California Rain Now

This is what the radar shows right now for where I am. I’ve selected the SFO radar site.

This first graph is the “total precipitation”. Very light blue is a Trace. Orange is 2.5 inches. Red is 3 inches. The light green is 0.7 inches. Realize that in some years our TOTAL rainfall can be 7 inches… Also remember that the radar can get absorbed in a close batch of rain, giving a “trace” at the edge as the radar simply didn’t image it well. That is part of why you get a band of yellow / orange with lighter blues behind it. (Another is topography. There is a mountain range along the coast, so it gets heavier rain from “ridge lift”… then in the “rain shadow” you can see the Salinas Valley as a blue band of lower rainfall headed to the lower right.)

SFO 4 June 2011 Total Precipitation This Storm

SFO 4 June 2011 Total Precipitation This Storm

This is a great example of a WINTER storm. Trouble is, it’s not winter.

Here is the “total reflectivity” view:

SFO 4 June 2011 Composite Reflectivity

SFO 4 June 2011 Composite Reflectivity

Clouds, solid deck, as far as the eye can see.

This is what it looks like when California has a “year without a summer”. Expect USA Fruits and vegetables to cost more. California grows a high percentage of the nations fresh fruits and vegetables, so it’s likely to cost a lot for that fresh salad. (Mexico is an alternate provider, especially during winter, so one “hope” would be that Mexico gets some “summer rains” too and the local farmers can capitalize on them with unexpected plantings “off season”. We’ll see. But… “Hope is not a strategy. -E.M.Smith”…)

This view is of the rain arriving at Vandenberg AFB. I chose the Santa Maria site.

This, BTW, answers one of the “small mysteries” about GHCN. I’d wondered “Why is Santa Maria, a sleepy little town, selected as one of the 4 temperature sites for California?” Because it isn’t a small town, it’s a Very Large Military Air Force and Missle Base with acres and acres of pavement….

VB Santa Maria 4 June 2011 Total Precipicpitation

VB Santa Maria 4 June 2011 Total Precipicpitation

In this image, the dark green is 2 inches of precipitation.

So looks like my “Gardening Weekend” will be spent wearing a Slicker and galoshes…

I’m feeling so English ;-)

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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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17 Responses to California Rain Now

  1. George says:

    This gives a larger perspective:

    And you can “zoom” in to the Northwest here:

    These storms aren’t unusual for this time of year, it’s just that they normally are coming in to British Columbia or Washington, not central California.

    The storm track has dropped South for some reason.

    The water vapor map I use is here (takes a while to load):

  2. George says:

    Actually, looking at the water vapor map, you can see the “normal” storm track at British Columbia. This one looks like it might be a “cut-off” low. Which means it might just hang around a while and move only slowly being outside of the normal steering currents.

  3. John F. Hultquist says:

    There is a tight little loop in the jet stream:

  4. E.M.Smith says:


    These storms in California are normal, but only every 50 – 60 years or so during a particular phase of our PDO cycling…

    It was like this back in the ’50s – early ’60s IIRC. I was about 6? and we went out to look at the Feather River that was just a couple of feet below the top of the banks, threatening to flood the town… Washed out 1/2 the bridge, too, so part of the area was “cut off” from the rest.

    So it’s not the “Climate Chaos” that is the newest attempt to sell the farse… it’s just “Cycle longer than most folks memories”…

  5. E.M.Smith says:

    @John F. Hultquist:

    Well, how cool is that!

    And eddy in the jet stream…

  6. Adrian Vance says:

    This is not the June weather I recall after being here 51 years, but most of it was in the southern part of the state. It seems to me that the “winter storms” never came later than the mid-May and usually earlier.

  7. E.M.Smith says:

    @Adrian Vance:

    Very Interesting datum!

    As I was in the N.Cal area, that would imply that what WAS N. Cal weather is now as far south as So.Cal…

    So it might well be “abnormal” in that the “return of the ’50s and ’60s” might also be accompanied by “and then add 400 miles more southernly cold drift”….

    That would accord more with the expectations of the solar state.

    It really would be nice to have some ’40s, 50’s, 60’s 70’s maps of things like average rainfall, cloud cover, temperatures, etc….

    Saying “It reminds me of what it was like when I was 5” is nice and all, but, frankly, I wasn’t paying THAT much attention when I was 5! I also was living inland one more mountain range and north a couple of hundred miles… Details details…

  8. P.G. Sharrow says:

    Well in my 64 years in the north state I don’t remember this “cool wet” this late. We are at least 2 weeks later and 10 degrees cooler then any year that I remember.
    I’ve been gardening in the rain for the last week as it just can’t wait any longer and am considering covered tunnels for the warmer crops. Hell of a thing for “sunny” California. pg

  9. George says:

    In the past 30 years, 20 of them have had some measurable amount of rain in June in the SF Bay Area. This year looks like it might break the all time record set in the 1880’s for June rainfall.

    This storm has not actually even come ashore yet, it is still spinning off the coast but looks like it is pulling in dry air so it might just peter out. Or it might do what one has done the past few weeks that is now out at about Midway Island. It started out pretty much like this one, spun an arm of precipitation into California, and then wandered slowly Westward toward Hawaii.

    I can remember a few of these “cut-off” lows behaving like this over the years I have been watching such things, but have never seen a pattern of them. I have never seen more than two in the same year, let alone a month apart. Not this late in the season.

