Washington, D.C., which are both located near coastlines around 38°N). These spatial variations in climate are a direct consequence of the physical geography of our planet: the exact position of our continents, ocean basins, and major mountain ranges dictate prevailing atmospheric conditions on a global scale.

In North America, these underlying geographical constraints yield a semi-permanent wintertime “wave” pattern in atmospheric pressure (in a two-dimensional map sense), which is characterized by generally higher pressure in the west and lower pressure in the east. This pre-existing wave pattern is not always easy to discern on surface weather maps, but becomes more apparent when considering pressure patterns at higher altitudes (often quantified as “geopotential height” (GPH)). This typical “western ridge/eastern trough” set-up predisposes the eastern U.S. to experience far colder winter temperatures than the West, as relatively mild southwest winds (originating over the Pacific Ocean) blow across the West Coast but harsher northwest winds (originating over the cold Canadian interior) blow across the East—producing a longitudinal temperature dipole. This “standing” (i.e. stationary) wave pattern is also the reason why California can be highly susceptible to long dry spells, even during the winter rainy season. More often than not, rain-bearing storms tend to veer northward just before reaching the West Coast due to the angled southwest-to-northeast trajectory of the jet stream as it approaches the west side of the semi-permanent Western ridge.

 

“Warm West/Cool East” extremes have become more common in recent years

Quite a few recent winters have featured not only extremely dry (and warm) conditions across much of California, but also numerous outbreaks of very cold, Arctic air across the eastern U.S. The Eastern Seaboard, in particular, has suffered through a number of regionally-crippling (and superlatively-named) “Snowmadeggon” and “Snowpocalypse” snowstorms. In most cases, these opposing extremes have occurred simultaneously due to an extreme amplification of this pre-existing “western ridge, eastern trough” configuration. Altogether, this recent flurry of wintertime extremes across North America raises the question: has there really been a sustained trend toward an increasingly pronounced winter temperature dipole?

 

Observed trends in the frequency of occurrence of extreme North American temperature dipole days (different colors represent different definitions of what constitutes a dipole). (Adapted from Singh et al. 2016)

Our recent work (led by Deepti Singh) answers this question affirmatively: there has indeed been an increase in the number of days each winter characterized by simultaneously very warm temperatures across the American West and very cold temperatures across the East. We found that there has been a substantial increase in the propensity for extreme ridge/trough sequences to produce especially severe temperature contrasts across the U.S., and (to a lesser extent) an increase in the frequency of the relevant atmospheric “western ridge/eastern trough” pressure patterns themselves. Using climate model simulations, we further found that an increase in extreme temperature dipole days like those we’ve observed in recent years is considerably more likely in a climate with rising greenhouse gas concentrations than in a hypothetical climate without human influence.

Intriguingly, this increase in contrasting dipole extremes appears to be caused primarily by the increased rate of warming in the western U.S. relative to the eastern U.S. While the eastern U.S. has indeed experienced a recent string of remarkable Arctic outbreaks, there hasn’t been a sustained trend toward cooler temperatures. In fact, when we estimated future changes using climate model simulations assuming continued growth in atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations, we found that the occurrence of these extreme temperature dipole days will soon start to decrease as winter warming accelerates across the entire United States—making it more difficult to achieve extreme thermal contrasts between the East and West.

One question we weren’t able to assess in this study was how the atmospheric pressure patterns conducive to extreme dipole events might themselves change in the future. But in a separate paper, we have now taken a closer look at the “Western Ridge” half of the equation—and I’ll discuss those results below.

 

Oceanic links to North Pacific winter ridging

Statistical relationships between ocean temperatures in different regions (black boxes) and middle atmospheric pressure patterns (i.e. GPH anomalies), plus long-term trends in ocean temperatures (right). (Adapted from Swain et al. 2017)

There has been a tremendous amount of interest—not just within the scientific community, but more broadly among weather-watchers and other drought-weary Californians—in understanding the causes and longevity of the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge. And that turns out to be a genuinely challenging question to answer, despite several years of formal study by quite a few scientists. To date, the strongest evidence appears to implicate unusually warm ocean waters in the tropical western Pacific, which can trigger a hemisphere-scale wave pattern favoring an enhanced subtropical ridge near California. Other work has suggested that unusually warm ocean conditions in the “extratropical” Pacific (i.e. the so-called “Warm Blob” in the Gulf of Alaska) may also be linked to the persistent ridge—though there’s considerable evidence that the atmospheric Triple R caused the oceanic Blob, rather than the reverse. Still others have wondered whether the striking loss of Arctic sea ice in recent years may have played a role, though the evidence supporting this connection remains sparse. Finally, it has also been shown that random variations in the atmosphere can occasionally produce an extremely persistent North Pacific ridge. In other words: the Triple R may be at least partially attributable to “bad luck.”

In our latest paper, we set out to explore all of these hypotheses using a unified framework. Using a combination of real-world assimilated observations climate model simulations, we asked the following overarching question: are there traceable linkages between tropical/extratropical ocean temperatures, Arctic sea ice, and the occurrence of seasonally-persistent ridging along the West Coast?

 

Tropical Pacific may offer early warning of “Triple R”-like patterns

Observed middle atmospheric pressure pattern anomalies during the 2012-2016 (left) vs. predicted pressure pattern anomalies using the methods in our study (right). (Adapted from Swain et al. 2017)

Ultimately, we found that there do indeed appear to be strong relationships between Pacific Ocean temperatures and persistent West Coast ridges conducive to dry conditions in California. Especially prominent are the links to western tropical Pacific Ocean warmth. These connections appear several months in advance, which not only suggests a causal linkage but also hints that it may be possible to predict the occurrence of “Triple R”-like ridges several months in advance. This result agrees with previous work by other scientists suggesting that displaced tropical precipitation associated with West Pacific warming can generate a trans-Pacific atmospheric “wave train,” favoring an enhanced subtropical ridge near California. We also reproduced the already well-known connection between cool “La Niña” conditions in the eastern tropical Pacific and broader high pressure in the Gulf of Alaska, which can also lead to dry conditions in California.

Importantly, the West Pacific relationship exists independently of the El Niño/La Niña (ENSO) cycle: that is, warm conditions in the western tropics can be sufficient to cause a California ridge entirely on their own. Of even greater interest: recent warming of this particular portion of the Pacific Ocean has coincided with a considerable uptick in the frequency of persistent winter ridging near California. This latter point offers further circumstantial evidence that at least some portion of the recent California drought may have origins in the warming tropics.

What about “The Blob?” Well, we did find a strong statistical linkage between warm ocean conditions in the North Pacific and West Coast ridging—similar to that which occurred during the recent drought. In this case, though, the “chicken or egg” issue rears its head once again: while a time-lagged relationship between autumn ocean temperature and winter ridging did exist in observations, only an contemporaneous relationship existed in climate model simulations. We posed two possible reasons for this divergence: either the persistent ridging itself caused the subsequent ocean warmth (rather than the reverse), or climate models may be underestimating the role that warm North Pacific SSTs can play in ridge-building. Additionally, it’s still plausible that warm ocean temperatures in this region, once in place, can enhance the persistence of ridging via self-reinforcement (i.e. high pressure causes the warm ocean in the first place, which then favors more high pressure, thus causing an even warmer ocean).

Observational analysis suggests a possible link between sea ice loss and West Coast ridging (here, blue represents ridging when sea ice decreases). Climate model simulations, however, do not support this relationship. (Adapted from Swain et al. 2017)

And how about the sea ice hypothesis? Well, the link between Arctic sea ice anomalies and West Coast ridging remains…unclear. Our observational analysis hinted at a possible relationship, but climate model simulations disagreed. As my co-authors and I have previously emphasized, however, a scientific “absence of evidence” is not necessarily equivalent to an “evidence of absence.” That is to say: just because we didn’t find strong evidence of a connection doesn’t mean one doesn’t exist in the real world. The Arctic is now warming more than twice as fast as the rest of the world, and sea ice has been disappearing at a greater rate than had projected by climate models—a rapid rate of change that has complicated scientific investigations into high-latitude linkages. Indeed, the relationship between “Arctic amplification”/sea ice loss and mid-latitude climate remains the subject of a vigorous and ongoing debate in atmospheric and polar science circles. While it’s increasingly clear that these profound shifts in the Arctic have the potential to alter mid-latitude weather, it still is not clear precisely where, when, and to what degree. Thus, while our work does not obviously implicate sea ice loss in recent California extremes, it’s still plausible that stronger evidence could emerge using more sophisticated modeling tools or new observational approaches in the future.

