Tag archive for rain

Drought over for Ojai? Not yet, but…

Much of Ventura County has now (this water year, beginning in October) reached 100% of annual rainfall. Cheri Carlson writes in the VC Star

This is the first winter since 2011 for the area to get above-average rainfall.

Much of the Ventura County has had 120 to 180 percent of normal rainfall so far this year, ranging from 10 to 21 inches.

Four cities  – Camarillo, Moorpark, Oxnard and Port Hueneme – already have recorded as much rain as they normally would get in a year.

20170207_ca_noneIn Ojai, according to the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration, we have are at about 150% of normal, at over 15 inches (including over 10 inches in January). Yet look at the US Drought Monitor and it shows much of the county still in extreme drought.

As Noah Diffenbaugh of Stanford writes today in the NYTImes, this wild ride from extreme drought to extreme precipitation will not surprise climate scientists.

“The other bitter reality is that this extremely wet winter will not wash away the drought. Depending where one looks, California lost out on one to three full years of precipitation from 2012 to 2016. That is a lot of water to make up in one year, and as of last week almost half of California was still in a state of drought. The moisture deficits that have accumulated during the drought have not been seen in our lifetimes. They have caused thousands of California residents to go without running water, resulted in groundwater contamination and permanent loss of aquifer storage capacity, and have severely stressed tens of millions of trees. As a result, even after this wet year, rural communities, groundwater aquifers and forest ecosystems will still feel the effects of the drought.”

But if we’ve had 150% of normal, and we are between one and three years of water deficit, surely it’s plausible to think that a really good storm — one that might drop between 3 and 10 inches of rain over six days, putting us at over 200% of an average water year, in record-setting territory, as is forecast — might bring us nearly to normal? Such as this image (via UC San Diego)  showing water vapor smacking California repeatedly over the next week?

Sounds plausible. Let us pray for rain — with not too much flooding. Just enough extremity, but not too much.



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Not again! Meteorologists abuzz about El Nino in drought

Last year at this time a huge wave of heat was detected propagating as the scientists say through surface waters from east to west across the Pacific. Ultimately a series of such "Kelvin waves"  went on to warm much of the tropical Pacific, and waters along the West Coast, resulting in huge changes in sealife.

Once in a while, on a schedule seemingly impossible to predict, what happens in the Pacific can drive a series of meteorogical events leading to great floods of rain along the West Coast. A big big El Niño.

"The great wet hope," as Bill Patzert of NASA likes to say. 

It didn't happen last year, and meteorologists this year, such as Daniel Swain of Weather West, sound a little abashed discussing the possibility again for this year. 

Well, as most of us are aware by now, that didn’t happen, and the projections from winter/spring 2014 represent a considerable forecast failure on the part of the models typically used to make long-lead ENSO [forecasts. Instead, the world bore witness to an El Niño event that barely reached the threshold for a marginal event–and, for the most part, didn’t exhibit the kind of ocean-atmosphere “coupling” we might typically expect. Persistent weakening of the easterly trade winds simply didn’t happen, and the incipient event just couldn’t sustain itself through the winter.

In short you can't trust the models. No matter how smart the researchers may be. 

As I reported recently, Jeanine Jones, a high-ranking official in the California Department of Water Resources also questioned the usefulness of those models in a long talk at a high-level national drought conference last month.

Further, she pointed out that the mere mention of the speculation of "the great wet hope" substantially reduces water conservation. 

Swain concedes that May is still too early to observe an El Niño event and alludes to a

Spring Predictability Barrier–the period during which long-lead ENSO forecasts remain challenging due to the chaotic nature of the ocean-atmosphere system.

Again Swain points out that — in short — you can't trust the models. As if to say, don't even roll that dice. 

Yet and still, he cannot help but be tantalized by the magnitude of the changes in ocean temperature that are being charted by a host of different research teams:


They're literally off the charts. Not to mention the strong westerly wind bursts, and the typhoon connection. Turns out the Pacific is in record-setting mode when it comes to creating Category 5 typhoons. We've had five already, and the first was an all-timer, with sustained winds of 160 mph. 

