Cold and Overcast, with Rain, in California

The last few days have been a near perfect example of the “April Showers Bring May Flowers”. We’ve had rain and heavy overcast for most of the time. I’ve got little puddles of water in any waterproof pot that was sitting out and I’ve got a bit too much water in the catch basin of some of my potted plants.

The only problem is that it’s May, not April.

We usually get a couple of these mid April, and by May, it’s pretty dry. Sometimes it’s possible to have rain this late, but for the last couple of decades it has been “Tomatoes in the ground April 16th and sunny / hot starts in May going through to October”. First sprinkles of rain about Halloween, but not a single rained out Halloween in over 1/4 century for me. May, June, July, August, September, October typically just dry. (On the odd occasion, there is a wet week in August where we’ll get a sprinkle or two, occasionally it runs into 2 weeks. Just enough to make the peach farmers nervous about the harvest and ‘brown rot’).

Our “water year” runs from October forward. November, December, January and February are usually some mix of cold and wet. March and April turn to spring showers. The occasional Early November a bit dry and warm, but sometimes with rain and snow in the mountains. (There is an ongoing gamble about Thanksgiving Skiing… will the resorts be open for it, or not? It’s a good marker for warm / dry years vs cold / wet years. Lately we’ve had Thanksgiving skiing…) That leaves May as a bit of a warm dry transition into the hot dry summer and fall.

But as I sit looking out my office window, I’m staring at a cold cloudy sky. “First Tomatoes picked” are sometimes as early as the end of June. At this point, it’s hardly even been “decent to plant” and the nights are not staying above 50 F for fruit set anyway. July might hold some hope of a tomato… A visit to the local nurseries show a lot of tomatoes in pots waiting sale. I’ve had years where a May planting attempt was met with empty shelves as all the tomatoes had sold out into the warm April weather… Folks are just not feeling that “Spring Garden Time” weather motivation…

Is It Just Me?

So, is it “just me” thinking this? Is there some objective evidence?

Calif AVE Mar 2011 May 2011 Anomaly Temps

Calif AVE Mar 2011 May 2011 Anomaly Temps

Nope, not just me. Notice that the whole place is pretty much on the “way cold” side except in one small spot north east of Bakersfield and the LA Basin Urban Jungle. Frankly, I’d go check the thermometer near Bakersfield and see if it is on top of a heated building… L.A. is just wall to wall buildings and cars, so I’d expect it to be a bit warm.

How have the “MAX” temps been doing? In a “warming world” they ought to be going higher:

California Feb 15 to May 15 Temperature Anomaly 2011

California Feb 15 to May 15 Temperature Anomaly 2011

Those purple splotches are from 6 F to 10 F Below Normal. Even the “warmer” greens near where I am are 2 F to 4 F Below Normal.

“Hey Al Baby!! This was not the Global Warming I was promised!! Deliver on the deal! I want my Tomato Weather and I want it now!!”… After all, a promise is a promise…

How about the MIN trend in the last couple of months?

Calif MIN Mar 2011 to May 2011 Temp Anomaly

Calif MIN Mar 2011 to May 2011 Temp Anomaly

Gee, they’ve been a bit to the ‘cool side’ too… At least outside the Urbanized areas of Reno-Carson City and the LA to San Bernardino Urban Jungle…

So, about those MIN and MAX temps…longer term

I’ve had a bit of frustration for a while trying to tease out the Min and Max differential for the GHCN data set.

However, at this site:

with their “data products” here:

I think I’ve found an easier way to get insight into that whole Min / Max thing. They have conveniently provided MIN and MAX anomaly maps.

So, in a “warming world” how much hotter is our MAX temp going? Are we just “burning up” on that daily hotter than normal side?

Calif MAX May 2010 to May 2011 Anomaly

Calif MAX May 2010 to May 2011 Anomaly

Well. Looks mighty cold on the MAX side. Other than that one spot (where I’d expect a bogus thermometer given what’s going on all around it… looks to be about Ridgecrest to me, just North East of Bakersfield) that has some warmth. The rest of the place is in the Minus Side Of Life, and up to -5 F anomaly for that violet patch. That’s for the whole year. It’s just been “No Joy” on the heat this year.

How about the “cold side”? Those MIN readings?

