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California Whipsawed By Weather Prospects

April 30,2015-

Most of California saw record temperatures during the first three months of 2015 says a recent NOAA report. The report appears to add fuel to the firestorm of pending doom in the Golden State suffering not just from out of control heat ,but zero snowpack, lack of coastal fog, dying forests, and a growing pest infestation just to name the more friendly fear factors.

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The record warmth extends into the western Pacific described as a pool of warm water sometimes blamed for impacting the storm track off the West Coast (see global map).

Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 3.07.05 PM
A never ending ridge of high pressure this winter kept all but a few significant storms from entering our part of the world from January through April. Here are some details.

At the end of March a report concluded that “drought remained entrenched in the western United States, where mountain snowpack was record low for many locations in the Cascade and Sierra Nevada Mountains. Moderate to exceptional drought conditions were present across more than 98 percent of California, leading to unprecedented water restrictions in the state.”
Weather bloggerDan Swain pointed out that “Most of the precipitation that has fallen in NorCal this winter has occurred as the result of the two brief, warm, and intense storm sequences in early December and early February. In fact, in a few spots around the Bay Area, the vast majority of the precipitation so far this winter has occurred over the course of just 3-4 calendar days (!). Together, these data suggest a remarkable temporal concentration (intensification) of precipitation in California this winter.
There is a common cause of the extreme warmth, record-setting precipitation variability, and exceptionally low Sierra Nevada snowpack: the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge, Redux. This persistent feature near the West Coast has set up a little further east this year than in preceding winters, allowing the subtropical jet to make occasional incursions along its western flank. As this persistent ridge has wobbled around, conditions have remained very warm during both wet and dry spells. In addition, the Western ridge is forcing Pacific storm systems to take make a sharp poleward turn 1000-2000 miles west of California, advecting copious warm/moist subtropical air toward much higher latitudes in Alaska and British Columbia. Because the ridge is slightly further east this winter, California has been able to benefit very occasionally from this constant northward stream of moisture–meaning that what precipitation has occurred has been of the warm and wet variety.”

Next Flood?

If you can’t get drought off your mind, try floods. Here is a brief on that possibility that the state could be deluged by a 150 year flood!
“From drought to deluge, California and the Bay Area can expect increasingly dramatic weather swings as the effects of climate change become more pronounced and dangerous. Against that backdrop, the Bay Area Council Economic Institute today (April 20) released a new study estimating the Bay Area would suffer a minimum of $10 billion in economic damages from an extreme storm that many experts believe is overdue—an amount rivaling that of the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake.
The damage would be severe along the bay’s thousands of acres of waterfront land, where companies from Facebook to Google employ hundreds of thousands of workers, 355,000 residents have homes and key economic and civic infrastructure is located, including ports, airports, and water, energy, sewage and transportation facilities. The report relies on existing scientific models that envision an “atmospheric river” dumping the equivalent of 10 Mississippi Rivers on the region over 10 days, causing widespread flooding and disruption to road and air travel.
STORM DETAILS
– Approximately 150 year return period.
– Up to 10 days total rainfall, with 12 inches over 4 to 7 days.
– Elevated creek and river flows lasting over one week; peak flood flows last one day.
– HIgh tide in the Bay based on maximum observed tide which occurred in January 1983

Lets Not Forget El Nino!

Of course the promise of a vigorous El Nino weather pattern this  winter turned out to be El Busto. Forecasters thought El Nino would gain strength but it hovered in mild territory – just under 0.5 degrees warmer than average water temps and has only now headed into a full fledged El Nino at around 0.7 degrees increase.
The Cliff Mass Weather Blog notes that “.. during the last few months the situation has altered substantially with temperatures in the central and eastern tropical Pacific surging upwards.   NOAA and Australian forecasters are now saying we are in an official El Nino and it appears it will become moderate or strong this year.”

Of course ”we’ve heard this before ,adds Swain,noting that ” last year, in fact, there were very similar indications of a strong El Niño event in the works, and only a very modest, atypical event actually ended up taking place. The failure of most dynamical ocean-atmosphere models to capture this recent evolution means that it is probably wise to view these renewed ENSO forecasts with some modest skepticism, though it’s worth noting that 2015 has already featured a westerly wind burst even stronger than last year’s very impressive one, and that warm conditions have started to develop rather rapidly across the tropical East Pacific in recent weeks.”
On April 9, 2105 NOAA issued a updated El Nino statement saying “there is an approximately 70% chance that El Niño will continue through Northern Hemisphere summer 2015  and a greater than 60% chance it will last through autumn.”

Screen Shot 2015-04-27 at 3.24.52 PMSome models are predicting a strong El Nino – well above 1.5 degree C to near 2.0 going into years end when California could receive heavy rainfall. Unlike a weak El Nino like 2014/15 – a strong El Niño decreases the risk of a very dry year, and it increases the likelihood of a wet one,” says one forecaster.

The Oceanic Niño Index (ONI) for January-March 2015 is more than 1°C warmer than for the same period in 2014, meaning we are starting off from a warmer base state than last year.

For now here is what NOAA is predicting this coming winter, still months away.

Our brains will be whipsawed some more.

A wet winter?

A wet winter?

 

 

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