Here's what it looked like from the International Space Station. Super Typhoon Maysak:


The last time we had this many typhoons this early in the year? Jeff Masters

The global record for Category 5 storms is held by the El Niño year of 1997, which had twelve Category 5 storms–ten of them in the Northwest Pacific. The third Cat 5 of 1997 in the Northwest Pacific occurred on July 22, so we are more than two months ahead of that year's record pace. 

And of course, the El Niño of 1887-1998 was a Godzilla that literally changed the world.


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A song and prayer for rain on a hot spring day in Ojai

In the first chapter of the climate book that caught the imagination of The Guardian (and myself), called This Changes Everything, Naomi Klein argues that we are entering an era of climate change cognitive dissonance:

Meanwhile, each supercharged natural disaster produces new irony-laden snapshots of a climate increasingly inhospitable to the very industries most responsible for its warming. Like the 2013 historic floods in Calgary that forced the head offices of the oil companies mining the Alberta tar sands to go dark and send their employees home, while a train carrying flammable petroleum products teetered on the edge of a disintegrating rail bridge. Or the drought that hit the Mississippi River one year earlier, pushing water levels so low that barges loaded with oil and coal were unable to move for days, while they waited for the Army Corps of Engineers to dredge a channel (they had to appropriate funds allocated to rebuild from the previous year’s historic flooding along the same waterway). Or the coal-fired power plants in other parts of the country that were temporarily shut down because the waterways that they draw on to cool their machinery were either too hot or too dry (or, in some cases, both).

Living with this kind of cognitive dissonance is simply part of being alive in this jarring moment in history, when a crisis we have been studiously ignoring is hitting us in the face—and yet we are doubling down on the stuff that is causing the crisis in the first place.

Another example of this cognitive dissonance:, but without the industrial irony: a rain prayer from a native elder, Julie Tumamait, on a record-setting day of heat in SoCal. Yes it reached 94 degrees on March 14 in Ojai, and yet indefatigable Tumamait and her brother Pat and many supporters and even a Shinto priest connected to the Ojai Foundation came out to a local park to pray for rain, each according to their own tradition:


What was touching about the song and prayer to me was "the ask" for water for our streams and rivers, for our "winged people and rooted people and finned people," for lizards and men and women and birds and all creatures alike, so that we all could have a drink. Not just human municipalities, farmers, and homeowners, but for all those who live on and about and in the land itself.  

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Rain reaches Southern California: December 2014

Awoke to the sound of dripping. The liquid murmur of the rain. So missed! Images too — of precipitable water, for instance — offer beauty.  (Motion displays best if clicked to embiggen.) 


That gif doesn't necessarily display well, but this depiction of the swirling moisture from an atmospheric river gives an idea — it's not enough to get us out of drought, but it's a start. 


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El Niño 2014 October forecast: Glass little over half full

NOAA released its October outlook for our winter, based on ocean temperatures, and continues to find a 60-65% chance of the appearance of the boychick.

Here's my fave set of graphs today, from another site, and here's my fave single graph:


These are tempeartures taken across a section of the equatorial Pacific, the vast belt across the widest girth of the planet, that the experts consider central for the formation of El Niño.

As you can see, this year is in the red — meaning warmer than usual ocean conditions, which harbingers a warm winter with possibility of wetness for California — but only by a tiny bit. 

It's especially small compared to big El Niño years such as 2010 and of course the epochal 1997-1998, a year of catastrophic weather that literally changed the world. Note too that the forecast was well in the red for 2012, a predicted El Niño, which did not develop and left us in drought. 

On the other hand, if you look at the depth of blue/cooling over recent years in this indicative region, you see a steadily diminishing. This was the point The New York Times made a month or so ago in a story with a conclusion that struck me as anomalously insightful. 

“Even if we don’t see an El Niño, it doesn’t mean California is going to be dry,” [the climatologist] said.

In fact, Mr. Halpert and Mr. Pierce said, one bright spot in the long-range outlook is that with the odds favoring at least a weak El Niño, the opposite weather phenomenon, known as La Niña, is less likely. La Niña occurs when Pacific water is colder than normal, and the result for California could be very dry weather.