Calif MIN May 2010 to May 2011 Temps

Calif MIN May 2010 to May 2011 Temps

Well, more “balanced” with a mix of blue/green vs yellow/red. An “eyeball average” might give a tiny advantage to the “warmed a bit” side.

There is a nice map of California here:

for anyone who would like to find any urbanization near any of those hot spots. To me it looks like The San Bernardino Valley (that has had a lot of urbanization) is showing hotter in winter, along with the Reno Sparks Nevada area down toward Carson City (the State Capital). That north central hot spot looks to be in Burney Falls to me. A nice tourist destination for the Burney Falls trail that has reopened.

As I see this map, it’s showing a fair degree of UHI from the 37,000,000 or so people here, now. (It was about 19,000,000 when I first started paying attention… about when I was in college IIRC).

OK, at BEST, the lows are not getting lower and we’ve got a couple of UHI “hot spots”. At worst, we’re in a significant turn to the cold side and are going to have problems growing plants (that NEED heat, that must reach their total ‘degree days’ to perform and are just not getting the warmth/love they need…).

To me, it’s pretty darned clear that “Warming” it aint. Best you can call it is “narrowing temperature range”.

There is another view available from the Western Regional Climate Center in this graph from their site:

Far less detail, but a clear picture of a cooler place:



Rain, Rain, Go Away, Come Again Some Other Day

California  Oct 2010 May 2011 Precipitation Percent

California Oct 2010 May 2011 Precipitation Percent

We, like much of the rest of the world, have had “excess rain”. (Australia, South America, Sri Lanka, and a host of others have been dumped on too).

So far this “water season” we’ve got most of the State above normal and the mountains just getting buried in snow. Up to 300% of “normal”.

All that water and snow represents excess heat sucked out of the ocean, dumped to the upper troposphere / lower stratosphere, and the “condensate” returned to earth for recycle. The oceans are dumping heat to space and we’re seeing the results here on land as the “cold pole” of the heat engine is where the condensate collects.

You can see it happening all over the world, as excess rainfall happens. You can see it in the flooding Mississippi basin in truly gigantic form.

Welcome to the cold transition of the PDO swap.

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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12 Responses to Cold and Overcast, with Rain, in California

  1. Verity Jones says:

    Pretty much the same with us. Rain, rain and cold. Sitting here in a thick fleece.

    I’ve opted for indoor tomatoes only this year and for the garden we’re sticking to short season or cool zone veggies.

  2. E.M.Smith says:


    As I’ve only barely managed to get decent tomatoes at the very end of the warm phase (and only with cool tolerant varieties) I’m not even bothering to put in any tomatoes this year.

    If it suddenly goes “way hot” I might rush off to the nursery and see if anything is sulking in a 5 gallon can wishing it had dirt ;-) but other than that, I’m doing the “cold and fast” crops.

    As listed in the posting:

    The one bit of “good news” is that mid summer my Runner Beans typically give me cascades of flowers, but no pod set, as temps go over 85 F to 90 F mid day. At the present rate, they ought to be setting pods all summer long.

    We’ll see…

    Between tomatoes being marginal at the cool end and Runner Beans at the hot end, I’ve got a fairly consistent “botanical thermometer” for any “climate change” here.

    At present they are reporting: Cold and getting colder.

    In the late ’90s they were reporting “a bit warm, but not greatly so”… but now that is all gone and then some…

  3. Jeff Alberts says:

    Same up in Western Washington. After the coldest April on record (not that such a thing is really meaningful), and a colder than average winter, May isn’t any warmer.

  4. R. Shearer says:

    I have most of my garden planted, but I learned some time ago that even in mid May a freekish Colorado snow storm is not out of the question. Things are definitely running late this Spring.

    On the plus side, I’m looking forward to at least one more day of skiing at A-basin, maybe later this week. They still have a 90+ inch base.

  5. It was wet, cloudy and cold here for a few days, but warmed up somewhat today.

    The early morning temperature was ~45F a couple of days ago. Tonight the low temperature is forecast to be 36F.

    These are not typical temperatures of mid-May.