 

Some conclusions, and thoughts about the present winter

Ocean temperatures have been cool in the eastern tropical Pacific and warm in the western tropical Pacific since early autumn. (NOAA via tropicaltidbits.com)

Ultimately, we confirm that unusual ocean temperatures are linked to seasonally-persistent West Coast winter ridging similar to the Triple R. Tropical warmth (in the West Pacific) and coolness (in the East Pacific) are both linked to different patterns of North Pacific winter ridging, and may offer an early warning of seasons with an elevated risk of dry conditions in California. Interestingly, tropical Pacific Ocean temperatures during autumn 2017 were warm in the west and cool in the east amidst a modest (and ongoing) La Niña event—a combination that suggests a substantially elevated likelihood of West Coast ridging this winter. To date, Southern California has experienced one of its driest starts to the Water Year on record, and strikingly persistent West Coast ridging is now expected to last at least two weeks. It will certainly be interesting to see how this winter plays out in the context of these new research findings.

 

This blog post focuses on peer-reviewed research from two separate papers published in scientific journals (Singh et al. 2016 and Swain et al. 2017). While most Weather West articles are primarily based upon my own informal thoughts and analysis, this piece is directly informed by formal investigations by a team of scientists. I would like to thank my collaborators in this work—Deepti Singh, Daniel Horton, Justin Mankin, Tristan Ballard, Leif Thomas, Bala Rajaratnam, and Noah Diffenbaugh—for their invaluable support and ongoing insights.

I am happy to provide a personal copy of any paper mentioned above (on which I am an author) upon email request.

Want to learn more? Follow climate scientists on Twitter!
Daniel Swain, Deepti Singh, Daniel Horton, Justin Mankin

 

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  • nunbub

    First!

  • Wet Line(San Diego)

    Very informative post. At this point we can just hope for the best.

  • landark

    great post Daniel. Now about you solving this so we can get some rain and not go into another drought cycle.

    • Jason Jackson Willamette

      Well, another Daniel tamed the lions. Maybe our Daniel can have sway over the dreaded Ridiculous Western Ridge…

    • Nancy Buchanan

      I’m no weather expert, but I don’t think we can solve it – we’ve overdeveloped and overpopulated this state to the point where I believe this weather pattern will be the new norm. Beyond time to leave this disaster of a state!

      • Gregory Bates

        The problem is that this ridiculous overpopulation by a single species is happening over the entire planet. Not just California. Though I do see that L.A County is approaching 10 million residents (more than 40 states) and California as a whole a staggering 40 million.

  • Jason Jackson Willamette

    Second! : ^ )

  • donnak10

    So sad and very discouraging for someone, such as myself who has lived in California since the year I was born, 1959. I’d give almost anything for the winters of my youth where as a child, the dreaded rainy day schedule was quite common in school. It’s becoming ever increasingly difficult to offset the ridiculously high summer temps without barely so much as a winter.

    Winters in California, I wouldn’t bet on to save my life but, summers I’d bet the house, that the upcoming summer is hotter than the previous one. So mundane and boring is how I characterize the seasons anymore. Expensive too! In the summer anyway.

  • SoCalWXwatcher

    Thanks for the very informative post Daniel.
    Even during 2013/2014/2015 we had at least some rainfall during Oct/Nov/Dec here in SoCal (Early December 2014 was quite wet). The fact that this W Coast ridge pattern has a tendency to be self-reinforcing is very disconcerting as we head deeper into Winter.

  • Art Reisman

    Why did it take last year off ? What was different? Could this just break down in a couple of weeks and still be a wet winter in the west?

  • Charles Carlson

    Great analysis! After observing the long range GFS for the past month and a half, it seemed clear that our CA winter was not going to be a repeat of last year, dang! It’s great to see an improving understanding of the relationship between the synoptic patterns and regional conditions. Human induced global warming brings opportunities as well as bad news.

  • wstockwin

    Here at Downtown Farm in Colfax, in the Western Sierra Foothills, a wet November following a very dry October has our total recorded precipitation level at 12.8 inches, just five inches off last season’s pace at this time. We finished Dec. 2016 with a total of 28.4 inches in the bucket, but if this latest forecast for a “multi-week warm and dry spell” holds up we will almost certainly end this December with considerably less than that.

  • Jason Jackson Willamette

    Next time I see someone sitting in their car, the engine running while they F around on their phone, can I pound my fist on their car hood and scream at them –

    YOU’RE HEATING UP THE LOWER REGIONS OF THE ATMOSPHERE AND CAUSING IT NOT TO RAIN!

    Gee, I wonder if that would change them? Or would they not even look up?

    • inclinejj

      They will look at you with a deer in the headlights look.

    • BainDramage

      Same with people who take cruises in cruise ships. A totally unnecessary use of fossil fuel.

  • Outdoors guy

    Daniel, thanks for sharing this research oriented blog. Very interesting work and analysis. Let’s hope RRR breaks up in time for some decent rain in the first quarter!

  • Bob G (Gustine)

    Great post Daniel. Where is the warning that is being referred to in the Western Pacific? Is that the warm blob east of Australia?

    • I think Daniel is referring to the Northern Hemisphere IRT Western Pacific. +SSTA over a couple of decades show warming in the western Southern Hemisphere and well as the Indian Ocean and NW Atlantic.

      • Bob G (Gustine)

        Thanks. I have to find the area on a map

    • gray whale

      No, I think it’s the spot he’s outlined in the first figure in “Oceanic Links to North Pacific winter Ridging”. East of the Phillipines, north of PNG. Interestingly right around the Kelvin Wave generation area.

      • Bob G (Gustine)

        Thanks

  • Thunderstorm

    65F,18%H, bar 30.10 and wind gust from NE up to 35MPH. Humidity falling and wind ramping up. SF bay area by Fremont. Visibility unlimited to the horizon.

    • thlnk3r

      These are unprecedented shattering CONDITIONS!

      68F, 17%H, bar 29.21. Wind is only in the teens.

      • redlands

        Location

        • thlnk3r

          Inland Empire

          • redlands

            Riverside, ca

  • Cornholemaster (Ventura)
    • 805 Weather (Camarillo)

      Our county is suffering.

    • redlands

      Thanks for the stats. If only it were the correct July 1st start. Thats what I use. Hard to make comparisons when the standards keep changing

  • chicagodem79

    Fascinating article, long time lurker on the site as somebody who has an interest in climate and meteorology (albeit on a pretty layman’s level), I appreciate sites like this where I can learn.

    While it doesn’t compare to unseasonable warmth and potential drought conditions being possible, brutally cold and snowy isn’t necessarily a good deal for us on the other side of this pattern either lol.

    • redlands

      I would take an average hi of 50 and average low of 30 in Redlands, with snow like happened in 1930s and 1940s. I know that will not happen again —– everything paved over with concrete and black top and 95% of the orange groves gone, along with too many people and houses

  • Whittier weather dude

    It’s going to be like Australia here at Christmas wearing shorts. Wtf

  • Thirstier Nick (Santa Maria)

    To sum up NCEP’s two week forecast: We’re all in Hell.

    I wish these super-ridges would go away and never come near us.

  • Dan the Weatherman

    I am smelling smoke from here in Orange, and it looks smoky toward the Santa Ana Mountains, but there is really no plume of smoke.

  • gray whale

    Fascinating! And so bleak.

    Also, very well written Daniel! One could tell that (as you mentioned) you really took your time with it. I for one very much appreciate this well-translated interface between the peer-reviewed, technical world and that of us laymen!

  • molbiol

    Fascinating read. Two things caught my attention: Warming temperatures across the North America, might eventually act to WEAKEN the west east dipole over the next several years/decades. Also, I find it interesting that warm SSTs, in the western Pacific seem to be the primary driving force for this extreme amplification as opposed to the ‘blob’ or arctic warming (at least according to current data and computational resources available). Finally, during the 2015-2016 super El nino, temperatures in the western pacific actually cooled but nevertheless, the RRR still reared its ugly head. This cooling may have set the stage for the very wet 2016-2017 winter since downstream effects of the western tropical pacific lag behind by several months….Anyways thanks for that post and adios for now until a pattern change occurs.