“At least when you have a weak El Niño it’s not a La Niña,” Mr. Pierce said. “So that’s some limited good news.”

Impressive to me when a highly changeable news story remains relevant well after the pub date.

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Rain comes to the desert: Chris Clarke

The ecologists never fail to describe coastal Southern California as a semi-arid region, which all too many residents transmute into "desert." It's not! Big difference between a land of some rain and a land of no rain. Trees, for one. As Chris Clarke, who has an interesting gig writing for KCET points out, rain often skips the desert entirely. But when the rain does come, it's transforming: 

If the wave of scent that precedes the storm is strong enough to be euphoric, the scent when the rain actually hits can be mind-altering. The first drop hits soil. It dissolves the accumulated resin and dust of a year, or two or three, and releases it: a small wet grenade exploding in perfume. Then another hits. Then another. Before the marks of the droplets even begin to merge on the ground, they fill the air with volatiles: the air becomes like turpentine, but less choking.

And then a new scent overwhelms the others, literally washes them out. It can take a few years in the desert to notice it, but it's not subtle. It's just that outside the desert you're never away from that smell. It is the scent of water itself, rendered overpoweringly noticable by its absence — until now.

The presence of that writng!


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NorCal preps for promised ARKstorm: 12 Inches?

CA has had no significant extreme weather since December 2010, when a series of atmospheric rivers took an unexpected tour fhrough Southern California.

Both the precipitation totals and the graphics for "ARKstorms" are jaw-dropping. In 2011, the USGS issued a massive report on an ARKstorm that left the entire Central Valley approximately six inches deep in water, forced the evacuation of Sacramento — including the government — for over a year, and would have destroyed the California economy, if the California in that era had a full-scale economy.

That was in 1862, when it poured buckets for twenty-eight days virtually without a stop. It could happen today; in fact, it happens every 180 years or so. Some suggest chances for these storms have improved as warming puts more water vapor in the atmosphere. Should that kind of "big one" return, the disaster experts say it would break up the California economy, send the US into a recession that could be major, and probably damage the world economy


This time the ARKstorm, as the Weather Service wonkily terms them, has Sacramento in its sights.  and residents are being told to prepare for twelve inches of rain and power outages

But rain is also predicted for SoCal, so I can't be too upset about it…

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No El Nino or La Nina this year, just La Nada

Like the headline the Star put on my story from Saturday: No El Nino or La Nina this year, just La Nada

The crucial quote couple of graphs from the story, featuring media star and friend Bill Patzert:

Veteran forecaster Bill Patzert, who works with the NASA-affiliated
Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena on long-range forecasts for
Southern California, calls this condition "La Nada," because he thinks
the word "neutral" misleadingly implies that rainfall will be moderate
or "normal."

"You never want to say the word 'normal' when it comes to rain in
Southern California, because in the last 100 years, we've only had a
total of six 'normal' years of rainfall, meaning about 15 inches of rain
in a winter in downtown L.A," he said. "We have had one of the wettest
winters on record during a La Nada period, and one of the driest."

Here's a graph of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, or PDO, which many climatologists believe governs rainfall in SoCal more than El Nino/La Nina/ENSO:
The graph is a few years old (2003). Patzert noted that during that freakish two weeks of rain in December 2010, it was positive, but as of late, has turned steadily negative. 

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How dry will it be in California in 2012?

According to NOAA, La Niña is beginning to fade away in the Pacific, but it's probably too late to expect much precip this year.

La Niña-like impacts are expected to persist into the upcoming season.

For those of us who like rain, snow, and water, this is not great news. So far this year has been pretty dry, although not an all-time low by any means. Here's a plot for snow in the Northern Sierra, courtesy of the state's Department of Water Resources.

CA Northern Sierra Precip
So it's going to be a dry year. But as water expert On the Public Record points out, it could have been a lot worse — were it not for a bizarrely wet December last year, we could have been in the fifth year of a drought.

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Wondering where all the rain has gone?

Now you know: 

From NOAA, via reporter Mark Grossi's Twitter feed

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