  6. John F. Hultquist says:

    Our weather forecast for central WA State comes from the NWS Office in Pendleton, OR. They provide a graphic for Yakima, WA with daily “observed, normals, records” by month – January is in the lower left and May in the upper right.
    January appears a bit warm. Most of February is about average until the last week. March seems very normal. Beginning on April 2, cool is winning. There have been a few warm and sunny days in May. Yesterday that ended. Thursday (May 19th) is going to be the start of spring, I think.

    Charts here:

  7. Adam Gallon says:

    I wonder where GISS’s thermometers are located?
    California’s burning I say, burning!

  8. Keith Hill says:

    Much the same in Oz in Tasmania. A very cold May so far with cold sleety weather and snow some days down to the 600metre level. The mainland of Australia has also received good falls of snow in the south-east. Recent arrivals settling here in Tassie have complained about no summer and now no autumn!

    My scarlet runner beans produced on their first flowering which hasn’t been happening in the last two or three years. The second flowering produced heavy crops. Sure beats any computer climate model to tell one what is really going on.
    Have Broad beans, sugarsnap peas, winter lettuce, broccoli, cabbage and garlic up doing well.

    Only possible problem is I turned 78 the other day but should be able to keep my garden going for another year or two as I’m still getting round the golf course.OK.

    Found this lovely topical quote from Anne Althouse:-

    “When everything is evidence of the thing you want to believe, it might be time to stop pretending you’re all about science”!

    Cheers to all.

  9. Pascvaks says:

    Think maybe those Arabs would want to buy a few billion barrels of pure, old fashioned Mississippi Spring Water for $100.00 each? Or, maybe, we could trade them something of equal value, hummmm… now what do they have that we might need…

  10. E.M.Smith says:

    @Adam Gallon:

    I’m not sure where GISS get their California readings from now that they have put the recent USHCN readings back in. Up until a year or so ago, they ‘cut off’ those thermometers in 2007 IIRC. At that time the only remaining thermometers in California were 4:

    San Francisco Airport
    Los Angeles Airport
    San Diego
    Santa Maria

    Two are amoung the largest international airports in the nation (SFO LAX) with miles of tarmac. All 4 are right next to the ocean that strongly moderates any temperature excursions. (i.e. you can’t freeze with a wind coming ashore from the Pacific in Los Angeles… )

    @Keith Hill:

    If you can golf and garden, there is still life to be lived!

    Glad to see another person who has observed the precision of fruit / pod set as a clear weather gauge!

    It is truly remarkable just how precise and accurate a plant variety can be, especially those that are more “showy” about it. With the way Scarlett Runners put 20 or so flowers on a ‘sprig’, I’ve had times of variable weather where you could read the temperature pattern in the set pods. A few blanks (hot days) some pods (cooled off a few days) some more blanks (warmed up again) some more pods…

    When the sprig of flowers just steadily advances without pods, it’s hot weather consistently into the evening…

    Then in other places where temps have flipped past the pod set point, you get a consistent “black out” period during the heat of the summer:

    I believe Insuk’s Wang Kong will do much better in IA than here in OK; and I haven’t given up on it here. Here in Oklahoma timing is of utmost importance, as we have a virtual “no grow” season, right in the middle of the summer. Few plants produce during that extra hot time. Many simply die. But on either end of that “no grow” season we have some good gardening weather.

    So, moderate to cool and stable? (Like England) Loads of beans all summer. Sporadic heat (like where I am some summers) and you get the “on again off again” pod set. Simply HOT HOT HOT mid-summer Oklahoma? No beans and some plants just give up and die…

    Any change of “climate” has a change of behaviour….

    Another commenter on that thread said:

    The flowers were red, and began in about 30 days, eventually covering the vines. The flower stalks were unusually long, some nearly 12″. My experience paralleled George’s; while most runner beans I have grown drop blossoms in the heat of my Midwest summer, Insuk’s Wang Kong began to set pods almost immediately, and continued to do so even in 80 degree heat. The vines eventually produced a heavy pod load.

    As noted, each variety has minor variations in acceptable temperatures. Some, like Scarlet Runners, drop blossoms if the peak heat is too high. Others, like Tomatoes, don’t set fruit if the night temps are too low. My radishes bolted as it was variable warm / cold / warm / cold and they decided winter had happened and spring arrived. Most years my spinach bolts early (from the heat), this year no bolting… it’s been cold.