    • redlands

      Didnt some areas of central and northern calif experience there top wettest rain seasons 2016 /17 ? Not all areas of california got relief . Redlands barely got average rainfall, not enough to offset and or make up 7 yrs of 4 to 8 inches per year. Seems like people forget the large rainfall deficit in Southern Ca

      • we had 150% of normal in mount shasta!

        • redlands

          How much rainfall is that

          • sorry… i should have said that in the first posting.

            150% of our average = 60″

      • matthew

        The 8 station northern sierra index had the most precip. Not the most snow ever, but the water was there.

      • AntiochWx

        The climate data is pretty clear that SoCal is by far the most affect by the recent trend of events. It could be the onset of desertification, or it could be a short term variation, difficult to tell.

  • AntiochWx

    It would be nice to also see climate scientist elaborate more on the possible long term weather patterns that could have been responsible for the natural changes with the desert SW mulityear droughts. Clearly if it was normal for California to have 50-200 year droughts, there must have been a weather pattern that contributed to the increase subsistence and blocking of the Pacific moisture from reaching the area. The only way that could have happened is an area of extremely abnormal area of high pressure, assumingly probably something similar to the RRR. It would be interesting if the findings of the increase of resent dipole warm west/ cold east could possibly be a long term weather pattern that is now becoming more prevelant. The question still remains, how will AGW change the underlying natural cyclical nature of weather patterns.

    • tomocean

      I’m not sure your last question can be answered because the effects of AGW are intensifying as more ice melts, global temperatures continue to rise, and at very rapid rates (geologically and climatologically speaking). We press deeper into uncharted territory as we continue to spew forth more greenhouse emissions.

      • AntiochWx

        Well I think it is fairly resonable to deduce that as AGW progresses, the temperature gradients between the polar regions and the tropics will continue to weaken relatively. Obviously winter time temperatures will continue to see some temperature gradients that causes weather systems to form. However, the reason I think the warming arctic and reduction of sea ice is a major player of high amplitude atmospheric waves is because as the exteme temperature gradients decrease, the polar jet becomes weaker and meanders more than it otherwise would. This causes a greater intrusion of warmer tropical air into the polar regions and colder polar air intrusions into the warmer subtropical regions. But as AGW progressess, does the jet become so loopy weather patterns stagnate even more? I honestly don’t know, just asking questions to try and understand what is causing the changes in the weather patterns.

        • tomocean

          The lack of temperature gradients would certainly seem to lead to a reduced jet stream, but it doesn’t make sense when we had a warm Arctic with record low ice last year and we saw the crazy amount of rain/snow that we did. What is different this year (and years prior)? The jet stream wasn’t meandering then….

          • AntiochWx

            These are legitimate questions, and alot of climate scientist still don’t fully understand. I think there will be a long term trend of wavier jet stream meandering due to the weakening of global temperature gradients, but some do say AGW could increase AR events, but I would like to know they come to this conclusion, is it because of a stronger subtropical jetstream?

          • tomocean

            Interesting. It would be cool to go back and look at the jet stream last winter and see where it was primarily originating (versus this year and the drought years prior). So many crazy variables.

          • AntiochWx

            Like I tell people all the time, I think natural variability will always exist to some point, will still see some variations from year to year, but the long term trends could start to become more defined. It truly is uncharted territory. Current inhabitants of California have never experienced a natural 20-200 year drought cycle let alone further unknown AGW effects.

          • 805 Weather (Camarillo)
          • 805 Weather (Camarillo)
          • 805 Weather (Camarillo)

            Posing some great questions here in this thread and I am expecting meridional flow of the 300mb jet will outweigh in frequency the zonal flow patterns as we further into these fluctuations. This goes back to one of Daniel’s posts on how the warmer & drier conditions we recieved in 2011-2015 will become a more frequent pattern, however when an active winter setup does show itself, extremes are quickly met and 2016/17 season was probably the perfect example for that post now that we are possibly getting back into that regime of warm & dry repetitive seasons. Basically last season said “Veni Vidi Vici” to us. This also brings to the topic of what if what occurred in NorCal for the 16/17 season were to abruptly happen in the SW US… Which I’m expecting to happen, but I’m not ever expecting it to happen any time soon because I know how infrequent those patterns are becoming due to this new state of warm & dry conditions.

        • gray whale

          your comment is a good description of Arctic Amplification, I think, for anyone wondering what it means

          • AntiochWx

            Yep, I think arctic amplification will play a very key role going forward. However the state of the arctic was way different 1,000 years ago and in great health, so some other factor must be responsible for the 20-200 year long droughts, and I wish I could find more research papers that go into more details.

    • redlands

      Can they give a rough estimate of rainfall for a certain area by looking at tree rings ,or other items — maybe all this weather no rainfall is normal —– going 50 200yrs with little or no rain is really normal, just like going on a wet cycle is normal. Wasn’t the hi desert in Southern Ca had a big lake long time ago . We just happen to be in the dry spell

      • AntiochWx

        From my basic understanding of climate proxies, I think they can get a rough estimate of rainfall through tree rings and other sources. I’m just really interested in knowing what caused those nature climate cycles of extreme dry periods, because it does seem like it was fairly “normal” for Caliornia to experience long periods of little precipitation. I’m assuming those long dry periods had long term patterns of RRR like conditions, otherwise how could California go years without much rainfall. So it is possible the RRR we have been experiencing these last few years could be a return to what caused the long term droughts of the past. So not only do we have normal long term drought patterns that have happened before, we also have an AGW signal on top of that normal cycle.

        • redlands

          Would be interesting to see the last 500 to 1000yrs of rainfall and temps in Southern Ca to see if all this is just normal phase , 50 TO 200 years of little or no rainfall, followed by wet years

          • Dan the Weatherman

            It would be interesting to see records from that far back, but our records don’t go that far back, unfortunately. If there are any ancient trees in Socal, either in the mountains or coastal areas, an analysis of the tree rings may shed some light on this at least as far as precip is concerned.

          • Bombillo1

            Lots of 300 year old trees in S.Cal with nice ring history. Alanstorm or Matthew took a nice photo of a huge downed oak with a great shot of the cross-section and rings. Those things are very accurate. A forester did an analysis of a 80 year old sugar pine here on our ranch that had excellent correlation with my rainfall records.

          • Dan the Weatherman

            Maybe whoever posted the pic will post it again here for all of us to analyze.

          • Tuolumne

            There are trees getting up to 700 years or more in the higher mountains – limber pines and maybe others. My advisor in grad school was coring them, but that was 25 years ago and I have no idea what she found.

          • AntiochWx

            While there is no denying AGW, it does seem long term droughts in California is actually normal, and the last century of rainfall data was actually wetter than what has happened in our weather history. Really interested to know what climate driver is responsible for these long term drought patterns.

  • rob b-Truckee/East Bay

    California OES and FEMA confirmed that with 6000 primary homes lost in the fires in October; that’s the most residences lost by an event since the Great 1906 SF Earthquake.

  • Dan the Weatherman

    The smell of smoke here in Orange has now abated, and the visibility toward the Santa Ana Mountains has improved considerably.

  • Martin Cohen

    We will be flying to a wedding in Boston on the 30th. Will be able to make it?

  • AntiochWx

    Also it would be nice to see meterologist explain what is the physical force that dictates a pattern becoming quasi stationary vs transient, which factor causes them to stall for long periods of time. Is it related to the global wind oscillations and the global atmospheric angular momentum?

  • matthew

    Everyone takes away something different when they read these things. The biggest one that hit me was that whatever this “new normal” is that we have been seeing for the past few years, it will likely not be “normal” for very long. Accelerating change is the only constant. For example, the accelerating changes in the arctic along with the increased warming across North America decreasing the W/E dipole mean that we are far from seeing a stable climate regime anytime soon. So keep up the hope – after another 10 or so years of drought we will likely be in for another change.

    • Bombillo1

      Yes, the abatement of the dipole. This will have a definite political effect as the Eastern part of this country views California fires and western drought as “our” problem and not in any larger context. It has been difficult to get nationwide agreement on AGW policies because of this. I look forward to their “come to Jesus” moment.

      Also Matthew, as you point out, what happens when this whole differential mixes out?