    But we didn’t have the tools to watch these 40-50 years ago that we have now. This is why I say we should use a 60 year cycle for our “normals” and not a 30 year as is done today. 30 years is too short and only covers roughly half of a “cycle” of the Pacific multi-decadal cycles.

    So the official “normals” have recently been reset to a new 30-year period and we will now be due for 30 years or so of “below normal” temperatures.

  10. P.G. Sharrow says:

    @George; Your are right. It has been known for at least 200 years that long term weather, climate, cycles over about 60 years. Anything shorter is the work of fools, liers or climate scientists. pg

  11. E.M.Smith says:

    @Interesting Connections:

    Looks like it:

    SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — A light dusting of snow Sunday morning provided a pretty view in South Lake Tahoe, but the snow and the cold temperatures that hung around all weekend kept many people away.

    On Sunday morning, Edgewood Golf Course was closed because of the thin blanket of snow. Traditionally, Memorial Day weekend provides huge crowds for the golf course.

    The snow has had an affect on many businesses which were counting on large holiday crowds.

    The Ski Run Boat Shop, usually busy with dozens of boat rentals, was forced to close for most of the holiday weekend.

    “We were shut down half of Saturday due to the wind, and all day Sunday due to wind and snow unfortunately,” said Carey Acuna, and employee with the boat shop.

    Not every business lost money.

    “I had possibly one of my best weekends since I have been open,” said Michel Chonez, a souvenir shop owner in South Lake Tahoe.

    Chonez was bracing for a slow weekend, but ended up selling most of his winter clothing to unprepared vacationers.

    And that was just this morning… it will get worse as the sun sets and things get colder, and as the offshore moisture comes ashore.

  12. Verity Jones says:

    I sympathise about the rain. We had two and a half days of summer, then cold and rain today too.

    More late snow in the mountains you say? More work for the snow ploughs (plows):

  13. PhilJourdan says:

    I remember visiting my in-laws a couple of years back and watching an LA channel talk about a rain storm. You would have thought it was the blizzard of 60! It was amusing.

    I did not live long in California, but do remember that the rainy season was short and predictable. Guess that is why they write songs about the lack of rain in California. But while SF does not get a lot of rain – it does get a lot of fog!

  14. E.M.Smith says:

    @Verity Jones:

    Interesting posting. I’ve added a couiple of comments.

    In my own experience, the local opening date of minor highways (like 104 and 108) were highly tied to things like amount of total snow that year. There is also a tie to things like overall road changes. So when I-80 started being a superhiway open all the time… the urgency to open 104 and 108 was reduced just a bit. Basically, 108 has been “slightly depricated” as a major mountain crossing in favor of I-80 and I-50 over the years.

    If one could get data on “total hours of plough driver overtime pay” from the state budget that would be very telling too ;-)


    One of the most scary things in life is driving in L.A. when they get a “storm” of about 1/4 inch of rain…

    You would think the world had ended.

    Folks spinning out, having “tail enders”…

    As they get hugh amounts of oil deposited for months on the roads, the “smattering” of rain is not enough to clean it off. It makes a very lubricative emulsion, though…

    Mix with a few million drivers that drive about 10 MPH faster than is safe for dry and clear and that do not know to slow down in the rain at all and it becomes “interesting”….

    Then add in that most of them don’t know where the windshield wiper knob is; have never filled the windshield washer tub (“windshield washer didn’t work… we need to buy a new car…” ) and typically have no idea that windshield wipers need changing from time to time…. You end up with a significant percentage of them who can’t see the road in front of them in a slight rain.

    But that doesn’t slow them down any….

    (Please note: I am not a “bashful” driver. I’ve had plenty of follks “white nuckle it” when riding with me as I can be driving closer to the performance edge than most… The folks in L.A. are driving fast. That’s not hyperbole. I’ve been on ‘indicated 70 mph’ freeway that ought to have been 65 or less due to the rapidity of onramp arrival / departure and highway mergings; where I was driving 80 mph to “keep up with traffic” and even than about 20%+ of the cars and trucks were blowing past me… Highway 210 a bit before “rush hour” for example. Folks know the time when things “clog up” and get their hussle going such they they are “outa there” before that moment… whatever speed that takes… Even in the rain… )

    But yes. It is interesting to watch. Especially if you are used to things like a Texas Gullywasher where you get 2 years of L.A. rain in 2 hours…

  15. PhilJourdan says:

    As they get hugh amounts of oil deposited for months on the roads, the “smattering” of rain is not enough to clean it off. It makes a very lubricative emulsion, though…

    Now THAT makes a lot of sense! I never thought of the oil and grime (we all claim to have the worst drivers).

    Just re-validated why I love to read your blog!

    Then add in that most of them don’t know where the windshield wiper knob is; have never filled the windshield washer tub (“windshield washer didn’t work… we need to buy a new car…” ) and typically have no idea that windshield wipers need changing from time to time…. You end up with a significant percentage of them who can’t see the road in front of them in a slight rain.

    Now you are just competing for the worst drivers award again! Ok, let me dig in my worst driver file and come up with some “one upmanships” on ya!

  16. Wendy LeBlanc says:

    I grew up in Santa Ynez Valley which is 25 minutes East of Lompoc and 30 minutes South of Santa Maria. Vandenberg Airforce Base is in Lompoc not Santa Maria. Santa Maria has grown partly from people who work on the base 1/2 hour away, and partly from a lot of strawberry fields and other agriculture. Some people also live in Santa Maria and commute to Santa Barbara to work.

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