    All over the world experienced gardeners can tell you with great precision if it has been a little warmer, or cooler, in any given year.

    Tomatoes before July 4th? Hot year. After July 20th? It’s been cold… When did the corn ripen? When did the wheat go in? Last Tomatoes picked in October? Or was it November that they got pulled?… so it goes.

    Want to know the actual climate change pattern? Just look at the dates of planting for major crops… then the date of harvest.

    It might also be interesting to look at those golf score cards and see just when “first golf” and “last golf” happened ;-)

    Love the quote, BTW.

  11. Pascvaks says:

    Are “Greenhouse’s” permitted under the IPCC’s Worldwide Rules For Eradication of CO2? As cold and unpleasent as things are it sounds like we’re sure going to need a few, ahhhh.. million. Seems like it wouldn’t hurt to have a Geodesic Dome over Kansas and California’s Central Valley too.

    (Shouldn’t the UN require the IPCC to convert Venus to an Earthlike environment before playing with Earth? I mean, wouldn’t it be prudent to verify their plans and procedures BEFORE we let them muck up this world? I still don’t know what the folks here are suppose to do while they’re saving the world. I mean, we can’t eat, drink, breathe, defficate, up-chuck, or work, play, or.. you know.. that is, until they get everything torn apart and put back together again. Will we still have the Web and TV while their working?)

  12. E.M.Smith says:


    As near as I can tell, you are expected to simply die, childless if possible. The “utopian vision” for the future that these folks seem to want is one with the earth largely depopulated of “evil humanity”. At least, that’s what fits all their actions and statements with the fewest discontinuities…

    What we saw in California (are still seeing?) is that the Progressive Agenda runs head long into clearly visible brick walls then jumps up and starts running head long into the next one…

    Never learns. Doesnt’ care. You are just an obstacle…

    We had a big push to Methanol. Except the State of California mandated that you could only buy it using their “special” credit card that tracked all your purchases and only after you filled out their special program forms and only with the special approved cars… It died on the vine after a decade of folks saying “FOAD”… ( …. Off And Die) at them over the intrusion. (I actually pulled into the local station and tried to buy some M85 once… I was ‘mixing my own for’ a lawn mower I’d converted as an experimental machine… after having a load of paperwork shoved in my hand and being told I’d likely be approved in ‘about 2 months’ once I’d shown my car registration for an approved car; I just stuffed it in the trash can).

    We had MTBE “gasoline” mandated. Never mind that it tended to carbon up plugs. Then it crapped up the water supply; as a great and super stable solvent in iron or plastic tanks in the ground is not a good idea. (Above ground tanks were banned, too, BTW). After a half dozen mandated swaps of new tankage with a “this time for sure” $Million or so each round and putting all the smaller rural stations of out of business, they finally decided MTBE was bad…

    For a while (maybe still?) you had to register with the State as part of a ‘club’ to buy B100 pure Biodiesel. B5 was “ok”… I found a place that sold B99 and didn’t ask many questions…

    Then Grayout Davis, our Fine Progressive Governor, decided to spank the evil Pacific Gas & Electric company (that had provided reliable and cheap power my whole life) by insisting they sell all their generation capacity and buy power on the “spot market” with zero long term contracts. ENRON was the result… That, and a rolling blackout a half dozen or more times a year… and a big jump in prices. Oh, and a load of pensioners “safe” investment in a major utility company blown to hell along with anyone planning a major data center leaving for places with reliable power…

    But hey, “killing silicon valley” isn’t THEIR fault…

    So, to answer your quesiton about “will we have the Web and TV?”:

    Yes, you will have them. You just won’t have the electricity needed to run the TV or computer to use them. I’ve “Lived The Dream” here in the Socialists Workers Paradise of Kalifornia…. thus my ownership of satelite TV (as local stations may not be running) and a Honda generator…. both frequently used over the years.

    But, as you know, none of it was THEIR fault. It was the evil gas stations that had leaky tanks and the evil utility company that was not keeping prices down and the evil Enron that was selling power at gouging prices and ….

    That it worked FINE before they mucked with it, and that it works FINE when they go away and leave it alone again, that’s just an accidental coincidence…

    So, IMHO, you will see the same thing on a global scale if that same set of folks gets to write that same agenda on an even larger scale.

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