      • matthew

        Who TF knows? I have been toying with the idea of buying a hunk of land in the Pacific NW as a safe haven for future generations of matthew’s. As I think more about it, only a fool would think that they can predict where a human-friendly climate will emerge in a few decades given the rate of change among so many different variables.

        • Bob G (Gustine)

          As I posted above, the Pacific NW is not escaping this either, According to the 18Z, the Pacific NW is going to be completely dry during the forecast period as is much of the western half of the country

          • tomocean

            They seem like they are going to bear the brunt of the anomalous warmth as well.

    • Pfirman

      Seems like you just said accelerating change is the new normal. Seems to be very much so.

  • RandomTreeInSB

    Thanks for the update, and to sum it up…the odds are favoring a dry winter this year due to the SST anomaly patterns during the last few months, and this extremely amplified pattern will more or less persist until it starts to level out as the planet warms further?
    18z GFS looks similar to the last 2 runs…

  • RandomTreeInSB

    One side note, The WPAC typhoon season has been very inactive this year despite warmer than average SSTs. Or maybe the lack of storms meant less upwelling and thus contributing to higher than average SSTs.

    • Bob G (Gustine)

      Michael Ventrice talks about Tropical Forcing that is going to happen in the Pacific in one of his Twitter posts. IDK what his post means.

  • Bob G (Gustine)

    The 18Z is something. The entire west coast of the United States is completely dry during the next couple of weeks. Not a drop of rain from Washington to California. And there is very little rain occurring over the western half of the United States. The only part of the country that is getting significant weather is the Northeast.

    • tomocean

      It is truly bizarre to watch the animation. Nothing. Not even well up into Canada. In fact, most of the country is very dry from 12/8 through 12/20.

      • Bob G (Gustine)

        It sure is. Over half the country is shaded green. That is accumulated precipitation for a two week period which really is close to nothing. The other part of the country is showing more rain but not all that much more. Most of the country is pretty quiet except for the northeast

    • thlnk3r

      Fairly typical weather with the current teleconnection setup. (+PNA, -EPO, -AO ). ¯_(?)_/¯ This is like perfect signal for those that like the PV in the East. 2014 – 2015 had this same setup.

      • Dan the Weatherman

        This type of cold east / warm west pattern has always existed as far back as I can remember. The general pattern was even around back in the 1980’s and probably all throughout recent geologic history. However, in recent drought years the pattern has become more amplified and more persistent.

        • SoCalWXwatcher

          I remember a classic example was during the Winter of ’76/77, but we’ve seen it a lot more over the several years, which I think is Daniel’s point.

          • Dan the Weatherman

            We certainly have seen this pattern more over the last several years especially between 2011-12 and 2014-15.

    • Pfirman

      You gonna water your trees? The ground is dry.

      • Bob G (Gustine)

        Sorry I missed your reply yesterday. The district closed operations in November so there isn’t any water in the system right now. I suspect the district will begin limited water deliveries in January if we don’t get any rain into January. This happened in 2014. I watered well into October so there still should be some deep moisture there. The trees don’t need much right now

        • Pfirman

          I sure hope you don’t feel the need to water in January. For now, I just wish leaves would drop off the trees so I can spray. Just dormant oil and to control curly leaf.

        • Pfirman

          True, the trees don’t need much, but the roots still grow even in winter. I forgot you are not on a well.

    • That is bad news for southern California, but downright astonishing for the Pacific Northwest. They don’t get mid-winter dry spells like California does…

      • Bombillo1

        Would you be willing to posit how our weather pattern might change if the dipole indeed vanishes?

        • The dipole *circulation* pattern shows no sign of vanishing–just the temperature dipole. In the future, things warm so much that it’s just not possible to have “warm west and cool east” because…it’s never cool in the east anymore. So there’s no sign that persistent Western ridging itself will diminish–just the extreme temperature contrasts it currently produces.

          • SoCalWXwatcher

            So less temperature differential, but the blocking will still persist, meaning a dry West, and most precip in the East will fall as rain?

          • That’s messing up all the ocean currents? I’m thinking downwelling and upwelling weakening. Any thought to thermohaline circulation or am I leaning off topic?

          • Pfirman

            That would hardly be off-topic.

          • AntiochWx

            So quick question. During the old long term drought patterns that lasted 20-200 years long. Why did weather patterns stagnate and persist, I’m assuming this had to have happened if you are getting long term droughts. The RRR pattern we seem to be entering into over the last few years, could this have been the prevalent pattern during those times?

          • Pfirman

            Holy crap.

      • Bob G (Gustine)

        Look at how far east it extends. The light green is basically nothing anyway.

    • Thirstier Nick (Santa Maria)

      This does not look like a natural dry spell. 🙁

  • Wolfpack

    That was well written and very discouraging at the same time, thanks Daniel. I know Daniel mentioned the increased loss of ice in the artic could be a contributing factor but it’s not exactly known how much effect it has or will have just yet. If I’m not mistaken doesn’t the battle between the poles and the tropical regions determine jet stream position? The warm tropical air wants to move poleward and cold article air wants to move south and this battle zone creates the jet. If that’s true and the artic is warming wouldn’t that allow the jet to move much further north in search of that colder air? Idk, something is definitely out of whack.

  • tomocean

    Look at all that freaking water being dropped out there in the middle of the Pacific!
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/face0bd69ff6f5cfe322e09335b04f8514c303b8c10c3b5d18ac1d5b2f28aee6.png

    • RunningSprings6250

      We’re gonna get it come January or even Christmas…. big time…

      • tomocean

        I sure hope that stuff comes roaring in like some kind of feral beast!

        • RunningSprings6250

          I’m a big proponent of the ‘swing of the pendulum” theory, and while it has mostly eluded is since the drought years it is bound to happen eventually…so that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. LOL

          • SoCalWXwatcher

            Looking back at the RRR seasons, it seemed that January/February were the hardest hit by the RRR regime, and after February some storms started making their way down to the Southern half of the state. Hopefully La Niña also begins to fade around that time. It might be too little too late by that time, but there could be some surprises.

          • Pfirman

            You must have an interesting marriage.

      • Dan the Weatherman

        I hope you are right! I am ready for a change from all this dry weather!!

        We even got rain in Socal after the bone-dry fall of 1962. According to weather records for downtown Los Angeles, rains finally arrived sometime in mid or late January and continued into early or mid spring. L.A. received just over 8″ for the season, which is better than nothing or even 2006-07, despite the ultra dry conditions to start the season.

    • SoCalWXwatcher

      Why did you post that map from January 2014? To scare us all?
      Uh, wait a minute, that’s today’s 12z EC. :-O

      • tomocean

        Look at southeast Alaska! They are getting absolutely hammered.

        • RunningSprings6250

          Checked the forecast for those mountains this morning “snow likely” all the way through the extended with 3 feet just today/tonight.

          • tomocean

            Holy crap. I know where I’m going this summer.

        • Bombillo1

          I believe those are the wettest places, historically, for the U.S. to begin with. Ketchikan Alaska gets 153″ annually and this is precisely the height of their rainy season.

          • gray whale

            we should all go! whoever wants to take me there, i’ll buy gas. and road sodas.

    • Bob G (Gustine)

      Yes, you can see on the model the low pressure area just park itself out in the Pacific with nowhere to go spinning in circles until exhausting itself

    • SoCalWXwatcher

      Here’s the Euro Ensemble. It goes out farther into fantasyland, but it’s less ugly because it adds some green after the middle of the month.

      https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/90a0ec0efe29e58a286ac8d96504efef27db863e16f356282ec79549c1453ad9.png

      • Bob G (Gustine)

        The green is so little in accumulation it really doesn’t mean anything

        • SoCalWXwatcher

          Compared to the 10-day period from the Operational run that tomocean posted above, it is quite different, especially for Pacific NW and NorCal/Sierras. Much of that precip color gets added during the tail end of the 360hr run. I gather it’s suggesting the sharp ridging begins breaking down during week 3. It’s so far out in fantasyland that it doesn’t mean much yet, but worth keeping an eye on.

          The caveat is that during the RRR years, the models underestimated the persistence of the feature and would hint at pattern changes beyond 300hrs, only to revert to a dry solution as the date grew nearer. It will be very telling if the same happens here, or if it continues to depict a change around week 3.

  • Thirstier Nick (Santa Maria)

    I don’t want anything for Christmas; I just want a storm to come here for Christmas Day.

    • redlands

      Can I order a side order of snow down to 500 ft for Redlands, Ca. Bout 4 inches of snow for Christmas

    • matthew

      That is actually a good wish (nothing for Christmas) if you care about climate change. Our rampant consumerism is an overlooked contributor (the carbon embodied in making all of the cool doodads that we seem to always want…or want to replace with a cooler one).

  • Rainmaker (San Jose)

    The age of the cactus is upon us

    • Pfirman

      I have been wondering how old that cactus was. Ideas?

      • Tuolumne

        OTF.

        • Pfirman

          Off The Forum?

          • Tuolumne

            Not printable here.

  • Al (SoCal – VictorValley)

    Long time lurker in this page since early november and its been amazing how my side of the high desert has been nice but unusually dry so far this fall. After reading some bias articles from bias sources like AccuWeather (in which 85% of the time they only focus on the East Coast), I came across this greatly informative article, I now know how its so unusually nice but completely dry out here. Also I look to my SW towards the San Gabriels/Mt. Baldy area and SE towards Big Bear there is no snow on NEITHER (!!!) when usually at this time there should be whiteness on both areas. Im pretty sure another user posted a picture of what the north slopes of the San Gabriels/San Bernardinos should be viewed at this time of year…

    • 805 Weather (Camarillo)

      Welcome! Stick around for awhile, good to have someone in here from the Victorville area to contribute.

      • Al (SoCal – VictorValley)

        Ill try to stay in touch every once in a while 🙂

    • Charles Howell

      It has been way too dry up here in the victorvalley. I’m in Fontana at work and I’m afraid the building I’m in is gonna come down! The wind is nuts right now.

  • Telegraph Hill

    So the implications of warmer Pacific ocean temperatures are becoming clearer for CA and it’s not good overall unless you’re allergic to cool temperatures or water. Cactii rejoice.

    What is the implication for the Pacific Northwest? The ridge seems to be deflecting storms for them also, but didn’t they get record flooding during the reign of the RRR? This is the data I could find for Seattle average precip since 1980, I can’t tell if there’s a trend from looking at it, has anyone computed a regression on this?

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/5af4c0ba69d9e3221c427dc0a1f973a2e84e83cd1a35d1a1dcf898cfe0db7961.png

    • Telegraph Hill

      If anything it looks like precip is maybe increasing?

    • Telegraph Hill

      This was very useful. “Small changes in annual precipitation. Projected changes in total annual precipitation are small (relative to variability)[F] and show increases or decreases depending on models, which project a change of ?4% to +14% for the 2050s”, also “Increasing precipitation extremes. Heavy rainfall events are projected to become more severe by mid-century. Specifically, the number of days with more than 1 inch of rain is projected to increase by +13% (±7%) for the 2050s”

      Sounds about right compared to what I’ve read on this forum – average amount of precipitation stays relatively the same, but the distribution becomes more extreme i.e. more droughts then floods.

      http://cses.washington.edu/db/pdf/snoveretalsok2013sec5.pdf

      • Things may go even further in that direction in California. I have another paper currently in review…stay tuned.

        • RunningSprings6250

          The reality of a pending arK storm?!

          • 805 Weather (Camarillo)

            I fear the opposite.

          • RunningSprings6250

            I fear the reaper…

          • Jason Jackson Willamette

            I fear my Comcast bill. : ^ /

          • That’s part of it, actually.

          • RunningSprings6250

            (I knew that topic had to be touched on eventually!)

            Thanks Daniel, for all you do. ??

  • Freddy66

    For all of us on here who enjoy following weather here in California this is a depressing thing to read.

    • SoCalWXwatcher

      Yep, sort of like dog lovers reading “Old Yeller”.

      • honzik

        Or reading “Of Mice and Men”.

        Tell me again about the rain, George!

    • RunningSprings6250

      That’s why I haven’t read it yet…

  • matt

    Here’s the weather conditions from my weather station display. Disregard the wind direction still need to get it fix. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/d74fdb14feee3e869c5761abd11d4c8cf4e5bf08916c3801545c9ccbf2b31e52.jpg

    • SoCalWXwatcher

      I just noticed NWS is expecting it to get down into the 20’s out there in Lancaster tonight.

      • 805 Weather (Camarillo)

        Yea, Ojai Valley looking at high 20s so there is certainly some cold air aloft… This is why I fear the winds later this evening.

      • RunningSprings6250

        It’s already around 30 here, didn’t make it to 40 so at least there’s that…..(forecast high was 47)

        Forecast low is 39 but it didn’t even make it to that in the sunshine!

  • It’s an unfortunate happenstance of history that our nation’s capitol is in the cold part of the temperature dipole. If it were in the warm part, we might see the political will to tackle global warming. It’s too bad that the pilgrims weren’t from China, instead of England.

    • RandomTreeInSB

      It’s not about race or even “the cold part of the dipole”, but rather about the general apathy of the population. I’ve seem a survey somewhere that a majority of people in China aren’t worried about GW, although their government are acting on it.

      What we need is a better informed public, individual efforts to limit energy consumption, hopefully a government and corporations that are willing to act against GW and encourages energy innovation, and less finger pointing and more agreed-upon solutions across the political aisle. Unfortunately that’s a bit too much to ask for, for now.

  • RunningSprings6250

    Sorry everyone – the pacific jet is taking nap lessons from Terra the Terror…. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/bf2d6cb33078ec3eddddf33b84c3a8697fbc5e0a6a9c053bbd519aa07e768e5c.jpg

  • 805 Weather (Camarillo)

    Well… I can give some good news I suppose. I may know somebody who actually is helping this thing get into space, so I may have some later details to come. https://twitter.com/NOAASatellites/status/937729130023587840

    • 805 Weather (Camarillo)

      When launched it should go into a non-operational state similar to what GOES-16 was doing before it started it’s move to GOES-EAST late last month. Scheduled to go fully operational next fall as GOES-WEST.

      • SoCalWXwatcher

        Next Fall? I thought it would take 1 year before it becomes fully operational just as GOES R did. GOES R/GOES 16 was launched last November. If sooner, then great!

        • 805 Weather (Camarillo)

          That’s what I read, but I may have misread that, so I’ll go back and look lol.

  • jstrahl

    Many thanks for this thorough discussion, Daniel. I found this part particularly interesting.
    “Intriguingly, this increase in contrasting dipole extremes appears to be caused primarily by the increased rate of warming in the western U.S. relative to the eastern U.S. While the eastern U.S. has indeed experienced a recent string of remarkable Arctic outbreaks, there hasn’t been a sustained trend toward cooler temperatures. In fact, when we estimated future changes using climate model simulations assuming continued growth in atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations, we found that the occurrence of these extreme temperature dipole days will soon start to decrease as winter warming accelerates across the entire United States—making it more difficult to achieve extreme thermal contrasts between the East and West.”

  • RandomTreeInSB

    Ok, really though, the past few years have been filled with “extreme heat! Record dryness! Record rainfall! Ridiculously Resilient Ridge! Remarkably persistent trough!”

    Maybe one day, Daniel’s update looks something like this:

    “The water year for XX-XX has kicked off with average precipitation across the State. Few moderate offshore wind events has brought somewhat hot temperature to coastal Southern California, now a series of modest pacific storms will bring moderate amount precipitation and intermediate snow levels statewide, and in the long range, a 10 day break and warm weather will likely be replaced by another period of troughing, and possibly more rain and snow.”

    That might be too much to ask for as we go on, right? LOL

    • 805 Weather (Camarillo)

      I think I know what everyone in here wants for Christmas.

      • matthew

        A pony!

        • Pfirman

          Pony keg if it stays dry.

      • SoCalWXwatcher
        • 805 Weather (Camarillo)

          Traffic in ’49? LOL

          • Dan the Weatherman

            Traffic in 1949 likely paled in comparison to today’s L.A. area traffic, since the area was much less populated at the time.

          • Jim (Watsonville)

            Fake news….LOL

        • Tuolumne

          The way it’s going in the long term, no more rain, cold, or snow around here. WW will need to turn into a weather nostalgia site where we endlessly rehash and relive now-extinct weather patterns.

    • Freddy66

      Sounds like something from the 1980s

  • jstrahl

    Northeast winds were petty intense in the early afternoon today as i rode towards Richmond Annex, i.e. right into the wind, it was a rough ride, hard to stay on the bike. Winds died down by the ride back, so i didn’t get any assist.

    • Pfirman

      That is the rule of bikes.

  • I probably experienced 60mph winds at Summit Point Golf Course in Milpitas earlier. Was crazy.

    • redlands

      I’ve experienced 65mph gust at Cal State San Bernardino with a hand held wind speed guage

  • SoCalWXwatcher

    Slim chances we’ll see this again any time soon:

    http://framework.latimes.com/2013/01/11/in-1949-the-snowman-socked-los-angeles/#/0

    “On Jan. 10, 1949, in the middle of the worst housing shortage in Los Angeles history, more than half an inch of snow covered the Civic Center. The San Fernando Valley was pelted with the unfamiliar white stuff for three days, accumulating almost a foot. The Rose Bowl was transformed into “a dishpan full of milk,” by one account. An Alhambra hardware store put up a sign that said, “Snow Plows for Rent–Hurry!” A snowman appeared in Eagle Rock, wearing a sombrero, and the city of Reno, Nev., sent L.A. a snow shovel.

    In a semitropical climate where January sometimes feels like June, palm-lined boulevards were transformed into winter wonderlands. Altadena residents turned their evergreen-lined Christmas Tree Lane on snow-swaddled Santa Rosa Avenue into a miniature ski run, and golfers swapped nine irons for snow skis.”

    • redlands

      I wasnt alive then, however my dad was. I’ve seen pictures and news articles. Would of been a wonderful time to be alive to see and experienced that. I got to see it snow in Redlands in January 28 1979, as much as 6 inches. Around that same time Palm Springs got snow too

  • 805 Weather (Camarillo)

    I’m literally in the darkest area… Holy cow it’s been awhile since I’ve seen a Santa Ana forecast like this. https://twitter.com/NWSLosAngeles/status/937869195374678017

  • Los Padres NF/ Piñon Pines

    A bit chilly this evening. And these winds are making it feel much much colder then what it is. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/8c3b0dec0abb3adc1a25318537a869936083de93cb184aedb57d5d7c2610b93a.png

  • 805 Weather (Camarillo)
  • RandomTreeInSB
    • AntiochWx

      Sad the winds are only going to strengthen through tomorrow morning, very tough.

  • BlackCat

    Insane Diurnal Range in Paso Robles, CA! A morning low of 18F with an afternoon high of 70F for Wednesday!

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/c05daf995201402b9bacca3de6062ac38d542f0c227113d2da3d512516d575e0.png

  • Boiio

    Solid post Daniel! I was curious if you looked back at previous droughts (76/77 for example) to see if similar SST anomalies preceded persistent ridging in those cases.

    • Not good.

    • Just saw some Facebook Live footage. Wow. This is a bad one, and Ojai could be in the line of fire. If you live in the Ojai Valley, pay attention to this one.

      • 805 Weather (Camarillo)

        Being seen from allover the county. It’s horrifying.

        • Dan the Weatherman

          Are the Thomas Fire and School Fire two separate fires, or just one fire initially being called different names? From the posts here, they sound as if they are close in proximity to each other if there are actually two fires.

          • RandomTreeInSB

            They are the same fire. School fire was renamed to Thomas fire.

          • Dan the Weatherman

            Thanks! That is what I was suspecting. Hopefully firefighters are able to get some sort of containment on it, despite the ongoing extreme fire conditions.

      • PRCountyNative

        Run, John Curtis, run.

        • Unbiased Observer

          Was just thinking the same thing….hope he’s okay.

      • rob b-Truckee/East Bay

        Large resource orders were placed and they’re also flying the Ventura County Fire helicopters tonight.

  • palmsprings

    Thanks for another great article Daniel, answered quite a few questions I had.
    In other news, today we had the first high under 70F since May 7. Latest in the season I can ever remember, we always have at least a couple of 60s in November.

  • Apollo

    Fire near Mupu School. Hyw. 150 has potential to burn to beach with the strong winds. Back into Fagon Canyon.

  • Dan the Weatherman

    The wind really strengthened here in Orange just around sundown, even though it ramped up slowly during the afternoon hours before then.

    • redlands

      Real still in Redlands,Ca. 41.5 temp. 35% humdity. 16 dew point at 936pm

      • Dan the Weatherman

        Does your area ever get Santa Ana winds? It seems to be calm in your area when the winds are howling elsewhere including here in Orange. The wind has been quite strong here since sundown.

        • redlands

          Not really ! Highest wind gust ive recorded is 25 to 30mph. — think one time 40mph gust. Redlands is no Fontana or Cajon Pass. I put Christmas decorations up and one year I put a brand new frosty the snowman on the roof, well the wind overnight tore holes in it. So I guess I need to put Christmas decorations to get some winds

          • Dan the Weatherman

            You must be in a wind sheltered area and not close to any canyons in which the winds funnel through. It is blowing quite strongly here in Orange right now and it is quite noisy as well.

  • Getting gusts over 30 here just now.

  • Al (SoCal – VictorValley)
    • Dan the Weatherman

      New acronym for the ridge: ACRAJGAAR!

  • RandomTreeInSB

    Insane considering the fire broke out only 90 minutes ago. Prayers for everyone in harm’s way.
    https://twitter.com/CAFireScanner/status/937895028864585729

  • Wolfpack

    2500 acres and growing fast, No Bueno…I’m listening to the live broadcast Ventura County fire.

  • 805 Weather (Camarillo)

    Gust of 67 mph just occurred in the Santa Monica mountains. 15-25 mph gusts across the entire Ox basin even up to the southern fire flank below 700’… Which means the upper support has yet to fully make it’s way into the valleys & canyons. I’m expecting explosive fire conditions to arise after midnight…

    • SoCalWXwatcher

      It was very blustery at work in Costa Mesa and I felt some strong gusts as I was commuting home on I-405. I get home in Downey and it’s dead calm. It always impresses me how localized Santa Ana winds are. I guess I’m fortunate I don’t live downwind from a canyon or pass.

      • Dan the Weatherman

        It seems that areas going toward downtown Los Angeles along I-5 coming from Orange County don’t seem to be as impacted by the Santa Ana winds nearly as much as portions of Orange County. I believe that the winds funnel through the canyons of the Santa Ana Mountains and affect areas downwind of them and of course the wind funnels through Santa Ana Canyon as well. The winds blow strongly here at my place in Orange from my proximity to the Santa Ana Canyon.

        • Pfirman

          Long Beach always seemed to get hit pretty hard even right at the beach. I did not mind as it blew away the smog.

      • 805 Weather (Camarillo)

        It really is fascinating. Interestingly enough HRRR confirms this will ramp up overnight. Here is a cross-section chart showing 4 hours from now via HRRR over the exact area the fire is located. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/df07cba5518941c0e1798f1afaf282d7304d427671fae22a5a7f2c977fc3c8d5.png

  • BP (Ventura)

    Vta county fire making a stand at Adams Canyon tonight. Fire moving west at around 10mph, this is a serious situation.

    • 805 Weather (Camarillo)

      It jumped the canyon already actually. Western flank is beginning to push harder west.

      • Pfirman

        I was gonna say. 10 mph is actually almost 300 yards per minute. A firefighter on the ground can’t deal with that.

        • 805 Weather (Camarillo)

          It’s hopping ridgelines like no tomorrow. Really worried about eastern Ventura tonight & Santa Paula.

          • Nathan

            The one stupid silver lining to this stupid fire is that it sparked before everyone went to sleep; hopefully that helps with evac effort and reduces deaths. Structure loss is probably going to be Napa-esque.

          • 805 Weather (Camarillo)

            That’s what I’m thinking… I explained on Twitter the general topography of north Santa Paula is very similar to north Santa Rosa.

          • Phil(ontario)

            Unfortunately that also means it will be a long time before air support get up to full force.

        • PRCountyNative

          At night, steep terrain, high wind: Besides evacuate folks ff’s on the ground can’t do much at all.

    • UrbanBizarre

      East end of Ventura is already being threatened by long range spot fires. This is bad. https://twitter.com/EPN473/status/937910479912976384

  • Nathan

    00Z…

    nothing.

  • Dan weather maniac (ORINDA)

    First off thanks for the long and detailed post WW host Daniel. This was a very good read. Depressing but I appreciate facts and science and the best take on truth based on scientific method observations.

    Second what a weather year. From epic rain and snow last year. To scorching statewide heat, SF all time record shattered, then LA super hot October. Then the Santa Rosa north bay fires. Meanwhile so cal in a almost 100yr drought! Followed by the possible return of the dreaded name I won’t mention. Followed by new urban fire breakouts today coinciding with this write up in so cal!

    Wow.

    Truth is always stranger than fiction.

    At some point we need some big ideas on how to exist in this great state in a new reality of more people, more heat, less water, more natural disasters.

    Edit: and I forgot cap’n is in jail. Jeez.

    • PRCountyNative

      All since the eclipse…

    • Bombillo1

      I say we start first by springing Cap’n.

      • PRCountyNative

        Then bug out and find some deep cold snow – British Columbia maybe? – and hunker down for 4 or 5 months of skiing and isolation? Call it something snazzy like ‘The Donner Party’.

  • I have to say…the last few ensemble runs of the GFS and ECMWF have been nothing short of extraordinary. Displacement of all the major Northern Hemisphere winter climate “landmarks,” and amazingly persistent, large-scale anomalies in flow patterns. No hint of abatement at day 16+. Not sure I’ve seen anything quite like it–even in recent drought years.

    • Bombillo1

      Morbid fascination. This is like watching the Iraqi oil wells burning and blackening the skies, knowing the ecological destruction that must now follow.

    • Nathan

      I remember some 16-day donut holes during the RRR times, but none this gigantic. Unreal.

    • Freddy66

      Sounds worse than the RRR

      • PRCountyNative

        We thought the RRR was Godzilla, but it was only baby Godzilla… Great pacing!

        • Freddy66

          So it will never rain again this season ? Bring on summer ?

          • PRCountyNative

            Oh no, it will rain again. There’s always a back and forth. Even with things all out of whack, if the situation gets too extreme it will correct back towards stasis. Spring hurricanes undercutting the ridge and hitting Los Angeles, something like that.

      • SoCalWXwatcher

        It all depends on whether it has the staying power of the RRR. It’s an impressively large ridge and it will stick around for much of December (at least), but it would have to dominate most of the remaining wet season to be “rediculously resiliant” on par with 2013/14/15. It sure resembles the RRR, but it remains to be seen of it has that kind of staying power.

        • Hollow Scene (The Desert)

          Exactly, this can all change at some point

        • Dan the Weatherman

          The type of Santa Ana winds we are getting tonight are very typical for this time of year, as our cool Santa Anas usually occur between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. It also is common for them to blow for several days this time of year as well. The only thing not normal is the utter dryness the area has seen this fall. In a normal year, this type of pattern would also eventually lead to rain within a week or two of the winds, but by the way the weather patterns have been behaving lately, it is hard to tell. However, the cool and strong Santa Ana winds, despite the terrible fire danger, could be an encouraging sign that the overall pattern is beginning to change that will ultimately lead to a stormier pattern at some point despite what the models are showing right now.

          • Hollow Scene (The Desert)

            This is also the most prolonged wind event in recent memory. Even the strong event last year was fairly short if I remember correctly

    • Henry

      During the drought years of 2013-2015 we had persistent ridges that lasted for months. I recall that in January 2015 most of the Bay Area received no rain at all.

      So I would not overdramatize the current ridge. We had a slightly wetter than average November in much of the Bay Area, and it has only been about a week since the last meaningful rainfall. While I think we are likely to have dry weather at least for the next week or two, so far this ridge has not come close to what we experienced in 2013-2015.

      There is a tendency for folks here to be obsessed with what the models predict in the very long range. On more than several occasions these same models have predicted very strong storms and sea level snowfall 2+ weeks out which did not happen. I don’t have much confidence in what the models say beyond 7-10 days.

      • Nathan

        Consider it PTSD. I remember the 2013-2015 nightmare pretty well; I don’t think it’s confirmation bias to say that storms would show up in the long range models and disappear within a few days, while the reverse virtually never happened.

      • Pfirman

        There is a difference between weather, which you are talking about, and climate, which Daniel is talking about. So you are not wrong in trying to curb drama in the former, but I think you miss the point of the latter.

    • Pfirman

      Well Daniel, if you are this impressed, then I am gob-smacked.

    • weathergeek100

      Wow. Yeah in the drought years, rain at the end of a 384 hour fantasy was common. This is depressing and actually, quite scary.

    • Telegraph Hill

      What are you seeing? I’m too untrained to notice anything on 250mb wind or 500 mb heights. I think it’s a standing wavenumber 10 pattern?

    • Jim (Watsonville)

      Listening to the incident live, multiple homes lost in the Wheeler Canyon area and one possible fatality in a overturned vehicle that was overtaken by fire….(confusing info, one says person rescued, another stating trapped)

    • PRCountyNative

      Only the weather can stop it. Looking on Google Maps, lots of agriculture around Ventura – are those citrus groves? Orange trees? Avocados maybe?

      Then also a massive oil development spanning thousands of acres with hundreds of drill sites. A lot like The Geysers looked on satellite, ahead of the Valley Fire.

  • Redlegs6_Susanville

    Anyone remember the siege of 93, I spent 2 months in SoCal on fires dealing with Santa Anna winds. My 26th season I’m hoping I don’t end up like 93.

    • Dan the Weatherman

      I remember the Laguna Beach fire of 1993, but I can’t remember any other fires offhand. Dried out brush from the previous winter rainfall would have made conditions in the fall of 1993 favorable for brush fires under the right conditions.

      • SoCalWXwatcher

        There were several fires in addition to the Laguna Canyon fire at that time back in 1993, from one end of SoCal to another. And then a few months later we had a major earthquake in the Sam Fernando valley. Then the rains came amd we had mudslides since the fire ravaged so much vegetation.

        http://articles.latimes.com/1993-10-28/news/mn-50441_1_orange-county

        • Redlegs6_Susanville

          Topanga Canyon, Malibu, Thousand oaks, Marre.

        • Dan the Weatherman

          I remember the Northridge earthquake well! It occurred in the wee hours of the morning and the shaking woke me up.

          • SoCalWXwatcher

            I was working night shift and it happened while I was driving home. I missed it.

  • matt
    • Pfirman

      I NEVER want to see that where I live. So sad for those who live there. Just donated to folks in Santa Rosa. Damn.

    • Jim (Watsonville)

      Sounds like new mandatory evacs for portions of the City of Ventura

  • Rainmaker (San Jose)

    December fires brings May showers

    • Dan the Weatherman

      Let’s hope they bring January rains!

      • MakeSoCalWetAgain (SMX)

        And February and March and April.

  • Thunderstorm

    Infrared satellite hot spot map shows fire between Corona and Riverside.

    • Hollow Scene (The Desert)

      Wow that sounds really close to me, I’m by lake mathews. Do you have more info?

    • Dan the Weatherman

      There was a fire out in that area earlier this afternoon and I smelled the smoke from it here in Orange for a little while this afternoon, but I think they got it under control. I am watching the local news right now and looking at the local TV news websites and I am not seeing anything about any fire in the Corona or Riverside area. I just stepped outside and don’t smell any smoke here right now, as I am downwind of any fires in the Corona / Riverside area.

      • Hollow Scene (The Desert)

        Was the fire you smelled earlier from a building fire in el cerrito? Thats all I could find on that

        • Dan the Weatherman

          It was a small brush fire in Riverside next to the Santa Ana River just south of Jurupa Valley and east of Eastvale.

          • Hollow Scene (The Desert)

            Ahh i see. There is tons of thick dry brush down there.

      • redlands

        Whats the temp down there ?

        • Dan the Weatherman

          57.9 on the north side of my house, 60 or 61 on my other thermometers.

          • redlands

            Wow 20 degrees cooler here — the same time

          • SoCalWXwatcher

            It’s dead calm here in Downey, so the temp has dropped to 49°. If winds don’t flare up here, it could be the coldest night for us so far this season.

          • redlands

            One of my thermometers is reading 34.2 temp. 49% hum. 17.1 dew point at 1125pm. 12/4/17. Weatherflow AIR sensor

          • Dan the Weatherman

            How often do you actually experience Santa Ana winds in your part of Downey?

          • SoCalWXwatcher

            We seldom get them as strongly as elsewhere. There have been occasions where we get them quite strongly out of the NE, so I guess the setup has to be just right.

          • Dan the Weatherman

            It could be that the trajectory has to be just right and a really strong event to boot.

  • PRCountyNative

    Based on live feed here: http://abc7.com/live/23340/

    It’s made it 1/2 way to Ventura already. Past Aliso Canyon now at Pepper Tree Canyon.

    Live shot of head of fire is intense, billowing, voracious flame.

  • PRCountyNative

    Fire is now directly North of Ventura, has spotted literally miles ahead. What they said might happen by morning has happened in an hour, or less. Seeing it live on abc7.

    • PRCountyNative

      Police and fire clearing neighborhoods. I doubt any actual firefighting is happening.

      • PRCountyNative

        The fire has gone 12 miles mostly west from where it started.

    • Jim (Watsonville)
      • Jim (Watsonville)

        Pretty impressive footage of the fire spotting close to 1 mile ahead of itself. News chopper guy said in the 30 years hes been doing this, hes never seen a fire move that fast. Now conservatively 10k acres

  • weathergeek100

    The reds will soon return on this map, at least in the southern part of the state. Water shortages will begin, restrictions will be enacted and the headlines will be talking drought. Here we go again. De ja vu http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/CurrentMap/StateDroughtMonitor.aspx?CA

  • Thunderstorm

    over 10,000 acres growing explosively!!

  • Some pretty crazy spotting of the fire in the ABC live cam.

    • Jim (Watsonville)

      Ya, looks to be about a mile

  • Wet Line(San Diego)

    10,000 acres and 1 confirmed Fatality. I fear what it will look like tomorrow. The Fire has already spotted into Ventura.

  • PRCountyNative

    Ventura County Fire: “w/ potential for 45,000 acres overnight”

  • SoCalWXwatcher

    Good news: Finally something on Doppler radar in SoCal.

    Bad news: it’s not rain. It’s a dangerous fire.

    https://twitter.com/wxmann/status/937918361131814912

    • Wow I tune this website out for a moment while abroad and of course everything catches on ?. I know there was a lot of dry vegetation in Napa that made things worse, I wonder if the fuel loads are comparable – the question being does this have the potential to be worse than Napa?

      • SoCalWXwatcher

        The city of Ventura is in the path of this fire, firefighting aircraft are grounded, and winds are expected to get stronger, so yeah this could get seriously bad.

  • Thunderstorm

    Power starting to fail in areas down south due to high winds. Stay safe down there but DO NOT SLEEP!

    • Dan the Weatherman

      Power hasn’t gone out here in Orange as of yet, but I am wearing a little flashlight around my neck just in case.

  • matt

    been pretty much been keeping track of all the fires this year.first santa rosa now ventura .very erratic fire behavior.and wind driven.

    • PRCountyNative

      Fire guy on the scanner just estimated “15,000 – 20,000 acres”.

      • PRCountyNative

        “All new units going to active structure protection in Ventura”.

    • Amy Cohen

      yeah sure, “wind driven”. most likely illegal beaners who hate people who speak english but they’re allowed to vote democrat as non-tax paying “citizens” in sanctuary cities. remember, jerry brown called law-abiding hard working taxpaying citizens “freeloaders”. at some point, you realize ca must burn.

  • Thunderstorm

    Cars not moving in the canyon areas by the fire. Should only be a one way out roads so more cars can get gone. SOS stuck on stupid. This fire means business.

    • PRCountyNative

      Just heard people trapped at top of Sexton Canyon, fire already crossing road below.

    • SoCalWXwatcher

      Just saw a view from channel 7’s chopper, emergency vehicles headed to the fight the fire are stuck in that traffic jam.

  • Jim (Watsonville)

    A mobile home park with 30-35 homes pretty much a total loss based on helicopter coverage

    • SoCalWXwatcher

      I hope those people got out of there okay.

  • matt

    https://twitter.com/VCFD_PIO/status/937944797976838144 just following fires. im happy my laptop up and running again.

  • Jim (Watsonville)

    Sounds like a new fire in the general area of the main fire…that commander is asking for 10 structure protection engines..

    • Dan the Weatherman

      Probably caused by embers traveling ahead of the main fire.

      • Jim (Watsonville)

        Sounds like a new fire based on scanner traffic…100 acres asking for 20 engines
        Certainly could be a spot but the commander makes it sound like a seperate incident

  • Dan the Weatherman

    If I am not mistaken, I just heard someone say on the news that it isn’t common to have Santa Ana winds this strong and cold. Oh yes it is common in December to have strong cold Santa Ana winds. I’ve seen this pattern many times before, although the cold Santa Ana pattern hasn’t occurred as much over the last couple of years.

  • PRCountyNative

    “This is going to be a citywide event”

  • MakeSoCalWetAgain (SMX)

    I called it. “The big one” is in Ventura County. All I can give you is prayers for rain out there. Jerry’s going to make a state of emergency as soon as he wakes.

  • Unbiased Observer

    I’m scared to see what’s going to be left of Ventura in the morning. Have friends and family there and some didn’t even know there was a fire.

  • PRCountyNative

    “Hwy 150 blocked both directions by burning power poles. Conditions not tenable for Edison Electric to address”

  • Tan

    Can extensive fires over areas as big as 10,000 acres significantly affect macro phenomena such as ridges. If so, is it know how do they do it. Do they contribute, or do they cause it to dissipate by creating a local low pressure? Do models account current fires in building future predictions?

    • justsomeguy

      Not a wx guy but have worked on many fires. 10,000 acres is actually not a large fire by any means, especially in the last few years. I don’t think fires can affect a continental scale phenomena such as a ridge. However extensive smoke coverage can affect temperatures and solar radiation that reaches the earth. I could be wrong I suppose.

  • Jim (Watsonville)

    Incident commander calling the fire 25k acres…if the winds increase like i heard they will as morning approaches, 45k acres is not out of the question at all…this could get really ugly by morning.

    • MakeSoCalWetAgain (SMX)

      Won’t be surprised to see it over 100K acres 24 hours from now. Ventura is in the path of this monster. This is the Hurricane Harvey of all wildfires.

    • redlands

      Does that mean cold n wet

      • Cold I can see, but looks dry.

      • sezwhom

        IF it were to verify, it means cold and windy for us with very little, if any, rain but probably some Sierra snow on the lee side.

    • MakeSoCalWetAgain (SMX)

      Inside sliders. Definitely not what we need.

      • Hollow Scene (The Desert)

        Fires aside, inside sliders would be a good sign vs a giant dome of high pressure spanning the entire west coast

    • weathergeek100

      That’s BS

  • justsomeguy
  • PRCountyNative

    Burning into the heart of Ventura. Wind 50 to 60 mph.

    • Unbelievable.

      • Dan the Weatherman

        Unfortunately no TV stations in the L.A. area are showing live coverage of the fire right now.

        • Same as Santa Rosa. Middle of the night, power is out, and local media outlets are not covering it live.

          • Dan the Weatherman

            I wish they would continue live coverage of this type of fire even late into the night, especially when a situation like this is imminent.

          • Bombillo1

            One can not help but imagine that many will not be able to get out. Like Dunkirk, backs to the ocean.

        • Chrissy (Long Beach)

          I keep waiting for one of the local news stations to break into the crap that is on right now…..nothing. WTF?

        • Chrissy (Long Beach)

          Fox 11 finally just broke in. Jeeze, it’s about time.

          • Dan the Weatherman

            I believe this is a rebroadcast of their 10 o’clock news and is not live, unfortunately.

          • Chrissy (Long Beach)

            Dang!! It is 🙁

          • Dan the Weatherman

            FOX 11 always has a rerun of their 10 o’clock newscast this time of night during weekdays.

        • Bombillo1

          Ratings dipped. It’s an attention span thing.

    • That is not what we wanted to hear from this.

    • Bombillo1

      Best of luck to the poor souls living in the path of this….

  • Chrissy (Long Beach)

    Listening to Ventura County Fire live feed- It’s so horrible.

  • justsomeguy
    • Oh god.

    • MakeSoCalWetAgain (SMX)

      Just apocalyptic.

    • Bombillo1

      Are those lights in front of the fire line a community or the fire spotting as it goes?

      • Fire line is just above Ventura. All bad. Does look like lighting at bottom left however…for now.